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Spiritualism as a religious movement centers on direct contact with spirits of the departed through mediumship and similar means. In its origin in 19th-century America and its worldwide dispersion, spiritualism offered a prototype of the modern globalization of religion.

The movement began in 1848, when the young Fox sisters reported mysterious rappings—comparable to the recently invented Morse Code—in their upstate New York farm house. They attributed the mysterious sounds to spirit communication. The sensational story was widely circulated and discussed in the print media. Soon, other such incidents were reported, spirit communication largely shifted from raps to voice mediumship, and societies devoted to its practice formed.

Spiritualism was the first significant new, independent religious movement established in the United States apart from Mormonism; and it was the ...

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