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Through the lives and work of three nineteenth-century spiritual activists, The Village Enlightenment in America opens a window to a time when science and religion, instead of seeming fundamentally at odds with each other, appeared entirely reconcilable.
A theologian, writer, and apologist for the nascent Mormon movement, as well as an amateur scientist, Orson Pratt wrote Key to the Universe; or, A New Theory of Its Mechanism to establish a scientific base for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Robert Hare, an inventor and ardent convert to spiritualism, used his scientific expertise to lend credence to the spiritualist movement. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, generally considered the initiator of the American mind-cure movement, developed an overtly religious concept of science and used it to justify his system of theology.
Pratt, Hare, and Quimby all employed a potent combination of popular science and Baconianism to legitimate their new religious ideas. Using the same terms -- matter, ether, magnetic force -- to account for the behavior of particles, planetary rotation, and the influence of the Holy Ghost, these agents of the Enlightenment constructed complex systems intended to demonstrate a fundamental harmony between the physical and the metaphysical.
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