EOR2.tpgsV10 11/10/04 10:49 AM Page 1
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F
RELIGION
S E C O N D E D I T I O N


EOR2.tpgsV10 11/10/04 10:49 AM Page 3
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F
RELIGION
S E C O N D E D I T I O N
10
NECROMANCY
LINDSAY JONES

EDITOR IN CHIEF
PINDAR

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page iv
Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition
Lindsay Jones, Editor in Chief
© 2005 Thomson Gale, a part of The
For permission to use material from this
Since this page cannot legibly accommodate
Thomson Corporation.
product, submit your request via Web at
all copyright notices, the acknowledgments
http://www.gale-edit.com/permissions, or you
constitute an extension of the copyright
Thomson, Star Logo and Macmillan Reference
may download our Permissions Request form
notice.
USA are trademarks and Gale is a registered
and submit your request by fax or mail to:
trademark used herein under license.
While every effort has been made to
Permissions
ensure the reliability of the information pre-
For more information, contact
Thomson Gale
sented in this publication, Thomson Gale
Macmillan Reference USA
27500 Drake Rd.
does not guarantee the accuracy of the data
An imprint of Thomson Gale
Farmington Hills, MI 48331-3535
contained herein. Thomson Gale accepts no
27500 Drake Rd.
Permissions Hotline:
payment for listing; and inclusion in the pub-
Farmington, Hills, MI 48331-3535
248-699-8006 or 800-877-4253 ext. 8006
lication of any organization, agency, institu-
Or you can visit our Internet site at
Fax: 248-699-8074 or 800-762-4058
tion, publication, service, or individual does
http://www.gale.com
not imply endorsement of the editors or pub-
lisher. Errors brought to the attention of the
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
publisher and verified to the satisfaction of
No part of this work covered by the copyright
the publisher will be corrected in future
hereon may be reproduced or used in any
editions.
form or by any means—graphic, electronic, or
mechanical, including photocopying, record-
ing, taping, Web distribution, or information
storage retrieval systems—without the writ-
ten permission of the publisher.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Encyclopedia of religion / Lindsay Jones, editor in chief.— 2nd ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-02-865733-0 (SET HARDCOVER : ALK. PAPER) —
ISBN 0-02-865734-9 (V. 1) — ISBN 0-02-865735-7 (v. 2) —
ISBN 0-02-865736-5 (v. 3) — ISBN 0-02-865737-3 (v. 4) —
ISBN 0-02-865738-1 (v. 5) — ISBN 0-02-865739-X (v. 6) —
ISBN 0-02-865740-3 (v. 7) — ISBN 0-02-865741-1 (v. 8) —
ISBN 0-02-865742-X (v. 9) — ISBN 0-02-865743-8 (v. 10)
— ISBN 0-02-865980-5 (v. 11) — ISBN 0-02-865981-3 (v.
12) — ISBN 0-02-865982-1 (v. 13) — ISBN 0-02-865983-X
(v. 14) — ISBN 0-02-865984-8 (v. 15)
1. RELIGION—ENCYCLOPEDIAS. I. JONES, LINDSAY,
1954-
BL31.E46 2005
200’.3—dc22
2004017052
This title is also available as an e-book.
ISBN 0-02-865997-X
Contact your Thomson Gale representative for ordering information.
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page v
E D I T O R S A N D C O N S U L T A N T S
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Program in Religious Studies,
SIGMA ANKRAVA
LINDSAY JONES
University of Wisconsin—Madison
Professor, Department of Literary and
Associate Professor, Department of
C
Cultural Studies, Faculty of Modern
HARLES H. LONG
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of History of Religions,
Languages, University of Latvia
University
Baltic Religion and Slavic Religion
Emeritus, and Former Director of
Research Center for Black Studies,

DIANE APOSTOLOS-CAPPADONA
BOARD MEMBERS
University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Muslim–Christian
DAVÍD CARRASCO
Understanding and Liberal Studies
MARY N. MACDONALD
Neil Rudenstine Professor of Study of
Program, Georgetown University
Professor, History of Religions, Le
Latin America, Divinity School and
Art and Religion
Moyne College (Syracuse, New York)
Department of Anthropology, Harvard
DIANE BELL
DALE B. MARTIN
University
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s
Professor of Religious Studies, and
Studies, George Washington University
GIOVANNI CASADIO
Chair, Department of Religious
Australian Indigenous Religions
Professor of History of Religions,
Studies, Yale University
Dipartimento di Scienze
KEES W. BOLLE
AZIM NANJI
Professor Emeritus of History,
dell’Antichità, Università degli Studi
Professor and Director, The Institute
University of California, Los Angeles,
di Salerno
of Ismaili Studies, London
and Fellow, Netherlands Institute for
WENDY DONIGER
JACOB OLUPONA
Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service
Professor, African American and
and Social Sciences
Professor of the History of Religions,
African Studies Program, University
History of Religions
University of Chicago
of California, Davis
MARK CSIKSZENTMIHALYI
GARY L. EBERSOLE
MICHAEL SWARTZ
Associate Professor in the Department
Professor of History and Religious
Professor of Hebrew and Religious
of East Asian Languages and
Studies, and Director, UMKC Center
Studies, Ohio State University
Literature and the Program in
for Religious Studies, University of
Religious Studies, University of
INÉS TALAMANTEZ
Missouri—Kansas City
Wisconsin—Madison
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Chinese Religions
JANET GYATSO
Department, University of California,
RICHARD A. GARDNER
Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies,
Santa Barbara
Faculty of Comparative Culture,
The Divinity School, Harvard
Sophia University
University
CONSULTANTS
Humor and Religion
GREGORY D. ALLES
CHARLES HALLISEY
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
JOHN A. GRIM
Associate Professor, Department of
McDaniel College
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Languages and Cultures of Asia and
Study of Religion
University and Co-Coordinator,
v

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page vi
vi
EDITORS AND CONSULTANTS
Harvard Forum on Religion and
TED PETERS
Religion, University of Chicago
Ecology
Professor of Systematic Theology,
Law and Religion
Ecology and Religion
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
TOD SWANSON
JOSEPH HARRIS
and the Center for Theology and the
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Francis Lee Higginson Professor of
Natural Sciences at the Graduate
and Director, Center for Latin
English Literature and Professor of
Theological Union, Berkeley,
American Studies, Arizona State
Folklore, Harvard University
California
University
Germanic Religions
Science and Religion
South American Religions
URSULA KING
FRANK E. REYNOLDS
MARY EVELYN TUCKER
Professor Emerita, Senior Research
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Fellow and Associate Member of the
and Buddhist Studies in the Divinity
University, Founder and Coordinator,
Institute for Advanced Studies,
School and the Department of South
University of Bristol, England, and
Asian Languages and Civilizations,
Harvard Forum on Religion and
Professorial Research Associate, Centre
Emeritus, University of Chicago
Ecology, Research Fellow, Harvard
for Gender and Religions Research,
History of Religions
Yenching Institute, Research Associate,
School of Oriental and African
GONZALO RUBIO
Harvard Reischauer Institute of
Studies, University of London
Assistant Professor, Department of
Japanese Studies
Gender and Religion
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean
Ecology and Religion
DAVID MORGAN
Studies and Department of History
HUGH B. URBAN
Duesenberg Professor of Christianity
and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania
Associate Professor, Department of
and the Arts, and
State University
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of Humanities and Art
Ancient Near Eastern Religions
University
History, Valparaiso University
SUSAN SERED
Politics and Religion
Color Inserts and Essays
Director of Research, Religion, Health
CATHERINE WESSINGER
JOSEPH F. NAGY
and Healing Initiative, Center for the
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor, Department of English,
Study of World Religions, Harvard
and Women’s Studies, Loyola
University of California, Los Angeles
University, and Senior Research
University New Orleans
Celtic Religion
Associate, Center for Women’s Health
New Religious Movements
M
and Human Rights, Suffolk University
ATTHEW OJO
Healing, Medicine, and Religion
R
Obafemi Awolowo University
OBERT A. YELLE
African Religions
LAWRENCE E. SULLIVAN
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University
of Toronto

J
Professor, Department of Theology,
UHA PENTIKÄINEN
Law and Religion
Professor of Comparative Religion, The
University of Notre Dame
History of Religions
University of Helsinki, Member of
ERIC ZIOLKOWSKI
Academia Scientiarum Fennica,
WINNIFRED FALLERS SULLIVAN
Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious
Finland
Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer
Studies, Lafayette College
Arctic Religions and Uralic Religions
in the Anthropology and Sociology of
Literature and Religion
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page vii
A B B R E V I A T I O N S A N D S Y M B O L S
U S E D I N T H I S W O R K
abbr. abbreviated; abbreviation
3 Bar. 3 Baruch
2 Chr. 2 Chronicles
abr. abridged; abridgment
4 Bar. 4 Baruch
Ch. Slav. Church Slavic
AD anno Domini, in the year of the
B.B. BavaD batraD
cm centimeters
(our) Lord
BBC British Broadcasting
col. column (pl., cols.)
Afrik. Afrikaans
Corporation
Col. Colossians
AH anno Hegirae, in the year of the
BC before Christ
Colo. Colorado
Hijrah
BCE before the common era
comp. compiler (pl., comps.)
Akk. Akkadian
B.D. Bachelor of Divinity
Conn. Connecticut
Ala. Alabama
Beits. Beitsah
cont. continued
Alb. Albanian
Bekh. Bekhorot
Copt. Coptic
Am. Amos
Beng. Bengali
1 Cor. 1 Corinthians
AM ante meridiem, before noon
Ber. Berakhot
2 Cor. 2 Corinthians
amend. amended; amendment
Berb. Berber
corr. corrected
annot. annotated; annotation
Bik. Bikkurim
C.S.P. Congregatio Sancti Pauli,
Ap. Apocalypse
bk. book (pl., bks.)
Congregation of Saint Paul
Apn. Apocryphon
B.M. BavaD metsiEaD
(Paulists)
app. appendix
BP before the present
d. died
Arab. Arabic
B.Q. BavaD qammaD
D Deuteronomic (source of the
EArakh. EArakhin
Bra¯h. Bra¯hman.a
Pentateuch)
Aram. Aramaic
Bret. Breton
Dan. Danish
Ariz. Arizona
B.T. Babylonian Talmud
D.B. Divinitatis Baccalaureus,
Ark. Arkansas
Bulg. Bulgarian
Bachelor of Divinity
Arm. Armenian
Burm. Burmese
D.C. District of Columbia
art. article (pl., arts.)
c. circa, about, approximately
D.D. Divinitatis Doctor, Doctor of
AS Anglo-Saxon
Calif. California
Divinity
Asm. Mos. Assumption of Moses
Can. Canaanite
Del. Delaware
Assyr. Assyrian
Catal. Catalan
Dem. DemaDi
A.S.S.R. Autonomous Soviet Socialist
CE of the common era
dim. diminutive
Republic
Celt. Celtic
diss. dissertation
Av. Avestan
cf. confer, compare
Dn. Daniel
EA.Z. EAvodah zarah
Chald. Chaldean
D.Phil. Doctor of Philosophy
b. born
chap. chapter (pl., chaps.)
Dt. Deuteronomy
Bab. Babylonian
Chin. Chinese
Du. Dutch
Ban. Bantu
C.H.M. Community of the Holy
E Elohist (source of the Pentateuch)
1 Bar. 1 Baruch
Myrrhbearers
Eccl. Ecclesiastes
2 Bar. 2 Baruch
1 Chr. 1 Chronicles
ed. editor (pl., eds.); edition; edited by
vii

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page viii
viii
ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
EEduy. EEduyyot
Hung. Hungarian
Lith. Lithuanian
e.g. exempli gratia, for example
ibid. ibidem, in the same place (as the
Lk. Luke
Egyp. Egyptian
one immediately preceding)
LL Late Latin
1 En. 1 Enoch
Icel. Icelandic
LL.D. Legum Doctor, Doctor of Laws
2 En. 2 Enoch
i.e. id est, that is
Lv. Leviticus
3 En. 3 Enoch
IE Indo-European
m meters
Eng. English
Ill. Illinois
m. masculine
enl. enlarged
Ind. Indiana
M.A. Master of Arts
Eph. Ephesians
intro. introduction
Ma Eas. MaEaserot
EEruv. EEruvin
Ir. Gael. Irish Gaelic
Ma Eas. Sh. MaE aser sheni
1 Esd. 1 Esdras
Iran. Iranian
Mak. Makkot
2 Esd. 2 Esdras
Is. Isaiah
Makh. Makhshirin
3 Esd. 3 Esdras
Ital. Italian
Mal. Malachi
4 Esd. 4 Esdras
J Yahvist (source of the Pentateuch)
Mar. Marathi
esp. especially
Jas. James
Mass. Massachusetts
Est. Estonian
Jav. Javanese
1 Mc. 1 Maccabees
Est. Esther
Jb. Job
2 Mc. 2 Maccabees
et al. et alii, and others
Jdt. Judith
3 Mc. 3 Maccabees
etc. et cetera, and so forth
Jer. Jeremiah
4 Mc. 4 Maccabees
Eth. Ethiopic
Jgs. Judges
Md. Maryland
EV English version
Jl. Joel
M.D. Medicinae Doctor, Doctor of
Ex. Exodus
Jn. John
Medicine
exp. expanded
1 Jn. 1 John
ME Middle English
Ez. Ezekiel
2 Jn. 2 John
Meg. Megillah
Ezr. Ezra
3 Jn. 3 John
Me Eil. MeEilah
2 Ezr. 2 Ezra
Jon. Jonah
Men. Menah.ot
4 Ezr. 4 Ezra
Jos. Joshua
MHG Middle High German
f. feminine; and following (pl., ff.)
Jpn. Japanese
mi. miles
fasc. fascicle (pl., fascs.)
JPS Jewish Publication Society trans-
Mi. Micah
fig. figure (pl., figs.)
lation (1985) of the Hebrew Bible
Mich. Michigan
Finn. Finnish
J.T. Jerusalem Talmud
Mid. Middot
fl. floruit, flourished
Jub. Jubilees
Minn. Minnesota
Fla. Florida
Kans. Kansas
Miq. MiqvaDot
Fr. French
Kel. Kelim
MIran. Middle Iranian
frag. fragment
Ker. Keritot
Miss. Mississippi
ft. feet
Ket. Ketubbot
Mk. Mark
Ga. Georgia
1 Kgs. 1 Kings
Mo. Missouri
Gal. Galatians
2 Kgs. 2 Kings
MoEed Q. MoEed qat.an
Gaul. Gaulish
Khois. Khoisan
Mont. Montana
Ger. German
Kil. Kil Dayim
MPers. Middle Persian
Git.. Git.t.in
km kilometers
MS. manuscriptum, manuscript (pl.,
Gn. Genesis
Kor. Korean
MSS)
Gr. Greek
Ky. Kentucky
Mt. Matthew
H
. ag. H
. agigah
l. line (pl., ll.)
MT Masoretic text
H
. al. H
. allah
La. Louisiana
n. note
Hau. Hausa
Lam. Lamentations
Na. Nahum
Hb. Habakkuk
Lat. Latin
Nah. Nahuatl
Heb. Hebrew
Latv. Latvian
Naz. Nazir
Heb. Hebrews
L. en Th. Licencié en Théologie,
N.B. nota bene, take careful note
Hg. Haggai
Licentiate in Theology
N.C. North Carolina
Hitt. Hittite
L. ès L. Licencié ès Lettres, Licentiate
n.d. no date
Hor. Horayot
in Literature
N.Dak. North Dakota
Hos. Hosea
Let. Jer. Letter of Jeremiah
NEB New English Bible
H
. ul. H
. ullin
lit. literally
Nebr. Nebraska
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page ix
ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
ix
Ned. Nedarim
pop. population
sp. species (pl., spp.)
Neg. Nega Eim
Port. Portuguese
Span. Spanish
Neh. Nehemiah
Prv. Proverbs
sq. square
Nev. Nevada
Ps. Psalms
S.S.R. Soviet Socialist Republic
N.H. New Hampshire
Ps. 151 Psalm 151
st. stanza (pl., ss.)
Nid. Niddah
Ps. Sol. Psalms of Solomon
S.T.M. Sacrae Theologiae Magister,
N.J. New Jersey
pt. part (pl., pts.)
Master of Sacred Theology
Nm. Numbers
1Pt. 1 Peter
Suk. Sukkah
N.Mex. New Mexico
2 Pt. 2 Peter
Sum. Sumerian
no. number (pl., nos.)
Pth. Parthian
supp. supplement; supplementary
Nor. Norwegian
Q hypothetical source of the synoptic
Sus. Susanna
n.p. no place
Gospels
s.v. sub verbo, under the word (pl.,
n.s. new series
Qid. Qiddushin
s.v.v.)
N.Y. New York
Qin. Qinnim
Swed. Swedish
Ob. Obadiah
r. reigned; ruled
Syr. Syriac
O.Cist. Ordo Cisterciencium, Order
Rab. Rabbah
Syr. Men. Syriac Menander
of Cîteaux (Cistercians)
rev. revised
TaE an. TaEanit
OCS Old Church Slavonic
R. ha-Sh. RoDsh ha-shanah
Tam. Tamil
OE Old English
R.I. Rhode Island
Tam. Tamid
O.F.M. Ordo Fratrum Minorum,
Rom. Romanian
Tb. Tobit
Order of Friars Minor
Rom. Romans
T.D. Taisho¯ shinshu¯ daizo¯kyo¯, edited
(Franciscans)
R.S.C.J. Societas Sacratissimi Cordis
by Takakusu Junjiro¯ et al.
OFr. Old French
Jesu, Religious of the Sacred Heart
(Tokyo,1922–1934)
Ohal. Ohalot
RSV Revised Standard Version of the
Tem. Temurah
OHG Old High German
Bible
Tenn. Tennessee
OIr. Old Irish
Ru. Ruth
Ter. Terumot
OIran. Old Iranian
Rus. Russian
T
. ev. Y. T
. evul yom
Okla. Oklahoma
Rv. Revelation
Tex. Texas
ON Old Norse
Rv. Ezr. Revelation of Ezra
Th.D. Theologicae Doctor, Doctor of
O.P. Ordo Praedicatorum, Order of
San. Sanhedrin
Theology
Preachers (Dominicans)
S.C. South Carolina
1 Thes. 1 Thessalonians
OPers. Old Persian
Scot. Gael. Scottish Gaelic
2 Thes. 2 Thessalonians
op. cit. opere citato, in the work cited
S.Dak. South Dakota
Thrac. Thracian
OPrus. Old Prussian
sec. section (pl., secs.)
Ti. Titus
Oreg. Oregon
Sem. Semitic
Tib. Tibetan
EOrl. EOrlah
ser. series
1 Tm. 1 Timothy
O.S.B. Ordo Sancti Benedicti, Order
sg. singular
2 Tm. 2 Timothy
of Saint Benedict (Benedictines)
Sg. Song of Songs
T. of 12 Testaments of the Twelve
p. page (pl., pp.)
Sg. of 3 Prayer of Azariah and the
Patriarchs
P Priestly (source of the Pentateuch)
Song of the Three Young Men
T
. oh. t.ohorot
Pa. Pennsylvania
Shab. Shabbat
Tong. Tongan
Pahl. Pahlavi
Shav. ShavuEot
trans. translator, translators; translated
Par. Parah
Sheq. Sheqalim
by; translation
para. paragraph (pl., paras.)
Sib. Or. Sibylline Oracles
Turk. Turkish
Pers. Persian
Sind. Sindhi
Ukr. Ukrainian
Pes. Pesahim
Sinh. Sinhala
Upan. Upanis.ad
Ph.D. Philosophiae Doctor, Doctor
Sir. Ben Sira
U.S. United States
of Philosophy
S.J. Societas Jesu, Society of Jesus
U.S.S.R. Union of Soviet Socialist
Phil. Philippians
(Jesuits)
Republics
Phlm. Philemon
Skt. Sanskrit
Uqts. Uqtsin
Phoen. Phoenician
1 Sm. 1 Samuel
v. verse (pl., vv.)
pl. plural; plate (pl., pls.)
2 Sm. 2 Samuel
Va. Virginia
PM post meridiem, after noon
Sogd. Sogdian
var. variant; variation
Pol. Polish
Sot.. Sot.ah
Viet. Vietnamese
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

eorel_fm 3/2/05 8:36 AM Page x
x
ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS
viz. videlicet, namely
Yad. Yadayim
* hypothetical
vol. volume (pl., vols.)
Yev. Yevamot
? uncertain; possibly; perhaps
Vt. Vermont
Yi. Yiddish
° degrees
Wash. Washington
Yor. Yoruba
+ plus
Wel. Welsh
Zav. Zavim
minus
Wis. Wisconsin
Zec. Zechariah
= equals; is equivalent to
Wis. Wisdom of Solomon
Zep. Zephaniah
× by; multiplied by
W.Va. West Virginia
Zev. Zevah.im
→ yields
Wyo. Wyoming
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N





v o l u m e t e n
o r t r a i t s
p
P O R T R A I T S
Portraits have the singular advantage of presenting to the
votive eye the person whose personality, office, stature, or
authority shape a relationship that often goes to the heart of religious belief. Ances-
tors, teachers, saints, heroes, and deities are made available in their portraits for
veneration and petition. The devotional relation that portraiture enables with these
venerable figures is perhaps most observable in icons, which are a visual device found
in many religious traditions. The term is most closely associated with Orthodox
Christianity, which makes extensive liturgical use of icons in its formal
worship and devotion. The power of icons consists in their ability to
act as apertures or windows through which the devout gaze. Rather
than opaque surfaces, icons are experienced as openings in the
fabric of the present that enable access to sacred realities such as
persons and events. These avenues or conduits conduct devo-
tion and petition from the believer to the venerated person
and often act as the route of return to deliver blessing, guid-
ance, or comfort. Although the idea of the Christian icon
should not be applied normatively to forms of portraiture
in other religions, the icon is a visual category that is not
exclusive to Christianity. Fundamental to the sacred portrait
is the presumption that faces are the signature of personality,
the most reliable and communicative register of the human soul.
To see the face is to see the person, to remember him as he actually
was, or to see her as she is now in the next world as saint or ancestor.
Faces are relics, the enduring countenance of spiritual power, the place
to which the devout go to see the sacred looking back at them in the
cherished guise of someone they know and trust.
The link between faces and relics is tangible in masks as diverse
as Melanesian ritual imagery (a and b) and the death masks made in
(a) A Tatanua mask for inhabitation by the soul of the deceased in Malagan
funerary rites. New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, wood, fiber, shell, lime, and
trade-cloth. [©Galerle Meyer-Oceanic Art, Paris; photograph by M. Gurfinkel, Paris]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 1
V10.indd 1
10/29/04 1:18:51 PM
10/29/04 1:18:51 PM



PORTRAITS
Europe (c). In the case of Melanesian ceremonies, masks
were sometimes made from the skulls and hair of the
recently deceased, serving to establish their presence as
ancestors in nocturnal dances of secret medicine societies
on the island of New Britain. Although the mask is not
an imitative portrait (its sculpted and painted features are
similar to other masks), its actual constituents create its
link to the ancestor. So it is a “portrait” in an ontological
sense. Yet another manner of “portrait” is the New Ireland
uli figure (b), which serves as the residence of an ances-
tor spirit. After a village leader died, an uli was invested
with the spirit of the leader by a shaman. The image was
then able to provide assistance to the new chief and vil-
lage. Although the figure bore no visual similarity to the
deceased leader, it contained his spirit and therefore acted
as the means of access to him and his blessing.
(b) ABOVE. A memorial ceremony figure (uli) of a deceased
leader, made of wood, shell, fiber, and pigment, collected in the
early twentieth century in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.
[©Christie’s Images/Corbis] (c) RIGHT. Togato Barbarini, a life-
sized marble sculpture of the Roman patrician, with busts of his
ancestors, late first century bce or early first century ce.
[©Araldo de Luca/Corbis]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 2
V10.indd 2
10/29/04 1:18:55 PM
10/29/04 1:18:55 PM

PORTRAITS

The marble sculpture of a Roman patrician with the
busts of his ancestors (c) recalls the importance of por-
trait relics among later Europeans. Patricians in ancient
Republican and Imperial Rome installed their ancestors
in a practice of veneration that focused on wax effigies
made from the face of a patriarch at death. These images
were carried in funeral processions and kept by the family
for some time. The marble figure transposes two masks,
as well as the proud display of them by a living head of a
family. The masks vouched for the pedigree of aristocratic
Roman families. The right to use them was guaranteed
by law for aristocrats alone. Wax masks of ancestors were
kept in the atriums of patrician families and were worn by
actors during funerals to perform the parts of ancestors.
As Romans established aristocratic practices of collecting
and displaying works of art in their homes near the end
of the Republican period, the wax masks were replaced by
marble sculptures like the image reproduced here.

The use of death masks was common in modern
Europe as a way of remembering the appearance of writers
and leaders, and the masks were commonly consulted by
artists who wished to produce “authentic” portrait paint-
ings or sculptures of the famous person. In the twentieth
century the American revivalist preacher Billy Sunday
had photographs of himself posed in dramatic preaching
gestures made into postcards (d), which were distributed
at his massive urban revival meetings across the United
States. But carefully rendered, faithful portraits of teach-
ers, philosophers, and religious figures are hardly modern
or Western in origin. Naturalistic techniques were used
by Chinese and Japanese artists to depict Daoist and
(d) A 1908 postcard of American revivalist preacher Billy Sun-
day. [Courtesy of the Billy Graham Center Museum, Wheaton, Ill.]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 3
V10.indd 3
10/29/04 1:18:57 PM
10/29/04 1:18:57 PM


PORTRAITS
Buddhist historical figures, though in each case natural-
istic technique served a larger purpose. In the case of the
Daoist immortal, Zhongli Quan (e), the painter infused
the portrait with an intensity that conveyed the spiritual
attainments of this figure who had been a general during
the Han dynasty, but abandoned his military career when
he encountered a Daoist sage and then a zhenren, or
perfected being, who disclosed to him the great secrets of
Daoism. He appears here walking over the ocean. When
the Buddhist Chan master, Wuzhun, from Szechwan
province was invited to the imperial court of the Song
dynasty to present a discourse to the emperor, he was
named abbot of a monastery and given an official title.
The occasion was marked by an official portrait that
shows Wuzhun invested with imperial recognition that
(e) Late-fifteenth-century hanging scroll of The Immortal Zhongli
Quan
, attributed to Zhao Qi. [The Cleveland Museum of Art; pur-
chase from the J. H. Wade Fund, 1976.13]

E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 4
V10.indd 4
10/29/04 1:18:59 PM
10/29/04 1:18:59 PM

PORTRAITS
extended to Chan Buddhism an official recognition and
status, which was identified with the person of Wuzhun.
The cultural work of portraits can have much to do with
the presentation of the person as more than individual.
The dress and gesture in Wuzhun’s portrait signal the
office of the sitter and construct a likeness suitable to his
official function and stature.

Portraits often present sitters performing their official
deeds and exercising characteristic duties for which they
are remembered or sought out by those who venerate their
images. Portraits of a Mouride caliph and of a scholar
(f1 and f2) depict each man with the accoutrements of
piety, ethnicity, and authority, including prayer beads,
text, and costume. Many portraits seek to authorize the
religious legitimacy of those they portray. The Egyptian
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 5
V10.indd 5
10/29/04 1:19:00 PM
10/29/04 1:19:00 PM



PORTRAITS
relief carving (g) of the pharaoh Akhenaton and his
queen, Nefertiti, displays the two controversial promoters
of a new monotheistic cult in ancient polytheistic Egypt
receiving divine approbation in the form of solar rays
descending from Aton and delivering the virtues and pow-
ers of authority. Similarly, a German Protestant painter
vindicated the cause of the Reformation in an altar paint-
ing of the crucifixion (not pictured) by placing Martin
Luther at the foot of the cross, pointing to scripture in a
gesture that corresponds to John the Baptist’s pointing to
the savior on the cross.

In another use of portraiture to establish lineage and
authority, African American clergy of the African Meth-
odist Episcopal Church (h) were celebrated in 1876, the
national centennial, in a commemorative print that links
them to the cultural achievements of the church in its
sixty years of existence (it was founded in Philadelphia
in 1816). Their portraits are surrounded by the church’s
(g) LEFT. Stone relief of the Egyptian god Aton offering life
and gifts to the pharaoh Akhenaton and his queen Nefertiti, c.
1353–1335 bce, Tell el-‘Amarna, Egypt. [©Archivo Iconografico,
S.A./Corbis]
(h) BELOW.
A commemorative print depicting bish-
ops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1876. [Courtesy
of the American Antiquarian Society]

E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 6
V10.indd 6
10/29/04 1:19:03 PM
10/29/04 1:19:03 PM



PORTRAITS
cultural institutions and projects, which were established
and undertaken by many of the clergy pictured in the
image. A print manufactured in India inverts this motif
by gathering ten Sikh gurūs in commemorative portraits
around a scriptural collection of poems and hymns (i).
The text, cradled in a throne, is itself known as the Gurū
Granth Sāhib
(Great Reverend Teacher) and is regarded by
Sikhs as the sacred embodiment of the gurūs’ wisdom and
spiritual authority. The gurū portraits and the holy text are
presented by the print as versions of one another.

The Sangye Yarjon, the abbot of an important Tibet-
an monastery not far from Lhasa, is shown in a painting
(j) that visually presents his lineage extending back all the
way to the historical Buddha himself (seen in the upper
left in his easily recognizable pose). Several important
Indian and Tibetan teachers and bodhisattvas appear as
part of the descent to the main figure of the abbot, who
occupies the center of the image. Sangye Yarjon shares the
(i) ABOVE. The Ten Gurūs, a print by an unknown artist pur-
chased at a Punjabi bazaar in 1965 by W. H. McLeod. [Repro-
duced by permission of Oxford University Press India, New Delhi; W.

H. Mcleod, Popular Sikh Art (1991)] (j) LEFT. Thirteenth-century
lineage painting of Sangye Yarjon, the abbot of Taklung Monas-
tery in Central Tibet, pigment and gold on cotton. [The Walters
Art Museum, promised gift of John and Berthe Ford]

E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 7
V10.indd 7
10/29/04 1:19:06 PM
10/29/04 1:19:06 PM

PORTRAITS
gesture and established iconography of Buddhism, as well
as the markings of the enlightened teacher, suggesting that
this is as much a portrayal of the individual in his particu-
larity as the office of a revered teacher and abbot. An even
greater reliance on stylization occurs in the Jain statue of
Lord Bāhubali (k), one of the twenty-four Jina, located
at the most holy of Jain shrines in southern India. This
colossal sculpture clearly recalls the Buddhist portrayal
of the Buddha and Hindu depictions of Vis.n.u, but the
nudity is unmistakably Jain, indicating that the Jina has
moved beyond all desire and the stain of karmic bondage
and is therefore free of rebirth.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Brilliant, Richard. Portraiture. London, 1991.
Brown, Kerry, ed. Sikh Art and Literature. London, 1999.
Cormack, Robin. Painting the Soul: Icons, Death Masks, and
Shrouds. London, 1997.
Strong, Donald. Roman Art. 2d ed. Edited by Roger Ling. Lon-
don, 1988.
Walker, Susan, ed. Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman
Egypt. 2d ed. New York, 2000.
Wardwell, Allen. Island Ancestors: Oceanic Art from the Masco Col-
lection. Seattle and Detroit, 1994.
David Morgan ()
(k) A Jain worshiper prays before a monumental stone sculpture
of Lord Bāhubali in Karkal, India. [©Chris Lisle/Corbis]
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N
V10.indd 8
V10.indd 8
10/29/04 1:19:10 PM
10/29/04 1:19:10 PM



C N
O N T I N U E D
NECROMANCY, the art or practice of magically conjuring up the souls of the dead,
is primarily a form of divination. The principal purpose of seeking such communication
with the dead is to obtain information from them, generally regarding the revelation of
unknown causes or the future course of events. The cause of the death of the deceased
who is questioned may be among the facts sought.
More generally, necromancy is often considered synonymous with black magic, sor-
cery, or witchcraft, perhaps because the calling up of the dead may occur for purposes
other than information seeking, or because the separation of divination from its conse-
quences is not always clear. There is also a linguistic basis for the expanded use of the
word: the term black art for magic appears to be based on a corruption of necromancy
(from Greek necros, “dead”) to nigromancy (from Latin niger, “black”).
Limited to the practice of magical conjuration of the dead, necromancy does not in-
clude communication employing mediums, as in spiritualism or spiritism. Nor does it
include encounters with the souls of the departed during the spirit journeys of shamans,
apparitions of ghosts, or communications in dreams, with the possible exception of those
in dreams resulting from incubation.
Divination is undoubtedly a universal phenomenon found in all cultures. In the form
of necromancy, however, it is relatively infrequent, though widespread. Only limited de-
scriptions and documentation of the phenomenon are available, and only for certain peri-
ods and regions. Necromancy presupposes belief in both a form of life after death and
the continued interest of the dead in the affairs of the living. As such it may well be associ-
ated with complex funerary and postfunerary customs and with ancestor worship.
TECHNIQUES OF NECROMANCY. Necromancy is a theme often found in myths, legends,
and literary works. Such texts may describe communications with the dead or state their
messages, but they seldom provide information on actual techniques that might have been
employed in a given community. With regard to classical antiquity, Greek and Roman
accounts deal with cases described in myth and legend, but there is no evidence of actual
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Thai bronze Buddha in meditation under a na
¯ga. [©Michael
Freeman/Corbis]; A lion-headed Imdugud bird above two stags in a twenty-fifth-century BCE
Mesopotamian relief from the temple of Ninhursaga. British Museum, London. [©Erich
Lessing/Art Resource, N.Y.]
; Detail of an Apache “Kan” god painted on a warrior’s cloak.
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. [©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Stonehenge.
Wiltshire County, England. [©Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis]; Double-headed Neolithic idol, 5000–
2000 BCE. Historical Museum, Targoviste, Romania. [©Erich Lessing/Art Resource, N.Y.] .
6451

