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American Spiritualities: A Reader Paperback – April 22, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0253214324 ISBN-10: 0253214327
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When people today aver that they are "spiritual" but not "religious," they are invoking a distinction that is at once venerable and very modern. People of faith have long valued spirituality, which Albanese defines as "the personal, experiential element in religion... that, for those involved, signal[s] transcendence, sacrality, ultimacy, and/or a higher purposive wisdom that empowers by explaining and attesting life's meaning." The idea that such endeavors might be possible only outside of institutional contexts, however, is a relatively recent development. Albanese, a prolific scholar and past president of the American Academy of Religion, here presents representative selections from a wide range of texts and traditions, from the Puritans and Charles Colson to the Hare Krishnas and Shirley MacLaine. She imposes order on this dizzying pluralism by identifying four broad avenues along which individuals of different persuasions pursue their spiritual quests: the path of public and private ritual; the path of feeling and emotion; the path of prophecy and social action; and the path of metaphysics. Although essays introduce each of these sections, they do not engage either the analytical framework or the primary texts in sufficient depth and leave unanswered some fundamental questions. What, for example, makes American spirituality particularly American? The reader comes away with an increased appreciation for the variety of religious experience, but a still muddled understanding of what it all means.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

Review

"The origin of this superlative anthology was an undergraduate course on American spirituality first taught by the editor in 1998 at the University of California, Santa Barbara. With its economical but comprehensive general introduction, lapidary sectional introductions, and concise essay summaries, Albanese (former president of the American Academy of Religion and author of the widely used America, Religions and Religion, 1981, 3rd ed., 1999) has developed a text accessible to all readership levels. The essays extend chronologically from Thoreau's 1849 Civil Disobedience to the editor's 1999 The Subtle Energies of Spirit: Explorations in Metaphysical and New Age Spirituality, and represent the major contemporary Western, Eastern and New Age traditions. They are organized in four sections, focused successively on spiritual knowledge through the body, heart, will, and mind. Careful reading will result in a clear sense of the history and range of contemporary American spirituality. The suggestions for further reading are carefully chosen and up-to-date. Highly recommended; all readership groups." ―E. S. Steele, University of Scranton, Choice, January 2002

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