American Feminism And The Birth Of New Age Spirituality

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Contrary to popular thought, New Age spirituality did not suddenly appear in American life in the 1970s and '80s. In American Feminism and the Birth of New Age Spirituality, Catherine Tumber demonstrates that the New Age movement first flourished more than a century ago during the Gilded Age under the mantle of 'New Thought.' Based largely on research in popular journals, self-help manuals, newspaper accounts, and archival collections, American Feminism and the Birth of New Age Spirituality explores the contours of the New Thought movement. Through the lives of well-known figures such as Mary Baker Eddy, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and Edward Bellamy as well as through more obscure, but more representative 'New Thoughters' such as Abby Morton Diaz, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Ursula Gestefeld, Lilian Whiting, Sarah Farmer, and Elizabeth Towne, Tumber examines the historical conditions that gave rise to New Thought. She pays close attention to the ways in which feminism became grafted, with varying degrees of success, to emergent forms of liberal culture in the late nineteenth century—progressive politics, the Social Gospel, humanist psychotherapy, bohemian subculture, and mass market journalism. American Feminism and the Birth of New Age Spirituality questions the value of the new age movement—then and now—to the pursuit of women's rights and democratic renewal.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal Of American History
In a clear and accessible voice, Tuber credits gnosticism's radical turn away from the world not only with facilitating women's discovery of their higher moral and spiritual selves but also with bequeathing them crucial theological resources that ironically enabled them to transform the very world they were attempting to escape.
Donald Meyer
Here is a book that shows, in fresh detail, how what Harold Bloom has called 'the American religion' has been emptying our politics and our private lives of meaning, in favor of tired fantasies of vacuous well-being. Of course this 'new age spirituality' will not prove unique to the United States, but Catherine Tumber helps us see why it is being pioneered here, fungus like, out of our uncontrolled capitalism. Tumber's mentor, Christopher Lasch, would be proud. The rest of us can be warned.
James Turner
Catherine Tumber’s lucidly written and forcefully argued book rescues New Thought from its genteel backwater and places it at the center of a depressing story of a feminist contribution to the decline of public life. In the tradition of Christopher Lasch, historical analysis becomes cultural criticism. This is a provoking book.
Journal of American History
In a clear and accessible voice, Tuber credits gnosticism's radical turn away from the world not only with facilitating women's discovery of their higher moral and spiritual selves but also with bequeathing them crucial theological resources that ironically enabled them to transform the very world they were attempting to escape.
Utopian Studies
An important addition to the literature, engaging, and scholarly.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780847697489
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Series: American Intellectual Culture Series
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 0.63 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 6.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Tumber is a staff editor for the Boston Phoenix. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Rochester.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Gnosticism and the Erosion of Public Life Chapter 2 The Moral Revolution of Metaphysics: The Rebirth of Gnosticism in Modern Times; The Public Crisis of Liberal Religion; Women and Fractured Appearances; Gnosticism and the Reform Impulse Chapter 3 New Thought and the Cosmic Sphere of Women: Emma Curtis Hopkins and Women's Alienation; Ursula Gestefeld, Therapeutic Space, and the Claims of Duty; Lilian Whiting's Muddle of Manners: Taste, Appearances, and the A-Cosmic Self Chapter 4 The Metaphysics of Nationalism: Abby Morton Diaz, the Emersonian Inheritance, and the Cult of Oneness; Edward Bellamy's Passion for the Nude in Things of Thought; The Theosophical Ensoulment of Nationalism; The Diseased and Discordant Elements of the Body Chapter 5 Cultural Experimentation in the New Age: Gnostic Syncretism and Its Dearth of Critics; The Syncretic Cultus of Greenacre: A Peaceful Thought Colony Chapter 6 Everyday Physics: Gnostic Theology and the Bohemian Manners of Mass Culture: The Stilted Esthetics of New Thought; Feminine Bohemianism; From the Higher Self to the Universal I WANT Chapter 7 Conclusion: The Empowered Self and Gnostic Spiritual Flight

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