6452
NECROMANCY
necromantic practices, whether in inscriptions or in docu-
with diviners of all sorts. The concerns of medieval Chris-
mentation of specific historic events. More generally, where
tianity with necromancy and magic have their roots in this
actual descriptions exist of rites in other societies rather than
period as well as in biblical prohibitions.
fabulous accounts or rumors and accusations, inquiries are
Numerous divinatory techniques are mentioned in the
connected with burial and burial preparation. Here the ques-
Bible. The account of the so-called Witch of Endor (1 Sm.
tioning of the corpse may concern the cause of death and the
28) is frequently cited as an example of necromancy and of
identification of a murderer. Other necromantic practices in-
the prohibitions attached to it (cf. Deuteronomy, Leviticus,
volve rites at the grave site with the use of the name or some
and Isaiah). Necromancy is mentioned in the Talmud
part of the deceased, often his or her skull. The response may
among other divinatory practices. Although it is severely
be in the form of an utterance produced by the diviner, either
condemned, several examples are cited. The practice appears
in a trance state or through ventriloquism. It may also be re-
to have been rare, but it left its trace in rabbinic sources and
vealed in the form of a sign; this may involve the interpreta-
medieval Jewish magical beliefs, perhaps reinforced by the
tion of an omen or the drawing of lots.
beliefs of the Christians among whom the Jews lived. Magi-
The concept of necromancy is of limited utility for at
cal beliefs, many of pre-Christian origins, continued
least two reasons. First, it is linked to its history in the West-
throughout the Middle Ages.
ern tradition and therefore difficult to employ in analyzing
L
beliefs and practices of other cultures with different tradi-
ATE MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE NECROMANCY. The pri-
mary use of the term refers to the period between the late
tions. Second, necromancy is also only one of several types
Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. This was a time of
of divinatory practices, and these tend to shade into each
great social and political instability and change. It was also
other. For both of these reasons the term is of limited value
the time when fear of and persecution of witches took hold
in cross-cultural research, and it is not generally utilized in
in Europe. In England the several shifts between Catholicism
modern ethnographic studies.
and Protestantism were linked to fears of resistance and re-
NECROMANCY IN ANTIQUITY. The ancient Greeks believed
pression.
that the dead had great prophetic powers and that it was pos-
sible to consult them by performing sacrifices or pouring li-
One of the crimes of which witches were accused was
bations at their tombs. Such offerings were also part of the
necromancy, conjuring up the dead as well as (or with the
funerary and postfunerary ceremonies. The legendary visit of
help of) the devil. It was in this context that the term necro-
Odysseus to Hades to consult the seer Tiresias, as described
mancy came to be used as synonymous with demonic magic;
in Book 11 of the Odyssey, has also been classified as an in-
that is, magic performed with the devil’s assistance. It no lon-
stance of necromancy. Various other classical texts include
ger referred exclusively or even principally to magic using bo-
references to formal oracles of the dead; however, these gen-
dies of the dead or conjuring up the spirits of the dead. There
erally speak of practices not among Greeks but in remote lo-
are two major sources of information about these beliefs and
cations or among barbarians. They cannot be considered reli-
practices. These are the instructions used by witch-hunters
able reports of actual practices.
and exorcists, on the one hand, and the surviving manuals
and books of magic, on the other. Possession of such books
Most information on necromancy among Nordic and
itself was a basis for prosecution. The introduction of print-
Germanic peoples comes from the sagas. A number of refer-
ing and the resulting availability of books to a larger number
ences appear, for example, in the Eddas. Odin (Óðinn) is,
of people were in part responsible for the wider diffusion of
among other things, god of the dead, and in one account he
such texts.
awakens a dead prophetess in order to consult her. It is not
known whether or not such conjurations took place. Inter-
Manuals such as the Munich Book of Necromancy, which
pretation of the movement of rune-inscribed sticks appears
dates from the fifteenth century, are rich sources of informa-
to have been practiced. Necromancy was only one of numer-
tion on the general subject of the magic of the period. The
ous techniques of divination and one considered to be partic-
Munich Book contains detailed information of what magi-
ularly dangerous, especially when the dead were not family
cians claimed to be able to do and said they actually did. In-
members. It appears to have been prohibited even prior to
terestingly, this concerns not only specifics on how to gain
the conversion of these peoples to Christianity.
magical powers through conjurations, and about the spirits
that could be conjured up, but also provides information on
Necromancy appears to have been unknown, or at least
various forms of stage magic, particularly illusionist experi-
unreported, among the Etruscans and in the earlier periods
ments that could be performed for entertainment, such as
of Roman history. It may have been introduced with other
producing the appearance of banquets, horses, and castles.
Hellenistic and Oriental divinatory and magic practices, all
Some aspects of modern illusionist stage magic seem to have
of which were prohibited by Augustus (63 BCE–14 CE). Like
a long tradition behind them.
other forms of divination and magic, which might include
the use of poisons, necromancy was perceived as a potential
Reading and owning books in themselves gave rise to
political tool, dangerous in a world of personal power and
suspicions, and the possession of such books of magic was
ambition. The emperors, however, surrounded themselves
often sufficient for a person to be accused and prosecuted for
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NECROMANCY
6453
necromancy. Suspect books were confiscated and burned.
or using other divinatory techniques. The Haitian example
Lower-level clergy (men with some literacy) were frequently
suggests the difficulty in drawing clear lines between sorcery,
accused of practicing necromancy by the use of books.
divination, diagnosis, and healing—that is, between rituals
Women, who were less likely to be literate, seem generally
with positive or negative intent, or even among the various
not to have been suspected of manual-based necromantic
divinatory techniques. As a result it is doubtful that the term
practices. Rather, they were accused of using spells, of mak-
necromancy is used appropriately for any of these practices.
ing pacts with the devil, and of having animal familiars. The
From the perspective of research methods, it is impor-
fear of black magic and legislation against it often reflected
tant to distinguish between studies based on written sources,
anxiety over its possible use for political purposes. An exam-
often of a fragmentary nature, and ethnographic studies of
ple is King James’s 1604 decree of death for anyone using
living people, their beliefs, and their customs. In contrast to
the body of a dead person or any of its parts for purposes of
written sources, living people can be observed and ques-
magic. This fear is also seen in writings of the period. Shake-
tioned, so a larger context for their understandings can be
speare’s Macbeth shows witches conspiring to practice necro-
discerned.
mancy: they collect body parts on a battlefield, and in Act
IV they use the dead to prophecy.
The term necromancy has changed meaning in the
course of time. The practices described as necromantic were
NECROMANCY IN ARCHAIC CULTURES. Spanish chronicles,
seen as the very essence of evil in the period of the Renais-
composed shortly after the conquest of Peru, record that the
sance. Calling up the dead to question them, as described in
Inca had two special classes of diviners who consulted
Greek literature and myth, was not necessarily evil but might
the dead, one group specializing in dealing with mummies
be concerned with decision making about the future and
of the dead and another consulting various spirit beings and
practical matters. How the dead are understood as potential-
their representations, which the Spaniards referred to as
ly active in the world of the living has varied not only from
idols. The reports are written from the perspective of six-
culture to culture but also from period to period. Distinc-
teenth-century Spaniards at a time when, in their own coun-
tions are often made between those who died a natural death
try, the Inquisition searched out necromancers and others
and those who did not. In modern times, faith healing by
considered sorcerers and heretics.
means of calling on the help of the dead has been referred
to as necromancy in the United States. This gives the term
In the Huon Gulf region of New Guinea, throughout
a different meaning, unrelated to black magic. As interest in
the nineteenth century and prior to the arrival of missiona-
various aspects of the occult has seen a revival in the United
ries, all deaths were attributed to magic. The identification
States, curiosity about necromancy has also grown.
of the sorcerer who had caused the death was carried out by
a diviner, who conjured the spirit of the deceased into one
SEE ALSO Divination.
of several types of objects. It was then questioned, and “yes”
or “no” responses were obtained from the motion of the ob-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ject. The most common object used was a stunned eel, whose
Callaway, Henry. The Religious System of the Amazulu in the Zulu
convulsions were interpreted as “yes” responses. Other ob-
Language with Translation into English and Notes in Four
jects might be an upturned shell or a piece of bamboo held
Parts (1870). Africana Collectanea, vol. 35. Cape Town,
in the hand. The movements of these objects were subject
South Africa, 1970.
to some manipulations, and the answers were often used to
Caquot, André, and Marcel Leibovici, eds. La divination. 2 vols.
confirm suspicions held by popular opinion.
Paris, 1968.
Caro Baroja, Julio. The World of the Witches. Translated by O. N.
In Haiti a tradition exists that is derived from both Eu-
V. Glendinning. Chicago, 1964.
ropean influences of the colonial period and West African
Godwin, William. Lives of the Necromancers. London, 1834.
traditions. As part of postfunerary rites of Vodou initiates,
one of the two souls with which every person is endowed is
Hogbin, Herbert Ian. The Island of Menstruating Men: Religion in
removed from a temporary sojourn underwater and settled
Wogeo, New Guinea. Scranton, Pa., 1970.
in a family shrine. During this ceremony the soul is ques-
Hughes, Pennethorne. Witchcraft (1952). Baltimore, 1965.
tioned on various matters of interest. At a later time it may
Institoris, Heinrich, and Jakob Sprenger. The Malleus Malefi-
be called into a jar for purposes of consultation. Like conver-
carum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger (1928). Trans-
sations with the dead in parts of Africa, as, for instance,
lated by Montague Summers. New York, 1971.
among the Zulu, this process appears to involve ventrilo-
Junod, Henri A. The Life of a South African Tribe. 2d ed., rev. and
quism by the performing ritual specialist. It is also believed
enl. 2 vols. London, 1927. The 1912 first edition has been
that sorcerers can send the spirit of one or more dead persons
reprinted, New Hyde Park, N.Y., 1962.
into the body of a victim to cause illness and eventual death
Kieckhefer, Richard. Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of
if appropriate counter-rites are not performed. These involve
the Fifteenth Century. Stroud, U.K., 1997.
the identification of both the dead and the sender. The diag-
Métraux, Alfred. Voodoo in Haiti. New York, 1959.
nostic process may involve the direct questioning of the dead
Trachtenberg, Joshua. Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in
using the patient as a medium or by scrying (water gazing)
Folk Religion. New York, 1939; reprint, New York, 1982.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6454
NEGRITO RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
Williams, Charles. Witchcraft. New York, 1941; reprint, New
sonified and individualized deities are those associated with
York, 1959.
weather, especially destructive storms. Most groups have dei-
Wills, Garry. Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare’s Macbeth. New
ties responsible for making thunder, and even some of the
York, 1995.
names given them are similar: Karei in the Malay Peninsula,
Kayai and Kadai in the Philippines, and Tarai in the Anda-
ERIKA BOURGUIGNON (1987 AND 2005)
mans. These beings are thought to bring thunderstorms as
punishment for breaking prohibitions against such diverse
acts as incest and burning leeches. The Semang and some of
NEGRITO RELIGIONS
the Philippine groups attempt to avert the storms by offering
This entry consists of the following articles:
their own blood to the thunder god. Such common features
AN OVERVIEW
are striking, but they form only part of each group’s religion.
NEGRITOS OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
In other respects their beliefs and rituals diverge, sometimes
NEGRITOS OF THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS
NEGRITOS OF THE MALAY PENINSULA
so radically as to place even the common features in different
lights. For this reason it is best to treat the religions of the
Andamanese, Semang, and Philippine Negritos as separate
NEGRITO RELIGIONS: AN OVERVIEW
entities, although certain similarities will be apparent.
The term Negrito (Spanish for “little Negro”) has been used
by some Western scholars to indicate those inhabitants of the
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Malay Peninsula, the Philippine Islands, and the Andaman
The most complete survey and comparison of the cultures of the
Islands (off the coast of Myanmar) who are characterized by
Asiatic Negritos is Paul Schebesta’s three-volume work Die
small stature, dark skin, curly hair, and generally “negroid”
Negrito Asiens (Vienna, 1952–1957). Comprising volumes 6,
facial features. Scholars disagree regarding a possible genetic
12, and 13 of “Studia Instituti Anthropos,” Schebesta’s work
has been partially translated into English by Frieda Schütze
connection between these small and widely separated popu-
for the Human Relations Area Files (New Haven, Conn.,
lations. The traditional view is that they are all remnants of
1962). The great bulk of this material is based on Schebesta’s
a single ancient race that was once widespread in Southeast
extensive fieldwork among the Semang. A similar, although
Asia but has now been largely exterminated or absorbed by
much briefer, comparison can be found in Marcelino N.
more powerful and populous immigrant groups. A second
Maceda’s The Culture of the Mamanua (Northeast Mindanao)
view, put forward by some biological anthropologists, is that
as Compared with That of the Other Negritos of Southeast Asia,
the distinctive features of the Negritos are examples of “par-
2d ed. (Cebu City, Philippines, 1975), which takes the Phil-
allel evolution,” similar physical changes among unrelated
ippine Negritos as its point of departure. A valuable article
local populations resulting from their common adaptation
pointing out the religious similarities among the three divi-
to the tropical rain forest. Although plausible hypotheses
sions of Negritos is John M. Cooper’s “Andamanese-
Semang-Eta Cultural Relations,” Primitive Man (now An-
have been advanced as to why that environment might favor
thropological Quarterly) 13 (April 1940): 29–47. William C.
“negritoid” characteristics, it is still not clear why such fea-
Boyd’s “Four Achievements of the Genetical Method in
tures have not arisen in similar environments elsewhere, such
Physical Anthropology,” American Anthropologist 65 (April
as the Amazon Basin of South America. The genetic relation-
1962): 243–252, provides a useful introduction to the opin-
ship between the Asiatic Negritos, then, remains an open
ion on the question of whether the Asiatic Negritos consti-
question.
tute a single race or represent parallel adaptations to similar
environments.
The cultures of the various Negrito groups have many
similarities, but whether these are due to a common ancestral
KIRK ENDICOTT (1987 AND 2005)
culture, to contact between the different groups, or to paral-
lel adaptations to similar environments is often unclear. Be-
fore 1900 almost all Negritos lived by hunting and gathering,
NEGRITO RELIGIONS: NEGRITOS OF THE
supplemented in some places by small-scale trade in forest
PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
products. Their hunting-gathering economy produced such
The Negritos of the Philippines comprise approximately
social consequences as small living groups, a lack of wealth
twenty-five widely scattered ethnolinguistic groups totaling
accumulation, and informal leadership. Most groups were
an estimated fifteen thousand people. They are assumed to
also nomadic, although the rich environment of the Anda-
be the aboriginal inhabitants of the archipelago. Many of
man coast permitted its inhabitants to become partially sed-
these Negrito groups still live by hunting and gathering,
entary.
trading wild meat and forest products to the Filipino farmers
The religions of the Andamanese, the Semang (Malayan
around them in exchange for rice or corn. They also practice
Negritos), and the Philippine Negritos have many features
some marginal cultivation.
in common, some very general but others highly specific and
The traditional religion of all Philippine Negritos is ani-
undoubtedly due to contact or common origin. The similari-
mism. Today, most of them remain animists, although some
ties are most striking with respect to deity conceptions and
of their beliefs have been modified by Roman Catholic
the corresponding prohibitions and rituals. The most per-
Christianity.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEGRITO RELIGIONS: NEGRITOS OF THE ANDAMAN ISLANDS
6455
One salient feature of Negrito religion is its noticeable
chants are not in the normal Agta language but are sung in
lack of systematization. Consequently, it has a secondary
a form of glossolalia.
place in Negrito ideology. Because the animistic beliefs and
It would be incorrect to say that Agta worship the spirits
practices of Philippine Negritos are individualistic and spo-
in their environment. Rather, they fear them, and placate
radic, they exert less control over the people’s daily lives than
them. The Agta do not have a sacrifical system as do other
do the religious systems of other, non-Negrito animistic so-
Philippine tribal groups, but they do occasionally offer small
cieties in the Philippines. Likewise, the minor function of re-
gifts to the hayup spirits if they are taking something from
ligion in most Philippine Negrito cultures contrasts marked-
the forest. These gifts may consist of a few grains of rice, a
ly with the important role of religion among the Negritos of
few ounces of honey, or just a piece of thread from a man’s
Malaysia, which is reported by Kirk Endicott in Batek Negri-
G-string. In some areas, when a new garden is cleared a sha-
to Religion (Oxford, 1979).
man may set up a small table with spirit offerings of betel
Nevertheless, there is a universal belief among Philip-
quid or food.
pine Negritos in a spirit world, containing many classes of
Agta religious practices are done haphazardly, when it
supernatural beings. These beings are seen to have some in-
is convenient, and usually on an individual basis. Most such
fluence over processes of nature, as well as over the health
practices revolve around the prevention or treatment of ill-
and economic success of humans. Negritos especially have
ness. Agta have only a vague interest in the afterlife, the realm
a preoccupation with malignant ghosts of deceased humans.
of the dead, creation of the world, immortality, or the future.
Most Negritos also hold to a belief in a supreme deity. Schol-
They do not seek religious experiences. Rather, it is the
ars have debated the question of whether this “monotheism”
chronic fear of sickness and death that activates Agta reli-
is of pre-Hispanic origin or is merely the result of Christian
gious behavior. While it would be wrong to say that religion
influences.
is unimportant to the Agta, it does play a lesser role in their
AGTA RELIGION. The Agta, or Dumagat, of northeastern
culture than it does in other animistic groups.
Luzon are typical of the least acculturated Philippine Negrito
societies. They show little inclination to adapt to the domi-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
nant Roman Catholic religion of their peasant Filipino
There are to date no complete studies on any of the religious sys-
neighbors. The Agta believe in a single high god and in a
tems of any Philippine Negrito society. Brief sketches appear,
large number of supernatural spirit beings that inhabit their
however, in many of the more general descriptions of such
groups. Much of this material on such religious systems is re-
surrounding natural environment. Depending on the class
viewed in A Primer on the Negritos of the Philippines, com-
of spirit, these various beings live in trees, underground, on
piled by Daisy Y. Noval-Morales and James Monan (Manila,
rocky headlands, or in caves.
1979).
There are two general classes of spirit beings in the Agta
Three other important sources, which attempt to generalize on
worldview: hayup (“creature”) and bélet or anito (“ghost”).
Philippine Negrito religions, are John M. Garvan’s The Ne-
The latter are always malignant. Ghosts are wandering dis-
gritos of the Philippines (Vienna, 1964), edited by Hermann
embodied souls of deceased humans. The ghosts of recently
Hochegger; Marcelino N. Maceda’s The Culture of the Ma-
deceased adult relatives are especially feared, as they are
manua (Northeast Mindanao) as Compared with That of the
Other Negritos of Southeast Asia
, 2d ed. (Cebu City, Philip-
prone to return to the abode of their family during the night,
pines, 1975); and a three-volume work in German by Paul
causing sickness and death.
Schebesta, Die Negrito Asiens (Vienna, 1952–1957).
There are several varieties of hayup creatures. Although
New Sources
these are nonhuman, they are bipedal and may appear in
Rae, Navin K. Living in a Lean-To: Philippine Negrito Foragers in
human form. Most varieties of hayup beings are malignant;
Transition. Ann Arbor, 1990.
others are neutral, and a few can be called upon for help in
Rahman, Rudolf. “The Nocturnal Prayer Ceremonies of the Ne-
curing disease.
gritos of the Philippines.” Philippine Quarterly of Culture and
AGTA SHAMANS. In Aurora province, 8 percent of Agta
Society (Cebu City) 26, nos. 1–2 (1998): 192–211.
adults are shamans, of whom two out of ten are women.
Shimizu, Hiromu. “Communicating with Spirits: A Study of the
They practice only white magic. A shaman (bunogen) is de-
Manganito Seance among the Southwestern Pinatubo Negri-
fined by the Agta as an individual who has a familiar spirit
tos.” East Asian Cultural Studies (Tokyo) 22, nos. 1–4 (1983):
“friend” (bunog) who aids him or her in diagnosing and treat-
129–167.
ing disease. The primary role of shamans is curing. They do
THOMAS N. HEADLAND (1987)
not practice black magic. (Agta do not practice sorcery, al-
Revised Bibliography
though they are aware of the custom among other Filipino
societies.) Shamans may treat their patients with herbal med-
icines and simple prayers to their spirit “friends.” For diffi-
NEGRITO RELIGIONS: NEGRITOS OF THE
cult cases, they may conduct a séance. In such cases, shamans
ANDAMAN ISLANDS
will enter into a trance state, chanting prayers over the pa-
The Andaman Negritos are extremely primitive hunter-
tient until they are possessed by their familiar spirits. These
gatherers representing a prelithic stage of cultural develop-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6456
NEGRITO RELIGIONS: NEGRITOS OF THE MALAY PENINSULA
ment. They fall into two separate divisions, the Great Anda-
superior spirit or high god, heaven and hell, virtue and sin,
manese and the Onge-Jarawa-Sentinelese. As a result of colo-
are conspicuously absent among the Andaman Negritos.
nization and the introduction of syphilis and other diseases,
the Great Andamanese tribes have already become extinct;
BIBLIOGRAPHY
only a hybrid group of some twenty-eight individuals sur-
Although the literature on the religious life of the Andamanese
vives on a tiny islet called Strait Island. The Jarawa and the
Negritos is small, the reader may profitably consult John M.
Sentinelese live in complete isolation and eschew all external
Cooper’s “Andamanese-Semang-Eta Cultural Relations,”
contacts. Consequently, nothing is known about their reli-
Primitive Man (now Anthropological Quarterly) 13 (April
gion. The remaining tribe, the Onge, lives on Little Anda-
1940): 29–47.
man Island.
New Sources
The universe as conceived by the Onge is a multilayered
Basu, Badal Kumar. The Onge, Negrito Hunter-Gatherers of Little
Andaman. Calcutta, 1990.
structure with Little Andaman at its center. There are six lay-
ers above Little Andaman and six layers below, and each is
Ghosal, Samit. “Past and Present of the Negrito Tribes in the An-
inhabited by a different class of spirit. These spirits are nei-
daman Islands: A Critical Appraisal.” Journal of the Anthropo-
ther divine nor immaterial. They eat, drink, marry, multiply,
logical Survey of India (Calcutta) 43, no. 1–2 (1994): 25–30.
and die just like human beings. The most important among
Sudarsen, V., and D. Venkatesan. “Life Cycle Ceremonies among
them are the onkoboykwe, a class of benevolent spirit inhabit-
the Onge of Little Andaman.” In Religion and Society in
ing the first layer above Little Andaman, and the eaka, a class
South India: A Volume in Honour of Prof. N. Subba Reddy,
of harmful spirit living immediately beneath the island.
edited by V. Sudarsen, G. Prakash Reddy, and M. Surya-
Above the Onge universe there is a limitless void and below
narayana, pp. 163–173. Delhi, 1987.
there is Kwatannange, the primary sea, which is full of
PRANAB GANGULY (1987)
turtles.
Revised Bibliography
The sun, moon, stars, and clouds are believed to be the
creation of the onkoboykwe. The Onge do not personify and
worship the heavenly bodies. There are two monsoons in the
NEGRITO RELIGIONS: NEGRITOS OF THE
Andamans, the southwest and the northeast; spirits living in
MALAY PENINSULA
distant islands across the sea send the monsoonal winds.
The Negritos of the Malay Peninsula, who are generally
The Onge believe that one’s life after death depends on
called the Semang in the literature, numbered about two
how a person has met his death. If he dies of illness, he be-
thousand in 1974. They live in small groups scattered about
comes an eaka and goes below the earth. If an Onge is killed
the foothills in the northern half of the peninsula (4°N–
by a wild boar, by snakebite, or by a fall from a tree, he be-
6°30’N; 100°E–103°E). They speak a number of related lan-
comes an onkoboykwe and lives above the sky. If drowned,
guages in the Mon-Khmer language family. Until about
he becomes a sea spirit.
1950 most of the Semang were nomadic hunter-gatherers.
The staple of their diet was wild yams, and their main source
The Onge hold that all non-Negrito people are the spir-
of meat was arboreal animals—monkeys, gibbons, squirrels,
its of dead Onges. The term inene is collectively applied to
and birds, which they hunted with blowpipes and poisoned
them. In the event of death from illness, one day before the
darts. They also carried on some trade with neighboring
emergence of eaka from the dead body, another miniature
Malay farmers, exchanging such forest produce as rattan and
human form called embekete comes out from the corpse and
resins for iron tools, salt, cloth, and cultivated foods. They
swims across the sea to the land of inene where he soon trans-
lived in camps of five to fifteen related nuclear families, mov-
forms himself into another inene. Thus, according to the
ing every week or two when the local resources were exhaust-
Onge, we the outsiders were Onge in our previous birth. The
ed. Each family was politically independent, the only leader-
belief in the existence of two spirits, embekete and eaka, in
ship in a group being the informal influence of a particularly
one individual probably emanated from their attempts to ra-
wise or persuasive person. Since 1950 well over half the Se-
tionalize the origin of non-Negritos and find a place for them
mang have settled down, often under the direction of gov-
in their scheme of the universe.
ernment agencies, and adopted shifting agriculture. Yet even
in these changed conditions, they have clung to their tradi-
From the fragmentary data that are available on the reli-
tional religion, which has served as an important symbol of
gion of the Great Andamanese, it appears that they, like the
their ethnic identity.
Onge, believed in different classes of spirit living above the
sky, below the earth, and in the sea. There is, however, an
In the cosmology of the Semang, the land forms a disk
important difference between the Great Andamanese and the
that is surrounded and underlaid by sea. It rests on the back
Onge. The former believed that the sun was the wife of the
of a giant snake, called Naga’, which by shifting position can
moon and that the stars were their children, whereas the
cause eruptions of water from underground. The firmament
Onge hold that the sun and the moon are flat, disc-shaped,
is a solid dome or series of layers, on top of which live the
inanimate things created by the onkoboykwe. Concepts of a
benevolent superhuman beings, called chinoi in the west and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEMBUTSU
6457
hala’ in the east, who bring the seasonal fruit blossoms to
known for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In the twentieth
earth. After death the shadow-souls of the Semang are be-
year of the reign of Artaxerxes I (445 BCE), Nehemiah re-
lieved to join these beings, on top of the firmament or on
ceived a commission from the Persian king to return to
an island in the western sea. A stone pillar rises at the center
Judah and take on the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusa-
of the world and reaches the firmament. Near its top is a
lem. The Book of Nehemiah gives an account of his activity
cave, the home of the thunder god. The thunder god, whom
in the first-person style of memoirs. It begins with his recep-
most Semang groups call Karei, is generally regarded as
tion of distressing news from the homeland while he is in the
male—sometimes a single being and sometimes a pair of
royal service in Susa. This leads to his petitioning the king
brothers. The Semang believe that Karei causes thunder-
for support in repairing the walls and gates of Jerusalem and
storms to punish persons who have broken prohibitions
to his appointment as governor to carry out the task. In spite
against disruptive or disrespectful behavior. Karei is aided by
of opposition from Sanballat, governor of Samaria, and other
a female earth deity, sometimes pictured as a pair of sisters,
local authorities of the region, the work is successfully com-
who is occasionally identified with the earth-supporting
pleted. With the walls rebuilt, the city was repopulated with
snake.
settlers from the countryside.
The rituals of the Semang are few and simple. The best-
Nehemiah is credited also with social and religious re-
known rite is the blood sacrifice—throwing blood from the
forms. He is presented as showing concern for the poor while
leg to the thunder god and earth deity—which is used to
maintaining a modest administration. In his second term as
avert thunderstorms. Most groups also have singing and
governor, which is not precisely dated, Nehemiah carried out
dancing sessions in which they thank the superhuman beings
a series of religious reforms having to do with Temple regula-
for the fruit and request their general support. These sessions
tions and provisions for the priests, observance of the Sab-
may culminate in trancing and journeys of the shadow-soul
bath, and the dissolution of mixed marriages. These reforms
to the haunts of the superhumans. Among the western Se-
emphasize a tradition of religious conservatism and concern
mang, a shaman may perform a séance in a special hut called
for ethnic purity that eventually leads to the Samaritan
a panoh, in which he calls down the chinoi. Semang rituals
schism.
are intended to promote the fecundity of nature and to avert
the dangers of their forest world.
Nehemiah 8–9, having to do with the mission of Ezra,
does not properly belong to the “memoirs” source and has
BIBLIOGRAPHY
seriously confused the historical relationship between Ezra
We are fortunate to have several reliable and detailed sources of
and Nehemiah. It seems preferable to view Ezra’s activity as
information on the religions of the Semang. The most exten-
subsequent to that of Nehemiah, building on the latter’s
sive is Paul Schebesta’s Die Negrito Asiens: Religion und
work of restoration.
Mythologie (Vienna, 1957), which has been partially translat-
ed into English by Frieda Schütze for the Human Relations
Nehemiah is recognized by tradition (Sir. 49:13) and by
Area Files (New Haven, 1962). This work, volume 13 of
modern scholarship as largely responsible for restoring Jeru-
“Studia Instituti Anthropos,” focuses especially on the Jahai
salem to a place of political prominence and semiautonomy
and other groups of the north-central and northwestern parts
with a chance to grow into a city of destiny.
of the Malay Peninsula. Schebesta gives a fascinating popular
account of his fieldwork and findings in Among the Forest
Dwarfs of Malaya
, translated by Arthur Chambers (London,
SEE ALSO Ezra.
1928). Ivor H. N. Evan’s The Negritos of Malaya (Cam-
bridge, 1937) also contains a great deal of material on Se-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
mang religion. It is based on numerous visits to Semang
groups in all parts of the peninsula between 1913 and 1932.
For the historical treatments of Nehemiah, one should compare
For a detailed account of the religion of a Semang group
John Bright’s A History of Israel, 3d ed. (Philadelphia, 1981),
from the east-coast state of Kelantan, see my book Batek Ne-
and Peter R. Ackroyd’s Israel under Babylon and Persia (Ox-
grito Religion: The Worldview and Rituals of a Hunting and
ford, 1970). See also the commentary by Jacob M. Myers in
Gathering People of Peninsular Malaysia (Oxford, 1979).
Ezra, Nehemiah, vol. 14 of the Anchor Bible (Garden City,
N. Y., 1965).
New Sources
Endicott, Kirk. “The Batek of Malaysia.” In Endangered Peoples
New Sources
of Southeast and East Asia, edited by Leslie E. Sponsel,
Eskenazi, Tamara Cohn. In an Age of Prose: A Literary Approach
pp. 101–121. Westport, Conn., 2000.
to Ezra-Nehemiah. Atlanta, Ga., 1988.
KIRK ENDICOTT (1987)
Revised Bibliography
JOHN VAN SETERS (1987)
Revised Bibliography
NEHEMIAH (mid-fifth century BCE), or, in Hebrew,
Neh:emyah; a governor of Judah in the Persian period,
NEMBUTSU SEE NIANFO
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6458
NEO-HASIDISM
NEO-HASIDISM SEE JEWISH RENEWAL
farmed, and fished with great delight. Then they allowed the
MOVEMENT
Europeans to settle, gave away or sold their land, and became
dependent on the white people’s goods. The result of their
own follies and English acquisitiveness was migration, frag-
mentation, and deterioration. If they followed the instruc-
NEOLIN, known as the Delaware Prophet; a religious
tions of the prophet, however, they could have their land and
leader active among the Ohio Delaware Indians in the 1760s.
their old ways back again.
Neolin (whose name means “the enlightened”) was one of
several Delaware prophets who arose in the latter part of the
Neolin played an essential role in helping his people in-
eighteenth century along the Susquehanna and Allegheny
terpret their situation. In Neolin’s image of heaven, the Del-
rivers in Pennsylvania and the Cuyahoga and Muskingum
aware saw their own recently lost state. In his image of the
rivers in Ohio. The teachings of the prophet were widely
evil spirit’s land, the Delaware perceived the despoiled land
known throughout the tribes of the frontier. Pontiac, the
of the white settlements. The entry into paradise was not
famed Ottawa chief, saw in the prophet’s message divine au-
only a difficult eschatological event, it necessitated a histori-
thority for his own attempts to unite the frontier tribes.
cal expulsion of the whites. A further dimension of Neolin’s
Through Pontiac, Neolin affected the policies of nearly
message was not always grasped by Pontiac, that is, that the
twenty tribes from Lake Ontario to the Mississippi, includ-
Great Spirit had allowed the whites to control the land and
ing among them the Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Seneca,
had taken away game animals as a punishment for the immo-
Huron, Miami, Shawnee, and Delaware. Pontiac may have
rality of the Indians. Neolin’s map depicted not only the bar-
tempered Neolin’s message somewhat by affirming the rights
riers on earth and in heaven but also within the hearts of the
of the French and opposing the British. Nevertheless, what-
people. They had corrupted themselves by their dependence
ever setbacks the British suffered during the 1760s west of
on the whites. More importantly, the increasing dependence
the Alleghenies were the result not only of Pontiac’s leader-
on the whites eroded the Indians’ previous dependence on
ship but also of the appeal of the Delaware Prophet’s mes-
the spirit-forces of forest, field, stream, and sky. Only a spiri-
sage.
tual purification and moral reform could give them the inner
strength to cut loose from the whites and supply them with
This message came from a great dream-vision journey
the capacity to enter again into the paradisal state they had
of the prophet to the mountain home of the Master of Life,
abandoned. The prophet interpreted the social and historical
or Great Spirit. The Master instructed him to tell the people
situation using the religious symbolism of death and rebirth.
that they must give up their drunkenness, sexual promiscu-
His paradigm allowed for no compromise. This rite of pas-
ity, internecine fighting, witchcraft, and medicine songs ded-
sage from a state of degeneration and chaos to one of rebirth
icated to the evil spirit. In addition, they were to cast off all
and a new order could not be entered halfheartedly. Nor
of the influences of the whites and return to hunting with
could it be successful if halted before completion. The recov-
bow and arrow. Ritually, they were to purify themselves
ery of lost innocence and the regaining of lost land were inti-
through sexual abstinence and the use of emetics, and they
mately linked.
were to reinstitute sacrifices. These reforms would result in
a revitalization of their power that would enable them to
The prophet had faced squarely the problem that con-
drive the whites from the continent.
fronted his people, a problem that would continue to con-
front Native Americans: how does a people recover its identi-
The Master of Life also gave the prophet a stick on
ty and pride in the face of social, cultural and economic
which was written a prayer, in native hieroglyphs, to be recit-
deterioration and a calculatingly aggressive foe? Yet, Neolin’s
ed by all of his followers every morning and evening. John
answer was not necessarily wrong; it came, however, too late.
Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary who lived with the
Nevertheless, it was a course that others would follow, even
Delaware at this time, reported seeing a map used by the
when they knew it was too late, for it seemed to them the
prophet in his preaching. In the center of the map was a
only honorable course to take.
square that represented the dwelling place of the Great Spirit.
This land, full of game and forests, had been the goal of the
BIBLIOGRAPHY
soul’s journey after death. Now, however, it was all but inac-
Gregory Evan Dowd’s A Spirited Resistance: The North American
cessible because of the barriers set by the whites, and only
Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745–1815 (Johns Hopkins, 1992)
a very few souls could reach that land. Most fell into the
masterfully interprets Neolin and other prophets of the era
hands of the evil one when attempting to overcome these
within the context of the Indian worldview and the pressures
barriers and were taken to his land of emaciated game ani-
from Euro-American expansion. Neolin’s mission is situated
mals and parched soil.
within the context of other Delaware revitalization move-
ments in Anthony F. C. Wallace’s “New Religions among
East of the inner square the prophet had drawn a map
the Delaware Indians, 1600–1900,” Southwestern Journal of
of the lands formerly occupied by the Delaware but now in
Anthropology 12 (1956): 1–21. A paraphrase of Pontiac’s ver-
the control of the British. Once the Delaware had dwelt be-
sion of the prophet’s teaching recorded by Robert Navarre,
side the ocean and in the coastal areas, where they hunted,
a Frenchman witnessing the siege of Detroit, may be found
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOLITHIC RELIGION
6459
in Henry R. Schoolcraft’s Algic Researches, vol. 1 (New York,
Neolithic cultures differed not only in their chronology
1839), pp. 239–248. The prophet’s teachings as summarized
but, much more important for the study of religion, in their
by a Moravian missionary may be found in John Hecke-
basic content: their methods of production, technological
welder’s History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations
skills, social relations, and achievements in art. The earliest
(1819; rev. ed., 1876; reprint, New York, 1971). A standard
ware was produced in Japan by the Jomon culture during the
if occasionally biased account of the life of Pontiac and the
eighth millennium BCE, long before communities of that re-
influence on and use by him of the Delaware Prophet’s
gion had mastered the cultivation of plants and the domesti-
teaching is Howard H. Peckham’s Pontiac and the Indian
Uprising
(Princeton, 1947).
cation of animals. Finds from the Spirit Cave in northern
Thailand, however, suggest that the beginnings of the Neo-
DONALD P. ST. JOHN (1987 AND 2005)
lithic period in southeastern Asia (the Hoa Binh culture of
the ninth and eighth millennia BCE) was characterized by the
cultivation of leguminous plants; pottery was made only
from the end of the seventh millennium, and general farming
NEOLITHIC RELIGION comprises the religious
was practiced beginning in the fourth millennium. In north-
concepts, cults, and rituals of the early farming communities
ern Mesopotamia, the beginnings of the Neolithic period
that sprang up throughout the world in the Early Holocene
were marked by the domestication of sheep (as evident at
period (8000–3000 BCE). Unlike the Paleolithic and Meso-
Zawi Chemi during the Shanidar phase, c. 8000 BCE), and
lithic periods of prehistory, the Neolithic period was charac-
in Palestine (Jericho, eighth millennium BCE) and Anatolia
terized by climatic conditions, very similar to those of the
(Hacilar, seventh millennium BCE), by the cultivation of
present, that directed human activity chiefly to the soil and
grain. In the Iron Gate region of Europe (the Lepenski Vir
its fruits. Attention that previously had been focused on
culture), dogs and pigs were domesticated and grain was cul-
stone now shifted to earth, which became not only the basic
tivated as early as the seventh millennium BCE. These two
raw material but a multivalent symbol. These preoccupations
basic achievements of the “Neolithic Revolution” were fully
gave rise to a specific ideology, to sedentary ways of life and
utilized only in the middle of the sixth millennium BCE.
the construction of permanent settlements, to the domestica-
tion of plants and animals, and to important technological
The Neolithic world was not uniform but, as these di-
inventions such as pottery making—developments identified
verse developments indicate, varied and very dynamic. It is
as the basic achievements of the “Neolithic Revolution.”
therefore necessary to modify the general assessment of the
period as one in which the economy was limited to farming,
The association of complex ideas and numerous activi-
social relations were limited to tribal organization and the
ties with earth was not, however, a process completed rapid-
matriarchate, and religion was confined to a fertility cult and
ly. It took Neolithic communities centuries to learn to use
the worship of a supreme female deity (Magna Mater, Moth-
earth as a new material and to find it more necessary, more
er Earth, and the like). One cannot really speak of a Neolith-
valuable, and more meaningful than stone. Since, in the Pa-
ic religion, but only of Neolithic religions. Lack of evidence
leolithic and Mesolithic periods, not only everyday activities
that might enable people to define each of these religions
but complex religious beliefs, cults, rituals, and probably
does not justify generalization or neglect.
myths were also associated with stone, this “Neolithic Revo-
lution” may be defined, from the point of view of the history
Archaeological artifacts, which constitute the main
of religions, as a gradual process of the desacralization of
sources for the study of Neolithic religions, for the most part
stone and the sacralization of earth.
still lie buried; those that are known are usually fragmented
and ambiguous. The material at our disposal documents
Because the basic achievements of the Neolithic period
chiefly the places and objects used for cult and ritual pur-
were attained neither simultaneously nor in a particular area
poses within these religions, rather than the words and ges-
only, the chronological and territorial boundaries of the
tures that were their most essential and explicit expressions.
Neolithic world are very flexible. Its beginnings date from
Two other major obstacles preclude a fuller reconstruction
the eighth millennium BCE at the earliest, but only in a few
of Neolithic religions: large areas of the world (parts of Aus-
comparatively limited and mutually distant territories (in
tralia, South America, and the Pacific islands) are still archae-
Asia: Palestine, northern Mesopotamia, Thailand, and
ologically unexplored, and evidence concerning the other
Japan; in Europe: Crete, Thessaly, and the central Danubian
spheres of Neolithic life with which religion was closely asso-
region). It was only in the period between 6500 and 5000
ciated, such as the economy, social relations, and art, is frag-
BCE that the Neolithic cultures established themselves and
mentary.
began to expand and influence one another (in the Near
East, northern China, southeastern Europe, and the western
Attempts have been made to compensate for these limi-
Mediterranean). The period between 5000 and 3000 BCE
tations and to use, as clues to the meaning of Neolithic reli-
was a particularly dynamic one; while Neolithic cultures in
gious concepts, cults, and rituals, ethnographic materials re-
the Near East and southeastern Europe began to disintegrate,
lated to the psychology and behavior of farmers, the
others began to emerge and take root in northern Africa,
mythology of ancient civilizations, and the scientific recon-
southwestern Europe, India, Mesoamerica, and Peru.
struction of the earliest known Indo-European and Semitic
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6460
NEOLITHIC RELIGION
languages. Although the usefulness of these approaches
tolia, and disintegrated between 5000 and 3000 BCE in the
should not be denied, the most reliable method is to study
lowlands of Mesopotamia.
the religion of Neolithic communities on the basis of what
Evidence of a sedentary way of life, a basic trait of the
has been discovered in their settlements and graves. The
Neolithic period, is clearly discerned in the Natufian culture,
most relevant of these finds are cultic places and objects, ritu-
which developed in Palestine and Syria between 10,000 and
al instruments, remains of sacrifices, and various symbols.
8300
However, these material expressions of the religious con-
BCE. Excavations of Natufian settlements have yielded
indirect evidence of the use and cultivation of grain (for ex-
sciousness of Neolithic communities have not been discov-
ample, stone mortars, pestles, and sickles). Such evidence, to-
ered in all Neolithic cultures; in some, they have been docu-
gether with the remains of dogs, marks the Natufian as the
mented only sporadically. Accordingly, this narrows down
dawn of Neolithic culture in the Near East (the so-called
even more the chronological and territorial boundaries with-
Proto-Neolithic). Although no objects of an undoubtedly sa-
in which it is possible to study the origin, distinctive traits,
cred character have been discovered at Natufian sites, it is
and evolution of Neolithic religious conceptions.
nevertheless possible to form some idea, on the basis of sur-
The fullest evidence for the study of Neolithic religion
viving houses, graves, and art objects, of the religious con-
comes from Asia Minor and Europe, the two regions that
cepts, cults, and rituals extant in this period.
have been best explored. Within this large territory, which
No cult places have been found in Natufian settlements,
extends from the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea to Den-
with the possible exception of the remains of a large oval
mark and the British Isles, three religious spheres can be dis-
structure discovered in Jericho. Its isolated location on virgin
tinguished: the Near East, southeastern Europe, and the
soil beside a spring indicates that this may have been a cult
western Mediterranean with northwestern Europe. The re-
site visited at certain times of the year.
maining regions of Europe either were under the direct influ-
ence of these spheres or, as in northeastern Europe, were in-
That all of the figural representations belonging to this
habited by hunting-gathering communities that held on to
culture were carved from pebbles suggests beliefs associated
the traditional religious concepts of the Paleolithic and
with water and its creative potential. These representations
Mesolithic periods. The latter was also true of communities
include schematized human heads from Ain Mallaha and Al-
inhabiting the forest zone of northern Asia, primarily Siberia.
Oued and an “erotic” statuette from Ain Sakhri showing an
embracing couple, perhaps illustrating the concept of the
In spite of the scarcity of relevant archaeological finds,
“holy marriage.” Sexual attributes are not marked on any of
three religious spheres can also be distinguished in southern
the figures, and the relationship of the sexes is expressed in
and eastern Asia: the Malay archipelago, northern China and
an allusive way: the large stone mortars with circular recipi-
Manchuria, and the Japanese islands with Korea. The inhab-
ents in their middles probably represent the female principle,
ited regions of central Asia probably did not constitute a sep-
as the phallus-shaped stone pestles probably represent the
arate religious zone. In Africa, only two Neolithic religious
male principle.
spheres can be distinguished, one in northern Africa and the
other in the Nile Valley. Nothing is known of developments
These mortars, used for the grinding of grain, were
south of the Sahara. The situation is similar in the New
sometimes sunk into the floor of circular houses, next to the
World, where only one sphere of Neolithic religion, com-
hearth (as at Ain Mallaha). They were also frequently associ-
prising Middle America and the coastal zone of Peru, is
ated with burials and used either as grave markers (Wadi Fal-
known.
lah) or as altars around which graves were arranged in a semi-
circle (Al-Oued). Frequent burial of the dead in pits used for
Of the nine religious spheres that may be distinguished
the storage of grain, and the occasional building of hearths
on the map of the Neolithic world, those in Asia Minor and
above graves (Ain Mallaha) or in cemeteries (Nahal Oren),
southeastern Europe were the earliest, the most long-lived,
emphasizes a close connection between the dead and the pro-
and the most influential. Future investigations will probably
cesses of providing, keeping, and preparing grain food. There
show that Neolithic religions in southeastern and eastern
is also evidence to suggest some link between certain animals,
Asia were much more specific and influential than present
the dead, and the underworld: for example, a grave in Ain
evidence suggests. In the western Mediterranean area and in
Mallaha contained a human skull framed with the horns of
northwestern Europe, religion acquired specific traits at an
a gazelle; another grave at the same site contained the skele-
early date but began to radiate far and wide only in the Late
ton of a dog; and seven human skulls, each accompanied by
Neolithic. The other Neolithic religions appeared compara-
an equid’s tooth, were found in Erq el-Ahmar. These finds
tively late and were mainly of brief duration and local impor-
may indicate that the Natufians believed that ancestors pro-
tance.
vided all the basic sources of food, that they looked after
plants and animals and caused them to multiply.
THE NEAR EAST. The Neolithic religion of the Near East
originated between 8300 and 6500 BCE in the zone of the
Evidence of a cult of ancestors is also found in the com-
so-called Fertile Crescent (Palestine, Syria, northern Iraq,
plex funeral customs of the Natufians, especially in their
and Iran). It flourished between 6500 and 5000 BCE in Ana-
burial of detached skulls, sometimes grouped in fives or
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOLITHIC RELIGION
6461
nines. At Ain Mallaha, two graves lay beneath a circle of
found in the middle of the Neolithic village, and in Murey-
stone with a diameter of two and one-half meters; upon it
bet rooms were discovered in which horns of wild oxen, per-
a quadrangular hearth was built. A skull and two uppermost
haps bucrania (sometimes flanked by the shoulder blades of
vertebrae lay on the hearth, an indication perhaps of human
oxen or asses), were embedded in the walls.
sacrifice. This structure and a hearth in the cemetery at
These rooms were mostly house shrines, for they were
Nahal Oren, with a deposit of ashes one-half meter thick,
directly linked with dwelling rooms. Only the group of three
present reliable evidence of a chthonic cult. Here were altars
oval structures in Beida and the building with wooden posts
on which sacrifices were offered to the heroic dead or to the
in Jericho might have been communal shrines. The cult ob-
forces governing the underworld. There is, however, no evi-
jects from these shrines suggest that the powers venerated in
dence of a transition from the chthonic to an agrarian cult
them had not yet acquired an anthropomorphic shape and
in the Proto-Neolithic period.
that their presence was expressed by aniconic forms, mostly
Throughout the entire zone of the Fertile Crescent, the
by upright stones or the heads of bulls or rams. Two finds
period between 8300 and 6500 BCE saw the appearance of
only, dating from the very end of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic,
villages in which cereals were cultivated and animals domes-
might be associated with anthropomorphic deities. These are
ticated, as is now known through the discovery of remains
the remains of three plastered human statues from Jericho
of barley, wheat, sheep, goats, and pigs at scattered sites. Pot-
and the deposit of at least ten human statues, 80 to 90 centi-
tery was very rare, and therefore this period has been termed
meters high, and twelve busts, 30 to 45 centimeters high,
the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. The number of finds associated
found in Ain Ghazal (Palestine). The Jericho statues make
with religion is comparatively large, but they were discovered
up a group representing a man, a woman, and a child, possi-
chiefly in Palestine, Syria, and northern Mesopotamia.
bly a divine triad. The Ain Ghazal statues have stylized bo-
dies but individualized heads; one of them represents a man,
The traditional cult of ancestors, manifested primarily
and the others have female breasts.
in the detachment and special treatment of skulls, developed
further, culminating between 7500 and 6500
The meaning of these statues, and of the busts that were
BCE. Complete
burials or detached skulls, sometimes placed in special struc-
found surrounding them, is difficult to decipher. Since min-
tures, were discovered beneath the floors of houses in almost
iature clay figurines of pregnant women, often deliberately
all sites from this period. In Mureybet, skulls were placed on
damaged, were also found in Ain Ghazal, we may surmise
clay benches along the walls of the houses, so that they were
that the small anthropomorphic figurines were used in fertili-
always within reach. In Jericho, a skull might be covered with
ty rites or in some chthonic-agrarian cult; the larger statues
a kind of plaster, and then a face, sometimes with individual-
may have been representations of particular deities and there-
ized features, was modeled upon it. Evidence of the same
fore objects of the greatest veneration.
practice exists at Beisamoun and Tell Ramad (both in Syria),
The cults performed in individual households became
where each plastered skull was placed on a clay support in
clearly distinct from those in the care of the broader commu-
the form of a seated human figure.
nity or of persons specially chosen by the community (priests
and priestesses) only in the period of the full consolidation
Cult centers discovered in Palestine (Jericho and Beida),
of the Neolithic culture, between 6500 and 5000
in the upper Euphrates Valley (Mureybet), and in western
BCE. A gap
between the sacred and the profane opened during this time,
Iran (Ganjadareh) provide more detailed evidence for the re-
as is evidenced by the very limited number of sacred objects,
ligion of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. In Jericho, two rooms
mainly fragmented anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figu-
and a structure are supposed to have served cult purposes,
rines, found in villages from this period, in conjunction with
primarily because of their unusual shapes: a room with a
their high concentration in some settlements; this causes
niche in which a block of volcanic rock stood on a stone sup-
people to speak of religious centers.
port was discovered in a house; a pit filled with ashes was
found in the middle of another house, which suggests that
The best example of such a center is Çatal Hüyük in An-
some ritual was performed in that place; finally, figurines
atolia, where fourteen building horizons, dating from 6300
representing oxen, goats, and, perhaps, pigs were found in
to 5400 BCE, were discovered. Each of these levels consists
a large structure with wooden posts placed in an unusual ar-
of dwelling rooms linked with storage spaces and shrines, of
rangement. In Beida, a group of three enigmatic oval struc-
varying size, that contain sacred representations (reliefs and
tures, located some fifty meters distant from the settlement
frescoes), stone and clay figurines, and graves of privileged
and approached by a paved path, were explored. In the mid-
members of the community, possibly priests and priestesses.
dle of the central structure, a large block of sandstone was
A certain consistency in the arrangement of representations
set upright; a large slab with a parapet built around the edge
on walls suggests the existence of a coherent religious concept
lay against the southern wall, and a triangular basin, made
or myth in which the character and mutual relationship of
of a large slab and partly filled with ashes, soot, and charred
superior powers were clearly defined. We may assume that
animal bones (probably the remains of a sacrifice or a ritual
the reliefs depicted the divine powers, the frescoes described
feast), was found outside the wall. In Ganjadareh a room
the sacred activities (religious ceremonies, sacrifices, and ritu-
with a niche containing fixed, superimposed rams’ skulls was
al scenes), and the statuettes represented the chief actors in
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6462
NEOLITHIC RELIGION
the myth. Scenes associated with the world of the dead were
All these traits already are evidenced clearly in the cul-
always shown on the northern and eastern walls of the
tures from the first half of the fifth millennium BCE. In
shrines, scenes related to the giving of birth were depicted
northern Mesopotamia (the Halaf-Hassuna-Samarra cul-
on the western walls, and representations of the goddess and
tures), the dead were buried mainly outside the settlements,
the bull appeared on all of the walls. The most common mo-
and only children were interred beneath the floors of houses
tifs used in the reliefs were bulls heads and the so-called “twin
or shrines. Anthropomorphic figurines either disappeared or
goddesses,” whereas most of the frescoes depicted bulls and
underwent a change in significance. The number of feminine
vultures. In addition, there were various other symbols, such
figurines was comparatively large in the Samarra and Halaf
as representations of the human head, the boar’s head, and
cultures, and costly materials (for example, alabaster) were
the female breast. Viewed as a whole, these complex motifs
frequently used for their manufacture, but they were usually
represent the confrontation between the creative powers (the
placed in graves. Shrines from this period can be identified
bulls, the twin goddesses) and the destructive forces (the
by their special position in the settlement rather than by their
boars, the vultures), and the opposition of birth and death
decoration or by the objects found in them. In Eridu (south-
or light and darkness. The statuettes express a similar opposi-
ern Mesopotamia), the shrine formed the nucleus around
tion: they are representations of the great female deity (some-
which the settlement was built; in Pessejik and Dashliji
times in her positive and sometimes in her negative aspect)
(Transcaspian lowlands), shrines were distinguished not only
and of the goddess’s son or male consort.
by their size and rich decoration but also by their position.
Representations of the same female deity were discov-
In the cultures of the second half of the fifth and the
ered in the Neolithic settlement of Hacilar (southwestern
fourth millennium BCE, the processes manifested earlier de-
Anatolia), dating from around 5500
veloped further. In the Al-Ubayyid culture, there is evidence
BCE. Statuettes, mod-
eled in a naturalistic way and frequently colored, represent
of monumental temples on platforms and of cult places sepa-
a young or mature woman, naked or clothed, in a standing,
rated from settlements. Some temples (for example, the tem-
seated, or reclining position, sometimes with a child or an
ple from Layer VIII in Eridu) already resembled ziggurats.
animal in her lap or arms. Plastered bulls’ heads, as well as
No statues or figurines of deities were found in these temples,
stone amulets in the shape of bulls’ heads, were also found,
but there were altars around which rites, probably similar to
but there were no shrines. Some houses, however, had niches
those shown on the seals of the Gawra type (processions, rit-
with stone slabs, a type of which had a human face with large
ual dances, the adorning of altars, and the like), were per-
eyes incised on it. These may have been figures of ancestors,
formed. Burials were made in cemeteries separated from set-
household spirits, the guardians of the family. The later set-
tlements (Tell Arpachiya, Eridu, Al-Ubayyid), and grave
tlements of Hacilar, dating from 5400 to 5000
goods included both feminine and masculine figurines as
BCE, yielded
two shrines associated with the cult of the dead, standardized
well as a type of figurine representing a woman with a child
in her arms. These figurines did not represent deities; rather,
feminine statuettes, almost violin-shaped masculine figu-
they were instruments used in funerary rites. It is obvious
rines, and anthropomorphic and zoomorphic ritual vessels.
that deities became remote and abstract toward the end of
Over the following two millennia, the number of figurines
the Neolithic period. The religion of the Al-Ubayyid culture,
decreased, but painted pottery became very common, and its
as well as that of other contemporaneous cultures of the
decoration frequently incorporated basic religious concepts.
Near East, was basically transcendental. In this respect, it an-
At the beginning of the fifth millennium BCE, Anatolia
ticipates the religion of the early urban civilization of Meso-
lost its importance, and the centers of culture and spiritual
potamia.
life were transferred to Mesopotamia, Khuzestan, and the
SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE. The Neolithic religion of south-
Transcaspian lowlands. The intensive migratory movements,
eastern Europe was based on local traditions and the religion
exploitation of new materials (copper and gold), and in-
of the Epi-Paleolithic hunting-gathering communities, the
creased exchange of goods transformed the traditional reli-
presence of which is attested on numerous sites from Pelo-
gion in almost all of the regions of the Near East and led,
ponnese to the northern fringe of the Pannonian plain, and
at the end of the fourth millennium BCE, to the disintegra-
from the western shores of the Black Sea to the Alps and the
tion of all Neolithic cultures. Although a number of distinct
eastern coast of the Adriatic. As early as the twelfth millenni-
and frequently unrelated cultures emerged in the period be-
um BCE, this extensive territory was incorporated into the
tween 5000 and 3000 BCE, the religion of this period was
sphere of the Mediterranean Gravettian culture, in whose re-
characterized by three general features: the separation of the
ligion the most important artifacts were pebbles colored with
world of the living from the world of the dead, as manifested
red ocher and engraved objects of bone and antler. When the
in the increasing practice of burying the dead in special cem-
climate became gradually warmer at the end of the ninth mil-
eteries outside the settlements; the separation of cult centers
lennium BCE, the Tardi-Gravettian culture began to disinte-
from dwellings and the establishment of communal shrines;
grate. This disintegration had different consequences in dif-
and the abandonment of figural representations of deities
ferent regions: in the southwestern part of the Balkan
and the tendency to suggest their potency and activity by
Peninsula, the traditional culture was impoverished and
means of abstract symbols, signs, and ornaments.
gradually became extinct; in the Aegean and, particularly, in
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOLITHIC RELIGION
6463
the Danubian region, it became richer, developing, between
ization. The figural sculptures probably represent only what
7000 and 6500 BCE, into the culture of the first farming
was born out of that intertwining: hybrid, fishlike beings,
communities.
water spirits, lords of the great river, and primeval ancestors.
Regardless of how we interpret these stone figures, their close
As in the Near East, the beginning of the Neolithic cul-
association with the hearth (on which food was prepared for
ture in the Danubian region and the Aegean was marked by
the living and where sacrifices were offered to the dead)
a sedentary way of life. The first permanent open-space set-
shows that the religion of the Lepenski Vir culture was based
tlements appeared at the beginning of the eighth millennium
on the cult of the domestic hearth.
BCE, in the central part of the Danubian valley, on low river
terraces near large whirlpools abounding in fish. The local
In the period when religion and art in this region
Epi-Paleolithic culture began to change rapidly and, at the
reached their apogee, two major advances were made in the
end of the same millennium, evolved into the Proto-
sphere of economy: the cultivation of some sorts of grain and
Neolithic Lepenski Vir culture. The shrines of this culture
the domestication or selection of some animals (dogs, pigs,
were associated not only with the earliest monumental sculp-
deer) were mastered, so that the Lepenski Vir culture as-
tures in Europe but also with the first achievements in the
sumed the traits of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic. The uniform
domestication of plants and animals.
character of its shrines and sculptures shows that all ancestral
knowledge was combined into an integral system and incor-
The earliest settlements of the Lepenski Vir culture were
porated into cult, myth, and ritual.
small. No places used for cult purposes were discovered in
them, but finds did include ritual instruments and pebbles
In the middle of the seventh millennium BCE, in the pe-
colored with red ocher. Later settlements, dating from the
riod when the cultivation of plants and the keeping of ani-
beginning of the seventh millennium BCE, yielded varied ma-
mals were taken out of the ritual context, the Lepenski Vir
terial. Some contained a number of specialized implements
culture lost its specific traits and developed into the culture
and a great quantity of bones of fish and game animals,
of the earliest Danubian farmers, the so-called Starcˇevo-
whereas others (for example, Lepenski Vir and Hajducˇka Vo-
Körös-Cris culture. Concurrently or a few centuries later,
denica) had shrines, sculptures made of very large boulders,
Early Neolithic cultures appeared, either autonomously or as
and graves containing evidence of complex funerary rites.
a result of acculturation, in other regions of southeastern Eu-
This turning of human faculties toward different goals led,
rope as well. However they came into being, an almost uni-
on the one hand, to the transition from a gathering economy
form sacred world, centered again on the domestic hearth,
to a food-producing one, and, on the other hand, to the ap-
established itself throughout the whole of southeastern Eu-
pearance of monumental sculptures and the cults and myths
rope as early as around 6000 BCE.
associated with them.
The sixth millennium was a period of stabilization for
A total of 147 dwelling places were discovered at Lepen-
Neolithic cultures in southeastern Europe. The most creative
ski Vir, the religious center for the entire central Danubian
regions were Thessaly-Macedonia (the Proto-Sesklo and
region between 7000 and 6500 BCE. About fifty of them had
Sesklo cultures), the Danubian region (the Starcˇevo culture)
small shrines, each consisting of a rectangular hearth sur-
and the Maritsa Valley (the Karanovo culture). No shrines
rounded by large stone slabs embedded in a floor made of
have been discovered in any of these regions; the only possi-
limestone mortar, an altar with a circular or ellipsoid recipi-
ble exception is a building in Nea Nikomedeia (Aegean Mac-
ent, and anywhere from one to five sculptures made of large
edonia), which, because of its large dimensions, was probably
boulders. Directly against the stones surrounding the hearth,
a shrine. Some houses in northwestern Macedonia (in Po-
one to fifteen triangular openings were sunk into the floor,
rodin, Madzare, and Zelenikovo) had stoves next to which
framed with small slabs of red stone and, sometimes, with
stood richly decorated clay tables (perhaps altars) and some-
human mandibles.
times also clay models of houses with head-shaped chimneys
or breast-shaped roofs. These finds, as well as the considera-
All of these dwelling places with shrines had a uniform
bly more modest models of houses from Thessaly and the
ground plan in the form of a truncated sector of a circle, with
Danubian region, suggest that the entire house was consid-
an angle of about sixty degrees. Skeletons of infants (from
ered to be under the protection of a household deity.
one to five) were found beneath the floors, and secondary or
partial burials (consisting mainly of skulls) were made within
Anthropomorphic figurines, mostly representing preg-
the shrines. In each shrine, the hearth structure and the altar
nant women, were common only in Thessaly, Macedonia,
lay on an axis extending from east to west, whereas the dead
and the Danubian region, usually at places where utensils for
and the sculptures had a north-south orientation. This fixed
everyday use were also found. Feminine figurines were the
orientation implies a clear division of the world. The shrines
more numerous, but they are not earlier than masculine
probably reproduced the world’s structure, and the sculp-
ones. Zoomorphic figurines (mostly representations of oxen
tures, both abstract and figural, probably illustrated the myth
and deer) were produced in great numbers, as were amulets,
of its creation. Abstract sculptures were more numerous, and
each in the shape of a stylized bull’s head. Types of sacrifices
the intertwining on their surfaces of rounded, “female” signs
can be deduced on the basis of several finds in Crete and
with open, “male” ones suggests the idea of continuous fertil-
Thessaly, where narrow, deep pits filled with ashes, animal
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6464
NEOLITHIC RELIGION
bones, and occasional anthropomorphic figurines have been
incorporate the powers presiding over the household, grana-
found. These were probably places where sacrifices were of-
ry, flocks, or farmed land. The relationship between these
fered to chthonic deities, and the figurines were probably
powers and the community seems to have been direct, so that
placed there as substitutes for human sacrifice, indications
the religion of this period was, in fact, a popular one. It was
of which are evident only in the hilly and marginal areas of
manifested in the performance of rites associated with rain,
southeastern Europe. The cult of the dead was not particular-
sowing, reaping, the seasons of the year, birth, sickness, and
ly important. The deceased were buried in contracted posi-
death, rather than with the veneration of particular deities.
tion in various places—in the settlements, outside them, or
The discovery of copper and gold in the Carpathian
in caves. They were buried without rich gifts and without
Mountains at the end of the fifth millennium BCE, and the
any fixed orientation. The idea of death apparently did not
later inroads of nomads from the southern Russian steppes,
play an important role in the life of the Neolithic communi-
caused a crisis in the old values and goals; as a result, tradi-
ties of southeastern Europe.
tional shrines lost some of their importance. In the fourth
The fifth millennium BCE was the period of the flower-
millennium BCE, the centers of sacred life were transferred
ing of Neolithic cultures in southeastern Europe, especially
to the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula (the Boian-
in the inland regions of the Balkan Peninsula and in the Pan-
Gumelnita culture) and to Moldavia and the southwestern
nonian plain, where the Vincˇa culture was dominant. There
Ukraine (the Cucuteni-Tripol’e culture). It was only in this
were no essential innovations in the religious sphere, but the
period of crisis that special attention was devoted to the
traditional elements of religious life became more clearly de-
dead—separation of cemeteries from settlements, fixed ori-
fined and more numerous. There is no evidence of shrines;
entation of burials, exceptionally rich funerary gifts—and
cultic life was still associated with households, especially with
that special rooms in the houses were set apart for cult pur-
the rooms for the storage and grinding of grain or for the
poses. The cult of the bull continued to be practiced (shrines
preparation of food. Rooms with bucrania on the walls and
with bucrania, amulets in the form of bulls’ heads) as did the
an abundance of cult objects have been found on several sites
cult of the household hearth (concentration of sacred objects,
of the Vincˇa culture. The geographical distribution of these
especially of anthropomorphic figurines, around a stove used
sites shows that in the entire territory of the Vincˇa culture,
for baking bread).
covering some 120,000 square kilometers, there were only
At Ca˘scuiareke (Romania), however, a shrine was found
five or six large settlements that were major religious centers.
that contained evidence of the cult of the sacred pillar and,
Vincˇa itself was certainly one of them, for each change in the
possibly, of the sun. A group of miniature clay objects (altars,
sacred objects produced in it was reflected in the surrounding
stools, figurines in positions of adoration, and ritual vessels)
territory up to about one hundred kilometers in diameter.
with painted decoration (concentric circles, triangles, and
Several thousand anthropomorphic figurines and hundreds
spirals) representing the sun and other celestial bodies was
of ritual vases, amulets, and various cult instruments have
discovered at Ovcharevo (Bulgaria). Similar ornaments
been found at Vincˇa.
found on painted ware suggest that religious thought was pri-
The anthropomorphic figurines were very varied and in-
marily directed to the sky and was concerned with cosmogo-
cluded naked and clothed human figures, figures in flexed,
ny. These ornaments consist of ideograms for the sun, moon,
kneeling, or seated positions, two-headed figures, figures of
four sides of the world, heavenly spheres, earth, air, fire, and
musicians, and masked figures. Some scholars have seen in
the like. Later they came to include human, animal, and fan-
them representations of particular deities, such as the Great
tastic figures (giants with two pairs of arms, winged dogs, and
Goddess, the Bird and Snake Goddess, the Pregnant Vegeta-
so on); one may thus surmise that a special mythology was
tion Goddess, and the Year God. But these figurines were
being evolved in southeastern Europe during the fourth mil-
not found in ritual contexts, and the differences in their ap-
lennium BCE. This mythology could not be fully developed:
pearances probably resulted from aesthetic rather than reli-
in the middle of the fourth millennium BCE, southeastern
Europe was overrun by nomadic horsemen who destroyed
gious considerations. Only about five percent of them are
the shrines of local farming communities and paralyzed their
clearly defined as feminine or masculine. All examples whose
creativity.
place of discovery is known have been associated with various
elements of the household (for instance, the stove, the
OTHER REGIONS. The separate religious spheres of the Neo-
hearth, the guern, the weaving loom, and the storage pit) or
lithic world were the western Mediterranean with northwest-
with particular domestic activities. A number of figurines
ern Europe; the Sahara; the Nile Valley; China; Japan; and
have been found in graves but these are exceptions confined
Middle America. The hunting-gathering communities of
to some local cultures (for example, the Hamangia culture
Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, and the adjacent islands became
in Dobruja). The fact that they were commonly found to-
acquainted with the main achievements of the “Neolithic
gether with objects of everyday use, and that they had fre-
Revolution” at the end of the seventh millennium BCE, but
quently been fragmented and discarded, suggests that they
they mostly continued to live in caves and rock shelters and
lost their value once the ritual had been performed and the
to hold on to ancient customs. In coastal districts and the
desired end achieved. These figurines were probably held to
adjacent hinterlands the preoccupation with earth was first
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOLITHIC RELIGION
6465
established through pottery making rather than farming.
farming communities paid greatest attention to their dead
Something of the spiritual life of these communities is re-
and to the Nile. The earliest Neolithic graves (middle of the
flected in the ornaments on their pottery, which includes
fifth millennium BCE) already had a fixed orientation. The
such motifs as wavy lines, flamelike patterns, and crescents.
dead were buried facing east, with grains of wheat in their
These motifs may have symbolized objects of the greatest
mouths (the Merimde culture). In some cases, models of
veneration—the moon, sun, and sea—and may be taken as
boats and anthropomorphic figurines made of clay or ivory
evidence of the cult of waters and celestial bodies.
were placed in graves (the Badari culture). Vases from the
second half of the fourth millennium BCE (the Naqada II cul-
In the fifth millennium BCE, influences from the Aegean
ture) show processions of decorated boats, probably depict-
began to modify the culture of the Apennine Peninsula,
ing the rite of offering sacrifice to the Nile.
while the Iberian peninsula saw the beginning of processes
that in time led to the emergence, throughout western and
The Neolithic religion in the countries of the Far East
northwestern Europe, of cultures characterized by megalithic
also had distinct features. The Yang-shao culture of China
tombs for collective burial (such as dolmens, passage graves,
seems to have fostered the cult of ancestors and fertility.
and gallery graves) and by sacred architecture consisting of
Judging from motifs on painted ware, an important role was
large stone uprights (menhirs) set in parallel alignments or
also accorded to the cult of evergreen trees (fir and cypress)
in circles (cromlechs). These were the basic forms, but some
and, perhaps, mountaintops. A significant role was accorded
other types of sacred stone structures were built in other re-
as well to the dynamic forces of the universe and cosmic radi-
gions, for example, shrines with a U-shaped plan in Den-
ation, which influence nature and the destiny of man. The
mark and temples with niches and a central courtyard in
Neolithic population of Japan, which had long remained in
Malta. The dominant cult was that of ancestors. Highly styl-
complete isolation, also left some traces of its religion. They
ized idols with large eyes in the form of rosettes (the “all-
include enigmatic stone circles—the so-called sundials, with
seeing goddess”) have been found in megalithic graves in
a radius of up to forty-five meters—and figurines with large
Spain and Portugal. Special places for sacrificial offerings
protruding eyes and stone phalli, sometimes of large dimen-
have also been discovered at certain sites, such as the ceme-
sions. These represent mere fragments of a Neolithic religion
tery in Los Millares, Spain. Gravestones were frequently dec-
based on the worship of stone, the sun, and the phallus.
orated with abstract engravings and reliefs, more rarely, with
The Neolithic religions of the Malay archipelago and of
representations of snakes, oxen, or double-edged axes. At the
Mesoamerica must have been equally specific, since the de-
end of the Neolithic period, some upright gravestones were
velopment of a Neolithic culture in these regions was specific
modeled in the form of human figures (statue menhirs).
and autonomous. The archaeological evidence is, however,
All these megalithic shrines were surrounded by the
so slender that it does not permit poeple to form any definite
graves of ancestors; since they were placed far apart, it is cer-
conclusions about the religious ideas of Neolithic communi-
tain that they marked sites at which large groups of farming
ties in these areas.
communities gathered on special occasions. The gigantic
cromlech Stonehenge (southern England), as well as the
SEE ALSO Agriculture; Ancestors; Earth; Goddess Worship;
alignment of stone monuments in Carnac (Brittany, France),
Hieros Gamos; Megalithic Religion; Metals and Metallurgy;
Prehistoric Religions.
must have attracted thousands of believers who gathered to
establish contact with ancestral or divine powers. Malta, with
its numerous temples, was probably a holy island (isola sacra)
BIBLIOGRAPHY
to which believers came from all parts of the world to be ini-
No comprehensive account of Neolithic religion has yet been
tiated into the mysteries of the Great Goddess, whose colos-
written. The general surveys of prehistoric religion devote
sal fragmented statue has been discovered under one of the
comparatively little space to Neolithic religion and present
only the material from the Neolithic sites in Europe and the
temples. Each Maltese temple has a ground plan in the form
Near East; see, for example, E. O. James’s Prehistoric Religion
of a uterus or the silhouette of the Great Goddess. Figurines
(London, 1957), Johannes Maringer’s The Gods of Prehistoric
with deformed bodies and representations of the so-called
Man (New York, 1960), and Étienne Patte’s Les hommes pré-
sleeping ladies found in these temples suggest that they were
historiques et la religion (Paris, 1960). Some new and sti-
also healing places and oracles where believers could, through
mulating ideas concerning Neolithic religion have been in-
a period of sojourn (incubation), obtain cures for the body
troduced by Karl J. Narr in the chapter “Kunst und Religion
or soul. The very act of walking through these uterus-shaped
der Steinzeit und Steinkupferzeit,” in his Handbuch der Ur-
temples, between alignments, or through the circles of crom-
geschichte, vol. 2 (Bern, 1975), pp. 655–670, and by Mircea
lechs had the significance of an initiation.
Eliade in A History of Religious Ideas, vol. 1 (Chicago, 1978),
pp. 29–52 and 114–124.
The religion of the Neolithic populations of Africa was
A rich and systematic collection of documents for the study of
based on quite different concepts and cults. The predomi-
Neolithic religion is provided by Hermann Müller-Karpe in
nantly pastoral communities of the Sahara left rock paintings
his Handbuch der Vorgeschichte, vol. 2 (Munich, 1968). Sev-
and drawings that usually represent oxen or human figures
eral books discuss, in a rather uncritical way, the problem of
in the position of adoration. Farther east, in Egypt, the first
the meaning of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6466
NEOORTHODOXY
in the Neolithic world: Olaf Höckmann’s Die menschenges-
formed by the great themes of the Protestant Reformation.
taltige Figuralplastik der südosteuropäischen Jungsteinzeit und
Since its leaders had no interest in producing a new ortho-
Steinkupferzeit, 2 vols. (Hildesheim, 1968); Marija Gim-
doxy along the lines either of seventeenth-century Protestant
butas’s The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, 6500–3500
scholasticism or of twentieth-century fundamentalism, the
B.C., rev. ed. (London, 1982); Elena V. Antonova’s Antropo-
neoorthodox movement could more accurately be called
morfnaia skul’ptura drevnikh zemledel’tsev Perednei i Srednei
neo-Reformation theology, but the former term has pre-
Azii (Moscow, 1977); and Nándor Kalicz’s Clay Gods (Buda-
vailed in common usage.
pest, 1980). A correct methodological approach to these
problems is demonstrated by Peter J. Ucko in “The Interpre-
In its broadest sense neoorthodoxy is an umbrella term
tation of Prehistoric Anthropomorphic Figurines,” Journal of
that includes a number of diverse but related theologies and
the Royal Anthropological Institute 92 (January-June 1962):
theologians. Among them are dialectical theology, or “theol-
38–54, and in his Anthropomorphic Figurines from Egypt and
ogy of crisis” in Switzerland and Germany (Karl Barth, Emil
Neolithic Crete with Comparative Material from Prehistoric
Brunner, Friedrich Gogarten, Rudolf Bultmann); motif re-
Near East and Mainland Greece (London, 1968).
search at Lund, Sweden (Gustaf Aulén, Anders Nygren); re-
The great spiritual centers of the Neolithic world are outlined in
constructionist theology in Scotland (John Baillie, Donald
detail in Kathleen M. Kenyon’s Digging Up Jericho (London,
M. Baillie, Thomas F. Torrance); and realistic theology, or
1957), James Mellaart’s Çatal Hüyük (London, 1967),
Christian realism, in the United States (Reinhold Niebuhr,
Jacques Cauvin’s Religions néolithiques de Syro-Palestine
H. Richard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich). Related to these are a
(Paris, 1972), and my own book Europe’s First Monumental
multitude of others who, from the 1920s to the 1950s,
Sculpture: New Discoveries at Lepenski Vir (London, 1972).
joined in the tasks of overcoming the weaknesses perceived
A. Rybakov’s “Kosmogoniia i mifologiia zemledel’tsev en-
eolita,” Sovetskaia arkheologiia 1 (1965): 24–47 and 2
in liberalism and of finding a more adequate way of express-
(1965): 13–33, is an important contribution to understand-
ing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the social setting of the twen-
ing the semantics of pottery decoration. The Neolithic
tieth century.
shrines of southeastern Europe are discussed by Vladimir
Because of its emphasis on the Bible as the written wit-
Dumitrescu in “Édifice destiné au culte découvert dans la
ness to God’s self-revelation and on the church as the locus
couche Boian-Spantov de la station-tell de Ca˘sciorele,” Dacia
of God’s continuing revelation, neoorthodoxy provided
(Bucharest) 15 (1970): 5–24; by Henrieta Todorova in
stimulus and support for two significant parallel develop-
“Kultszene und Hausmodell aus Ovcˇarevo,” Thracia (Sofia)
ments: the biblical theology movement, which strove to ex-
3 (1974): 39–46; and by Marija Gimbutas in “The Temples
of Old Europe,” Archaeology 33 (November-December
press the unity of scripture, and the ecumenical movement,
1980): 41–50. Megalithic monuments have been the subject
which was established to foster church unity.
of many recent monographs and papers; however, they dis-
The characteristic themes of neoorthodoxy, as well as its
cuss the problems of the systematization, distribution, and
divergent emphases, are found in two prophetic books that
chronology of these monuments rather than their religious
shocked theological communities in Europe and America
meaning. There are no comprehensive studies of Neolithic
and sparked the neoorthodox movement. The first was the
religion in eastern and southeastern Asia, although some at-
publication in 1919 of Der Römerbrief (The Epistle to the Ro-
tention has been devoted to the significance of ornamenta-
mans) by Karl Barth (1886–1968); the second was the ap-
tion on the pottery of the Yang-shao culture and of figurines
from the Jomon period.
pearance in 1932 of Moral Man and Immoral Society, by Re-
inhold Niebuhr (1892–1971). Both men had had extensive
New Sources
experience in the parish ministry (Barth in the Swiss village
Cauvin, Jacques. The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agricul-
of Safenwil, Niebuhr in the American industrial city of De-
ture. Cambridge, 2000.
troit), direct encounter with movements advocating the so-
Gimbutas, Marija Alseikaite, and Miriam Robbins Dexter. The
cial responsibility of the churches (Barth with Swiss religious
Living Goddesses. Berkeley, 1999.
socialism, Niebuhr with the American Social Gospel), educa-
North, John David. Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmos.
tion in the liberal tradition (Barth at Berlin and Marburg,
London, 1996.
Niebuhr at Eden and Yale), probing intellects, and powerful
personalities. Barth’s commentary on Romans was written
DRAGOSLAV SREJOVIC´ (1987)
with the problem of the preacher in mind; he discovered the
Translated from Serbo-Croatian by Veselin Kosti´c
Revised Bibliography
message of God’s sovereign grace that declares divine judg-
ment upon all human pretension, especially that of bourgeois
society and its religion of human perfectibility. Niebuhr’s
book was written with the problem of the ethicist in mind;
NEOORTHODOXY. Neoorthodoxy is the term used
he probed the difference between the social behavior of indi-
mainly in the English-speaking world to designate a theologi-
viduals and that of social groups, in light of the Reformation
cal movement within Protestantism that began after World
doctrines of sin and justification by faith. Barth’s theology
War I as a reaction to liberal theology and broadened into
tended to move from God to humanity, Niebuhr’s from hu-
diverse attempts to formulate afresh a theology of the Word
manity to God; they found their common ground in the cen-
of God grounded in the witness of holy scripture and in-
trality of Jesus Christ.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOORTHODOXY
6467
Neoorthodoxy erupted as a fresh theological movement
a German Lutheran New Testament professor, Rudolf Bult-
during the period of social upheaval caused by World War
mann (1884–1976), began contributing articles to the jour-
I and the Great Depression. Liberal assumptions about
nal. All of these prominent collaborators eventually attained
human goodness and historical progress were shaken, if not
professorships, so that the neoorthodox movement, which
destroyed, by the sudden outbreak of evil in the midst of a
had begun in the pastorate, gradually reached the universi-
modern civilization that had considered itself enlightened
ties. From there its influence spread abroad, especially to
and humane. Liberal theology was closely allied with Ger-
Scandinavia and Scotland, and then to the United States. Be-
man idealistic philosophy, and therefore assumed a basic
tween the two world wars, neoorthodoxy was the dominant
continuity between the human and the divine. God was to
force in Protestant theology and was influential in Roman
be found in human consciousness, in the human sense of
Catholic and Orthodox circles as well. Despite serious theo-
morality, and in the progressive evolution of human society
logical divisions that caused them to cease publishing Zwi-
