The Russian intellectual world tends to regard Russian experimental spiritism as a rather simplistic phenomenon and stresses its positivistic character, directed at obliterating the distinction between spirit and matter, reason and faith. In this context, Spiritism is viewed as just one more component which contributed to the increasing secularization of western culture. But a detailed historical analysis of Russian experimental spiritism reveals a more nuanced and equivocal view of a discipline which juggled between science and religion. On the basis of unpublished and little known archival materials, the author of this article shows that Vagner and Aksakov, the two main proponents of Russian experimental spiritism, differed substantially in their attitude towards Christianity. Aksakov saw experimental spiritism as a way of formulating a new religion of rationality. But Vagner, on the other hand, regarded it as a way of converting unbelievers to the Orthodox faith. Discovering this basic diff erence between Vagner and Aksakov, allows the author of this article to show the link which appeared during the second half of the nineteenth century between the idea of the secularization of western society and the stereotypical impression of the essential conflict between science and religion. The marginal position of experimental spiritism to both science and religion allowed it to act on the side of both religion and science depending on the individual predispositions of its main proponents
N.P.Vagner, A.N. Aksakov, spiritism, experimental spiritism, kardecism, Christianity, science, religion, spirit, matter, reason, faith, secularization, superstition
1. Aksakoﬀ A. N. 1869. Spiritualism in Russia. Human Nature, no. 30, pp. 456–461.
2. Boltinn A. P. 1865. Spiritizm (Spiritism). Raduga, 1865, vol. 4, pp. 1-22.
3. Chadwick O. The Secularization of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, 1990.
4. Conan-Doyle A. History of Spiritualism. London, 1926.
5. Glanvill J. Saducismus Triumphatus. London, 1682.
6. Gordin M. 2011. Seeing is Believing: Professor Vagner’s Wonderful World. Histories of Scientiﬁc Observation, pp. 135–155.
7. Kardec A. Le Spiritisme à sa plus simple expression. Paris, 1862.
8. Kardec A. Revue Spirite (1865). Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2010.
9. Lebedev M. 1866. Spirity i spiritizm (Spirits and Spiritualism). Hristianskoe chtenie, no. 7, pp. 24–101; no. 9, pp. 265– 315; no. 11. pp. 615–707.
10. Leskov N. S. 2000. Modnyj vrag cerkvi. Obshhestvennaja zametka (Spiritizm pod vzgljadom nashih duhovnyh pisatelej) (Fancy Enemy of the Church. Social Note (Spiritualism under the Glance of our Spiritual Writers)). Polnoe sobranie sochinenĳ v 30-ti tomah (Works in 30 volumes). Moscow, 2000. Vol. 7, pp. 740–752.
11. Mendeleev D. I. 1876. Dva publichnyh chtenija o spiritizme (Two Public Readings on Spiritualism). Materialy dlja suzhdenĳa o spiritizme (Materials concerning spiritualism). Saint-Petersburg, 1876. P. 322–327.
12. Oppenheim J. The Other World. Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England (1850–1914). Cambridge, 1985.
13. Oslon R. G. Science and Religion, 1450–1900. From Copernicus to Darwin. Baltimore, 2004.
14. O. P. Spiritizm pred sudom zdravogo smysla (Spiritualism and the Judgment of Common Sense). Saint-Petersburg, 1873.
15. Pribytkov V. I. Spiritizm v Rossii ot vozniknovenĳa ego do nastojashhih dnej (Spiritualism in Russia from its Genesis till Modern Days). Saint-Petersburg, 1901.
16. Snegirev V. A. 1871. Spiritizm kak religiozno-filosofskaja doktrina (Spiritualism as Religious-Philosophical Doctrine). Pravoslavnyj sobesednik (Orthodoxy interlocutor), no. 1, pp. 12–14, 279– 316; no. 3. pp. 9–51, 142–172, 282–330.
17. Stocking G. W. 1971. Animism in Theory and Practice: E. B. Taylor’s Unpublished Notes on «Spiritualism». Man, vol. 6, no. 1. pp. 88–104.
18. Turner F. Between Science and Religion: the Reaction to Scientiﬁc Naturalism in Late Victorian England. Yale, 1974.
19. Turner F. 1978. The Victorian Conﬂict between Science and Religion: A Professional Dimension. Isis, vol. 69, no. 3. pp. 356–376.
20. Helmstadter R. J., Lightman B. V. (ed.) Victorian Faith in Crisis: Essays on Continuity and Change in Nineteenth-Century Religious Belief. Stanford, 1991.
21. Vagner N. P. Skazki Kota-Murlyki (Tales of the Cat Murlyka). Moscow, 1991.
22. Vagner N. P. Rasskaz o zemnoj zhizni Iisusa Hrista po Sv. Evangelĳam, narodnym predanĳam i uchenĳam Sv. Cerkvi (Story about Jesus Christ’s Life on Earth according to St. Gospels, Folk’s Legends and Doctrine of the St. Church). Saint-Petersburg, 1908.
23. Vinitsky I. Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism. Toronto, 2009.