Because The spirit rapper is a novel that makes reference to many autobiographical elements, and so could not be properly understood without some knowledge of the author's biography, we shall proceed in our discussion by introducing a concise summary of Brownson's life and achievements.
The sense of deep mystery between the two foundations of thought, namely science and religion, was to be inherited by Brownson and rendered most intensely, as shall be seen, in The spirit rapper, in which the rappings and tappings and knockings of spirits are their ways to communicate with humans.
Although Brownson called The spirit rapper in the subtitle An autobiography (1854), we are dealing here with a semi-autobiographical novel, a romanticized fantastic narrative, organized as a roman a clef, of the life of a man who attempts to find a balance between religion and science, who experiments with mesmerism, spiritualism, pneumatism / pneumatology, and is aware of the fact that these constitute satanic influences and practices.
Thus, the French Revolution is here regarded as being a "mesmerisation" (a steeping into illusion) of France and of Europe: it was triggered and governed precisely by what Christianity called evil or Satan, or what mesmerism called a "primitive and elemental force" (The spirit rapper, chap.
The spirit rapper is consequently a religious novel-treatise important by the vigor of the ideas advanced and by the obvious parallel with the evolution of the author's own thought.
He has an early inclination towards mathematics, mechanics, physics and Auguste Comte's positive philosophy; chemistry--by its extremely subtle analyses--seems to him to provide him with an approach that allows him access to the "vital principle" (the "odic principle," the "mesmeric principle") and the "essences of things" (The spirit rapper, chap.
Morals and the intellectual sciences appear to the spirit rapper "vague, uncertain and unprofitable" (The spirit rapper; Brownson 1854: 2; 1884ix: 3), while science promised to remove the veil of mysteries that nature drew over "her laboratory" (The spirit rapper, chap.
Moreover, for the spirit rapper faith is the way of access towards the profoundest mysteries of reality, even towards the essence of the godhead that an artist like Brancusi strove to bring to light through the medium of sculpture.
Preachers who uttered words all the while being possessed by such all-powerful faith would surely be overwhelmed by something like an "electric shock," and the auditors would surely resonate as if they together formed a "magnetic chain" (The spirit rapper, chap.
The same "magnetic" phenomenon, according to Brownson, occured when you spoke with a friend in whom you entirely believed: "our souls seem to be melted into one," the wills become a single will, their forces combine into one, at which point takes place the ascent to "upper regions of truth," in which "Heaven opens to us" and the souls can "behold the hidden things of God" (The spirit rapper, chap.
The spirit rapper is thus clearly defined as belonging to the first kind, the mesmerizers / hypnotizers.
Here is how the spirit rapper as mesmerizer / hypnotizer describes his mystical will-induced feeling of the unity of being (unity with a friend, unity with nature; be it reminded that the unity of being had been the common goal of most romantics):