toward the kingdom of God. Belief in the immanence of the
schen den Zeiten in 1933, the originators of the movement
divine within the human self and in world history led to an
and their followers remained united in their opposition to
optimistic view of human progress and a focusing of theolog-
certain elements of liberalism and in their commitment to
ical attention upon the religious experience of individual
a theology of the Word of God.
Christians and the historical experience of the religious com-
Since neoorthodoxy began as a reaction within liberal
munity. The result was a blending of Christian perspectives
theology and at first intended to provide a mere corrective,
with those of so-called modern, scientific society. Liberalism
it is not surprising that the movement retained some of its
tried to hold on to the Christian tradition while adjusting
liberal heritage: respect for the scientific method of investi-
it to the changing worldview; modernism, a more radical op-
gating the natural world, acceptance of historical-critical re-
tion, accepted the worldview of science and then attempted
search on the Bible, and aversion to metaphysics and natural
to reclaim as much of Christianity as possible. As Karl Barth
theology. Nevertheless, the following characteristic emphases
and his colleagues discovered in the midst of a culture in cri-
of neoorthodoxy were all formulated in opposition to posi-
sis, both liberalism and modernism inevitably distorted bibli-
tions common in liberal theology:
cal faith and the theology of the Protestant reformers.
1. the transcendence and otherness of God instead of
Barth began to study Paul’s Letter to the Romans because
God’s immanence in nature and history, and thus a fun-
of his disillusionment with the theology and ethics of his lib-
damental discontinuity between the divine and the
eral theological professors in Germany, especially after one
human that can be overcome by God alone;
“black day” in August 1914 when he learned that they, to-
gether with other intellectuals, had declared their support for
2. divine revelation rather than human religious experience
Kaiser Wilhelm’s war policy. In Paul’s letter to the Romans
as the source of the knowledge of God, and thus the
Barth discovered what he later referred to as “the strange new
Word of God—incarnate in Jesus Christ, attested in
world within the Bible,” a world concerned not with the
scripture, and proclaimed in the church—as the seat of
right human thoughts about God but with the right divine
authority for Christian thought and action;
thoughts about humans, not with what people should say
3. the Christ of faith rather than the Jesus of history as the
about God but with what God says to people, not with how
basis and/or object of Christian faith, and thus the ac-
people can find God but with the way God has taken to find
ceptance of the conclusion of the eschatological inter-
people. The Bible speaks not of human religious experience
pretation of the New Testament that the quest for “the
but of God—God’s sovereignty, God’s glory, God’s incom-
historical Jesus” is fruitless and unnecessary;
prehensible love, God’s covenant with humankind, sealed
4. the meaning of history as hidden and thus not to be
once and for all in Jesus Christ.
viewed as a progressive movement in which humans co-
Barth likened the 1919 edition of his commentary on
operate in the building of the kingdom of God; rather,
Romans to the unexpected ringing of a church bell at night.
Christ provides the only clue to history’s ultimate mean-
It awakened the theological world, especially in postwar Ger-
ing, and the kingdom of God is an eschatological event
many, and won Barth an invitation to teach theology at the
that depends solely upon the action of God;
university at Göttingen. He accepted the position in 1922;
5. sin as a rebellion against God caused by the abuse of
the same year he published a completely rewritten, more rad-
human freedom rather than a result of human ignorance
ical second edition of The Epistle to the Romans.
or failure to curb natural impulses; thus, the self-
Other theologians had come to similar conclusions
centeredness and alienation resulting from sin cannot be
about the inadequacy of liberal theology. In 1923 another
overcome by education but only by an act of divine for-
Swiss Reformed pastor, Eduard Thurneysen (1888–1974),
giveness that calls forth repentance and new life.
and a German Lutheran pastor, Friedrich Gogarten (1887–
Behind the rise of neoorthodoxy lay a number of factors.
1967), joined Barth in publishing the journal Zwischen den
First was the general cultural crisis of Western bourgeois so-
Zeiten (Between the times) as the organ of their movement.
ciety that was reflected in two world wars. The nineteenth
Soon another Swiss pastor, Emil Brunner (1889–1966), and
century’s optimistic view of the future, based on scientific
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6468
NEOORTHODOXY
advances, evolutionary theory, and idealistic philosophy, was
and with what some considered to be an unwarranted super-
seriously undermined by historical events. There were other
naturalism. Each in his own way declared the dialectic to be
important factors as well: scholarly investigations of the New
not between two separate worlds (God’s and ours) but within
Testament that established apocalyptic eschatology as the
human existence (unfaith and faith, the “old man” and the
framework for interpreting Jesus and his message of the king-
new). Thus each affirmed the necessity of incorporating into
dom of God and viewed the Gospels as products of the early
theology an analysis of human existence prior to faith,
church for preaching and worship rather than as biographies
whether it be based on a personalist philosophy of I-Thou
of Jesus; the thesis of Martin Kähler (1835–1912) that
relationships (Gogarten), on the phenomenon of human “re-
church and faith are dependent not on the results of histori-
spondability” as the formal image of God that remains even
cal inquiry into the life of the so-called historical Jesus but
in sinful humanity (Brunner), or on a human “pre-
on the preaching of the early church’s kerygma of the risen
understanding” derived from existentialist philosophy (Bult-
Christ, who is known in faith; the renaissance of interest in
mann and Tillich). In response, Barth, who in his early work
the study of the theology of the Protestant reformers, espe-
had agreed that God’s self-revelation was “the answer to
cially of Luther; the writings and preaching of Christian so-
human existence,” determined henceforth to free his theolo-
cialists (on the continent, Christoph Blumhardt, Leonhard
gy from any dependence on an analysis of the “existential
Ragaz, Hermann Kutter; in America, Walter Rauschen-
question of man” and to base it solely on God’s self-
busch); the literary explorers of the ambiguity of human exis-
revelation in one man: Jesus Christ.
tence, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881) and, above
Subsequent events in Germany tended to confirm
all, So⁄ren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), the Danish “father of
Barth’s suspicion of any theology that appealed to a revela-
existentialism,” whose writings were first translated during
tion of God “outside Christ,” in the natural order or in histo-
the early decades of the twentieth century; and the personal-
ry. With the rise of Nazism, the so-called German Christians
istic philosophy of Ferdinand Ebner (1882–1931) and Mar-
hailed the advent of Hitler and his policies as a new revela-
tin Buber (1878–1965), who insisted that God always re-
tion of God. Their attempt to blend Nazism with Christiani-
mains a subject with whom humans can have an I-Thou, but
ty was decisively repudiated at a meeting of the representa-
never an I-It, relationship.
tives of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions at Barmen in
All these factors supported the neoorthodox attack on
1934, when it was declared that the Christian church must
the nineteenth century’s legacy of anthropocentric religion
listen to Jesus Christ as the one Word of God, and to him
and helped to turn the church’s attention to the God of the
alone.
Bible, who is “wholly other” than the world and whose word
Barth’s split with Gogarten over the latter’s initial sup-
enters the world “from outside” and never comes under the
port of the German Christians led to the cessation of publica-
control of humans—not even in the sphere of religion. In-
tion of Zwischen den Zeiten in 1933, and the following year
spired by his biblical studies, by the religious socialists’ cri-
Barth repudiated Brunner’s call for the development of a
tique of present-day society in the light of God’s coming
Christian natural theology. Thenceforth this group of “dia-
kingdom, and by Kierkegaard’s message of the infinite quali-
lectical theologians,” who had found their closest unity in
tative difference between the eternal God and finite, sinful
what they opposed, followed their own paths toward mature
humanity, Barth led the attack on the pious religiosity and
theological positions that in many respects differed markedly
cultural captivity of the church. He emphasized the “God-
and yet in the broad perspective of theological history still
ness” of God (God is not “man writ large”), the difference
shared the basic characteristics of neoorthodoxy.
between the Word of God and the word of humans, and the
judgment (Krisis) that God’s word pronounces on human
Barth’s Kirchliche Dogmatik (Church dogmatics), con-
pretension and hypocrisy, whether in civil or religious affairs.
sisting of thirteen volumes originally published between
Barth stressed that God pronounces a No to human sinful-
1932 and 1967, represents the premier intellectual expres-
ness, but in and through that No comes the unexpected and
sion of neoorthodoxy. In it Barth conducted a critical exami-
incomparable Yes of God’s mercy and forgiveness. This word
nation of the church’s present teaching in the light of the
of judgment and grace, which breaks into the world “from
scriptural attestation to God’s self-revealing Word become
above,” he insisted, can be understood by humankind in his-
flesh in the man Jesus of Nazareth. While not relinquishing
tory only in a dialectical manner, and this in two senses: first,
his earlier stress on the deity of God, Barth more and more
as the dialectical relation between eternity and time, and, sec-
centered his focus on the “humanity of God,” that is, on the
ond, as the dialectical movement from God’s No to God’s
triune God’s covenental relationship with humankind that
Yes.
is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in whose person one encounters
both the true God as humanity’s loyal partner and the true
Barth’s appeal to revelation and his attack on the psy-
human being as God’s loyal partner. God and humankind
chologism and historicism of liberal theology generated early
are thus reconciled in Christ, and those who respond to
support from Gogarten, Brunner, Bultmann, and even Til-
God’s word of free, self-giving love become participants in
lich (1886–1965), but it soon became evident that they dis-
Christ’s earthly, historical body—the church—and witnesses
agreed with Barth’s stringent opposition to natural theology
of the Word to the world. Barth’s biblical, Christ-centered
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOORTHODOXY
6469
theology reinterprets for today all of the doctrinal themes of
as it is manifested in the structures of society, plus his keen
classic Protestantism: God’s sovereign grace, the lostness of
sense of God’s action in history, made his writings significant
humankind, Christ’s reconciling deed, and renewed life
for both church and political constituencies. H. Richard
under the rule of God.
Niebuhr in his best-known book, Christ and Culture (1951),
applied his knowledge of sociology and theology to illumi-
Brunner, whose apologetic, or “eristic,” interest on be-
nate the relationship between faith and culture. The thought
half of the church’s mission was expressed in a number of
of both Niebuhrs was enriched by their association with Til-
theological and ethical monographs, ultimately summarized
lich, who emigrated to America in 1933. In his three-volume
his theology in a three-volume Dogmatik (1946–1960),
Systematic Theology (1951–1963), Tillich attempted to corre-
which is representative of neoorthodox thinking. He empha-
late the questions raised in modern culture with the answers
sized that for sinners who are living in contradiction to their
provided in the Christian tradition.
true being, truth comes in the personal encounter with the
Word of God that evokes the response of faith and new life
By the end of the 1950s the influence of neoorthodoxy
in the church, which he considered to be a spiritual commu-
had begun to wane. Critics questioned its sharp separation
nity rather than an institution.
of sacred history from world history, its pronounced discon-
Unlike Barth and Brunner, both of whom were in the
tinuity between Christianity and humanity’s secular experi-
Swiss Reformed tradition, Bultmann and Gogarten were
ence, its seeming lack of interest in the historical Jesus, its
German Lutherans who, ostensibly guided in their thinking
tendency to collapse eschatology into Christology, its failure
by Luther and the apostle Paul, emphasized the nonobjective
to address sufficiently the challenge of world religions, and
character of the revelatory event of faith. For Bultmann,
the inadequacy of its answers to the ethical problems of a nu-
whose Theologie des Neuen Testaments (1948–1953) sets
clear age. In spite of these questions, however, all subsequent
forth a demythologized, or existentialist, interpretation of
theology has acknowledged its enormous indebtedness to
the New Testament, the event of faith produces a new self-
neoorthodoxy, realizing that it can ignore the neoorthodox
understanding that enables the believer to live authentically
legacy only at its own peril.
in the present. Gogarten, who after World War II produced
a number of significant books on the relation of Christian
SEE ALSO Barth, Karl; Brunner, Emil; Bultmann, Rudolf;
Modernism, article on Christian Modernism; Niebuhr, Re-
faith to secularism, proposed in his magnum opus, Der Men-
inhold; Protestantism; Tillich, Paul Johannes.
sch zwischen Gott und Welt (1952), that the Christian gospel
itself leads to a secularizing of the world insofar as it depopu-
lates the world of its “principalities and powers” and calls hu-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
mans to assume the responsibility of ordering and caring for
Important primary resources regarding the beginnings of neoor-
the world as mature sons and daughters of God.
thodoxy, beyond Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans, translat-
ed by Edwyn C. Hoskyns (Oxford, 1933) and Reinhold Nie-
Echoes of continental neoorthodoxy in Great Britain
buhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society (New York, 1932),
were strongest in Scotland, where John Baillie (1886–1960)
mentioned above, are the following: The Beginnings of Dia-
entered into the debate between Barth and Brunner over nat-
lectic Theology, vol. 1, edited by James M. Robinson and
ural theology in his book Our Knowledge of God (1939); his
translated by Keith R. Crim and Louis De Grazia (Rich-
brother Donald M. Baillie (1887–1954) wrote a profound
mond, 1968); Karl Barth’s The Word of God and the Word
essay on incarnation and atonement, entitled God Was in
of Man, translated by Douglas Horton (New York, 1928);
Christ (1948), in which these doctrines were interpreted as
Brunner’s The Theology of Crisis (New York, 1929); Rudolf
Bultmann’s Faith and Understanding, vol. 1, edited by Rob-
“paradoxes of faith.” In Swedish Lutheranism, neoorthodoxy
ert W. Funk and translated by Louise Pettibone Smith (New
is represented by two studies: the seminal treatise of Anders
York and Evanston, Ill., 1969); Reinhold Niebuhr’s An In-
Nygren (1890–1978), Eros och Agape (1930, 1936), in which
terpretation of Christian Ethics (New York, 1935); and Paul
Nygren stressed the radical difference between agap¯e as
Tillich’s The Religious Situation, translated by H. Richard
God’s self-giving love and eros as human love fueled by de-
Niebuhr (New York, 1932).
sire; and the monograph of Gustaf Aulén (1879–1977), Den
The best systematic expressions of neoorthodox theology are
kristna försoningstanken (1930), translated as Christus Victor,
found in the following works: Karl Barth’s Church Dogmat-
which argued for the superiority of the classic view of the
ics, 13 vols. plus index, edited by G. W. Bromiley and T. F.
atonement held by Irenaeus and Luther over Latin and
Torrance (Edinburgh, 1936–1977); H. Emil Brunner’s Dog-
moral-influence theories.
matics, 3 vols., translated by Olive Wyon (vols. 1–2) and
Reinhold Niebuhr and his brother H. Richard Niebuhr
David Cairns (vol. 3) (Philadelphia, 1950–1962); Gustaf
Aulén’s The Faith of the Christian Church, translated from
(1894–1962), both Christian ethicists, led the neoorthodox
the fifth Swedish edition by Eric H. Wahlstrom (Philadel-
battle against liberalism in the United States. Influenced by
phia, 1960); Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Chi-
the Augustinian-Lutheran understanding of the profundity
cago, 1951–1963); Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Nature and Des-
of sin, Reinhold Niebuhr probed the Christian understand-
tiny of Man, 2 vols. (New York, 1941, 1943); and Rudolf
ing of humankind in his two volumes, The Nature and Desti-
Bultmann’s Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., translated
ny of Man (1941, 1943). His realism regarding sin, especially
by Kendrick Grobel (New York, 1951, 1955).
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6470
NEOPAGANISM
Distinguished writings on particular themes are Gustaf Aulén’s
Neopaganism’s historical origins lie in nineteenth-century
Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types
religious movements such as Theosophy, folk practices such
of the Idea of the Atonement, translated by A. G. Hebert
as tarot and astrology, studies in folklore and anthropology,
(1931; reprint, New York, 1969); Anders Nygren’s Agape
the theatrical rituals of an Edwardian occult group called the
and Eros, pt. 1, A Study of the Christian Idea of Love, and pt.
Order of the Golden Dawn, and the countercultural milieu
2, The History of the Christian Idea of Love, translated by Phil-
of North America in the 1960s. Neopagans’ images of god
ip S. Watson (London, 1932, 1939; rev. in 1 vol., Philadel-
phia, 1953); Friedrich Gogarten’s The Reality of Faith: The
and goddess emerged from nineteenth-century British folk-
Problem of Subjectivism in Theology, translated by Carl Mi-
lore and literature and were influenced by the armchair an-
chalson et al. (Philadelphia, 1959); and Donald M. Baillie’s
thropology of scholars like Sir James Frazer (1854–1941),
God Was in Christ: An Essay on Incarnation and Atonement
author of the sweeping Golden Bough (1890), and the my-
(New York and London, 1948).
thology of Robert Graves (1895–1985), author of The White
Of the innumerable secondary resources regarding neoorthodoxy
Goddess (1948). In Europe, contemporary pagan organiza-
and its theologians, the following are recommended as lucid
tions usually claim a lineage that is ancient and unbroken,
and fair interpretations: James D. Smart’s The Divided Mind
often tied to nationalism and ethnic pride. American, Cana-
of Modern Theology: Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann, 1908–
dian, British, and Australian “Neopagan” communities differ
1933 (Philadelphia, 1967); Nels F. S. Ferré’s Swedish Contri-
in that they have been influenced by feminist and environ-
butions to Modern Theology (New York, 1939); Mary Frances
mentalist movements and are self-conscious revivals created
Thelen’s Man as Sinner in Contemporary American Realistic
to be egalitarian and individualistic.
Theology (New York, 1946); John B. Cobb, Jr.’s Living Op-
tions in Protestant Theology: A Survey of Methods
(Philadel-
HERITAGE. Neopagans tend to emphasize newness, creativi-
phia, 1962); Christof Gestrich’s Neuzeitliches Denken und die
ty, imagination, and invention over tradition, creed, estab-
Spaltung der dialektischen Theologie: Zur Frage der natürlichen
lished doctrine, and institutionalized religion, but they also
Theologie (Tübingen, 1977); James C. Livingston’s Modern
claim ancient traditions as their heritage. Neopaganism did
Christian Thought: From the Enlightenment to Vatican II
not emerge directly from ancient pagan cultures, even
(New York, 1971), chaps. 11, 12, and 15; Alasdair I. C.
though a few Neopagans would argue that their religion de-
Heron’s A Century of Protestant Theology (Philadelphia,
scended through the centuries from a pre-Christian goddess
1980), chaps. 3–6; and the essays on individual theologians
religion. According to scholarly consensus, there is no direct
in A Handbook of Christian Theologians, edited by Dean G.
lineage from ancient goddess cultures to Neopaganism. Con-
Peerman and Martin E. Marty (Cleveland, 1965).
temporary Pagans (pagan was originally a term that referred
New Sources
to non-Christians or country dwellers) are “neo” in the sense
Cross, Terry L. Dialectic in Karl Barth’s Doctrine of God. New
that they are revising and updating what they can learn from
York, 2001.
ancient traditions to meet the needs of modern people. They
Dorrien, Gary J. The Baritone Revolt in Modern Theology: Theology
believe that, in some aspects of life, ancient cultures have
without Weapons. Louisville, 2000.
much to teach contemporary people, such as respect for the
Gilkey, Langdon Brown. On Niebuhr: A Theological Study. Chica-
earth and maintaining a balance between humans and na-
go, 2001.
ture. They search for alternatives to the gods they were raised
with by looking to Asian and Native American religions, and
Hart, John W. Karl Barth vs. Emil Brunner: The Formation and
Dissolution of a Theological Alliance. New York, 2001.
they claim that spiritual beings from other cultures are more
accessible to humans than the Western monotheistic god.
Schuurman, Douglas James. Creation, Eschaton, and Ethics: The
Ethical Significance of the Creation-Eschaton Relation in the
The various forms of Neopaganism share a desire to re-
Thought of Emil Brunner and Jürgen Moltmann. New York,
vive ancient pre-Christian nature religions. In the process of
1991.
creating new religions in the cast of old ones, Neopagans bor-
Warren, Heather A. Theologians of a New World Order: Reinhold
row from Native American and other available religious cul-
Niebuhr and the Christian Realists. New York, 1997.
tures. They tend to be tolerant of eclectic uses of other cul-
Webster, John, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth.
tures’ myths and traditions, but borrowing from Native
Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2000.
American religions has been more controversial. Some Neo-
pagans, for instance, argue that “white people” should only
JOHN D. GODSEY (1987)
borrow myths and deities from their “own” cultural heritage,
Revised Bibliography
such as Witchcraft or ancient Druidism of the British Isles.
Druids, for instance, often learn ancient Celtic languages and
focus on their roles as caretakers of the woods. Neopagans
NEOPAGANISM. The term Neopagan covers a wide
who are intrigued by specific ancient cultures look to Tibet-
variety of traditions that include re-creations of ancient Celt-
an, Greek, West African, Roman, and Egyptian pantheons.
ic Druidism (a British organization of sun worshippers who
They find ritual texts, usually in translation, and fashion
gathered in sacred groves), Wicca or Witchcraft, ceremonial
their rituals after mythological stories, such as the descent of
magic, and neoshamanism (revivals of ecstatic journeys into
the goddess Persephone into the underworld. Neopagans
the spirit world in indigenous and pre-Christian cultures).
dressed as Aphrodite and Dionysos put in appearances at
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOPAGANISM
6471
Neopagan festivals, and festival rituals encourage partici-
(1954), are founding documents for contemporary Witch-
pants to explore divine archetypes from ancient pantheons
craft that have influenced many other Neopagans as well.
of deities.
Although organizations like the OTO and Gardnerian
Witches, or “Wiccans,” form the largest religious cul-
Witchcraft offer structured guidelines for their members and
ture under the Neopagan umbrella and include, at one ex-
levels of initiation based on the secret societies of the Freema-
treme, separatist feminist Witches who worship a great god-
sons, many Neopagans choose to create their own spiritual
dess in women-only covens, and at the other, traditional
practice by drawing on information from a rich array of
Gardnerian Witches who worship a god and a goddess to-
teachers and traditions. Hierarchical structures were com-
gether, claim to have the oldest lineage, and pass down their
mon in the earliest Neopagan groups and still characterize
rituals from teachers to students who are instructed to per-
some contemporary Neopagan communities, but by the
form them in exactly the same way. Gardnerian rituals em-
twenty-first century many ritual groups had become more
phasize the dual nature of divinity in the form of a paired
loosely structured and egalitarian. Elders are still acknowl-
god and goddess. An increasingly common kind of Witch is
edged for their wisdom and experience but not viewed as all-
the man or woman who is an “eclectic Witch” or “Wiccan”
powerful. One of the ways in which American Neopagans
and borrows from British traditional Witchcraft as well as
adapt religious traditions of the past and other cultures is to
from a variety of other religious cultures. Witches are some-
make them more democratic and inclusive, and this is partic-
times trained and initiated through covens, but they are also
ularly evident in the new rituals they create.
self-taught or guided by correspondence courses and books,
R
like Raymond Buckland’s (1934–) Complete Book of Witch-
ITUALS. Ritual is the touchstone of Neopagan religious
identity and community. Neopagans honor the cycles of na-
craft (1986), which includes lists of ritual tools, directions for
ture with rituals at new and full moons and on eight seasonal
how to make ritual robes, simple explanations of Witch-
festivals, including the solstices and equinoxes. Regular ritu-
craft’s moral principles, and guidelines for basic rituals. Do-
als are often held in small groups for any number of pur-
it-yourself Witchcraft has to some extent replaced traditional
poses, including healing and personal spiritual growth. Ritu-
covens that included several levels of initiation. Another pop-
als are usually held in circles and are facilitated by ritual
ular Neopagan title derived from traditional Wiccan teach-
leaders, who explain the purpose of the ritual, invite deities
ings is the feminist Witch Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance
or spirits to be present, monitor the group’s energy, and end
(1979), which encourages individuals to tailor their rituals
the ritual in such a way that everyone returns to a normal
to suit personal needs and preferences and includes sections
state of consciousness. Ritual spaces are generally oriented in
on herbal charms, chants, blessings, spells, and myths.
relation to the four cardinal directions and feature altars that
Witches have only a few beliefs that almost all of them
hold statues of deities and symbols of water, air, fire, and
adhere to, and these include “The Witches Rede: An it harm
earth. Neopagans also periodically hold rituals to mark life
none, do what you will” and “The Law of Threefold Effect,”
passages, including death rites, baby blessings, and marriage
the belief that any action a person commits will return to that
vows. Rituals and festivals held as seasonal celebrations in-
person threefold. These beliefs, or similar versions of them,
clude retellings of ancient myths, theater, ritual perfor-
are also held by other Neopagans, such as ceremonial magi-
mances, music, feasting, and storytelling.
cians and Druids, who share Witchcraft’s or Wicca’s origins
in early twentieth-century British magical groups.
Because of their interest in bringing back the past, Neo-
pagans perform Egyptian rites based on ancient texts, dress
Ceremonial magicians, another important community
like Renaissance mages, and engage in Yoruba divination,
of Neopagans, are more likely to turn to late-nineteenth- and
replicating the original as best they can. In 1993 large num-
early twentieth-century occultists for inspiration, especially
bers of Neopagans attended a festival in Nashville, Tennes-
the writings of the British occultist Aleister Crowley (1875–
see, to honor the goddess Athena, whose statue there is the
1947) and the Order of the Golden Dawn (started in 1888),
largest indoor statue in the Western world (according to a
which included the Irish writer William Butler Yeats (1865–
report in the Neopagan magazine Green Egg). The recon-
1939) among its members. Ceremonial magic also draws
structed ancient Greek games included a ritual to pay tribute
heavily on Qabbalah, a Jewish mystical tradition. Ceremoni-
to Athena. Rites of Spring, a Neopagan gathering that is held
al magicians may blend these traditions with their own inter-
annually in western Massachusetts, hosts a “Medieval Feast,”
ests in religious cultures as diverse as Haitian vodou and Ti-
during which medieval music is played and festivalgoers are
betan Buddhism, while others stay within the bounds of
served by “wenches” dressed in period costumes. Some men
organizations like the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which
and women have become Neopagans as a result of their inter-
Crowley joined in 1912 and which involves lengthy study
est in historical reenactment and are involved with the Soci-
and specific rites of initiation. Where ceremonial magicians
ety for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a medieval reenact-
emphasize their Golden Dawn heritage, Witches identify
ment society. Historical re-creation and science fiction,
with the work of the English civil servant Gerald Gardner
especially Robert Heinlein’s (1907–1988) Stranger in a
(1884–1964), whose novel, High Magic’s Aid (1949), and
Strange Land (1961), contribute to the colorful aesthetics of
pseudo-anthropological study of a coven, Witchcraft Today
Neopagan rituals and gatherings.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6472
NEOPAGANISM
CONNECTION TO NATURE. Because of their close identifica-
can status quo, while others focus inward on personal
tion of deity with nature, Neopagans often travel from cities
changes. In contrast, some Neopagans are not pacifists or
and towns to worship in the woods and to establish nature
countercultural activists but instead feel comfortable serving
sanctuaries to honor their gods. Several Neopagan organiza-
in the military.
tions have established retreats and sanctuaries, where stone
altars and ritual circles are constructed in the woods to facili-
Regardless of their political preferences, Neopagans gen-
tate interactions between Neopagans and the natural world.
erally have a tendency to privilege internal over external au-
Circle Sanctuary in southwestern Wisconsin is a prominent
thority and experience over belief. They focus on self-
Neopagan organization that in the 1980s bought land specif-
exploration as the best route to truth and knowledge. The
ically set aside for the enjoyment of the Neopagan communi-
explosion of information available on the Internet and in
ty as a retreat and sanctuary from the outside world. Gather-
bookstores makes it seem unnecessary to rely on religious el-
ings and other ritual events held at the sanctuary include
ders, though they are still sought out for their ritual experi-
caring for the land, planting flowers, and learning about local
ence, charismatic presence, and detailed knowledge of specif-
edible plants and the healing properties of herbs. Lothlorien
ic traditions. The process of self-exploration through
in southern Indiana was also established as a Neopagan re-
techniques that shift one’s consciousness, such as meditation
treat and, like Circle, is open to people of all faiths as long
and visualization, is similar across the diverse forms of Neo-
as they are tolerant of others. Named after the novelist
paganism. Neopagan religious practices are flexible and can
J. R. R. Tolkien’s land of the elves, the Neopagan Lothlorien
be personalized to fit individual needs. This is in part because
is envisioned as a magical place, where spiritual beings are
of how Neopagans understand the relationship between
free to roam, and it is accessible to humans who treat the land
human and divine. Starhawk, for example, teaches that the
properly. Nature sanctuaries are one way that Neopagans put
goddess who guides human beings dwells in the earth and
their religious ideas into practice, because these sites are set
in the world all around. According to her view, the goddess
up to facilitate ongoing relationships among humans, spiri-
looks at “each of us unique and natural as a snowflake, each
tual beings, and nature.
of us her own star, her Child, her lover, her beloved, her Self”
B
(Starhawk, 1979, p. 29). This belief, commonly echoed by
ELIEFS. Neopagans create rituals and establish nature sanc-
tuaries to provide what they see as much-needed alternatives
other Neopagans, is that the self has all the necessary re-
to other available religious options. They believe their special
sources for spiritual advancement and that the divine is with-
role is not to maintain tradition, though there may be some
in as well as without. It is this view that, in part, accounts
who try to do this, but rather to change self and society. They
for the diversity of religious identities among Neopagans.
practice “magic” with the understanding that it means
Neopagan beliefs and practices highlight the centrality
changing consciousness in accordance with will, thus taking
of the relationship between humans and nature. An impor-
charge of their lives instead of relying on institutional reli-
tant element of Neopagan theology is the belief in imma-
gions. Because they begin with the assumption that the self
nence, the idea that divinity permeates the world and runs
is sacred or divine, Neopagans place the responsibility for
through other humans, the earth, and all living beings. For
change with each individual. Even when social and political
some Neopagans, divine power is personified by a great god-
structures are seen to need changing, the self and not the in-
dess or the planet Gaia, and for others divinity is polytheis-
stitution is the agent and locus of change.
tic—assorted deities are available to help and teach humans.
Many Neopagans see the self as flawed and the world
They may be seen as spirits or gods and goddesses represent-
in which they live as desperately in need of transformation,
ing the forces of nature or anthropomorphized into arche-
but their approaches to cultural change vary. According to
types that represent particular aspects of human personality,
some Neopagan authors, destructive ways of relating to each
such as the “wild man” or the “trickster.” Neopagans are like-
other, ongoing interpersonal and global violence, and envi-
ly to reject monotheistic understandings of deity, except for
ronmental devastation are some of the ills that need to be ad-
those who worship one great goddess or remain nominally
dressed as personal healing takes place. That said, it is impor-
Christian or Jewish and believe in one god. Deities are typi-
tant to point out that such beliefs do not necessarily lead to
cally identified with forces of nature—the earth goddess Gaia
social and political activism in Neopagan communities. Neo-
is one example—and the four elements—earth, air, water,
pagans participate in a range of activist activities. On one end
and fire—are almost always invoked in Neopagan rituals.
of the spectrum is the entirely private pursuit of transforma-
Another popular Neopagan deity is the god Pan, who
tion, in which one consults information in books and on the
emerged as an archetype in mid-twentieth-century Britain
Internet for guidance. At the other end is involvement with
and was incorporated into the magical subculture in the form
public protest actions, such as the Neopagans who marched
of a “horned god,” paired with a goddess derived from Arte-
as a “living river” at the World Bank meeting protests in Ot-
mis and other Greek deities. Many Neopagans continue to
tawa in 2001 and a group of Witches that gave an “earth-
interact with the god and goddess, while others have re-
based blessing” when they joined other religious groups at
turned to Pan in his Greek form. Morning Glory Zell, a
the School of Americas Protest in Columbus, Georgia, that
Neopagan elder and representative of the Church of All
same month. Some Neopagans publicly challenge the Ameri-
Worlds, explains in her article “Pan” that “our word panthe-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOPAGANISM
6473
ism is derived from that idea, that all Nature is God and that
and to further self-knowledge. They appropriate the spiritual
God is all Nature” (Zell, 1994, p. 13).
riches of other religious cultures, including Tibetan, Hindu,
Taoist, Buddhist, Egyptian, Native-American, and even
Neopagans enjoy intimate and highly personalized rela-
some Christian beliefs and practices. They put statuettes of
tionships with spiritual beings. They frequently make con-
the Buddha or Hindu and Egyptian deities on their home
tact with the spirit world or another level of reality and com-
altars alongside pentacles, candles, crystals, and goddess figu-
municate with deities through home altars and group rituals.
rines. In these ways Neopagans attempt to synthesize new re-
Spiritual beings are approached for help with everyday con-
ligious identities from the old and the new, drawing from
cerns, like finding jobs and lovers, as well as more generally
tradition as well as the imagination.
for spiritual growth and global healing. Neopagans assert
that their spirituality is based on experience and a direct rela-
SEE ALSO Wicca.
tionship with deities. Images of deities are gateways to an ex-
perience of other realities, and meditating on them is meant
BIBLIOGRAPHY
to transport the meditator into another state of consciousness
Adler, Margot. Drawing down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-
or onto the “astral” plane, an unseen dimension of reality.
Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (1979).
Because Neopaganism is decentralized and has no founding
Boston, 1986. The National Public Radio reporter’s journal-
text or teacher, participants vary greatly in how they under-
istic account of a wide variety of Neopagan organizations. A
stand their interactions with the gods and spirits. Spiritual
general introduction to people, organizations, and central is-
beings can be images that “take you someplace” or friendly
sues of belief and practice in Neopaganism
guides leading seekers on spiritual journeys, but what they
Buckland, Raymond. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. St.
have in common is being accessible to humans rather than
Paul, Minn., 1986. A how-to book for Witches and Neopa-
distant.
gans by one of the important founders of Witchcraft in the
United States. The book includes directions for setting up
The Internet has played an important role in populariz-
altars, making ritual tools, and conducting ritual practices.
ing Neopagan traditions and making them accessible to seek-
Gardner, Gerald B. Witchcraft Today. London, 1954. A founding
ers everywhere. Websites for Neopagan organizations
document for contemporary Witchcraft that describes Gard-
abound and are designed to guide the uninitiated to informa-
ner’s knowledge of a folk religion of the English countryside
tion on the strange religion they heard about in the news.
that venerated nature and worshipped a god and a goddess.
The website of the Covenant of the Goddess, a national ecu-
Griffin, Wendy, ed. Daughters of the Goddess: Studies of Healing,
menical Neopagan organization, includes resources for teen-
Identity, and Empowerment. Walnut Creek, Calif., 2000.
agers, families, and solitary practitioners as well as schedules
This edited volume includes essays by both scholars and par-
of events taking place throughout the country. Websites for
ticipants on a variety of Neopagan and feminist spiritual
Neopagan communities like Circle Sanctuary and the
practices.
Church of All Worlds have similar content, with the addi-
Harvey, Graham. Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speak-
tion of resources on religious freedom and religious persecu-
ing Earth. New York, 1997. A scholarly overview of Neopa-
tion, such as Circle’s Lady Liberty League. Neopagan Inter-
gan beliefs and practices with a focus on Neopaganism in
net discussions have been in existence since the early 1990s,
Great Britain.
a reflection of the disproportionate technoliteracy among
Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern
Neopagans. Such groups remain one of the important ways
Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford, and New York, 1999. An exhaus-
that Neopagans, especially young Neopagans, stay in contact
tive history of the origins, leading figures, beliefs, and prac-
with others who share their spiritual concerns.
tices of Neopaganism from 1800 to the late 1990s.
Luhrmann, T. M. Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft: Ritual Magic in
Most Neopagans believe in reincarnation (rebirth—the
Contemporary England. Cambridge, Mass., 1989. A psycho-
continuity of the soul through many lives) and karma (de-
logical anthropologist reports on her experiences as a partici-
rived from the Hindu belief that the condition to which each
pant-observer with an emphasis on psychological explana-
soul is reborn is the result of good or bad actions performed
tions for magical beliefs.
in previous lives), and they look to past lives to help them
Magliocco, Sabina. Neo-Pagan Sacred Art and Altars: Making
understand the present. In order to heal wounds from the
Things Whole. Jackson, Miss., 2001. In this book the folklor-
past and past lives and to live more fully in the present, some
ist Magliocco describes the role of the arts in Neopagan ritual
Neopagans engage in holistic healing practices, such as herb-
life and showcases photographs of a wide range of Neopagan
al therapies, aura cleansing, psychic healing, and massage and
altars and artwork.
other types of body work. Healing practices tend to be fo-
Pike, Sarah M. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pa-
cused on cleansing and purifying the self and healing old and
gans and the Search for Community. Berkeley, Calif., 2001.
new physical and emotional wounds. The goal of these prac-
An ethnography of Neopagan rituals and festivals, including
tices is to usher in a more peaceful, tolerant, healthy, and
discussion of rituals, self-identity, sacred space, and conflicts
spiritually enlightened society. They consult astrologers and
between Neopagans and other religious cultures.
tarot cards, the I ching (a type of Chinese divination),
Salomonsen, Jone. Enchanted Feminism: Ritual, Gender, and Di-
and other divinatory techniques for guidance in life choices
vinity among the Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco. London
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6474
NEOPLATONISM
and New York, 2002. The Norwegian theologian Salomon-
identify with one’s higher, true self, there is opportunity for
sen focuses on the theology, feminist ideals, and ritual life of
a mystical union. Plotinus had frequent mystical experiences
one important Neopagan organization.
(IV.8.1). Neoplatonists separated their pagan philosophy
Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of
from pagan worship, allowing intellectual Christians to be
the Great Goddess. San Francisco, 1979. A description of the
philosophically educated and yet remain orthodox believers.
basic beliefs and practices of a feminist version of Witchcraft
Nevertheless, one cannot assume that all borrowing between
by the Neopagan leader and social activist Starhawk. One of
Christians and pagans came from the Christian side. Ploti-
the first Neopagan books to achieve widespread popularity
nus’s teacher, Ammonius, was reputed to have once been a
and to function as a kind of sacred text for many women and
Christian. In the third century CE the goal of philosophy be-
men discovering Neopaganism for the first time.
came more explicitly religious, but according to human rea-
Zell, Morning Glory. “Pan.” Green Egg 27 (1994): 12–13. An
son. The philosopher’s role was to guide his followers, with-
essay by one of the leaders of the Neopagan organization the
out using religious myths and oracles as premises, to the
Church of All Worlds that explores the deep connection
experience of the divine. Christians thereby found in Neo-
Neopagans feel between divinity and nature.
platonism a purer notion of God than was available in Classi-
SARAH M. PIKE (2005)
cal Greek religion.
The Enneads present an ordered structure of living reali-
ty eternally proceeding from the One and descending in con-
NEOPLATONISM is the Platonic philosophy inter-
tinuous stages from the Divine Intellect, with its living
preted by Plotinus (205–270
forms, intelligences, through Soul, ruling through World
CE), systematized in his Enne-
ads and further developed by others through the sixth centu-
Soul to the forms of bodies, made from formless matter. No
ry. From the first century
dualism here.
BCE, the “divine Plato” had been
revived as the supreme religious and theological guide by
DEVELOPMENT OF NEOPLATONIC THEORIES. Post-Plotinian
pagan Middle Platonists; simultaneously Neo-Pythagorean
Neoplatonism developed in four stages, largely through
philosophers were active. Plotinus was receptive to both
modifying the Plotinian structure.
these theistic and apophatic (negative) schools. He liked the
1. The first stage is the teaching of the disciples, Porphyry,
Middle Platonist teaching of the transcendence of a Supreme
Amelius, and Eustochius. Most influential was Porphy-
Mind and Being called theos (God) possessing the Platonic
ry (c. 234–c. 305), who taught a more monistic philoso-
Forms as divine Ideas. These Ideas became the basis for
phy than that of Plotinus by conflating the hypostases
kataphatic (positive) theology and a doctrine of divine provi-
into a unity of being, life, intelligence, thus departing
dence for a later period, not for Plotinus.
from Plotinian subordinationism.
Realizing that unity must always precede plurality, how-
2. The fourth-century Syrian and Pergamene schools were
ever, Plotinus taught that the First Principle of reality, the
influenced by the teaching of Iamblichus (d. 326) that
One, or Good, transcends being and thought and is ineffa-
theurgy (ritual magic), invoking demons rather than
ble, indefinable, thereby contradicting Middle Platonism.
philosophizing, was the way to God. Iamblichus and
This theory, original with Plotinus, was repeated by his
followers rejected Plotinus’s doctrine of the undescend-
pagan successors, especially Iamblichus and Proclus, but not
ed part of the soul and stressed a need for divine help
by Porphyry.
to reach the Intelligible World. Julian the Apostate
Conflict between Christians and pagan philosophers
(332–363) sought to downgrade Christianity when as
began in the second century with an anti-Christian treatise
a two-year sole Roman emperor he declared Iam-
of the Platonist Celsus, to which the Christian theologian
blichus’s version of Neoplatonism to be the State reli-
Origen responded in the third century; the opposition con-
gion.
tinued with Porphyry’s fourth-century treatise Against the
3. During the predominance of the fifth and sixth century
Christians. Yet Origen considered philosophy and Plato as
Athenian school, Neoplatonism became the official
natural defenders of some Christian doctrines. By openness
teaching of Plato’s Academy, the chief member being
to Greek culture but not to Classical Greek religion, the
Proclus (410?–485), who continued pagan worship
Cappadocian fathers who succeeded Origen fruitfully related
against imperial policy. For Proclus, theurgy, rather
Hellenism to Christianity, with increased ability to discuss
than philosophy, brought salvation to souls. The last
Christianity with educated pagans.
head of the Academy when Justinian closed it in 529
The Neoplatonic One, or Good, was the object of reli-
was Damascius.
gious aspiration. It was described as transcendent, infinite,
4. The Neoplatonism of the Athenian school was influen-
overflowing goodness and spiritual freedom, and reachable
tial over the Alexandrian school (fifth and sixth centu-
through mystical experience. The One pours love (eros) into
ries) of commentators on Plato’s and Aristotle’s psychol-
all souls, a love leading each soul, aided by intellectual and
ogy and logic. Both schools depended on Iamblichus.
moral effort, to mystical union with their Source. The One
The Alexandrians, however, preferred philosophical
is present everywhere, and whenever one turns within to
scholarship to theurgy.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEOPLATONISM
6475
EARLY CHRISTIAN THOUGHT. Plotinus and the Christian
(Plotinus/Porphyry) into Latin, Augustine became aware of
Origen, who studied under Ammonius (Saccas), influenced
the spirituality of human souls and of God, thus freeing him
the Cappadocian fathers—Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of
from Manichaean materialism. Some Porphyrian positions
Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa—who saw Christianity and its
on the divine triad and on the body-soul union impressed
mission as the fulfillment of Classical Greek education
Augustine. In the City of God Augustine seems to take Por-
(paideia). Reading the Bible rather than classical Greek litera-
phyry’s version of Neoplatonism as the empire’s main pagan
ture, they believed, would mold humankind into the form
philosophy. Boethius was familiar with texts of both Vic-
of Christ. Like Neoplatonists, the Eastern Church valued the
torinus and of Proclus.
material world as a theophany, or manifestation of the di-
Until Plato’s dialogues Meno and Phaedo were translated
vine.
into Latin in the twelth century, the western medieval world
Proclus influenced the fifth-century thinker known
had a Middle Platonic view of Platonism, their awareness of
under the name of the apostle Paul’s first Athenian convert,
Platonism coming only from Chalcidius’s fourth-century
Dionysius the Areopagite, as well as Michael Psellus (1018–
commentary on the Timaeus, greatly influenced by Numeni-
1078?), who stimulated the eleventh-century Byzantine re-
us. An indirect influence of Neoplatonism upon medieval
naissance. At the Council of Florence (1438), called to unite
thought came through Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite,
Eastern and Western churches, George Plethon (1360–
and Boethius.
1450), from the Platonic school at Mistra, inspired Cosimo
In medieval Jewish thought, Neoplatonism is evident in
de’ Medici to open a Platonic academy in Florence. Its head,
the Qabbalah and in the teachings of Shelomoh ibn Gebirol
Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), translated Platonic dialogues
(Avicebron) (1021–1058), who developed Plotinus’s views
and the Enneads into Latin and wrote commentaries to har-
on intelligible matter. Maimonides (1135/8–1204) accepted
monize Platonic and Chaldean traditions with Christianity.
Neoplatonic negative theology while remaining predomi-
Some scholars consider the Renaissance to have been more
nantly Aristotelian.
Neoplatonic than Platonic, with Aristotle also influential.
After the fall of Constantinople (1453), the literary tradition
Only in the twelth century also did the West recover the
of the Byzantine East was brought to Italy by Greek scholars.
complete Aristotle through translations of the Arabic texts
The Christian humanism of Erasmus is rooted in the theolo-
into Latin. But among these texts was the Theology of Aristotle
gy of the Greek fathers.
(Enneads) and Liber de causis (Proclus’s), attributed by the
Arabs to Aristotle. In translating Aristotle’s texts, these trans-
ISLAMIC NEOPLATONISM. The Alexandrian School, moving
lators would assume a harmony between them and these two
to Antioch in 720 CE and to Baghdad in 900, was active with
pseudo-texts. Therefore, in the thirteenth century William
commentaries on Plato and Aristotle. The Arabic interpreta-
of Moerbeke translated from the original Greek Aristotle’s
tion of these two thinkers was affected by two works, pur-
works. But he also translated Proclus’s Elements of Theology
ported to be by Aristotle but actually based on the writings
and his commentaries on the Parmenides and Timaeus. These
of Plotinus and Proclus. The so-called Theology of Aristotle
translations enabled Thomas Aquinas to identify the Liber
was mainly composed of extracts of Enneads IV–VI; the Liber
de causis as non-Aristotelian. This freed Aristotle from the
de causis, attributed to Aristotle, reproduced parts of Pro-
Neoplatonic additions and interpretations of the Muslims.
clus’s Elements of Theology. Accepting the two pseudo works
Neoplatonism reached Thomas Aquinas chiefly through Au-
of Aristotle as authentic led the Arabic philosophers to inter-
gustine, Dionysius, Boethius, and Proclus. Meister Eckhart
pret Neoplatonically the actual texts of Aristotle. They inter-
(c.1260–1327) embraced Neoplatonism, as indicated by his
preted Aristotle’s First Principle as an efficient as well as final
distinction between God and the unknowable godhead as
cause of the world. This helped Muslims to harmonize phi-
well as by his doctrine of the uncreated element in the soul.
losophy with the QurDa¯n. Later, under the influence of Ibn
Also influenced by Neoplatonism and Dionysius were the
Rushd (Averroës), some Muslim philosophers separated phi-
other Rhineland mystics, Tauler (c. l300–1361) and Suso
losophy from religion, holding that one could contradict the
(1295–1366), as were Nicholas of Cusa and Giordano
other. This is the so-called double-truth theory.
Bruno.
NEOPLATONISM IN THE MIDDLE AGES. Marius Victorinus
NEOPLATONISM IN MODERN THOUGHT. Neoplatonism
(fourth century) in his work on the Trinity against the Arian
may be lurking in the background of Descartes’s philosophy
heresy conflated the Porphyrian triad of Being, Life, Intelli-
of consciousness, although Plotinus made room for a sub-
gence into Absolute Being at rest and in motion, expressed
conscious and superconscious activity as more significant
infinitively as to einai (Esse) (To Be), a triad discoverable in
than ordinary consciousness. Neoplatonism is present in the
the Sentences of Porphyry and in the anonymous Commen-
Cambridge Platonists, Henry More (1614–1687) and Ralph
tary on the Parmenides, considered by Pierre Hadot (Porphyre
Cudworth (1617–1688), as well as in Berkeley’s Siris. It is
et Victorinus, 1968) to be authored by Porphyry. Both the
detectable in Spenser, Coleridge, Blake, and Yeats. It is evi-
Sentences and the Parmenides Commentary were influenced
dent in Spinoza’s monism and in Leibniz’s monadism. In the
by the Chaldaean Oracles as well as by Middle Platonism.
nineteenth century Schelling learned from Plotinus, and
Through Victorinus’s translation of some Neoplatonic works
Hegel from Proclus. In the twentieth century Bergson at-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6476
NERGAL
tempted the reconciliation of Plotinus’s philosophy of soul
Harris, R. Baine, ed. The Significance of Neoplatonism. Albany,
with modern science.
N.Y., 1976.
Only in the nineteenth century was Plato recognized for
Harris, R. Baine, ed. Neoplatonism and Indian Thought. Albany,
his authentic thought and clearly distinguished from Ploti-
N.Y., 1982.
nus and his followers who were henceforth called Neoplato-
Lloyd, A. C. The Anatomy of Neoplatonism. Oxford, 1990.
nists. Neoplatonism was the first philosophical theology
O’Meara, Dominic J., ed. Neoplatonism and Christian Thought.
based on religious experience. Although it gave mixed mes-
Norfolk, Va., 1981.
sages regarding the value of the body and the material world,
Smith, A. Porphyry’s Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition. The
its cosmic religion—the veneration of star-gods—entailed
Hague, 1974.
respect for the sensible world. Neoplatonism benefited reli-
Victorinus, Marius. Theological Treatises on the Trinity. Translated
gion by adocating interiority, negative theology, and both
by M. T. Clark. Washington, D.C., 1984.
God’s transcendence and immanence as ground for mystical
Wallis, Richard T. Neoplatonism. London, 1972. Discusses the in-
experience. Christians and Jews freely borrowed Neoplatonic
terrelationships of all the Neoplatonic schools of thought.
principles to express revealed truths, those accessible to rea-
Wallis, Richard T., and J. Bregman, eds. Neoplatonism and Gnosti-
son. This made possible dialogue with educated nonbeliev-
cism. Albany, N.Y., 1992.
ers. The presence of an intellectual Greek culture in the em-
pire gave to Christian teaching, expressed in contemporary
Whittaker, Thomas. The Neo-Platonists: A Study in the History of
philosophical concepts, some universality. Christians saw
Hellenism, 4th ed. Hildesheim, 1928, 1968. Before Wallis’s
book, this was the only survey of Neoplatonism.
human wisdom as God’s own natural revelation before di-
vine Revelation through the Law and the prophets and the
MARY T. CLARK (1987 AND 2005)
teachings of Christ.
Christianity was not Hellenized, but with divine Revela-
tion guiding the choice of Greek concepts, Christianity, at
NERGAL was a Mesopotamian god of the underworld.
first a Jewish sect, became a world religion. Christians re-
Nergal (properly, Nerigal) is a phonetic rendering of the Su-
spected the Greek classical tradition, as did the Romans.
merian Enirigal(a) (“lord of the big city [i.e., the under-
Through the Christian classicists of the fourth century, such
world]”). Nergal was also called Meslamtaea (“one who
as Augustine in the West and the Cappadocians in the East,
comes out of the Meslam [temple]”). His consort was Eresh-
classical culture and literature survived and was made avail-
kigal (“queen of the big place [i.e., the underworld]”). How
able to the future. Philosophy was enriched by Neoplatonic
he came to be king of the underworld is described in the Ak-
reasoning, but philosophy as a human activity was without
kadian myth Nergal and Ereshkigal. His cultic center was
saving power. Neither does it even claim to give positive
Cuthah, in central Babylonia, where his consort was Laz
knowledge of an ineffable God. But since “faith seeks under-
(Akk., la asu, “no exit [i.e., the underworld]”), also called
standing,” philosophy, and especially Neoplatonic philoso-
Mamma, Mammi, and Mammitum. Because of the com-
phy, contributes greatly to that understanding.
plete identity of Nergal with Cuthah, that city’s name be-
came synonymous with the underworld.
SEE ALSO Plotinus.
The myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal is preserved in three
versions, the first coming from Tell El-Amarna, with two
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Armstrong, A. Hilary, ed. The Cambridge History of Later Greek
later versions from Sultantepe and Uruk. The story of how
and Early Medieval Philosophy. Cambridge, U.K., 1957,
Nergal became the husband of Ereshkigal begins with the de-
1970.
cision of the heavenly gods to hold a banquet and to send
their messenger Kaka to the underworld, so that Ereshkigal
Armstrong, A. Hilary, and Robert A. Markus. Christian Faith and
Greek Philosophy. London, 1960. The tension and interplay
(for whom it is impossible to go up to heaven, just as it is
of revealed doctrine and philosophical ideas, a dialogue that
impossible for the heavenly gods to descend to the under-
continues.
world) can receive her due portion of the banquet foods.
Blumenthal, Henry J., and Robert A. Markus, eds. Neoplatonism
Kaka makes the journey, presents himself to the gatekeeper,
and Early Christian Thought: Essays in Honor of A. H. Arm-
and asks him to open the gate. The latter welcomes him, lets
strong. London, 1981. Emphasis on Plotinus’s dialogue with
him pass through the seven gates of the underworld, and
his contemporaries, the Neoplatonic background of Augus-
takes him to see Ereshkigal. Kaka bows before the queen of
tine, and the encounter between later Neoplatonism and the
the underworld and passes on the message he has been given.
Christian tradition.
Ereshkigal is given greetings from the heavenly gods,
Dodds, E. R. Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety. Cam-
and Kaka tells her that the gods of the heavenly pantheon
bridge, U.K., 1965.
are well. After these conventional greetings the queen of the
Gersh, S. Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism: The Latin Tradi-
underworld appoints Namtar to go to heaven to retrieve her
tion. 2 vols. Notre Dame, Ind., 1986.
portion of the food. After a lacuna in the text, the god Ea
Hadot, Pierre. Porphyre et Victorinus. Paris, 1970.
severely chastises Nergal for being disrespectful to the mes-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NERGAL
6477
senger from the underworld by not bowing down before him
When Namtar enters heaven for the second time, he is
like all the other gods. After another lacuna, we are told Ner-
welcomed by Ea and the gods bow down before him, but he
gal’s reply, which is unfortunately fragmentary, but which
is unable to identify the sacrilegious god from those present.
seems to concern a plan by which Nergal must descend to
Namtar returns to the queen and tells her of a strange, bald,
the underworld, where he would “split his divine character
cross-eyed, deformed god amongst the divine assembly.
in two.” Ea agrees that Nergal should go to the kingdom of
Ereshkigal realizes that this is a trick by Ea and sends her her-
Ereshkigal, and advises Nergal not to enter the underworld
ald to seize and bring back the deformed god. The previous
with hostile intent, but to go to the forest beforehand and
scene is repeated: Namtar looks at the gods, one by one, but
cut down various kinds of wood to make a throne to offer
without success. Meanwhile, Nergal/Erra tries to persuade
to the gods Anu, Ningizzida, and Ea himself. Nergal carries
Ea to have Namtar drink divine water and clean his body,
out the orders, builds a throne, and decorates it green, gold,
obviously intending to make him one of the heavenly gods.
and yellow. Not satisfied with this, Ea further advises Nergal
to accept nothing that is offered to him in the underworld,
After another lacuna the text resumes with a conversa-
no throne, no food, and no drink, but above all not to look
tion between Nergal/Erra and Namtar, from which we learn
lustfully upon Ereshkigal.
that the fate of the heavenly god is sealed and he must return
to the underworld. Ea apparently chooses the talismans that
After a gap in the text, there is a description of Nergal’s
the god should take with him. Nergal/Erra descends the long
journey to the underworld, which is portrayed as a dark, ter-
stairway of heaven and requests entrance to the underworld,
rifying place. When he arrives, the gatekeeper makes Nergal
but at each gate the gatekeeper takes a talisman from the visi-
wait while he gets instructions. Despite the fragmentary state
tor. As soon as the god arrives in the presence of Ereshkigal,
of the text it is clear that Ereshkigal directs Namtar to identi-
he smiles at her, then he pulls her from the throne and lies
fy the newcomer; Namtar looks at the god and recognizes
with her again for six days, just as he did during the first visit.
that it is the same one who had offended him. For the first
On the seventh day, the heavenly gods realize that Nergal/
time, Namtar calls the newcomer Erra rather than Nergal,
Erra is inextricably bound to the underworld, and An sum-
and speaks about him not in the singular but the plural. Ex-
mons his envoy and sends him to Ereshkigal with a message
pressing unease, Ereshkigal orders Namtar to let “the gods
that seems to confirm the new arrangement for the future.
Erra” enter. Erra passes through the seven gates of the under-
world, then comes into the presence of Ereshkigal, immedi-
Based upon careful study of two versions of the story,
ately bowing down before her. Following his greeting, she
Silvia Maria Chiodi (1998) draws the conclusion that Nergal
offers him a throne, as well as food and drink, and finally,
never actually enters the underworld, but rather his twin
after taking a bath, she shows him her beautiful body. Mind-
brother Erra does so. When the god from heaven goes back
ful of Ea’s advice, Erra refuses the various offers and does not
to the underworld for the second time, Namtar carefully ex-
allow himself to be seduced by the beauty of the goddess.
amines the newcomer, and at this point the scribe inserts a
very important piece of information. The god whom Namtar
The next passage is fragmentary and difficult to recon-
is looking at is not called Nergal, as might be expected, but
struct. When the text becomes readable again, the situation
Erra: “Namtar went and from behind the gate he looked at
is completely reversed: Nergal/Erra gives in to the seductions
Erra.” Namtar becomes as pale as a tamarisk cutting when
of Ereshkigal and lies with her for six days. On the seventh
he sees Erra, the god who had offended him and had not
day the god tells his lover that he wants to return to heaven
bowed down before him when he visited heaven. Namtar
for a short time, much to her disappointment. After he has
then rushes to Ereshkigal and reveals the newcomer’s identity
decided upon this course of action, Nergal/Erra goes to the
with these words: “The gods who offended me, now went
gates of the underworld and gains his freedom through trick-
down to the land of no return.”
ery. He returns to heaven, where the gods ask Ea to give him
a deformed body, so that Ereshkigal, who will certainly look
The use of the plural in reference to Erra in the Uruk
for him, will be unable to recognize him.
version is problematic. This is not an error, however, but
probably a device to allow the audience to understand that
Meanwhile Ereshkigal, unaware that her lover has fled,
a god, who is in fact a double, is crossing the threshold of
orders that her house be cleaned in preparation for the wed-
the underworld. In other words, Nergal, in order to try and
ding, by which the “imprisoned” god will be given a specific
escape the laws of the underworld, was split in two and be-
role in the underworld. Namtar informs her that all these
came “the Erra,” even if he apparently remains a single being.
preparations are pointless because the god from heaven left
Furthermore, the name that the writer chooses for the god
her realm at dawn. Ereshkigal is in complete despair and la-
is interesting. He could easily have said that the “gods Ner-
ments at length for the love she has lost and the outrage she
gal” were crossing the threshold of the underworld, but in-
has suffered. She then orders Namtar to go to heaven and
stead prefers, at this precise point in the story, to change the
bring back her lover, and furthermore to convey to the gods
name, as if he wanted to indicate further the change in the
of heaven the threat that, if this does not happen, she will
status of the god. Besides, if Erra were simply a synonym for
open the gates of the underworld and let the dead emerge
Nergal, it would be hard to understand why the person re-
and overrun the earth.
sponsible for the myth should swap the two names at this
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6478
NERSE¯S OF CLA
critical moment of the narrative. The Uruk editor uses the
tholicos Grigor, Nerse¯s was consecrated catholicos of the Ar-
plural at this point as well, which fits what was stated previ-
menian church in 1166. He died in 1173 and was buried in
ously when he described “the gods” who turned up in the
Hromcla.
underworld: “now they went down to the land of no return.”
Nerse¯s is considered one of the great literary figures in
S
the ecclesiastical history of the Armenian church. He com-
EE ALSO Heaven and Hell; Mesopotamian Religions, over-
view article; Underworld.
posed prayers, liturgical songs, and chants, sometimes writ-
ten acrostically (consisting of thirty-six verses after the order
B
of the Armenian alphabet or according to the alphabetical
IBLIOGRAPHY
Burns, John B. “Namtaru and Nergal.” Vetus testamentum 43
arrangement that spells his name). Uniquely impressive is
(1993): 1–25.
Nerse¯s’s prayer, Havatov Khosdovaneem (I Confess with
Chiodi, Silvia Maria. “Studi Mesopotamici I: Nergal un dio dop-
Faith), currently available in thirty-six languages. Chief
pio.” Rivista di studi fenici 26 (1998): 3–20.
among his literary achievements is Vipasanoutyoun, a novel
in poetic form; Voghb Yedesyo (Lamentation of Edessa); and
Gurney, Oliver R. “The Sultantepe Tablets, VII: The Myth
of Nergal and Ereshkigal.” Anatolian Studies 10 (1960):
commentaries on the first five chapters of the Gospel of Mat-
105–137.
thew, Gregory of Nyssa’s discourse On Evil, and the dis-
course of the Neoplatonist Armenian philosopher David the
Hunger, Hermann. Spätbabylonische Texte aus Uruk. Berlin,
Invincible. Also renowned is Toukht Enthanrakan, an exhor-
1976.
tation on Christian behavior and a treatise on pastoral theol-
Hutter, Manfred. Altorientalische Vorstellungen von der Unterwelt:
ogy. It also supplies information concerning the hierarchy of
Literar- und religionsgeschichtliche Überlegungen zu “Nergal
the Armenian church, the stratification of society, and the
und Ereshkigal.” Freiburg, Germany, 1985.
manner of life in twelfth-century Cilician Armenia.
Lambert, Wilfred G. “Studies in Nergal.” Bibliotheca orientalis 30
(1973): 355–363.
Nerse¯s always struggled to maintain the autocephalicity
Lambert, Wilfred G. “The Theology of Death.” In Death in Meso-
of the Armenian church, defining the important issues facing
potamia, edited by Bendt Alster, pp. 23–66. Copenhagen,
church unity in eight letters to the Byzantine emperor Man-
1980.
uel I Comnenus (c. 1122–1180). Nerse¯s remarked that unity
cannot come by imposing royal force but through love, toler-
Pettinato, Giovanni. Nergal ed Ereshkigal: Il poema assiro-
babilonese degli Inferi. Rome, 2000.
ance, and humility, thus indirectly warning the Byzantines
not to impose their Chalcedonian faith on other churches.
Saporetti, Claudio. Nergal ed Ereshkigal: Una storia d’amore e di
He saw the truths of Christianity in the unity of its parts,
morte. Pisa, Italy, 1995.
since no single church may consider the Christian faith its
von Weiher, Egbert. Der babylonische Gott Nergal. Neukirchen-
sole possession. His approach regarding unity was slowly
Vluyn, Germany, 1971.
finding adherents when his death halted the progress of fur-
DAVID MARCUS (1987)
ther negotiations.
GIOVANNI PETTINATO (2005)
Translated from Italian by Paul Ellis
Nerse¯s dominated the thought and orientation of the
Armenian church in twelfth-century Cilician Armenia, thus
crowning its silver age in literary achievements. In due time,
Nerse¯s received the appellation Shnorhali (“grace-filled”) in
NERSE¯S OF CLA (1101–1173), also known as Nerse¯s
recognition of his deep Christian faith and accomplishments.
Clayatsi and Shnorhali; theologian, catholicos, and saint of
the Armenian church. Born in the province of TloukE in Cili-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
cian Armenia (the central part of southern Turkey), Nerse¯s
Nerse¯s’s Hisous Vordi (Constantinople, 1824), written in 1152, is
lost his father at an early age. Together with his elder brother
a reproduction of the Old and New Testaments in poetic
Grigor, he was entrusted to the guardianship of his maternal
form, containing episodes from church history and ending
granduncle, the catholicos Grigor II Vekayaser who com-
with the events that are to ensue during the second coming
mended them to the Monastery of Shoughri. Grigor’s succes-
of Christ. It is available in English, translated by Jane S. Win-
sor then placed them under the tutelage of the monk Ste-
gate, as Jesus Son (New York, 1947). Toukht Enthanrakan is
panos Manouk, a renowned scholar and theologian.
available in classical Armenian (Jerusalem, 1871) and in ver-
nacular Armenian translated by Anoushavan Vardapet Dani-
Ordained a celibate priest when he was seventeen years
alian (Beirut, 1977). For discussion of Nerse¯s’s life, see vol-
old, Nerse¯s was consecrated a bishop at the age of thirty-five.
ume 30 (1973) of the Armenian journal Echmiadzin.
He then served his church and nation in numerous capaci-
Mal’achia Ormanian’s Azgapatowm, 3 vols. (1912–1927; re-
ties, including contributing to the establishment of peace in
print, Beirut, 1959–1961), is a comprehensive study of the
Cilician Armenia. Endowed with a keen mind and a Chris-
Armenian church as well as of the politics of the Armenian
tian spirit, he became the architect in developing intercom-
nation. Of particular relevance to the study of Nerse¯s are
paragraphs 927, 931, 936, 939, 944, 948–953, 961–992.
munion and reconciliation between the Armenian and the
Greek churches. Following the death of his brother, the ca-
AVAK ASADOURIAN (1987)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NESTORIAN CHURCH
6479
NERSE¯S THE GREAT, a saint of the Armenian
NESTORIAN CHURCH. The proper name of the
church and chief bishop of Armenia from circa 353 to 373.
church that is called Nestorian or Assyrian is the Ancient
During his youth Nerse¯s was brought up and educated in
Church of the East. Nestorian is an appellation dating from
Caesarea Mazaca (modern-day Kayseri, Turkey). He was
the fifth century and Assyrian from the nineteenth. By East
married and served as a chamberlain in the court of King Ar-
is meant those ancient territories lying east of the former By-
shak II of Armenia. Because the office of bishop of Armenia
zantine empire comprising modern-day Iraq, Persia, and the
was the patrimony of the family of Gregory the Illuminator,
southeastern part of Turkey. These territories had their reli-
Nerse¯s’s great-great-grandfather, Nerse¯s was chosen chief
gious center at Edessa (Orhoi in Syriac), known as Urfa in
bishop and returned to Caesarea to receive episcopal ordina-
present-day Turkey. Edessa was the capital of a small Syriac-
tion from the metropolitan bishop of that city. He called a
Aramaic principality ruled by Syriac toparchs (rulers or
council of bishops at Ashtishat, where his see was located.
princes), known also as Abgarites. According to the Doctrine
The council established general discipline in the Armenian
of Addai, a late fourth-century church document attributed
church and set rules and regulations. At Nerse¯s’s urging, pro-
to Thaddaeus (known in Aramaic as Addai, one of the seven-
visions were made to found hospices for the sick, to open
ty evangelists and the twin of the apostle Thomas), Thad-
schools, to build hospitals, and to establish other benevolent
daeus, following the Resurrection and at the behest of Christ,
institutions.
went to Edessa and healed its toparch, Abgar V (d. 50 CE).
Thaddaeus stayed to preach the gospel, made converts, and
The fifth-century sagas of P’awstos Buzand refer to a rift
ordained his disciple, EAggai, a bishop. He then journeyed
between Nerse¯s and King Arshak that brought about the
to and preached the gospel in Mesopotamia, southern Tur-
downfall of the bishop. The reason for the conflict is said to
key, Iraq, and southwestern Persia.
have been the immoral conduct of the king, who had his
By the second century, Christianity had spread through-
Greek wife poisoned and his nephew killed, and then mar-
out the East, from Najran in southwestern Arabia, through
ried the latter’s wife. The actual reason for the rift, however,
southern Turkey and Iraq, to southwestern Persia. In the
was probably political. Nerse¯s represented the pro-Byzantine
third century, Christianity also spread to the island of Soco-
faction in Armenia. He had headed a delegation to Constan-
tra in the Indian Ocean and to Riyordash¯ır, the capital of
tinople in the mid-fourth century and had reinforced the alli-
Fars in extreme southern Persia, as well as to the Sasanid cap-
ance between the Byzantine empire and his sovereign, who
ital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, where the bishopric was founded
remained faithful to the empire until the treaty of 363, when
under Phafa. By the latter part of the fifth century, the bish-
the emperor Jovian agreed not to interfere in the internal af-
ops of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (by that time followers of Nestori-
fairs of Armenia and left the country exposed to the Persians.
us) were claiming that the see had been established by Thad-
Nerse¯s was forced to abdicate from his office and was imme-
daeus and his disciple Mari.
diately replaced by another bishop, who was probably the
candidate of the pro-Persian faction in Armenia. Nerse¯s re-
The bishop (metropolitan) of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was
appeared as chief bishop circa 370, when the Byzantines suc-
recognized as being under the jurisdiction of the patriarch
ceeded in restoring the kingdom of Armenia and placed Pap,
of Antioch. At a synod convened in 410 by Marutha of
son of Arshak II, on the throne. During his second tenure
Miya-farqin, who was sent by the emperor and the patriarch,
of office, Nerse¯s participated in a council of bishops held at
the metropolitan of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was made a catholi-
Caesarea in 372. He came into conflict with King Pap, pre-
cos (a church position higher than a metropolitan and lower
sumably because of the latter’s Arian leanings. The king is
than a patriarch). Given the authority to ordain bishops in
said to have poisoned Nerse¯s. This detail, however, is not
the name of the patriarch of Antioch, and using his new pow-
supported by most sources. Nerse¯s probably died from natu-
ers to advantage, the catholicos was able to bring under his
ral causes.
jurisdiction all the dioceses in the East except the metropoli-
tan see of Riyordash¯ır. This see remained independent until
the ninth century when Catholicos Timothy I (d. 823)
BIBLIOGRAPHY
brought it under his aegis after offering its metropolitan
The major source for Nerse¯s’s life is the fifth-century compilation
some special privileges.
of legends by P’awstos Buzand, Buzandaran patmut’iwnk’
Meanwhile, under the Sasanid kings Sha¯pu¯r II (309–
(Venice, 1889). These are also available in French as volume
1 of Victor Langlois’s Collections des historiens anciens et mod-
379) and his brother Ardash¯ır II (379–383) the Ancient
ernes de l’Arménie (Paris, 1868) and in German, translated by
Church of the East suffered persecution and martyrdom be-
Max Lauer as Des Faustus von Byzanz Geschichte Armeniens
cause of its ties to the Byzantines whom the Persians consid-
(Cologne, 1879). Other useful sources are Mal’achia Or-
ered enemies. Persecution continued sporadically until the
manian’s The Church of Armenia, 2d rev. ed. (London,
conquest of Persia by the Arabs in the first part of the seventh
1955), and Nina Garsoïan’s “Quidam Narseus? A Note on
century.
the Mission of Nerse¯s the Great,” in Armeniaca (Venice,
969).
In the first half of the fifth century the Church of the
East was rocked by a theological controversy so serious that
KRIKOR H. MAKSOUDIAN (1987)
it resulted in schism. This was the so-called Nestorian con-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6480
NESTORIAN CHURCH
troversy. Nestorius, a Syrian by origin, became patriarch of
ac liturgy and honored the memory of Nestorius and Theo-
Constantinople in 428. Fully developing the theological im-
dore of Mopsuestia. From 1599 to 1663 they were recon-
plications of the school of Antioch, he taught that Jesus
verted to Roman Catholicism through the efforts of Jesuit
Christ had two distinct natures: divine and human. Nestori-
missionaries. Many however returned to Nestorianism when
us was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 but his
the power and influence of the Portuguese empire began to
teaching spread, and by 451 most of the eastern part of the
fade.
Church of the East had become “Nestorian,” rejecting the
In the fifteenth century the small Nestorian community
Council of Ephesus. By 451 the Nestorians were almost
on the island of Cyprus joined the church of Rome. Power
completely cut off from the rest of the patriarchate of Anti-
struggles within the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the mother
och, and Nestorians controlled the see of Seleucia-
Nestorian church also caused large segments of it to join
Ctesiphon.
Rome. The struggle in the East began in 1450 when the ca-
Between 484 and 486 Bishop Bar Sauma convened sev-
tholicos, Shimon Bas:¯ıdi, restricted the election of future
eral councils that issued new canons for the foundation of
catholicoi to men of his own family. This interdiction con-
the new Nestorian church. Those bishops in the East who
tinued for the next hundred years. After the death of the ca-
did not accept Nestorian teachings met in 487 and ordained
tholicos in 1551, a group of Nestorians who opposed his suc-
Accacius as their catholicos. However, through threats and
cessor met in Mosul and chose a monk, Yu¯h:anna (John)
coercion by Bar Sauma and his group, Accacius yielded to
Su¯la¯qa, to send to Rome to be ordained. Arriving in Rome,
the Nestorians. What gave added strength to the Nestorians
Su¯la¯q:a professed the Roman Catholic faith before Pope Ju-
in the East is that many students of the celebrated school of
lius III, who ordained him a bishop and then a catholicos
Edessa became Nestorian partisans. When the emperor
in April 1553. It is most likely that it was Julius who gave
Zeno, in retaliation, closed it in 489, many of these Nestori-
the name Chaldean (in reference to ancient Chaldea) to
an students left for Persia, where they spread their beliefs
Su¯la¯q:a and his followers; thus was born the “Chaldean”
under the protection of the Persian state. Thus, the Church
church. Su¯la¯q:a returned to Diyarbakır, Turkey, where he
of the East came also to be known as the Persian church. By
made few converts. He was assassinated by the Kurdish chief
498, at the Council of Seleucia, the Nestorians severed forev-
of EAmadiyya, allegedly at the instigation of his rival, Shimon
er their ties with the patriarchate of Antioch.
Ba¯r Ma¯ma. Several catholicoi served at Diyarbakır, not all
of whom were ordained by popes and whose loyalty to Rome
After the Arab conquest of Iraq in the beginning of the
was dubious.
seventh century, the Nestorians, like other Christians, be-
came dhimm¯ıs under the protection of the Muslims. Under
About this time, a Nestorian bishop, Shimon Dinbah,
the Abbasid caliphs (750–1258) the Nestorians enjoyed rela-
united his congregation with Rome, and the Chaldeans
tive peace, and in 762 their catholicoi moved their see to
made him their catholicos. He moved his seat from Diyar-
Baghdad, the Abbasid capital. In Baghdad, the Nestorians
bakır to Urmia in northern Persia where many Nestorians
were the first to promote Greek science and philosophy by
lived. In 1670 one of his successors renounced the church
translating Greek texts into Syriac and then into Arabic.
of Rome, returned to Nestorianism, and was accepted as ca-
They were highly favored by the caliphs and were the first
tholicos by the Nestorian catholicoi, one in Urmia and the
to introduce Greek medicine into Baghdad.
other in Alq:osh.
Although the Nestorians were generally favored, there
In the middle of the eighteenth century a Nestorian
were times when they, like other Christians, were persecuted
bishop, Mar Yu¯suf (Joseph) of Diyarbakır, joined the church
or humiliated by the caliphs. The Nestorian church generally
of Rome and was ordained by the pope as a successor to the
prospered until the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in 1258,
line of Su¯la¯q:a as catholicos of the Chaldeans in Diyarbakır.
when the widespread disruption in the Middle East drained
In 1778 a Nestorian bishop, Yu¯h:anna (John) Hormizd, em-
its vitality. The Nestorian catholicoi left Baghdad and settled
braced Roman Catholicism and began to contend for the of-
in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) in the vicinity of Mosul and
fice of catholicos with his cousin, Mar Eliyya XI of Alq:osh.
Alq:osh.
Rome could not ordain Hormizd catholicos of the Chaldean
community because Mar Yu¯suf was already catholicos in Di-
The most detrimental effect of the Muslim conquest on
yarbakır. When Yu¯suf died in 1779, Rome entrusted the
the Nestorian church in the countries lying between Persia
Chaldean church to his nephew, Augustine Hindi. Finally,
and China was that its missionary activity, begun among the
after long waiting and through the machinations of Roman
Mongols, Turks, and Chinese, was cut off. Eventually the
Catholic missionaries, Hormizd was confirmed by Pope Pius
early blossom of Christianity in China died. The inscriptions
VIII as the catholicos of the Chaldean community. By then
in both Syriac and Chinese on the stone at Chou-chih, fifty
most of the Nestorians of the plains of Mosul had become
miles southwest of Sian Prefecture, China, containing a long
Roman Catholics. Since then, the Nestorian community has
list of Nestorian clergymen, is evidence of the expansion of
retreated into the mountains of Kurdistan.
the Nestorian church in China. Nestorianism also reached
the coast of Malabar in South India and made converts
Since 1820 the Protestant churches in the West have
among the Christians there. The new converts used the Syri-
taken a rather special interest in the Nestorian communities
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NESTORIAN CHURCH
6481
of the East. The American Presbyterian church became the
Mar Shimon from acting as if he were head of a state within
first to organize missions among them when, in 1830, the
a state but failed. Finally, in 1933 it notified the Assyrians
Presbyterian Board of Missions sent the first missionaries.
either to behave as Iraqi citizens or leave. About a thousand
The mission headquarters were located in Urmia, where
Assyrians decided to leave and crossed the Euphrates into
there were doctors as well as a printing press.
Syria, which was occupied by the French. The French au-
thorities turned them back, where they faced an Iraqi army
The Church of England became involved with the Nes-
force. A stray shot was fired, and the Iraqi army used the oc-
torians when in 1842, George P. Badger, chaplain of the East
casion to massacre most of the Nestorian contingent. Subse-
India Company, was sent to Iraq. He wrote two volumes
quently, Mar Shimon was stripped of his Iraqi nationality
(published in 1852) on the Nestorians and their church. The
and deported to Cyprus. From Cyprus he went to England,
interest of the Church of England continued until after
and then to the United States, where he became an American
World War I and the establishment of the national govern-
citizen.
ment of Iraq (1921).
In 1973 Mar Shimon resigned because of a conflict with
For more than a hundred years (1830–1933), the Nes-
his community over his violation of some church rules. After
torian community in Kurdistan and Iraq suffered continuous
his death in 1975, he was succeeded by Mar H:a¯nania
tragedies. Being Christians they were always prey to Kurdish
Dinkha IV, who was installed in London in 1976 as catholi-
chieftains, who plundered their villages. The activity and ex-
cos patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. The Assyri-
istence of Western missionaries among the Nestorians most
an community, which numbered about 500,000 in 1980,
probably motivated the Kurds and their patrons, the Otto-
still has many members living in Iraq and Iran, but their
mans, to agitate against them.
greatest concentration is in the United States, especially in
The outbreak of World War I saw the Nestorians hope-
Chicago, Illinois. This latter group is mostly composed of
ful of an eventual Allied victory. This happy consequence
immigrants who left Iraq after 1933 and their descendants.
would certainly alleviate the persecution aimed at them by
The Nestorian church in the latter part of the twentieth
both Kurds and Ottomans. Encouraged by the Russian ad-
century forms the extreme eastern branch of the Syriac-
vance into eastern Turkey in 1915, the Nestorians revolted
speaking church of Antioch. Its liturgical language is Syriac-
against the Turks and assisted the Russians. But when the
Aramaic with a distinct dialect and script. It recognizes only
Bolshevik revolution erupted and Russia withdrew from the
the first two ecumenical councils and rejects the Council of
war in 1917, they were in great danger. Consequently, about
Ephesus, which condemned Nestorius. Its rite is the Old
twenty thousand Nestorians struggled to reach the British
Eastern Syriac rite, and it has three main liturgies: those of
lines in Iraq to avoid reprisal by Kurds and Ottomans. With
the evangelist Thaddaeus and his disciple Mari, of Nestorius,
fear of reprisal haunting the rest of the Nestorians of Urmia,
and of Theodore of Mopsuestia. Other liturgies, such as
in the summer of 1918 some hundred thousand of them at-
those of Bar Sauma, Narsai, and Diodore of Tarsus, are pre-
tempted to reach the Kerma¯nsha¯h-Qazv¯ın region, which was
sumed lost. The liturgy begins with the practical making and
then under British occupation. Less than half made it
baking of the bread for communion but does not contain the
through; the rest were rounded up and settled by the British
words of institution. The communion is given in both ele-
authorities in the mountains of northern Iraq.
ments, bread and wine. The hierarchy consists of the catholi-
As a result of their association with the British, the Nes-
cos, also called patriarch, who always takes the name Mar
torians (“Assyrians”) developed nationalistic feelings. They
Shimon. Under him come the metropolitans, bishops,
asserted that the northern part of Iraq, the ancient land of
priests, and deacons. The church is essentially iconoclastic,
Athur, was their ancestral and rightful home. They fostered
although the Cross is revered. Through the vicissitudes of
the hope of an independent Assyrian state in Iraq. This
time, schism, persecution, and apostasy, this once grand
dream was probably encouraged by minor British army offi-
church of the East has been reduced to a tiny community,
cers, and, in 1919, a group of Assyrians, including many
living for the most part in a Western diaspora. It has become
from the United States, submitted a petition to the peace
a member of the World Council of Churches.
conference in Paris outlining their nationalistic aspirations.
There was no response.
SEE ALSO Christianity, article on Christianity in Asia; Nes-
torianism; Nestorius; Theodore of Mopsuestia.
After the establishment of national rule in Iraq in 1921,
the Iraqi government granted autonomy in internal and reli-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
gious affairs to the Nestorian community (in northern Iraq)
Perhaps the most important ancient source on the theological
led by their catholicos, Mar Isha¯ Shimon XXI. But Mar Shi-
teaching and views of Nestorius is the Bazaar of Heracleides,
mon, barely thirteen years old, was ill advised by members
translated by Godfrey R. Driver and Leonard Hodgson (Ox-
of his household and demanded complete independence
ford, 1925). Other sources are the “Opera and Literae” of
from Iraq on the premise that northern Iraq was the ancestral
Cyril of Alexandria in Patrologia Graeca, edited by J.-P.
land of the Assyrians. This demand was not acceptable to ei-
Migne, vols. 126–127 (Paris, 1859); the Acts of the Council
ther Iraq or Britain. The Iraqi government tried to dissuade
of Ephesus in Sacrorum counciliorum nova et amplissima collec-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6482
NESTORIANISM
tio, edited by Giovanni Domenico Mansi, vols. 4 and 5
Kannookadan, Pauly. The East Syrian Lectionary: An Historico-
(Florence and Venice, 1758–1798); Giuseppe Simone Asse-
Liturgical Study. Rome, 1991.
mani’s Bibliotheca Orientalis, vol. 3, pt. 2 (Rome, 1728); and
Moffett, Samuel Hugh. A History of Christianity in Asia, Vol. I:
Friedrich Loofs’s Die Fragmente des Nestorius (Halle, 1905)
Beginnings to 1500. San Francisco, Calif., 1992.
and Nestorius and His Place in the History of Christian Doc-
trine
(Cambridge, 1914).
Thottakara, Augustine, ed. East Syrian Spirituality. Rome, 1990.
The earliest sources on the Nestorian catholicoi are The Chronicle
Yousif, Patros. An Introduction to East Syrian Spirituality. Rome,
of Mshiha Zkha, in Sources syriaques, edited by Alphonse
1989.
Mingana (Leipzig, 1907); Chronique de Michel le Syrien, ed-
MATTI MOOSA (1987)
ited by Jean-Baptiste Chabot (Paris, 1890); Bar Hebraeus’s
Revised Bibliography
Chronicon ecclesiasticum, 3 vols., edited by J. B. Abbeloos and
T. J. Lamy (Paris, 1872–1877); and Chronique de Seert, his-
toire nestorienne
(in Arabic and French), edited by Addai
Scher, in Patrologia Orientalis, vol. 4 (Paris, 1907).
NESTORIANISM is a doctrinal position on the nature
For the role of the Nestorians in spreading Christianity among the
of Jesus Christ. In its extreme form the doctrine has been
Turks, Mongols, and Chinese, see Alphonse Mingana’s “The
condemned by Christian councils, but the ideas associated
Early Spread of Christianity in Central Asia and the Far
with Nestorianism have come to represent one of the two
East,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 9 (1925): 297–
main traditions of Christological thought in Christianity and
371; Adolf von Harnack’s The Mission and Expansion of
have been ably defended and articulated by successive gener-
Christianity in the First Three Centuries, vol. 2, 2d ed. (New
ations of Christian thinkers. The name goes back to Nestori-
York, 1908); and The Nestorian Monument: An Ancient Re-
cord of Christianity in China, with Special Reference to the Ex-

us, a patriarch of Constantinople in the early fifth century
pedition of Frits V. Holm, edited by Paul Carus (Chicago,
who was deposed at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and ex-
1909). For the Nestorians in India, consult John D. Mac-
iled to Egypt in 436. Nestorius was not, however, an original
bride’s The Syrian Church in India (Oxford, 1856) and Wil-
thinker, and the theological views that came to be associated
liam J. Richards’s The Indian Christians of St. Thomas, Other-
with his name had arisen late in the fourth century among
wise Called the Syrian Christians of Malabor (London, 1908).
Christian thinkers in eastern Asia Minor and Syria (in the
For the general history of the Nestorians, old and modern, see As-
vicinity of ancient Antioch), notably Diodore of Tarsus and
ahel Grant’s The Nestorians, or The Lost Tribes (1841; re-
Theodore of Mopsuestia. The distinctive features of Nestori-
print, Amsterdam, 1973) and History of the Nestorians (Lon-
anism can be made clear by contrasting it with another tradi-
don, 1855); George Percy Badger’s The Nestorians and Their
tion of thought associated with the city of Alexandria in
Rituals, 2 vols. (London, 1852); Henry Holme’s The Oldest
Egypt.
Christian Church (London, 1896); Jerome Labourt’s Le chris-
tianisme dans l’empire perse sous la dynastie sassanide, 224–632

