neither new, nor a mere aberration of new age superficiality, according to a new
book by a Princeton professor.
The search for deeper spiritual meaning is neither new, nor a mere aberration of new age superficiality according to a new book, Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality, by Dr. Leigh Schmidt, professor of religion at Princeton University.
The word “seeker” generates reaction today. Some contend religious seeking is part of the narcissism of the age, a search by flattered individuals that never ends. Others see it as another form of consumerism translated to religion. Still others decry that it is eclectic and, therefore, has no center; thus traditions and traditional language are never incorporated into the religious experience.
However, as viewed by Dr. Schmidt, religious seekers in early America tended toward an intellectual and communal search that is not so easily characterized. This is the heritage of Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example, among many other New England intellectuals.
In a review in today’s Christian Science Monitor, writer Jane Lampman quotes Dr. Schmidt that the “Spiritual Left” goes “deep in the grain of American culture. It is here for the long haul.”
I sense a resurgence of interest in meaningful spiritual exploration and thought today. It’s being conducted by people who yearn for a deeper understanding of life as it is comprehended through religion. But many are skeptical of institutional religious organizations and traditional theological approaches. Still others have tried institutional religion and been burned.
Dr. Schmidt’s perspective that the search for spiritual truth has staying power and that it has found expression in greater depth and variety than is commonly recognized is a welcome contribution to our understanding of the seeker in this nation.