• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

The Spiritualist Movement: Bringing the Dead Back
The spiritualist movement: Bringing the dead back
Definitions and Cross-Cultural Perspective

Although my central purpose in this chapter is to analyze the social functions of the spiritualist movement that began in the United States in the 1840s, it is appropriate that I first establish some generic definitions. These definitions will also help to provide some perspective on what is a controversial subject in Western culture by presenting it in cross-cultural context.

Spiritualism

Taken broadly, the termspiritualism could refer to any religious worldview that considers living things to have souls or spirits (Tylor 1871; Lowie 1924). This does not necessarily privilege human beings as the only possessors of souls. In fact, the National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC) of the United States explicitly ...

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