Yoga, transcendental meditation, Jungian psychology, The Secret, The Celestine Prophecy, The Alchemist, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Oprah … Esalen. For anyone living in America, most of this list is probably pretty familiar. These are the well-known practices, books and names of what has been called the New Age, or the New Spirituality. All of them, that is, except the last. The name Esalen is probably not familiar to most Christians. But it should be. The Esalen Institute, or more commonly Esalen, has been for the past fifty years one of the most important forces in shaping many of the spiritual movements of the modern age. A retreat, a school, a “research laboratory,” Esalen served as the place where many New Age teachings and practices were first tried out and then “evangelized” to the rest of American culture and the world.
In her recent work, The American Soul Rush: Esalen and the Rise of Spiritual Privilege, professor and expert on cults and new religions Marion Goldman, offers the first outsider’s take on this significant place and the people and ideas behind it. Written as a sociological study, Goldman shows just how new religious ideas develop and then spread throughout the culture. Almost just as important, she also explains the kinds of conditions necessary for people to become receptive to new spiritual ideas and practices. This is a significant study on the formation of much of modern spirituality.
In today’s extended review of this book the reader will be given a short history of Esalen and other religious communes in America as well as a critical summary of the book’s individual chapters. It will end with a list of insights from the book that will be of value to evangelicals interested in understanding how New Age spiritualities work, where they come from, and why they have become so popular and appealing to many in our society today.
We hope you will enjoy the review – keeping our members informed!
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The American Soul Rush: Esalen And The Rise Of Spiritual Privilege