After the councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople
(Paris, 1904); William A. Wigram’s An Introduction to the
(381), the majority of Christians affirmed that Christ was
History of the Assyrian Church, or The Study of the Sassanid
fully God and was one with God the Father, creator of the
Empire, 100–640 A. D. (London, 1910); George David Ma-
world. The question then arose of the relation between this
lech’s History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelical-
divine Son of God, the eternal Logos, and the human person
Apostolic Church of the East (Minneapolis, 1910); Adrian
Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the first century and is por-
Fortesque’s The Lesser Eastern Churches (1913; reprint, New
trayed in the Gospels of the New Testament. The Alexandri-
York, 1972); William C. Emhardt and George M. Lamsa’s
an theologians, led by Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), taught
The Oldest Christian People: A Brief Account of the History and
that Jesus Christ was the eternal Logos under the conditions
Traditions of the Assyrian People and the Fateful History of the
Nestorian Church
(1926; reprint, New York, 1970); Eugène
of humanity. All the actions predicated of Jesus (e.g., human
Tisserant’s “Nestorienne (L’église),” in Dictionnaire de
birth, growth in wisdom, suffering, and death) were predi-
théologie catholique, edited by Alfred Vacant and Eugène
cated of the divine Logos as well. The Antiochene theolo-
Mangenot (Paris, 1931), vol. 2; George Graf’s Geschichte der
gians (the forerunners of Nestorianism) believed that Jesus
christlichen arabischen Literatur, “Bibliotica Apostolica Vati-
Christ was the result of a union between the divine Son of
cana,” vol. 2 (Rome, 1947); and John Joseph’s The Nestori-
God and the man Jesus. They explained this union by analo-
ans and Their Muslim Neighbors: A Study of Western Influence
gy with the Jewish prophets, outstanding men on whom the
on Their Relations (Princeton, 1961).
spirit of God descended, except that in the case of Christ,
New Sources
God indwelt as in a Son, and the union between God and
Coakley, J. F. The Church of the East and the Church of England:
the Son was inseparable and perfect.
A History of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Assyrian Mission.
In the early fifth century these two ways of thinking, Al-
Oxford, 1992.
exandrian and Antiochene, clashed over the issue of whether
Ferguson, Everett, Michael P. McHugh, and Frederick W. Norris.
Mary was theotokos, the one who gave birth to God, or chris-
The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York, 1990.
totokos, the bearer of Christ. After Nestorius became bishop
Hill, Henry, comp. and ed. Light from the East: A Symposium on
of Constantinople, one of his priests, without Nestorius’s ob-
the Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Churches. Toronto, 1988.
jection, criticized the concept of theotokos as theologically er-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NESTORIUS
6483
roneous. He urged the use of the term christotokos, which
Grillmeier, Aloys, and Heinrich Bacht, eds. Das Konzil von
conformed to the Antiochene way of thinking of Mary as
Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart. 3 vols. Würzburg,
having given birth to the man Jesus, not to the eternal son
1951–1954.
of God. The term theotokos, however, had begun to be used
ROBERT L. WILKEN (1987)
by Christians and had the sanction of recent tradition. To
Cyril of Alexandria, as well as to the bishop of Rome, denial
of the concept of theotokos implied that Mary was not the
NESTORIUS (381?–451?), Christian bishop after whom
Mother of God, and hence that God had not become human
was named one of the major heresies concerning the doctrine
in the birth of Jesus Christ and that Mary was simply the
of Christ. The figure of Nestorius is much less significant
mother of an exceptional man. Nestorius appeared to teach
than the teachings associated with his name and the theologi-
that there were two persons in Christ, the man Jesus and the
cal developments after his deposition. He was born in Ger-
divine Son of God. A flurry of theological polemics and po-
manicia in Cilicia, a Roman province in southeastern Asia
litical maneuvering ensued. In 430 Celestine, bishop of
Minor (modern-day Turkey). In the Syrian city of Antioch,
Rome, condemned Nestorius, and a year later Cyril presided
he distinguished himself by his asceticism and skill in preach-
over the Council of Ephesus, which also anathematized him.
ing. When the clergy of the capital city of Constantinople
Emperor Theodosius supported the decision.
could not agree on a replacement for the patriarch Sisinnius,
Nestorius’s writings survive only in fragments, except
the emperor invited Nestorius to accept the post. As bishop
for an obscure work, Bazaar of Heracleides, discovered in
he was zealous in stamping out heresy, particularly Arianism
1895 in a Syriac translation from the original Greek. Nesto-
and Novatianism. He soon became embroiled in controver-
rius wrote the Bazaar some years after the controversy as a
sy, however, initially because of the preaching of his assistant
defense against the charges of his opponents.
Anastasius, a presbyter he had brought with him from Syria,
but later through his own lack of judgment.
Nestorianism, however, is not to be identified with the
teaching of Nestorius, though he is venerated by the Nestori-
Nestorius criticized the term theotokos (“God bearer”),
an church (i.e., the church of eastern Syria and Persia). Nes-
a slogan for the idea that Mary, in giving birth to Jesus
torius’s supporters thought that their views were vindicated
Christ, had given birth to God. He preferred christotokos
by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. During the course of
(“bearer of Christ,” i.e., the human being Jesus Christ). Since
the fifth century, they constituted themselves as an indepen-
the term theotokos had become a sign of orthodox teaching,
dent Christian body, with a school in Edessa under the lead-
Nestorius’s imprudence made him vulnerable to the charge
ership of Ibas, bishop of Edessa (435–457) and an ecclesiasti-
of heresy, as his opponents swiftly recognized. Cyril of Alex-
cal center and see of the patriarch (who is called catholicos)
andria, the ambitious patriarch of a rival see and the expo-
at Seleucia-Ctesiphon on the Tigris River. A small body of
nent of the theological ideas behind the concept of theotokos,
Nestorians has survived into modern times.
obtained copies of Nestorius’s sermons and initiated pro-
ceedings against him.
Under the leadership of distinguished theologians such
as Babai the Great (d. 628), the Nestorians forged an alterna-
Nestorius was deposed, and in 436, after spending sev-
tive to the way of thinking about Christ that had become
eral years in a monastery in Constantinople, he was exiled
normative for most Christians in the East and West. They
to Egypt, where he remained for the rest of his life. He lived
believed that the dominance of the Alexandrian tradition,
until the Council of Chalcedon (451), which he and others
with its stress on Christ’s unity with God, jeopardized the
saw as a vindication of his views and a repudiation of Cyril.
integrity of his human nature. One of their favorite biblical
Nestorius was not, however, rehabilitated. His name has
texts was Luke 2:52, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stat-
been associated with the view that there are two separate per-
ure, and in favor with God and man,” a passage that is ex-
sons in Christ, the one divine and the other human (ortho-
tremely difficult to interpret if one does not allow genuine
dox teaching is that there were two “natures”), but his theo-
human growth in Jesus. Other texts came from passages in
logical contribution is insignificant. Of his writings a few
Hebrews (2:10, 3:1–2) that suggest that Jesus had become
sermons remain, as well as some fragments from theological
perfect by what he had accomplished as a human being.
works and an amorphous and difficult book, Bazaar of Hera-
Long after the ancient disputes a systematic presentation of
cleides, a defense of his views written long after the controver-
Nestorian theology was written by Abdisa (d. 1318), metro-
sy and discovered in 1895 in a Syriac translation from the
politan of Nisibis, in The Book of the Pearl.
original Greek. He is revered by the Nestorian church,
and his tomb in Egypt was venerated by his followers for cen-
SEE ALSO Nestorian Church; Nestorius.
turies.
SEE ALSO Nestorian Church; Nestorianism.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Abramowski, Luise, and Alan E. Goodman, eds. A Nestorian Col-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
lection of Christological Texts. 2 vols. Cambridge, 1972.
Driver, G. R., and Leonard Hodgson, eds. and trans. Nestorius:
Grillmeier, Aloys. Christ in Christian Tradition. Atlanta, 1975.
The Bazaar of Heracleides. Oxford, 1925.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6484
NETHERWORLD
Loofs, Friedrich. Nestoriana: Die Fragmente des Nestorius. Halle,
The Origins and History of Consciousness aims to illus-
Germany, 1905.
trate archetypal stages in the development of human con-
Scipioni, Luigi I. Nestorio e il concilio di Efeso. Milan, 1974.
sciousness by interpreting basic mythologems drawn from
several religious traditions. Neumann argues that individual
ROBERT L. WILKEN (1987)
consciousness passes through the same developmental stages
that mark the history of human consciousness. Published in
the same year, Tiefenpsychologie und neue Ethik (1949, trans-
NETHERWORLD SEE UNDERWORLD
lated as Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, 1969) demon-
strates the impact that the idea of psychological wholeness
had made on Neumann, on whom self-realization seemed to
NETS SEE WEBS AND NETS
impose a new ethical outlook and an obligation beyond con-
ventional ethical concepts. The book aroused controversy;
Jung commented, “If Neumann recommends the ‘inner
NEUMANN, ERICH (1905–1960), German-Israeli
voice’ as the criterion of ethical behavior instead of the Chris-
analytical psychologist and writer. Neumann’s upbringing in
tian conscience . . . [he] stands on the best footing with very
Berlin was Jewish but not orthodox; he was influenced, nev-
many Christian mystics” (Letters, vol. 1, 1973, p. 519). The
ertheless, by Hasidism, in response perhaps to his strong
Great Mother (1955), a study of the archetypal feminine, is
mystical leaning. Long before the rise of Hitler, Neumann
based on images from numerous cultures that were collected
was drawn to the Zionist ideal of the renewal of Jewish life
in Froebe-Kapteyn’s Eranos Archive. Feminine psychology
in Palestine. At the University of Erlangen, he earned his
here becomes a focus of Neumann’s interest, vying for priori-
Ph.D. degree with a dissertation on J. A. Kanne, a mystical
ty with the psychology of creative art. Both concerns are ef-
philosopher of the time of the Enlightenment who, although
fectively blended in The Archetypal World of Henry Moore
a Christian, had been deeply influenced by Jewish esoteric
(1959). In his later years, essays, lectures, seminars, and ana-
thought. In his youth Neumann wrote a novel, Der Anfang
lytical training preoccupied Neumann, and he produced no
(The Beginning), a story of self-fulfillment, which was par-
more longer works.
tially published in 1932. He also wrote poetry and literary
When an illness he had was diagnosed as terminal in
essays, notably on Franz Kafka and biblical themes.
October 1960, Neumann returned from London to Israel,
Neumann’s growing interest in psychology led to his
where he died a month later, leaving many projects unfin-
choice of profession; he started medical training and com-
ished. In Gerhard Adler’s words, “Neumann was the one
pleted his studies in 1933, but Nazi restrictions blocked his
truly creative spirit among the second generation of Jung’s
qualifying as a physician. In 1958, however, the University
pupils, the only one who seemed destined to build on Jung’s
of Hamburg awarded Neumann an M.D. degree in absentia,
work and to continue it” (preface to Neumann’s Creative
having accepted his book Die Ursprungsgeschichte des Be-
Man: Five Essays, 1979, p. xv).
wussteins (1949, translated as The Origins and History of Con-
sciousness
, 1954) as his thesis. Neumann opted for immigra-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
tion to Palestine in 1934, pausing on the way in Zurich for
Neumann’s longer writings in English translation are the follow-
a period of analysis and study with C. G. Jung. Gerhard
ing: Depth Psychology and a New Ethic (New York, 1969);
Adler has written: “Here, in Jung’s approach, he found the
The Origins and History of Consciousness (New York, 1954);
dynamic focus of his various interests and gifts. Analytical
The Great Mother, 2d ed. (New York, 1963); Amor and Psy-
psychology provided the instrument that helped him to
che: The Psychic Development of the Feminine (New York,
translate his creative insight into practical work with other
1956); The Archetypal World of Henry Moore (New York,
people, and for them” (preface to Neumann’s Creative Man:
1959); and The Child (New York, 1973). An Eranos lecture,
Five Essays, 1979, p. xiii).
“Art and Time,” was included in Papers from the Eranos Year-
books
, vol. 3, edited by Joseph Campbell (New York, 1957),
In Palestine, Neumann devoted himself to building a
pp. 3–37. Essays by Neumann on Leonardo da Vinci, Marc
practice and to pursuing studies that, after the enforced isola-
Chagall, and creative transformation are collected in Art and
tion of World War II, brought forth an enormous burst of
the Creative Unconscious (New York, 1959), and essays on
creative work. He revisited Europe only in 1947, for a family
Kafka, Chagall, Trakl, Freud, and Jung appear in Creative
holiday in Ascona, Switzerland, where he had two crucial en-
Man: Five Essays (Princeton, 1979).
counters—with Olga Froebe-Kapteyn, the director of the
The journal Analytische Psychologie (Basel) 11 (1980) devoted a
Eranos Conferences, and with John D. Barrett, the editor of
double issue (nos. 3–4) to Neumann in commemoration of
the Bollingen Series. Neumann lectured the following year
his seventy-fifth birthday. It contains articles, letters of Neu-
at Eranos on “mystical man” and at each of the conferences
mann and Jung, and a list of publications in German.
thereafter as keynote speaker. His last lecture there was deliv-
New Sources
ered in 1960, shortly before his death. In 1948 he was award-
Giskin, Howard. “Art as Transcendence: Seeing the Divine
ed a Bollingen Foundation fellowship, which continued for
through the Creative Act in Taoism and Erich Neumann.”
twelve years and supported his copious literary activity.
Studia Mystica 15, no. 4 (1992): 99–110.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: AN OVERVIEW
6485
Neumann, Erich. The Fear of the Feminine and Other Essays on
made possible, in part, by the large number of war casualties,
Feminine Psychology. Princeton, N.J., 1994.
who made ideal test subjects for neuroscientists studying the
Neumann, Erich. The Place of Creation: Six Essays. Princeton,
relationship between brain and thought. The period of the
N.J., 1999.
1950s through the 1970s was one of tremendous growth,
Weiler, Gerda. Der enteignete Mythos: Eine feministische Revision
particularly in the area of functional neuroanatomy and in
der Archetypenlehre C.G. Jungs und Erich Neumanns. Frank-
the understanding of the basic functioning of the neuron. By
furt/Main; New York, 1991.
the 1980s these findings began to come together to make a
WILLIAM MCGUIRE (1987)
coherent whole. This process was abetted by the use of com-
Revised Bibliography
putational models for understanding the brain and mind and
by the use of new scanning technologies (most notably mag-
netic resonance imaging, or MRI) that allowed images of liv-
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION
ing brains and, eventually, imaging of the brain in action,
This entry consists of the following articles:
enabling neuroscientists to see what areas of the brain be-
AN OVERVIEW
NEUROEPISTEMOLOGY
come active during specified tasks.
NEUROTHEOLOGY
For most of this history, religion has rarely been the sub-
ject of theorizing by neuroscientists, but this is not to say that
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: AN
there were no interactions between neuroscience and reli-
OVERVIEW
gion. Descartes’s mechanistic understanding of the brain and
Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, including
body can be understood to fall within the context of a larger,
the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral systems. As a disci-
religious worldview. The important discoveries about the
pline, it reached maturity only in the twentieth century. De-
nervous system made by Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–
velopments in brain-scanning technologies, in particular,
1894)—showing, among other things, that it takes time for
have revolutionized neuroscience, and it can only be expect-
nerve signals to communicate over distances—were driven
ed that the existing and growing body of literature will con-
by his materialistic convictions. Furthermore, two of the
tinue to expand. As neuroscience develops, its findings are
twentieth century’s most famous psychologists of religion,
increasingly seen to have implications for religious world-
Sigmund Freud and William James, both had significant ex-
views and the study of religion.
posure to the advances in neuroscience in their day. Religious
HISTORY. Awareness of the nervous system and its role in the
beliefs (or the lack of them) thus played an important back-
human body dates back at least to the Roman physician
ground role in shaping the field of neuroscience, while the
Galen (third century BCE), who understood movement to be
findings of neuroscience (real or putative) were sometimes
controlled by the nerve cords extending through the body.
used to justify positions about religion.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the major anatomical
features of the brain were known, as well as the central rela-
CURRENT CHARACTER OF NEUROSCIENCE. Knowledge of
tionship of mind and brain. This knowledge was most fa-
the brain and how it works grew enormously in the second
mously reflected in the work of René Descartes (1596–
half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, so
1650), who understood the motions of the body to be con-
much so that the U.S. Congress designated the 1990s as the
trolled by mechanistic animal spirits originating from the
“decade of the brain” to commemorate and further brain re-
brain, connected to the nonmaterial mind through the pineal
search. It is now estimated that the brain is composed of ap-
gland.
proximately 100 billion nerve cells. In turn, each nerve cell
It was not until the mid- to late nineteenth century that
is typically connected to 3,000 to 10,000 other nerve cells,
neuroscience began to emerge as a separate discipline, thanks
and it has been suggested that there are on the order of 100
to new experimental techniques and the increasing refine-
trillion such connections. It is important to note the stagger-
ment of the microscope. It came to be realized that the cen-
ing complexity that this implies: that there are more neuron
tral building block of the brain and nervous system was the
connections than there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.
neuron, a kind of cell that appeared designed to communi-
Neurons communicate by sending electronic impulses facili-
cate by electrical impulses. In addition, studies in functional
tated by chemical reactions that are still not fully understood.
neuroanatomy had begun to associate specific forms of brain
Chemicals known as neurotransmitters play an essential role
damage with specific kinds of mental deficits. Paul Broca
in this communication. Imbalances in neurotransmitter pro-
(1824–1880), for instance, showed that damage to a region
duction and uptake play important roles in some forms of
in the left hemisphere of the brain (now known as Broca’s
mental illness (such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease,
area) resulted in the inability to produce speech. Findings of
and depression) and altered states of consciousness (due, for
this kind were capitalized on for dubious purposes, most no-
instance, to drug use).
tably the pseudo-science of phrenology, but the work of
Much of the functional organization of the brain has
Broca and his colleagues has since been well substantiated.
been mapped out. It is now known that, for most individu-
Despite these advances, neuroscience did not truly be-
als, the majority of language processing occurs in the left
come established until after World War II. This progress was
hemisphere of the brain. Visual processing occurs in the oc-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6486
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: AN OVERVIEW
cipital lobe in the rear, motor control is centered along the
search or therapeutic purposes (to alleviate depression, for in-
midline of the brain, and complex rational thought seems to
stance). Work with rhesus monkeys has shown that a ma-
be concentrated in the frontal and prefrontal cortexes imme-
chine interface can be used to control a mechanical device
diately behind the forehead. Emotional responses seem to be
by a thought command alone, suggesting help for individuals
controlled by a collection of brain structures known as the
with physical disabilities but also raising questions about the
limbic system. In many cases the correspondence between a
relationship of human beings and machines.
specific behavioral ability and the specific area of the brain
NEUROSCIENCE, THE MIND-BODY RELATION, AND PER-
responsible for it has been mapped out in considerable detail.
SONHOOD. There are a number of ways in which neuro-
When damage to an area of the brain occurs, the correspond-
science might be said to relate to or have an impact on reli-
ing ability is lost, sometimes permanently and sometimes
gious traditions and religious thinking. The most obvious
with counterintuitive results. Prosopognosia (the inability to
concerns the relationship of mind to body. Religious beliefs
recognize faces) is the result of one such instance of brain
about the nature and relation of the mind and the body have
damage. People with this condition are unable to tell one face
been varied and complex. In the earliest forms of Judaism,
from another, even though they may recognize people by
Christianity, and Islam, the tendency was to think of persons
other means (e.g., by the sound of their voice or the clothes
as wholes, distinguishing between body and spirit but main-
that they are wearing).
taining their essential unity. As a result, these traditions
It has become common among some scientists to com-
looked forward to a resurrection of the dead that united (or
pare the mind and brain to a computer. Though this meta-
reunited) spirit and body. Later thought, especially in the
phor has proven useful in some ways, it is also exceedingly
Christian tradition, was profoundly influenced by Plato-
misleading in others. Individual neurons function somewhat
nism, with the result that emphasis was placed on the surviv-
analogously to the individual logic gates of a computer chip,
al of an immortal soul separate from the body. This distinc-
but there is no central processor as is typical on modern desk-
tion was accentuated by later Christian philosophers and
top computers. A closer analogy has been computers that uti-
theologians, most notably Réne Descartes. Other religious
lize decentralized parallel distributed processing (PDP) or
traditions have subscribed to quite variant understandings of
neural networks, and it has been shown that individual neu-
the human person and mind-body relationship. Hinduism
ronal groups are capable of such processing. However, the
speaks of the a¯tman, or self, but sometimes in quite different
analogy between brains and computers has been a conten-
ways than the monotheistic traditions (as is most obviously
tious one, with some neuroscientists utilizing computational
reflected in the Upanishads and the Advaita Vedanta tradi-
metaphors and others strongly denying any such link.
tion). Buddhism has historically subscribed to a doctrine of
ana¯tman, or no-self, and so has traditionally denied the exis-
Among recent areas of development, three may be seen
tence of a soul in any straightforward sense.
as particularly important. First, a growing body of research
has helped to reveal the centrality of emotion in brain pro-
As a science, neuroscience does not address the broader
cessing and cognition. Research by Antonio Damasio (1994)
question of mind and body, although its findings can be said
has shown that rational thought and emotion are not com-
to have consequences for particular religious views. Neuro-
science does seem to rule out any straightforward account of
pletely distinct from one another, and to think rationally one
mind-body dualism. Damage to the brain leads to loss of
must have a proper repertoire of emotional responses as well.
cognitive function, often in fairly predictable ways. Such po-
This has contributed to a move away from thinking of the
tential damage is not limited to motor functions, but can also
brain as simply a computer-like thinking machine. Second,
affect higher-order thinking and emotional response. Brain
research in brain development is helping to show how the
damage or alteration of brain chemistry can lead sometimes
brain comes to organize itself in relation to its environment.
to rather profound alterations of personality. It should be
The brain goes through dramatic changes in the early periods
noted that this damage affects not simply the behavior of the
of childhood, and there is good evidence that the brain con-
individual but one’s subjective experience as well. Someone
tinues to change in subtle ways throughout a person’s life.
who suffers a stroke and is afflicted with temporary aphasia
The prefrontal cortex (responsible for reasoning) continues
(the inability to speak) because of brain damage is not simply
in its development through late adolescence. Increasing
prevented from speaking the words. When recovered, they
knowledge of genetics is also beginning to illuminate the
will testify they were unable to even think of the words (or
ways in which specific genes influence brain development,
think in words) while having the disability. With a few, early,
suggesting the potential for providing links between assem-
and prominent exceptions (most notably Wilder Penfield
blies of genes and specific human behaviors. Furthermore,
and John Eccles, two of the more famous neuroscientists of
individual neurons have been shown to be exceedingly plas-
the twentieth century), few neuroscientists now count them-
tic, changing their receptivity to communication from and
selves dualists, and most would argue that mind and body
to other neurons throughout one’s life. Third, some research
are intimately linked.
has indicated the possibility of brain-machine interfaces in
the not-so-distant future. Magnetic fields, for instance, can
It is important to note, however, that neuroscientists re-
be used to stimulate specific areas of the brain, either for re-
main perplexed by the phenomenon of consciousness. Begin-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: AN OVERVIEW
6487
ning in the late 1980s, neuroscientists began to consider con-
a base of willing test subjects. The primary concern of this
sciousness as a legitimate subject of inquiry. Most efforts at
research has been to link meditational states with heightened
explanation have been devoted to the function of conscious-
or lowered activity in specific regions of the brain. Research
ness rather than its very nature. Philosopher David Chalmers
done by Eugene D’Aquili and Andrew Newberg (1999) has
(1997) has usefully distinguished between the “easy prob-
shown that such meditation consistently correlates with
lems” of consciousness and the “hard problem.” The easy
heightened activity in some areas of the brain (the prefrontal
problems deals with cognitive functions associated with con-
cortex, for instance) and lowered activity in others (most spe-
sciousness (such as attention, bodily representation, and the
cifically areas in the parietal lobes associated with spatial ori-
ability to think about one’s thoughts and so be self-
entation). D’Aquili and Newberg theorize that it is the alter-
conscious), but they do not tell us why there is a subjective
ation of these brain states that leads to the particular
quality to consciousness at all. This latter question, to date,
experiences (e.g., a sense of unity and a loss of distinction be-
remains better suited to philosophy than science, and it may
tween self and other) that meditation is traditionally said to
be permanently so.
give rise to.
Beyond the mind-body relationship, neuroscience may
There are deep divides as to how to interpret such re-
be seen to have repercussions for more general understand-
search. Some argue that studies that correlate brain states
ings of personhood. Research into the physical factors linked
with religious experiences show that these religious experi-
to specific behaviors and personality, particularly when tied
ences are not real, i.e., religious experiences are nothing but
to advances in developmental biology and behavioral genet-
a form of brain dysfunction or even mental illness with no
ics, stand to have fairly profound implications for doctrines
basis in any kind of higher reality. On this account, religious
of free will and the meaning and nature of personal transfor-
experience is necessarily illusory in character, and such re-
mation. The advent of subtle, personality-altering drugs such
search can be taken as evidence for a more general reductive
as Prozac and the increasing trend toward diagnosing and
account of religion. D’Aquili and Newberg, however, have
using drugs to treat personality variants such as attention def-
argued that their research shows that religious experience is
icit disorder (ADD) reveals the complex relationship of per-
part of the normal functioning of the brain and should not
son, biology, and environment in ways that have implica-
be characterized as a form of mental illness, as has often been
tions for religious doctrines of health and happiness. Such
the case in psychology. They also argue that the implications
implications have, to date, led to little in the way of religious
of such research are not reductive. Rather, they claim, it
reflection, but will become increasingly important in the
should be admitted that the realities such brain states reveal
coming decades.
are just as real as those of ordinary experience, and so one
should not be privileged over the other.
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. A recent area
of neuroscientific exploration has been the nature of religious
Some important limitations of these studies should be
experience itself and its possible roots in the brain. There has
noted. To date, the studies done have been small, involving
been a long tradition of scientific speculation on the nature
few subjects, thus raising the probability of error or variant
of religious experience. For much of its history, when neuro-
results in further trials. In addition, it is important to note
science has on rare occasion turned its attention to the topic
that meditational practices vary from tradition to tradition,
of religious experience, the tendency has been to associate it
and what holds true for one form of meditational practice
with one or another form of mental illness. William James,
may not hold true for all. Furthermore, it would be a mistake
for instance, chided medical materialists (as he called them)
to suppose that religious experiences arising from meditation
for attempting to reduce religious experience to mental ill-
can simply and straightforwardly be used as a model for ex-
ness. One early favorite candidate has been temporal lobe ep-
plaining all religious experiences. Religious experience is di-
ilepsy, which has been known to produce in some individuals
verse and complex, and there are likely multiple factors
profound religious experiences prior to the onset of seizures.
involved.
The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky is probably the
most famous example of this phenomenon. Knowledge of
NEUROSCIENCE, UNIQUENESS, AND DIGNITY. Issues of
such instances has been used by some neuroscientists (Robert
uniqueness and human dignity may also be raised by neuro-
Persinger in 1987, for example) as a general explanation for
science and its related fields. Evidence reveals that human be-
religious experience. Research by V. S. Ramachandran (Ra-
ings evolved from ape-like ancestors approximately six mil-
machandran and Blakeslee, 1998) has shown this to be un-
lion years ago. There is now a significant amount of fossil
likely, however, as religious individuals with no epilepsy
data with which to construct key aspects of this evolutionary
seem to respond differently in tests using religious imagery
history, although the details remain contentious and ongoing
than individuals with temporal lobe epilepsy.
discoveries have revealed the complexity of the evolutionary
links. The evidence does show, however, a gradual rise in cra-
Beginning in the 1990s, some neuroscientists turned
nial size from very old fossils like Australopithecus afarensis
their attention to Buddhist meditation as a subject of re-
(about five million years ago with brain size equivalent to
search. Meditation has proven to be a congenial subject of
that of a modern chimpanzee) to Homo erectus to Homo sapi-
research because it is largely stationary, predictable, and has
ens. Because the brains themselves are not preserved, brain
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6488
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: NEUROEPISTEMOLOGY
development can only be inferred from the size and shape
Russell, Robert J., Nancey Murphy, Theo C. Meyering, and Mi-
of the brain case and other physiological clues. One impor-
chael Arbib. Neuroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspec-
tant issue has been determining when the brain reached its
tives on Divine Action. Chicago, 1999.
current state of development, with some suggesting that
GREGORY R. PETERSON (2005)
changes were still taking place as recently as 40,000 years ago
(about the time that we see some of the first cave art).
Greater understanding of the minds and brains of other
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION:
animals may also provoke religious reflection. Research with
NEUROEPISTEMOLOGY
dolphins and apes (particularly chimpanzees and bonobos)
Neuroepistemology is a relatively new discipline that consid-
in particular has shown sometimes surprising intellectual
ers questions of the theory of knowledge in terms of the
abilities. A dolphin brain is about the size of a human brain,
structure and function of the brain. In order to consider
although its different organization suggests that it would be
neuroepistemology, it is necessary to review how the human
a mistake to assume this to mean equivalent intellectual abili-
brain organizes sensory input and how it “constructs” the
ty. Although their brains are smaller than ours, chimpanzees
subjective representation of reality that is called knowledge.
are capable of some symbolic communication and are capa-
The process by which the brain enables a perception of reali-
ble of recognizing themselves in a mirror (an ability compar-
ty lies at the heart of neuroepistemology and provides a
atively rare among animals), which has been taken to suggest
unique perspective for the scientific, philosophical, and theo-
some level of self-consciousness. Moreover, genetic studies
logical evaluation of reality.
indicate that chimpanzees share up to 98 percent or more of
PRIMARY EPISTEMIC STATES. The various perceptions of re-
their genes with human beings.
ality can be grouped into several primary epistemic states. A
primary epistemic state may be defined as the state in which
The extent to which these findings will be important for
a person has an experience and interpretation of reality. Such
religious belief will clearly vary from tradition to tradition.
primary epistemic states can be considered along three
Monotheistic traditions have been much more inclined to in-
neurocognitive dimensions: (1) sensory perceptions of ob-
sist on an absolute division between human beings and ani-
jects or things that can be manifested as either multiple dis-
mals than, for instance, Hinduism and Buddhism. Distinc-
crete things or a holistic union of all things; (2) cognitive re-
tions are observed, however, even in these latter traditions.
lationships between objects or things that are either regular
From a neuroscientific perspective, any claim of an absolute
or irregular; and (3) emotional responses to the objects or
divide between human beings and animals would be difficult
things that are either positive, negative, or neutral. The emo-
to support, especially when evolutionary histories are taken
tional responses do not refer to the usual feelings of happi-
into account. Rather, it seems much more likely that a con-
ness, sadness, and so on, but to the overall emotional ap-
tinuum exists, albeit one with important leaps along the way.
proach of a person to his or her reality. It is likely that one’s
overall affective response to reality is to a large degree set by
BIBLIOGRAPHY
the brain’s limbic system, which includes such structures as
Andresen, Jensine, ed. Religion in Mind: Cognitive Perspectives on
the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. Further-
Religious Belief, Ritual, and Experience. Cambridge, U.K.,
2001.
more, scholars such as Antonio Damasio (1999) have sug-
gested that emotional responses, even in relation to the
Chalmers, David. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental
body’s perceptions, play a critical role in the human experi-
Theory. New York, 1997.
ence of reality. It is also important to mention that each of
Churchland, Patricia Smith. Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified
these parameters is set along a continuum. In other words,
Science of the Mind/Brain. Cambridge, Mass., 1986.
one’s reality may be based primarily on multiple discrete ob-
Damasio, Antonio. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the
jects, but it may also include some holistic attributes.
Human Brain. New York, 1994.
Based upon the dimensions described above, nine possi-
D’Aquili, Eugene G., and Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical
ble primary epistemic states that are internally consistent can
Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapo-
be considered. These nine states should actually be consid-
lis, Minn., 1999.
ered a continuum of states with those mentioned below as
Gazzaniga, Michael S., Richard B. Ivry, and George R. Mangun.
nodal points along the continuum.
Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind. 2d ed. New
1. Multiple discrete reality—regular relationships—
York, 2002.
neutral affect
Persinger, Michael A. Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs.
Westport, Conn., 1987.
2. Multiple discrete reality—regular relationships—
positive affect
Peterson, Gregory R. Minding God: Theology and the Cognitive
Sciences. Minneapolis, Minn., 2002.
3. Multiple discrete reality—regular relationships—
negative affect
Ramachandran, V. S., and Sandra Blakeslee. Phantoms in the
Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind. New York,
4. Multiple discrete reality—irregular relationships—
1998.
neutral affect
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: NEUROEPISTEMOLOGY
6489
5. Multiple discrete reality—irregular relationships—
to humankind’s place within the universe. This purposeful-
positive affect
ness is not derived logically, it is simply intuited because of
6. Multiple discrete reality—irregular relationships—
the positive emotional state. The onset of this state is usually
negative affect
sudden and is often described as a conversion experience, es-
pecially in religious thought. In psychiatric literature, Rich-
7. Unitary being—neutral affect
ard Bucke called this state “Cosmic Consciousness”; it is
8. Unitary being—positive affect
characterized by overwhelming happiness, comprehension,
universal understanding, and love. Although this state may
9. Unitary being—negative affect
have a sudden onset, it can last for many years and even for
Unitary being cannot be perceived as having either regular
the person’s entire life. This state of Cosmic Consciousness
or irregular relationships since relationships can only be con-
is a primary epistemic state because the person perceives this
sidered to exist between discrete independent things, and in
understanding of the universe as fundamentally real (it is not
unitary being there are no discrete independent things that
an illusion) and sometimes will look with a sense of pity at
can be related to each other. Furthermore, it might be argued
those who have only the baseline perception of reality. Peo-
that unitary being cannot be associated with affect until after
ple in this state are not psychotic, nor do they have any emo-
an individual actually has the experience of unitary being.
tional or mental disorder. They perceive objects and relation-
Thus, the final three states might ultimately be considered
ships between objects in the universe in the same way as
one; for the purposes of this entry, however, it will be helpful
those in baseline reality. They simply have a different emo-
to maintain the symmetry of these states.
tional understanding of this perception.
The first six primary epistemic states could all be consid-
Negative reality. The third primary epistemic state is
ered to represent the experience of a reality with multiple dis-
comprised of discrete objects with regular relationships, but
crete objects. In other words, a person in one of these states
it is associated with a profoundly negative affect. It is a state
perceives individual and independent objects in that reality.
of exquisite sadness and futility, as well as the sense of the
These objects can be related to other objects in terms of time,
incredible smallness of humankind within the universe and
space, causality, or many other possible relationships.
the suffering inherent in the human condition. In this state,
Neurophysiologically, there are specific brain structures
the universe may be understood as one vast pointless ma-
that appear to underlie the ability to order reality along these
chine without purpose or meaning. In the full-blown state,
different relationships. In particular, the parietal lobe, in
people often seek psychiatric help because of the extreme de-
conjunction with the temporal and frontal lobes, appears to
pression associated with this state, even though they perceive
play a critical role in the perception of spatial and temporal
this state to be fundamentally real. Essentially, they are ask-
orientation, as well as the establishing of causal relationships
ing to be taught to think in an “illusory” way so that they
between objects and events. The first three primary epistemic
can survive. They are not asking to be restored to reality. As
states refer to realities in which there are regular relationships
with Cosmic Consciousness, this overly negative state can
between things. Thus, these relationships are logical and
last many years. However, people do revert back to baseline
have a logical ordering. It may be said that these regular rela-
reality and anecdotal evidence suggests that reversion occurs
tionships are predictable and allow for a consistent under-
more frequently from the negative state than from the posi-
standing of reality.
tive state, perhaps because the negative state is in many ways
Baseline reality. This regularity helps scientists under-
incompatible with survival from a psychological perspective.
stand what is typically called reality or baseline reality. Base-
Irregular relationships. The next three states are asso-
line reality generally carries a neutral affect and refers to that
ciated with discrete objects and beings, but contain irregular
state in which there are discrete objects with regular relation-
relationships between the objects in that reality. Thus, the
ships. This is the primary epistemic state that most people
time, space, and causal relationships between various objects
are in most of the time. Furthermore, few individuals would
are distorted, bizarre, and unpredictable. Examples of this
question the fundamental reality (or the sense of that reality)
type of state include dreams, drug-induced states, and schizo-
of the state that they are usually living within. It is precisely
phrenia. Further, the state of irregular relationships can be
because this state appears certain while an individual is in it
associated with negative, positive, or neutral affect. For ex-
that it can be called a primary epistemic state. In fact, most
ample, the experience of using LSD or other hallucinogenic
people would consider this state to be the true reality, with
drugs can either be incredibly elating or profoundly disturb-
nothing beyond this reality.
ing. Quite literally, these states can be described as either
Cosmic consciousness. The second primary epistemic
heaven or hell. Schizophrenia is similar in that the bizarre
state is one in which there are discrete objects with regular
patterns of relationships between objects can be associated
relationships between objects, but an overwhelmingly posi-
with negative, positive, or neutral emotion, and patients can
tive affect. It is a state associated with an elated sense of being
suffer from both a mood disorder and psychotic symptoms.
and joy, in which the universe is perceived to be fundamen-
In these cases, the patient may be extraordinarily depressed
tally good. There is a sense of purposefulness to all things and
while also experiencing delusions or hallucinations.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6490
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: NEUROEPISTEMOLOGY
All of these states involving discrete being are perceived
(usually with neutral affective valence) as an experience of the
as real while the person is in them. Of course, once an indi-
absolute, the ultimate, or the transcendent. In the Buddhist
vidual lapses into another primary epistemic state, he or she
tradition the experience (also with neutral affective valence)
recognizes the original state as an illusion, delusion, or hallu-
is interpreted as the “void,” or nirva¯n:a, and is generally ex-
cination. This judgment is consistent with the nature of pri-
pressed as impersonal. It is also theoretically possible to enter
mary epistemic states, for once a person has entered into a
into a state of unitary being associated with negative affect.
different primary state, they perceive the new state as real.
However, there are no references to this type of experience
It is the nature of a primary epistemic state to perceive that
in any religious, philosophical, or psychological literature. It
state as reality. A person would therefore necessarily under-
may be that such a state is not neurophysiologically possible.
stand what they remember from a drug experience or from
Perhaps it cannot come about because the experience of all
a dream as an illusion or a distortion.
things as an undifferentiated oneness is so powerfully posi-
tive and integrative that it cannot be perceived in negative
Unitary states. The final three states involve the experi-
terms. At worst (so to speak) unitary being can be perceived
ence of a totally unitary reality. There is no point in referring
neutrally. It may be argued that such a state of unitary being
to regular or irregular relationships regarding the primary ep-
with negative affect is incompatible with life, the brain, or
istemic states of unitary being, since there are no discrete ob-
the mind. Thus, until actual evidence can be brought for-
jects that can be related to each other. In unitary being there
ward to demonstrate the existence of this theoretical state,
is no sense of individual objects, there is no self–other di-
it must be assumed that it is just that, theoretical.
chotomy, and everything is perceived as undifferentiated,
unified oneness. Thus, the state of unitary being can be di-
It is also interesting that the perception of the logical op-
vided into three possible states that include positive, nega-
posite of ultimate wholeness—that is, ultimate fragmenta-
tive, or neutral affect. However, even these emotional per-
tion—does not seem to be possible. For anything to be
spectives can be considered only after the fact, since while
known at all, however chaotic it may be, some sense of
an individual is actually in a unitary state, there theoretically
wholeness or form must be perceived or imposed. The post
can be no distinction between objects, including even
hoc description of ultimate wholeness may be of an experi-
emotions.
ence of a personal God or of a completely nonpersonal expe-
rience of total being, but in any case the experience is always
This unitary state has been studied to some degree using
interpreted as absolutely transcendent, or ultimate, or in
neuroimaging of individuals in meditation or prayer. The re-
some sense beyond ordinary experience.
sults of early studies appear to support the original neurophy-
siological model suggested by Eugene d’Aquili and Andrew
Whether or not the phenomenon is interpreted as the
Newberg (1993), in which the experience of unitary states
experience of God or as the experience of a philosophical ab-
may be associated with the deafferentation, or blocking of
solute tends to depend on the a priori conceptual frame of
sensory input, into the areas of the brain typically responsible
the individual having the experience. But there can be no
for the perception and ordering of reality. However, more
doubt as to the reality of the unitary experience for those few
studies will need to be performed to better differentiate the
who have had it; furthermore, these people are absolutely
neurophysiological correlates of the primary epistemic states,
certain of the experience’s objective reality. This experience,
including that of unitary being.
for those individuals, contains at least the same subjective
GOD AND THE WHOLE. The experience of reality associated
conviction of reality as does the subjective conviction of the
with unitary being yields the subjective perception of abso-
reality of the external world. Although it is true philosophi-
lute and total unity of being without a temporal dimension.
cally that we cannot prove the existence of the external world
Reality is perceived as “ultimate wholeness” without any ad-
as perceived (or even of the external world at all) based upon
mixture of fragmentation. When absolute unitary and atem-
a completely neuropsychological perspective, nonetheless
poral being is perceived as suffused with positive affect after
each of us carries a subjective and pragmatic certainty of its
the fact, it is generally perceived as personal (d’Aquili, 1982).
existence. The experience of absolute unity carries to the sub-
This perceived experience of unitary atemporal being is in-
ject the same, or perhaps even a greater, degree of certainty
terpreted in most world religions as either a direct perception
of its objective reality. Research indicates that this is true
of God or as the unio mystica of the Christian tradition,
even in people whose orientation is materialist, reductionist,
which, though a manifestation of God, is not considered a
or atheistic prior to the experience of absolute unitary being.
revelation of God’s innermost nature. The experience tran-
As noted above, it seems likely from recent research that
scends any perception of multiple, discrete being, and the
the experience of unitary being arises from the integrated
awareness of the subject-object difference is obliterated. The
functioning of several brain structures resulting in the deaf-
unitary experience is ineffable, but it is frequently interpreted
ferentation of orienting areas such as the parietal lobe. These
(when experienced with strong positive affect) in terms that
parts of the brain may have evolved to yield such transcen-
express a union with, or a direct experience of, God.
dent experiences, or perhaps such experiences are merely a
The experience of ultimate wholeness does not have to
byproduct of cortical machinery that evolved for other pur-
be theistically labeled. It can be understood philosophically
poses. In any case, the experience of absolute unity can be
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: NEUROEPISTEMOLOGY
6491
described in terms of the evolution of the present structure
hyperlucid consciousness of unitary being (called hyperlucid
and function of the central nervous system. An important
here since it is perceived as more clear and more real than
point is that such an explanation, while legitimate from a sci-
other primary epistemic states of reality). Baseline reality
entific perspective, in no way alters the subjective sensation
demonstrates the following four fundamental properties:
of the objective reality of the experience. So strong is this
1. A strong sense of the reality of what is experienced.
feeling of objective reality that, for most people, even a de-
tailed neuroepistemological analysis does not alter the con-
2. Endurance of that reality through very long periods of
viction that something objectively real has been experienced.
time, usually only interrupted by sleeping.
For those few who have experienced both realities—the reali-
3. The sense that when elements in baseline reality disap-
ty of the day-to-day world (and objective science) on one
pear from all forms of sensory detection, they have
hand and the reality of transcendent unitary states on the
ceased to be.
other—the problem is not one of trying to decide which real-
ity is real. These people feel that they know both are real.
4. High cross-subjective validation both for details of per-
Rather, the problem is one of reconciling the two drastically
ception and core meaning (in other words, other people
different and seemingly contradictory perceptions of reality.
corroborate one’s perceptions of the world—reality is a
collective hunch).
Several important neuroepistemological issues can now
be considered: the meaning of what it is to know at all; the
The essential characteristics of hyperlucid unitary being are
nature and consequence of the certainty of reality, however
the following:
reality is perceived; and the neurophysiological limitations
1. An extremely strong sense of reality, to the point of its
and constraints on knowing anything whatsoever. To con-
being absolutely compelling under almost all circum-
sider the meaning of knowing is to be forced into the heart
stances.
of subjective experience, of which objective reality is but a
subset (and science but a subset of this subset). It is probably
2. Endurance for short periods of time relative to the sense
impossible to resolve the conflict between the two realities
of time of baseline reality.
as experienced. Given the phenomenology of the experience,
3. A sense of its underlying persistence and continued exis-
it is clearly impossible to undercut the certainty of the “abso-
tence even when the perception of the overall state has
lute” in those people who have experienced it. Research indi-
ended.
cates that they cannot be dissuaded from their conviction of
the objective reality of absolute unity no matter how often
4. High cross-subjective validation for core perceptions;
the adaptive value of the transcendence-generating parts of
moderate to low cross-subjective validation for percep-
the brain is pointed out to them. Science is a product of the
tual detail in those hyperlucid states where discrete
everyday world, but the experience of an absolute unitary
being is perceived (as in near-death experiences).
state is an experience of another world, and this world is es-
It is probably impossible to determine whether the hyperlu-
sentially cut off from the world of discrete reality (unlike hal-
cid unitary state or baseline reality is more “real” (i.e., which
lucinations and delusions, which are epistemically part of the
state represents the ultimate objective reality without making
world of discrete, transient being). It would seem, therefore,
gratuitous and unsubstantiated assumptions). Clearly, base-
that the absolute unitary state, whatever its significance may
line reality has some significant claim to being ultimate reali-
be in post hoc religious description, has in itself an epistemo-
ty. However, unitary being is so compelling that it is difficult
logical status equivalent to baseline everyday reality and, at
to write off assertions of its reality. Actually, for individuals
least from a neuroepistemological perspective, must be dealt
having experienced unitary being, it seems virtually impossi-
with accordingly.
ble to negate that experience, no matter what level of educa-
UNITARY STATE VERSUS BASELINE REALITY. To simplify the
tion or sophistication such individuals may have. This being
issue somewhat, it is helpful to contrast the unitary state with
the case, it is a misguided reductionism to state that because
baseline reality. In such an exercise there is no question that
hyperlucid unitary consciousness can be understood in terms
the unitary state wins out as being experienced as “more
of neuropsychological processes, it is therefore derivative
real.” People who have experienced unitary being, and this
from baseline reality. Indeed the reverse argument might just
includes some very learned and previously materialistically
as well be made. Neuropsychology can give no answer as to
oriented scientists, regard such a state as being more funda-
which state is more real, baseline reality or hyperlucid unitary
mentally real than baseline reality. Even the memory of it is,
consciousness (often experienced as God). It may be most ac-
for them, more fundamentally real. When individuals who
curate to state that each is real in its own way and for its own
have had this experience are interviewed, there is no doubt
adaptive ends.
that it, and even the memory of it, carries a greater sense of
The essential characteristic of different states of reality
fundamental reality than that generated by their experiences
are eventually reducible only to the strength of the sense of
of day-to-day living.
reality, the phantasia catalyptica of the Stoics or the Anwesen-
To further clarify this point, compare four characteris-
heit (compelling presence) of certain modern German phi-
tics of baseline reality (coherent lucid consciousness) with the
losophers. A vivid sense of reality may be the only thing that
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6492
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: NEUROTHEOLOGY
can be used to help determine what is really real until some-
brain activity during religious and spiritual practices, such as
one discovers a method for going beyond the brain’s percep-
meditation, prayer, or ritual. This analysis also includes the
tion of reality. This conclusion may not be epistemologically
spiritual or religious experiences associated with such prac-
satisfying, but at this time all alternatives seem untenable.
tices, as well as those that arise spontaneously, such as near-
Therefore, the brain can be conceived of as a machine
death experiences. The overall purpose of this area of neuro-
that operates upon whatever it is that fundamental reality
theology is to generate a substantial theoretical base from
may be, and the brain produces, at the very least, two basic
which to explore the other aspects of religious and spiritual
versions. One version is a world of discrete beings, usually
phenomena. Models typically build upon both the known
baseline reality, and the other version is the perception of
neuropsychological and neuroscientific literature to deter-
unitary being, usually experienced as God. Both perceptions
mine exactly how various brain structures function both in-
are accompanied by a profound subjective certainty of their
dividually and as an integrated whole. Models typically in-
objective reality. Whatever is prior to the experience of either
clude not only general brain function but changes in a variety
unitary being or the baseline reality of everyday life is in prin-
of neurotransmitter and hormonal systems. An analysis of
cipal unknowable, since that which is in any way known
various types of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizo-
must be translated, and in this sense transformed by the
phrenia or temporal lobe epilepsy, as they relate to religious
brain.
and spiritual phenomena, must also be considered as a way
of helping to understand various aspects of religious experi-
B
ence. The work of Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquili,
IBLIOGRAPHY
Damasio, Antonio R. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and
for example, demonstrates one method for developing a
Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York, 1999.
complex integrated model in which various aspects of brain
d’Aquili, Eugene G. “Senses of Reality in Science and Religion:
function are correlated with religious experiences. The brain
A Neuroepistemological Perspective.” Zygon 17 (1982):
structures that have already been shown to be involved in re-
361–364.
ligious practices such as meditation or prayer include the
d’Aquili, Eugene G., and Andrew B. Newberg. “Religious and
frontal lobes (involved in attention focusing and emotional
Mystical States: A Neuropsychological Model.” Zygon 28
processing), the limbic system (part of the temporal lobes
(1993): 177–200.
and involved in emotional responses), the parietal lobe (in-
Gazzaniga, Michael S. The Bisected Brain. New York, 1970.
volved in spatial and body orientation), the thalamus (a main
sensory relay), and the hypothalamus (regulating basic body
Gazzaniga, Michael S., ed. The New Cognitive Neurosciences. Cam-
functions, hormones, and the immune system).
bridge, Mass., 2000.
Luria, Aleksandr R. Higher Cortical Functions in Man. Translated
EMPIRICAL TESTING OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. Once the-
by Basil Haigh. New York, 1966; 2d rev. ed., 1980.
oretical models of religious and spiritual experiences are de-
veloped, they provide a hypothetical framework from which
Luria, Aleksandr R. The Working Brain: An Introduction to
Neuropsychology. Translated by Basil Haigh. New York,
significant empirical testing can be performed. Much of the
1973.
theoretical and empirical work depends upon a strong
neuroscientific background with regard to how the brain
Newberg, Andrew B., Eugene G. d’Aquili, and Vince P. Rause.
Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Be-
functions in general, and then how such functioning can be
lief. New York, 2001.
applied to religion and theology. The brain must handle tre-
mendous amounts of sensory, cognitive, and emotional in-
EUGENE G. D’AQUILI (1987)
formation to provide human beings with a reasonable repre-
ANDREW B. NEWBERG (2005)
sentation of the “external world.” It may be helpful to
simplify the understanding of how the brain abstracts ele-
ments of meaning from various input by considering basic
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION:
approaches to organizing this information. Such basic brain
NEUROTHEOLOGY
functions have sometimes been called cognitive modules or
Neurotheology is an emerging field of study that seeks to in-
cognitive operators. Cognitive modules refer to brain struc-
tegrate in some manner cognitive neuroscience with religion
tures with specific functions for manipulating input into the
and theology. Its development as a field is attested to by sig-
brain. Cognitive operators typically refer to more generalized
nificant interest in both the academic and lay population.
brain functions that operate on input with the understanding
Neurotheology is multidisciplinary in nature and includes
that there are underlying brain structures or groups of struc-
the fields of theology, religious studies, religious experience,
tures that subserve such functions. A partial list of the cogni-
philosophy, cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, and
tive operators initially developed by d’Aquili that are relevant
anthropology. Each may contribute to neurotheology, and
to neurotheology are given below. It should be noted that
conversely, neurotheology may ultimately contribute to each
a number of brain-imaging studies, including studies of posi-
of these fields.
tron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission
Individuals engaged in neurotheology can help develop
computed tomography (SPECT), and functional magnetic
theoretical models of the neurophysiological mechanisms of
resonance imaging (fMRI), have demonstrated more specifi-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: NEUROTHEOLOGY
6493
cally how the brain processes input along a variety of differ-
ligiousness and religious experiences. A number of studies
ent functions.
have shown positive (and sometimes negative) effects of reli-
(1) The causal operator permits reality to be viewed in
gion on physical and mental health (Koenig, 1998, 2001).
terms of causal sequences of abstract elements.
In general, studies have linked religiousness with an overall
lower mortality rate and specific decreases in the incidence
(2) The abstractive operator permits the formation of a gen-
of cardiac disease, liver disease, and some types of cancer.
eral concept from the perception of empirical indi-
Studies of mental health have shown that religion is a prima-
viduals.
ry source of coping for many individuals, and practices such
(3) The binary operator permits the extraction of meaning
as meditation and prayer may have beneficial effects on de-
by ordering abstract elements into dyads involving vary-
pression and anxiety. On the other hand, some studies have
ing degrees of polarity so each pole of the dyad derives
indicated that, when an individual has a conflicted perspec-
meaning from contrast with the other pole.
tive of religion or perceives God as punishing them, there can
be negative outcomes. Furthermore there are many examples
(4) The formal quantitative operator permits the abstrac-
of religious-type behaviors associated with cults and other
tion of quantity per se from the perception of empirical
groups in which there is a negative worldview often ending
individuals, generating arithmetic and mathematics.
in mass suicides. While many more clinical studies need to
(5) The emotional value operator permits an affective va-
be performed, an understanding of the associated physiologi-
lence to be assigned to various elements of perception
cal and neurophysiological effects of religiousness and reli-
and cognition.
gious experience may help provide a clearer link to health.
(6) The holistic operator permits reality to be viewed as a
This area of neurotheology can help clarify why religion is
whole or as a gestalt. It is responsible for the generation
sometimes a positive force and sometimes a negative force
of absolute unitary being discussed in the second part
in an individual or community’s life.
of this article.
THE SCOPE OF NEUROTHEOLOGY. One of the criticisms of
The causal operator has much scientific support and likely
neurotheology is that the field focuses too much on individu-
resides at the junction of the superior temporal and inferior
al religious experiences, particularly the mystical ones, people
parietal lobes (Pribram and Luria, 1973; Mills and Rollman,
have and that it does not take into account the other aspects
1980). The abstractive operator likely resides in the region
of religions. For neurotheology to achieve its full potential
of the left inferior parietal lobe, most likely near the angular
as a field of study, it is important for any investigator to un-
gyrus, and forms an important part of the language axis
derstand the complexity and diversity of experiences that are
(Luria, 1966; Joseph, 1996). The binary operator may arise
religious or spiritual. In other words, religion is much more
near the region of the inferior parietal lobe in close proximity
than just the experiences that individuals can have, especially
to the area that underlies the ability to formally quantitate
the strong mystical experiences that are not common. Reli-
objects (Dahaene, 2000). However, with regard to quantita-
gions typically have many different rituals, holidays, and cog-
tion, evidence suggests that the left hemisphere is more asso-
nitive, emotional, and behavioral components that all can be
ciated with specific mathematical functions, whereas the
evaluated from a neuropsychological perspective. Even issues
right appears better equipped for comparing numbers. In
such as forgiveness, love, or altruism can be considered from
terms of the emotional value operator, much evidence for the
a neuropsychological perspective to gain better insight into
importance of emotions in human behavior and reason has
how and when such feelings and behaviors take place. It is
come from the research of Antonio Damasio (1994, 1999).
this ability to explore the neuropsychological basis of such
His somatic marker hypothesis suggests that emotions are
concepts that can ultimately be a strength of neurotheology.
critical in helping human beings make decisions and think
Finally, neurotheology must be able to address theologi-
rationally. Furthermore, emotions appear necessary to assign
cal concepts. The cognitive operators mentioned above, as
relative value to all of the other products of the cognitive op-
well as other aspects of brain function, can be utilized to con-
erators. Evidence for the holistic operator derives from
sider a wide variety of theological concepts (d’Aquili and
studies that have explored the functions of the right hemi-
Newberg, 1999). In neurotheology this analysis is based
sphere, demonstrating more holistic applications to percep-
somewhat on an interpretation of religious myth and ritual
tions and problem solving (Nebes and Sperry, 1971; Gaz-
and how these elements affect or are affected by the human
zaniga and Hillyard, 1971; Gazzaniga, 2000). Other
brain. For example, the causal operator described above may
physiological information relevant to the study of religious
play a prominent role in the conception of God as the funda-
experiences may be provided by measuring parameters, in-
mental cause of all things. The binary operator is crucial to
cluding blood pressure, heart rate, and reaction times. Future
developing concepts such as good and evil, justice and injus-
studies will likely measure the effects of various hormones
tice, and even humankind and God. These opposites are a
and neurotransmitters as they relate to the religious practices
focal point of many myth structures and are of fundamental
and experiences.
importance in religion and theology. The quantitative abili-
RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE AND HEALTH. Another area within
ties of the brain may help explain why numbers have had
neurotheology is the study of the health-related effects of re-
such important meaning in the human understanding of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6494
NEUROSCIENCE AND RELIGION: NEUROTHEOLOGY
most religions, with specific numbers having a special status.
theology, on the other hand, should contain content of such
Thus certain quantities and numbers have special religious
a universal nature that it could be adopted by most, if not
meaning depending on the particular tradition. The holistic
all, of the world’s great religions as a basic element without
operator is likely to be deeply tied to the notion of God as
any serious violation of their essential doctrines. Since brain
infinite and inclusive of all things. Furthermore, the holistic
function is universal and necessarily has an impact on how
functions of the brain appear particularly tied to the mystical
human beings understand and practice religion, a fully devel-
experiences in which an individual perceives a union with
oped neurotheology may provide a basis for a megatheology.
God or ultimate reality.
Overall, neurotheology seeks to facilitate a dialogue be-
It is important to state that these brain functions do not
tween religion and science with the eventual goal of helping
necessarily constrain the reality of a particular concept but
to integrate these perspectives around the nexus of neuropsy-
may have an important impact on the human understanding
chology. That neuropsychology provides some universal per-
of these issues. As an example, one might consider the notion
spective on human behavior and thought that can also be uti-
of God as the fundamental cause of all things. It can be asked
lized in an approach to the study of religions and theology
whether or not such a conception is related to the human
lies at the heart of neurotheology. Furthermore neuro-
brain’s ability to perceive causality. If an individual had dam-
theology seeks to integrate theoretical development, empiri-
age to the areas of the brain responsible for perceiving causal-
cal studies, and philosophical and theological interpretation.
ity, he or she may no longer perceive God from a causal per-
Neurotheology as a field of study thus holds many opportu-
spective. God might be perceived as the fundamental love in
nities for expansion and may play a critical role in future
the universe rather than the cause. Again, such a perception
theological and religious study.
would not alter what God’s actual nature is, only the human
perception of this nature.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Dahaene, S. “Cerebral Basis of Number Processing and Calcula-
The emotional elements of religion are also an impor-
tion.” In The New Cognitive Neurosciences, edited by Michael
tant aspect of neurotheological analysis because a variety of
S. Gazzaniga, pp 987–998. Cambridge, Mass., 2000.
emotions are fundamental to religions and religious experi-
Damasio, Antonio R. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the
ence. The autonomic nervous system (in conjunction with
Human Brain. New York, 1994.
the hypothalamus) that regulates basic body functions, such
Damasio, Antonio R. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and
as heart rate, blood pressure, and hormones, and the limbic
Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York, 1999.
system that regulates basic emotional responses can produce
D’Aquili, Eugene G. “The Myth-Ritual Complex: A Biogenetic
a wide variety of complex feelings. Religious concepts per-
Structural Analysis.” Zygon 18 (1983): 247–269.
taining to love, joy, envy, or awe are likely associated with
D’Aquili, Eugene G., and Andrew B. Newberg. “Religious and
concomitant changes in these components of the nervous
Mystical States: A Neuropsychological Model.” Zygon 28
system. Neurotheology seeks to study the relationship be-
(1993): 177–200.
tween the nervous-system structures and such elements of re-
D’Aquili, Eugene G., and Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical
ligions and religious experiences.
Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapo-
lis, Minn., 1999.
Neurotheology may also have a special status because
Gazzaniga, Michael S. The Bisected Brain. New York, 1970.
neurology is universal in the sense that all human beings have
Gazzaniga, Michael S., ed. The New Cognitive Neurosciences. Cam-
brains that function in a similar manner. The challenge for
bridge, Mass., 2000.
future neurotheological development is to evaluate the simi-
Gazzaniga, Michael S., and S. A. Hillyard. “Language and Speech
larities and differences among individual brain functions, as
Capacity of the Right Hemisphere.” Neuropsychologia 9
well as the phenomenological differences both within and
(1971): 273–280.
across religious traditions. Neurotheology has the opportuni-
Joseph, Rhawn. Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology, and Clinical
ty to explore religion and theology on a broad scale and on
Neuroscience. Baltimore, Md., 1996.
an individual level. It has also been argued that neuro-
Koenig, Harold G., ed. Handbook of Religion and Mental Health.
theology may provide a basis for a metatheology and even
San Diego, Calif., 1998.
a megatheology. A metatheology comprises both the general
Koenig, Harold G., Michael E. McCullough, and David B. Lar-
principles describing, and implicitly the rules for construct-
son, eds. Handbook of Religion and Health. New York, 2001.
ing, any concrete theological system. In and of itself, a meta-
Luria, Aleksander R. Higher Cortical Functions in Man. New York,
theology is devoid of theological content, because it consists
1966.
of rules and descriptions about how any and all specific the-
Luria, Aleksander R. The Working Brain. New York, 1973.
ologies are structured. A metatheology must evaluate how
Mills, L., and G. B. Rollman. “Hemispheric Asymmetry for Audi-
and why foundational, creation, and soteriological myths are
tory Perception of Temporal Order.” Neuropsychologia 18
formed; how and why such myths are elaborated into com-
(1980): 41–47.
plex theological systems; and how and why the basic myths
Nebes, R. D., and R. W. Sperry. “Hemispheric Deconnection
and certain aspects of their theological elaborations are objec-
Syndrome with Cerebral Birth Injury in the Dominant Arm
tified in the motor behavior of ceremonial ritual. A mega-
Area.” Neuropsychologia 9 (1971): 249–259.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW AGE MOVEMENT
6495
Newberg, Andrew B., Eugene G. d’Aquili, and Vince P. Rause.
oughly corrupted by materialism, they would resist this
Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Be-
change. As a result, the transition to a new cycle of evolution
lief. New York, 2001.
would necessitate the destruction of the old civilization by
Pribram, K. H., and Aleksander R. Luria, eds. Psychophysiology of
violent causes such as earthquakes, floods, diseases, and the
the Frontal Lobes. New York, 1973.
like, resulting in global economic, political, and social col-
A
lapse. Those individuals whose consciousness was already in
NDREW B. NEWBERG (2005)
tune with the qualities of the new culture would be protected
in various ways and would survive the period of cataclysms.
In due time they would become the vanguard of the New
NEW AGE JUDAISM SEE JEWISH RENEWAL
Age, or Age of Aquarius: an age of abundance, bliss, and spir-
MOVEMENT
itual enlightenment when humanity would once again live
in accordance with universal cosmic laws.
NEW AGE MOVEMENT.
These beliefs were inspired by occultist teachings of var-
“New Age” was originally
ious provenance, but especially by the writings of the Chris-
a buzzword that achieved widespread popularity in Europe
tian Theosophist Alice Bailey (1880–1949) and, in some re-
and the United States during the 1980s. It referred to a wide
spects, the anthroposophical metaphysics of the German
array of spiritual practices and beliefs perceived as “alterna-
visionary Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). In 1937, Alice Bailey
tive” from the perspective of mainstream Western society.
“channeled” a spiritual prayer known as “The Great Invoca-
To many observers, the increasing visibility of “things New
tion,” which is still used by some New Age adherents to in-
Age” in the media and popular culture conveyed the impres-
voke the New Age and which reflects the pronounced Chris-
sion of something radically new: the birth of a grassroots
tian elements that still informed the occultist millenarianism
movement of social and spiritual innovation, prophesying a
of the early New Age movement. These elements would re-
profound transformation of Western society that some
main prominent during the second, countercultural stage of
claimed would culminate in a vastly superior culture—the
its development. During the 1960s, the basic belief system
“Age of Aquarius.”
and millenarian expectations of the UFO groups were adopt-
The phenomenon that came to be known as the New
ed by various utopian communities, the most famous of
Age movement during the last two decades of the twentieth
which is the Findhorn community in Scotland. The mem-
century actually had its immediate roots in the countercul-
bers of these communities were trying to live in a new way,
ture of the 1960s and some of its immediate predecessors,
in tune with the laws of nature and the universe. They were
while its fundamental ideas had much more ancient origins.
trying, in the spirit of “The Great Invocation,” to be “Cen-
New Age religion is neither something completely new nor
ters of Light,” or focal points in a network from which spiri-
just a revival—or survival—of something ancient. While its
tual illumination would eventually spread out and encom-
fundamental ideas have origins that can be traced far back
pass the globe.
in history, these ideas are interpreted and put to use in a
manner that makes New Age a manifestation par excellence
In the attitude of these early New Agers, represented by
of postmodern consumer society. In order to gain a balanced
popular spokespeople such as David Spangler (b. 1945) or
view of the New Age movement, we therefore need to con-
George Trevelyan (1906–1996), there can be seen an impor-
sider both dimensions: its historical foundations as well as
tant change from the perspectives of the 1950s UFO groups.
its specific modernity.
Whereas the pronounced apocalypticism of the latter en-
tailed an essentially passive attitude of “waiting for the great
THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT IN A STRICT SENSE (1950S–
events” that would destroy the old civilization and usher in
1970S). The immediate roots of the New Age movement
a New Age, utopian communities of the 1960s, such as Find-
may seem surprising at first. Shortly after World War II,
horn, increasingly emphasized the importance of an activist,
popular curiosity was attracted by unexplained phenomena
constructive attitude: Spangler noted in The Rebirth of the
in the sky referred to as unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
Sacred: “Instead of spreading warnings of apocalypse, let
In various places in Western Europe and the United States,
Findhorn proclaim that the new age is already here, in spirit
study groups were formed by people who wanted to investi-
if not in form, and that anyone can now cocreate with that
gate these phenomena, and some of those groups rapidly pro-
spirit so that the form will become manifest” (London, 1984,
ceeded to take on cultic characteristics. Typically, such
pp. 34–35). This became the perspective typical of the New
groups believed that UFOs were in fact spaceships inhabited
Age movement of the 1960s and its sympathizers in later
by intelligent beings from other planets or other dimensions
decades.
of outer space. Representing a superior level of cultural, tech-
nological, and spiritual evolution, they now made their ap-
THE CULTIC MILIEU. This early New Age movement, born
pearance to herald the coming of a New Age. The Earth was
in the context of the postwar UFO cults and flowering in the
entering a new evolutionary cycle that would be accompa-
spiritual utopianism of the 1960s and 1970s, was only one
nied by a new and superior kind of spiritual consciousness.
manifestation of the countercultural ferment of the times.
However, since the present cultures of humanity were thor-
More generally, this ferment found expression in a wide-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6496
NEW AGE MOVEMENT
spread “cultic milieu” (Campbell, 1972) in Western society:
radical change (Ferguson, 1980, p. 23). Physicist Fritjof
a diffuse phenomenon consisting of individuals who feel dis-
Capra saw it as the “rising culture” destined to replace the
satisfied with mainstream Western culture and religion and
declining culture of the modern West (Capra, 1982,
are looking for alternatives. This cultic milieu proved to be
p. 419). But eventually what they were referring to came to
fertile soil for a plethora of new religious movements of vari-
be known as the New Age movement: by the late 1970s and
ous provenance. Some of these movements took the form of
early 1980s the term New Age was adopted from the specific
relatively stable social entities, including an internal hierar-
occultist-millenarian movement known under that name
chy of power and authority, definite doctrines and rules of
and came to be applied as a catchall term for the much more
conduct, clearly defined boundaries between members and
extensive and complex cultic milieu of the 1980s and be-
nonmembers, claims of exclusive truth, and so on. Other
yond. This is how the New Age movement in a strict sense
movements were more ephemeral and fluid, with relatively
was absorbed into the New Age movement in a general sense.
few demands on members and an inclusive and tolerant atti-
tude. The latter type of cultic groups may come into exis-
This development has been a cause of concern for some
tence quickly and vanish as quickly again, and their member-
representatives of the original movement, who perceived in
ship may sometimes be very small. Members may participate
it a cheapening of the idea of a New Age. While the original
in several such groups at the same time—displaying an activi-
New Age movement had been carried by high-minded ideal-
ty known as “spiritual shopping”—without feeling commit-
ism and an ethic of service to humanity, the movement of
ted to making a choice in favor of one at the expense of the
the 1980s quickly developed into an increasingly commer-
other. This type of spiritual activity is most characteristic of
cialized “spiritual marketplace” catering to the tastes and
the development of the “cultic milieu” that spawned and
whims of an individualistic clientele. While the original
supported the New Age movement of the 1980s.
movement had espoused a reasonably coherent theosophical
metaphysics and philosophy of history, the movement of the
It is helpful to distinguish the latter movement from the
1980s seemed to present a hodgepodge of ideas and specula-
original New Age movement described above. The spiritual
tions without a clear focus and direction. While the excited
perspectives associated with the UFO cults of the 1950s and
expectation of a radical New Age dominated the earlier
the utopian communities of the 1960s and 1970s may collec-
movement, this expectation ceased to be central to the move-
tively be referred to as the New Age movement in a strict
ment of the 1980s, which, in spite of its name, tends to con-
sense (Hanegraaff, 1996/1998, pp. 94–103). This move-
centrate on the spiritual development of the individual rather
ment is characterized by a broadly occultist metaphysics
than of society. The development might also be described in
(with special prominence of the forms of Theosophy
terms of cultural geographics: while the original movement
founded by Alice Bailey and, to some extent, Rudolf St-
was England-based and relied upon occultist traditions that
einer), a relatively strong emphasis on community values and
had long been influential there, the new movement was
a traditional morality emphasizing altruistic love and service
dominated by the so-called metaphysical and New Thought
to humanity, and a very strong millenarian emphasis focused
traditions typical of American alternative culture. The move
on the expectation of the New Age. This New Age move-
from community-oriented values to individual-centered ones
ment “in a strict sense” still exists, but its membership is rath-
is a reflection of that development.
er strongly dominated by the baby-boomer generation and
tends to be perceived as somewhat old-fashioned by new-
Indeed, the New Age movement in a general sense has
generation New Agers. By the end of the 1970s this New Age
been dominated by American cultural and spiritual ideas and
movement in a strict sense came to be assimilated as merely
values, and the most important spokespersons have been
one aspect within the much more complex and widespread
Americans. While many names could be mentioned, two
phenomenon that may be referred to, by way of contrast, as
stand out as symbolic of the 1980s and the 1990s, respective-
the New Age movement in a general sense.
ly. During the 1980s the most vocal representative of the
THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT IN A GENERAL SENSE (1980S–
New Age idea may have been the movie actress Shirley Mac-
1990S). This New Age movement in a general sense may be
Laine. Her autobiographies, published between 1983 and
defined as the cultic milieu having become conscious of it-
1989, in which she describes her spiritual quest, and the tele-
self, by the end of the 1970s, as constituting a more or less
vision miniseries Out on a Limb based upon the first of these
unified movement (although not a New Religious Move-
books, encapsulate the essential perspective of the New Age
ment in the normal sense of the word; Hanegraaff, 1996/
movement of the 1980s. For the 1990s the same thing may
1998, p. 17). In other words, people who participated in var-
be said of the best-sellers of James Redfield: The Celestine
ious “alternative” activities and pursuits began to consider
Prophecy, with its accompanying Celestine Workbook, and a
themselves as part of an international invisible community
succession of follow-up volumes capitalizing on the success
of like-minded individuals, the collective efforts of whom
of the first one. While MacLaine’s autobiographies were cer-
were destined to change the world into a better and more
tainly easy to read, Redfield’s books carried the New Age per-
spiritual place. American sociologist Marilyn Ferguson re-
spective to a new level of simplicity, thereby broadening the
ferred to this phenomenon as the Aquarian Conspiracy: a
potential market for New Age beyond the audiences already
“leaderless but powerful network” working to bring about
reached by earlier authors.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW AGE MOVEMENT
6497
These developments contributed to the fact that by the
addition, popular practices of magnetic healing, also referred
beginning of the 1990s more and more people attracted to
to as mesmerism, reached the United States as early as 1836
alternative spirituality began to distance themselves from the
and spread widely in the following decades, eventually pro-
label New Age, which they perceived as loaded with unwant-
viding a popular basis for the emergence of the so-called New
ed associations. During the 1980s it was still possible to in-
Thought movement of the later nineteenth century. Each
vestigate the New Age movement (in a general sense) simply
one of these various currents—Spiritualism, modern theoso-
by questioning people who identified themselves as involved
phy, and the American New Thought movement—has taken
in New Age; during the 1990s participants increasingly re-
on a multitude of forms, and their representatives have min-
fused to identify themselves as such, preferring vague and
gled and exchanged ideas and practices in various way. The
noncommittal terms such as “spirituality.” It is a mistake to
result of all this alternative religious activity was the emer-
conclude from this, as has sometimes been done, that the
gence, during the nineteenth century, of an international
New Age movement is declining or vanishing. Rather, the
“cultic milieu” with its own social networks and literature;
movement has been moving away from its traditional status
relying on an essentially nineteenth-century framework of
as a “counterculture” that proclaims the New Age in a ges-
ideas and beliefs, this cultic milieu has continued and further
ture of rejecting the values of the “old culture.” Attempts to
developed during the twentieth century, eventually to pro-
replace the term New Age by a term such as spirituality fit
vide the foundation after World War II for the emergence
within a new strategy of adaptation and assimilation instead
of the New Age movement.
of rejection and confrontation, as a result of which the New
Age movement is now securing its place as an increasingly
The occultist or secularized esoteric milieu of the nine-
professionalized spiritual wing within the cultural main-
teenth and twentieth centuries differs from traditional West-
stream.
ern Esotericism in at least four respects, which are crucial for
S
understanding New Age religion. First, Esotericism was orig-
ECULARIZED ESOTERICISM. From the perspective of intel-
lectual history, the basic ideas of New Age religion have their
inally grounded in a worldview where all parts of the universe
origins in the traditions referred to as modern Western Es-
were linked by invisible networks of noncausal correspon-
otericism, which took shape since the early Renaissance. The
dences and a divine power of life was considered to permeate
foundational worldviews of Western esoteric religiosity were
the whole of nature. Although esotericists have continued to
thoroughly transformed, however, under the impact of vari-
defend such holistic view of the world as permeated by invisi-
ous processes of modernization since the eighteenth century,
ble forces, their actual statements demonstrate that they
resulting in a new phenomenon that may be referred to as
came to compromise in various ways with the mechanical
secularized Esotericism and that comprises “all attempts by
and disenchanted world models that achieved cultural domi-
esotericists to come to terms with a disenchanted world or,
nance under the impact of scientific materialism and nine-
alternatively, by people in general to make sense of Esoteri-
teenth-century positivism. Accordingly, secularized Esoteri-
cism from the perspective of a disenchanted secular world”
cism is characterized by hybrid mixtures of traditional
(Hanegraaff, 1996/1998, p. 422). Although there is a risk of
esoteric and modern scientistic-materialist worldviews: while
terminological confusion, the term occultism will be used
originally the religious belief in a universe brought forth by
below as a synonym for secularized Esotericism.
a personal God was axiomatic for Esotericism, eventually this
belief succumbed partly or completely to popular scientific
The first signs of a secularization of Western Esotericism
visions of a universe answering to impersonal laws of causali-
may be perceived in the perspectives of Swedish visionary
ty. Even though the laws in question may be referred to as
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and German physician
spiritual, nonetheless they tend to be described according to
Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815), both of whom exerted
models taken from science rather than religion.
an incalculable influence on the history of Esotericism dur-
ing the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Theurgical prac-
Second, the traditional Christian presuppositions of
tices, spiritual manifestations, and psychic phenomena of a
modern Western Esotericism were increasingly questioned
type already present in some esoteric societies of the later
and relativized because of new translations of Asian religious
eighteenth century as well as in the popular practice of mag-
texts and the emergence of a “comparative study of the reli-
netic healing achieved mass popularity in the second half of
gions of the world.” Asian religions began to display mission-
the nineteenth century in the movement known as Spiritual-
ary activities in Western countries, and their representatives
ism. Spiritualism provided a context within which a plethora
typically sought to convince their audience by using Western
of more or less sophisticated occultist movements came into
terms and concepts to present the spirituality of religions
existence. Among these manifestations of alternative religios-
such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Conversely, since esoteri-
ity, the Theosophical Society founded in 1875 by Helena P.
cists had always believed that the essential truths of esoteric
Blavatsky (1831–1891) and Henry Steel Olcott (1832–
spirituality were universal in nature and could be discovered
1907) is certainly the most important in terms of its influ-
at the heart of all great religious traditions East and West,
ence, and the basic metaphysical system of modern theoso-
it was natural for them during the nineteenth century to in-
phy may be considered the archetypal manifestation of oc-
corporate Asian concepts and terminology into already-
cultist spirituality at least until far into the 1970s. In
existing Western esoteric frameworks. One excellent example
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6498
NEW AGE MOVEMENT
is the concept of karma that Blavatsky adopted from Hindu-
are competing with more traditional forms of religion (in-
ism as a welcome alternative to Christian concepts of divine
cluding the Christian churches as well as other great religious
providence, whereas Blavatsky’s essential understanding of
traditions such as Islam or Buddhism) and with a great num-
reincarnation depended on Western esoteric rather than
ber of so-called new religious movements. However, in this
Asian sources (see discussion in Hanegraaff, 1996/1998,
universal battle for the attention of the consumer, the New
pp. 479–482).
Age movement enjoys certain advantages over most of its
competitors, which seem to make it the representative par
Third, the well-known debate between Christian crea-
excellence of the contemporary spirituality of the market.
tionism and the new theories of evolution became highly rel-
Whereas most other spiritual currents that compete for the
evant to esotericists as well, and in this battle they generally
attention of the consumer in modern society take the form
took the side of science. But although popular evolutionism
of (at least rudimentary) organizations, enabling their mem-
became a crucial aspect of Esotericism as it developed from
bers to see themselves as part of a religious community, New
the nineteenth into the twentieth century, and although this
Age spirituality is strictly focused on the individual and his
evolutionism was generally used as part of a strategy of pre-
or her personal development. In fact, this individualism
senting occultism as scientifically legitimate, the actual types
functions as an in-built defense mechanism against social or-
of evolutionism found in this context depended less on Dar-
ganization and institutionalization: as soon as any group of
winian theory than on philosophical models originating in
people involved with New Age ideas begins to take up “cul-
German Idealism and Romanticism. The idea of a universal
tic” characteristics, this very fact already distances them from
process of spiritual evolution and progress, involving human
the basic individualism of New Age spirituality. The more
souls as well as the universe in its entirety, is not to be found
strongly they begin to function as a cult, or even as a sect,
in traditional Western Esotericism but became fundamental
the more other New Agers will suspect that they are becom-
to almost all forms of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Es-
ing a church (that is, that they are relapsing into what are
otericism.
considered old-fashioned patterns of dogmatism, intoler-
Finally, the emergence of modern psychology (itself de-
ance, and exclusivism), and the less they will be acceptable
pendent partly on mesmerism and the Romantic fascination
to the general cultic milieu of New Age spirituality. Within
with the “night-side of nature”) has had an enormous impact
the present social context of a democratic free market of ideas
on the development of Esotericism from the second half of
and practices, the New Age’s strict emphasis on the self and
the nineteenth century on. While psychology could be used
on individual experience as the only reliable source of spiritu-
as an argument against Christianity and against religion gen-
al truth, the authority of which can never be overruled by
erally by arguing that God or the gods are merely projections
any religious dogma or considerations of solidarity with com-
of the human psyche, it also proved possible to present West-
munal values, functions as an effective mechanism against in-
ern esoteric worldviews in terms of a new psychological ter-
stitutionalization of New Age religion into a religion. This
minology. Most influential in this respect was Swiss psychia-
essential individualism makes the New Ager into the ideal
trist Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961), whose spiritual
spiritual consumer. Except for the very focus on the self and
perspective was deeply rooted in the esoteric and occult cur-
its spiritual evolution, there are no constraints a priori on a
rents of German Romantic Naturphilosophie but whose
New Ager’s potential spiritual interests; the fact that every
theories could be used to present that spirituality as a scientif-
New Ager continually creates and re-creates his or her own
ic psychology. Apart from Jung, the pop psychology of the
private system of symbolic meaning and values means that
American New Thought movement has been a major
spiritual suppliers on the New Age market enjoy maximum
influence on the mixtures of occultism and psychology
opportunities for presenting him or her with ever-new com-
typical of New Age spirituality (Hanegraaff, 1996/1998,
modities.
pp. 482–513).
As indicated above, that New Age as a spiritual super-
POSTMODERN SPIRITUALITY: THE RELIGION OF THE SELF.
market caters to an individualistic clientele primarily inter-
To the four main aspects of the secularization of Western Es-
ested in personal growth and development is not only a fact
otericism, perhaps a fifth one may be added that became
of social observation but also reflects beliefs that are basic to
dominant only after World War II and is fully characteristic
the movement. At the symbolic center of New Age world-
of the New Age movement of the 1980s and 1990s: the im-
views, one typically finds not a concept of God but, rather,
pact of the capitalist market economy on the domain of spiri-
the concept of the (higher) Self, so that New Age spirituality
tuality. Increasingly, the New Age movement has taken the
has indeed sometimes been dubbed Self Religion (Heelas).
shape of a spiritual supermarket where religious consumers
The symbolism of the self is linked to a basic mythology,
pick and choose the spiritual commodities they fancy and use
which narrates the growth and development of the individual
them to create their own spiritual syntheses, fine-tuned to
soul through many incarnations and existences in the direc-
their strictly personal needs. The phenomenon of a spiritual
tion of ever-increasing knowledge and spiritual insight. Strict
supermarket is not limited to the New Age movement only
concentration on personal spiritual development rather than
but is a general characteristic of religion in (post)modern
on communal values is therefore not considered a reflection
Western democracies. Various forms of New Age spirituality
of egoism but, rather, of a legitimate spiritual practice based
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW AGE MOVEMENT
6499
on listening to your own inner guidance: only by following
Likewise, specialized New Age centers for healing and per-
one’s inner voice may one find one’s way through the chaos
sonal growth predictably become less necessary to the extent
of voices that clamor for attention on the spiritual supermar-
that at least a part of their therapeutic services are becoming
ket and find one’s personal way to enlightenment.
more acceptable in mainstream medical and psychological
contexts. One might well interpret such developments as re-
A final remark is in order about the question of a global-
flecting not the decline of the New Age movement but, pre-
ization of New Age religion beyond the confines of Western
cisely, its development from a countercultural movement set
democracies. From what has been said, it will be clear that
apart from the mainstream to a significant dimension of the
New Age religion is a product of specific historical develop-
spiritual landscape of contemporary Western society in gen-
ments in Western culture and that its present manifestations
eral.
are impossible to separate from the internal dynamics of
(post)modern consumer societies. Furthermore, as a move-
Whether or not the label New Age will eventually sur-
ment that owes its identity to a consistent pattern of criticism
vive, there is no evidence that the basic spiritual perspectives,
directed against certain dominant aspects of mainstream
beliefs, and practices characteristic of the movement of the
Western culture, it is difficult even to imagine New Age reli-
1980s and 1990s are losing popular credibility. Quite the
gion existing in non-Western societies. It has often been
contrary: all the evidence indicates that they are becoming
claimed that New Age is spreading to continents other than
more acceptable to great numbers of people in contemporary
North America and Europe (such as Africa, South America,
Western societies, whether or not the latter identify them-
or Asia); but on closer scrutiny one discovers that scholars
selves as “New Agers.” Again, the phenomenon is anything
who describe such processes of alleged acculturation tend to
but surprising, for the highly individualized approach to spir-
use the term New Age in a too vague and intuitive sense, and
ituality traditionally referred to as New Age simply accords
that they are usually speaking of the spread, not of New Age
too well with the demands of the contemporary consumer
religion, but of various Western new religious movements to
culture in a democratic society where citizens insist on their
non-Western societies (Hanegraaff, 2001). To the extent
personal autonomy in matter of religion.
that non-Western cultures and societies resist socioeconomic
That the social dynamics of postmodern consumer soci-
pressures tending toward a global Americanization, there is
ety happen to favor a particular type of religion (referred to
no particular reason to refer to new forms of spiritual syncre-
above as secularized Esotericism) is a fact of recent history,
tisms that may emerge on their soil as New Age religion; this
but once again it is not a surprising one. That traditional
is true regardless of whether or not these syncretisms happen
forms of religion—the Christian churches and their theolo-
to owe something to the influence of Western New Age
gies—are in decline at least in the contemporary Western
ideas. Rather, such local new spiritualities must be consid-
European context is a generally known fact. The vogue of
ered as products of the specific culture and society in ques-
postmodern relativism indicates that the grand narratives of
tion, and one should not prejudge the question of whether—
progress by science and rationality are shaken as well. If more
and if so, to what extent—they can be compared to the
and more people feel that traditional Christianity, rationali-
Western phenomenon of New Age religion.
ty, and science are no longer able to give sense and meaning
WHITHER THE NEW AGE? For quite some time now, it has
to human existence, it is to be expected that a spiritual per-
been claimed by scholars and critics that the days of the New
spective based on personal revelations by means of gnosis or
Age movement are numbered, that the New Age is over, or
personal religious experience will profit from the circum-
that the movement has already yielded to a follow-up phe-
stances (Van den Broek and Hanegraaff, 1996/1998,
nomenon sometimes referred to as the Next Age. Whether
pp. vii–x). As long as the grand narratives of the past fail to
this is true depends very much on one’s definition. There are
regain their hold over the population while no new ones are
indeed clear signs that New Age religion is losing its status
forthcoming, and as long as Western democratic societies
as a countercultural movement and is now increasingly as-
continue to emphasize the supreme virtue of individual free-
similated by the mainstream of society. Such a development
dom, the “self religion” traditionally known as New Age will
is anything but surprising: rather, it may be seen as the predi-
remain a force to be reckoned with.
cable result of commercial success. From one perspective, the
fact that New Age is developing from a distinct countercul-
SEE ALSO Blavatsky, H. P.; Esotericism; Jung, C. G.; New
ture to merely a dimension of mainstream culture may in-
Religious Movements, article on New Religious Movements
deed be interpreted as the end of the New Age movement
and Millennialism; New Thought Movement; Occultism;
as we have known it; but from another one, it may be seen
Olcott, Henry Steel; Spiritualism; Swedenborg, Emanuel;
as reflecting the commonsense fact that New Age is develop-
Swedenborgianism; Theosophical Society; UFO Religions.
ing and changing, just like any other religious movement
known to history. The idea of a decline of New Age is largely
BIBLIOGRAPHY
the result of optical illusion. There are some indications that
Bednarowski, Mary Farrell. New Religions and the Theological
the phenomenon of specialized New Age bookstores is de-
Imagination in America. Bloomington and Indianapolis,
clining, but at the same time one notices a substantial in-
Ind., 1989. Probably the first book to take New Age theolo-
crease of spiritual literature on the shelves of bookstores.
gies seriously.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6500
NEW CALEDONIA RELIGION
Bochinger, Christoph. “New Age” und moderne Religion: Religion-
NEW CALEDONIA RELIGION is best known
swissenschaftliche Analysen, Gütersloh, 1994. The most ambi-
from the work of Maurice Leenhardt, a former Protestant
tious study of the German context; it interprets New Age as
missionary (Société des Missions Évangéliques Pratique de
a “phantom” created by book publishing enterprises rather
Paris), who was Marcel Mauss’s successor as professor of
than an actual “religious movement.”
comparative religions at the École Pratique des Hautes
Campbell, Colin. “The Cult, the Cultic Milieu, and Seculariza-
Études.
tion.” A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain 5 (1972):
119–136. A classic article that made theoretical and termino-
Because each local group (mwaro) in New Caledonia is
logical distinctions essential to an adequate analysis of the
linked with an animal or plant or other natural phenome-
New Age movement.
non, Western observers have described the religion of the is-
Capra, Fritjof. The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising
land as “totemism.” Though this term is now less fashionable
Culture. New York, 1982.
than it was in the period from 1880 to 1940, it can still, for
convenience’ sake, be applied to the New Caledonia religious
Corrywright, Dominic. Theoretical and Empirical Investigations
system. The local groups have divided among themselves all
into New Age Spiritualities. Oxford and New York, 2003.
One of the most recent sociological studies.
the aspects of nature that either can be utilized or need to
be feared, with each group becoming the master of a particu-
Ferguson, Marilyn. The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social
lar aspect. Within each group, one of the members of the
Transformation in the 1980s. Los Angeles and New York,
most junior line, referred to as the group’s “master,” is in
1980.
charge of performing the ritual that will protect or benefit
Hammer, Olav. Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology
all the mwaro. Thus, the master of the yam ensures a good
from Theosophy to the New Age. Leiden and Boston, 2001.
crop over the whole of the valley. Along the sea one finds
Analyzes in depth the argumentative strategies by which con-
masters of the trade winds, the shark, the whale, or the mos-
temporary esotericists seek to present their beliefs as “reason-
quito, while masters of the thunder are to be found nearer
able.”
the mountain range.
Hanegraaff, Wouter J. New Age Religion and Western Culture: Es-
otericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought. Leiden, 1996; Al-
Each master not only ensures prosperity and wards off
bany, N.Y., 1998. The most complete study of New Age be-
natural disasters, but also controls the specific sickness
liefs and their historical backgrounds.
thought to be linked with the totemic entity assigned to him.
If someone is ailing, word is sent to a seer, who divines the
Hanegraaff, Wouter J. “New Age Spiritualities as Secular Reli-
gion: A Historian’s Perspective.” Social Compass 46, no. 2
cause of the sickness. A messenger is then sent to the master
(1999): 145–160. Discusses further aspects of New Age not
in charge of the force responsible for the sickness. The master
treated in Hanegraaff 1996/1998.
prays and gives the necessary herbal remedies to the patient;
many of these medications are quite effective in treating at
Hanegraaff, Wouter J. “Prospects for the Globalization of New
Age: Spiritual Imperialism versus Cultural Diversity.” In
least those illnesses that were not brought by Europeans.
New Age Religion and Globalization, edited by Mikael Roth-
The natures of the New Caledonia gods are complex,
stein, pp. 15–30. Aarhus, 2001. Analyzes what is at stake in
and Leenhardt spent considerable time attempting to under-
studying the spread of New Age ideas to non-Western con-
stand them. R. H. Codrington, in The Melanesians (1891),
texts.
distinguished two principal types of gods: those who were
Hanegraaff, Wouter J. “Spectral Evidence of New Age Religion:
once human and those who have never been human. The
On the Substance of Ghosts and the Use of Concepts.” Jour-
New Caledonians, however, make no linguistical distinction,
nal of New Age Studies 1 (2004). Discusses theoretical and
both types of gods being referred to either as bao or due. The
methodological issues suggested by recent social-science
two kinds of deities are linked in the figure of Teê Pijopac,
studies of New Age.
a god who has himself never been human but who controls
Heelas, Paul. The New Age Movement: The Celebration of the Self
the subterranean or submarine land of the dead, where all
and the Sacralization of Modernity. Cambridge, Mass., 1996.
must go. According to local belief, the dead reach the en-
The best sociological study of New Age.
trances to this land by following ridges that lead down to the
Spangler, David. Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred. New York,
sea. At one of these entrances, known as Pucangge (near
1984.
Bourail), the goddess Nyôwau examines all those who wish
Sutcliffe, Steven J. Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual
to enter to make sure that their left earlobe is pierced. She
Practices. London and New York, 2003. Methodologically
pierces any unpierced lobe with the mussel-shell knife that
problematic and unreliable as regards the general New Age
she also uses to peel yams.
movement, but contains good discussions of the England-
There is constant communication between the living
based “New Age in a strict sense.”
and the dead. The dead can be seen and spoken with when
York, Michael. The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age
needed. They can be called upon to help in a crisis such as
and Neo-Pagan Movements. Lanham, Md., and London,
sickness or war, or to favor the results of family labors. Myths
1995. The first book-length sociological study of New Age.
speak of the living going to the land of the dead and of the
WOUTER J. HANEGRAAFF (2005)
dead acting in the land of the living. There are, for example,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW CALEDONIA RELIGION
6501
various versions of a myth in which a loving husband at-
various forms depending on the setting: thus, for some chief-
tempts to bring his young wife back from the land of the
ly families of the so-called Naacuwe-Cidopwaan group the
dead. He either succeeds in his quest through the help of a
rhë e takes the form of a lizard if seen inland, but becomes
bird (a common link for communication with the dead), or
a water-snake on the beach, or a shark in the sea, and is also
he fails. Among the stories about people from the under-
thought of as a masked male dancer said to emerge from the
world acting among the living there are those that describe
sea.
an unsuspecting husband who might find, for example, that
his new wife snores at night, or that she is double-jointed,
Missionaries who worked among the New Caledonians
both of which are characteristics of people from the under-
attempted to find the natives’ idols in order to destroy them;
world. There are also numerous versions of a myth about a
they discovered objects resembling idols that had been care-
goddess, usually Toririhnan, who, after drowning the preg-
fully preserved by clan leaders over the course of centuries.
nant wife of a chief, disguises herself as the wife by filling her
Pierre Lambert (1900) has published illustrations of some of
belly with pots. The true wife, however, is saved by a miracle
these items. They are stones of various shapes about which
and taken away to a distant island. Later, this woman returns
little is actually known except that they turn up from time
with her grown sons; their identity is revealed, and the usurp-
to time in yam gardens, are linked with the clan’s totem enti-
er is killed.
ty, and are in some way connected with success in farming,
fishing, weather control, and so forth, as were the thunder-
Other gods preside over agriculture, such as Kapwangwa
stones (meteorites) of the Europeans of old. It has been ob-
Kapwicalo, who protects irrigated taro terraces in the Gomen
served that when these artifacts are used as repositories of the
area, or Toririhnan, who causes it to rain each time she blows
divine presence for sacramental purposes—and not as repre-
her nose at the top of the Hienghène Valley. There are also
sentations of gods—they can be replaced if lost or confiscat-
a great number of gods whose function is the protection of
ed. This provision allows for the indefinite preservation of
a given clan, protection that is often traced back to the clan’s
this type of link with the divine.
mythical origin. Gods can have sexual relations with hu-
mans, an event that either can have terrifying conse-
It is important to recognize that the mythical systems
quences—such as the death of the mortal or the turning
of the hundreds of different clans are highly diversified, a di-
backward of his head—or can resemble normal human sexu-
versity that appears most clearly in the origin myths of the
al acts. Myths in which families trace their origins to in-
various groups. Some clans believe their spiritual origin to
stances of intercourse between gods and humans record both
be the mountain that is called Souma (in the Ajië language)
types of occurrences.
or Caumyë (in the Paici language). The vernacular texts ob-
tained by Leenhardt demonstrated that the mountain had a
Indeed in Melanesia, as in Polynesia, all genealogies
connection with the creation of mankind and that its impor-
have divine origins, and although the religion of New Cale-
tance stems from the gods who live in the various principal
donia is totemistic in appearance there is no available evi-
mountains. For instance, Ka To Souma, the god associated
dence that any of the kinship groups believe that they are de-
with Souma, guards one of the possible entrances to the sub-
scended from the animal species or natural phenomenon
terranean land of the dead. So great is the respect for, and
with which they are spiritually associated. These totem enti-
fear of, this god that his proper name (Gomawe or Kavere)
ties—called rhë re (sg., rhë e)—represent the “spiritual be-
is never uttered. Other clans, usually those living near the
longing” of the group and are passed along through the male
watershed, claim a spiritual link with one or another of the
line. When a woman marries outside of her totem group, her
forms of thunder. These different forms are grouped in dis-
rhë e is sometimes said to follow her. This does not mean,
tinctive ways according to the local theology, thereby giving
however, that the rhë e has left its original abode; because
each clan a powerful mythical protector. Clans can thus be
mythical beings are understood to be ubiquitous they are
classified according to their myths; conversely, mythical be-
thought to be able to dwell in the two places at once.
ings in charge of protecting the various clans may be classi-
fied according to the patrilineal marriage moieties with
There are occasions on which the rhë re and the bao
which they are associated in the Paici area or, in the north,
(who were formerly human) meet. Such a meeting will take
according to the political phratries to which they belong.
place in part of the landscape that is outside of human con-
trol, such as the bush, the forest, or the mountain range. The
The nearby Loyalty Islands (Uvéa, Lifou, and Maré)
dead, those bao who were formerly human, can merge with
present a different set of problems. Although the inhabitants
the rhë e that is linked with their clan. Thus, for example,
have been Christians for a century and a half (twice as long
if thunder is associated with a particular group, the rumbling
as the natives of New Caledonia proper) sacred groves still
of the thunder is also the voice of the dead of that clan. Also
exist there, the old deities are remembered, and the cult of
in accordance with this pattern, no ancestor of the octopus
the dead continues to surface from time to time. However,
group, for example, will appear in the form of a shark, unless
the distribution of mythical beings among the families of the
they have what early authors referred to as “linked totems,”
islands is significantly different from what prevails in New
that is, clusters of symbols all of which are linked to a certain
Caledonia. One essential aspect of the religion of the Loyalty
mwaro. In some cases a group’s rhë e will manifest itself in
Islands is that direct relations with the invisible world are the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6502
NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FIRST EDITION]
prerogative of the oldest established clans. These privileged
NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FIRST EDI-
clans, called ten adro (on Lifou), wäi (on Uvéa), or èlè-tok
TION]. Any summary of traditional religions in New
(on Maré), act as hosts to visiting gods. It is this status as host
Guinea must address itself to two issues: the people’s subjec-
to the gods that provides legitimacy to the chiefly lines of
tive view of the phenomena, and outside observers’ arbitrary
today. The senior clans are also, however, the wardens of the
definitions of them, which are often at odds with each other.
invisible road along which the dead travel, eventually diving
Melanesians as a whole appear to have no collective term for
into the sea and reaching the island of Heo (Beautemps-
religion as a separate cultural category in their own lan-
Beaupré), where the entrance to the world of the dead is lo-
guages, so that it is difficult to specify the limits of inquiry.
cated. At the court of each of the paramount chiefs, a special
In their eyes, however important to them, “religion” is mere-
person (called Atesi on Lifou and, on Maré, Acania) has the
ly one facet of their generalized sociocultural system. The
role of being the representative of these clans. He acts as their
foreign observer has to select and concentrate on those fea-
intermediary, for neither they nor their yams can enter a
tures that most closely resemble religion in his own society.
chief’s house since their presence would endanger his life. On
It must also be asked what the foreign observer’s most appro-
these islands there is thus a formalized distinction between
priate approach to the study of religion would be. During
families having the privilege of communicating with the di-
the last hundred-odd years anthropology has been rich in
vine world—each ten adro has its own god, to which only
definitions of religion, three of which—the intellectualist,
it can pray—and those who must be satisfied with praying
the economic or technological, and the social—dominated
to their own dead. The latter use diviners to discover whom
field inquiry. Before I survey New Guinea religions, I will
they must negotiate with in order to ward off any invisible
consider the theoretical relevance of these three approaches,
power which is causing injury to the clan.
especially with regard to their one common tenet: the strict
dichotomy between religion and magic.
SEE ALSO Codrington, R. H.; Leenhardt, Maurice.
For E. B. Tylor and James G. Frazer, writing in the last
BIBLIOGRAPHY
third of the nineteenth century, religion was man’s belief in
The oldest, but still quite illuminating, work on the subject of
superior spirit-beings (such as gods and ghosts), whom he
New Caledonia religion is R. P. Gagnère’s Étude ethnologique
sur la religion des Néo-calédoniens
(Saint-Louis, France,
had to placate by means of prayer and sacrifice, whereas
1905). It vividly describes the man and lizard cult relation
magic was his belief that he himself, ideally without the aid
in the Pouebo area of northeastern New Caledonia. Pierre
of spirit-beings, could use sympathetic techniques to control
Lambert’s Moeurs et superstitions des Néo-calédoniens (Nou-
nonpersonalized occult forces. Although this approach is
méa, New Caledonia, 1900) is interesting, although Lambert
consistent with the great intellectual importance New Guin-
is at times less than accurate in his descriptions of the reli-
eans attach to religion and magic, the dichotomy it posits be-
gions of the Belep Islands in the north and the Isle of Pines
tween religion and magic often cannot be substantiated.
in the south. The monumental, two-volume Ethnologie der
Many New Guinea rituals are designed not to placate spirit-
Neu-Caledonier und Loyalty-Insulaner (Munich, 1929) by the
beings but to place them in morally binding relationships
Swiss ethnographer Fritz Sarasin contains an indispensable
which leave them no option but to comply with human
atlas. The classic works in the field are Maurice Leenhardt’s
wishes. Indeed, some sympathetic techniques are believed to
two volumes: Notes d’ethnologie néo-calédonienne (Paris,
1930) and Documents néo-calédoniens (Paris, 1932). Admired
derive their power from spirit-beings, who gave them to
for their precision at the time of their publication, Leen-
mankind. Clearly, this definition would continually produce
hardt’s books are full of information, and continue to be
unsatisfactory hybrid forms.
valuable research tools. My own contributions to the subject
Bronislaw Malinowski, whose approach derived from
include the following: Structure de la chefferie en Mélanésie du
sud
(Paris, 1963), Mythologie du masque en Nouvelle-
fieldwork in the Trobriand Islands (now part of Papua New
Calédonie (Paris, 1966), Des multiples niveaux de signification
Guinea) during World War I, distinguished religion from
du mythe (Paris, 1968), and Naissance et avortement d’un mes-
magic on the basis of the ends sought by those engaged in
sianisme (Paris, 1959). Recent publications in the field in-
a ritual. A religious rite, on Malinowski’s view, is an end in
clude Marie-Joseph Dubois’s Mythes et traditions de Maré,
itself with no obviously pragmatic objective, while the aim
Nouvelle Calédonie: Les Elètok (Paris, 1975) and Alban Bensa
of magic, vitally important for economic production, is “al-
and Jean-Claude Rivière’s Les chemins de l’alliance: L’orga-
ways clear, straightforward, and definite.” Although its stress
nisation sociale et ses représentations en Nouvelle-Calédonie
on economic affairs is quite correct, this approach pays too
(Paris, 1982).
little attention to a people’s intellectual life. Again, Malinow-
New Sources
ski’s dichotomy between religion and magic is not supported
Lenormand, Maurice H., and Léonard Drilë Sam. Lifou: Origine
by later research in New Guinea: virtually every ritual ob-
des Chefferies de la Zone de Wé: Quelques Éléments de la Société
served and described has a specific end in view, which those
Traditionnelle. Nouméa, 1993.
performing it can explain without difficulty.
Métais, Eliane. Au Commencement Était la Terre: Réflexions sur un
Mythe Canaque d’Origine. Talence, France, 1988.
Finally, Émile Durkheim, in the early twentieth centu-
JEAN GUIART (1987)
ry, differentiated religion from magic on the grounds of the
Revised Bibliography
human personnel holding particular beliefs and performing
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FIRST EDITION]
6503
particular rites. Religion was seen as social and cohesive: its
Guinea and Irian Jaya) has about a thousand distinct lan-
beliefs symbolize and validate, and its rituals reinforce, the
guage groups, each one virtually a separate society. The eco-
social order. Magic is individual and isolative: its beliefs and
nomic system is generalized: most of the people are settled
rituals do not symbolize or reinforce any social collective.
agriculturalists with few specialized skills apart from religious
Once again, this approach has two weaknesses. Although its
ritual, which a limited number of adult males (the leaders)
reference to society is justified, it tends to reduce religion to
monopolize. Without specialized occupational groups, social
an oblique and almost secular replica of the social order at
structure has to be based on kinship, marriage, and descent,
the expense of human economic and cognitive interests. As
although even within this broad framework there is much
will appear, most New Guineans would reject this. Further-
variation. Some groups are congeries of relatively large phra-
more, Durkheim’s dichotomy between religion and magic
tries or tribes, while others consist of small clans or even lin-
also cannot be sustained. In virtually every New Guinea soci-
eages. Some have over 100,000 members and others as few
ety, even if they are not privy to all its secrets, all its members
as 150.
share and more or less endorse its beliefs, and the personnel
involved in any ritual depends on the number of people nec-
Diversity of social structures is paralleled in religions,
essary to carry it out efficiently. This varies according to each
which, although based on common principles, show a degree
situation.
of heterogeneity. In general terms, most New Guineans rec-
ognize the following kinds of spirit-beings: autonomous cre-
Although none of these approaches on its own offers a
ative or regulative spirit-beings (deities or culture heroes); au-
comprehensive answer to the problem or a convincing dis-
tonomous noncreative or malevolent spirit-beings (demons,
tinction between religion and magic, with due modification
tricksters, and pucks); and spirits of the dead. Many also rec-
each makes a contribution. It is possible to select from them
ognize clan totems and practice sympathetic magic. Varia-
and combine those features that make sense in New Guinea.
tions of belief are most marked with respect to deities and
At the outset it is wise to dismiss the idea of a dichotomy
spirits of the dead. Some peoples, such as the Huli and the
between religion and magic and retain a single concept, reli-
Kainantu of the Highlands, claim relatively few gods, to each
gion, of which magic forms a part. Thus from Tylor and Fra-
of whom they attribute multiple creative or regulative func-
zer, I adopt the principle of intellectualism, which stresses re-
tions. Others, such as the inhabitants of the southern Ma-
ligion’s contribution to a people’s mental life by helping
dang Province littoral and Karkar Island, have a few major
them interpret the world around them. With Malinowski,
deities and a large number of minor ones with limited pow-
I emphasize religion’s role in the economic system. With
ers. Yet others, such as the Mae Enga of the Highlands and
Durkheim, I examine religion’s relation to society.
the peoples inland from Madang, believe in many deities, no
Broadly I define traditional religion as man’s beliefs
one of whom has primacy and each of whom has only one
about and putative interaction with what Westerners call
creative or regulative function. Again, although belief in
“the supernatural” or “the transcendental,” although, as I
ghosts is ubiquitous, some peoples (especially Highlanders)
shall argue, these terms have little relevance to New Guinea.
distinguish between the recent and remote dead, while others
To explain this I shall outline the total cosmic order that the
(especially those on the coast) do not. One group inland
people conceive to exist: its general structure, the types and
from Madang, the Garia, assert that after three generations
location of spirit-beings within it, and its dynamics, especial-
ghosts turn into fruit bats or pigeons and cease to have any
ly the methods by which humans believe that they communi-
religious significance.
cate with spirit-beings to consolidate their own interests.
Yet despite this heterogeneity, New Guineans appear to
THE GENERAL STRUCTURE OF THE COSMOS. New Guine-
hold one concept in common, that the cosmos is essentially
ans’ conceived cosmic order has two parts: the empirical—
a finite physical realm with, as hinted, almost no supernatu-
the natural environment, its economic resources (including
ral or transcendental attributes. Gods, ghosts, demons, and
animals), and its human inhabitants; and the nonempiri-
totems are superhuman but terrestrial. They are more power-
cal—spirit-beings, nonpersonalized occult forces, and, some-
ful than humans but still corporeal, taking human or animal
times, totems. Theoretically it has three analytically separate
form with normal physical attributes. They normally live on
systems: men in relation to the natural environment and its
the earth in special sanctuaries near human habitations.
resources, or the economic system; relationships among
There are a few exceptions, such as the Mae Enga sky people,
human beings themselves, or the sociopolitical system; and
who live in the clouds but who are in easy contact with the
men in relation to spirit-beings, occult forces, and totems,
earth. This stress on earthliness gives New Guinea religions
or religion. In fact, these systems interdepend, so that it is
a quality of nearness and immediacy lacking in some of the
essential to understand how religion impinges on economic
higher religions, as is especially apparent in ritual. The signif-
and social life and, in so doing, how it contributes to intellec-
icance of this will emerge later.
tual life and leadership.
THE FUNCTION OF RELIGION. As the criticism of Tylor and
The traditional economic and sociopolitical systems of
Frazer’s approach indicates, it is inadequate to concentrate
New Guinea must be summarized, insofar as religion directly
on the form of New Guinea religions, as if they were purely
relates to them. The whole of New Guinea (Papua New
philosophical systems; it is necessary to consider also their
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6504
NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FIRST EDITION]
functions. Melanesians believe that they have inherited a
Whether the people attribute creation to few or many deities
generally predictable cosmic order, which is anthropocentric
is irrelevant. Except in the few societies that do not acknowl-
and materialistic. It exists for man’s benefit, and its material
edge deities, there is normally a myth cycle or set of discur-
resources (crops, livestock, and artifacts) are concomitants of
sive myths telling how specific gods and goddesses invented
his existence. Hence religion has two principal functions.
economic resources —staple crops, pigs, dogs, wild animals,
First, myths (regarded as the source of ultimate truth) explain
and important artifacts—and gave them to human beings.
and thereby validate the cosmic order. Second, just as the ful-
fillment of obligations between human beings maintains the
Yet, as is implicit in the foregoing argument, explana-
secular social structure, the observance of ritual duties assures
tion and validation on their own, however necessary, are not
men that superhuman beings will guarantee the success of
enough. People also want knowledge that they can use to
their major undertakings and protect the cosmic order from
their advantage, knowledge that will make sure that econom-
unforeseeable dangers.
ic resources do not fail. Crops may wither, livestock remain
barren, and newly made artifacts prove faulty. Ritual should
Religion, therefore, is a technology, and, more particu-
eliminate these risks. It is performed for both the relevant de-
larly, ritual is man’s means of contacting superhuman beings
ities and spirits of the dead.
so as to exploit it. Ritual techniques, which I describe later
on, again tend to vary. For deities they may involve placa-
The performance for economic ends of ritual in honor
tion, bargaining, coercion, or striking moral relationships
of the dead is very common in New Guinea. Specifically, it
through invocation or esoteric spells. Sympathetic magic,
consists of formal keening at funerals, food offerings, danc-
sometimes used on its own, is said to be more effective if
ing, and the celebration of the male cult (which I shall discuss
taught to men by gods. For demons ritual is based on placa-
later). In response, ghosts are said to help their living descen-
tion and bargaining, although some say it is futile and will
dants by protecting gardens from wild pigs and landslides,
never use it. Ritual directed at spirits of the dead is usually
helping hunters find game, bringing presents, and, especially
an expression of honor, often involving mourning, feasting,
in dreams, by giving messages about impending events.
and music. For totems there is no specific ritual but only
These ceremonies are particularly important among peoples
avoidance behavior: taboos against harming, killing, and eat-
who either do not acknowledge deities, or have no elaborate
ing. As indicated, ritual knowledge is the prerogative mainly
ritual for propitiating them. Yet there are two differences in
of leaders or big men. Women have limited access to it, and
this context. First, as noted, Highlanders tend to distinguish
then principally to contraceptive and abortifacient tech-
between the recent and remote dead. They regard the recent
niques. Yet although Melanesians use ritual to approach su-
dead as minatory—interested mainly in punishing transgres-
perhuman beings, there are grounds for believing that they
sors—and expect economic benefits from the remote dead,
regard it as a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Many of
to whom, with the exception of mortuary ceremonies, they
them have assumed that their first European visitors were ei-
address their rituals. Most seaboard peoples, who do not hold
ther deities or ghosts appearing in their midst, but there is
this belief, honor the recent dead, many of whom they re-
no evidence that they performed ritual in their honor. Rath-
member as living persons. Second, there are different inter-
er, they engaged in ordinary social behavior, offering food,
pretations of the likely responses of the dead to the rituals
and trying to create beneficial exchange relationships.
performed in their honor. Some Highlanders, noted for their
general aggressiveness, are said to apply to ghosts the same
Throughout New Guinea the use of myth and ritual to
techniques they apply to the living: bargaining and bribery,
explain and maintain the cosmic order is uneven. The people
in which the aim is to manipulate and curb pugnacious egali-
tend to ignore the aspects of it that they can take for granted
tarian rivals. Ghosts are said to respond in kind. Seaboard
and concentrate on those that involve risk and cause anxiety.
peoples are less assertive. Their view is that ritual should
I shall examine this in the context of the economic and socio-
create strong ties between men and ghosts; as long as
political systems and then discuss religion’s role in the intel-
men fulfill their obligations, ghosts should automatically
lectual system.
reciprocate.
The natural environment and economic resources.
The sociopolitical order. Likewise, total sociopolitical
Not many New Guinea religions are greatly concerned with
systems receive irregular treatment in religion. Some groups
the natural environment as a whole. Except for occasional
(for example, the Mae Enga, the Kainantu people, and the
volcanic eruptions and droughts it is never seriously threat-
inhabitants of Wogeo Island) have myths that attribute soci-
ened, so that the people do not fear for its continuance.
ety’s existence and forms to their deities. Others, like the
Hence elaborate accounts of its origin and rituals to preserve
Ngaing, do not. They see no need to validate the social order
it are rare. In most cases there are only short, albeit some-
in its entirety: they are unaware that any other kind of social
times explicit, statements to the effect that the earth always
order exists, and theirs is not threatened by conquest from
existed or suddenly came into being in some miraculous way.
outside or revolution from within. Nevertheless such peoples
Mythology and ritual are generally more detailed and
are by no means unconcerned about society; they implicitly
complex for the economic system, which, for reasons given
realize that it has sensitive areas—key institutions, groups,
below, is more uncertain and thus needs to be buttressed.
and relationships that must be buttressed at all costs. Thus
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FIRST EDITION]
6505
the Ngaing have war gods, who protect their bush groups,
lance of the dead, who punish the infringement of any rule.
their main political units, and a myth of origin for the male
In other societies, such as the Wogeo and the Ngaing, good
cult, which binds together the inhabitants of a whole locality,
conduct is said to be enforced only by secular sanctions.
as described below.
Belief in sorcery is virtually universal. The art has many
In this context, spirits of the dead are most important.
forms: contagious magic (theft and destruction of personal
They validate the social order in a number of ways. Among
leavings such as cast-off clothing, hairclippings, or excre-
the Garia, the life of the dead replicates that of human be-
ment); projection of missiles into a victim; figurative removal
ings. Ghosts build and live in ordinary settlements with their
and replacement of a victim’s head or entrails; and actual im-
kin; they plant gardens and celebrate exchanges. Again,
mobilization of a victim by inserting slivers of bamboo (or,
throughout New Guinea, ghosts are the ultimate custodians
nowadays, lengths of wire) into vital parts of his body. With
of their living descendants’ land rights, a vital component of
possible exception of the last example, which is in fact physi-
the social system, and they punish trespass. Yet it is above
cal murder, the efficacy of sorcery is guaranteed by the per-
all the ceremonies of the male cult—exchanges of pigs, food,
formance of ritual, often to harness the power of a deity or
and valuables coupled with feasting and dancing to solem-
familiar spirit.
nize birth, initiation, marriage, and death—that induce
It is difficult to state precisely the reasons for belief in
ghosts to preserve and strengthen the sociopolitical order.
sorcery. The degree to which a religion does or does not up-
hold the moral code and to which it is or is not intellectually
The primary function of the male cult is the initiation
elaborated seems to be irrelevant. Sorcery is found in socie-
of boys into manhood. After they are about ten years old,
ties whose religions either stress or ignore ethics and are ei-
boys in adjacent settlements are assembled, segregated from
ther closely or loosely articulated. Hence it is wiser to consid-
women, placed under the supervision of adult males (espe-
er two issues: the forces that promote belief in sorcery and
cially leaders) in a cult house, and given special instruction.
the intellectual climate that allows it to flourish.
They are taught the rudiments of myths and ritual. They ob-
serve stringent taboos and are subjected to a physical ordeal
Belief in sorcery is motivated by personal anxiety. This
that may include beating, scarification, penile incision, or
is immediately intelligible in societies that have weak group
forced nose bleeding. Thereafter they are returned to village
structures and unstable, ever-changing patterns of local orga-
life. The severity of initiation appears to correlate with soci-
nization—for example, the Dobu (of Papua), Huli, Tangu,
ety’s pattern of male-female relations. In general, men are
and Garia. As individuals continually move in and out, set-
dominant in both secular and ritual affairs. Where this is par-
tlement and neighborhood populations are never permanent.
ticularly marked, as in the eastern Highlands and among the
A person can never be sure where his friends and foes are.
Ilahita Arapesh (in the East Sepik Province) and the Garia,
Unless he can attribute illness or bad luck to an angry god,
initiation is either traumatic or protracted over many years
ghost, or demon, he will search for a human enemy lurking
and stresses sexual antagonism. Where women are less subor-
in his locality. Yet, by way of contrast, belief in sorcery is
dinate, male initiation rites are less exacting and less shroud-
found also in societies with territorial organizations based on
ed in secrecy and may be paralleled, as on Manam and
stable, permanently localized descent groups. Possibly sor-
Wogeo islands and among the Ngaing, by special puberty
cery has come to be regarded as more important than it was
rites for girls. Nevertheless, despite these differences of em-
since modern centralized government banned traditional
phasis, in most of New Guinea boys during their initiation
warfare, leaving it as the only way to relieve feelings of
are said to be under special protection of the spirits of the
aggression.
dead, who guarantee their safety, health, physical maturity,
There appear to be two prerequisites for an intellectual
and ability to attract wives and thereby perpetuate society.
climate in which the belief in sorcery will thrive. First, the
The male cult has also a latent function: it promotes the soli-
belief must be integrated with other aspects of religion, tak-
darity of the clans or other local units that must assemble all
ing a normal place in both myth and ritual. Thus the Garia
the wealth going out in exchange and reaffirms the kinship
believe that the god Yeyaguliba invented it and taught men
or marriage relationships, which link these groups and pro-
his secret names as spells to make it effective. From a techni-
vide the network for its distribution.
cal point of view, sorcery is no different from agricultural rit-
The last two important aspects of religion in the context
ual. Second, the belief helps solve the perpetual emotional
of the sociopolitical order are (1) religion’s impingement on
and cognitive problem of death. Thus, although the Garia
moral obligation, and (2) the role of sorcery. Once again, the
claim that the goddess who first gave birth to human beings
relationship between religion and moral obligation has no
was responsible also for human mortality, they regard this
standard pattern: for some groups it is an important issue,
as a sufficient explanation only in the case of old people. The
but for others it is not. Thus the Huli insist that their prima-
young should not die. Sorcery, by offering the solution of
ry god Datagaliwabe enjoined moral precepts on them, while
the hidden enemy, at least removes the agony of an impene-
the Kai-nantu people have a secondary mythology devoted
trable riddle.
to the inculcation of ethics, and the Manus of the Admiralty
Leadership and the intellectual system. Myth and rit-
Islands believe themselves to be under the continual surveil-
ual are for many New Guineans the principal means of un-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6506
NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FIRST EDITION]
derstanding the cosmic order and maintaining their central
BIBLIOGRAPHY
position in it. Everyday experience largely endorses their cer-
Allen, M. R. Male Cults and Secret Initiations in Melanesia. Mel-
titude of the truth of religion. Normally crops do mature,
bourne and London, 1967. The most detailed general analy-
livestock and human beings reproduce their kind, and arti-
sis of initiatory ceremonies for males in New Guinea so far
facts meet their owners’ expectations. The rituals used are
published. A standard text.
obviously effective, so that their acquisition is an essential
Baal, Jan van. Dema. The Hague, 1966. An important Irian Jaya
prerequisite of leadership. Big men are those who “know”:
ethnography, including a detailed account of traditional
they are experts in mythology and, particularly, in harnessing
religion.
the power of gods and spirits of the dead that will ensure the
Berndt, Ronald M. Excess and Restraint. Chicago, 1962. A general
success of their followers’ purely secular activities. Secular
ethnography of the Kainantu people of the Papua New
skills are “knowledge” but at a low level: they are something
Guinea Highlands. Provides background to Berndt’s essay in
anybody can acquire by imitation. It takes a special kind of
Lawrence and Meggitt (1972).
man, however, to master “true knowledge,” the religious se-
Burridge, Kenelm. Tangu Traditions. Oxford, 1969. A thorough
crets that are the core of the instruction given boys during
study of a New Guinea people’s traditional mythology.
initiation. Thereafter, those who aspire to leadership must
Fortune, Reo F. Sorcerers of Dobu (1932). Rev. ed. New York,
undergo a long and exacting apprenticeship under acknowl-
1963. An early and classic analysis of religion and sorcery in
edged experts until they are accepted as qualified practition-
a traditional Papuan society.
ers. Yet it would be false to conclude from this that the peo-
Hogbin, Ian. The Island of Menstruating Men: Religion in Wogeo,
ple’s thought is mystical. Rather, it is pragmatic, even
New Guinea. Scranton, Pa., 1970. Another important ac-
mundane, because of their conviction that the cosmos is a
count of a traditional religion, written nearly forty years after
purely terrestrial realm. Gods and ghosts live on the earth,
the field work was done.
and their interaction with men and women in response to
Lawrence, Peter. “Statements about Religion: The Problem of Re-
ritual is not illusory but as real as cooperation among human
liability.” In Anthropology in Oceania, edited by Lester R.
beings themselves.
Hiatt and Chandra Jayawardena, pp. 140–154. Sydney,
1971. A discussion of the difficulty of assessing the validity
Inevitably, the intensity of intellectual commitment to
of personal belief in and commitment to religion in New
religion is not found to be consistent throughout New Guin-
Guinea.
ea. The peoples of the northeastern seaboard and hinterland
from Lae to Bogia typify the paradigm I have sketched. Tra-
Lawrence, Peter. “Religion and Magic.” In Encyclopaedia of Papua
and New Guinea, edited by Peter Ryan, pp. 1001–1012.
ditionally they have always been theologians, and it is signifi-
Melbourne, 1972. A general introduction to traditional reli-
cant that they have provided many of the leaders of the
gions in New Guinea. Reprinted in Anthropology in Papua
Christian churches since Papua New Guinea’s independence
New Guinea, edited by Ian Hogbin (Melbourne, 1973),
in 1975. Others, such as the Ilahita Arapesh, are perhaps
pp. 201–226.
more skeptical. Yet about one area there has been particular
Lawrence, Peter. The Garia. Melbourne and Manchester, 1984.
controversy. The first anthropologists in the Highlands after
An analysis of a traditional cosmic system in New Guinea,
World War II depicted its peoples as if they had relatively
with emphasis on religion.
little interest in religion—that is, the Highlanders were por-
trayed as hard-working and secular-minded with leaders who
Lawrence, Peter, and M. J. Meggitt, eds. Gods, Ghosts, and Men
in Melanesia (1965). Oxford, 1972. A symposium of essays
relied for their positions more on tough negotiation and mil-
on a number of traditional religions in New Guinea and
itary prowess than on ritual expertise. The early absence of
Vanuatu. The best collection available.
cargoism, so prevalent on the seaboard, seemed to confirm
their argument. Recently, however, we have been forced to
McArthur, Margaret. “Men and Spirits in the Kunimaipa Valley.”
In Anthropology in Oceania, edited by Lester R. Hiatt and
reconsider it. There are now more numerous outbreaks of
Chandra Jayawardena, pp. 155–189. Sydney, 1971.
the cargo cult as well as Pentecostalism and other eccentric
quasi-Christian movements. This suggests that, even allow-
Tuzin, Donald F. The Voice of the Tambaran: Truth and Illusion
ing for random differences of degree, the dominantly secular
in Ilahita Arapesh Religion. Berkeley, 1980. A detailed and so-
image of all the peoples in the Highlands is unjustified and
phisticated analysis of a New Guinea traditional religion.
Pays special attention to male initiation rites and the prob-
may have been the result of uncritical addiction to the
lem of individual belief and commitment.
Durkheimian social approach to the study of religion at the
time the field research was carried out. Certainly the issue
Williams, Francis E. Orokaiva Society. Oxford, 1930. An early
is unresolved. Yet it is still justifiable to conclude that for the
monograph that provides much valuable information about
traditional religion.
great majority of New Guineans religion has been not merely
an important part but the very quintessence of their sociocul-
Williams, Francis E. Drama of Orokolo. Oxford, 1940. Williams’s
tural systems. It represents the final rationale of their cosmic
most mature work; a carefully documented account of an
experience.
elaborate ceremonial and ritual complex in western Papua.
A classic.
SEE ALSO Cargo Cults.
PETER LAWRENCE (1987)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
6507
NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FURTHER
tianity and the value of land. For example, in 1995 Benny
CONSIDERATIONS]. Since Peter Lawrence wrote
Giay, a Papuan pastor who has been active in opposition to
on the indigenous religions of New Guinea—the area en-
the Freeport-McMoran mine, submitted his Ph.D. disserta-
compassing Papua New Guinea and Papua (formerly Irian
tion for Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam on the topic
Jaya)—for the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Religion
“Zakheus Pakage and his Communities: Indigenous Reli-
(1987), further studies have been undertaken providing an
gious Discourse, Sociopolitical Resistance, and Ethnohistory
even greater wealth of material concerning myth, ritual,
of the Me of Irian Jaya.” He dwelt on the passionate hopes
knowledge, morality, and religious innovation in New Guin-
of Pakage (1920–1970) of establishing a reciprocity between
ea. More attention has been given to personal experiences
indigenous wisdom and Christian wisdom and of integrating
such as dreams, trance, and spirit possession. Moreover, the
Dutch development plans with the work of local Me com-
religious landscape has continued to change as a result of po-
munities, hopes that were thwarted both by the mission
litical and economic innovations and through interaction
agency and Dutch authorities.
with Christianity. New religious movements, many empha-
Religious studies has been taught in the History Depart-
sizing relationship to the Holy Spirit, have emerged. At the
ment at the University of Papua New Guinea since 1972,
same time, changing approaches and emphases in anthropol-
first by lecturers from overseas and then by Papua New
ogy and religious studies have influenced the ways that schol-
Guineans. It is also taught at the University of Goroka and
ars understand religion. For instance, feminism has occa-
Divine Word University in Madang. Moreover, the theolog-
sioned a new look at rituals for the making of men and
ical seminaries in both Papua New Guinea and Papua give
women, while transcultural studies have suggested that the
attention to the study of indigenous religions in relation to
movements earlier labeled cargo cults may have been mis-
Christianity. The mainline churches tend to look on indige-
named.
nous religions as a preparation for the Christian gospel, while
Lawrence outlined three approaches to the study of
fundamentalist groups have a more negative evaluation of in-
New Guinea religions, which he called the intellectualist, the
digenous religions. The outsiders who study New Guinea re-
economic or technological, and the social. He stressed intel-
ligions include social scientists (mainly anthropologists), his-
lectualist approaches and defined traditional religion as “be-
torians of religion, and theologians. Some missionary
liefs about and putative interaction with what Westerners
scholars (e.g., Mantovani, Gesch, Zöllner, Gibbs) are trained
call the ‘supernatural’ or the ‘transcendental’.” He outlined
in social sciences or religious studies as well as in theology.
the general structure of the cosmos in New Guinean societies
as three interrelating systems: people in relation to the natu-
ECOLOGY AND PLACE. Roy Rappaport’s fieldwork among
ral environment and its resources (the economic system), re-
the Tsembaga Maring in the highlands of Papua New Guin-
lationships among human beings themselves (the sociopoliti-
ea in the 1960s led him to develop an ecological theory of
cal system), and people in relation to spirit beings, occult
religion. In the first edition of Pigs for the Ancestors in 1968
forces, and totems (religion). He saw myth and ritual as
he argued that the ritual cycle that culminates in large scale
means of explaining and maintaining the cosmic order. Most
pig kills is a homeostatic mechanism regulating the relation-
scholars accept this framework. However, more recent works
ship of pig populations to other environmental factors such
have emphasized the significance of place (Munn, Rumsey
as human energy, land use, and warfare. He maintained that
and Weiner), religion as an ecological process (Rappaport),
when pig herds reach a size at which pigs become a hin-
and fertility as focus of both practical and symbolic work
drance, invading gardens and requiring large amounts of
(Meigs). Scholars have attended to the construction of gen-
food and human attention, then people decide to kill them,
der (Gillison, Herdt, Lutkehaus and Roscoe, Tuzin) and to
conceptualizing their action as killing pigs for the ancestors.
personal experience, consciousness, and sentiment (Herdt
A second edition of the book, in 1984, placed more stress
and Stephen, Feld, Schieffelin, Lohmann). Some have
on the reciprocity of ecological order and ritual order, allow-
looked on religion as a process of exchange (MacDonald) or
ing that culture may drive ecological processes, which in turn
reciprocity (Trompf). A number of scholars have explored
may sustain culture. In Ecology, Meaning, and Religion, pub-
Christianity in New Guinean contexts (Barker, Robbins)
lished in 1979, Rappaport elaborated his theory of religion
and given attention to new religious movements.
as an ecological process. Shortly before his death, in 1997,
he completed Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity,
INSIDERS AND OUTSIDERS. Most studies of New Guinea reli-
in which he explores the significance of ritual for relating
gions that reach publication are the work of outsiders. How-
human beings to nature.
ever, indigenous religions and local forms of Christianity
have also been studied by insiders, mainly by those with
Several anthropologists, including Roy Wagner, have
theological, pastoral, and social commitments. Some of their
given attention to the religious importance of land. The in-
research and reflections have been published as journal arti-
trusion of mining companies in both Papua New Guinea
cles within New Guinea and have found their way into ser-
and Papua has led local communities to reassert claims to
mons, workshops, and speeches. A number of B.D. and
land in terms of ancestral cosmologies. Confrontations over
M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations written by New Guine-
land have provided occasion for researchers to consider the
ans explore the relationship of indigenous religion and Chris-
impact of mining on local ecosystems and to give attention
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6508
NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
to the narratives in which peoples tell of the journeys of cul-
Ivar Lohmann, which brings together case studies from New
ture heroes and ancestors who shaped their place and their
Guinea, aboriginal Australia, and Indonesia to make a case
way of life. The edited volume Emplaced Myth (Rumsey and
that dreams are, in some not well-understood sense, ways to
Weiner, 2001) provides several case studies from Papua New
knowledge.
Guinea and others from Aboriginal Australia that reflect on
RECIPROCITY. Peter Lawrence understood the indigenous re-
space and place in local and regional domains and on envi-
ligions of New Guinea to consist of beliefs about, and puta-
ronmental ethics in times of change. Papua New Guineans
tive interaction with, the supernatural. The understanding
Simeon Namunu and Bernard Narokobi assert that the rela-
of religion as an extension of social interaction beyond the
tionship to land is a religious issue with which Christians
human community to include gods, ghosts, and a variety of
should concern themselves. Pamela Stewart and Andrew
nonhuman beings works well for New Guinea and for tradi-
Strathern’s Remaking the World: Myth, Mining, and Ritual
tions that posit the presence of such beings. It accords with
Change among the Duna of Papua New Guinea (2002) con-
Marcel Mauss’s ideas on gift exchange. Human beings make
siders the ways in which a community reconstructs its place
gifts to the gods; the gods respond with benefits for human
and way of life.
beings. Or human beings neglect the ancestral ghosts, and
FERTILITY AND GENDER. While there are no universally ac-
they respond by afflicting their living kin.
ceptable definitions of gender and marriage, all cultures have
Garry Trompf, who taught at the University of Papua
ideas about sexual difference, female/male complementarity,
New Guinea in the 1970s and served as professor of history
and fertility, which they take as models for thinking about
there from 1983 to 1985, developed an approach to religion
human and cosmic relationships. Early work by Margaret
that he called a logic of retribution. He was concerned not
Mead and Gregory Bateson pointed to the social and cosmo-
only with positive reciprocity but also with revenge and with
logical significance of gender in the Pacific. In New Guinea
the explanation of events in terms of praise and blame or in
the relationship of woman and man is often seen as homolo-
terms of reward and punishment. This logic may be seen in
gous to the work of gardening, to the arrangement of village
indigenous traditions, and it is also possible to see it in the
space, and to roles in traditional exchanges. Early anthropol-
moral reflections of Christian communities in New Guinea.
ogists in the highlands recorded antagonism between the
sexes in many societies, and later studies that described the
CHRISTIANITY AND NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS. From
“making of men” elaborated on notions of masculinity and
the latter part of the nineteenth century, when the Nether-
the ritual means of achieving it (Barth, Herdt, Tuzin). The
lands, Germany, and Great Britain divided the large island
“making of women,” which is a matter for ritual in some so-
of New Guinea among themselves, missionaries arrived, first
cieties (Lutkehaus and Roscoe) has received less attention.
in the coastal areas and much later in the highland regions,
to preach the Christian message. As a result, at the beginning
In her work on the Hua, Anna Meigs focuses on the
of the twenty-first century some 90 percent of the population
concept of nu or “vital essence” of a person or thing and the
of Papua New Guinea claimed to be Christian, and in Papua
ways it can be increased or depleted, leading her to explore
the large majority of the indigenous people were also Chris-
ideas about food and sexual activity. In New Guinea, fertili-
tian. Since Indonesia took over Papua from the Dutch in
ty—of crops, of sea creatures, of forest animals and domestic
1962, the presence of government officials and the resettle-
animals, and of people—is a desired outcome of personal and
ment of landless people from other parts of Indonesia, espe-
group rituals. The juxtaposition of male and female elements
cially from Java, have brought Islam to the region. However,
in ritual is part of the management of a gendered world.
Islam has remained more the religion of government officers
RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. Michele Stephen and Gilbert
and new settlers than of the indigenous peoples.
Herdt have taken a lead in the study of personal religious ex-
The study of New Guinea’s forms of Christianity was
perience in New Guinea. In their introduction to The Reli-
first of all the concern of missiologists and other theologians
gious Imagination in New Guinea (1989) they say that they
who were concerned with whether, and how, God might
see the “inner world of religious experience as emerging from
speak through indigenous religions. As more and more New
an interaction between individual experience and culture,
Guineans became Christians, Christianity in a variety of de-
mediated by autonomous imagination” (p. 4). The contribu-
nominational forms became part of the cultures that anthro-
tors to their volume explore altered states of consciousness
pologists came to New Guinea to study. In tracing the transi-
in dreams, trances, possession, spirit mediumship, sorcery,
tion from indigenous religion to Christianity, some see the
witchcraft, prophetism, and shamanism. While recognizing
new religion being incorporated into the indigenous cosmos,
cultural variation the editors point to psychological univer-
but indigenous religion and Christianity may also appear as
sals underlying it and assert that each person must “create
competing moral discourses. For example, Joel Robbins, in
his or her own cultural world through the process of imagi-
his study of the Urapmin of the West Sepik, says he observed
nation” (p. 235). They urge that altered states of conscious-
“the interplay between two cultures that are operative in the
ness be taken seriously as modes of cognition.
same place at the same time” (2004, p. 6). In considering the
Another important contribution to the study of subjec-
changes experienced by the Urapmin, who had never been
tive experience is Dream Travelers (2003), edited by Roger
directly missionized, Robbins tells how they first experienced
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW GUINEA RELIGIONS [FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS]
6509
the law introduced in the colonial period by Australian patrol
Herdt, Gilbert H., ed. Rituals of Manhood: Male Initiation in
officers and found themselves deficient in relation to it, how
Papua New Guinea. Berkeley, 1982.
they decided in the 1960s to send young men to study with
Kamma, Freerk C., collector and trans. Religious Texts of the Oral
Baptist missionaries in neighboring communities, and how
Tradition from Western New-Guinea (Irian Jaya). Leiden,
they underwent a charismatic renewal, and adopted a Chris-
1975.
tianity focused on human sinfulness and millennial expecta-
Lattas, Andrew. Cultures of Secrecy: Reinventing Race in Bush Kaliai
tion. The Urapmin, he concludes, have opted for a hybrid
Cargo Cults. Madison, Wis., 1998.
culture that leaves them with a sense of moral failure but also
Lawrence, Peter. Road Belong Cargo: A Study of the Cargo Move-
with an openness to change.
ment in the Southern Madang District, New Guinea. Mel-
bourne, 1964.
Peter Lawrence’s Road Belong Cargo (1964), a study of
Lohmann, Roger Ivar. Dream Travelers: Sleep Experiences and Cul-
cargo cults in the Madang area of Papua New Guinea, be-
tures in the Western Pacific. New York, 2003.
came a classic for the study of social and religious change.
Lutkehaus, Nancy C., and Paul B. Roscoe, eds. Gender Rituals: Fe-
Hundreds of religious movements, some resembling the
male Initiation in Melanesia. New York, 1995.
“cargo cult” documented by Lawrence and others appealing
MacDonald, Mary N. Mararoko: A Study of Melanesian Religion.
to the Holy Spirit for empowerment, have emerged in New
New York, 1991.
Guinea. In writing of the God Triwan movement in the
Mantovani, Ennio, ed. An Introduction to Melanesian Religions: A
Enga province of Papua New Guinea, a movement that has
Handbook for Church Workers. Goroka, Papua New Guinea,
remained within the Catholic Church, Philip Gibbs regards
1984.
it as part of a process of inculturation of the gospel.
Meigs, Anna S. Food, Sex, and Pollution: A New Guinea Religion.
It seems likely that future studies will grapple not only
New Brunswick, N.J., 1984.
with what is referred to within New Guinea as “traditional”
Merrifield, William R., Marilyn Gregerson, and Daniel C. Aja-
religion—religion that is practiced to some extent, yet in
miseba, eds. Gods, Heroes, Kinsmen: Ethnographic Studies
many places is more a tale that is told about the ways of the
from Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Jayapura, Irian Jaya, and Dallas,
Tex., 1983.
ancestors—but also with the Christianities that occupy a
powerful position in personal and communal life.
Munn, Nancy. The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value
Transformation in a Massim (Papua New Guinea) Society.
SEE ALSO Cargo Cults; Christianity, article on Christianity
New York, 1986; reprint, Durham, N.C., 1992.
in the Pacific Islands; Melanesian Religions; Oceanic Reli-
Namunu, Simeon B. “Melanesian Religion, Ecology, and Mod-
gions; Rappaport, Roy A.
ernization in Papua New Guinea.” In Indigenous Traditions
and Ecology: The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community,
ed-
B
ited by John A. Grim, pp. 249–280. Cambridge, Mass.,
IBLIOGRAPHY
Barker, John., ed. Christianity in Oceania: Ethnographic Perspec-
2001.
tives. Lanham, Md., 1990.
Narokobi, Bernard. The Melanesian Way. Port Moresby, Papua
New Guinea, 1983.
Barth, Fredrik. Ritual and Knowledge Among the Baktaman of New
Guinea. Oslo and New Haven, 1975.
Rappaport, Roy. Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a
New Guinea People. Rev. ed. New Haven, 1984.
Feld, Steven. Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and
Robbins, Joel. Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment
Song in Kaluli Expression. Philadelphia, 1982; 2d ed., 1990.
in a Papua New Guinea Society. Berkeley, 2004.
Gesch, Patrick F. Initiative and Initiation: A Cargo Cult-Type
Rumsey, Alan, and James Weiner, eds. Emplaced Myth: Space,
Movement in the Sepik Against Its Background in Traditional
Narrative, and Knowledge in Aboriginal Australia and Papua
Village Religion. Saint Augustin, Germany, 1985.
New Guinea. Honolulu, 2001.
Gibbs, Philip. “The God Triwan Movement: Inculturation Enga
Schieffelin, Edward L. The Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning
Style.” Catalyst 34, no. 1 (2004): 3–24.
of the Dancers. Saint Lucia, Queensland, Australia, 1977.
Gillison, Gillian. Between Culture and Fantasy: A New Guinea
Stewart, Pamela J., and Andrew Strathern. Remaking the World:
Highlands Mythology. Chicago, 1993.
Myth, Mining, and Ritual Change Among the Duna of Papua
Godelier, Maurice. The Enigma of the Gift. Translated by Nora
New Guinea. Westport, Conn., 2002.
Scott. Chicago, 1999.
Trompf, G. W. Melanesian Religion. Cambridge, U.K., 1991.
Goldman, L. R., and C. Ballard. Fluid Ontologies: Myth, Ritual,
Trompf, G. W. Payback: The Logic of Retribution in Melanesian
and Philosophy in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. West-
Religions. Cambridge, U.K., 1994.
port, Conn., 1998.
Tuzin, Donald. The Cassowary’s Revenge: The Life and Death of
Habel, Norman C., ed. Powers, Plumes, and Piglets: Phenomena of
Masculinity in a New Guinea Society. Chicago, 1997.
Melanesian Religion. Bedford Park, South Australia, 1979.
Wagner, Roy. Habu: The Innovation of Meaning in Daribi Reli-
Hayward, Douglas James. Vernacular Christianity among the
gion. Chicago, 1972.
Mulia Dani: An Ethnography of Religious Belief among the
Zöllner, Siegfried. The Religion of the Yali in the Highlands of Irian
Western Dani of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Lanham, Md., 1997.
Jaya. Translation and synopsis by Jan A. Godschalk. Goroka,
Herdt, Gilbert, and Michele Stephen, eds. The Religious Imagina-
Papua New Guinea, 1988.
tion in New Guinea. New Brunswick, N.J., 1989.
MARY N. MACDONALD (2005)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6510
NEWMAN, JOHN HENRY
NEWMAN, JOHN HENRY (1801–1890), Anglican
was ordained a Catholic priest and entered the Congregation
and Roman Catholic controversialist and cardinal.
of the Oratory. Upon his return to England he founded an
oratory at London and another at Birmingham, which in
LIFE AND WORKS. Newman was born in London. He was
1852 was transferred to nearby Edgbaston. There Newman
raised an Anglican, but in 1816, under evangelical influence,
remained until his death.
he underwent a profound religious experience that trans-
formed his understanding of his faith. The same year he en-
As a Catholic preacher and controversialist Newman
tered Trinity College, Oxford, and in 1822 was elected a fel-
wrote a novel, Loss and Gain, the Story of a Convert (1848);
low of Oriel College. There, formative contacts with the so-
two collections of talks, Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congre-
called Noetics Edward Hawkins and Richard Whately, who
gations (1848) and Lectures on Certain Difficulties Felt by An-
freely applied logic to traditional Christian doctrines, intro-
glicans in Submitting to the Catholic Church (1850); and a
duced him to rationalist analysis of religious concerns. After
masterpiece of defensive controversy, Lectures on the Present
1828 illness, bereavement, and personal friendships with
Position of Catholics in England (1851), which occasioned the
Richard Hurrell Froude, John Keble, and Edward Bouverie
Achilli trial in which Newman was prosecuted for libel. In
Pusey drew him toward the high church tradition. At this
1851 he accepted the rectorship of the Catholic University
time he began to read the documents of the patristic church;
of Dublin, but he resigned in 1859, believing that he had
this interest led to the publication of The Arians of the Fourth
been unsuccessful in attaining his goals. His university publi-
Century, Their Doctrine, Temper and Conduct as Exhibited in
cations, however, are among the best achievements of En-
the Councils of the Church (1833) and The Church of the Fa-
glish prose: Discourses on the Scope and Nature of University
thers (1833–1836).
Education (1852) and Lectures and Essays on University Sub-
jects
(1859), later published as Idea of a University and Office
Newman was ordained an Anglican priest in 1825 and
and Work of Universities. Callista, a Sketch of the Third Centu-
was appointed vicar of the university church Saint Mary the
ry (1855) reflects his own path from conscience to steadfast
Virgin, where he gained fame as a preacher. His sermons
Christian faith.
there were collected in Parochial and Plain Sermons (8 vols.,
1834–1843), Sermons Preached before the University of Oxford
In 1859 Newman founded the Oratory School and ac-
on Faith and Reason, 1826–1843 (1843), and Sermons Bear-
cepted the editorship of The Rambler, a magazine opposed
ing on Subjects of the Day (1843).
by the Catholic bishops, in which Catholic laity and converts
independently judged ecclesiastical affairs. Newman, who
In 1833 Newman traveled to the Mediterranean. He fell
sympathized with the cause of lay emancipation and educa-
ill in Sicily, and there experienced a special vocation, which
tion, contributed to the magazine his famous article “On
he expressed in the words “I have a work to do in England.”
Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine.” This article
In September 1833, with publication of the first Tract
was delated to Rome and, at the request of his bishop, New-
for the Times, Newman launched the Oxford Movement, a
man resigned the editorship in October 1859. He lived
high church movement within Anglicanism that emphasized
under the cloud of suspicion until his Apologia pro vita sua
Catholic elements in the Church of England and continuity
(1864), written in response to attacks by Charles Kingsley,
with the early church. Editor of the series, he contributed
at once won over public opinion. Henceforth Newman actu-
twenty-nine tracts. During this period, he also wrote two im-
ally became the main authority in Catholic public affairs.
portant works: Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church
Roman mistrust, manipulated by Cardinal Henry Manning,
Viewed Relatively to Romanism and Popular Protestantism
defeated his last attempt to found a Catholic college at Ox-
(1837), which argued for the via media, or foundational po-
ford in 1865, but Ambrose St. John, an Oratorian and his
sition, of the Church of England as true representative of the
dearest friend, in 1867 cleared him of suspicion in Rome.
unbroken tradition of the Fathers; and a theological master-
Newman answered E. B. Pusey’s criticism of the Roman
piece, Lectures on Justification (1838). In 1841 his Tract 90,
Catholic cult of Mary in his Letter to Rev. E. B. Pusey on his
in which he tried to give a Catholic interpretation of the
Recent Eirenicon (1866).
Thirty-nine Articles, touched off national alarm and was cen-
Although invited, Newman refused to assist at the First
sured by the university and condemned by twenty-four An-
Vatican Council. He believed in the pope’s infallibility but
glican bishops.
strongly opposed its definition as unripe and inopportune.
But when former prime minister William Gladstone at-
Research in patristics, together with his philosophy of
tacked Catholics for being unable to remain loyal British
development, at last led Newman to conclude that his via
subjects, Newman countered by giving, on solid theological
media existed only on paper and that the Anglican church
grounds, the now generally accepted minimizing interpreta-
was in fact schismatic. In 1841 he retired to Littlemore, near
tion of papal infallibility in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk
Oxford; he resigned the care of Saint Mary’s in 1843 and his
on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone’s Recent Expostulation (1875).
Oriel fellowship in 1845. That year he confirmed his posi-
tion in An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. In
Newman revealed his deepest Catholic feelings in his
the same year he converted to Roman Catholicism. After
longest poem, The Dream of Gerontius (1865), and presented
study at the College of Propaganda Fide in Rome, Newman
his basic philosophical ideas on the working of the human
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEWMAN, JOHN HENRY
6511
mind in his Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870). His
The principle of providence. All things and events—
last important publication was the “Preface to the Via
