Alternative Altars: Unconventional and Eastern Spirituality by Robert S. Ellwood

By Robert S. Ellwood

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The explosive occasions of Jonestown and Koreagate have riveted the eyes of the United States at the burgeoning and mostly misunderstood move of latest spiritual cults. Robert S. Elwood makes an attempt to extra our knowing of those occult, mystical and jap non secular hobbies within the usa by way of putting them in a a distinctively American context, demonstrating that they're neither new or alien.

This compact quantity combines extraordinary volume of ancient info with present interpretative theories approximately deepest pilgrimages and sectarian differentiation. the writer covers a variety of emergent, non-normative non secular types and notes that they've omprised myriad members, every one following comparable styles of non-public excursus or quests for internal attention. After discussing the typical beneficial properties of such non secular festiveness, Ellwood highlights Shaker Spiritualism, Theosophy, and as illustrative of a continual and sundry culture of spiritual experimentation in America.... might be this book's maximum contribution is to make it most unlikely any further to disregard those religions as real expressions of religious main issue which mainline church buildings try out vainly to demonize
-- Religion reviews Review

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Additional resources for Alternative Altars: Unconventional and Eastern Spirituality in America (Chicago History of American Religion)

Example text

Far from being short-lived, some tury, while admittedly perpetuating a religion at great variance Spiritualist institutions have survived over a cen- with community beliefs, and centered on "mystical" experience and personal problems. '^ itself go, the movement without benefit of the kind of educa- institutional solidity It 1 which undergirds "main- seems, in other words, to play by different rules. Our model, on the other hand, would emphasize and conceptual framework for the continuities of Spiritualism as (to name — give a as well only the three traditions discussed at length in this book) the relationship of Theosophy with Spiritualism and of American Zen Theosophy.

But its uniqueness can be, and often is, misleadingly wedded to another conceptual paradigm, one which has been common coin of prophets and social commentators from ancient Greece and Israel to the present: the past as a kind of timeless mythic illud tempus when people lived more quietly and were more religious than now, against which a present of change and, usually, fall from grace, can be showcased. This reading of the history of religion is hardly valid. As Paul Radin has shown, primitive societies have their share of skeptics and of the irreligious just as do modern societies.

And state It is the goal, adumbrated communitas. it is Can we Reactions are spon- roles. and countercultures, and pilgrimages. Turner calls this are told, of Utopias in festivals communitas the desire for unstructured excursus quest for plenitude of grid and group? I correlate with the believe that it can, and, indeed, that in this quest strong grid and group are intended as symbols of communitas. In a traditionally strong grid and group society, the search for communitas might take other forms.

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