American Gurus: From Transcendentalism to New Age Religion

Hardcover | April 8, 2014

byArthur Versluis

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By the early twenty-first century, a phenomenon that once was inconceivable had become nearly commonplace in American society: the public spiritual teacher who neither belongs to, nor is authorized by a major religious tradition. From the Oprah Winfrey-endorsed Eckhart Tolle to figures likeGangaji and Adhyashanti, there are now countless spiritual teachers who claim and teach variants of instant or immediate enlightenment.American Gurus tells the story of how this phenomenon emerged. Through an examination of the broader literary and religious context of the subject, Arthur Versluis shows that a characteristic feature of the Western esoteric tradition is the claim that every person can achieve "spontaneous, direct,unmediated spiritual insight." This claim was articulated with special clarity by the New England Transcendentalists Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Versluis explores Transcendentalism, Walt Whitman, the Beat movement, Timothy Leary, and the New Age movement to shed light on the emergence ofthe contemporary American guru. This insightful study is the first to show how Asian religions and Western mysticism converged to produce the phenomenon of "spontaneously enlightened" American gurus.

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By the early twenty-first century, a phenomenon that once was inconceivable had become nearly commonplace in American society: the public spiritual teacher who neither belongs to, nor is authorized by a major religious tradition. From the Oprah Winfrey-endorsed Eckhart Tolle to figures likeGangaji and Adhyashanti, there are now countle...

Arthur Versluis, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies and Professor in the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University, holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has published numerous books and articles. Versluis was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Germany, and is the founding editor of...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:April 8, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199368139

ISBN - 13:9780199368136

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Table of Contents

1. IntroductionNineteenth-Century Enlightenments2. Revivalism, Romanticism, and the Protestant Principle3. The Sage of Concord4. Emerson and Platonism5. The Concord School and American Platonism6. Walt Whitman's Cosmic ConsciousnessEnlightened Literature7. American Spiritual Teachers8. Beat Religion and The Choice9. Enter Psychedelics10. Dogmas, Catmas, and Spiritual Anarchism11. "Oh, ho, ho, it's magic"12. Spiritual Anarchy, Tantra, and Islamic Heterodoxy13. On the CountercultureAmerican Gurus14. From Europe to America15. Varieties of Modern American Mysticism16. The Sage on the Stage17. The American Guru Enters, Stage Left18. The Immediatist Wave19. Conclusions