Volume 10, Issue 1, 2019
Xinzhang Zhang, George A. Dunn
Spiritual Movements, Secret Societies, and Destructive Cults
Panel Discussion, Hangzhou, October 2017
During September 22–24, 2017, Zhejiang University hosted an International Symposium on the Theoretical and Practical Issues of Faiths in the Construction of the Community of Common Destiny for All Mankind in Hangzhou, China. In the course of this conference, six scholars from Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and China participated in an interdisciplinary panel discussion about “Spiritual Movements, Secret Societies, and Destructive Cults.” Covering such topics as the general spiritual situation of the contemporary world, the religious marketplace, the dangerous tendencies within some religious movements, and the role of the state in relation to religious communities, the discussion concludes with an examination of the conflict of Falun Gong with the Chinese government and the faults of the group’s leadership that brought the conflict to a head. The discussion offers a fruitful combination of theoretical insights and concrete case studies that provides a wide and deep purview of our present spiritual situation, setting forth both its dangers and its positive potential. This paper is a transcript of the panel discussion, with a brief introduction identifying its highlights.