Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality

Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality

Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality

Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality

Synopsis

In books such as Mystics and Messiahs, Hidden Gospels, and The Next Christendom, Philip Jenkins has established himself as a leading commentator on religion and society. Now, in Dream Catchers, Jenkins offers a brilliant account of the changing mainstream attitudes towards Native American spirituality, once seen as degraded spectacle, now hailed as New Age salvation. Jenkins charts this remarkable change by highlighting the complex history of white American attitudes towards Native religions, considering everything from the 19th-century American obsession with "Hebrew Indians" and Lost Tribes, to the early 20th-century cult of the Maya as bearers of the wisdom of ancient Atlantis. He looks at the popularity of the Carlos Castaneda books, the writings of Lynn Andrews and Frank Waters, and explores New Age paraphernalia including dream-catchers, crystals, medicine bags, and Native-themed Tarot cards. He also examines the controversial New Age appropriation of Native sacred places and notes that many "white indians" see mainstream society as religiously empty. An engrossing account of our changing attitudes towards Native spirituality, Dream Catchers offers a fascinating introduction to one of the more interesting aspects of contemporary American religion.

Excerpt

This book describes a radical change in mainstream American cultural and religious attitudes over the past century or so, namely in popular views of Native American spirituality. Though the process of toleration and dialogue between any of the major religions has been slow, gradual, and often depressing, many Christians historically faced special difficulties in recognizing what American Indians were doing as authentically religious, let alone as something that could be permitted or accommodated. Yet attitudes did shift dramatically, until today, the vast majority of Americans respect and admire the Native tradition. Indeed, millions try, controversially, to copy it, to absorb Indian spirituality into their own lives. Americans today are prepared not just to grant that once-unfamiliar religions have virtues, but to admit that the whole concept of religion is much broader than they might once have imagined.

From the end of the nineteenth century, a growing number of white Americans came first to appreciate Native spiritual traditions and then to see in them something that was conspicuously lacking in the mainstream culture. Ideas that originated among a few intellectuals and artists reached a general public, until today they have become social orthodoxy. the extent . . .

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