visible and invisible, natural and historical—are part of an
Media” (1877), the introduction to a new edition of his main
almighty creator’s universal providence. All are directed to
Anglican controversial writings. In 1877 he was elected the
one end: the manifestation of the creator’s justice (reflected
first honorary fellow of Trinity College. Pope Leo XIII creat-
in the painful experiences of a bad conscience) and of his
ed him cardinal deacon of San Giorgio in Velabro in 1879.
goodness (reflected in the joyful experiences of a good con-
He died on August 11, 1890, and was buried at Rednal.
science). Newman’s concept of God, stressing providence,
has as counterpart his concept of the universe as a process
THOUGHT. Newman’s thought reflects the nature and devel-
of constant development. To be, to live, is to develop.
opment of his individual personality. An introverted and
self-conscious man, he engaged in constant self-analysis, as-
The principle of nature. God governs all things in con-
similating scholarship and personal experience to germinate
formity with their nature. Hence the supreme universal rule
the religious and philosophical insights that characterize his
and method in the attempts to know the truth and to act
work. Hence his writings manifest those opposing forces and
rightly and adequately is to consider “the nature of the
tendencies that made his mind “from opposition grow”—
things” and to submit to what is required by “the nature of
reason versus imagination, love of detail versus comprehen-
the case.”
siveness, doubt versus certitude, faith versus sight, reserve
The principle of analogy. The universe as governed by
versus frankness, emotionalism versus self-control, strategy
God is a unity of extreme diversity. Unity implies conformity
versus honesty. These conflicting tendencies gave rise to a
of part to part; diversity implies degrees of similarity. Hence
false image of Newman as sentimental, resentful, paradoxi-
Newman generally justifies a judicious use of argument from
cal, mysterious, and even deceitful, but in their integration
analogy and fittingness.
they yield a thinker of greater complexity and genius, whose
worldview combines the consistency of a logical system with
Epistemology. In accordance with the principle of na-
the organic wholeness and beauty proper to a work of poetic
ture, Newman’s epistemology rests on a descriptive analysis
imagination. This view was grounded in two basic religious
of the nature of the mind and its actual operational patterns.
experiences: that of conscience as the inner witness of God,
The logic of the human mind cannot be established a priori;
and that of the material world’s merely relative reality, which
rather, mind must be scrutinized in all its complexity; one
directs the soul to communication with an invisible world.
must ask how the mind generally proceeds in its quest for
truth, and how it actually attains to certitude. The mind is
Conscience. For Newman, conscience is an original
spontaneously, instinctively, aware of an objective world of
and irreducible “moral sense”; by it, without logical medium,
particular things, persons, and events. It apprehends the
people instinctively discriminate the morally good and bad
meaning of propositions about them and assents to these
in concrete situations. Its essential characteristic, through
propositions if it feels them to rest upon convincing grounds.
which it differs from all other inner spiritual senses (such as
Inference is this movement of mind from premise to con-
the sense of beauty), is an adjoined yet distinct “sense of
clusion.
duty” grasping the unconditional demand of doing the good
and avoiding the evil. As such, conscience bears witness to
Assent is real (termed also “imaginative”) when the
the inner presence of an omniscient and almighty master.
meaning grasped strikes the imagination as a concrete reality,
But it must develop from an implicit and confused feeling
rousing the individual’s powers of affection and action. As-
to an explicit and distinct apprehension and assent. Con-
sent is notional when the meaning grasped conveys to the
science may be silenced, although never extinguished,
intellect alone combinations of general concepts. These two
through infidelity and thoughtlessness. It grows in clarity
aspects may and should go together, giving the mind depth
and scope through faithfulness and attention, so that the
and holding power combined with breadth and clarity of
inner voice of nature becomes recognized beyond doubt as
view. Inference differs from assent in that inference is by its
an echo of the voice of God.
nature conditional and admits of degrees, whereas assent is
by its nature unconditional and does not admit of degrees.
Sacramentality. At first doubting the reality of the exte-
rior material world, Newman came to recognize its genuine
Inference is either formal or informal. Formal inference
reality as an instrumental one. The material world is the me-
is deduction from general principles and can neither prove
dium of communication between the soul and the invisible
its first principles nor reach conclusions regarding concrete
world of God and his heavenly court. Hence, Newman be-
states of affairs. This gap must be bridged by informal infer-
lieved that God revealed himself in and through the visible
ence, at its most spontaneous and implicit termed “natural”
historical world and that people communicate with him
inference. An individual mind, at the convergence of inde-
through sacramental actions.
pendent probabilities, indications, and clues—often too nu-
merous and too subtle to be exhaustively analyzable—grasps
First principles. Three principles derive from the expe-
the concrete pattern of evidence and its conclusion per
rience of conscience and of world as sacramental medium.
modum unius, by an act of intuitive comprehensive imagina-
These ruled Newman’s thought and judgment in all matters.
tion. Newman calls this mental power the “illative sense.” It
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6512
NEWMAN, JOHN HENRY
is a power of judgment, in part a gift of nature, in part the
troversial writings, especially his Apologia, fostered among
result of experience and exercise. As a power of concrete, and
the British people a better knowledge of and higher esteem
not merely notional, judgment, it may depend upon mastery
for his religion and his coreligionists. Moreover, his minimiz-
in a specific field of endeavor.
ing theological attitude in matters of faith and his critical
open-mindedness with regard to difficulties and disagree-
Newman’s account of inference stresses its status as
ments prepared that spirit of dialogue and conciliation in the
mental attitude; it is an attitude toward the conclusion as fol-
Roman Catholic church that characterizes so much of con-
lowing from its premises. Likewise, Newman contrasts certi-
temporary theological thought and is believed to have
tude with certainty. Certainty pertains to propositions in
strongly influenced the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.
their formal interrelation; certitude pertains to the living
mind in exercise of the illative sense.
Perhaps Newman’s most important influence is that
Theology and the sciences. Reality is one, but com-
which his ideas increasingly exercise on contemporary
plex. The conceptual knowledge of reality is one in its ulti-
thought, especially through his pioneering investigations
mate aim, but by virtue of its abstractive nature, knowledge
into the nature and workings of the human mind in the indi-
necessarily divides into an increasing number of sciences
vidual (Grammar of Assent) and in society (Development of
treating various parts and aspects of the whole. The intellect
Christian Doctrine). Further, his Idea of a University has be-
can neither take in the whole nor adequately reconstruct it
come a classic in intellectual education and the philosophy
by addition and composition of all the available sciences.
of the sciences. In this last regard it is widely known that
Each science has its own principles and methods imposed by
Newman influenced Alfred North Whitehead.
the nature of the subject matter. Hence a certain amount of
disagreement between scientific views is inevitable. The clash
BIBLIOGRAPHY
between the exact sciences and theological science may be ex-
A complete bibliography of works by Newman and concerning
pected. Scientists will easily imagine that their conclusions
him is available in Newman-Studien, a serial publication of
are irreconcilable with faith, for the experiences with which
the Internationales Cardinal-Newman-Kuratorium (Nurem-
theology starts are rather elusive, whereas the data of the
berg, 1948–). For works on Newman, see Vincent F. Blehl’s
exact sciences are clearer and more compelling; moreover,
John Henry Newman: A Bibliographical Catalogue of His
the prevailing methods of the exact sciences are inductive,
Writings (Charlottesville, Va., 1978). John R. Griffin’s New-
whereas those of theology are deductive.
man: A Bibliography of Secondary Studies (Fort Royal, Va.,
1980) is an almost complete list of publications on Newman,
As truth is one, the very evolution of scientific investiga-
comprising more than 2,500 entries. The main posthumous
tion may be expected to solve the difficulties that it raises.
documents are John Henry Newman: Autobiographical Writ-
Hence, total freedom, tolerance, dialogue, mutual esteem,
ings, edited by Henry Tristam (New York, 1957); The Philo-
and understanding should govern the relationship between
sophical Notebook of John Henry Newman, 2 vols., edited by
all the sciences in their living coexistence.
Edward J. Sillem (New York, 1970); The Theological Papers
of John Henry Newman: On Faith and Certainty
, edited by
Faith. For Newman, faith is both objective and subjec-
Hugo M. de Achaval and J. Derek Holmes (Oxford, 1976);
tive. As objective, faith is a doctrinal system of revealed
and The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman, 26 vols.,
truths, articulated in plain human language, inadequate yet
edited by Thomas Gornall (London, 1973–). The best com-
true. This is the principle of dogma, which Newman sternly
prehensive study is Henry Tristam and F. Bacchus’s “New-
opposed to all forms of religious or theological liberalism. It
man,” in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris, 1903–
is contained in scripture, gradually clarified in the life of the
1950). The most complete biography, though lacking quota-
church under the guidance of divine providence (the Holy
tions of sources, is Meriol Trevor’s Newman: Light in Winter,
2 vols. (New York, 1962).
Spirit), in the course of history confirmed, at least in its es-
sentials, by its magisterium, and proposed as a condition of
J. H. WALGRAVE (1987)
ecclesiastical membership by its present authority. In the
end, Newman saw this Catholic position as being in the na-
ture of a church called to survive substantially in the flux of
historical experience.
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
This entry consists of the following articles:
As subjective, faith is acceptance of dogma combined
with a personal surrender to the realities signified by dogma,
AN OVERVIEW
HISTORY OF STUDY
that is, real apprehension and assent. It is a gift of God’s “illu-
SCRIPTURES OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
minating grace,” yet justified by reason.
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WOMEN
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
Influence. During his years in the Anglican church,
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
Newman was the most influential leader of the Oxford
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND VIOLENCE
Movement, defining the position of Anglo-Catholicism in
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
the Church of England and deepening the life of devotion
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN JAPAN
through his sermons. In the Roman Catholic church his con-
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN OVERVIEW
6513
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN
converts in the West, as well as Christian groups in China
OVERVIEW
and Japan; religious groups that were brought into new cul-
Scholars adopted the term new religious movements (NRMs)
tural contexts by recent immigrants, such as Muslims in the
in order to avoid the pejorative connotations of the popularly
West; groups that evolved out of a more established tradi-
used term cult. Although the word cult originally referred to
tion, such as the Branch Davidians, which emerged from
an organized system of worship (and is still used in that sense
Seventh-day Adventism; reconfigurations of religious themes
by scholars in several disciplines), cult began to take on nega-
in traditional religions, such as Kurozumikyo¯, Tenrikyo¯, and
tive connotations in popular discourse in the 1960s and
other new religions in Japan; revivals of suppressed religious
1970s, when a variety of unconventional religions appeared
traditions, such as contemporary Pagan movements in east-
in North America. The word conveyed a stereotype that pre-
ern Europe; creative mergings of diverse religious traditions,
vented objective research into these religions; moreover,
such as the African Independent Churches (AICs; often
NRMs were so different from one another that it was impos-
called African Initiated Churches), which combined Chris-
sible to generalize about them. Instead, NRM scholars pre-
tianity with African beliefs and modes of worship, or the
ferred to investigate each new religion separately without im-
New Age movement’s blend of different religions and spiri-
posing the filter of a stereotype. Beginning in the 1970s,
tualities; imaginative and syncretistic re-creations of preexist-
people called “deprogrammers” began illegally kidnapping
ing religious traditions, such as Neopaganism in North
NRM members and attempting to undo their alleged “brain-
America; organizations that coalesced around new formula-
washing,” curtailing their civil liberties in the process. As a
tions of teachings found in alternative religious traditions,
result, many NRM scholars began to advocate freedom of re-
such as the Theosophical Society, which grew out of the
ligion for NRMs. While scholars admit that some members
Western Esoteric tradition and borrowed from virtually all
of NRMs have committed abusive and illegal acts (as have
the world’s religions; or millennial movements that formed
members of mainstream religions and people who have no
in response to new cultural conditions or oppression (such
religious commitments), they advise that law enforcement
as the Ghost Dance movement among Plains Native Ameri-
agencies exercise discipline when investigating claims of
cans in the nineteenth century) or innovations (such as the
wrongdoing, rather than overreacting.
UFO movement known as the Raelians). However innova-
New religious movements emerge from humans’ cre-
tive they may be, NRMs always utilize elements of earlier re-
ativity and capacity for religious expression, providing spiri-
ligious traditions as building blocks to construct their new
tual meaning and social connection for their members, just
theologies, practices, and organizations.
as mainstream religious groups do. Contemporary NRMs
NRMs are diverse in terms of their authority, organiza-
manifest the increasing pluralism associated with greater ease
tional structures, and levels of commitment required of their
of global travel and communications.
members. For example, ISKCON in the 1960s and 1970s
NRMs provide arenas for theological and social experi-
demanded much from its participants and had a communal
mentation. Some of these experiments are successful and re-
structure; on the other hand, the Theosophical Society has
sult in lasting religious organizations that exert broad cultural
organizational structures on the local, national, and interna-
and theological influences. Some experiments are less suc-
tional levels, is not communal for the most part, and does
cessful, resulting in small groups that are not influential or
not require prospective members to pledge a large commit-
lasting. A few produce groups whose beliefs and practices are
ment of resources. Falun Gong is a network of like-minded
deemed utterly abhorrent by the wider society.
people, and the New Age movement is an alternative milieu
in which people move from one group or teacher to another,
NRMs exist in varying degrees of tension within their
appropriating what works for them as individuals. Some
respective religious and cultural contexts. To survive for the
NRM members may make significant investments of time,
long-term, however, this tension must not become too great,
money, identities, marriages, families, and careers to a group,
and may indeed be mitigated over time. On the other hand,
only to find out later that leaving the group involves very
some degree of tension with society can attract converts who
high “exit costs.” These exit costs may make it difficult for
are dissatisfied with the spirituality and practices of main-
them to leave the group, even if they would like to. Many
stream religious institutions.
other NRM members, however, attend their alternative
NRMs may be alternative in terms of theology, leader-
group and imbibe its worldview only sporadically, enjoying
ship, authority structures, gender roles, family and sexual re-
the socializing once or twice a week, much the way members
lationships, and religious practices.
of mainstream religions attend their churches, synagogues,
and mosques.
DIVERSITY OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS. The term new
religious movements
covers many types of religious move-
NRMs also vary in terms of their size and influence.
ments and groups: religions that were introduced into a cul-
Many NRMs have remained small, localized groups, while
ture by missionary representatives from world religions
others have become large denominations, such as the Church
abroad, such as the International Society for Krishna Con-
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and Church
sciousness (ISKCON) or other Asian-based religions with
of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science). A few NRMs have
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6514
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN OVERVIEW
become world religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, and
Investigation into new religions is an extension of the
Islam. Many others remain diffuse milieus containing many
comparative and interdisciplinary study of religions. The
individuals and groups, such as Western Esotericism. Often,
study of new religions is the study of religions in all their di-
a NRM gives birth to its own movement, as additional
versity and creativity. Many NRM studies have focused on
groups and teachers continue the process of splitting off to
Western cultural contexts, but the field is increasingly be-
form separate organizations, while continuing to contribute
coming international in scope, examining numerous reli-
to an environment of shared ideas and practices, such as the
gious movements emerging from, and finding themselves in
Theosophical and the New Thought movements.
tension with, different cultures.
New religious movements also have different modes of
New religions studies is interdisciplinary. Most contrib-
origination. Many NRMs have been founded by prophets
utors to the field have been historians of religions and sociol-
with new revelations, or messiahs who claim to have the su-
ogists. Scholars who contribute to NRM studies also belong
perhuman power to create a millennial collective salvation;
to the fields of psychology, anthropology, folklore, and lin-
many others consist of movements of people who have con-
guistics.
tributed to an alternative worldview, such as Christian
CONTEXTS CONDUCIVE TO PRODUCING NRMS. Any con-
Identity.
text may produce NRMs, because nonconformists and inno-
vators exist in any culture. Certain contexts, however, involv-
New religions provide social spaces for experimentation
ing cultural disruption, change, and a high degree of
in alternative theologies, gender roles, sexual relations, lead-
exchange of ideas and people, seem particularly conducive to
ership structures, and group organization. Some of these ex-
producing NRMs.
periments, such as free love and polygamy, have not been
successful in the West because the wider society condemned
New religions have arisen in various times and places as
and opposed them. Other experiments have succeeded and
a result of the migration of peoples and the exchange of ideas.
influenced mainstream society, such as theologies that em-
This process has been accelerated in today’s world due to the
phasize the divine feminine, or imagine God to be both male
relative ease of travel and worldwide communication by elec-
and female, or view the ultimate reality as a neuter and im-
tronic means, including the Internet. The United States, and
personal force, counteracting the patriarchal conception of
Japan from the nineteenth century on, have been particularly
God. These alternative theological conceptions, such as the
fertile grounds for the creation of new religions, as people in
Christian Science Father-Mother God, the Wiccan Great
both countries have confronted the changes affecting work,
Goddess, or the Theosophical impersonal ultimate, have in-
family, technology, values, and the mobility of peoples
fluenced—directly or indirectly—mainstream Christian the-
throughout the world associated with modernity and post-
ologies; they have prefigured theological innovations in
modernity. Growth in the number of new religions is one
mainstream denominations. NRMs have experimented with
characteristic of the world’s increasing pluralism.
women’s religious leadership and feminist gender roles; con-
Oppressive contexts, in which an invading colonial
sequently, many mainstream religious institutions have pro-
power possessing advanced technology and military advan-
moted women’s equality and leadership. Yet many NRMs
tage seizes the land and wealth of an indigenous people, dis-
have opted to institutionalize patriarchal gender roles and
rupts their traditional way of life, and causes loss of life, are
traditional conceptions of God, often in reaction to changes
ripe for spawning new religious movements. A colonial
in society and religion.
power will import its own religion into the new context,
where it will be adapted to the values, concepts, and practices
New religions scholars will continue to observe a partic-
of the indigenous culture, giving rise to new religious move-
ular new religious movement and the changes that occur as
ments such as the numerous African Independent Churches
the new group matures, as long as the worldview, practices,
or the Latin American folk Catholic movements and Pente-
and organization remain alternative, unconventional, some-
costal churches. Millennial movements with new prophets
what marginal, and in some degree of tension with the main-
and messiahs are likely to emerge among indigenous peoples
stream cultural context. Thus, some NRMs will continue to
desperate for liberation from their oppressors and difficult
be studied by NRM scholars well past the time they are no
conditions. Some of these movements may be revolutionary,
longer “new.” The tension with the mainstream society may
such as Cuscat’s War (1867–1870) in Mexico, led by the
arise due to alternative theology or worldview, practices, or-
Mayan prophet Pedro Díaz Cuscat, while others may pro-
ganization, leadership, gender roles, sexual practices, or other
mote the expectation of salvation by divine intervention,
factors.
such as the Ghost Dance movement among Plains Native
N
Americans in the late nineteenth century. Many millennial
EW RELIGIONS STUDIES. New religions studies became an
emerging field in the late 1960s and 1970s, when numerous
movements reacting to poverty and oppression have set up
unconventional religions attracted attention from the general
separate communities, such as Joaseiro do Norte in Brazil or
public. In the early twenty-first century, this maturing field
Nueva Jerusalén in Mexico.
has produced scholarly analysis and many insights important
Newly opened or liberating contexts can also give rise
to the study of religions.
to a proliferation of NRMs. For instance, the demise of the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN OVERVIEW
6515
Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s created contexts in
Sho¯ko¯ (b. 1955) of Aum Shinrikyo¯, and Adolf Hitler (1889–
Russia, the former Soviet states, and eastern Europe that
1945). Although Adolf Hitler may appear to have been solely
were very receptive to the importation of NRMs, the resur-
a political leader, he was also the messiah of a revolutionary
gence of indigenous Pagan religious expressions, and the cre-
millennial movement (see below), and he claimed to be des-
ation of new religions. The fall of communism as a dominant
tined by “Nature” to lead the Germans into a collective salva-
worldview and state structure in these areas left a vacuum of
tion called the “Third Reich.”
meaning that people quickly filled.
Many NRMs, such as the Theosophical Society, have
CHARISMATIC LADERS AND THE BRAINWASHING DEBATE.
democratic structures of authority. These democracies often
Members of the general public, attempting to explain why
develop after the death of a charismatic founder. Also, it is
people join strange religious groups with unusual beliefs and
important to note that many, probably most, charismatic
behaviors, have often resorted to what James T. Richardson
leaders do not become totalitarian and do not lead their be-
has called “the myth of the omnipotent leader” and the cor-
lievers into disaster.
responding “myth of the passive, brainwashed follower”
(cited in Wessinger, How the Millennium Comes Violently,
Brainwashing Debate. Most social scientists studying
2000, 273–274). In subscribing to these perspectives, how-
NRMs have concluded that indoctrination practices in
ever, citizens forget that the beliefs and practices of any reli-
NRMs are not inherently different from those practiced in
gion appear to be bizarre from the outsider’s vantage point.
mainstream institutions, such as families, schools, churches,
Instead, people in the mainstream assume that the so-called
the military, and prisons. They reject the concept that any-
“charismatic leader” wields an invisible and irresistible power
one’s will can be overcome by a mysterious power of “mind
over his or her brainwashed followers.
control” or “brainwashing.” This is not to say that social and
interpersonal influence techniques are not present, as they
Charisma. Charisma, in the popular sense, refers to the
are in all social situations. Although most NRMs do not use
characteristics of an attractive individual gifted with excellent
coercive practices to retain members, a few have. An NRM
communications skills, but historians of religions and sociol-
cannot become coercive, however, without the willing com-
ogists use the term to designate a different quality often
plicity of at least some of its members.
found in religious leaders. In a religious studies and sociolog-
ical sense, charisma refers to an attribute possessed by an indi-
An example of an NRM that actively attempted to prac-
vidual whom people believe has access to an unseen source
tice brainwashing is Aum Shinrikyo¯, the criminal Japanese
of authority, such as revelation from God, angels, spirits, an-
new religion active in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s.
cestors, or even extraterrestrials. The source of the authority
Aum devotees kidnapped, imprisoned, starved, drugged,
is unseen, so people either believe or reject the claim. Charis-
subjected to electric shocks, and abused people in attempts
ma is socially constructed. If no one believes the individual’s
to convert them. None of these people became believers, al-
claim, then he or she does not have charisma in this sense.
though many of them were severely injured or killed. On the
No one can become a charismatic leader without the support
other hand, Aum members who willingly went through so-
and allegiance of believers, and the followers can withdraw
cialization processes, such as listening to the guru’s lectures,
their faith in the leader at any time.
working long hours for the organization, listening to audio-
taped affirmations, and enduring immersions in cold water
Not all NRMs are founded or led by charismatic lead-
and hot water as ascetic practices, were committed believers.
ers, but this type of leadership is common in the first genera-
The contrast between these two types of people illustrates
tion of a movement. Thereafter, authority usually becomes
that socialization processes are most effective when the indi-
“routinized” (Weber, 1946) into offices that people may ob-
vidual willingly participates in them.
tain by an institutionalized credentialing process.
People join new religions for numerous reasons: the
Given that followers can withdraw allegiance, Thomas
worldview makes sense to them; they find benefits in the reli-
Robbins and Dick Anthony (1995), following Max Weber,
gious practices; they have preexisting affective bonds with
have pointed to the inherent instability of charismatic leader-
family members and friends who are members; they like the
ship. The leader may go to great lengths to continue to win
people and the alternative community and “family” they
the faith of followers. If such faith is forthcoming, the charis-
have found; the group offers a sense of belonging and social
matic leader may be emboldened to demand even greater ac-
support; they enjoy the adventure offered in terms of travel
tions demonstrating commitment, involving sacrifices in re-
and new lifestyles; the new religion enables them to live out
lation to family, sexuality, property, and even acts of
their commitments to values and beliefs that were inculcated
violence. If followers carry out acts of coercion and violence
by their upbringing; they like the roles of men and women;
in support of the leader and the leader’s vision, he or she can
they become emotionally attracted to the leader for various
then exert totalitarian control, making it very difficult for
reasons; membership offers therapeutic benefits in dealing
people to leave the group. Examples of leaders possessing
with personal problems and life transitions.
charisma whose followers carried out coercive actions with
varying degrees and scopes of influence include Jim Jones
The rapid turnover of membership that is common to
(1931–1978) of the Peoples Temple and Jonestown, Asahara
most NRMs disproves the brainwashing theory, which
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6516
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN OVERVIEW
claims that people are unable to resist the mesmerizing influ-
the Raelian group. Neopaganism has been particularly
ence exerted by a charismatic leader. For instance, The Fami-
woman-affirming in its emphasis on a Great Goddess, multi-
ly (formerly the Children of God) had about fifty-seven
ple goddesses, and the sacredness of Earth.
thousand people join during its first twenty-five years, but
When patriarchal religious institutions are dominant in
only about three thousand adult members remained at the
the mainstream, women’s religious leadership is necessarily
end of that time (See statistics on NRMs summarized in
exercised on the margins of society in unconventional reli-
Richardson 2003 and Palmer 2003). People leave a new reli-
gions. Women have founded new religions, and women in
gion when they lose faith or become disenchanted with the
NRMs have been acknowledged as being prophets, messiahs,
group and its lifestyle and leadership.
theologians, and philosophers. For instance, Mother Ann
NEW RELIGIONS AND SCRIPTURES. New religions offer new
Lee (1736–1784), who in the late eighteenth century
interpretations of traditional scriptures, such as the Bible and
founded the Shakers—which promoted women’s liberation
the QurDa¯n, and often produce their own scriptures.
through men and women living together in celibate commu-
The scriptures of established religious traditions are so
nities—was regarded by the Shakers as the “Second Appear-
internally diverse that, for centuries, leaders, prophets, messi-
ing of Christ in female form.” Helena P. Blavatsky (1831–
ahs, and ordinary people have offered new interpretations of
1891), an unconventional Russian world traveler, articulated
them; these new readings have often led to the formation of
the philosophical basis for Theosophy and claimed to be in
new movements.
touch with enlightened masters via psychic means. Mary
Baker Eddy (1821–1910) received a healing and revelation
The founders of new religions claiming divine revela-
that led her to write her magnum opus, Science and Health,
tion often produce new scriptures themselves, while some-
With Key to the Scriptures (1875) and found the Church of
times people’s written memories of these individuals become
Christ, Scientist.
new scriptures. For example, Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed to
have translated a text engraved on golden tablets, which be-
Scholar Mary Farrell Bednarowski (1980) has pointed
came known as the Book of Mormon, a scripture important
out that NRMs founded by women or that have women as
to Mormons (along with the Bible).
leaders often develop a view of God that either promotes a
divine feminine, perhaps balanced with a divine masculine
New interpretations of established scriptures and the
aspect of God, or sees the ultimate reality as impersonal.
production of new scriptures is an important part of the cre-
ativity of religion-making. In the twenty-first century, addi-
CHILDREN IN NEW RELIGIONS. Children are a highly sensi-
tional scriptures may be found in nonwritten media, such as
tive topic with respect to NRMs, and the scholarly study of
movies, videos, audiotapes, CDs, and websites. Whatever the
children in NRMs is just beginning. Children in NRMs are
medium, scriptures address the meaning and purpose of life
often the subjects of custody battles between the parent who
and provide advice on proper living. Scriptures convey a
is a member and the parent who is not a member or who has
worldview in which meaningful human life is possible.
left the group. People in mainstream society often fear for
the welfare of children in NRMs because of their unorthodox
WOMEN AND GENDER ROLES IN NRMS. Many NRMs ex-
practices and beliefs. Under these circumstances, exaggerated
periment with gender roles and sexuality. Some NRMs en-
allegations are often made about the treatment of children
force conservative patriarchal gender roles (such as the Unifi-
in NRMs. Sometimes there is a real basis for these concerns,
cation Church and the Twelve Tribes), many are attractive
but often there is not. For instance, authorities have seized
primarily to heterosexuals, others welcome people of all sexu-
children from two alternative Christian groups, the Twelve
al orientations (such as the Raelians), some encourage free
Tribes and The Family, only to have to return them later
love within the group (such as The Family, Raelians, and the
when no evidence of abuse could be produced. On the other
followers of Rajneesh in the 1970s), while others promote
hand, the leader of the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors was
celibacy (such as the Shakers and the Brahma Kumaris).
convicted in 2004 for sexually abusing children, and the In-
A conservative NRM that follows the Bible or the
ternational Society for Krishna Consciousness in the late
QurDa¯n (such as the Twelve Tribes and the Nation of Islam,
1990s and early 2000s had to confront the damage caused
respectively) may encourage traditional heterosexual mar-
by abuse of children placed in ISKCON boarding schools.
riages and male headship of the family. Some NRMs have
The highly publicized pedophilia scandal in the Roman
experimented with polygamy, such as the nineteenth-century
Catholic Church in the early 2000s reminds us that abuse
Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and contemporary Mormon
of children can occur in mainstream religions and not only
splinter groups. The Branch Davidians practiced celibacy for
in the unconventional ones.
ordinary members, but their leader, David Koresh (1959–
Fears about children in NRMs can lead to overreactions
1993), took numerous wives, with whom he had children to
from law enforcement officials. The two assaults against the
fulfill his interpretations of biblical prophecies.
Branch Davidians in 1993 by federal agents purportedly
Other NRMs promote equality for women and do not
were motivated by concerns about the safety of the children,
restrict women to the roles of wife and mother. Often, these
but their actions resulted in the deaths of twenty-three chil-
religions welcome people of all sexual orientations, such as
dren under the age of fifteen (including two who were born
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN OVERVIEW
6517
in the fire when their pregnant mothers died and then died
forcement agents and other government officials, reporters,
themselves), five teenagers over fifteen, eighteen people in
psychologists and social workers, citizens, concerned rela-
their twenties, and their parents. A number of the young
tives, and anticultists—with members of a new religion helps
women who died in the fire were the mothers of the eighteen
determine whether or not tragic violence occurs. It is seldom
children who were eight years old or younger who died with
only the believers who contribute to a situation that culmi-
them. In the Branch Davidian case, the matter of child abuse
nates in violence, although their actions and the content of
did not fall under federal jurisdiction. The Branch Davidians
their faith certainly do affect the overall scenario.
had been investigated for child abuse by Texas authorities
and the case was closed for lack of evidence. While the allega-
Assaulted NRMs. Members of NRMs do not always
tions of severe corporal punishment remain unsubstantiated,
initiate the violence; sometimes, they are attacked by others.
David Koresh was, in fact, having sex with underage girls
When members of a new religious movement are assaulted,
with the permission of their parents, and the girls were bear-
they may or may not fight back. The early Christians did not
ing his children.
fight back when they were assaulted. Some of the early Chris-
tians, as well as some Falun Gong practitioners in the early
Religiously committed parents want their children to be
twenty-first century, may have deliberately put themselves in
raised in the lifestyle they deem best according to their deeply
danger of being harmed by the state. Conversely, the Branch
held beliefs. This is the case for parents who belong to main-
Davidians tried to defend themselves in 1993.
stream, as well as marginal, religions. Difficulties arise when
the values of parents in unconventional religions diverge rad-
Fragile NRMs. A few new religions become fragile in
ically from the values of mainstream society.
reaction to internal weaknesses and experiences of opposition
from society. Members of a fragile NRM initiate violence to
Sometimes parents in a new religion hold to a faith so
preserve their endangered religious goal. Their violence may
strongly that they permit their daughters to be married at
be directed outwardly against perceived enemies, inwardly
early ages, as with the Branch Davidians and contemporary
against members, or both. Jonestown in Guyana (1978); the
polygamous Mormons. On rare occasions, strongly commit-
Solar Temple in Switzerland, Quebec, and France (1994,
ted parents may kill their children to achieve an ultimate goal
1995, 1997); Aum Shinrikyo¯ in Japan (1995); and Heaven’s
by collective suicide, which occurred at Jonestown in 1978
Gate in the United States (1997) are examples of fragile
and with the Solar Temple in 1994 and 1995.
groups. The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Com-
The vast majority of parents in NRMs do not go to
mandments of God (MRTCG) (2000), a Catholic Marian
these extremes, however. Scholars recognize the need for ad-
apparition group in Uganda involved in the deaths of about
ditional research into the benign situations of children in
780 people, also may have been a fragile millennial group.
NRMs, as well as in the cases where harm was done. Close
scholarly examinations of children in NRMs will likely reveal
Revolutionary NRMs. The most dangerous NRMs are
complex situations possessing both positive and negative fea-
the ones that are revolutionary. These are usually revolution-
tures.
ary millennial movements seeking to achieve a collective sal-
vation on Earth. They use violence to try to overthrow what
MILLENNIALISM. The religious patterns that scholars term
they see as the corrupt order to create a new one. The Tai-
millennialism—belief in an imminent transition to a collec-
ping Revolution in China from 1850 to 1864 and the Ger-
tive salvation (either earthly or heavenly) effected by a super-
man Nazis in the twentieth century can be seen as revolu-
natural or superhuman agent—are ideal for promoting new
tionary NRMs. Al-Qa¯Eidah is a contemporary example of a
religious movements. Persuading people that a catastrophic
revolutionary NRM. Even in the cases of revolutionary
destruction of the world is imminent, and that salvation can
NRMs, however, the quality of interactions of people in
be found only among the “elect” who join the new religion
mainstream society with nonbelievers is crucial for stimulat-
and have faith in its prophet or messiah and his or her mes-
ing the believers’ sense of being persecuted, thus confirming
sage, is a powerful factor in motivating people to convert.
their convictions that revolutionary violence is needed to
Likewise, an anticipation of an imminent, nonviolent, pro-
achieve a collective salvation for those who are identified as
gressive transformation into a new age in accordance with a
worthy of being included in the “elect.”
divine plan can motivate people to join the movement to fa-
cilitate the collective salvation. Millennial beliefs are often,
Dualism. A dualistic outlook usually contributes to epi-
but not always, found in new religious movements.
sodes of violence involving new religious movements. An ex-
NEW RELIGIONS AND VIOLENCE. It is well known that mem-
treme dualism entails a rigid perspective of good versus evil,
bers of dominant religious traditions often commit violence
or of us versus them. But dualism is not restricted to religious
or become caught up in violence While the vast majority of
believers. In these interactive conflicts, dualism can usually
NRMs do not become involved in violence, some have been
be discerned in the worldviews of reporters, anticult activists,
involved in spectacular cases of violence. Excluding the inevi-
law enforcement agents, politicians, and government offi-
table isolated incidents caused by deranged individuals, reli-
cials. Among the religious believers, the dualism is often asso-
gious violence is typically interactive in nature. The quality
ciated with a millennial outlook that expects catastrophic de-
of the interactions of people in mainstream society—law en-
struction before salvation is achieved for the elect.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6518
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN OVERVIEW
GOVERNMENTAL OPPOSITION TO NRMS: FREEDOM OF RE-
The ideologies of the American anticult and countercult
LIGION ISSUES. It is a serious matter when a religion is called
(evangelical Christian) movements have been exported to
a “cult” or “sect” by a government and the general public.
other countries, where the anticult/countercult perspective
Labeling a group with the pejorative term cult or an equiva-
is utilized to curtail religious freedoms and justify state-
lent term promotes opposition, discrimination, and even
sponsored repression and violence against unconventional
persecution of the believers, with possible disastrous conse-
religious groups. Phillip Charles Lucas (2004) points out
quences. The believers become dehumanized by the pejora-
that the right to freedom of religion needs to be balanced
tive label, and outsiders may believe it is morally right to ex-
with the concern that some religious groups may be engaged
terminate them.
in illegal and harmful activities. The “cult” stereotype pro-
moted by the anticult and countercult movements has pro-
Scholarship on the Branch Davidian conflict in 1993
moted religious bigotry and has led to extreme actions on the
indicates that federal agents were motivated in great part by
part of authorities in various countries.
the “cult” stereotype to carry out two assaults against the
community. The media depicted the Branch Davidians as
When authorities suspect illegal activities on the part of
“cultists” during the fifty-one-day siege; as a result, much of
NRM members, they should conduct a careful investigation
the American public approved of the gas-and-tank assault
and ensure that the actions of law enforcement agents con-
carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that result-
form to reasonable and moderate procedures to avoid caus-
ed in the deaths of seventy-four Branch Davidians. In all,
ing unnecessary harm. Furthermore, law enforcement agents
eighty Branch Davidians and four law enforcement agents
should consult with credentialed scholars of religions.
died in what was later determined to be an unnecessary con-
NRMs are religions. They represent the creativity of the
flict. David Koresh had consistently expressed his willingness
human spirit. They are novel, alternative, and unconvention-
to cooperate with authorities, from the initial investigations
al in their cultural contexts, and thus they live in some degree
to the fiery end, provided the Branch Davidians were permit-
of tension with society. At the same time, they express the
ted to remain faithful to their biblical concerns.
universal human yearning for contact with the sacred, and
During 1999 and the early 2000s, Falun Gong was the
in this regard they are neither novel nor unusual. Because
most visible among many persecuted religious groups in the
they are religions-in-formation, the study of them sheds light
People’s Republic of China. Falun Gong adherents, who
on all religions, as well as on the perpetual human quest for
practiced a form of qigong (exercises designed to enhance qi,
meaning.
or life force), surprised officials in the Chinese Communist
New religions studies is focused on emergent, alterna-
Party in 1999 by coordinating a protest gathering of more
tive, and unconventional religions in any given cultural con-
than ten thousand people near the Beijing residence of the
text, thus it is interdisciplinary in approach and multicultural
highest party leaders. Despite being labeled an “evil cult” and
in scope. Because of the cultural opposition that often con-
outlawed, Falun Gong practitioners continued to assert their
fronts NRMs, scholars in the field also study social control
right to freedom of religion by practicing their qigong exer-
efforts directed against NRMs. The field represents an
cises in public places, such as Tiananmen Square, where they
important extension of the study of religions in all their
were arrested. Reportedly, hundreds of Falun Gong practi-
diversity.
tioners died in custody. All of the official forces of the Peo-
ple’s Republic of China, including the media, were mobi-
SEE ALSO African Religions, article on New Religious
lized in the repression of Falun Gong practitioners.
Movements; Anticult Movements; Aum Shinrikyo¯; Blavat-
sky, H. P.; Brainwashing (Debate); Branch Davidians; Cha-
In the mid- to late 1990s, France and Belgium issued
risma; Christian Identity Movement; Christian Science;
reports and passed laws against sectes, the pejorative term
Cults and Sects; Eddy, Mary Baker; Esotericism; Falun
equivalent to cults. Minority religions of all types unfortunate
Gong; Family, The; Ghost Dance; Heaven’s Gate; Interna-
enough to be included on the lists of sectes were subjected to
tional Society for Krishna Consciousness; Jehovah’s Wit-
harassment and surveillance by law enforcement agents, and
nesses; Jones, Jim; Jonestown and Peoples Temple; Koresh,
members lost jobs and suffered other civil disabilities.
David; Law and Religion, article on Law and New Reli-
gious Movements; Lee, Ann; Mormonism; Movement for
Russia and former Soviet republics in the late 1990s and
the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God; Nation
early 2000s took steps to curtail the legal rights of minority
of Islam; Neopaganism; New Age Movement; New
religious groups and to favor traditional historical churches,
Thought Movement; Raëlians; Shakers; Smith, Joseph; So¯ka
such as the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and the Ar-
Gakkai; Taiping; Theosophical Society; Twelve Tribes;
menian Apostolic Church in Armenia. In 2004, the city of
UFO Religions; Unification Church; Wicca.
Moscow banned the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witness-
es, including holding meetings and services in private homes.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
In Turkmenistan, all religions other than approved Islam
Barker, Eileen. “Perspective: What Are We Studying? A Sociologi-
and Russian Orthodoxy were banned; members of all other
cal Case for Keeping the ‘Nova.’” Nova Religio: The Journal
religions were treated harshly.
of Alternative and Emergent Religions. 8, no. 1 (2004): 88–
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: AN OVERVIEW
6519
102. Barker, a sociologist, argues for defining a new religion
edited by Phillip Charles Lucas and Thomas Robbins,
as being a first-generation group consisting of converts, and
pp. 341–357. New York, 2004. The important conclusion
that the cultural antagonism directed toward NRMs is a con-
to a significant set of essays on the status of new religious
sequence of their being novel.
movements in different countries and parts of the world.
Bednarowski, Mary Farrell. “Outside the Mainstream: Women’s
Melton, J. Gordon. “Perspective: Toward a Definition of ‘New
Religion and Women’s Religious Leaders in Nineteenth-
Religion.’” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emer-
Century America.” Journal of the American Academy of Reli-
gent Religions 8, no. 1 (2004): 73–87. Melton, a historian of
gion 48 (1980): 207–231. Groundbreaking essay that illumi-
religions, opts for understanding a new religious movement
nates factors which promote ongoing women’s religious lead-
as being any religion that is assigned fringe status by the
ership in unconventional religions.
dominant religions in any given culture because of signifi-
Bromley, David G. “Perspective: Whither New Religions Studies:
cantly different beliefs and practices.
Defining and Shaping a New Area of Study.” Nova Religio:
Miller, Timothy, ed. When Prophets Die: The Postcharismatic Fate
The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 8, no. 2
of New Religious Movements. Albany, N.Y., 1991. A collec-
(2004). In a discussion of the sociological development of
tion of essays on a variety of NRMs examining the processes
New Religions Studies (NRS) as an emerging interdisciplin-
of “routinization of charisma” after the death of the founding
ary area of study, Bromley argues that mainstream religions
charismatic leader.
are characterized by congruence or alignment with the domi-
Miller, Timothy. “Introduction.” In America’s Alternative Reli-
nant culture, while NRMs are characterized by a lack of
gions, edited by Timothy Miller, pp. 1–10. Albany, N.Y.,
alignment and are therefore in tension with the dominant
1995. Miller, a historian of religions, opts for the term “alter-
culture, values, and institutions.
native” to describe NRMs, and emphasizes that NRMs are
Campbell, Colin. “The Cult, the Cultic Milieu, and Seculariza-
not inherently inferior to mainstream religions.
tion.” A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain 5 (1972):
119–136. Reprinted in The Cultic Milieu: Oppositional Sub-
Needleman, Jacob. The New Religions. New York, 1970. Probably
cultures in an Age of Globalization. Edited by Jeffrey Kaplan
the first title to use the term “new religions,” Needleman
and Heléne Lööw, 12–25. Walnut Creek, Calif., 2002.
studies Asian religions in the United States, especially Cali-
Campbell describes a milieu of “seekership” among alterna-
fornia, that attracted attention in the late 1960s.
tive ideas and practices associated with the Western Esoteric
Nova Religio Symposium: Falun Gong.” Nova Religio: The Jour-
tradition or Occultism, and often associated with the Theo-
nal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 6, no. 2 (April
sophical and New Age movements, which has incorporated
2003). A collection of eight scholarly articles on the history
influences from Asian religions.
and practice of Falun Gong, and its conflict with the govern-
Dawson, Lorne L. Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Re-
ment of the People’s Republic of China.
ligious Movements. Oxford, 1998. Excellent sociological
Palmer, Susan Jean. Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lov-
treatment of the main issues relating to new religions, includ-
ers: Women’s Roles in New Religions. Syracuse, N.Y., 1994.
ing typologies, causes of NRMs, conversion, the brainwash-
Examines women’s roles in a variety of NRMs—
ing debate, violence, and cultural significance.
International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Rajneesh
Dawson, Lorne L. “Who Joins New Religious Movements and
movement, Unification Church, Institute of Applied Meta-
Why: Twenty Years of Research and What Have We
physics, Messianic Community (Twelve Tribes), Raelian
Learned?” In Cults and New Religious Movements: A Reader,
movement, Institute for the Development of the Harmoni-
pp. 116–130. Edited by Lorne L. Dawson. Oxford, 2003.
ous Human Being, The Family—paying particular attention
Helpful summary of conclusions found in social scientific lit-
to gender roles and sexual expressions.
erature on why people join new religious movements
Palmer, Susan J. “Women’s ‘Cocoon Work’ in New Religious
Ellwood, Robert S. Introducing Religion: From Inside and Outside.
Movements: Sexual Experimentation and Feminine Rites of
3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1993. A pioneering scholar
Passage.” In Cults and New Religious Movements: A Reader,
of new religions offers a focused treatment of “emergent reli-
pp. 245–56. Edited by Lorne L. Dawson. Oxford, 2003.
gion” on pages 129–133.
This summary of gender roles for women in a variety of
NRMs proposes that women’s temporary membership in an
Ellwood, Robert S. “Nazism as a Millennialist Movement.” In
NRM serves as a rite of passage.
Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases,
pp. 241–260. Edited by Catherine Wessinger. Syracuse,
Palmer, Susan J., and Charlotte E. Hardman, eds. Children in
N.Y., 2000. Discussion of German Nazism as a revolution-
New Religions. New Brunswick, N.J., 1999. The first collec-
ary millennial movement.
tion of scholarly articles on children in new religions.
Gallagher, Eugene V. “Introduction.” The New Religious Move-
Puttick, Elizabeth. “Women in New Religious Movements.” In
ments Experience in America. Westport, Conn., 2004. Excel-
Cults and New Religious Movements: A Reader, pp. 230–44.
lent introduction to the study of NRMs in America and the
Edited by Lorne L. Dawson. Oxford, 2003. Illuminating dis-
issues involved, such as deprogramming, freedom of religion,
cussion of women’s gender roles and expressions of sexuality
the brainwashing theory, and typologies.
in “traditionalist” (patriarchal) new religions and more liber-
Lucas, Phillip Charles. “The Future of New and Minority Reli-
al “personal development” new religions; includes discussion
gions in the Twenty-First Century: Religious Freedom
of issues of abuse and sexual abuse of women.
Under Siege.” In New Religious Movements in the 21st Centu-
Richardson, James T. “A Critique of ‘Brainwashing’ Claims about
ry: Legal, Political, and Social Challenges in Global Perspective,
New Religious Movements.” In Cults and New Religious
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6520
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
Movements: A Reader, pp. 160–66. Edited by Lorne L. Daw-
religions had regularly populated the fringes of Western cul-
son. Oxford, 2003. A social scientific critique of the brain-
ture throughout history, a host of new religious movements
washing theory as scientifically unfounded and self-serving
had appeared in North America at the end of the 1960s and
to proponents.
incited public controversy. Parents of the young adults who
Robbins, Thomas, and Dick Anthony. “Sects and Violence: Fac-
had joined many of these groups mounted fierce battles
tors Enhancing the Volatility of Marginal Religious Move-
against what they termed cults. In order to present a more
ments.” In Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the
balanced view, early research efforts began, initially in the
Branch Davidian Conflict. Edited by Stuart A. Wright,
San Francisco Bay metropolitan area, to explore these groups
pp. 236–59. Chicago, 1995. Discusses the precariousness of
from an academic perspective. At the time, it was assumed
charismatic authority in addition to other factors that can
by some that the sudden burst of new religions was merely
contribute to violence involving a new religion.
a passing phenomenon, particularly related to the social un-
Robbins, Thomas, and David Bromley. “Social Experimentation
rest of the 1960s. The long-term role of the many diverse
and the Significance of American New Religions: A Focused
movements was more fully understood only after their
Review Essay.” Research in the Social Scientific Study of Reli-
growth continued over several decades. Still in its relative in-
gion. 4 (1992): 1–28. Discusses NRMs as “laboratories of so-
fancy, the study of new religions was dramatically affected
cial experimentation,” which can produce innovations that
later will be incorporated into mainstream religions and so-
by the murder/suicides that occurred at Jonestown, Guyana,
cieties.
in November 1978.
Weber, Max. “The Social Psychology of the World Religions.” In
NEW RELIGIONS STUDIES. The contemporary study of new
From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, pp. 267–301, especially
religions grew from two roots: the study of cults (or in Eu-
297. Translated and edited by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright
rope, sects) through the early twentieth century, and the
Mills. New York, 1946. Early discussion, first published in
burst of new religious life in Japan following World War II.
1922–1923, of the process of “routinization” of charisma.
Through the late nineteenth century, observers of the trends
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. Women’s Leadership in Marginal Reli-
in American religion realized that pluralism was altering the
gions: Explorations Outside the Mainstream. Urbana, Ill.,
Christian community and that a number of “heretical” ex-
1993. An examination of the factors in certain new religions
pressions were demanding a place on the spiritual landscape.
that have promoted women’s religious leadership after the
By the end of the century, the first book had appeared that
death of the founder (often a woman).
labeled some of these diverse religions “cults.” Then, through
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. “Introduction: Going Beyond and Re-
the first half of the twentieth century, scholars and church
taining Charisma: Women’s Leadership in Marginal Reli-
leaders tried to discover why people would forsake traditional
gions.” In Women’s Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explora-
religions for these obviously false new religious expressions.
tions Outside the Mainstream. Edited by Catherine
Among these movements in question were Spiritualism,
Wessinger, 1–19. Urbana, Ill., 1993. In addition to discuss-
Mormonism, Theosophy, Christian Science, and New
ing the factors that support ongoing religious leadership by
women in alternative religions, examines some different ways
Thought. At the same time a variety of Christian literature
a religion may be considered “marginal” to the mainstream
denouncing the different groups would begin to circulate as
cultural contexts.
part of an effort to stop their growth and keep Christians
from straying toward them.
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence:
Historical Cases. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Studies millennialism
Simultaneously, with the growth of religious pluralism,
in a variety of cultures and time periods to elucidate the con-
both the psychology and sociology of religion developed as
nection between millennial beliefs and episodes of violence.
distinctive areas of concentration within the emerging social
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. How the Millennium Comes Violently:
sciences. Pioneering scholars would attempt overviews of the
From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate. New York, 2000. Case
different new religions. Favored targets were commonly in-
studies of NRMs and millennial groups from 1978 involved
dependent African American groups such as Father Divine’s
in dramatic incidents of violence.
Peace Mission and the Church of God and Saints of Christ;
Benjamin D. Zablocki, “Exit Cost Analysis: A New Approach to
proselytizing Christian sectarian groups including Jehovah’s
the Scientific Study of Brainwashing,” Nova Religio: The
Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists; and alternative reli-
Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 1, no. 2 (1998):
gions with distinctive practices, among them Spiritualism
216–49. Discussion of “exit costs” considered by people
and Christian Science. The new Pentecostal movement with
choosing whether to stay in or leave a religious group.
its unfamiliar practice of speaking in tongues spread across
CATHERINE WESSINGER (2005)
America just as observers were trying to make sense of Spiri-
tualist séances, metaphysical healing, and occult fortune-
telling.
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF
The first generation of scholarly comment on new reli-
STUDY
gions range from the rather empathetic remarks of William
In the 1970s a new subfield in academia developed around
James in his classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience
the study of what was termed new religions. Though minority
(1902), to the caustic ridicule heaped on the Pentecostals by
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
6521
James’ Harvard College colleague, George B. Cutten, in his
perfectionist (or subjectivist),
Speaking with Tongues: Historically and Psychologically Con-
charismatic (or pentecostal),
sidered (1927).
communistic,
Prior to the 1950s, the study of “cults” was a fringe
legalistic (or objectivists),
topic. Only a few scholars showed any long-term interest in
the subject, and only a handful of Christian scholars wrote
egocentric (the New Thought groups),
more than a single book on the topic. Among the few titles
and esoteric (or mystical).
that attempted to go beyond a negative reductionist ap-
It is to be noted that both Wilson and Clark developed their
proach to the various groups and adopt, with relative success,
classification schema apart from the emerging distinction be-
an understanding of them as valid religious expressions that
tween sect and cult, and both included in their discussion
needed to be understood in their own right were Elmer T.
some groups that would later be seen as sects (Salvation
Clark’s The Psychology of Religious Awakening (1929); Louis
Army, Christadelphians) and those thought of as “new reli-
R. Binder’s Modern Religious Cults and Society (1933); and
gions” (Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses) under the
Arthur Huff Fauset’s Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Reli-
single rubric of sects. This approach had the benefit of allow-
gious Cults of the Urban North (1944). Among those who de-
ing consideration of some otherwise orthodox Christian
nounced the heretical teachings of the groups was Reformed
groups that evidenced out-of-the-ordinary behavior, such as
Church minister Jan Karel Van Baalen, whose Chaos of the
speaking in tongues, contemporary revelations, communal-
Cults first appeared in 1938. His somewhat careful study of
ism, and apocalypticism.
the teachings of the “cults” was motivated by a desire to
show how untenable they were in the light of Protestant or-
Joining Wilson and Clark was Marcus Bach, one of the
thodoxy.
first faculty members of the University of Iowa’s pioneering
religious-studies department. Bach was the first to teach a
The largely negative approach to the alternative reli-
class on new religions and to invite members of the groups
gious groups was firmly established in the 1930s. The search
under discussion to come into his class and speak to students.
for a rationale to explain why religious groups, outside of the
He would go on to author a number of books with catchy
limited pluralism marked by the major American denomina-
titles, such as Strange Sects and Curious Cults (1906), that
tions, could attract a following—albeit a minority one—
nevertheless offered the general public a factual and empa-
dominated scholarly writing of the era. Attraction to the new
thetic entrance into the life of groups such as the Amish,
religions was seen as a product of economic, social, and edu-
the Doukhobors, the Hutterites, and Father Divine’s Peace
cational deprivation, if not actually linked to ill-defined psy-
Mission.
chological disturbances.
Whereas Clark’s and Bach’s influence was largely
TRANSITION. A transition from the earlier, more negative ap-
through their books, Wilson emerged as the teacher of a new
proach to new religions occurred in the two decades follow-
generation of British scholars, mostly sociologists, who began
ing World War II. In England, sociologist Bryan Wilson
in the 1970s to make the study of new religions their primary
(1926–2004) began to look at what he termed sectarian reli-
research field. His students, including Roy Wallis, and others
gion. Following a format already applied to the more familiar
inspired by his example, such as Eileen Barker and James
churches, both state-sponsored and free, Wilson began to ex-
Beckford, would arrive on the scene just as interest turned
plore the different behavior and theologies proposed by indi-
to emerging studies about Japan and its religious sects.
vidual sects and ask questions about the social organization
of those groups then visible in England, North America, and
As a new generation of scholars in North America and
Africa. His work, published in several books through the
Europe were absorbing Clark and Wilson, the Japanese reli-
1960s, led to a system of classifying sects according to the
gious community was in some turmoil. Nearly a century of
variant paths to salvation they outlined for their members:
suppression of Japan’s diverse religions ended decisively with
the introduction of American-style religious freedom in
conversionist,
1945. Over the next decade, a number of religious groups
revolutionist,
appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Attempting to make
introversionist,
some sense of the phenomena, scholars soon discovered three
different types of groups: some that had assumed a low pro-
manipulationist,
file during the Meiji era; others that had disbanded but were
thamaturgical,
reconstituted after 1945; and a few that were entirely new.
reformist,
Scholars also saw that new groups were emerging at a steady
pace. During the 1960s, Western scholars of Japanese reli-
and utopian.
gion like Harry Thomsen and H. Neill McFarland produced
In a similar vein, church historian Elmer Clark, surveying
the first English-language texts about the shin shu¯kyo¯, or
American groups, classified them according to their domi-
“new religions” of Japan.
nant organizational thrust, thus finding sects that were:
THE EMERGENCE OF NEW RELIGIONS STUDY. The books
pessimistic (or adventist),
from Japan offered Western scholars a much-needed tool: a
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6522
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
new language with which to discuss the numerous, outside-
ness movement. This movement was fueled by in part by the
the-mainstream alternative religions that had become their
large number of college-age youths who had joined various
focus in the 1970s. At this time, some older, unfamiliar reli-
new religions, and the subsequent concern of parents that
gious groups joined a number of recently introduced move-
their sons and daughters were too deeply involved in what
ments to create a new alternative religious milieu, and many
were viewed as cult-like movements. Parents found some
found the term borrowed from the Japanese, “new religions,”
early support from various psychological counselors, lawyers,
appropriate to describe these recently visible movements else-
and law-enforcement officials. Through the 1970s, scholars
where. Scholars sought distance from the older terms of
followed the development of the cult awareness movement
“sect”—which in Europe had been used to describe so many
with some concern relative to its effects on issues of religious
groups that it hindered analysis—and “cult,” which had in
freedom, concerns that were heightened by the introduction
America taken on a decidedly negative connotation. While
of coercive deprogramming. Members of a spectrum of new
not altogether fitting terms, “new religion” and “new reli-
religions were being taken into custody, held against their
gious movement” (NRM) nevertheless gradually replaced the
will, and placed under rather strong psychological pressure
previous terminology, especially the term cult.
to renounce and withdraw from the group they had joined.
Leading the way in the appropriation of Japanese reli-
The leadership of the cult awareness movement sought
gious studies in the English-speaking world was Robert S.
justification for the necessity of kidnapping and deprogram-
Ellwood, who emerged in the 1970s as one of the leading
ming the offspring of concerned parents. Such a rationale ap-
new religions scholars. He drew upon his own training in
peared during the trial of millionaire heiress Patty Hearst in
Eastern religions to produce a set of early theoretical texts in-
1976. Hearst’s lawyer, F. Lee Bailey (1933–), argued that
cluding Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America
Hearst, who had participated in a bank robbery some
(1973), The Eagle and the Rising Sun: Americans and the New
months after being captured and held by the Symbionese
Religions of Japan (1974), and Alternative Altars: Unconven-
Liberation Army, had been brainwashed. Though unable to
tional and Eastern Spirituality in America (1979), and an early
prevent her conviction, two of the psychologists that had
study of Tenrikyo (a Japanese new religion) in 1982.
worked with Bailey, Louis J. West (1925–1999) from the
A secondary origin for the term New Religion has also
University of California-Los Angeles and Margaret Singer
been suggested. In 1970, San Francisco Bay Area scholar
(1921–2003), a psychologist in private practice in Berkeley,
Jacob Needleman authored a book titled The New Religions,
began to apply the same argument to members of the new
which his colleagues began to use to describe the emergence
religions—that they were being brainwashed and, in effect,
of so many unfamiliar alternative religions within the coun-
held against their will. They found additional support from
terculture at the end of the 1960s. Needleman found special
Massachusetts psychiatrist John Clark (1926–1999).
significance in Zen Buddhism, the followers of Meher Baba,
The reality of the Jonestown deaths in 1978, and the
Subud, Transcendental Meditation, Krishnamurti, Tibetan
introduction of the brainwashing hypothesis into the conver-
Buddhism, and G. I. Gurdjieff. He also went beyond the
sations would dominate new religions studies for the next de-
largely descriptive work from Japan, and invited readers to
cade. The debate would go on largely without the participa-
consider the philosophical/theological questions about the
tion of the primary exponents of brainwashing, for West,
nature of genuine spirituality.
Singer, and Clark rarely appeared at scholarly gatherings to
In the mid-1970s, a group of scholars in the Bay Area
defend their ideas, and they did not respond directly to their
became the center for the initial studies of new religions, and
scholarly critics. In fact, discussion of the issues was substan-
a number of books flowed from a well-funded project they
tially hindered because the primary statements concerning
initiated. The works most closely associated with the study
the reputed brainwashing in the new religions were made in
are The New Religious Consciousness (1977), edited by
hard-to-retrieve court depositions and testimony. Despite
Charles T. Glock and Robert N. Bellah; Robert Wuthnow’s
the obstacles, by the mid-1980s a consensus had been
Experimentation in American Religion (1978); and Steven
reached in the major relevant academic associations that
Tipton’s Getting Saved from the Sixties (1982). In 1977, the
brainwashing, as articulated primarily in court by Margaret
Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, re-
Singer, had no basis in fact. That position was argued by the
ceived a Rockefeller Grant that allowed the school to host
likes of psychologists Dick Anthony and Newton Maloney,
a large conference on new religious movements, the papers
sociologists Eileen Barker, Tom Robbins, and James T.
of which appeared in 1978 as Understanding the New Reli-
Richardson, and others.
gions, edited by Jacob Needleman and George Baker. Under-
The brainwashing issue would lead to the establishment
standing the New Religions summarized the consensus prior
of a Task Force within the American Psychological Associa-
to the deaths at Jonestown that would set a whole new agen-
tion to prepare a statement concerning the new approach to
da for scholars.
brainwashing. That Task Force’s 1987 report was unani-
As scholars in both England and the United States pur-
mously rejected by the reviewers. The publicizing of the re-
sued their initial studies of the new religions, a second impor-
jection letter largely ended the debate over brainwashing in
tant social phenomenon was also emerging: the cult aware-
academia and several years later, with supportive documents
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
6523
by Dick Anthony and Rutgers psychiatrist Perry London, the
As early as 1969, Geoffrey Nelson’s work on British
idea and its exponents failed to make their case convincingly
Spiritualism pointed out that new religions were not ephem-
before the court, most notably in the case of United States
eral, one-generation phenomena. A variety of subsequent
v. Fishman (1990), in which a former Scientologist claimed
work pointed out that the role of charismatic leaders had
his “brainwashing” in Scientology as a factor leading to his
been overestimated (Miller, 1991). In this regard, scholars
embezzling bank funds. Though the idea of brainwashing
undercut one of the most persistent ideas about new reli-
still appears in the occasional court case, new religions in
gions: that the death of a founder was a major trauma that
North America no longer fear accusations of brainwashing
tended to cause his or her group to fragment or dissolve en-
as a major concern and the practice of coercive deprogram-
tirely. This notion was further dispelled as many new reli-
ming was largely replaced with non-coercive exit counseling.
gions passed through their first generation, were seen to
(Brainwashing ideas remain alive in some European coun-
splinter over a variety of reasons, but managed the death of
tries like France and Spain and deprogramming still occurs
their founder with relative ease. In like measure, the other
in Japan.)
elements of the old definition did not fit many of the promi-
The brainwashing controversy, though a diversion from
nent new religions of the 1970s and 1980s.
the agenda set in the 1970s for studying new religions, had
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, scholars
several important effects. Firstly, it brought a number of peo-
such as David G. Bromley, Eileen Barker, and J. Gordon
ple to the field, and during the 1980s the Association for the
Melton have turned their attention to reconstructing defini-
Sociology of Religion, the Society for the Scientific Study of
tions of the new religions. Bromley has emphasized their na-
Religion, and the American Academy of Religion developed
ture as breaking with the dominant religious culture of the
tracks for papers on new religions. At the same time, as a sig-
society and their alienation from its power structures. Barker
nificant percentage of research on new religions was devoted
has emphasized the special characteristics that first-
to dealing with the controversy, a relatively small number of
generation religious groups tend to share. Melton has em-
new religions became the focus of numerous studies. These
phasized the manner in which new religions, in spite of their
groups, less than two dozen in number, had been threatened
obvious innovations, tend to perpetuate the life of older reli-
with legal action due to accusations of brainwashing. As a re-
gious traditions out of which they had emerged. Thus con-
sult, the majority of the new religions were looked at only
temporary definitions of new religions see them as groups
cursorily. The early neglect of the hundreds of new religions
that operate both socially and culturally outside the main-
also meant that the development of overall understandings
stream of society while seeking to continue or revitalize an
of the field initially lagged.
older tradition. During their first generation they tend to
The decisive rejection of brainwashing as a theory by the
share certain characteristics relative to leadership, member-
scholarly associations and the courts had its most dramatic
ship profiles, and a response to basic organizational impera-
impact on the cult awareness community. Unable to call
tives, though operating out of different theologies and advo-
upon its stable of experts to defend its actions, a court ren-
cating different practices.
dered a $1 million judgment against the Cult Awareness
Network following a deprogramming incident in Seattle in
ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENTS. While much energy was
1995, forcing it into bankruptcy and dissolution. By this
placed on discussing brainwashing, the field of new religions
time, the majority of new religious movements scholars had
studies matured along several contemporaneous parallel
moved on to other concerns. Professionals who supported
tracks in the latter half of the twentieth century. One of the
the brainwashing theory subsequently launched personal at-
first manifestations of this maturity was the publication of
tacks against major new religions scholars whom they labeled
significant reference books in the 1970s, which were needed
“cult apologists.” Attempts to revive the brainwashing theory
to support the emerging new field of study. The regularly up-
in the late 1990s by several sociologists have found little posi-
dated Encyclopedia of American Religions, which includes an
tive response from the majority of scholars who study new
entry on all of the new religions known to be operating in
religions.
North America, was first published in 1979 and was in its
seventh edition just a quarter-century later. Through the
PICKING UP THE STUDY. While the brainwashing controver-
1980s, Garland Publishing issued a set of bibliographies on
sy in the 1980s diverted significant energy, new religions
new religions, culminating in two outstanding volumes by
studies did continue, and through the 1970s and 1980s con-
John Saliba which covered research in the social and psycho-
siderable progress was made. Among the most important
logical sciences (1987, 1990). Meanwhile, in Japan scholars
trends was the gradual dismantling of the definition of “cult/
associated with the Association for the Study of Religion and
new religion” which scholars had been using since the 1950s.
Society produced an expansive dictionary of Japanese new re-
Sociologists such as J. Milton Yinger had suggested back then
ligions, Shinshûkyô jiten (1990).
that cults were small, ephemeral groups, led by a charismatic
leader to whom a cosmic status and/or various supernatural
Specialized reference works on new religions appeared
abilities had been assigned, and which operated in a different
as well. These include works by Peter Clark (A Bibliography
theological world than that of the dominant mainstream
of Japanese New Religious Movements, 1999); James R. Lewis
religions.
(The Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, 2002); and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6524
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
Christopher Partridge (New Religions: A Guide, 2004). Mas-
gions have been questions about the legitimacy of academic
simo Introvigne and his colleagues at the Center for Studies
study of some controversial groups. Several well-known
on New Religions in Turin, Italy, compiled a large volume
groups advocate ideas and practices that the general public
on religions that, like its American counterpart, covered all
perceives to be beyond merely “different”; they are strange
the new religions operating in Italy (Encyclopedia delle Reli-
in the extreme and even threatening to the social order and
gioni in Italia, 2001). In a singularly important volume, in
individual well-being. A few groups have been involved in
1993 David Bromley and Jeffrey Hadden compiled a set of
violent incidents involving multiple homicides and/or sui-
papers from a broadly representative set of new religions
cides. A number have engaged in illegal activities, from fraud
scholars surveying the field, The Handbook on Cults and Sects
to smuggling to confidence schemes. At the same time,
in America.
groups in different countries have been subjected to govern-
ment regulation and even suppression despite their lack of
Parallel to the development of reference works in the
direct association with harmful or illegal activity. Above and
scholarly study of new religions was the rise in the number
beyond their being targeted by cult awareness groups, be-
of academic conferences in the field. In the 1980s, several
cause of their fringe-like status NRMs have occasionally been
such conferences were sponsored by the Unification Church,
caught up in waves of social panic and become victims of
though later abandoned by the Church in favor of other pro-
guilt by association.
grams. Through the rest of that decade, the various academic
societies concerned with religion, especially the Society for
Through the last decades of twentieth century, the study
the Scientific Study of Religion and the American Academy
of new religions proceeded within the context of a steady
of Religion, created space on their annual programs for pa-
stream of public controversy, and the lines between research
pers on new religions. In 1989, the Center for Studies on
and the response to such controversy was often blurred. In
New Religions began to sponsor annual international confer-
the mid-1980s, for example, new religions scholars were
ences that alternated between Europe and the Americas.
called upon to deal with a wave of interest in Satanism.
Within a decade these conferences were attracting between
Prompted by the rise of the Church of Satan in San Francisco
one and two hundred attendees.
in the 1960s, the study of Satanism had been part of the first
phase of NRM studies in the 1970s. In the 1980s, however,
The Institute for the Study of American Religion
hundreds of claims emerged that a widespread, secretive Sa-
(ISAR), founded in 1968, was the first research facility
tanic movement characterized by the ritual abuse of children
founded to focus upon what would later be called new reli-
existed. The primary evidence for this movement proved to
gions. In the 1980s, however, similar institutes would also
be a set of reports by people undergoing psychological coun-
emerge, most noticeably the Center for the Study of New
seling. In the course of such counseling, they began to “re-
Religions (1982), headed by Peter Clarke at Kings College,
member” events from their childhood and teen years that
London; the Information Network Focus on Religious
they had forgotten. At the same time, similar reports were
Movements (INFORM, 1988), headed by Eileen Barker and
emerging among UFO investigators of alien abductions and
headquartered at the London School of Economics; and the
medical examinations. Both appeared in the context of wide-
aforementioned Center for Studies of New Religions (CES-
spread attention to the problem of child abuse and new legis-
NUR, 1988) in Turin, Italy. These centers would, through
lative initiatives aimed at its prevention.
the 1990s, give birth to a spectrum of institutes and study
centers across Europe. Several research centers emerged in
Given the inability of law-enforcement officials and in-
Japan as well.
vestigative reporters to find corroborative evidence of wide-
The work of these centers includes the archiving of ma-
spread Satanism, new religions scholars, with their own
terials produced by and about the new religions. The largest
knowledge of the world of religious Satanism, rather quickly
such archive is included in the American Religions Collec-
reached a consensus on the falsity of such reports, at least rel-
tion that began in 1985 with the deposit of ISAR’s library
ative to their satanic content. Their findings, published in
and files at the Davidson Library at the University of Califor-
books by Jean La Fontaine in the United Kingdom and Jef-
nia’s Santa Barbara campus. CESNUR houses a similar col-
frey S. Victor, James T. Richardson, Joel Best, and David
lection in Turin. Other equally valuable collections, many
Bromley in the United States, contributed significantly to
with local emphases, were under development in the first de-
ending the public controversy.
cade of the twenty-first century. Of particular interest are the
The late 1990s saw a rising level of attention to millen-
specialized collections housed by organizations such as the
nialism, a perennial subject within new religions, and the
Jonestown Institute, founded by Rebecca Moore and Fiel-
possible role that the arrival of the twenty-first century would
ding McGehee III, in San Diego, which has gathered an ex-
have on different religious groups. Millennial beliefs have
tensive collection related to the Peoples Temple.
often been associated with intense confrontations between
FIELDS WITHIN FIELDS. New religions studies emerged and
new religions and society; two oft-quoted precedents were
continues to exist in contested space. It examines religions
the sixteenth-century Anabaptists at Münster, Germany, and
that challenge society’s dominant religious institutions.
the Fifth Monarchy Men in England. New considerations of
Along with questions about the legitimacy of many new reli-
millennialism were provided by a group within the American
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
6525
Academy of Religions and several other research projects,
known radical Islamist group, al-Qa¯Eidah, in its attack on the
such as the Boston-based Center for Millennial Studies. Ini-
Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and New York City’s World
tial speculation on the confluence of millennialism and vio-
Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, provided the
lence was followed by closer analysis of the more widespread
foundation for future ongoing discussions. Contributing to
and peaceful millennial movements, especially in the wake
the Bromley-Melton volume was John R. Hall, who contin-
of the non-event of the end of the millennium in 1999.
ued his seminal discussion of the close association of religion
in general to violence as also developed in two books, Gone
Interest in Satanism and millennialism closely paralleled
from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural His-
the subject that became the major focus of NRM studies
tory (1987), one of the more perceptive volumes on Jones-
after the end of the brainwashing controversy: violence. The
town, and Apocalypse Observed: Religious Movements and Vio-
incident involving Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple at Jonestown,
lence in North America and Europe and Japan (2000), a book
Guyana, in 1978 had generated some interest in violence,
he co-authored with Philip D. Schuyler and Sylvaine Trinh.
but was seen as a singular incident with little reference to the
larger world of new religions. The Peoples Temple, however
LEGAL PERSPECTIVES. Through the 1970s and 1980s, schol-
interesting otherwise, had been a congregation in a large
ars assumed that new religions were an American concern,
Christian denomination, the Disciples of Christ, and its
a peculiar product of the social unrest of the 1960s, especially
membership was predominantly older African Americans. In
in California. Such attitudes began to change by the end of
contrast, many new religions, especially the more controver-
the 1980s as the widespread presence of new religions in Eu-
sial ones, consisted largely of Caucasian young adults.
rope and other parts of the world was recognized, and as the
history of the gradual rise of religious pluralism throughout
The issue of violence and new religions, however,
