Spiritual Seeking

Michele Dillon and Paul Wink

in In the Course of a Lifetime

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780520249004
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940031 | DOI:
Spiritual Seeking

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This chapter discusses the concept of the spiritual seeking of Americans. In America, the first spiritual awakening dates back to the 1830s and 1840s, and that is associated with the emergence of the transcendentalist movement and renowned figures such as Emerson and Thoreau. What is new about American spiritual seeking in the post-1960s era is its pervasiveness. Prior to the 1960s, only a small proportion of Americans attempted to fulfill their spiritual needs outside the domain of denominational religion. Since then, a vastly expanded spiritual marketplace has produced a growing trend toward uncoupling religion and spirituality. The autonomy associated with spiritual seeking is different. This chapter charts a path that may have relatively little truck with the ways established in traditional religious beliefs and practices. It is constituted by a personal autonomy that tends to be somewhat removed from, rather than in singular conversation with, church-based religion.

Keywords: spiritual seeking; transcendentalist movement; Emerson; Thoreau; denominational religion; spiritual needs

Chapter.  7304 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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