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articles
1. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Joseph Azize

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From about 1939 to 1947, G. I. Gurdjieff (1866–1949) taught some of his pupils exercises to send help to deceased persons and at the same time develop themselves. So far as the author is aware, the exercise is entirely unique in the annals of contemplation and mysticism. More even than Gurdjieff’s other exercises, this one seems to partake of the nature of “ritual.” The evidence is found in newly available material from his American pupil Donald Whitcomb, the recently published transcripts of his 1943 and 1944 group meetings, and from the memoirs of J. G. Bennett and Kathryn Hulme. It is contended that, unusual as they may be, these ideas and practices are related to and entirely consistent with Gurdjieff’s basic system. It appears that scholars may have underestimated the extent to which Gurdjieff developed his methods, and perhaps also his ideas, over the years.
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2. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Takaharu Oda

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This article presents a new approach to Japanese Zen Buddhism, alternative to its traditional views, which lack exact definitions of the relation between the meditator and the Buddha’s ultimate cause, dharma. To this end, I offer a comparative analysis between Zen Buddhist and Christian views of causality from the medieval to early modern periods. Through this, human causation with dharma in the Zen Buddhist meditations can be better defined and understood. Despite differences between religious traditions in deliberating human causal accounts, there are parallel ways of thinking and practicing between Christian and Buddhist meditators. Firstly, I reconstruct three sorts of Christian scholastic theories of creaturely causality: conservationism (realist or active view of our volitional action), occasionalism (passive view), and concurrentism (interactive view). Secondly, Zen Buddhist doctrines are introduced by placing particular emphasis on dharma as causal agency. Focusing on the Japanese Zen practice of meditation (zazen), finally I expound two theories of human causality: Sōtō Zen quasi-occasionalism following Master Dōgen’s teaching of enlightenment (satori), and Rinzai Zen quasi-concurrentism given the meditator’s interactive kōan practice. Hence, my comparative analysis explains why religious beings are causally active, passive, or interactive in relation to the first agency, God or dharma, whereby systematically establishing alternative definitions of human causality in Zen Buddhism.
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3. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Farid F. Saenong

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Media technologies are being utilised as an effective medium to distribute diverse messages including religious messages. Numerous Muslim preachers have taken advantage of the advance of information technology in order to reach vast audiences and establish their religious authority. However, recipients do not accept the messages blindly. Recipients critically filter and examine all information available online, including religious messages. Making use of Hall’s encoding-decoding theory, despite Sven Ross’s and David Morley’s criticism, this article analyses how encoding and decoding processes work for both messenger (preacher) and recipient respectively. This may ensure the presence of hegemonic, negotiated, and oppositional positions when audiences make sense of messages. Basalamah is arguably one of Indonesia’s most favoured preachers who utilises YouTube as a medium to proselytise. This article studies how Basalamah’s online audiences, both in Indonesia and overseas, examine and make sense of the religious messages he communicates through the internet.
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4. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Makhabbad Maltabarova

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Studies of western esotericism in the twentieth century proposed a certain number of characteristics as fundamental and universal to esotericism. This article first reviews Antoine Faivre’s intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics and Wouter J. Hanegraaff’s typology of esotericism, constituting the so-called empirical historical method. Next, it considers the case of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (c. 1866–1949), a prominent Russian-speaking spiritual teacher who developed his own method of personal perfection and whose place in the history of western esoteric thought is not indisputable. Through a discussion of some main points of Gurdjieff’s teachings and the ways he dealt with esoteric subjects, it is suggested that Faivre’s and Hanegraaff’s material can partly be applicable to his system. It finally argues that this uncertainty can be explained by specifics of Gurdjieff’s teachings, which should be considered as crucial in formulating his esotericism, as well as by limitations of the above-mentioned approach.
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5. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Ethan G. Quillen

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In 1964, the United States Supreme Court affirmed by its decision in Jacobellis vs. Ohio that the French art film, Les Amants, was not, as the State of Ohio had previously defined it, “hardcore pornography.” In his concurrent opinion, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that, though he couldn’t properly define what might constitute “hardcore pornography,” it was something that would be obvious to most of us, especially when compared to a bawdy, yet otherwise harmless, foreign film. His exact words were: “but I know it when I see it.” And while Justice Stewart’s simple acknowledgment that we might “know” what something means merely based on our personal perceptions helped justify the Court’s stance on how it approached similar obscenity laws (as well as made him famous) from that point on, it also serves us well in our own search for definitions of words like “religion” or “Atheism.” This article will use Justice Stewart’s argument as a base of discussion for the latter, providing in the process examples of Atheists across three historical periods, that will in turn support a practical description of the term itself, while simultaneously challenging the need for a “definition of Atheism” in the first place.
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6. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Milad Milani

