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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Sunday, November 6

in search of animal magnetism

All day I've been linking from one book to another on Amazon and Google Print. Amazing leaps, amazing books. And this is where I end up. It's ironic. Library Journal says...

The concept of irony informs the book as Marty shows that religious figures have often produced results far different from those they anticipated. His survey is also notable for his sympathy with those outside the mainstream of American religion, including blacks, Catholics, Jews, Native Americans, and Orthodox Christians.
I'm not altogether sure what that means (or what Orthodox Christians are), or really, who Martin E. Marty is -- though I've heard the name before. But I do like the title. And the typeface. So there you go.

I also picked this one up along the way somewhere. I can't recall at the moment what it's about. But again, nice typography, no?

Oh, that's right. Now I remember. American Originals: Homemade Varieties of Christianity was written by Paul Keith Conkin, who also wrote another book -- which is how I got started on all this linking -- called Cane Ridge: America's Pentecost. Until today, I never knew the story of what happened there in August, 1801. It's quite a story. I ran across some reference to "New Light preachers" and wondered what that was all about, never having seen the term before. A little clever googling ("new light" not being the easiest phrase to find, in the meaning I was after) and I started digging up references to some guy named Thompson in Springfield, Kentucky, then Cane Ridge. Took me a while to realize I'd stumbled into the Second Great Awakening.

Now it turns out that I've got all kinds of books about that one lying around here -- my curiosity about Great Awakenings having been piqued by Tom Wolfe's Third -- but naturally I'd never read any of them. If I had, I would have known that Cane Ridge was the revivalist Woodstock that kicked off 19th century America. I dug into Ahlstrom -- it's sitting right here, not two feet from the keyboard, but Amazon is easier -- and laughed where he quoted a report of the time that speculated "more souls were begot than saved." Ten to twenty-five thousand lonely frontier folks staying up all night for a week getting whipped into a frenzy by preachers from all over, and well, as Ahlstrom again quotes: "Critics thought they noted a greater increase of fleshly lust than of spirituality..." (p. 433)

What America's got against fleshly lust is beyond me, though true, it can be socially disruptive. Lord knows. Still, Americans would discover ways to sublimate all that libido -- better, spiritual, sacred ways to harness it for useful, more productive work...

and what will the Real Me be like? it is at this point that the new movements tend to take on a religious or spiritual atmosphere. in one form or another they arrive at an axiom first propounded by the gnostic christians some eighteen hundred years ago: namely, that at the apex of every human soul there exists a spark of the light of god. in most mortals that spark is 'asleep' (the gnostics' word), all but smothered by the façades and general falseness of society. but those souls who are clear can find that spark within themselves and unite their souls with god's. and with that conviction comes the second assumption: there is an other order that actually reigns supreme in the world. like the light of god itself, this other order is invisible to most mortals. but he who has dug himself out from under the junk heap of civilization can discover it.

and with that... the me movements were about to turn righteous.

~ Tom Wolfe
the me decade and the third great awakening



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