The Meaning of Marianne Williamson

The Meaning of Marianne Williamson
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

One of the pleasures of the Democratic primary season so far has been watching some of my colleagues in the press have their first exposure to Marianne Williamson, a figure who has occupied an important role in the American religious landscape since my own mysticism-shadowed youth, without always getting the credit for cultural influence that she deserves.

That influence, well-described by Sam Kestenbaum in last Friday's Times, centers on her role as a popularizer for "A Course in Miracles," a book that has long been ubiquitous in the borderlands between charismatic Christianity and New Age spirituality. Since her first encounter with its message, Williamson has played the Apostle Paul for the book's author, Helen Shucman, carrying the Course's Mary Baker Eddy-esque promise of healing and harmony through a long career as a celebrity whisperer, Oprah-endorsed personality, author and spiritual guru — a career that has now finally led her into politics, as a kind of New Age answer to Pat Robertson or Al Sharpton's ministerial campaigns.

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