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What? New Age books popular in the Bible Belt?

September 16, 2008 at 7:09 am

Are New Age books popular in the Bible Belt? If so, can someone tell me why?

And, the bigger question is: do you (like me) consider central Florida part of the Bible Belt?

Well, even if Lady Lake, Florida isn’t part of the actual belt, it’s certainly close enough to qualify as the suspenders or maybe the garters of it.  When you’re from the suburbs of New York City, it doesn’t take much to activate your radar for these kinds of places. A church on every other block is usually my first clue.

Why do I bring up this place?  You see, I had reason to spend the weekend at a hotel in the Spanish Springssquare of a place called The Villages, a veritable 22,000 acre haven for aging golfers. Besides the fact that I felt like I was on a movie set modeled after the town square in Santa Fe (one of my favorite cities on the planet), I had an opportunity to visit the local Barnes & Noble.

While there, after doing an unofficial spot check for HCI Books, my celebrated employer, I roamed around the store. (For those of you in the book publishing business, perhaps you’ve enjoyed a spot check or two that entailed turning your books from “spine out” to “face out”. This isn’t exactly a legal tactic, but us loyal publishing soldiers sometimes can’t help ourselves. I have yet to hear about any incarcerations for this.)

On the suggestion of a friend, I began hunting for a book on the Enneagram* (they tell me I’m a “4” in this personality typing system – which translates loosely to “I feel a lot” or something). My instinct, which turned out to be incorrect, was to check the New Age section.  To my surprise, I found a very big section housing this category. Something like four entire waist high book cases. That’s about 3-4 shelves per case. In other words, a whole lot of astral travel, past life regression, aura seeing, tarot cards, numerology and astrology books.

No enneagrams, though. That was shelved in the “self-improvement” area, which by the way, was EVEN BIGGER!.

Whatever my preconceptions are or were about the average church-centered community resident, I was way off.  Apparently, it’s not all Bible study and hallelujahs. If the local B&N was displaying this large number of metaphysical tomes right out in the open, then perhaps the locals themselves were accepting of alternative ways of thinking. That was a refreshing revelation for me.

I couldn’t help but notice that the Jewish studies section was microscopic. That could have something to do with why there were no synagogues in my view. We do like to golf. As far as reading’s concerned, does People of the Book,’ ring any bells?

So move over St. Peter and let Edgar Cayce, Sydney Omar, Esther and Jerry HIcks, and Sylvia Brown have their 15 minutes.

When I see New Age books in the Bible Belt, or let’s be fair and just call it what it is, Central Florida, I have hope. Not that I think anyone should abandon their roots or their religion, or that I advocate any particular strain of New Age-ism (usually, I’m cynical about both), I am just happily relieved to know that people that you least expect are actually exposing themselves to more than one way of thinking.

I find that healthy.

Excuse me now while I visualize white light, chant my mantra, attract my soul mate and activate my money magnet. While sitting in lotus position, of course.

But, most likely, I’ll be facing Jerusalem.

Aummmmmm…

* p.s. let me recommend a good book on the Enneagram: The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson.

p.p.s. let me recommend a good friend who is wise in the ways of the Enneagram, Aimee Bernstein. See her site at: http://www.openmindadventures.com

In fact, Aimee’s doing a teleclass on the Enneagram tomorrow, September 17,  registration is still open (just note that the date listed as Sept. 10 is now Sept. 17):

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