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High CultureDrugs, Mysticism, and the Pursuit of Transcendence in the Modern World$
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Christopher Partridge

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190459116

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190459116.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 November 2020

Anesthetic Revelation

Anesthetic Revelation

(p.60) 3 Anesthetic Revelation
High Culture

Christopher Partridge

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the fascinating confluence of medicine and metaphysics during the nineteenth century, central to which was the discovery of anesthetics. Often a visit to the dentist led not only to a tooth extraction but also to a “sublime vision” and a revised understanding of the nature of reality. Accounts of such experiences inspired not only revealing popular works on the “laughing gas” phenomenon, such as Doctor Syntax in Paris or A Tour in Search of the Grotesque, but also discussions of the nature of mystical experience. This chapter analyzes the work of key figures influenced by the inhalation of nitrous oxide, including Humphry Davy, Benjamin Paul Blood, and William James, as well as its impact on the work of the Society for Psychical Research.

Keywords:   anesthetics, nitrous oxide, laughing gas, Humphry Davy, Benjamin Paul Blood, William James, Spiritualism, Society for Psychical Research

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