Yoga classes and Zen meditation, New Age seminars and holistic workshops, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and books by Deepak Chopra -- all are part of the religious experimentation that has surprisingly deep roots in American history. In fact, they represent only the most recent flowerings of a unique form of spirituality. By tracing our spiritual heritage along its many colorful highways and eccentric byways, Restless Souls profiles a rich spirituality that is distinctively American.
Since the 1960s, our expanded and enhanced spiritual explorations have changed us from a nation of church goers into a culture of seekers. But the American fascination with mystical experience and churchless spirituality goes back much further than the psychedelic era. In Restless Souls, historian Leigh Schmidt deftly traces this American romance with the interior life from the likes of transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson to television host Oprah Winfrey, from poet Walt Whitman to Senator Barak Obama, from questing psychologist William James to Zen basketball coach Phil Jackson. We're taken from pioneer Johnny Appleseed to translator of Sufi poetry Coleman Barks, from theosophist Madame Blavatsky to meditation guru Ram Dass, and then to many more.
This book places the most recent spiritual upsurge in the context of a broader cultural and intellectual history. In contrast to prevailing fears about the conservative influence of religion in America, Restless Souls depicts a vibrantly open American spirituality and serves as a timely reminder of the ample religious resources of the liberal tradition.