Owen, Robert (1771–1858)
British socialist and humanitarian. Owen was born May 14,
1771, at Newtown, Montgomeryshire. He was successful in the
cotton mill industry and, in 1800, established a utopian society
based on his cotton mills at New Lanark.
Owen established a community at New Lanark. This news
induced the settlers of the Harmony Society in Indiana to sell
land to Owen, who purchased Harmony with its mills, factories,
houses, and land when the Harmonists moved to Pennsylvania.
Owen came to the United States in December 1824 and established
the community of New Harmony, based on socialist
principles; the experiment did not succeed. For an account of
New Harmony see Strange Cults & Utopias of 19th Century America
by J. H. Noyes (Dover, 1966).
On May 14, 1856, at The First Meeting of the Congress of
the Reformers of the World, detailed plans, based on spiritually-inspired
architectural conceptions, were submitted through
Owen’s agency for building Homes of Harmony.
At the age of 83, Owen developed an interest in Spiritualism
after several sittings with Maria B. Hayden, the first American
medium who visited England. In 1853, in his journal, the
Rational Quarterly Review, Owen published a formal profession
of his new faith. In the same year he issued as a separate pamphlet
The Future of the Human Race; or great, glorious and peaceful
Revolution, to be effected through the agency of departed spirits of good
and superior men and women. The periodical installments of his
New Existence of Man Upon Earth (1854–55) were, for some time,
the only British publications dealing with Spiritualism.
Nevertheless, Owen cannot be ranked as a typical Spiritualist.
Communication with the Beyond for him was another
Owen, Alan Robert George Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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means for the advancement of mankind. Supposedly Andrew
Jackson Davis, who saw him when lecturing in America in 1846,
wrote in November 1847, some months before the Rochester
knockings, that according to a message he received from the
spiritual spheres, Robert Owen was destined to hold ‘‘open intercourse’’
with the higher world. Reportedly some of the
prophecy communications were printed in Owen’s autobiography
The Life of Robert Owen (2 vols., London, 1857–58). Owen
died at Newtown November 17, 1858, and his Spiritualist interests
were carried forward by his son, Robert Dale Owen.
Sources
Freudenberg, Gideon G. Robert Owen Educator of the People.
Tel Aviv, Israel Dvir, 1970.
Harrison, John F. C. Quest for the New World. New York
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969.
Oved, Yaacov. Two Hundred Years of American Communes.
New Brunswick, N.J. Transaction Publications, 1993.
Owen, Robert Dale. The Debatable Land Between this World
and the Next. London Trubner, 1871.
———. Footfalls on the Boundaries of Another World. Philadelphia
J. B. Lippincott, 1860.
———. The Life of Robert Owen. 2 vols. Hamden, Conn. Archon
Books, 1966.