Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality

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Yoga classes and Zen meditation, New-Age seminars and holistic workshops, The Oprah Winfrey Show and books by Deepak Chopra&#8212all are part of the ongoing religious experimentation that has surprisingly deep roots in American history. By tracing our unique spiritual heritage along its many colorful highways and eccentric byways, Restless Souls profiles a rich spirituality that is distinctively American.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First edition (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060545666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060545666
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds

Customer Reviews

a gem

20 people found this helpful.
 on November 26, 2005
By Fred Strohm
This book is a gem. It tells the history of what Schmidt calls the “liberal” religious tradition in America. It shows us the golden kernel at the heart of what today is often diluted. Kickboxing yoga enthusiasts no more invalidate Emerson and Whitman, than the Inquisition invalidates Jesus of Nazareth. The book is largely about some wonderful people little known today but influential in their time. These fine folks carried the torch from Emerson and Whitman to the mid-20th century. Schmidt tells their stories beautifully, and reading about them is a joy. I can’t think of a better use of our time than reading about great souls like Thomas Kelly, Max Ehrmann, and Sarah Farmer.

Where we’re coming from

One person found this helpful.
 on January 11, 2013
By Pablo Paz
This is a book that tells a story i always thought must be there, but no one ever talked about. This is the other side of the Religious Culture Wars that we’ve heard so much about in the last years — but this is the history of the side that has not claimed its length and depth. Find out where liberal religions have come from. Read this book.

A beautifully research and well-written account of a pivotal time in …

 on November 4, 2015
By JDS
A beautifully research and well-written account of a pivotal time in American social and religious history. It helps the reader understand the background of some of today’s cultural and religious battles.

Readable, reliable, relevant

2 people found this helpful.
 on November 24, 2009
By Paul Giurlanda
I’ve been using this book in a class I teach on contemporary spirituality, and students have responded well to it. Schmidt focuses on the New England axis, as it were, of American liberal religion, and leaves it to others to explore the later developments. I wanted to read, for example, about Esalen and the sixties, Ramtha, Seth, and Oprah, but I think Schmidt was wise to limit his focus. Perhaps we’ll see a volume two? I would certainly enjoy that. What’s excellent about the book is that it demonstrates that American metaphysical or liberal spirituality is not ONLY Robert Bellah’s “Sheilah-ism,” i.e., self-indulgent, narcissistic, etc. It is a genuine spiritual quest and, as such, provides a real alternative for contemporary culture that seems divided between right wing religious lunacy and (truly) self-indulgent materialism. Bravo to Leigh Schmidt, and please keep writing!

Idea of Religious Liberalism Made Clear

7 people found this helpful.
 on December 18, 2006
By C. L. Vash
This is what this book has done for me. I have attended Unitarian churches but never understood how “liberal” … a political term, it seemed to me … related to religion. Now I get it. If I were still teaching graduate psychology courses to health and rehabilitation practitioners, I’d include this book as required reading for a course designed to help them deal with the DEEP problems of people with illnesses and disabilities without getting into religious proselyting.

A History of the A-historical "Spiritual But Not Religious"

One person found this helpful.
 on January 13, 2011
By Lucy Bregman
This book shows how long and deep the lineages of today’s “spiritual but not religious” protagonists are: these influences are traced back to Emerson, Whitman and many other figures. The biographies of these people, and their portrayal of inward, mystical religiousness down through at least four generations, are fascinating. The paradox is that their “mysticism” is believed by them to be eternal, perrenial, absolutely without history or social context, and yet this is exactly the forgotten material that makes them interesting and relevant, according to Schmidt. Like Courtney Bender’s “The New Metaphysicals,” it shows people intent on forgetting or ignoring their own history with its American roots, while at the same time participating in the struggles and issues of their milieu.

growing in spiritual maturity

2 people found this helpful.
 on November 30, 2007
By G. Robertson
in a quick reading of ‘restless souls’ i find persons of courage and determination who look beyond echoes to provide voices that help move us beyond traditionally divisive conceptions of faith and value toward building inclusive community characterized by respect, justice, and mercy. i look forward to spending more time here. gr

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