The spirituality of Native American religions can be found without much effort, and sometimes as part of non-Native spirituality. Whether incorporated into Christian worship or re-imagined as part of the New Age's veneration of creation, traces of what American Indians believe (or are assumed to believe) can be found in many religious contexts. But is any of that beneficial?
Once demonized, now lionized, but still widely misunderstood, Native religions are popular and influential, and Philip Jenkins (The Next Christendom
) spotlights the good and the bad of this phenomena. Tracing the roots from early assumptions of paganism through the 20th century's growing love affair with all things Native American, straight thought to the influence on the New Age, Dream Catchers
is an even-handed look at the truths and fallacies surrounding recent attempts to either assimilate or exonerate the traditional beliefs of these diverse peoples.
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.
Philip Jenkins, one of the world's leading religion scholars joined Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion as Distinguished Professor of History and Co-Director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion.
"Jenkins presents this hitory with an enormous range of facts, but his description and analyais remain lucid."--Numen