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The New Metaphysicals : Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination

By: Bender, Courtney.
Material type: TextTextSeries: eBooks on Demand.Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2014Description: 1 online resource (266 p.).ISBN: 9780226043173.Subject(s): Electronic books. -- local | Experience (Religion) | Religion and sociology -- United States -- Case studies | Spirituality -- Massachusetts -- CambridgeGenre/Form: Electronic books.Additional physical formats: Print version:: The New Metaphysicals : Spirituality and the American Religious ImaginationDDC classification: 204.2 LOC classification: BL53Online resources: Click here to view this ebook.
Contents:
Contents -- Acknowledgments -- Introduction: Long Shadows -- 1. Shamans in the Meetinghouse: Locating Contemporary Spirituality -- 2. Becoming Mystics -- 3. Tuning the Body -- 4. Karmic Laundry: Imagining and Embodying Spiritual History -- 5. "Zooming Around": Mystical Lands and Cosmopolitanisms -- Conclusion -- Notes -- Bibliography -- Index
Summary: American spirituality-with its focus on individual meaning, experience, and exploration-is usually thought to be a product of the postmodern era. But, as The New Metaphysicals makes clear, contemporary American spirituality has historic roots in the nineteenth century and a great deal in common with traditional religious movements. To explore this world, Courtney Bender combines research into the history of the movement with fieldwork in Cambridge, Massachusetts-a key site of alternative religious inquiry from Emerson and William James to today. Through her ethnographic analysis, Bender discov
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Contents -- Acknowledgments -- Introduction: Long Shadows -- 1. Shamans in the Meetinghouse: Locating Contemporary Spirituality -- 2. Becoming Mystics -- 3. Tuning the Body -- 4. Karmic Laundry: Imagining and Embodying Spiritual History -- 5. "Zooming Around": Mystical Lands and Cosmopolitanisms -- Conclusion -- Notes -- Bibliography -- Index

American spirituality-with its focus on individual meaning, experience, and exploration-is usually thought to be a product of the postmodern era. But, as The New Metaphysicals makes clear, contemporary American spirituality has historic roots in the nineteenth century and a great deal in common with traditional religious movements. To explore this world, Courtney Bender combines research into the history of the movement with fieldwork in Cambridge, Massachusetts-a key site of alternative religious inquiry from Emerson and William James to today. Through her ethnographic analysis, Bender discov

Description based upon print version of record.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

CHOICE Review

Bender (Columbia) sets out to study the "spiritual but not religious." She contacted many Cambridge, MA, New Age organizations, though she avoids that term, and interviewed 77 individuals involved in various non-Western spiritual quests, mostly practitioners of yoga and alternative medicine. These practitioners look to emotional and bodily practices to connect with a world of, e.g., unseen energy, past lives, and soul mates--which then shapes their this-world lives with other similar seekers. The weakness of Bender's investigation, though, is that she never explains what makes this motley collection of individuals--variously called spiritualists, mystics, practitioners, and the never-explained metaphysicals of the title--a coherent group or religious phenomenon. Moreover, her subjects reject the category she initially tried to put them in: "spiritual but not religious." What really unites them is the search for direct religious experience, outside established religious traditions. Bender does not explain why they left traditional faiths to seek religious experience or why she studied the hundreds of Cambridge seekers who take this alternative path but not the tens of thousands in the same region seeking, and finding, just as much direct religious experience within established denominations. Summing Up: Optional. Graduate students and faculty/researchers. B. Weston Centre College

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Courtney Bender is associate professor of religion at Columbia University and author of Heaven's Kitchen: Living with Religion at God's Love We Deliver , also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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