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Record Type: Review   ID: 204

Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality

Lane, Belden C.

 As a professor of Theological Studies and American Studies, Lane is very well qualified to write this book on the sacred geography of the U.S.—even his physical location: Saint Louis University, centers him in the U.S. He writes of the "sacral relation to the earth "which involves a reciprocity between person and place" (p. 3). He notes that "all limit-experiences [i.e., EEs] cause us to gather up every thread of meaning from the context in which they occur" (p. 5). Thus this book is about American spirituality in relation to place. Each tradition he examines is "from the angle of their particular geography of knowledge or spatial construction of reality" (p. 7). Interspersed between the scholarly chapters are "a series of smaller, poetic and impressionistic pieces which seek to lend more imaginative entry to the landscapes of the holy. ...They offer the perspective of the ‘believer’ who reads the landscape in his or her own creative fashion" (p. 8). But he adds that the aim of any "geography of the Spirit" is to take us via place to a new way of seeing, that is, of seeing the holy in the ordinary—which of course, would transform the ordinary into the extraordinary or the exceptional, and the person would have an exceptional human experience, an epiphany engendered by place rather than text. The American spiritual traditions he visits are "Places and Themes in Native American Spirituality," "Baroque Spirituality in New Spain and New France," "The Puritan Reading of the New England Landscape," "The Correspondence of Spiritual and Material Worlds in Shaker Spirituality," "Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Sense of Space." The personal interlude chapters are most effective. This is an unusual book about a wondrous country sorely in need of "the ordinary to be revealed as holy" (p. 131).
Publisher Information:New York: Paulist Press, 1988
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