Mindfulness and yoga are widely said to improve mental and physical health, and booming industries have emerged to teach them as secular techniques. This movement is typically traced to the 1970s, but it actually began a century earlier. Wakoh Shannon Hickey shows that most of those who first advocated meditation for healing were women: leaders of the "Mind Cure" movement, which emerged during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Instructed by Buddhist and Hindu missionaries, many of these women believed that by transforming consciousness, they could also transform oppressive conditions in which they lived. For women - and many African-American men - "Mind Cure" meant not just happiness, but liberation in concrete political, economic, and legal terms. In response to the perceived threat posed by this movement, white male doctors and clergy with elite academic credentials began to channel key Mind Cure methods into "scientific" psychology and medicine. As mental therapeutics became medicalized and commodified, the religious roots of meditation, like the social-justice agendas of early Mind Curers, fell by the wayside. Although characterized as "universal," mindfulness has very specific historical and cultural roots, and is now largely marketed by and accessible to affluent white people. Hickey examines religious dimensions of the Mindfulness movement and clinical research about its effectiveness. By treating stress-related illness individualistically, she argues, the contemporary movement obscures the roles religious communities can play in fostering civil society and personal wellbeing, and diverts attention from systemic factors fueling stress-related illness, including racism, sexism, and poverty.
Warren Felt Evans (1817–1889) converted to Methodism while at Dartmouth College, became a minister, and spent his Methodist years as a spiritual seeker. His two extant journals, edited and annotated by Catherine L. Albanese, appear in print for the first time and reveal the inner journey of a leading American spiritual pilgrim at a critical period in his religious search. A voracious reader, he recorded accounts of intense religious experience in his journals. He moved from the Oberlin perfectionism he embraced early on, through the French quietism of Madame J. Guyon and Archbishop Fénelon, then into Swedenborgianism, spiritualism, and mind cure with distinct theosophical overtones. His carefully documented journey is suggestive of the similar journeys of the religious seekers who made their way into the burgeoning metaphysical movement at the end of the 19th century—and may shed light too on today's spirituality.
The Dictionary of Early American Philosophers, which contains over 400 entries by nearly 300 authors, provides an account of philosophical thought in the United States and Canada between 1600 and 1860. The label of "philosopher" has been broadly applied in this Dictionary to intellectuals who have made philosophical contributions regardless of academic career or professional title. Most figures were not academic philosophers, as few such positions existed then, but they did work on philosophical issues and explored philosophical questions involved in such fields as pedagogy, rhetoric, the arts, history, politics, economics, sociology, psychology, medicine, anthropology, religion, metaphysics, and the natural sciences. Each entry begins with biographical and career information, and continues with a discussion of the subject's writings, teaching, and thought. A cross-referencing system refers the reader to other entries. The concluding bibliography lists significant publications by the subject, posthumous editions and collected works, and further reading about the subject.
This controversial biography of the founder of the Christian Science church was serialized in McClure's Magazine in 1907-8 and published as a book the next year. It disappeared almost overnight and has been difficult to find ever since. Although a Canadian mewspaperwoman named Georgine Milmine collected the material and was credited as the author, The Life Of Mary Baker G. Eddy was actually written by Willa Cather, an editor at McClure's at that time. In his introduction to this Bison Book edition, David Stouck reveals new evidence of Cather's authorship of The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy. He discusses her fidelity to facts and her concern with psychology and philosophy that would take creative form later on. Indeed, this biography contains "some of the finest portrait sketches and reflections on human nature that Willa Cather would ever write."
The story of mesmerism in nineteenth-century America is the story of how, for the first time, a psychological theory arose to meet the everyday religious and intellectual needs of Americans. Robert Fuller gives us the first complete history of American mesmerist philosophy. He traces its development from an obscure scientific hypothesis to a powerful spiritual philosophy that deeply influenced many of the period's emerging Protestant religious sects. He investigates in depth the role of mesmerism in the Mind-Cure movement and New Thought and paints for us the cultural landscape existing at a time when thousands of antebellum Americans turned from their churches to the realm of psychology in search of self-understanding. In the early part of the century, mesmerism was for the most part the territory of carnival showmen. Itinerant mesmerists during the 1830s placed subjects in trancelike states from which they could divulge the contents of sealed envelopes and describe in detail locales to which they had never traveled. Literary figures such as Poe and Hawthorne seized upon mesmerism, depicting its workings at their most sinister and diabolical extreme. But by midcentury, mesmerism was beginning to enter the American consciousness in ways that involved anything but parlor trickery. Straddling a fine line between religious myth and scientific philosophy, mesmerism's spiritual tenets resonated almost perfectly with important currents in contemporary religious life. Universalists, Swedenborgians, and early spiritualists adopted the doctrine of mesmerism as evidence of man's unity with the Almighty. The self-made mind-cure practitioner Phineas Quimby used mesmeric theory to develop his "power of positive thinking," a concept that led eventually to the emergence of the Christian Science movement. But, Fuller shows, mind-cure cultists such as Quimby also helped transform mesmerism into a kind of self-help spirituality. Later writers condensed the principles of mesmeric healing into handy maxims that could be assimilated by a popular reading audience. Thus Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls presents a paradigmatic instance of the role played by psychology in the American sensibility. In addition, Fuller's study constitutes a rich and hitherto unexplored chapter in American intellectual history.
American Women, Sexual Purity, and the New Thought Movement, 1875-1920
Author: Beryl Satter
Publisher: Univ of California Press
"Firmly grounded in social history, Satter's work reanimates a set of ideas that have been largely lost from view and demonstrates both their historical efficacy and their centrality to an understanding of the cultural and social transformations of the turn of the century."—Amy Schrager Lang, author of Prophetic Women
This “interesting, informative, and provocative book” explores the pervasive influence of neuroscience and “the view that we are essentially our brains” (History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences). Being Brains offers a critical exploration of neurocentrism, the belief that “we are our brains,” which came to prominence in the 1990s. Encouraged by advances in neuroimaging, the humanities and social sciences have gravitated toward the brain as well, developing neuro-subspecialties in fields such as anthropology, aesthetics, education, history, law, sociology, and theology. Even in the business world, dubious enterprises such as “neuromarketing” and “neurobics” have emerged to take advantage of the heightened sensitivity to all things neuro. While neither hegemonic nor monolithic, the neurocentric view embodies a powerful ideology that is at the heart of some of today’s most important philosophical, ethical, scientific, and political debates. Being Brains examines the internal logic of this new ideology, as well as its genealogy and its main contemporary incarnations. Being Brains was chosen as the 2018 Outstanding Book in the History of the Neurosciences by the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences.