Traversing realms visible and invisible, A Time of Lost Gods attends to profound rereadings of religion and politics through the cosmic accounts of spirit mediumship. These accounts shift one’s gaze toward the status of madness, in a world haunted by multiple times. Drifting across a temple, a psychiatric unit, and the home altars of spirit mediums in a rural county in China’s Central Plain, the book asks: What ghostly forms emerge of world-historical pasts amid the sense of a hollowed present?
Diverging from standard accounts of Maoist religious repression and post-Mao religious revival, the spirit mediums approach Chairman Mao’s reign not simply as an earthly secular rule, but an exceptional interval of divine sovereignty, after which the cosmos collapsed into chaos. Caught between a fading era and an ever-receding horizon, those "left behind" in a contemporary regime of value refigure the evacuated hometown as an ethical-spiritual center to come, amidst a proliferation of madness-inducing spirits. After a long century of exasperated responses to the threat of colonial seizure, the stories here tell of patients, spirit mediums, and psychiatrists caught in a shared dilemma, in a time when gods have lost their way.