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Discussion around religion is abundant. Talking directly to it as a phenomenon is unusual. Yet, this brief essay aims to speak directly to the question of our positionality to religion by way of drawing lessons from the Harry Potter story. It does this by thinking about the takeaway message on religion from this literary epic with the aid of Martin Heidegger, but also in conversation with John Carroll’s piece on the same. There is something to be said for the practicality of religion as reflecting the practicality of being. Being as we are in the sense of becoming, religion might be argued to denote the act, rather than the ideal, of being human.
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book reviews
7. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Carole M. Cusack

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8. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Jewell Johnson

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9. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Daniel Jones

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10. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Anna Lutkajtis

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11. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Francisco Santos Silva

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12. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 2
Federico Palmieri Di Pietro

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articles
13. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Nan Nan, James R. Lewis Orcid-ID

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14. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
James R. Lewis Orcid-ID

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Falun Gong was originally a qigong group that entered into conflict with the Chinese state around the turn of the century. It gradually transformed into both a religious group and a political movement. Exiled to the United States, the founder-leader, Li Hongzhi, acquired property near Cuddebackville, New York, which he subsequently designated Dragon Springs. Dragon Springs, in turn, became the headquarters of Shen Yun Performing Arts, an ambitious touring dance and music company that claims to embody the traditional culture of China prior to its subversion by the Chinese Communist Party. Though Li’s earlier eschatology emphasized that individuals needed to become Falun Gong practitioners in order to survive the imminent apocalypse, the significant success of Shen Yun seems to have prompted Li Hongzhi to rewrite his eschatology, which now emphasizes that all one need do in order to be “saved” is to view live Shen Yun performances.
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15. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Yu-Shuang Yao

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This article examines how modern Chinese Buddhism has been influenced by its interactions with the modern world. For our purposes, ‘modern Chinese Buddhism’ refers to a form of what has become known in the West as ‘Engaged Buddhism,’ but in Chinese is known by titles that can be translated as ‘Humanistic Buddhism’ or ‘Buddhism for Human Life.’ This tradition was initiated on the Chinese mainland between the two World Wars by the monk Tai Xu (1890–1947). Its main branches have flourished in Taiwan, whence two of them have spread worldwide. The most successful, at least in numerical terms, has been Fo Guang Shan (the Buddha’s Light Mountain) and Ci Ji (the Buddhist Compassion and Relief Society), the former founded by a personal disciple of Tai Xu, Xing Yun, the latter founded by Zheng Yan. Both of them are now very old but remain powerful charismatic leaders.
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16. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
WANG Chengjun

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The Qigong movement was one of the most remarkable New Religious Movements, and one of the most important social and cultural phenomena in China during 1980s–1990s. It rose rapidly and created what was termed a “fever” in a very short time in Post-Mao China, and then suddenly fell off the late 1990s. This paper analyzes how and why Qigong, as a new religion, endured such a drastic change within specific political, economic and cultural contexts in China across the course of twenty years. It argues that the rise of Qigong can be mainly ascribed to people’s urgent need for the promotion of health, eagerness to restore national pride, and the change of people’s lifestyle and mindset in response to the “Reform and Opening-up” subsequent to 1978. The collapse of the movement could be seen as an unavoidable result from certain intrinsic and extrinsic factors, namely, the natural tensions between Qigong itself and the national political authorities as well as the scientific establishment, harmful outcomes it produced among some practitioners, and the change in the social and cultural contexts that fostered qigong. In general, it is plausible to say that both its rise and fall were products of the time China underwent subsequent to the “Reform and Opening-up” period.
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17. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
ZHANG Xinzhang

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The PRC has a systematic, self-consistent theory and set of policies focused on xie jiao (邪教), a term that is often mistranslated as “destructive cults,” thereby causing disagreement throughout the international academic world. A more appropriate and accurate translation/interpretation agreeable to all within the PRC and beyond would contribute to bridging the confusion that often leads to misunderstanding. Our article addresses this problem by analyzing official Chinese documents and the critiques of certain international experts. Although the concept of xie jiao has its own philosophical logic, that it is often misunderstood in international communications leads to much dispute over interpretation and policy. Sino-western cultural differences explain much of this misunderstanding.
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book reviews
18. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Carole M. Cusack Orcid-ID

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19. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Carole M. Cusack Orcid-ID

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20. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 11 > Issue: 1
Carole M. Cusack Orcid-ID

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