THE SIXTIES SPIRITUAL AWAKENING: American Religion Moving from Modern to Postmodern by Robert S. Ellwood

THE SIXTIES SPIRITUAL AWAKENING: American Religion Moving from Modern to Postmodern

Email this review


An alternately serious and silly look at the 60s as an era of spiritual change in the United States. Ellwood (Religion/Univ. of Southern California) contends that the real core of the 1960s was a spiritual revolution. This revolution, however, is most often overlooked by chroniclers of the period, as they prefer instead to focus on the tumultuous political and social upheavals such as the civil rights and antiwar movements. For the author the 1960s, in fact, was the decade in which the postmodern took hold. Following Lyotard's lead, he defines ""postmodern"" as a rejection and distrust of master narratives. In religion what this implies, he contends, is a movement away from large hierarchical, institutional religions with rigid structures of authority toward smaller faiths (some of which offer, paradoxically, an ethos that is at once more communitarian and more individualistic than that found in traditional religion). This is what occurred in the 1960s. While established Christianity grappled with Death of God theology and modernization (as exemplified by the Second Vatican Council), Zen, Hinduism, Krishna, Scientology, and a plethora of new religious movements began to capture the imagination of millions of young people. The counterculture both embodied and adopted pieces of this spiritual pluralism and latitudinarianism. Ellwood also sees today's New Age movement as the living remainder of the legacy of the spiritual awakening of the 1960s. Purple prose, flowery extended metaphors, and an obvious nostalgic longing for the 1960s mar what aspires to be an important study.

Pub Date: July 18th, 1994
Page count: 350pp
Publisher: Rutgers Univ. Press