The American Soul Rush

Esalen and the Rise of Spiritual Privilege

219 pages

13 illustrations

January, 2012

ISBN: 9780814732878

$35

Cloth

Also available in

Author

Marion Goldman is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at the University of Oregon. Her many books include Passionate Journeys: Why Successful Women Joined a Cult.

All books by Marion Goldman

Yoga. Humanistic Psychology. Meditation. Holistic Healing. These practices are commonplace today. Yet before the early 1960s they were atypical options for most people outside of the upper class or small groups of educated spiritual seekers.

Esalen Institute, a retreat for spiritual and personal growth in Big Sur, California, played a pioneering role in popularizing quests for self-transformation and personalized spirituality. This “soul rush” spread quickly throughout the United States as the Institute made ordinary people aware of hundreds of ways to select, combine, and revise their beliefs about the sacred and to explore diverse mystical experiences. Millions of Americans now identify themselves as spiritual, not religious, because Esalen paved the way for them to explore spirituality without affiliating with established denominations

The American Soul Rush explores the concept of spiritual privilege and Esalen’s foundational influence on the growth and spread of diverse spiritual practices that affirm individuals’ self-worth and possibilities for positive personal change. The book also describes the people, narratives, and relationships at the Institute that produced persistent, almost accidental inequalities in order to illuminate the ways that gender is central to religion and spirituality in most contexts.

Reviews

  • "Goldman's study is the first book to take a hard look at how issues of social class and male chauvinism have influenced the governance and direction of this seminal institution....Goldman's greatest contribution in The American Soul Rush is to remind us that it is not a coincidence that wealthy enclaves like Marin County have become meccas for seekers interested in Buddhist meditation and other techniques designed to foster 'higher consciousness.'"

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Goldman's greatest contribution in The American Soul Rush is to remind us that it is not a coincidence that wealthy enclaves like Marin County have become meccas for seekers interested in Buddhist meditation and other techniques designed to foster "higher consciousness."

    —Don Latten, SF Gate

  • "This book is a useful introduction to these issues and to the work of Walter Truett Anderson, who created archival resources on which Goldman depends...Recommended [for] lower-division undergraduates and above, [and] general readers."

    CHOICE

  • "Based on careful and thorough research of archival files, oral accounts, legal and financial records, and unpublished manuscripts, newspaper and magazine articles, field notes, and scholarly writing, American Soul Rush is an important addition to the Qualitative Studies in Religion series as well as our understanding of Esalen specifically....For students of American religion and culture as well as unaffiliated spiritual seekers curious about their contemporary roots, Goldman's book is a must read."

    —Linda Sargent Wood, Nova Religio

  • "Goldman conducted in-depth interviews with former Esalen participants and founders..."

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Finally, a reliable, insightful, and very entertaining revelation of goings on at the front of California spirituality."

    —Rodney Stark, Co-Director, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University

  • “Sure to become a standard work on the evolution of Esalen and the spiritual counterculture of North America in the decades following World War II. Goldman demonstrates clearly the influence of Esalen and its participants far beyond Big Sur.

    —Douglas Cowan, Renison University College, Waterloo, Ontario