Yoga classes and Zen meditation, New-Age seminars and holistic workshops, The Oprah Winfrey Show and books by Deepak Chopra—all are part of the ongoing religious experimentation that has surprisingly deep roots in American history. By tracing our unique spiritual heritage along its many colorful highways and eccentric byways, Restless Souls profiles a rich spirituality that is distinctively American.
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Leigh Eric Schmidt is professor of religion at Princeton University and the co-author with Edwin S. Gaustad of The Religious History of America. Widely published as a cultural historian, essayist, and reviewer, he has won book prizes from the American Studies Association, the American Society of Church History, and the American Academy of Religion.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. Princeton religious historian Schmidt provides a sweeping and detailed look at the forefathers, and foremothers, of today's spirituality movement. From Emerson and the American Transcendentalists through early yoga exponents and up to media empress Oprah Winfrey, Schmidt labels, links and differentiates the strains of spiritual ferment and longing woven into American religious and cultural history. He claims the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd has always been here, often linked to progressive social and political activists via a social gospel. Having established the appreciable history of American spirituality, Schmidt's last chapter argues against the common critique of it as narcissistic and vapid. It is rather the changing expression of a broad American spiritual left that can counter today's dominant spiritual right. It's as grounded in history as any conservatism but also dynamic and capacious enough to accommodate different paths. Written following the rules of academia—with endnotes citing 19th-century journals and correspondence—yet highly accessible, Schmidt is sympathetic and scholarly about a wide variety of spiritual pilgrims and paths. This is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in American spirituality, and required reading for anyone who thinks spirituality was born after WWII with the baby boomers. (Sept.)
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