ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
consultations. The psychologist William James, among others, became very interested in her because she told him things which only he and a deceased brother could possibly have known. This impressed James and his colleagues so much that they accompanied her to England, where she was investigated by members of the British Society for Psychical Research. She was finally discredited, but with difficulty.
Interest in mediums waned during the course of the early twentieth century. They are no longer of much interest to experts in parapsychology. The fascination with them, however, remains keen among the public at large. This is very understandable. The medium actually purports to provide “proof” that there is life after death.
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The fin de siécle
The dawning of the twentieth century aroused great awe among Eroropeans and Americans. It produced a special orientation which intellectual historians call the fin de siécle, the “end of the century.” The transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century was attended not only by celebrations, but by the occasion of an intellectual and cultural revolution which was widely considered to mark the dawning of the modern age. For instance, historians of music usually hold that the Romantic tradition of music died in 1900, and that New Music began about that time. The same is roughly true in the fine arts.There had been no such interest when the nineteenth century began, and none whatsoever at such transitions in the past.
During the fin de siécle (roughly 1895—1905), there was great interest in Spiritualism. As stated previously, careful investigation disclosed that nearly all of the mediums were frauds. The search for valid mediums preoccupied many occultists during the early years of the twentieth century. There was also keen interest in telepathy (direct mind-to-mind communication), psychokinesis (the movement of objects by mental powers), automatic writing, and experiments with so-called ouija boards. The latter are boards with letters of the alphabet, “yes,” and “no” imprinted on them. Many experimenters make their own. A planchette is used (one may also use an upturned glass). Two people, preferably a man and woman, put the finger tips of their right hands on the planchette and ask questions. As I have myself experienced, the planchette may move rapidly in circles before spelling out words or moving to the “yes” or “no.” According to occultists, the planchette is being moved by spirits of the departed; according to parapsychologists, the movements are induced by the subconscious if not unconscious. The experience is amazing whichever theory is adopted. Often the participants accuse each other of deliberately moving the planchette. However, in experiments with my mother, who believed that she was psychic, both of us were convinced that we were not moving it.
One area of science addressed itself to esotericism: Parapsychology (or paranormal psychology), a branch of psychology which is not considered respectable by most psychologists, but which is nonetheless an attempt to verify