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1. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Arthur Herman God, Evil and Annie Besant
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This paper is about the impact of a philosophical problem on the life of a most remarkable human being. The problem is the theological problem of evil and the remarkable human being is the one-time Christian, one-time atheist, and all-time theosophist, Annie Wood Besant. Her personal and intellectual encounter with the theological problem of evil changed not only her life but, through her influence, it changed the life of British society in the 19th century and Indian society in the 20th century. Annie Besant's personal encounter with intense human suffering changed her from the wife of a Victorian clergyman and devoted mother into achampion of women's rights, a union organizer, an atheist, and a socialist; and her intellectual discovery of a solution to the problem of human suffering changed her from a free thinking atheist, materialist and secularist into an occultist and theologian and leading light of the Theosophical Society in England and India. In what follows I want to do two things: First of all, say something about Mrs. Besant's extraordinary life in England and India; and then, secondly, say something about the philosophical problem and its solution that played such important roles in her life.
2. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
James R. Lewis The Branch Davidians: Through the Lens of Jonestown
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Ever since Jonestown, part of the “cult” stereotype has been that NRMs are volatile groups, ready to commit group suicide at the drop of a hat. The assumption that the Branch Davidian community was a potential Jonestown may or may not have contributed to the initial ill-advised ATF raid. But, following the fiery holocaust set in motion by the FBI raid 51 days later, defenders of these agencies’ actions uniformly portrayed the Davidians as having been a “suicide group.” The present article presents an overview of the Davidian community, focusing particular attention on evidence that the group was not inclined to suicide. Rather, the Davidians were victims of law enforcement malfeasance.
3. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Inga B. Tøllefsen Ecofeminism, Religion and Nature in an Indian and Global Perspective
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Women tend to take a secondary place in society and also tend to be equated with nature, thus being on the losing end on both fronts, and fighting the same battle against oppression. Ecofeminism has many phases and faces, but one of the most influential is that of spiritual ecofeminism and its many expressions under the New Age umbrella. In an Indian context the picture seems to be different, as spiritual ecofeminism seems to be more closely aligned with “traditional” Hinduism. Vandana Shiva, the most famous Indian ecofeminist writer, faces a massive critique from numerous scholars. Her work is seen as essentialist and as romanticizing history, where a gender analysis perspective would focus on, among others, unequal power relations in society.
4. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Kelly Therese Pollock Working her Magic: How Starhawk’s Language of Spirituality Empowers Women and Revalues Nature
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It would be difficult to underestimate the influence of Starhawk on contemporary witchcraft and ecofeminism. Trained as a psychologist, she utilizes a unique spiritual language that is derived from a reconceptualization of classical psychoanalytic notions. In her use of this spiritual language, Starhawk not only upsets existing worldviews, but she also promotes her ecofeminist agenda. Women are empowered through Starhawk’s teachings because she allows them to see the beauty and worth in themselves. By disrupting comfortable dichotomies and emphasizing the immanent nature of divinity, Starhawk helps women to becomepersonally and socially empowered and revalues nature by recognizing the interconnectedness of all creation.
5. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Jean-François Mayer The Alternative Religiosity Market: Visit to an Esoteric Fair
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Gatherings and fairs promoting alternative beliefs, practices and lifestyles offer a privileged environment for observing the cultic milieu and its functioning. Most people interested in such topics do never join an organized alternative religious group. Written in 1999, this article is based on observations gleaned at a fair that takes place in Zurich every year since 1989. It shows the developments that intervened between the first and second shows (1989 and 1990) and the 10th gathering in 1998. This illustrated how the field has continued to widen, with an increasing diversity of practices and techniques offered. The article observes howvarious reasons lead practitioners to combine techniques and teachings. It also observes a pervading ambivalence toward modernity and the recourse to exotic cultures as a source of relief for Westerners.
6. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Constance A. Jones Metaphysical Religious Movements in the United States: A Comparison of Church Universal and Triumphant, Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, and Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness
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This paper is a comparison of three new religious movements, each of which is a twentieth-century Western religious innovation that draws heavily on Eastern as well as Western traditions. The three movements have a number of beliefs and practices in common and all can be considered metaphysical, esoteric, and gnostic in orientation and function. All three of the movements have headquarters in the western region of the United States: The Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), headed by Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1939-2009), is centered at Corwin Springs near Livingston, Montana; Ramtha's School of Enlightenment (RSE), headed by J. Z. Knight (1946-), is centered in Yelm, Washington; and the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA), headed by John-Roger Hinkins (1934-), is centered in Los Angeles, California. All three have significant numbers of members outside the United States and translate their materials into non-English editions, although this comparison relates only to members within the U. S.
7. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Anson Shupe The Modern North American Anti-Cult Movement: Its Rise and Demise According to Resource Mobilization Theory
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The emergence of innovative or new religious movements (NRMs), often popularly called "cults," is a feature of religion in virtually every society. So are counter-movement or anti-cult groups (ACMs). Here I examine the rise and fall of the North American ACM enterprise as it attempted over a thirty-year span to mobilize both official and public alarm as well as repressive actions, within a pluralistic society with no official governmental supervisory agencies at any levels, to respond to concerns over possible religious abuses. In particular, the fate of the Cult Awareness Network (based in Chicago, Illinois and one of the two trulynational ACM organizations), employing the concepts of sociology's resource mobilization theory, is delineated. The ultimately self-destructive reliance on violence as an interventionist technique, as well as apparently criminal activities, are explored.
8. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Adam Anczyk Plurality of Belief in Contemporary European Druidry
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There is a common notion, shared by the academics, that all (or most) Neopagan movements are polytheist (or duotheist), magic-oriented religious movements with higher or lower emphasis put on reconstructing – what can be called – “the Old Faith” or religions of ancient Europe. However research practice shows that among followers of various Pagan movements there is a place for plurality of belief. The subject of this article is a brief, survey analysis of contemporary Druidry, which is an example of how the spirituality of contemporary Pagans is constructed: historical, traditional and mythological themes are mixed with new formsof religious expression resulting in creating of a new form of religiosity in which there is open space for the plurality of belief.
9. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
Joaquín Algranti, Damián Setton, Luciana Verona, Kendall Busse Leadership, Proselytism and Identity in the Jewish and Pentecostal Fields in Argentina. Comparative Analysis in Habad Lubavitch and Rey de Reyes
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In the social space of religion, minority groups frequently offer the possibility to study subjective conducts and institutional strategies that become more visible due to the subordinate position of those who execute them. This is the case for the proselytizing expansion carried out by some sectors of Judaism and of the Evangelical world in the predominantly Catholic cultural environment of Argentina. This paper analyzes the similarities and differences between the organization of Chabad Lubavitch and the Neo-Pentecostal mega church Rey de Reyes (King of Kings). It argues that the different modes of constructing authority in bothinstitutions, which revolve around “personal” and “official” charisma, enable different ways of managing proselytizing activity. Thus, the religious message is spread differently according to the degree of institutionalization of each organization. This article provides a comparative analysis and contributes to the field of Sociology of Religion with research grounded in qualitative techniques. The methodology used in this paper is an ethnographic case study of both communities, including in-depth interviews of lay and specialist members, fieldwork at worship services and proselytizing activities, and analysis of documents from thesetwo religious institutions.
10. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 2 > Issue: 2
James R. Lewis The Devil’s Demographics Changes in the Satanic Milieu, 2001–2009
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From August 2000 to February 2001, I conducted an online survey of what eventually became 140 self-identified Satanists. A report detailing my findings from that questionnaire research was published in the Marburg Journal of Religion under the title “Who Serves Satan? A Demographic and Ideological Profile.” Eight years later, from June through December of 2009, a comparable online survey of 300 Satanists was conducted. However, because of certain problems with the second questionnaire, a third online survey was launched in 2011 – a third survey which, as this article went to press, was still in process. The present paper compares findings from the first survey with the second, using preliminary statistics from the third survey to counterbalance inadequacies in certain of the statistics from the second. Comparing results from the first with results from the second, the average age of respondents rose from twenty-five to twenty-nine. Partly as a consequence of higher average age, the new sample exhibited more diversity – in terms of respondents having a broader range of educational backgrounds, an increased likelihood of being a parent, and the like. Similarly, while the majority of respondents to the new survey were still broadly within the LaVeyan tradition,a far greater percentage than in the old survey professed some variety of theistic or esoteric Satanism.
11. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
James R. Lewis Toward a Paradigm for Longitudinal Studies: A Case Study of the Order of Christ Sophia
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In 2005, 2008 and 2011, demographic questionnaires were administered to the membership of the Order of Christ Sophia, a small new religion in the tradition of the Holy Order of MANS. Findings from these surveys are presented and discussed in terms of the parameters laid out by Lorne Dawson in his 2003 summary of NRM conversion research, ‘Who Joins New Religions and Why: Twenty Years of Research and What Have We Learned?’ In addition to analyzing the changes that have taken place in the Order from 2005 to 2011, the research project is presented as a paradigm for conducting longitudinal studies of other new religious movements in the future.
12. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Helen A. Berger Contemporary Paganism: Fifteen Years Later
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The Pagan Census (PC) was conducted between 1993 and 1995, while the Pagan Census Revisited (PCR) was conducted in 2009-10. Though not ‘censuses’ in the proper sense, these two data sets represent the best quantitative information we have on contemporary Paganism. Contrasting the PCR with the PC indicates that much has remained the same, especially with regard to general demographic profile. The most dramatic change in the past fifteen years is the increase in the proportion of Pagans who practice alone.
13. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Carter Charles Francophone Mormons and the Internet: The Discovery of a Space Fit for Religious Freedom and Constructive Dialogue
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Investigating various types of communication used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, focusing mainly on online communications in a European context. Using findings from a research project studying the interaction between church members and European institutions and the interactions between Mormons and non-Mormons in a Francophone world. These communications are analyzed by tone, religious and non-religion nature and how the internet has influenced Francophone Mormons' communications.
14. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 1
Garry W. Trompf Macrohistory and End-Time Beliefs in New Religious Movements: Un tour d’horizon
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An important characteristic of New Religious Movements is that their founders purport to be masters of Past, Present, and Future. Indeed this may be a crucial indicator of these movements as ‘modern.’ This article introduces the range of ideas propounded by NRM leaders about history in general (‘macrohistory’) and about why history approaches some culminating point. It is a typical feature of NRMs that their followers believe the secrets of time have been disclosed and that what they are privileged to know about the course of things is a mark of their own and the group’s identity. NRM macro-histories and eschatologies are alwaysconstructed from pre-existing materials and their development as sets of ideas often re-enliven older religious, philosophical, ethnocentric and nationalist beliefs. Starting with sectarian Protestant and Indian-originated movements well known in the West, and documenting various themes in them, the article moves on to survey a wider body of non-Western outlooks. The ideas covered are also presented for being interesting in their own right.
15. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Inga B. Tøllefsen Notes On The Demographic Profiles Of Art Of Living Practitioners In Norway And Abroad
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Examining the demographic profiles of Art of Living practitioners in Norway and to some extent in India, this paper presents new perspectives on some aspects of the practice and people in an Indian-oriented New Religion. Data relating to residence, age, gender, sexual orientation, marriage and children, levels of education, annual income, occupation, political orientation and voting are discussed. The primary findings are that Art of Living practitioners are, especially in a Norwegian context, predominantly adult, female, well-educated, resourceful and politically active – contrary to many popular beliefs about ‘cult’ members. Further,data on the movement’s key practice shows the importance of family and friendship networks for joining and continued involvement with the movement and its practices.
16. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Rasa Pranskevičiūtė “Back To Nature” Philosophy In The Vissarion and The Anastasia Movements
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This article focuses on the twin phenomena of the Vissarion religious movement and the Anastasia “spiritual” movement, both classifiable as New Age. These groups arose in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and spread throughout Europe from the East.The linkage with Nature and the Earth (opposed to what they regard as artificial technocratic civilization), the importance of harmony – i.e. loving and respectful personal relationships with people, the Earth and God, and other ecological ideas – are characteristic of the subcultural “back to Nature” philosophy (the idea of returning to the “right” world and lifestyle) in these movements. Such ideas are realized in the process of sacralizing space (creating the united family of the Vissarions and the Anastasian love spaces), which is fundamental to the self-understanding of these subcultures. Findings are based on data obtained from fieldwork carried out over a six-year period (2004-2010) in Lithuania and Russia, including participant observation research and interviews with respondentsin both countries.
17. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Lil Abdo Osborn Mary Magdalene ‘The Lioness of God’ in the Baha’i Faith
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This paper examines the role of Mary Magdalene in the Baha’i tradition. ‘Abdu’l Baha son of the founder of the Baha’i Faith spoke of Mary Magdalene on numerous occasions, referring to her as the ‘Lioness of God’ and extolling her as an exemplar to his followers, ‘My hope is that each one of you may become as Mary Magdalene – for this woman was superior to all the men of her time and her reality is ever shining from the horizon of Christ.’ Mary Magdalene is portrayed as a female archetype in the context of the doctrine of ‘return’ which describes how in each revelatory cycle the phenomenon of recurring archetypal events and dramatis personae occur. Mary Magdalene is thus linked to the Persian Poet Tahirih, the immortal heroine of the Babi-Baha’i dispensation. 'Abdu'l-Bahá portrays Mary Magdalene as a courageous woman, venturing out into a hostile and dangerous environment, firmly determined to fulfil her mission and propagate the Cause of God. By doing so, she provided a role-model for the fearful followers of Jesus who had gone into hiding. The parallels to Tahirih, in terms of courage,determination and leadership qualities, cannot be overlooked.
18. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Carole M. Cusack Cognitive Narratology and the Study of New Religions
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J. Gordon Melton has opined that in the 1960s scholars were trying to explain why new religious movements existed, and ‘what was wrong that people were turning to new religions?’ (Melton 2007). He suggests that in the twenty-first century the mood has changed, and now ‘the emergence of new religions seems to be one sign of a healthy and free society’ (Melton 2007). This article argues that this ‘normalisation’ of new religions should be extended to those religions that are explicitly based on fictional texts and include popular cultural phenomena and ludic elements. Employing the theory of cognitive narratology (Zunshine 2006), it will be demonstrated that a vocabulary of neologisms and a strong narrative thread are characteristic of both sf and new religions and spiritualities. Beings such as gods and ancestors, angels and demons (which belong to the domain of religion) are made real to humans through story (both written text and oral transmission) and thus Theory of Mind (as employed by cognitive narratologists to discuss the ways humans relate to fictional characters) is also a useful interpretative tool to analyse the relationships humans have with supernatural/supraempirical beings such as those found in religions. It is concluded that fiction-based religions (particularly those based on science fiction and fantasy) are actually logical, because Theory of Mind leads readers to invest in the worlds created in the books and to attribute to the characters inner lives and motivations so that they are made more real and meaningful (and thus likely to occupy the place of gods/angels/etc). For a certain number of readers (or viewers of filmic texts), it is logical to elect to derive ethics and other meaningful principlesfor their lives from such narratives, which may take on the status of religion.
19. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Johanna J. M. Petsche Gurdjieff and de Hartmann’s Music for Movements
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Between 1919 and 1924 Armenian-Greek spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff (c.1866-1949) and his devoted Ukrainian pupil Thomas de Hartmann (1885-1956), two men of utterly distinct characters, backgrounds, and musical abilities, composed music to accompany Gurdjieff’s ‘Movements’ or sacred dances. In following years they went on to compose more music for other purposes. This article attempts to establish basic academic groundwork on the music for Gurdjieff’s Movements. It assesses the unique process of its composition, examines the sources and styles of the music, and analyses the various ways in which the music interacts with the physical gestures of the Movements. It also considers the orchestrations of this music, and the recordings and sheet music that have been released both publicly and privately. The distinctive role of the music in Movements classes and its significance in light of Gurdjieff’s teaching will also be discussed. Finally, as Gurdjieff and de Hartmann worked together on music to accompany Gurdjieff’s ballet The Struggle of the Magicians in the same period as their music for Movements, there will be an exploration of the ballet and its music.
20. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Paul Morris Secularity and Spirituality in New Zealand Schools
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Primary schools in New Zealand has been officially secular since 1877 and yet for the last 130 years Christian religious education and instruction, by means of a legal technicality, has been a feature of the country’s publically-funded education. In this article the origins of this technicality and the debates over whether religious education should be funded from the public purse are examined in the light of changing social realities, in particular, biculturalism and the increasing recognition of New Zealand as a multicultural and multi-religious society, with a growing number of those who claim “no religion”. The teaching of Christian formation without explicit, free and informed consent raises concerns about breaches of human rights and anxieties about potentially coercive missionary activities. It is argued that the historical legacy of uncertainty and lack of clarity about religious education needs to be openly acknowledged in order to ensure a transparent and productive public debate on the teaching of, and about, religion, in schools that reflects the new diversities.