Spiritualism originated in the US in 1848 and was introduced into Britain in 1852 from American and the Continent. In Britain, it reached Spiritualism was at its height of popularity in the 1860s. Whilst the movement as a whole lacks homogeneity and has no central organization there are some defining characteristics,
1) A Spiritualist believes in the survival of the human personality after the death of the physical body and that survival can be proven.
2) A Spiritualist believes that it is possible to communicate with the spirits of the dead and joins others to effect or participate in such communication.
Spiritualism was associated with a wide range of ancient and contemporary supernatural phenomenon. Including Christian ian miracles, witchcraft and socery, apparitions of the living and dead, haunted houses, fairies and second sight.
Most people gained their experience of Spiritualism in the domestic seance, typically in the presence of a Spiritualist medium. Those attending séances in Britain in the early 1850s could expect to experience such remarkable phenomena as clairvoyance, tables rapping out coded messages from the dead, and levitation.- The most controversial aspect was the interpretation of manifestations. Spiritualists insisted that manifestations furnished proof of one or more of the following claims: the independence of spirit and matter, the survival and immortality of the spirit following bodily death, the eternal progress of all in the other world, and the possibility that under certain conditions spirits of the dead could manifest themselves to the living.
However, the contemporary reception of Spiritualism wasn't always positive. Illustrated London News associated it with an 'epidemic delusion'.
Nelson, Geoffery K., The Spiritualist Movement and the Need for a Redefinition of Cult, Journal of Scientific Study of Religion, 8 ( 1969), pp.152-160.
Noakes, Richard., 'Spiritualism, Science and Supernatural in mid-Victorian Britain', in Nicola Brown, Carolyn Burdett and Pamela Thurschwell (ends), The Victorian Supernatural, (Cambridge, 2004), pp.26-30.