The secular American university campus in the mid-seventies is a curious blend of lethargy and dedication, hedonistic pursuits and spiritual arousal. Students share with their elders disillusionment over political corruption, economic manipulations, and turgid social reform; they recognize the severity of the problems facing our society. Yet they no longer are motivated to demonstrate in the streets for social change, perhaps because they have seen that such tactics have little lasting effect. They have largely abandoned the idea of the inevitability of human progress. Many are now more dedicated than their predecessors to the task of preparing themselves for life in a world of tighter vocational competition, limited natural resources, and continuing international tensions. Beer busts and pot parties still abound, but collegians also are more seriously confronting basic questions about the meaning of life. At the same time that hard rock, soft drugs, and free sex are captivating many students, the quest for spiritual truth and inner satisfaction is gaining momentum. Academia with its disinterested pursuit of knowledge finds itself caught in the crosscurrents as flesh and spirit vie for student allegiance.
Although social thinkers of the past predicted that scientific advances would scuttle religious concerns, spiritual interest in many forms, both orthodox and bizarre, is flourishing on campus. August Comte’s positivism and his rational religion of faith in the destiny of man have proved inadequate. Karl Marx’s vision of the withering away of religion has not been fulfilled. Max Weber was correct in predicting that technology and bureaucracy would limit the great human passions, poetic imagination, and heroic aspirations, ...1