Victorian and modern times: the same fears

With the disappearance of God from our daily lives, a void has been created in the minds of many whom otherwise would have been receptive of believing in some type of Christianity. Not believing means you've excluded yourself from the flock, but humans unconsciously strive to be part of a group.
So, what does one do if one doesn't believe in an omnipresent God, but 'needs' to believe in 'something' in this ever changing world? The answer is the New Age of spirituality, the belief in a cosmic power that presumably permeates us all. Spirituality is a sort of supermarket where you can grab anything you want to believe in, like reiki, homeopathy or wiccan (modern-day witchcraft). As such, there's no single, widely agreed definition of spirituality. Spirituality is simply the belief in God without naming or acknowledging him. It is the unconscious drive to make sense of a rapidly changing world where the old belief systems no longer 'works'.

The Victorian Era is usually seen as one of secularisation, a period when the disciplines and institutions of modern science were founded. The traditional authority of religion made room for explanation through the scientific exposition of natural laws.

But, just as can be seen in our times, people found that their world was changing and progressing too fast. In lots of minds the advance of science could not keep up with the decline of belief. In that psychological void the belief in supernatural forces, mesmerism, spiritualism and 'true' ghost stories flourished. The natural and the supernatural often became blurred in popular thinking.
No area of the literary culture of the Victorians was left untouched by this interplay of science and magic. Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' (1897) was a thinly veiled sexual tale about a fear of a corrupt, perverted, lustful male sexuality targeting women. Another fear was the idea that progress couldn't go on forever: after evolution, a period of degeneration and decline was surely to come. Robert Louis Stevenson’s 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' (1886) explored a scenario of frightening devolution. Stevenson’s erudite and gentlemanly Jekyll turns into the lustful and murderous Hyde. Hyde’s squat, ape-like body, his dark, hairy hands, and his energy and appetite all signal his ‘degenerate’ state. Even Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was mesmerised by mesmerism and wrote a short novella 'The Parasite' (1894) in which a female mesmerist subjugates a young male scientist in her home.

Nothing much has changed.

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