Like many scholars of religion in the US (or North American, or maybe even the world?), I got a personalized mass email this morning (you’d think that would be a contradiction in terms, no?), about one of (if not the, as an editor for one of the large publishers once phrased it to me) bestselling world religions textbooks that’s been on the market for the past decades: the 9th edition of the $135.20 (SRP*) Living Religions (now with the Oxy-boost learning power of MyReligionLab). I don’t know much about the author, Mary Pat Fisher, other than that she is a writer who travels (find some info on her here — scroll down), but she has the uncanny ability to — as the above email phrased it — capture the “personal consciousness” of devotees in the amber of her textbook’s pages. Who needs credentials when you can pull off that trick?
Perhaps that’s why its news that the 9th — count ’em — edition has “
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New Religion in Public Life boxes,” since the public expressions of this pristine inner consciousness are, presumably, the only means to get at the ethereal caramel center. For every dogma, every act of worship, can only become understood primarily as the reflection of some experience.
Or at least that’s what Dutch phenomenologist of religion, Garardus van der Leeuw, wrote 70 years ago (that last sentence is straight from his Religion in Essence and Manifestation [Princeton University Press, 1986], p. 456). Of course, he’s yesterday’s news to many in the field today — do students today even know who he was? But, like they say, the more things change, the more they remain the same — except the price goes way up as the CD-Rom and then the learning management system comes with the book.
Come to think of it, although it doesn’t have pictures, at $25 its way cheaper just using his book in your world religions class and requiring students to get a subscription to National Geographic or something.
*Suggested Retail Price.