The Journal of the American Academy of Religion posts an online advance of a review by Ann W. Duncan of The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination by Courtney Bender (The University of Chicago Press, 2010. 272 pages. $25.00). The book “profiles the new generation of Metaphysicals in Cambridge [Massachusetts] and, in keeping with Bender’s previous work, examines their translation of conviction into practice and constructed society.”
The “Long Shadows” cast by the early advocates of metaphysical religion of early Cambridge such as William James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Helena Blavatsky, and Edgar Casey remain a palpable presence for both the author and her subjects as Bender questions how individuals become “spiritual but not religious” (3)…. In this way, the New Metaphysicals are in keeping with their historical predecessors such as Helena Blavatsky who eliminated the possibility of regression from the Hindu concept of samsara. As Blavatsky and others demonstrate, “mystical practice not only rewrites local worlds and relations. It also engages and critiques the authorities, experiences, and narratives used by others to lay claim to the past and future” (152).
The rest of the review can be read here.