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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.