A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion
Albanese, Catherine L. A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2007.
A Republic of Mind and Spirit identifies three major forms of religion in America: evangelical, liturgical, and metaphysical; and Albanese claims that the key to understanding religion in America is the influence of the metaphysical on the others. She defines metaphysical religions as those that focus on mind, rather than heart, and also value intuition, clairvoyance, revelation, and magic. After an extensive treatment of the Hermetic tradition from Egyptian through Greek and into Christian thought, the author locates Christian Science in a continuum of 19th-century metaphysical expressions from Andrew Jackson Davis and Spiritualism to Phineas P. Quimby and then influencing directly and indirectly a wide range of New Thought offshoots. Of all these, Christian Science is unique in its strong claims to biblical sources and Calvinist origins, and in having a more formal structure than other metaphysical forms of religion. The author classifies metaphysical religions as irrational and essentially dependent on faith in magic; and it is the influence of irrationality and magic on American evangelical and liturgical religions that has made religion in America distinctive. It “comes down to salvation, and salvation means healing and therapy. Who in America needed such salvation and healing through mystical and magical means? … practically everyone” (15).
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