Transcendent In America: A Brief Review

Over the past few class meetings we read and discussed “Transcendent in America” and have been tasked with writing a review. While I can’t speak to how qualified I am to do this, I’ll attempt to give you an idea of how I felt about the book and its usefulness in our curriculum. Transcendent in America presents an interesting look at HIMM (Hindu -Inspired Meditation Movements) and how they came to shape Hinduism in America over the years.  The author is able to come from aplace of personal experience, having participated in and had contact with many of these movements first hand, which provided a plethora of  fascinating first hand accounts and testimonies.  She did a fair job nof addressing negative aspects or things that were widely perceived negatively, but her overall look at HIMM ignored more ‘cultish’ aspects as discussed in class. Furthermore she did little to relate the HIMM and Christianity at the time, though only selectively. She relates spiritual experiences to Pentacostalism, for example, but later pointedly states the stark line between Evangelical Christianity and HIMMs.  She also seems rather reluctant to delve into the question of why abuse of power (and abuse in general) seemed to be so endemic to these organizations (as well as many other organizations, of course, particularly those featuring charismatic leaders who demand loyalty), though she displays a great deal of empathy and compassion for those hurt in said scenarios.  Additionally, she spends a great deal of time towards the end of the book relaying first hand accounts of spiritual experiences without providing much analysis, or any methodological information. In this way I think she occasionally presents a more narrowed view. However, despite these issues I found the book as a whole to be incredibly informative and useful, as well as inadvertently raising interesting questions on the nature of insider/outsider observation.

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About mghartley

An anthropologist of religion (in the making) with a focused interest in East Asia (specifically the mudang of Korea) and an abiding love for folklore and mythology. Student of Korean (and sometimes French and Japanese) with an interest in linguistics and culture.

One thought on “Transcendent In America: A Brief Review

  1. Pingback: Monks and Nones

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