It isn’t easy to imagine the audience Seagull Books had in mind for Catherine Clément’s The Call of the Trance, insufficiently comprehensive for anthropology or psychology students though of some interest to both. Perhaps they were thinking of readers of boundless curiosity open to a series of loosely linked essays on the subject of trance or catalepsy throughout different times and social groups; if so, they found the right audience.
These days, at least in western civilisation, we pathologise the trance experience, correlating it with the neurotic. It wasn’t that long ago that the ecstatic experience was a mark of sainthood within the Catholic church, and plenty of other cultures still honour trance and catalepsy. Clément’s book keep me thoroughly absorbed for a few train journeys. These socio-religious essays on the trance experience offer a little re-enchantment in an age in which mysticism and eccentricity are now increasingly feared.
Sunandini Banerjee’s jacket design, showing John Collier’s Priestess of Delphi (1891) is another example of an exquisitely produced publication from Seagull Books.