HEAVEN ON EARTH: Dispatches from America's Spiritual Frontier by Michael D'Antonio

HEAVEN ON EARTH: Dispatches from America's Spiritual Frontier

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A budding Marco Polo of religiosity, D'Antonio--who mapped Christian fundamentalism in Fall from Grace (1989)--now offers a cautiously enthusiastic survey of even further reaches of faith: America's outposts of New Age belief. In the best tradition of exploring, D'Antonio goes native as he travels--for instance (as told in a prologue that also includes a capsule history of the New Age), plunging his hand into fire to test his spiritual mettle during a visit to Long Island shaman Irene Siegel. From Long Island, it's off to the ""New Age bazaar"" of Sedona, Arizona, where he suffers through a sweat-lodge ceremony (""worried that I was literally being cooked alive, I sank to the dirt floor""), and then on to L.A., where he attends ""healing"" services for AIDS sufferers--and reveals a moral righteousness that balances his Scout-like eagerness. Listening to famed healer Louise Hay claim that, as D'Antonio paraphrases it, ""the poor of the world are [karmically] responsible for their plight, as are those afflicted with AIDS,"" the author bristles: ""Anyone who has seen real suffering would find this thinking repellent. I did."" In Philadelphia, observing the channel ""Lazaris""; in California's yoga-fueled Ananda Village; and especially in Iowa, at Maharishi International University, D'Antonio finds plenty more that disturbs him (""TM, as practiced at MIU...is like the worst of religion: unreasonable, repressive, authoritarian""). But he also finds much to admire--in Vermont, where he marvels at the happy employees of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream; in Detroit, where he basks in the ""psychospirituality"" of M. Scott Peck; and, most of all, in Upstate New York, where he plays ""mystic baseball"" at the Omega Institute and is ""transported back in time, to a moment when I believed."" Congenial, colorful, without profound insight--much like, judging from this tour, most of the New Age movement itself.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Crown