Minding the Body

R. Marie Griffith

in Born Again Bodies

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780520217539
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520938113 | DOI:
Minding the Body

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As New Thought aged over the first half of the twentieth century, various teachers continued to preach bodily perfection—assuring audiences that internal and external selves had far more to do with one another than previous generations may have imagined. Even those that diverged widely in ideology, however, shared a central emphasis on physical practice and appearance as revelatory of much deeper and invisible truths. This chapter looks at some of the salient consequences of New Thought perfectionism in three distinct venues: the health craze of fasting in the early twentieth century; William Sheldon's religious psychology and somatotyping procedures; and racialized theologies of divine materialization in Father Divine's Peace Mission movement and Elijah Muhammad's Black Nationalist Islam. While none of these projects became so enduring, widespread, or revolutionary as their formulators believed they were destined to be, all illuminate much broader corporeal themes in American culture that were influenced by metaphysical hopes, of bodily perfection.

Keywords: perfectionism; body; bodily perfection; physical appearance

Chapter.  21491 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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