This two-volume work was originally published 60 years ago with the title Modern Spiritualism. Podmore, the author, was an English civil servant who devoted much of his life to the questions of spiritualism. As a member of the Council of the Society for Psychical Research he knew many of the mediums personally. He interpreted the system of beliefs as "partly religious and partly scientific... based upon a number of obscure phenomena," in which not only living but also deceased persons participated. Podmore traced the origins back to the witchcraft proceedings of the 17th century and discussed the historical development of psychic phenomena as discussed in the works of Swedenborg and Mesmer, among many others.
Related topics, such as poltergeists, somnambulists, and clairvoyance, are also discussed. Although there is a certain amount of biographical material included, Podmore's narrative is based almost exclusively on interviews, obscure reports, certain spiritualist publications, and letters.