Society for Psychical Research

The period which saw the formation of the Society for Psychical Research was a time of intense intellectual ferment and uncertainty, with natural sciences making great strides in explaining the world in terms which challenged the traditional, religious views. At the same time, since the 1850s, there was a virtual explosion of extravagant paranormal claims and interest in them, in all strata of society throughout the Western world, related to the spread of the new religion of Spiritualism. While stories of apparitions, clairvoyant visions, precognitive dreams and other miraculous events have accompanied mankind since time immemorial, the new mediums (of whom there were many) were very influential in gaining credence for their claims of being able to contact the dead, and the issues raised by both science and spiritualism were the subject of fierce debate.