A massive shift in Western religious attitudes has taken place almost without our noticing it. The Judeo-Christian tradition of Western culture has slowly but steadily been eclipsed by a new way of viewing spirituality.
This shift has been in the making for some three hundred years. James A. Herrick tells the story of how the old view has been dismantled and a new one created not primarily through academic or institutional channels but by means of popular religious media--books, speeches, magazines and pamphlets, as well as movies, plays, music, radio interviews, television programs and websites.
Although the new spirituality is diffuse and eclectic in its sources and manifestations, Herrick demonstrates a significant convergence of ideas, beliefs, assumptions, convictions and images in the myriad ways this New Religious Synthesis makes its way into our culture. In fact, the new spirituality, says Herrick, directly calls into question each major tenet of Judeo-Christian tradition and so represents a radical alternative to it.
Interest in spirituality increases while participation in institutional religion wanes. Many welcome this evolution of religion. However, few are familiar with its roots, and fewer still have critically examined its prospects. As we stand at a spiritual crossroad, Herrick questions whether we are wise to discard the Western religious tradition and adopt the new spirituality.
"Herrick reminds us that the main opponent of Christianity today, especially in popular culture, is not secularism but New Age spiritualism. He offers a detailed taxonomy that will help readers trace the richly varied sources giving rise to the new synthesis of East and West."
"God is not dead in our culture. Only his identity has changed. The claim of autonomy for human reason has led to its own deification and the rejection of the importance of history, the development of a spiritualized physics and a return to an ancient gnosticism--in short, a New Religious Synthesis. The dominant god today is the cosmic spirit embodied in the self. Herrick shows us how this shift has come about. A lucid intellectual history with important implications for navigating the religious currents of our day."
"Once in Western societies to be 'religious' was to be 'Christian.' Why that is no longer the case is the subject of James Herrick's compelling new book. It is a volume that both raises key questions and clarifies 'the spiritual' in an unusually helpful way."
"This is an excellent overview of the development of Western religious thought and life that reveals the roots of much of 'modern spirituality.' As such it is a must-read for anyone who simply wants to understand the spiritual ferment all around us."
"James Herrick's book surveys a variety of spiritual movements subversive of traditional Christianity that often broadcast intoxicating messages of self-improvement and self-deification. . . . Herrick illuminates both the historical origins of these movements and the current scene in which they thrive so abundantly."
"A compelling analysis . . . must-reading for those of us who are called to engage our culture with the gospel."
"I think that this book should be considered must reading for all pastors and seminary students."
1. Introduction: A Changing View of the Spiritual World
Spiritual Changes: A New Age of Belief?
Bestsellers and Blockbusters: Spirituality Goes Public
Talking About Spirituality
The Revealed World and the New Religious Synthesis
Goals of the Study
2. Antecedents of the New Religious Synthesis: A Brief History of Alternative Spirituality in the West
Spiritual Communities in the Middle Ages
Magic and the Hermetic Tradition
Kabbalah: Secrets in the Pentateuch
Neo-Platonism and Magical Science
Humanism and the Rise of Biblical Criticism
3. The Rise of Biblical Criticism: Allegory, Myth, Codes and the End of History
Thomas Woolston and the English Deists
Lessing, Strauss and German Criticism
John Shelby Spong Rescues the Bible
Michael Drosnin's The Bible Code
4. The Ascent of Reason: Birth of a Deity
Voltaire and Liberated Reason
Thomas De Quincey
American New Thought: Minds as Divine Healing Force
Ayn Rand's Argument for Reason
5. Science and Shifting Paradigms: Salvation in a New Cosmos
Thomas Paine on the Hope of Science
Robert Green Ingersoll: Science and Deliverance
Carl Sagan: From The Demon-Haunted World to Alien Contact
The New Physics: Science and Ancient Wisdom
6. Evolution and Advancement: The Darwins' Spiritual Legacy
Lamarck and Spencer
Charles Darwin: Naturalist Prophet
The Spiritual Vision of Darwin's Early Defenders
Julian Huxley: Transhumanism and the Moral Elite
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Reaching the Omega Point
James H. Austin: Evolving Brain, Evolving Spirit
James Redfield: The Celestine Prophet
Science Fiction and Human Evolutionary Destiny
7. Pantheism in the Modern World: Nature or God
Spinoza and Toland
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ernst Haeckel and The Riddle of the Universe
Bergson and Shaw
A New Pantheistic Physics
8. The Rebirth of Gnosticism: The Secret Path to Self-Salvation
The Fundamentals of Gnosticism
Jacob Ilive: Enlightenment Gnosticism
Joseph Smith's Yankee Gnosticism
Carl Jung and the Gnostic Impulse
Jean Houston: Gnosticism and the New Age
Science Fiction: The Final Gnostic Frontier
9. Modern Shamanism: Spirit Contact and Spiritual Progress
Victorian Shamans: Occultism, Theosophy and Spiritualism
John Mack and UFO Abduction
Paul Ferrini and the Jesus Phenomenon
10. The Mystical Path to Pluralism: Discovering That All Is One in Religion
An Original Religion
R. M. Bucke
Frithjof Schuon and Transcendent Religious Unity
Joseph Campbell: The Perennial Philosophy as Pluralistic Hope
Marcus Borg and Jesus the Spirit Person
11. Conclusion: A New Spirituality for a New Age
Taking Leave of History
The Advent of Reason
The New Gnosis
Shamans and the Spiritual Future
Final Considerations: A New and Better Way?
Index of Names
Index of Subjects