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1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Malcolm Haddon Speaking of Krishna: Rhetoric and Revelation in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
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Drawing on ethnographic research carried out with Hare Krishna devotees in Sydney, Australia, this article examines the relationship between rhetoric and belief in Hare Krishna religious practice. The ethnography explores how doctrinal belief is revealed and consolidated for the religious neophyte in contexts of religious instruction and scriptural pedagogy, in formal and informal reading practices, and in conversant interaction with rhetorically accomplished others. The process of learning and rehearsing movement rhetoric is presented here as a creative process of skill development, the mastery of rhetorical technique being one of the essential aptitudes of the advanced religious practitioner. Even where religious pedagogy demands rote learning or faithful repetition, the author argues, neophytes are far from passive recipients in this learning process, but are rather engaged in a highly creative practice of self-transformation. As rhetorical and citational techniques are learned, rehearsed, and continually refined, they emerge in this account as a primary instrument for effecting the realisation of belief and the religious transformation of the self.
8. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Carole M. Cusack The Romance of Hereditary Monarchs and Theocratic States: Ethiopia and Emperor Haile Selassie I in Rastafarianism and Tibet and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, in Western Buddhism
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Rastafarianism and Tibetan Buddhism (as received in the West) share a number of curious traits that are worthy of examination. The contemporary West is a liberal, technological and democratic society in which traditional religion and authority have been in decline since the intellectual triumph of reason during the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. Yet the Enlightenment’s shadow, the Romantic movement, which championed emotion, instinct, and experience over the philosophes’ rationality and empiricism, continued to exert power in the late capitalist marketplace of the West. The Romantic fascination with ‘exotic’ culturesand authentic spiritualities has led to modern, secular, individuals championing hierarchical, radically undemocratic societies, and valorising and defending hereditary rulers, when these phenomena manifest in a religious context, and present as precious cultural and spiritual heritages threatened with extinction. This article examines two new religions, Rastafarianism (which originated in Jamaica in the 1930s after the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of Ethiopia) and Western Tibetan Buddhism (which emerged in the wake of the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the departure of the Dalai Lama and many Tibetan monks forthe West in 1959) with a view to demonstrating common themes of ‘orientalist’ fascination with remote theocratic states, hereditary rulers who are also religious leaders, and the value of the exotic religions they represented. That both Haile Selassie I (1892-1975) and Tenzin Gyatso (b. 1935) became exiles after their realms were brutally invaded by totalitarian regimes, went on to have prominent roles as defenders of human rights and advocates of peace due to that exile, and became venerated by devotees in the West in ways that were substantially different to how they were understood in their original religious contexts (the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the traditional Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism) further sustains the argument that these leaders, their exotic homelands, and the spiritual values they embody, have undergone similar processes of reception and religious transformation, resultant upon their physical translation from Ethiopia and Tibet to the world stage.
9. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Raphael Lataster New Theologians, New Atheists, and Public Engagement
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During the twentieth century, the power of traditional religion (that is, Christianity) in the West has gradually declined. In the wake of the Enlightenment, personal experience rather than institutional dogma began to dictate individual religiosity, or lack thereof. Pluralism and religious diversity have resulted in a spiritual marketplace that diminishes the claims to authority of particular religions. Further, the emergence of the New Atheists demonstrates that in the twenty-first century West, criticising, attacking, and mocking religion has become acceptable, perhaps even fashionable. In recent decades however, traditional religionhas attempted to re-establish itself. One intriguing aspect of this is an intellectual battle being waged by a more scientific and philosophically sophisticated group of believers, herein dubbed the New Theologians. Largely influenced by the work of esteemed Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, these knowledgeable adherents attempt to convince scholarship, and the general public, that belief in God is rational; and even that God’s existence can be proven. This article traces the origins and considers the arguments of the New Theologians, and argues that the very existence of the New Theologians points to the dominance of the rational model, further confirming the decline of traditional religion in the West.This article also touches on the New Atheists, briefly considering such issues as what makes a non-believer a ‘New Atheist’, and whether these vocal naturalists have been misrepresented. The interactions of the New Theologians and New Atheists with mainstream Western society are examined, and it is found that the possible intellectual debate that the prominence of the two groups might engender does not really exist. The New Theologians offer antique and traditional arguments for the existence of God, the New Atheists tend not to engage directly and competently with the arguments, and both sides make ample use of rhetoric and appeal to their audience’s emotions and lack of knowledge about the subject. It is further found that New Theologians and New Atheists may have a significant impact on perceptions of scholarship about religion (and irreligion) in their communities, as they attract larger audiences than their more scholarly counterparts in the academy.
10. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Bernard Doherty The ‘Brethren Cult Controversy’: Dissecting a Contemporary Australian ‘Social Problem’
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Since September 12 2005 the Christian sect known as the Exclusive Brethren have catapulted from relative obscurity to front-page newspaper reports, prime-time television coverage, and the subject of numerous parliamentary debates in Australia. The reasons for this, however, are far more complex than mainstream media reports suggest. Using insights from contextual constructionist theory this article traces the social construction of what it calls the ‘Brethren Cult Controversy’ from its roots in political controversies over the period between 2004 and 2007 to more recent controversies over Brethren education funding, Brethren development siting, and the charitable status of minority religious groups. I argue that, among other reasons, the Brethren’s rise to prominence isdirectly related to the socio-political milieu of Howard-era Australia (1996-2007) and the Brethren’s contemporaneous reduction of their ‘sectarian tension’ with mainstream Australian culture. This article also analyses the popular perception of the ‘Brethren threat’ in mainstream Australian public discourse and the ways in which the media have framed the ‘Brethren Cult Controversy’ as a social problem.
11. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 1
Carole M. Cusack Special Editor’s Introduction: New Research on Contemporary Religion From Australia and New Zealand
12. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Kjersti Hellesøy Scientology Schisms and the Mission Holders’ Conference of 1982
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The Church of Scientology’s 1982 Mission Holders’ Conference is a pivotal event for understanding the schisms the Church of Scientology (CoS) experienced in subsequent years. As with most other schisms, it is relatively easy to point to a specific incident that triggered the split. However, the more significant factors for understanding the schism are less apparent, rooted in the structure of the organization. The analysis in this paper will examine how the context in which the conference took place was decisive for subsequent schisms. With the founder and leader of CoS, L. Ron Hubbard, out of the scene, access to means of legitimation shifted from one (Hubbard) to many, something that facilitated the exit of so many otherwise dedicated Scientologist. Moreover, I will argue thatthere are certain mechanisms within Scientology which give movement leaders tools that can be used to compel dissidents into either silence or defection. The way in which Church leaders applied these tools against their own members set in motion disenchantment with CoS that later spawned schisms. Had the situation been handled with more care, fewer people would have defected.
13. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Malcolm Haddon Old, New, Borrowed, Blue: ISKCON’s Troubled History with Gaudiya Vaisnavism
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The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON, or the Hare Krishna movement) has generally been studied as a Western new religious movement (NRM) with a sociological genesis in the 1960s American counterculture. At the same time, ISKCON's claim to a genealogical heritage in the venerable Bengali Vaisnava tradition in India has been supported by many NRM scholars. The question concerning ISKCON's origins – Indian or American, old or new – has had political, legal and sectarian consequences throughout the life of the movement. This article revisits the question of ISKCON's cultural genesis byproviding a brief overview of the movement's cross-cultural development from the 1960s to the present. It shows how the discovery of Gaudiya Vaisnavism by Western Krishna converts has been a gradual, often tense, yet highly productive process of cross-cultural encounter and theological exchange, ultimately leading to the sectarian affirmation of ISKCON's distinct religious identity over and against the claims of the Indian tradition.
14. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Sean E. Currie Special Editor’s Introduction: Legitimation Strategies within the Cultic Milieu
15. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Inga B. Tøllefsen Aspects of Schism and Controversy in the History of Transcendental Meditation and the Art of Living Foundation
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This article addresses controversies in Transcendental Meditation (TM) and its history in the West (and especially in North America), chronicling periods of less or more mainstreaming on TM’s part – moving from world peace and psychedelics in the Beatles era to science as a way of attracting the ‘Average Joanna’ practitioner in later years. Furthermore, as schisms in New Religious Movements (NRMs) tend to be controversial, I examine the Robin Carlsen case and, notably, that of the Art of Living Foundation (AoL) schism. AoL has become a global NRM in a few years. In addition to exploring the likelihood of schisms from AoL, I also assess controversial (and non-controversial) interactions between AoL, TM and the mass media.
16. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Jane Skjoldli “God is Blowing Everybody’s Mind”: Three Controversies that Helped Shape the Vineyard Movement
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The Jesus People movement’s influence on Christian music and charismatic practices was profound. Alongside the interdenominational musical reformation came changes in how the charismata—God’s spiritual gifts to Christians—were performed and celebrated in church services. Embraced at first as bodily manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence, controversies arose over time concerning what should count as charismata and how central these practices ought to be in church services. This article explores three such controversies, how they were handled by church leaders and how they would come to shape the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard movements’ denominational identities.
17. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Anne Kalvig Shamans in High Heels
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This article focuses on neo-shamans in a “medialized” setting. Using the Norwegian celebrity shaman and medium Gro-Helen Tørum, other mediapractitioners from media and my own field-work as examples, I focus on the case of female shamans in particular. They often appear as mediums and clairvoyants in addition to their role as shamans, and demonstrate various ways of relating to or employing the “ethnicity” of shamanism as a way of widening their scope of action. Their staging of themselves as shamans or “users of shamanistic techniques” gives clues to understanding the interplays of popular religion and spirituality, tradition, media, and gender.
18. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Erik A. W. Östling Those Who Came from the Sky: Ancient Astronauts and Creationism in the Ra’lian Religion
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This essay will discuss the religious creation of the Frenchman Claude Vorilhon, currently known as his holiness Raël. Following an alleged encounter with an extraterrestrial in 1973 he founded the Raëlian religion. The main tenets of his religion are the notions that humankind is the creation of a group of extraterrestrial scientists; that bodily sensuality and sexuality is something positive; that immortality can be achieved through scientific means; and that if we prove ourselves worthy and rid our world of all destructive tendencies we will inherit the knowledge of our creators and become able to continue the creative cycle by creating life elsewhere in the cosmos. The present article will situate this religion within the context of ancient astronaut theories.
19. The Chesterton Review en Español: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Magdalena Merbilháa Introducción
20. The Chesterton Review en Español: Volume > 5 > Issue: 1
Paul Claudel A los mártires españoles