Article ID: CBB000931141

The “World of the Infinitely Little”: Connecting Physical and Psychical Realities circa 1900 (2008)


Noakes, Richard J. (Author)

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Volume: 39
Pages: 323--334

Publication Date: 2008
Edition Details: Part of a special issue: “Science and the Changing Senses of Reality circa 1900”.
Language: English

This paper analyses the fraught relationship between physics and the `occult sciences' in the decades around 1900. For some, there was no relationship at all; for others there was a relationship but they did not agree on what it looked like. Many physicists converged with spiritualists, theosophists, and others in interpreting X-rays, the electrical theory of matter, and other aspects of the `new' physics as powerful ways of rendering psychic and occult effects scientifically more understandable. However, they were opposed by commentators on physics who agreed that there was a relationship between the `new' physics and psychical research but that these were two manifestations of a worrying drift of physics into metaphysics and religion. More redoubtable critics were the psychologists who denied that physicists had the experience or experimental skill to cope reliably with the psycho-physical phenomena encountered in psychical research. This paper shows that physicist--psychical researchers were content to ally the `new' physics with religion because it helped vanquish awkward associations with materialism. They also tried to justify the value of their experimental skills by appealing to their expertise in investigating subtle physical effects and ability to create tests that respected the delicate conditions of séances.

Included in

Article Sibum, H. Otto (2008) Science and the Changing Senses of Reality circa 1900. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (p. 295). unapi

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book Satter, Beryl; (1999)
Each Mind a Kingdom: American Women, Sexual Purity and the New Thought Movement, 1875--1920 (/isis/citation/CBB000620167/) unapi

Article Klassen, Pamela E.; (2007)
Radio Mind: Protestant Experimentalists on the Frontiers of Healing (/isis/citation/CBB001030739/) unapi

Book Monroe, John Warne; (2008)
Laboratories of Faith: Mesmerism, Spiritism, and Occultism in Modern France (/isis/citation/CBB000774289/) unapi

Book McGarry, Molly; (2008)
Ghosts of Futures Past: Spiritualism and the Cultural Politics of Nineteenth-Century America (/isis/citation/CBB000831100/) unapi

Book Monod, Paul Kléber; (2013)
Solomon's Secret Arts: The Occult in the Age of Enlightenment (/isis/citation/CBB001213599/) unapi

Article Enns, Anthony; (2008)
Psychic Radio: Sound Technologies, Ether Bodies and Spiritual Vibrations (/isis/citation/CBB001035716/) unapi

Book Butler, Alison; (2011)
Victorian Occultism and the Making of Modern Magic: Invoking Tradition (/isis/citation/CBB001033496/) unapi

Chapter Kirkby, Joan; (2008)
Shadows of the Invisible World: Mesmer, Swedenborg and the Spiritualist Sciences (/isis/citation/CBB000760395/) unapi

Book Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas; (2008)
The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction (/isis/citation/CBB000951956/) unapi

Chapter Lorenzo Leporiere; (2022)
Eusapia: medium, isterica, ossessa. Le innumerevoli narrazioni sui fenomeni spiritici (/isis/citation/CBB252568208/) unapi

Chapter Pierroberto Scaramella; (2022)
Chiesa e antispiritismo a Napoli, in Italia, in Europa (1853-1932) (/isis/citation/CBB122184629/) unapi

Article Francesco Paolo de Ceglia; Lorenzo Leporiere; (2020)
Becoming Eusapia: The rise of the “Diva of Scientists” (/isis/citation/CBB659360229/) unapi

Book Courtenay Raia Ph.D; (2019)
The New Prometheans: Faith, Science, and the Supernatural Mind in the Victorian Fin de Siècle (/isis/citation/CBB186449913/) unapi

Chapter Violi, Alessandra; (2010)
Anatomies of Light: The Photomatic Body in fin de siècle Science (/isis/citation/CBB001024889/) unapi

Article Macías, Juan Manuel; (2010)
Buscando la verdad (/isis/citation/CBB001201533/) unapi

Article Carlos S Alvarado; Nancy L Zingrone; (2020)
Camille Flammarion on the powers of the soul; with an introduction by Carlos S (/isis/citation/CBB743678083/) unapi

Book Hahn, Torsten; Person, Jutta; Pethes, Nicolas; (2002)
Grenzgänge zwischen Wahn und Wissen: Zur Koevolution von Experiment und Paranoia, 1850--1910 (/isis/citation/CBB000740439/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Person, Jutta
Hahn, Torsten
Pethes, Nicolas
Leporiere, Lorenzo
Satter, Beryl
Kieser, Dietrich Georg
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
The Senses and Society
Asclepio: Archivo Iberoamericano de Historia de la Medicina
Science in Context
History of Psychiatry
University of California Press
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Cornell University Press
Oxford University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Occult sciences
Science and religion
Parapsychology; psychic phenomena
Swedenborg, Emanuel
Blavatsky, Helene Petrovna
Gurdjieff, Ivanovich George
Newton, Isaac
Boyle, Robert
Locke, John
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
17th century
United States
Naples (Italy)
Great Britain
Theosophical Society
Society for Psychical Research

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment