The soul, which dominated many intellectual debates at the beginning of the twentieth century, has virtually disappeared from the sciences and the humanities. Yet it is everywhere in popular culture—from holistic therapies and new spiritual practices to literature and film to ecological and political ideologies. Ignored by scholars, it is hiding in plain sight in a plethora of religious, psychological, environmental, and scientific movements.
This book uncovers the history of the concept of the soul in twentieth-century Europe and North America. Beginning in fin de siècle Germany, Kocku von Stuckrad examines a fascination spanning philosophy, the sciences, the arts, and the study of religion, as well as occultism and spiritualism, against the backdrop of the emergence of experimental psychology. He then explores how and why the United States witnessed a flowering of ideas about the soul in popular culture and spirituality in the latter half of the century.
Von Stuckrad examines an astonishingly wide range of figures and movements—ranging from Ernest Renan, Martin Buber, and Carl Gustav Jung to the Esalen Institute, deep ecology, and revivals of shamanism, animism, and paganism to Rachel Carson, Ursula K. Le Guin, and the Harry Potter franchise. Revealing how the soul remains central to a culture that is only seemingly secular, this book casts new light on the place of spirituality, religion, and metaphysics in Europe and North America today.