Settlers from England came to America to escape the hypocrisy of established churches. Early American Puritans such as John Winthrop and Jonathan Edwards describe intense religious experiences, insisting on personal conversion in order to fully sanctify oneself and accept God’s will. Winthrop’s A Model of Christian Charity (1629) describes the hope that colonial New England might become a “city upon a hill” upholding high standards of Christian behavior before the rest of the world. Edwards’ Divine and Supernatural Light (1734) argues that saving grace comes only from the mind’s supernatural illumination.
Native American literature contains many vision quests analogous to Christian conversions. Black Elk and John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks (1932) tells the story of the Oglala Sioux holy man’s instruction in sacred lore by medicine men who strived to retain the sacred identity of his nation. Black Elk’s book also describes his conversion to Catholicism.