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Spectres of the Self, by Shane McCorristine

Thinking About Ghosts and Ghost-Seeing in England, 1750-1920

Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

Spectres of the Self traces the development of ideas surrounding hallucination from the 18th and 19th century rationalist critique of secular paranormal experience (such authors such as Manchester physician John Ferriar always being careful to explain that they were not trespassing in any way into the realm of religion and theology), and the challenge mounted by the Society for Psychical Research.

McCorristine shows how the Protestant rejection of the ideas of purgatory and communion of the living and dead made ghost experiences, already problematical in the 16th and 17th centuries, even more so; and paved the way for physiological explanations of hallucination. Discussions surrounding hallucination centred around the notion of the ‘waking dream’ as a source of experience. In a sense ghosts were already exiled from the centre of the community, where they did things like reveal buried treasure or demand justice for their murder, to the liminal zone between waking and sleeping. It these liminal spectral figures which were to haunt the Victorian imagination and become the focus for the classic Society for Psychical Research ghost.

Read the original article at: Magonia Blog

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