Here's a teaser from Marina Warner's review of The Invention of Telepathy in the London Review of Books [Vol. 24 No. 19 (October 2002): 16]...
The chainlink fence around telepathy has been patrolled, usually more vigilantly than by Derrida, because the occult poses such a threat to legitimacy: the eminent figures in the SPR were keen not to be thought cranks. Even worse, the occult has tended to leak into the fascist, and distemper its adherents (think of Pound, Yeats, Jung). Luckhurst tracks Freud's struggle to keep psychoanalysis at a healthy distance from the psychic and the occult...
The Guardian reprints the entire review.
As usual, we have some sources to consider...
- The Invention of Telepathy: 1870-1901
book description: The belief in telepathy is still widely held and yet it remains much disputed by scientists. Roger Luckhurst explores the origins of the term in the late nineteenth century. Telepathy mixed physical and mental sciences, new technologies and old superstitions, and it fascinated many famous people in the late Victorian era: Sigmund Freud, Thomas Huxley, Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde.
- Literature, Technology and Magical Thinking, 1880-1920
book description: In this book Pamela Thurschwell examines the intersection of literary culture, the occult and new technology at the fin-de-siècle. Thurschwell argues that technologies such as the telegraph and the telephone annihilated distances that separated bodies and minds from each other. As these new technologies began suffusing the public imagination from the mid nineteenth century on, they seemed to support the claims of spiritualist mediums. Talking to the dead and talking on the phone both held out the promise of previously unimaginable contact between people: both seemed to involve ‘magical thinking’. Thurschwell looks at the ways in which psychical research, the scientific study of the occult, is reflected in the writings of such authors as Henry James, George du Maurier and Oscar Wilde, and in the foundations of psychoanalysis.
- The Victorian Supernatural
book description: This collection brings together essays by scholars from literature, history of art and history of science which explore the diversity of Victorian fascination with the supernatural: ghosts and fairies, table-rappings and telepathic encounters, occult religions and the idea of reincarnation, visions of the other world and a reality beyond the everyday. These essays demonstrate that the supernatural was not simply a reaction to the "post-Darwinian loss of faith", but was embedded in virtually every aspect of Victorian culture.
- Spiritualism and the Foundations of C.G. Jung's Psychology
book description: Charet uncovers some of the reasons why Jung's psychology finds itself living between science and religion. He demonstrates that Jung's early life was influenced by the experiences, beliefs, and ideas that characterized Spiritualism and that arose out of the entangled relationship that existed between science and religion in the late nineteenth century. Spiritualism, following it inception in 1848, became a movement that claimed to be a scientific religion and whose controlling belief was that the human personality survived death and could be reached through a medium in trance.
- Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Carl Jung)
quote: I dug up Eschenmayer, Passavant, Justinus Kerner, and Görres, and read seven volumes of Swedenborg.
literature, technology and magical thinking, 1880-1920
the victorian supernatural