HEAVEN ON EARTH by Michael D’Antonio


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
ISBN: 0-517-57802-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1991


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