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Paschal Beverly Randolph and sexual magic

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Chapter Summary

By the mid-nineteenth century, magic (and the occult generally) in the West were in parlous straits, paralleling those described in the surprising recent bestseller by Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Magic before the arrival of the mysterious Mr. Norrell is a bit of flotsam only, the debris of a once-great synthesis that survives solely to intrigue the curious. The literature abounds with examples of true, burning desire for spiritual or psychical achievement and attainment. It was this mid-century world of antiquarianism, empty ritualism, and secondhand experience that Paschal Beverly Randolph transformed. By the late 1850s, Randolph was beginning to acquire a name as a visionary but also a reputation as a mad man a reputation that even he himself, at times, admitted was accurate, as his mind was buffeted by the influence of the various "controls" he encountered in his trances.

Keywords: Magic; Paschal Beverly Randolph; Susanna Clarke



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