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Born Again BodiesFlesh and Spirit in American Christianity$
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R. Marie Griffith

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520217539

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520217539.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

Minding the Body

Minding the Body

Divergent Paths of New Thought Perfectionism

(p.110) 3 Minding the Body
Born Again Bodies

R. Marie Griffith

University of California Press

As New Thought aged over the first half of the twentieth century, various teachers continued to preach bodily perfection—assuring audiences that internal and external selves had far more to do with one another than previous generations may have imagined. Even those that diverged widely in ideology, however, shared a central emphasis on physical practice and appearance as revelatory of much deeper and invisible truths. This chapter looks at some of the salient consequences of New Thought perfectionism in three distinct venues: the health craze of fasting in the early twentieth century; William Sheldon's religious psychology and somatotyping procedures; and racialized theologies of divine materialization in Father Divine's Peace Mission movement and Elijah Muhammad's Black Nationalist Islam. While none of these projects became so enduring, widespread, or revolutionary as their formulators believed they were destined to be, all illuminate much broader corporeal themes in American culture that were influenced by metaphysical hopes, of bodily perfection.

Keywords:   perfectionism, body, bodily perfection, physical appearance

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