Yoga garnered a significant amount of journalistic attention in 2013, but often not for spiritual reasons. A recent study has revealed that 15 million Americans now practice Yoga (mostly college educated women) and that almost half of them earn at least $75,000 annually. If you are looking to make money off of spirituality, Yoga perhaps now offers the best chance. Last year $27 billion dollars were spent in the U.S. alone on Yoga products. Yoga has truly become America’s next great prosperity gospel.
Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins is a doctoral student in the History Department at Columbia University. He focuses primarily on modern European intellectual history. He is writing his dissertation on the idea of liberalism in France after World War II.
Posts by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins
In 2009, the noted Dutch anthropologist (and New Directions in the Study of Prayer Advisory Committee member) Peter van der Veer published, in the journal Social Research, an article devoted to explaining the origins of modern spirituality. Committed to Talal Asad’s call for an “anthropology of secularism” and riding on the coattails of Charles Taylor’s Secular Age, van der Veer argued that modern spirituality first emerged in the West during the second half of the nineteenth-century, as an alternative to traditional religion fueled by the “secularization of the western mind.” In search of alternatives to institutionalized Christianity, the nineteenth-century witnessed the rise of various movements—Transcendentalism, Christian Science, Theosophy—hoping to discover a universal spirituality agreeable to the modern intellectual palate.
Paul Bloom’s recent New Yorker essay, “The Baby in the Well,” has created a small internet stir by calling out the many vices rather than the oft heralded virtues of empathy—a major academic and self-help trend. Bloom’s basic criticism can be summed as follows: empathy distracts us from what really matters since it requires feeling or relating to the situation of others to necessitate social/political action; such feelings are typically directed at concerns of relative insignificance when compared to situations of dire importance that fail to engender much empathy.
This past April, Tanya Luhrmann—the Stanford anthropologist-was invited by the New York Times to contribute a series of Op-Ed guest columns based on the recent publication of her 2012 book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God.