The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff

An Intellectual History of Anti-Intellectualism in Modern America

In The Secular Religion of Franklin Merrell-Wolff: An Intellectual History of Anti-intellectualism in Modern America, Dave Vliegenthart offers an account of the life and teachings of the modern American mystic Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1887–1985), who combined secular and religious sources from eastern and western traditions in order to elaborate and legitimate his metaphysical claim to the realization of a transcendental reality beyond reason.

Using Merrell-Wolff as a typical example of a modern western guru, Vliegenthart investigates the larger sociological and historical context of the ongoing grand narrative that asserts a widespread anti-intellectualism in modern American culture, exploring developments in religious, philosophical, and psychological discourses in North America from 1800 until the present.

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Dave Vliegenthart, PhD (2017), University of Groningen, is a lecturer in the Liberal Arts and Sciences at Maastricht University, specializing in the study of eastern-inspired western gurus and new religious movements in modern western culture.

 Franklin Merrell-Wolff

 Secular Religion


 Outline of This Study


1 Origination (1887–1914)


   Childhood: Evangelical Religion

   Adolescence: Metaphysical Religion

   Adulthood: Oriental(ist) Religion




   New Thought

   New Psychology

2 Investigation (1914–1936)


   The Temple of the People

   The Arcane School

   The International Sufi Movement

   The United Lodge of Theosophists

   The Benares League of America

   The Assembly of Man


   Einstein’s Philosophy of “Religion”

   Keyserling’s Religious “Philosophy”


   Jung’s “Creative Phantasy”

3 Realization (1936–1978)

 Three Preliminary Realizations

 First Fundamental Realization

 Second Fundamental Realization




   Indian Idealism

   German Idealism


   The Human Potential Movement

4 Routinization (1978–Today)


   Cults, New Religions, and Emergent Traditions


   Perennialism versus Constructivism


   Autobiographically “Advaitizing” Immediatism


 Social Crises and New Religions

 Competition and Rationalization

 Secular-Religious Theology


Index of Persons

Index of Subjects
Anyone interested in the history of the intercultural and interdisciplinary secular religions of modern western gurus in North American culture during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as anyone interested in (the development of) modern American anti-intellectualism.