William Lyon Mackenzie King; A Very Double Life?

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Bullock, Allison
King , Spiritualism , Canadian , History , Mackenzie , Prime Minister
This thesis examines the interest in spiritualism of Canada’s tenth Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. By placing King’s engagement with spiritualism within the context of recent historiography on spiritualism as a progressive form of religion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this research demonstrates that spiritualism was not a pseudo-religion or parlour game but rather, a religious practice meaningful to King both as a component of his faith and his intellectual pursuits. Within the context of this thesis, spiritualism is treated as a lived religion. Based on the research of Robert Orsi and David D. Hall, whose contention is that religion comes into existence only in a dynamic relationship with the realities of everyday life, particular attention is paid to those parts of King’s world that serve as the building blocks for his first encounters with spiritualism. This research demonstrates that while King remained skeptical of spiritualist claims until later in his life, his eventual acceptance of spiritualism was the result of several factors. Though the deaths within his immediate family in the early 1900s served as a catalyst for King’s desire to seek spirit contact, it was his reading and involvement in social Christianity as early as 1891, when he began his studies at the University of Toronto that provided the scaffolding for King’s incorporation of spiritualism into his later life. It is argued that, ultimately, King’s goals remained consistent throughout his personal evolution: to lead a Christian life in service to the less fortunate and to the people of Canada.
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