Shadow Culture: Psychology and Spirituality in America

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9781887178808: Shadow Culture: Psychology and Spirituality in America

Writing a modern Varieties of Religious Experience, Eugene Taylor traces the lineage of the contemporary New Age movement through three centuries of American spirituality as sustained in a continuous "shadow culture" outside the religious mainstream

Americans are witnessing a third Great Awakening, an explosion of interest in esoteric and mystical religious experience. Often referred to as New Age or pop psychology-especially by its detractors-this third Great Awakening is profoundly psychological, stressing the alteration of consciousness, the integration of mind and body, and the connection between physical and mental health. Its practitioners comprise a shadow culture of seekers, whose experiences are best understood in the context of three centuries of the American search for the sacred.

Taylor begins his story with America's first generation of visionaries, Jonathan Edwards, who rescued a declining Calvinism, and his lesser-known peer Conrad Beissel, who led the Ephrata mystics, a monastic community that became the model for many utopian social experiments to come. Together they spearheaded the first Great Awakening, spanning the years 1720 to 1750. Trance states, ecstatic whirling, automatic utterances, and falling down in the spirit became common occurrences sanctioned by many of the governing church bodies, particularly the Shakers, for whom altered consciousness served as a primary source of spiritual inspiration. The second Great Awakening blossomed during the westward expansion of the early nineteenth century and was characterized by utopian experiments in Christian socialism. Taylor paints fresh portraits of that era's towering visionaries-Emerson, Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller. In the folk psychology of that era, ties between spiritualism and mental healing likewise burgeoned in the diverse practices of homeopathy, phrenology, and mesmerism. Like today's Great Awakening, with its roots in the experimentalism of the 1960s, each of the two previous was propelled by a shadow culture.

Today, that shadow culture can be found flourishing in every region and sector of American society-the Christian practitioners of Hindu yoga or zen meditation, the Jewish psychologists attaining the rank of Moslem Su masters, the American-born Buddhist nuns. Though outside the mainstream of religious and psychological institutions, these recombinant pilgrims have paradoxically come to play a dominant role in our popular culture. For it is through awakenings that a nation explores wisdom, gains respect for itself, and comes into more harmonious relations with the physical universe. A brilliant work of historical and cultural synthesis, Shadow Culture will appeal to anyone seeking an accessible history of the resurgence of spiritualism in America, from New Age seekers to Gnostics, from agnostics to Unitarians, from Swedenborgians to practicing Buddhists.

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Review:

Although critics would have New Age spirituality deemed trendy and fleeting, author and religious scholar Eugene Taylor offers a convincing testament to the historical worthiness and longevity of the alternative spirituality movement. Taylor, who is a lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School, explains that the New Age movement is a historically rooted movement that blends psychology and spirit. In fact, he calls it the "Third Great Awakening" in American religious life--an awakening that always springs from a "shadow culture" (most recently, the counterculture rebellion of the '60s). What makes this a fascinating read is its extensive and smoothly presented research. Taylor documents the "First Great Awakening," which dates back to the puritans and mystics of the 1600s and 1700s. Stretching forward in time, he presents the "Second Great Awakening," with profiles of leaders such as Emerson and Thoreau. This fascinating discussion elevates the New Age movement to an evolutionary necessity, which will no doubt raise the ire or gratitude of American readers. --Gail Hudson

About the Author:

Eugene Taylor has an M.A. in psychology and Asian studies and a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of psychology. Currently he is a lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, senior psychologist on the psychiatry service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and an executive faculty member at Saybrook Graduate School and Research Institute in San Francisco.

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Taylor, Eugene
Editorial: Counterpoint Press (1999)
ISBN 10: 1887178805 ISBN 13: 9781887178808
Nuevos Tapa dura Cantidad: 2
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Murray Media
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Descripción Counterpoint Press, 1999. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P111887178805

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Taylor, Eugene
Editorial: Counterpoint Press
ISBN 10: 1887178805 ISBN 13: 9781887178808
Nuevos Tapa dura Cantidad: 1
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Cloud 9 Books
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Descripción Counterpoint Press. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. 1887178805 New Condition. Nº de ref. de la librería NEW6.0864123

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