Harold Bloom on the American Religion

In 1993, Harold Bloom published a survey of indigenous American religions, acting this time as a religious critic, not as a literary critic, his normal occupation. His subject was the common denominator between Christian Science, Mormonism, Southern Baptistism, Seventh Day Adventism, Pentecostalism and others.

His conclusion was that these religions are gnostic and fundamentally incompatible with Christianity and Judaism. Gnosticism is a religious orientation advocating gnosis, a form of mystical enlightenment, as the way to release a person’s spiritual element. It is considered a heresy by Christian churches.

For Bloom, the American religion is defined as follows:

The American finds God in herself or himself only after finding the freedom to know God by experiencing a total inward solitude. In this solitary freedom, the American is liberated both from other selves and from the created world. He comes to recognize that his spirit is itself uncreated. Knowing that he is the equal of God, the American Religionist can then achieve his true desideratum, mystical communion with his friend, the godhead.

Bloom, quotes Emerson:

It is by yourself, without ambassador, that God speaks to you.

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3 responses to “Harold Bloom on the American Religion

  1. Mr. Koch –
    You address some remarkable topics. That’s perhaps a privilege of having a blog. Might I please though encourage you, while enjoying this privilege, to maintain a high standard of journalism excellence? Yes, in the wild frontiers of the Internet, one would do well to check the validity of what he quotes, even when the source is considered reputable. A sincere investigation of Christian Science would prompt an honest man to never compare it to Gnosticism. The enlightenment of a scientific or practical Christianity, as St. Paul points out in Ephesians, is the “working of power,” the Christ-power, seen in healing the sick, redeeming the sinner, and even as he mentions, raising the dead – the type of works that Christian Scientists strive to bear witness to today. This is far from the dreamy experientialism of Gnosticism and other materialistic philosophies. Christian Scientists, from America, Canada, and around the globe, have no interest in mysticism but in “the works of Christ.”

  2. Buddhists have no use for the inflammatory word “God”, but with only this trivial difference, Bloom’s formulation — “The American finds God in herself or himself only after finding the freedom to know God by experiencing a total inward solitude. In this solitary freedom, the American is liberated both from other selves and from the created world. He comes to recognize that his spirit is itself uncreated.” — is pure Buddhism! And it’s a view a non-observant Jew can easily identify with. So why do I resist (mightily!) being lumped in with Mormons, Southern Baptists, Seventh Day Advents and Pentecostals??!