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A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion Paperback – April 29, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"'Anyone with an interest in American belief systems and contemporary trends will be well rewarded by reading Albanese's book.' David Nartonis, Christian Science Monitor"

About the Author

Catherine L. Albanese is professor and chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, and former president of the American Academy of Religion. She lives in the Santa Barbara area.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300136153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300136159
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #795,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As another reviewer has noted, this is a dense tour of the field. If you're a casual reader of religious matters, you'll find this tough going--it's definitely an academic work, with 80 pages of footnotes. I think the author, who is highly regarded in her field, has done about as good a job as can be done in one book. The material is so voluminous that the book at times reads like a series of encyclopedia entries. She carefully shows the roots of the American "new age" in the Hermetic tradition, the origin of which is itself lost in mist and controversy. If there's a theme, it's that the American appropriation of the metaphysical tradition reflects American optimism and American "combinativeness," the tendency to take whatever works and use it, regardless of its source. A minor criticism would be that she over-emphasizes the idea of combinativeness. In my view, all philosophies and religions that spill out of one culture or language inevitably do this. If Christianity isn't "combinative," I don't know what the word means. To conclude: if you consider yourself an intellectual and are interested in the topic, you have to read this book, or at least dip into it to see what Albanese says on a topic.
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Format: Paperback
Catherine Albanese. A Republic of the Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2007. Pp. xii, 628. $40.00).

Albanese's masterpiece, A Republic of the Mind and Spirit, offers a binoculars' view of American religious history. She situates her narrative in the historical landscape of McLoughlin's evangelical thesis and Butler's catholic reading. But rather than focusing on one exclusive angle, she highlights the complexity of the historical landscape by maintaining the viability of both aforementioned vantage points, while all along zeroing in on her allusive target, metaphysical religion (3-4). It should come as no surprise that a book of this length would set out to accomplish many objectives, but all of these objectives work underneath the auspices of this thesis: "Hence, in what follows I argue a metaphysical thesis about American religious history, understanding metaphysical religion, both in Christian and non-Christina forms, as key to making sense of the nation's religiosity" (4). Albanese employs a cultural-historical approach to understand the contact that occurred (and continues to occur) between metaphysics and American religious thought and practice (18). She draws from a wide range of primary and secondary sources to supplement her argument. Her primary sources include books, tracts, treatises, poems, pamphlets, hymns, sermons, and academic journals of the nineteenth century. Albanese should be commended for this most impressive work, but the copious amount of detail gives way to another thought: Is all this truly necessary in order to affirm your thesis? From the perspective of this reviewer, the old adage is true: less is in fact more.
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This is an important history of American metaphysical religion; however, this book is somewhat overwhelming it its scope: being a synthesis of metaphysical religion in from the 1400s through the 20th century. When relevant, Albanese traces the roots of metaphysical thought all the way back to its ancient origins. It is overwhelming not only in scope of time covered, but in the variety of faith movements that are given attention. At times Albanese argues for a specifically Americanized version of metaphysical beliefs rooted in other cultures. Without a conversant knowledge of the foreign manifestations, it can be difficult for the reader to judge how exactly the American version differs, but Albanese always clearly defines what the American version is. This is a very ambition and admirable book, and a transformative work for the field of American religious history.
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By J. Laurel on August 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A dense, incredibly well-researched, fascinating piece of work. It's not my field of research, sometimes goes a bit over my head--but I'd rather have the depth and ability to return as I learn more. From what I can tell (I'm in American literature), likely a revolutionary work in religious history.
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