the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was
changed considerably after the deaths of the majority of the
more fully documented. And as the spread of a more radical
members of the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel, their
religious pluralism was recognized, new religions became the
church center near Waco, Texas, in 1993. In 1994, an all-
target of numerous legal actions.
day symposium on violence and new religions was held in
In the 1970s, questions about the legitimacy of the new
conjunction with the Society for the Scientific Study of Reli-
religions were raised by associations of parents in the United
gion’s annual fall meeting. As facts about the role played by
States whose members were angry at their sons and daughters
associates of the Cult Awareness Network in both the initia-
who had been swept into an alternative religious life, often
tion of the raid on Mount Carmel and the conduct during
at the cost of hoped-for careers in business or the professions.
the subsequent fifty-one-day siege, new religions scholars be-
Their search for a solution to their dilemma provided the
came more vocal in attempting to communicate with law-
context for the emergence of deprogramming and the brain-
enforcement officials, especially those within the Federal Bu-
washing ideas that supported it. Proponents of brainwashing
reau of Investigation (FBI), in hopes of averting any future
charged that the new religions took away the ability of re-
reoccurrence. Eventually, a series of meetings were held, the
cruits to make informed choices about joining. Some went
FBI began to send observers to the annual meetings of the
so far as to suggest that new religions were not religions (in
American Academy of Religion, and numerous individual
any legal sense) at all, but were merely con games in which
contacts between FBI agents and individual scholars took
leaders brainwashed and exploited members for personal fi-
place.
nancial gain.
The changes that flowed from the Branch Davidian in-
Legal cases between new religions and their detractors
cident occurred in the context of a set of subsequent episodes
began in the 1970s, and by the end of the decade it was de-
of violence involving groups such as the Solar Temple in
termined that civil court provided the best venue for litigat-
Switzerland, France, and Quebec (1994, 1995, 1997), Aum
ing parental concerns. Then, during the 1980s, a number of
Shinrikyo¯ in Japan (1995), Heaven’s Gate in the United
multimillion-dollar lawsuits were filed against new religions
States (1997), and the Movement for the Restoration of the
by former group members who had been deprogrammed;
Ten Commandments of God in Uganda (2000). Each of
they sought redress and damages as a result of having under-
these occurrences, unique in their own right, generated sig-
gone brainwashing. While almost all the judgments were re-
nificant reconsideration of the possible connection between
versed on appeal, juries seemed eager to deliver a series of de-
life within new religions and these large-scale violent events.
cisions against unpopular new religions such as the Church
Taking the lead in such reconsideration was Catherine Wess-
of Scientology, the Church Universal and Triumphant, the
inger, who proposed new ways of looking at the role of mil-
International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and the
lennialism and called attention to the fragility and instability
Unification Church.
within some groups that pushed them toward violent con-
frontations. Wessinger’s How the Millennium Comes Violent-
Deprogramming, brainwashing, and the court cases of
ly (2000) set the stage for a second round of discussions
the 1980s provided an abundance of material for legal specu-
brought together by David G. Bromley and J. Gordon Mel-
lation. James T. Richardson, a professor at the University of
ton and published in 2002 as Cults, Religion & Violence. Be-
Nevada with degrees and appointments in both sociology
tween the appearance of the two books, a heretofore little
and law, emerged in the early 1980s as the leading scholar
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6526
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
offering legal reflections on new religions. His 1983 book,
Soviet era. Many of these insights have been drawn together
The Brainwashing/Deprogramming Controversy: Sociological,
in two edited volumes: Phillip Charles Lucas and Thomas
Psychological, Legal, and Historical Perspectives, co-edited with
Robbins’ The Future of New Religions in the 21st Century
David G. Bromley, is an important document of the era.
(2004), and James T. Richardson’s Regulating Religion: Case
Subsequently Richardson has remained at the forefront of
Studies from Around the Globe (2004).
writing about and focusing dialogue on the legal status of
FAMILY LIFE. As first-generation new religions, whose mem-
new religions globally.
bership consisted almost totally of young adult converts,
During the 1990s, with the new legal era brought on
evolved into second-generation new religions, concern was
by the Fishman decision in the United States, much of the
expressed about children born and raised in such settings.
legal news on new religions shifted to Europe, where, as
Critics suggested a range of potential problems, including
James Beckford so ably noted in his 1985 text, Cult Contro-
their alienation from culture and society to their being physi-
versies, intense debates (minus the brainwashing element)
cally and psychologically harmed by growing up in a cult mi-
paralleled those in the United States. But then, following the
lieu. Concern was punctuated by occasional reports of child
Solar Temple deaths in 1994, the French government moved
abuse, usually the beating of a minor by a group leader who
first to establish a parliamentary commission that in 1996 is-
was not the child’s parent. On a rare occasion, a child died
sued a report condemning a number of new religions, and
as a result of such beatings.
some 172 groups were placed on a list of “sects.” The prima-
However, the situation of children in new religions
ry accusation was their practicing “mental manipulation,” a
gained a new level of attention in the early 1990s when wide-
term that signaled the introduction of brainwashing theory
spread charges of sexual abuse emerged around The Family,
into Europe from the United States. A year later the Canton
a group that had earlier called itself the Children of God. In
of Geneva, in French-speaking Switzerland, issued a similar
the early 1990s, Family homes in several countries, most no-
decree, followed by a 600-page report from Belgium, which
tably France, Spain, Argentina, and Australia, were raided
singled out some 189 groups. The Belgian document includ-
and the minors taken into custody by child-welfare officials
ed, somewhat surprisingly for American scholars, the Young
while legal charges were prepared against the adults. A series
Women’s Christian Association, the Assemblies of God, and
of lengthy court proceedings followed, culminating in a
the Quakers.
child-custody case in England. Though the defendants in
These first reports were then followed by a second wave
each of the cases stemming from the raids were found not
of reports from, among others, the General Direction of the
guilty, and the Family-member mother in the child-custody
Police with the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the com-
case retained legal custody, it emerged that in the 1980s a
mission established by the German parliament, and the gov-
number of young people—overwhelmingly teenage
ernment of Sweden. The more reflective tone of these docu-
women—had been molested while in Family homes. The
ments backed away in part from the brainwashing theory and
Family, however, between the time the molestations had oc-
found little that was sinister in new religions overall. Mean-
curred and the court cases, had taken steps to change the en-
while in France, Belgium, and several other countries, steps
vironment that permitted such abuse and, as it happened,
were taken to stop the progress of new religions by the estab-
those taken into custody in the raids were not the individuals
lishment of official cult observatories, and in the case of
accused of molesting the minors. The revelations of the Fam-
France the passing of a series of anticult laws.
ily’s problems were followed by similar disclosures coming
out of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness,
The dialogues within the government of Western Eu-
which in the 1970s had operated a school in Texas that in-
rope were followed by discussions and an array of actions in
cluded pedophiles on its staff.
the lands of the former Soviet bloc of nations, where in the
wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, new religions had quick-
The British custody dispute, which became the lengthi-
ly and visibly proliferated. Governments found themselves
est legal case in the history of Britain’s family court system,
caught between the still-dominant voices of religious secular-
called attention to the variant roles assumed by women and
ists, leaders of older churches asking for the return of pre-
children in some new religions with strong male hierarchical
Communist privileges, and demands for the implementation
organizations. However, even prior to this time, scholars had
of Western-style religious freedoms. The different govern-
noticed that new religions had become an arena for women
ments made an array of accommodations to these voices that
who were shut out of traditional leadership roles in older
found common ground in their dislike of the missionaries
Christian and Jewish groups to exercise their leadership
of the new religions. Meanwhile, new religions studies have
skills. One such study is Catherine Wessinger’s Women’s
emerged as a prominent focus of post-Soviet countries in
Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explorations outside the
Eastern and Central Europe.
Mainstream (1993).
The changes in Europe continue to provide fertile
It would be Canadian new religions scholar Susan J.
ground for scholars of new religions who, sharing a bias to-
Palmer, however, an expert witness in the Family’s British
ward religious freedom as the foundational issue, have writ-
court case, who would in the mid-1990s seize the issue of
ten extensively about the prospects and promises in the post-
women’s and children’s diverse life within new religions and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: HISTORY OF STUDY
6527
launch a collaborative effort with other concerned scholars
Age Studies, or ASANAS) and North America (Association
to pursue study of the issue. Turning first to the role of
for the Study of Esotericism).
women, she wrote Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh
Western Esoteric studies now exists as a subfield its own
Lovers: Women’s Roles in New Religions (1994) and then sev-
right. When it concentrates on Esoteric history, it resonates
eral years later, with co-editor Charlotte E. Hardeman, is-
the least with new religions studies. Yet because all contem-
sued Children in the New Religions (1999).
porary esoteric groups would fall under the rubric of “new
WESTERN ESOTERICISM. As the twenty-first century began,
religion,” when Western esoteric studies turns its attention
a new issue has been placed on the agenda of new religions
to the twentieth century, the two fields are almost indistin-
scholars by Sorbonne professor Antoine Faivre: Western Es-
guishable.
otericism. Esoteric/metaphysical/occult groups have been
CONCLUSION. In the first four decades of its existence, the
considered in new religions studies from the beginning. One
academic field of new religions grew from a handful of schol-
of the earliest popular essays in new religions, Colin Camp-
ars who in the 1960s decided that these interesting groups
bell’s “The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularization”
then proliferating on the fringes of Japanese, North Ameri-
(1972), grew out of his observation of the British occult
can, and European societies were important enough to enjoy
community, and a large number of writings appeared in the
more than sporadic cursory glances. At the onset of the twen-
1990s which attempted to understand the New Age move-
ty-first century there were several hundred scholars around
ment. The problem in writing about such groups, in spite
the world who were devoting the majority of their research
of early works such as J. Stillson Judah’s The History and Phi-
time to this field of inquiry. To a certain extent, the progress
losophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America (1967) and
since the 1960s can be traced in the series of new religions
additional works on the common history of such move-
text books produced over the decades by Robert Ellwood
ments, has been their tendency to treat esoteric bodies as iso-
(1973), David Bromley and Anson Shupe (1981), Gordon
lated organizations without a history prior to their particular
Melton and Robert Moore (1982), Melton (1986, 1992),
founding.
Timothy Miller (1995), Eileen Barker (1989), John Saliba
(1995, 2003), William Sims Bainbridge (1998), James R.
Faivre, and those who gathered around him such as
Lewis (1998), Lorne Dawson (1998), and most recently, Ste-
Joscelyn Godwin and Wouter Hanegraaff, have compiled a
phen J. Hunt (2003).
picture of an alternative religious impulse in the West that
has had a near-continuous presence at least since the second
The study of new religions has been a bulwark in coun-
century
tering the more extreme conclusions of secularization theory,
CE and has grown steadily over the last four centu-
ries. In fact, the largest percentage of the new religions—
offered new approaches for governments in dealing with con-
including Theosophical Society, Scientology, Wicca, New
troversial groups that have disturbed the social quiet of some
Age (1970s and 1980s) and Post-New Age (1990s to the
societies, and has begun to see the naturalness of the emer-
present) groups—are generally contemporary manifestations
gence of innovative religious experiments as societies grow
of the Esoteric tradition.
and change. Born in part in the times of social turmoil in
postwar Japan and the generation of Baby Boomers coming
Of the world’s major religious movements, the Western
of age in America, new religions studies has expended consid-
Esoteric tradition has remained the least known, in large part
erable energy to map the presence of NRMs through time
due to its role as a losing competitor to Christianity, resulting
and space, indicating their steady emergence through the
in its dismissal as serious religion in recent centuries. The
nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the process, more
modern revival of Esotericism can be traced to the beginning
than a thousand new religions operating in the West have
of the sixteenth century and the development of a Christian
been documented and several dozen examined in consider-
Qabbalah by Johann Rauchlin (1455–1522). Its subsequent
able depth.
history can be traced through Rosicrucianism, Speculative
In the process, some consensus has been reached con-
Freemasonry, the Swedenborgian movement, the Mesmerist
cerning issues such as brainwashing, Satanism, and the fact
and Magnetist movements, neo-Templarism, Spiritualism,
of religious pluralism as part of the long-term future of con-
Ceremonial Magic, Theosophy and its many offshoots (Alice
temporary society, though, as a young field of inquiry, far
Bailey, I AM), Wicca, and most recently the New Age
more questions have been posed and remain to be posed than
Movement.
have been answered.
In the mid-1980s Faivre founded the Association pour
SEE ALSO Anticult Movements; Brainwashing (Debate);
la Recherche et l’Information sur l’Esotericisme and its jour-
Branch Davidians; Cults and Sects; Esotericism; Heaven’s
nal ARIES. In the late 1990s, with Faivre nearing retirement,
Gate; Jonestown and Peoples Temple; Millenarianism, over-
the association’s work was transferred to Amsterdam, where
view article; Secularization; Unification Church.
Hanegraaff headed a new department of esoteric studies. By
this time, the field had grown exponentially, and early in the
BIBLIOGRAPHY
new century, two new structures arose to perpetuate esoteric
Listed below is a highly selective list of some of the important titles
studies both in England (Alternative Spiritualities and New
produced by scholars of new religions. Many of the text-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6528
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: SCRIPTURES OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
books cover much of the same ground though differing
Saliba, John A. Social Science and the Cults: An Annotated Bibliog-
whether from a social science (Bainbridge, Barker, Dawson)
raphy. New York, 1990.
or religious studies (Ellwood, Lewis, Melton, Saliba) perspec-
Van Baalen, Jan Karel. The Chaos of Cults. Grand Rapids, Mich.,
tive. Many of the volumes are anthologies, chosen for the
1938.
spectrum of opinion they present on a problem of high inter-
est in the field of new religions studies (Bromley and Melton,
Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently: From
Palmer and Hardmann, Richardson). Finally, a set of foun-
Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate. New York, 2000.
dational studies in Western esotericism have been cited
Wilson, Bryan. Sects and Society: A Sociological Study of Three Reli-
(Faivre, Godwin, Judah).
gious Groups in Britain. London, 1961.
Bainbridge, William Sims. The Sociology of Religious Movements.
Wilson, Bryan, and Jamie Cresswell, eds. New Religious Move-
New York, 1997.
ments: Challenge and Response. London, 1999.
Barker, Eileen. The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing?
J. GORDON MELTON (2005)
New York, 1984.
Barker, Eileen. New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction.
London, 1989.
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: SCRIPTURES
Bromley, David G., and James T. Richardson, eds. The Brain-
OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
washing/Deprogramming Controversy. Lewiston, N.Y., 1983.
Because new religious movements often generate suspicious
Bromley, David G., and Jeffrey Hadden. The Handbook on Cults
or hostile reactions from representatives of the status quo,
and Sects in America. Greenwich, Conn., 1993.
substantial scholarly attention has been devoted to their pro-
Bromley, David G., and J. Gordon Melton, eds. Cults, Religion
cesses of leadership, recruitment, and conversion, as well as
and Violence. New York, 2002.
to other forms of interaction between new groups and their
Clark, Elmer T. Small Sects in America. Nashville, Tenn., 1949.
social environments. While such encounters do shape both
Clarke, Peter B. Bibliography of Japanese New Religions, with Anno-
the public images and self-understandings of new religious
tations and an Introduction to Japanese New Religions at Home
movements, they are not their only religious activities.
and Abroad. Richmond, U.K., 1999.
Dawson, Lorne L. Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Re-
Many new religious movements have produced substan-
ligious Movements. Toronto, Ont., 1998.
tial bodies of literature that amplify their self-definitions, es-
Ellwood, Robert S. Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern
tablish ritual practices and moral codes, elaborate their myth-
America. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1973.
ic visions of humanity and the cosmos, and reconstruct
Ellwood, Robert S. The Eagle and the Rising Sun: Americans and
history. That literature is read, heard, studied, preached, de-
the New Religions of Japan. Philadelphia, 1974.
bated, interpreted, enacted, and implemented in the daily
lives of members. The texts derive their authority both from
Faivre, Antoine. Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition: Studies in
Western Esotericism. Albany, N.Y., 2000.
the claimed experiences of founders or other influential fig-
ures within the group and from members’ acceptance of the
Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany, N.Y.,
1994.
texts as particularly revelatory. When people within a group
treat a religious text as central for their understandings of
Hunt, Stephen J. Alternative Religions: A Sociological Introduction.
themselves and the world in which they live, they elevate it
Aldershot, U.K. 2003.
above other quotidian forms of communication and accord
Introvigne, Massimo, et al. Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia.
it, at least implicitly, the status of scripture. In new religious
Turin, 2001.
movements, as in other religious groups, texts are made into
Judah, J. Stillson. The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical
“scriptures” by the claims that are made for them, the recog-
Movements in America. Philadelphia, 1967.
nition of those claims, and the uses to which the texts are
Lewis, James R. Cults in America. Santa Barbara, Calif., 1998.
put. The scriptural status of texts is always in the process of
Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religions. 7th ed.
construction. Oral teaching and informal written communi-
Detroit, Mich., 2003.
cations may be viewed as authoritative, and through their re-
Miller, Timothy, ed. When Prophets Die: The Post Charismatic
peated use they may move towards a more formalized status
Fate of New Religious Movements. Albany, N.Y., 1991.
as scripture. Even texts definitively asserted to be authorita-
Miller, Timothy, ed. America’s Alternative Religions. Albany, N.Y.,
tive are subject to successive re-interpretations. Since scrip-
1995.
tures are texts that are deemed authoritative and revelatory
Needleman, Jacob. The New Religions. New York, 1969.
by a specific religious community, the process of scriptural
Nelson, Geoffrey K. Spiritualism and Society. London, 1969.
formation in new religious movements is no different than
Palmer, Susan J., and Charlotte E. Hardman, eds. Children in
it is in more established ones. Although individual writings
New Religions. New Brunswick, N.J., 1999.
frequently contain assertions about their own authority, they
Richardson, James T. Regulating Religion: Case Studies from
only function as scripture when those claims are acknowl-
around the Globe. New York, 2003.
edged and acted upon by those who receive and use them.
Saliba, John A. Psychiatry and the Cults: An Annotated Bibliogra-
MAKING NEW SCRIPTURES. As new religious movements
phy. New York, 1987.
strive to secure their legitimacy, defend themselves against
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: SCRIPTURES OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
6529
their cultural opponents, and attract the interest of potential
the divine. For example, on December 13, 1973, Claude
members, they address what they see as the religious inade-
Vorhilon (b. 1946), a French journalist and racecar driver,
quacies of their particular social environments. Because the
came upon what he took to be a UFO. One of its occupants
Western concept of scripture, as embodied by the Christian
soon informed Vorhilon that he had been chosen to bring
Bible, has been so widely diffused throughout the world, new
to humankind the message of the extraterrestrial “Elohim,”
religious movements frequently identify the errors or limita-
the true creators of life on earth. Vorhilon was given the
tions that they perceive in the dominant interpretations of
name “Raël” and was charged with preparing the earth to re-
the Bible. In their own writings they propose the necessary
ceive emissaries from the Elohim, who would then share
corrections, supplements, or replacements. Accordingly, in-
their incredibly advanced technology. As the name Elohim
terpretation of the Bible is often the vehicle by which new
suggests, Vorhilon’s encounter with the extraterrestrials led
religious movements assert both their novelty and their con-
him to a dramatic rereading of the creation story in Genesis.
tinuity with a hallowed past. Their novelty is what makes
That reinterpretation of scripture plays a crucial role in the
new religious movements worth attention, but their continu-
books that have become the guiding texts of the Raëlian
ity with the past is what guarantees their gravity. Similar dy-
movement.
namics are at work when new religious movements confront
other scriptures or collections of religiously authoritative
Similarly, on Easter morning 1936, Sun Myung Moon
texts, such as the QurDa¯n or widely revered Hindu texts like
(1920–) experienced a vision of Jesus that led him to a thor-
the Bhagavadg¯ıta¯. Reinterpretations of familiar scriptural
oughgoing revision of history. Divine Principle, first pub-
texts transform their meanings for new religious communi-
lished in English in 1973, and the central scriptural text of
ties even as they leave their scriptural status intact. The spe-
the Unificationist movement that grew out of Moon’s Easter
cific procedures by which new interpretations are construct-
experience, provides a new account of biblical history from
ed, including spiritual or allegorical readings, historical
the creation and fall through the career of Jesus to the immi-
contextualization, and philological commentary, are often
nent arrival of a new messiah who will gather humanity into
no different than those employed by more mainstream inter-
a single loving family in accordance with God’s original
preters of scriptural texts, but the meanings that they pro-
wishes. More than a century earlier, in 1820 in upper New
duce reinforce new groups’ status as dramatic departures
York state, a series of visions sparked the founding of the
from parent bodies or as distinctive, freestanding inno-
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the promul-
vations.
gation of a new holy book, the Book of Mormon (1830). That
new Bible, it was claimed, would dispel confusion about
The production of scriptural texts within new religious
which of the many competing Christian sects held the truth
movements takes two distinctive but overlapping forms. One
by communicating God’s message with unprecedented clari-
is new readings of familiar texts. Those readings are expressed
ty. Also, in the 1980s Elizabeth Clare Prophet (b. 1939),
in a variety of forms, including detailed commentaries, me-
who succeeded her husband Mark Prophet (1918–1973) as
andering meditations, loose glosses, and direct appropria-
leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant, published
tions of specific scriptural models, such as creation stories,
four volumes of The Lost Teachings of Jesus (1986), which are
law codes, ethical admonitions, or prayers. The second form
based on over thirty years of communications from Jesus di-
is the production of new scriptures. Movements that directly
rectly to both of the Prophets. The texts build on the Proph-
address a scriptural heritage can produce books that aspire
ets’ claim that Jesus spent substantial time in India and sur-
to the status of “new Bibles” either by supplementing or re-
rounding areas during his so-called lost years, and they align
placing the older scriptures. Other movements strive to es-
his recovered teachings with those of the Prophets’ Church
tablish the utterances or writings of a founder as supremely
Universal and Triumphant.
authoritative. In either case, the new scriptural texts codify
a novel vision of what it means to be human, how to establish
In each of these instances a prophetic figure’s direct en-
proper relations with other humans and the divine, and how
counter with the divine led to both the formation of a new
to achieve the goals of human life.
religious movement and to the publication of new authorita-
Whatever form the writings take, they are grounded on
tive texts. The books written by Claude Vorhilon and Mark
specific claims to authority. Ever conscious of their own nov-
and Elizabeth Prophet correct misreadings of the biblical tra-
elty, new religious movements take great care to lay out the
dition and supplement the tradition with new material. In
experiences and insights that sanction their innovations.
a fuller fashion, the texts produced by Sun Myung Moon and
Founders and influential exegetes articulate the experiences
Joseph Smith stand on their own as authoritative documents
that authorize their distinctive messages and establish them
that incorporate, repair, and advance the message of the
as trustworthy and true. Their new ways of seeing are fre-
Christian scriptures. In each instance the new texts derive
quently stimulated by intimate encounters with the divine
their authority from their authors’ extraordinary experiences.
but also can result from the consistent application of rational
The founder and the book confirm each other’s status with
intelligence to familiar problems.
reference to the same divine source.
NEW VISIONS: DIVINE ENCOUNTERS. The founders of many
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s (1896–1977)
new religions describe dramatic, unbidden encounters with
claim to authority for his Bhagavad-Gita As It Is (1968) dis-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6530
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: SCRIPTURES OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
plays an interesting variation. Although he contends that the
of genetics. The Raëlians’ story of the origins of humankind
Bhagavadg¯ıta¯ summarizes all of Vedic literature and that it
transforms any previous understandings of human nature
should be the one common scripture for the entire world,
and destiny based on Genesis, replaces the Bible’s linear sense
Prabhupada denies that he is offering any interpretation of
of time with a perpetual cycle of creations, and lends a new-
it. His claim to present the text without any distorting inter-
found urgency and authority to scientific activity. The Raëli-
pretation is founded on his conviction that Lord Kr:s:n:a him-
ans’ new reading of Genesis both remakes the past and charts
self speaks in the text and that a line of thirty-two teachers
a new future in which Raël’s prophecy will determine the fate
that culminates with Prabhupada himself has accurately pre-
of the planet.
served the true meaning of the text. Although Prabhupada’s
In the Divine Principle of the Unificationist movement,
contact with the divine is thus mediated by a “disciplic suc-
the focus shifts from the creation of human beings to the
cession,” its authorizing power is maintained.
subsequent fall. In its presentation, Adam and Eve failed to
NEW VISIONS: RATIONAL SYSTEMS. Texts can achieve scrip-
observe God’s commandments to be fruitful, to multiply and
tural status without appeal to such divine encounters, howev-
fill the earth, and to subdue the earth and have dominion
er. The Church of Scientology, for example, accepts the writ-
over it (Gn. 1:28). In a singular assertion, the Divine Princi-
ings of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986), as
ple traces that failure to Eve’s adulterous relations with Satan.
scripture even though he claimed no privileged intimacy
Eve’s and Adam’s failings kept them from reaching the state
with the divine. Hubbard attributed his insights instead to
of perfection that God had intended for them. Subsequently,
a deep immersion in the problems of human psychology. His
God’s desire for men and women to form loving families by
first major work on the human mind, Dianetics: The Modern
uniting with each other and with God has been continually
Science of Mental Health (1950), relies on what Hubbard saw
undermined by the aftershocks of the Fall. God’s attempts
as rigorous, scientific study rather than any special religious
to restore the original state of humankind by raising up
inspiration. As Hubbard’s system of Dianetics developed
prophets and potential messiahs, particularly Jesus of Naza-
into Scientology and came to be identified explicitly as a reli-
reth, has met with only limited success. The Divine Princi-
gion, he still claimed that the processes of his “technology”
ple’s new vision of human history sets the stage for the mis-
for achieving mental health were universally accessible and
sion of Reverend Moon, who in the last days brings a
not restricted to religious adepts. Insight, rather than inspira-
revelation that offers humankind the chance to return to an
tion, yielded the principles of Scientology.
Edenic state. Indispensable both for an understanding of the
course of history and the transformative mission of Reverend
Anton LaVey (1930–1997), founder of the Church of
Moon, the Divine Principle functions as a scriptural text that
Satan and author of The Satanic Bible (1969), made a similar
provides fundamental orientation and direction for Unifica-
claim for the principles of his counter-religion. While avow-
tionist thought and action.
ing that the time had definitely come for a new religion that
Like Claude Vorhilon and Sun Myung Moon, Mary
would unmask the hypocrisies of Christianity, LaVey staked
Baker Eddy (1821–1910) drew new meaning out of the tra-
no claim to a personal religious vision. Like Hubbard, LaVey
ditional Genesis story. For Vorhilon and Moon, extraordi-
credited the discovery of his system simply to the rigorous
nary interactions with superior beings inspired their new vi-
application of rational thought. With a clear-eyed apprecia-
sions of the creation story, while Eddy owed her new
tion of true human nature, a love of ritual and pageantry, and
comprehension of the meaning of Genesis to a transforming
a flair for mockery, LaVey’s Satanic Bible promulgated a gos-
experience of spiritual healing that led her to assert the unre-
pel of self-indulgence that, he argued, anyone who dispas-
ality of matter and the primacy of the spiritual. For Eddy,
sionately considered the facts would embrace. Although con-
like the Raëlians, the traditional interpretations of Genesis
temporary Satanism remains an amorphous conglomeration
produce only a false picture of God. Eddy views the first cre-
of practices, beliefs, and attitudes, LaVey’s new Bible remains
ation story in Genesis 1:1–2:3 as an authoritative description
a touchstone for many in the broad movement. That The Sa-
of how a wholly incorporeal God created, through mind
tanic Bible and Hubbard’s writings could still achieve scrip-
alone, a universe of ideas, including immortal humans, all
tural status without dependence upon divine revelation em-
without the slightest taint of materiality. Correspondingly,
phasizes that members of a group elevate books to scriptural
she concludes that the material creation of Adam out of dust
status by adopting them as lenses through which they view
and the breath of God in Genesis 2:7 must be a lie. Through
themselves, their group, and the cosmos.
her interpretation, which is included in Science and Health
NEW READINGS: CREATION. Although they cover a wide
with Key to the Scriptures (1875), Eddy makes Genesis address
range of topics, new readings of familiar scriptural texts often
the distinctive theological concerns of Christian Science.
focus on both the creation of human life and its ultimate
Other readings of the text then become part of the history
end. In The Message Given to Me by Extraterrestrials (1975)
of human error. Read through the lenses supplied by Eddy
and Let’s Welcome Our Fathers from Space (1979), Raël asserts
the Bible speaks in a new voice and proclaims an unanticipat-
that the term Elohim, which has long been understood as one
ed and surprising message for a new audience. Science and
of the names of God, really means “those who came from
Health takes its place alongside, if not above, the Bible as an
the sky,” a race of superior beings with advanced knowledge
authoritative text for the Christian Science community.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: SCRIPTURES OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
6531
In the later days of the People’s Temple, the Reverend
tion of texts was limited to a relatively short period. Because
Jim Jones (1931–1978) offered one of the most dramatic re-
new religious movements are particularly malleable in their
readings of Genesis in a new religious movement. As he de-
early days, and because many quickly dissolve or fade away,
parted further from his Protestant roots and edged closer to
the procedures by which texts achieve authoritative status for
addiction and madness, Jones began to see the Bible as a
their communities are not often fully played out. When new
problem to overcome. He indicted the King James Version
religions achieve some institutional stability, it is easier to
as a Bible of slaveholders and a source of oppression rather
chart the fluctuating prestige of particular texts and interpre-
than liberation. To counteract its influence Jones proposed
tive strategies and to identify which texts consistently main-
a contemporary Gnostic redeemer myth in which the God
tain authoritative or even canonical status.
of the Bible was seen to be merely a just God, with limited
N
powers and unsavory human characteristics. Acting as a
EW SCRIPTURES. Some texts produced by new religious
movements explicitly claim for themselves the status of scrip-
Gnostic redeemer, Jones brought his followers news of a God
ture. One of the most provocative examples is LaVey’s Satan-
beyond the Bible who would teach them their true identities.
ic Bible. By presenting as a Bible his hodgepodge of historical
In Jones’s treatment, the authority of the Bible was thor-
research, dogmatic pronouncements, obscure invocations,
oughly overturned and his own pronouncements, given in
and both playful and serious critiques of Christianity, LaVey
speeches and sermons but never codified in writing, took the
suggests a religious dynamic that virtually any other title
Bible’s place and functioned as scripture for the members of
would not. By naming his book a “bible,” LaVey identifies
the People’s Temple.
a target that he intends to supplant and a status to which he
NEW READINGS: THE END OF THE WORLD. Leaders of new
aspires. Although LaVey never developed supporting struc-
religious movements have applied similar ingenuity to imag-
tures in the Church of Satan to reinforce the status of The
ining the end of the world. For example, after experiencing
Satanic Bible, this text remains a primary gateway into the
an ascent into the heavens in 1985, David Koresh (1959–
diffuse world of contemporary Satanism.
1993) claimed that he himself was the Lamb of God men-
tioned in Revelation 4 and 5 as the only one able to open a
The Holy Piby (1924), one of the texts that inspired the
scroll sealed with seven seals. Koresh argued, like many
development of Rastafarianism in Jamaica in the early 1930s,
Christian millennialists, that every book of the Bible found
also insists on its scriptural status. It claims to be a holy book
its fruition in Revelation and that its apocalyptic message
given to the prophet Athlyi by an angel named Douglas. Fol-
could only be comprehended through the agency of the
lowing closely the model of the Christian scriptures, The
Lamb of God. As a result, Koresh’s oral teachings, along with
Holy Piby begins with an account of a seven-day creation,
their distillation in his unfinished written commentary on
moves to the divine commissioning of a prophet and lawgiv-
the seven seals, became essential for his students who sought
er, provides historical accounts of the doings of God’s chosen
the apocalyptic meaning of scripture; Koresh’s teachings had
people, records prayers and creedal statements, and even de-
the authority, if not the form, of scripture.
votes a section to recounting “the facts of the apostles.” A
later reprint of the text hails it as the black man’s Bible. The
Like Koresh, Asahara Sho¯ko¯ (b. 1955), the founder of
Holy Piby was designed to be the scriptural text of the short-
Aum Shinrikyo¯, came to identify himself as a character from
lived Afro Athlican Constructive Church, but it also helped
the Bible, the promised “comforter” of John’s gospel. As he
foster the pervasive biblical consciousness of the Rastafarian
experienced mounting opposition to his movement and as
movement.
he viewed the end of the world as growing ever nearer, Asa-
hara devoted progressively more attention to the apocalyptic
The amorphous contemporary New Age movement and
visions of the book of Revelation and to his own role in the
its various precursors also offer a rich trove of texts claiming
unfolding apocalypse. In his teachings, speeches, and pub-
scriptural authority. In the late nineteenth century, John Bal-
lished materials, Asahara assimilated the New Testament to
lou Newbrough published a first (1882) and then a revised
the teachings of what he identified as “original Buddhism,”
(1891) version of the Oahspe: A New Bible in the Words of
and he constructed a synthetic scenario of the imminent end.
Jehovih and His Angel Embassadors, which he claimed to have
As with Koresh, Asahara’s readings of Revelation set the bibli-
produced by angelically directed automatic typing. Oahspe
cal text in a radically new interpretive frame—Asahara simul-
offers an elaborate cosmology with descriptions of myriad
taneously appropriated Revelation as a scriptural text for his
gods and heavens, a history of the planet earth, revised ver-
own movement and certified his own teaching as being of
sions of many biblical stories, ethical guidelines, and predic-
equal authority.
tions about the future. The book serves as the scripture for
the Faithist movement, which still claims adherents. Compa-
The legal responses to Aum’s murderous release of sarin
rable in scope is The Urantia Book, attributed to an array of
gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995 ended Asahara’s public ca-
superhuman personalities and first published in 1955. Other
reer as a teacher and transformed the movement that he
similar works include A Course in Miracles (1975), the result
founded; the legal responses also truncated the processes of
of Helen Shucman’s automatic writing under the reputed di-
textual interpretation and production that marked Aum’s
rection of Jesus, and the material communicated through
brief lifespan. As with Koresh’s teaching, Asahara’s produc-
human “channels” by various disincarnate entities, such as
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6532
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: SCRIPTURES OF NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS
the teachings of Ramtha spoken by J. Z. Knight or those of
Ramtha (J. Z. Knight). The Ancient Schools of Wisdom: A Collec-
Lazaris voiced by Jach Pursel.
tion of Teachings. Yelm, Wash., 1996
These texts join Eddy’s Science and Health, the volumi-
Rogers, Shepherd Robert Athlyi. The Holy Piby. Chicago, 2000;
nous writings of Hubbard, and the Church of Jesus Christ
reprint of 1924 edition.
of the Latter-day Saints’ Book of Mormon (1830), Doctrine
Secondary Works
and Covenants (1835), and Pearl of Great Price (1851) as sub-
Barlow, Philip L. Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-
stantial bodies of scripture that have been composed over the
day Saints in American Religion. Oxford, 1991. Sets the ori-
past two hundred years. The drive towards articulating a
gin, spread, and use of the Mormon scriptures within the
clear and compelling self-definition, defining an appropriate
context of broadly diffused knowledge about the Bible in the
way of life, and situating individuals in historical and cosmic
pre-Civil War United States.
contexts that animates the production of texts in any reli-
Denny, Frederick M., and Rodney L. Taylor, eds. The Holy Book
gious tradition is fully shared by new religious movements.
in Comparative Perspective. Columbia, S.C., 1985. Essays on
Their founders eagerly express the new visions of human life
the formation and use of holy books in various traditions,
that they have achieved either through their own diligent la-
with a specific contribution on the dynamics of scriptures in
bors or through their privileged contact with supernatural
the Mormon tradition.
beings. The followers attracted by those new messages see in
Gallagher, Eugene V. “‘Not Yours, But Ours’: Transformations
the founder’s words precious insights that must be preserved,
of the Hebrew Bible in New Religious Movements.” In Sa-
studied, and communicated to others. Through multiple dis-
cred Text, Secular Times: The Hebrew Bible in the Modern
crete interactions, both founders and followers sift through
World, edited by Leonard Jay Greenspoon and Bryan F. Le
their common cache of wisdom and distill from it the state-
Beau, pp. 87–102. Omaha, Neb., 2000. Analysis of the ap-
ments and stories that matter most; they make (and remake)
propriation of the Hebrew Bible in Christian Science, the
scripture from both oral and written materials that, they ear-
Unification Church, and early Rastafarianism.
nestly believe, will stand the test of time. Once made, their
Givens, Terryl L. By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture
scriptures are then continually probed by various forms of
that Launched a New World Religion. Oxford, 2002. Focuses
exegesis for the inexhaustible wisdom that they are held to
on the Book of Mormon in the context of Joseph Smith’s pro-
contain.
phetic career and broader cultural trends, its claims to pres-
ent ancient history, and its nature as a theological resource;
SEE ALSO Aum Shinrikyo¯; Branch Davidians; Christian Sci-
this volume also examines the arguments of both Mormons
ence; Church Universal and Triumphant; Eddy, Mary
and non-Mormons about the book’s authority, coherence,
Baker; Hubbard, L. Ron; International Society for Krishna
and cultural impact.
Consciousness; Jones, Jim; Jonestown and Peoples Temple;
Graham, William A. Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of
Koresh, David; Mormonism; New Age Movement; Prabhu-
Scripture in the History of Religion. Cambridge, U.K., 1987.
pada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta; Raëlians; Rastafarianism; Satan-
Focuses on the uses of scriptures in the lives of religious com-
ism; Scientology; Smith, Joseph; Unification Church.
munities and employs a broadly comparative approach,
though it does not directly address new religious movements.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Levering, Miriam, ed. Rethinking Scripture: Essays from a Compar-
Primary Texts
ative Perspective. Albany, N.Y., 1989. Includes essays by
The Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, 1920.
W. C. Smith and William Graham that summarize the argu-
Anonymous. A Course in Miracles. Tiburon, Calif., 1975.
ments of their longer works, and offers comparative materials
Anonymous. Oahspe: A New Bible in the Words of Jehovih and His
from Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish traditions.
Angel Embassadors. 2 vols. New York, 1882.
Smith, Jonathan A. “Sacred Persistence: Towards a Redescription
Anonymous. The Urantia Book. Chicago, 1955.
of Canon.” In Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and
Eddy, Mary Baker. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Practice, edited by William Scott Green, pp. 11–28. Missou-
Boston, 1875.
la, Mont., 1978. Develops “canon” as a broadly useful com-
parative category.
Koresh, David. “The Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation.” In
Why Waco? Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. What Is Scripture? A Comparative Ap-
America, by James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher,
proach. Minneapolis, 1993. Despite scant attention to the
pp. 189–203. Berkeley, 1995.
scriptural products of new religious movements, a compre-
LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible. New York, 1969.
hensive inquiry into the processes by which texts are made
into and treated as “scriptural.”
Lazaris (Jach Pursel). The Sacred Journey: You and Your Higher
Self. Orlando, Fla., 1987,
Stein, Stephen J. “America’s Bibles: Canon, Commentary, and
Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Bhagavad-Gita As It Is.
Community.” Church History 64 (1995): 169–184. Focuses
Los Angeles, 1983.
on the formation and use of scriptural texts in new religious
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. The Lost Teachings of Jesus. 4 vols. Liv-
movements in the United States, with special attention to the
ingston, Mont., 1986.
Book of Mormon, Science and Health with Key to the Scrip-
tures
, and other nineteenth-century texts.
Raël (Claude Vorhilon). The Message Given to Me by Extra-
Terrestrials. Tokyo, 1986.
EUGENE V. GALLAGHER (2005)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WOMEN
6533
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
essential aspect of being human is de-emphasized, thereby
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WOMEN
taking down traditional gender-related bars to women’s lead-
Whether they arise from within a given culture or find their
ership and opening up new possibilities for women to exer-
way into it by multiple means of importation, new religions
cise publicly acknowledged positions of authority. In others,
take many different forms and play a variety of social, spiritu-
femaleness and maleness are intensified, understood in cos-
al, economic, and political roles. They provide arenas of re-
mically significant ways that require a new religion to foster
sistance to prevailing cultural and religious beliefs, practices,
women leaders as a way of reflecting the female nature of the
and values. They sometimes foster restoration, as members
divine or the importance of the feminine principle in the
see it, of earlier, more authentic expressions of religious piety
workings of universe. There are yet other new religions that
or offer visions of as-yet-unrealized possibilities for the fu-
insist upon traditional gender roles to the extent that they
ture. New religions offer their members support, often com-
would ordinarily circumscribe women’s access to public
munal, for developing and living out alternatives to estab-
prominence. Nonetheless, there may be demonstrations of
lished theological worldviews, dominant economic systems,
charismatic power by women in these groups sufficient in the
and monogamous marriage. They are pivotal sites for the ad-
power and respect they generate to override the community’s
judication of cultural and religious tensions with the capacity
reluctance to grant women public authority if they are also
to respond more quickly to those tensions than is often the
willing to satisfy traditional expectations for marriage and
case with long-established religious traditions. They hold to-
motherhood. There are, by contrast, new religions that dis-
gether sometimes-conflicting manifestations of innovation
courage women from living out traditional female roles in
and conservation, critique and construction, protest against
a physical sense and instead offer romantic and maternal ful-
some cultural norms and compliance with others. Given
fillment with opportunities for “spiritual” wifehood or
these functions, it is not surprising that new religions are
motherhood.
often subjects of conflict, anger, and suspicion.
Both the complexity and the variety of new religions
These multifaceted dynamics are particularly evident in
and the roles of women within them require reference to a
the area of gender and gender relationships and with signifi-
multiplicity of examples and a resistance to the temptation
cant consequences for the roles of women. New religions for-
to over-generalize. Studies of women in new religions have
mulate questions and convictions about femaleness and its
been emerging since the 1980s; they work to avoid ultimate-
bearing upon how women might achieve spiritual fulfill-
ly unsupportable conclusions about cause-and-effect rela-
ment, salvation, or enlightenment; about the relative spiritu-
tionships between beliefs and particular forms of religious or-
al significance of female and male bodies for the proper oper-
ganization and practice and their consequences for the
ating of the universe and the prospering of the human
participation or exclusion of women. To see any new religion
community; and about whether women and men are help-
as either a paradise of freedoms and possibilities for women
mates, hindrances, or of no ultimate consequence to each
or a sinkhole of restrictions and degradations is to miss the
other on the spiritual path, however defined.
nuances of the realities women live out in new religions. An
exploration of selected new religions from the seventeenth,
Since the last third of the twentieth century, scholars of
eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries demon-
religion have become increasingly aware of the extent to
strates, nonetheless, at least some general patterns. This essay
which new religions provide insights into larger questions
focuses on historical context and inter-relationships between
about women and religion. Are there beliefs, practices, and
religious ideas and institutional forms and practices as they
organizational structures along with historical and cultural
affect women. Ambiguities, ironies, and paradoxes are often
factors that tend either to promote or stand in the way of
in evidence as new religions negotiate combinations of resis-
women’s leadership and full participation, not only in new
tance to and compliance with social and religious expecta-
religions but also in religion in general? Are there discernible
tions concerning women’s nature, women’s bodies, and
patterns to explain why, historically, women have achieved
women’s roles.
more public prominence in new religions than in the estab-
QUAKERS IN THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTU-
lished traditions? When given the opportunity, do women
RIES. The Quakers demonstrate a compelling example of a
exercise religious authority in distinctively different ways
new religious movement that emerged in protest against Pu-
from men? Are women more drawn to one kind of religious
ritanism and Anglicanism in England and America, and
worldview than another? Do female, androgynous, or non-
whose theology and minimalist system of governance were
personal images of the sacred necessarily ensure equal access
conducive to the public leadership of women. The title of
of women to authority or, as Catherine Wessinger suggests
a 1666 tract, “Women’s Speaking Justified, Proved, and Al-
in Women’s Leadership in Marginal Religions, do these have
lowed by the Scriptures, all such as speak by the Spirit and
to be under girded by institutional structures and demands
Power of the Lord Jesus,” suggests that Quaker approval of
from the broader culture for women’s equality?
women preachers and teachers found legitimation through
Scholarly works about women and new religions have
two primary means. One was a rejection of biblical passages
increasingly revealed that there are no all-encompassing an-
that admonished women to keep silent in church and to sub-
swers to these questions. In some new religions, gender as an
mit to the familial, governmental, and religious authority of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6534
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WOMEN
men. The other emerged from the theological claim of an
gious experiences in contrast to more orderly male
inner light, a sacred presence, dwelling within every person
expressions. In addition, males primarily articulated Shaker
and upon whose authority anyone could speak. Quakers re-
theology.
jected a doctrine of the fall that rendered women morally un-
WOMEN IN FIVE NINETEENTH-CENTURY NEW RELIGIONS.
equal to men for the sin of Eve. They opposed what they
A survey of five new religions with their origins in the nine-
called exterior religion and priestly authority, and empha-
teenth century, two of them communal, reveals the variety
sized lay ministry. Taken together, these characteristics re-
of circumstances, theological ideas, and religious forms and
moved traditional scriptural and theological bars to women’s
practices that, at one level, afforded women radically coun-
public leadership. They foreshadow strategies for empower-
tercultural ways of participating in religious life and, at an-
ing women that women would use again in the nineteenth
other level, paradoxically, circumscribed and interpreted
and twentieth centuries to argue for women’s ordination in
their activities, self-understandings, and religious experiences
the mainline denominations.
in gender-traditional ways that reflected values in the larger
WOMEN PREACHERS IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. Two
culture. In effect, these examples function to offer a dialogue
eighteenth-century women founders of new religions offer
about an array of roles available for women in new religions,
instances not only of women’s leadership, but also of the sig-
as well as the theological and structural foundations and es-
nificance of alternative interpretations of “body” and sexuali-
chatologically oriented community goals that supported
ty. Influenced by the evangelical preaching of George White-
them. They suggest how new religions participate in the al-
field (1714–1770) and her own Quaker upbringing, Jemima
ways-in-process cultural project of working out women’s
Wilkinson (1752–1819) rose from a near-death vision in
roles and, by implication, men’s. They also demonstrate the
1776 to acclaim herself the genderless “Publick Universal
extent to which new religions see the bringing about of the
Friend,” commissioned by God to preach and to redeem the
kingdom of God on Earth, however defined, as predicated
world. Wilkinson is a good example of the lone, charismatic
on bringing about right relations between the sexes.
woman who achieves a singular fame as the founder of a
Mormon women found themselves participating in a re-
short-lived new religion. Wilkinson advocated celibacy and
ligious community that began to practice polygamy, a policy
de-emphasized her female body by dressing in clergymen’s
instituted almost twenty years after founder Joseph Smith’s
robes. Both reviled and praised as a woman in the pulpit,
(1805–1844) visions in the 1820s led to the founding of the
Wilkinson’s fame seems to have come at the cost of her “fe-
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the publica-
maleness,” a trade-off that is in evidence in numerous other
tion of the Book of Mormon in 1830. Polygamy, based ac-
new religions of later centuries.
cording to Smith on the model of biblical patriarchs, stirred
Ann Lee (1736–1784), an Englishwoman who emigrat-
up animosity among some of Smith’s followers, and more
ed to the United States in 1774, extended the practice of celi-
intensely among outsiders, but it functioned to expand and
bacy and the separation of women and men to form the
solidify kinship ties and therefore group loyalty in Mormon-
foundation for the communal religion she established, the
ism. The practice of polygamy, which was prosecuted by the
United Society of Brethren, or Shakers, a new religion that
U.S. government and outlawed by the Mormon Church in
reached its apex in the years before the American Civil War.
1890, is by no means the only distinctive aspect of nine-
Mother Ann’s theological claims about the male and female
teenth-century Mormonism, but debate persists in contem-
nature of the godhead and original sin as the result of sexual
porary scholarship and within the Mormon community
intercourse fostered the eventual construction of nineteen
about the relative benefits and restrictions of polygamy for
Shaker communities across New York, New England, and
women. As an alternative to monogamous marriage, did po-
into Ohio and Kentucky after Lee’s death, and the further
lygamy offer women more or less autonomy and opportunity
development of her ideas about the Shakers as a saved com-
for self-fulfillment, greater or fewer options for significant
munity. There are gender conflicts and ironies evident in
authority within Mormon communities? There is general
Shakerism as it grew after Mother Ann’s death. There were
agreement that Mormon women experienced more freedom
a number of major attractions for women: a female founder;
in general in the early frontier-based years of the movement
a deity imaged as both female and male; economic security
during the time that polygamy was practiced, and that Mor-
and a form of family life free from the dangers of childbirth;
mon assimilation into the American mainstream has brought
and the opportunity to participate in a theoretically egalitari-
with it a restriction of women’s authority to the roles of wife
an, male/female leadership that was required to serve the
and mother. At the same time, contemporary Mormon femi-
spiritual and material needs of celibate men and women who
nists are reclaiming earlier forms of authority, healing among
lived separately within their communities. Shaker women
them. They have reinstituted an influential nineteenth and
had the opportunity to express themselves in ecstatic visions,
early twentieth-century women’s newspaper, now called Ex-
teaching, domestic arts, and aesthetic/religious outpourings
ponent II, and they are engaged in theological reconstructions
of dancing and painting. At the same time, Shaker work roles
of women-oriented images of divinity through the vehicle of
were gender-based with women having responsibility for do-
“Heavenly Mother.”
mestic chores. There were also gender-based leadership ten-
The Oneida Perfectionists, an upstate New York com-
sions and conflict over control of ecstatic, female-related reli-
munity founded by John Humphrey Noyes (1811–1886)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WOMEN
6535
that existed between 1848 and 1880, engaged in another al-
Theosophy, founded in 1875 by Helena P. Blavatsky
ternative to monogamous marriage. “Complex marriage”
(1831–1891), a Russian emigree, and Colonel Henry Steel
was designed to foster the solidarity of the group and to elim-
Olcott (1832–1907), both one-time Spiritualists, embraced
inate what Noyes considered the divisiveness of exclusive sex-
an eclectic worldview, the “Ancient Wisdom,” that com-
ual relationships in order to bring about the kingdom of God
bined Eastern and occult thought, and rejected both Chris-
on Earth. Noyes’s patriarchal stance dominated the authority
tian orthodoxy and scientific materialism, and understood it-
structure of Oneida. The privilege of participation in com-
self as gathering together the essential truths of all the world’s
munity governance, of choice in the matter of sexual part-
religions. Theosophy offered an immanental doctrine of the
ners, and permission to bear children were meted out accord-
sacred—a spark of the divine in every atom of the universe—
ing to a hierarchical criterion called “ascending and
that gave women as well as men direct access to spiritual au-
descending fellowship.” Ambiguities, ironies, and contradic-
thority. It promoted hopeful doctrines of human nature,
tions abounded for Oneida women. Noyes was scornful of
among them a theosophical form of karma that held that
nineteenth-century women’s rights advocates and articulated
human souls could be born into either female or male bodies,
views about male superiority. He was just as convinced that
depending upon the lessons needed in a particular lifetime.
social disorder could be eliminated and right relationships re-
Theosophy offered women models of strong female leader-
stored between God and humankind and between the sexes
ship in addition to Madame Blavatsky, including Annie Bes-
by doing away with the excesses of female bondage to domes-
ant (1847–1933), Katherine Tingley (1847–1929), and
ticity and male enslavement to isolating capitalist endeavors.
Alice Bailey (1880–1949). Twenty-first-century scholarship
Women at Oneida enjoyed greater freedom of dress and ac-
such as that of Joy Dixon has begun to demonstrate the ex-
cess to education than women in the mainstream culture. Be-
tent to which British Theosophical women were involved in
cause childrearing was turned over to the community after
progressive politics and rejected a privatized occult spirituali-
the first year, women experienced both liberation and depri-
ty that excluded participation in political culture. Generally
vation in this respect, according to documents left by com-
speaking, Theosophy attracted educated middle- and upper-
munity members. Contemporary scholarship is divided on
class women whose spiritual needs were not being met by
whether Oneida offered women liberation or repression,
prevailing Christian orthodoxies and who found outlets for
greater or lesser status. There is evidence to support both in-
their spiritual gifts, religious experiences, and psychic needs
terpretations, and, as Lawrence Foster suggests in Women,
in Theosophy.
Family, and Utopia, the most compelling evidence will take
Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910), founder of the Church
both interpretations into account.
of Christ Scientist, better known as Christian Science, pro-
Spiritualism emerged as a cultural movement with mini-
vided yet another option for women as both participants and
mal organization in 1848, not founded by a particular person
leaders in a new religious movement. Christian Science was
but in response to doubts fostered by the growing prestige
grounded in an absolutist metaphysical claim based on
of science as the primary arbiter of ultimate truth in combi-
Eddy’s own healing experience in 1866—that there is no ul-
nation with reactions against Calvinist theology among Prot-
timate reality in matter—and upon which she based not only
estants. The catalyzing events were the rappings heard and
a new theology, but a healing system and a church structure.
interpreted by two young girls, Kate and Margaret Fox, as
Eddy published the first of many versions of Science and
evidence that the spirits of the dead were attempting to con-
Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1866. Christian Science
tact the living with physical evidence that life survived the
offered women positions as teachers and practitioners and
death of the body. There followed a burgeoning of possibili-
promulgated a theology that denied the reality of the physical
ties for women without prescribed credentials to assume ca-
body and its ultimate relevance, whether female or male. It
reers as Spiritualist mediums and to preach and teach public-
understood sin, sickness, suffering, and evil as illusions based
ly. In combination with the development of an optimistic,
in the mistaken conviction that matter is real. For Christian
progressive, anti-clerical theology derived from sources as
Science, the site of struggle for achieving health and social
varied as Swedenborgianism and Transcendentalism, Spiri-
transformation was “mind,” an arena obviously open to
tualists fostered a progressive politics that engaged issues like
women who had little opportunity for active, public involve-
abolition, divorce reform, and women’s rights. In addition,
ment in institutional religion, politics, or the marketplace.
mediumship proved to be good training for public work on
BRIDGING THE NINETEENTH AND THE TWENTIETH CENTU-
behalf of women’s suffrage later in the nineteenth century.
RIES. The direct and indirect influence of Christian Science
Scholars have also pointed to the fact that female mediums,
and Theosophy, along with different kinds of spiritual heal-
unlike most male mediums, frequently spoke in trance under
ing and esotericism, proliferated during the late nineteenth
spirit guidance rather than directly as a conscious or uncon-
and early twentieth centuries as there emerged a constellation
scious means to fend off claims that they were challenging
of new religions categorized variously as “harmonial” reli-
propriety by speaking publicly. Male protectors often man-
gion, the “metaphysical” traditions, and, more pejoratively,
aged them and both exploited and were exploited by stereo-
the positive thinking religions. Typically, these religions in-
types of women as passive, sensitive agents of higher spiritual
tegrated philosophical idealism with distinctive, often called
forces.
“spiritual,” interpretations of Christianity. Among the most
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6536
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WOMEN
famous names associated with these movements are Ursula
increasing number of Buddhist feminists who have become
Gestefeld and Emma Curtis Hopkins of New Thought,
teachers and leaders—Gross, Charlotte Joko Beck, Joanna
Myrtle Fillmore, who, along with her husband Charles,
Macy, Jan Willis, Anne Klein, Sandy Boucher, Lekshe
founded the Unity School of Christianity, and Alice Bailey
Tsomo—have found in Buddhism itself sources to combat
of the Arcane School. These movements were not reluctant
its own anti-woman entrenchments. Buddhism’s non-
to institutionalize leadership positions for women, and they
theism, its emphasis on impermanence, its various female
drew large numbers of women members. Their theological
images of power, its teachings that insist on the ultimate ir-
worldviews promulgated ideas that women have been drawn
relevance of gender, and its focus on the primacy of experi-
to historically. They revolted against what they saw as rigid
ence are all resources from which women Buddhists draw to
forms of creedal Christianity, de-emphasized the doctrine of
foster female leadership, a more Earth-centered practice of
original sin, and held to hopeful understandings of human
Buddhism, and innovations in the teaching of Buddhism.
nature such as a belief in the divinity of the inner self. These
THREE TWENTIETH-CENTURY RELIGIONS OF EASTERN ORI-
religions often combined elements of both Eastern and
GIN. Other, newer forms of Eastern religions have also at-
Western religious thought and were characterized by an em-
tracted Western women, three in particular that have
phasis on healing, both spiritual and physical. They typically
emerged since the middle of the twentieth century. Looked
held to the power of thought or mind to changes one’s con-
at comparatively, they offer women very different possibili-
sciousness, often by tapping into other levels of reality, and
ties for both traditional relational roles and alternatives to
thereby to change one’s circumstances as well. There are
Western marriage traditions that illustrate what can appear
many examples, however, of these traditions giving over in-
to the cultural mainstream as paradoxical, unappealing, and
stitutional power to men as they moved into the second and
even dangerous combinations of freedom and restriction.
third generations of existence and became more assimilated
to patterns in mainstream American and British culture.
The Unification Church, better known as the Moonies,
was founded in 1954 by Korea’s Reverend Sun Myung
TWENTIETH-CENTURY NEW RELIGIONS. The twentieth cen-
Moon (1920–). Unificationism’s complex theology of resto-
tury continued to offer a great variety of possibilities for
ration assumes that Jesus Christ accomplished a spiritual, but
women in new religions. Charismatic, pentecostal preaching
not a physical, redemption. It is in living out the tightly
and healing women in the earlier part of the century, among
structured, family based, husband-wife sexuality modeled by
them Aimee Semple McPherson (1890–1944), founder of
Moon and his wife that the edenic pre-fall condition of the
the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Alma B.
world will be restored. Unification women have access to a
White (1862–1946), a Methodist preacher and founder of
wide range of roles, mostly ordered sequentially: careers often
the Pillar of Fire Church, and Mother Leafy Anderson
involving work for the church, arranged marriages followed
(c. 1887–1927), founder of the Black Spiritualist churches,
by several years of celibate sisterhood to their husbands, and,
continued to overcome disapproval of women preachers by
eventually, children who may be left in the care of others
force of their personal power. Growing numbers of Eastern
while the parents work elsewhere for the church. The domes-
religions began to find their way into Western culture in
tic sphere is valued as one of ultimate spiritual significance
greater numbers beginning in the 1960s and provided new
and the value of the marriage relationship in bringing about
communities, practices, and forms of leadership for women.
the salvation of the world cannot be overestimated. One of
Feminist/goddess spirituality, an outgrowth of the women’s
the early leaders and theologians of the movement was Oon
movement and based in the authority of women’s distinctive
Young Kim (1915–1990), a female professor at Ewha Uni-
bodily and religious experiences and rituals, came into prom-
versity in Seoul and the first Unification missionary to the
inence as well, beginning in the 1960s. The constellation of
West.
ideas and practices that came to be called the New Age move-
ment, many of whose themes overlap with Theosophy and
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness,
feminist spirituality, also attracted large numbers of women
known also as ISKCON and Hare Krishna, came to America
and women leaders. Like their nineteenth-century forerun-
from India in 1965. The society and its male founder, Swami
ners, these religions offered women ways to experiment with
Prabhupada (1896–1977), attracted young counterculture
new religious ideas, practices and images, often female, of the
members. Unlike the male/female sexual complementarity
sacred and with alternative models of family and community
assumed by Unificationists, ISKCON espouses a radical
and expressions of sexuality.
body/spirit split that holds bodies to be illusion but nonethe-
less assumes male spiritual superiority. At the same time, the
BUDDHISM AS A NEW RELIGION IN AMERICA. An ancient re-
security of a highly ordered sexual life and the comfort and
ligion in the East, but relatively new to the West, Buddhism
support of the women’s ashram is appealing to the women
offered Western women new spiritual opportunities and has
of ISKCON, and there is evidence to suggest that women
itself been changed by the process of responding to calls for
exercise significant power indirectly, a pattern common in
a feminist Buddhism, a Buddhism “beyond patriarchy,” as
traditionally male-dominated religions.
Buddhist scholar and practitioner Rita Gross (1943 –) puts
it. Highly cognizant of anti-female assumptions in tradition-
Another new religion of Indian origin, the Rajneesh
al Buddhism about women’s bodies and women’s nature, an
movement, now known as Osho, originated with Bhagwan
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WOMEN
6537
Shree Rajneesh (1931–1990) in an ashram in Poona, India,
in one combination or another in women’s joining—or
in the 1970s. Its most famous site in the West was Rajneesh-
founding—new religious movements.
puram in Oregon, disbanded in 1985 in the midst of scan-
dals and church/state tensions. In contrast with marriage-
SEE ALSO Besant, Annie; Blavatsky, H. P.; Buddhism, arti-
based movements, Rajneesh encouraged women to have
cle on Buddhism in the West; Christian Science; Eddy,
nonexclusive sexual relationships with men. These were re-
Mary Baker; Feminist Theology; Fillmore, Charles and
garded as gateways to spiritual experiences and gave women
Myrtle; Gender and Religion; Hopkins, Emma Curtis; In-
ternational Society for Krishna Consciousness; Lee, Ann;
both the freedom and the responsibility to avoid traditional
Mormonism; Neopaganism; New Thought Movement;
roles of wife and mother, develop identities as “lovers,” and
Noyes, John Humphrey; Olcott, Henry Steel; Prabhupada,
assume positions of leadership. This movement offers an ex-
A. C. Bhaktivedanta; Quakers; Rajneesh; Shakers; Smith,
cellent forum for exploration of issues dealing with women’s
Joseph; Spiritualism; Swedenborgianism; Theosophical Soci-
relationships to male gurus and of the question of what dis-
ety; Tingley, Katherine; Unification Church; Wicca.
tinctions need to be drawn between sexual freedom and ex-
ploitation in religions that make connections between overt-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ly physical rather than metaphorical sexual expression related
Bednarowski, Mary Farrell. “Outside the Mainstream: Women’s
to the sacred.
Religion and Women Religious Leaders in Nineteenth-
Century America.” Journal of the American Academy of Reli-
FEMINIST SPIRITUALITY. Unlike highly structured family
gion 48 (1980), 207–231. An analysis of four theological and
and communally oriented new religions, feminist spirituality
social characteristics that fostered women’s leadership in
has been developing since the second wave of feminism
Shakerism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Christian Science.
emerged in the 1960s as a loosely organized, very widespread
Braude, Ann. Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in
cultural movement movement. However many varieties exist
Nineteenth-Century America. Boston, 1989. A comprehen-
within the movement, there is a discernible woman-oriented
sive study of nineteenth-century American Spiritualism’s ori-
worldview often grounded in female images of God or devo-
gins, teachings, and advocacy for numerous social reforms,
tion to the Goddess or goddesses. However imaged, the di-
particularly women’s rights.
vine is understood as radically immanent in every aspect of
Chmielewski, Wendy E., Louis J. Kern, and Marlyn Klee-
reality. Earth- and nature-related rituals affirm both the spir-
Hartzell, eds. Women in Spiritual and Communitarian Socie-
itual relevance and the physical reality of the world and cele-
ties in the United States. Syracuse, N.Y., 1993. Essays detail-
brate women’s bodies and bodily rhythms, in contrast with
ing the variety of women’s experiences in spiritual and com-
some nineteenth-century groups that denied the ultimate re-
munitarian societies from the eighteenth through the
ality of the body. Feminist spirituality is broad enough to en-
twentieth centuries.
compass manifestations as wide-ranging as Neopaganism
Dixon, Joy. Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in England.
and Wicca and groups that identify themselves with Judaism
Baltimore and London, 2001. A study of the relationship be-
and Christianity. The movement as a whole places great em-
tween esoteric religion and feminist social reform movements
phasis on spiritual healing from what members describe as
in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England.
the scars of male-dominated religion and culture. Feminist
Eller, Cynthia. Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spiri-
spirituality continues to develop ethical stances related par-
tuality Movement in America. New York, 1993. A detailed
ticularly to environmentalism and peace.
description and interpretation of the variety of beliefs, prac-
tices, rituals, and appeals of contemporary goddess-related
CONCLUSION. Scholarly and popular speculations abound
feminist spirituality.
about women’s motivations for joining new religious move-
Foster, Lawrence. Women, Family, and Utopia: Communal Experi-
ments. No one explanation suffices, since women offer
ments of the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Mor-
many, many reasons for their attractiveness, even if, as socio-
mons. Syracuse, N.Y., 1991. A historical study of the com-
logical data indicate, women who join new religions do not
plexities of male-female relationships in three communal
necessarily stay in them forever. Those reasons almost always
societies and of the multiple and distinctive ways they ad-
include the appeal of theological claims and ways of living
dressed the changing roles of women, the nature of family,
that are more coherent with women’s own experiences, reli-
and the impact of sexuality.
gious and otherwise, than those offered by the established re-
Gill, Gillian. Mary Baker Eddy. Reading, Mass., 1998. An inter-
ligious traditions or the secular culture. They encompass, as
pretation of Mary Baker Eddy as neither saint nor sinner but
well, possibilities for expression of women’s charismatic gifts
a woman whose considerable gifts as theologian and leader
and leadership abilities along with the freedom to explore in-
had few outlets in the society in which she lived.
dividual psychological strengths or deficits that find outlets
Gross, Rita M. Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Con-
and compensations in new religions. There is also the draw
temporary Social and Religious Issues. New York, 1998. Aca-
of economic security and community, along with opportuni-
demic essays with significant autobiographical content by a
ties for sexual relationships outside monogamous marriage,
leading scholar in American feminist Buddhism.
or, communally validated celibacy, or communal suppot for
Humez, Jean M., ed. Mother’s First-Born Daughters: Early Shaker
traditional monogamous marriages. All of these may figure
Writings on Women and Religion. Bloomington and India-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6538
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
napolis, 1993. A collection of primary sources by Shaker
with people in their late teens and early twenties. Often char-
women from 1780–1851 with a general introduction and in-
acterized as rebellious youth, disenchanted “dropouts” who
troductions to each of four sections by the editor.
had rejected the values of mainstream religion and culture
Jacobs, Janet L. Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting from New
to create their own counterculture and protest movements,
Religions. Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1989. An explora-
few of them had children or other responsibilities. Their en-
tion of members’ diverse reasons for leaving new religions
thusiasm for Asian mysticism, new forms of psychotherapy,
with attention to issues of gender.
or new fervent expressions of evangelical Christianity led
Judah, J. Stillson. The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical
them to join exciting new religions in the hope of experienc-
Movements in America. Philadelphia, 1967. An interpretation
ing the numinous, finding the authentic self, or transforming
of the origins and beliefs of metaphysical religions, among
them Spiritualism, Theosophy, New Thought, and Christian
the world and themselves. This religious resurgence occurred
Science, with a fifteen-point list of pervasive characteristics
in both America and Europe. By the 1980s and 1990s the
in the introduction.
demographic picture worldwide had changed dramatically.
Knott, Kim. “Men and Women, or Devotees? Krishna Conscious-
The young seekers had matured into middle age, and chil-
ness and the Role of Women.” In Women in the World’s Reli-
dren had become a significant feature of most NRMs.
gions Past and Present, edited by Ursula King, pp. 111–128.
New York, 1987.
Children and their views about the religions they belong
to have been neglected by academics in the study of religion
Lewis, James R., and J. Gordon Melton, eds. Perspectives on the
New Age. Albany, N.Y., 1992. Essays, some of which empha-
generally but especially in studies looking at NRMs. Their
size gender, with multiple approaches to the academic study
significance is, however, without question. Their impact has
of the New Age Movement including suggestions for future
been noted by various sociologists of religion; their involve-
research.
ment in drawing sectarian religious groups away from isola-
Palmer, Susan Jean. Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lov-
tion and toward assimilation was described by Richard Nie-
ers: Women’s Roles in New Religions. Syracuse, N.Y., 1994. A
buhr in The Social Sources of Denominationalism in 1929.
study of the multiplicity of women’s roles in seven contem-
More recently, in his article “Why Religions Movements
porary new religions.
Succeed or Fail” (1996), Rodney Stark commented that the
Puttick, Elizabeth. Women in New Religions: In Search of Commu-
second generation is key to the success or failure of new reli-
nity, Sexuality and Spiritual Power. New York, 1997. An in-
gious movements. Without doubt, the arrival of a second
terpretation of both the liberating and oppressive characteris-
generation, often in large numbers, is key to understanding
tics of new religions for women with emphasis on alternative
how many of these new movements undergo organizational
approaches to sexuality and the sacred.
transformations and changes to their practices. Retaining the
Salomonsen, Jone. Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches
second generation is crucial to many of these groups. In some
of San Francisco. London and New York, 2002. In-depth
new religions, such as The Family (previously known as
study of the community and new spiritual tradition set up
by Starhawk and her friends.
Children of God), second-generation members now out-
number the first generation, and they are highly active in
Sered, Susan Starr. Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister: Religions Domi-
nated by Women. New York and Oxford, 1994. A compara-
participating and developing the future of the movement.
tive anthropological, historical, social study of the meanings
The success coming to groups retaining their second genera-
of “women’s religion” in the context of twelve religions from
tion can be seen in some of the older sects, such as the Mor-
around the world.
mons and Hutterites, who solved the problem of increasing
Ursenbach, Maureen, and Lavina Fielding Anderson, eds. Sisters
membership by breeding new members. Whereas in the
in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspec-
1980s there were about four hundred Hutterites in North
tive, foreword by Jan Shipps. Urbana, 1987. Essays by Mor-
America, now there are nearer thirty thousand, and the claim
mon women scholars that integrate Mormon history and
is they still retain 98 percent of their offspring. In contrast,
women’s history to explore the identities of Mormon women
some new religions are struggling; not managing to increase
both past and present.
membership by proselytizing, they clearly need to retain their
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. Women’s Leadership in Marginal Reli-
second generation. For example, the Unification Church
gions: Explorations outside the Mainstream. Urbana and Chi-
(better known as “the Moonies”) and the International Soci-
cago, 1993. Essays about social and theological characteris-
ety for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) had fewer adult
tics that, by contrast with those in mainstream religions, have
fostered women’s leadership in nineteenth- and twentieth-
members at the end of the twentieth century than they did
century new religions.
in the 1970s. For new movements like Neopaganism, retain-
ing the second generation is not an issue; the ideal is for the
MARY FARRELL BEDNAROWSKI (2005)
spiritual path to be one of individual choice.
The wave of children born into the new religious move-
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
ments has created new challenges. The responses to the prob-
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
lems of raising this new generation have taken a rich variety
In the 1960s and 1970s the religions classified as “cults” or
of forms; not surprisingly, given the radical nature of these
“new religious movements” (NRMs) were largely populated
parents, not all of their parenting solutions have been con-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
6539
ventional. For the insiders—the adult members of NRMs—
cifically linking cultic groups and child abuse because of the
the main issues have been child raising, education, and how
lack of evidence.
best to incorporate the second generation in their active reli-
gious lives. How far should their religion remain a religion
At the close of the twentieth century, scholars cited a
of converts, and how far should they adapt to accommodate
lack of evidence to support anticult groups’ claims of child
the new generation? For those watching from the outside,
abuse, and research had not demonstrated a causal link be-
particularly those who felt they had little access to inside in-
tween NRMs and victims of child abuse. To give one exam-
formation, children added a new dimension and a focus of
ple, the theosophically inspired group the Church Universal
concern, which was easily fueled by the negative stereotyping
and Triumphant (CUT) received particularly hostile media
of NRMs as “dangerous cults” by the anticult movement and
and anticult attention after the Branch Davidian tragedy,
the media. The three issues that have preoccupied the public,
calling it one of America’s “top cults.” Concern was raised
the media, and concerned outsiders are, firstly, child abuse
about the well-being of children in this group, perceived as
(including mental and sexual abuse and neglect); secondly,
socially and religiously deviant. From their research de-
child custody cases and the difficult issue of the “best inter-
scribed in Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Per-
ests of the child”; and thirdly, child socialization and educa-
spective (1994), Lawrence Lilliston and Gary Shepherd were
tion. The article will deal with each of these in turn.
able to identify certain problem areas in the relationship be-
C
tween adults and youth: some small-scale delinquent acts by
HILD ABUSE. One crucial significance of children in NRMs
is the role they play in the fight against cults. As James T.
a few young people such as “joyriding, shoplifiting”; some
Richardson points out in “Social Control of New Religions:
“off the Ranch” pregnancies after associating with outsider
From ‘Brainwashing’ Claims to Child Sex Abuse Allega-
boys; more generally a resistance to strict church prohibition
tions,” children have become the new weapon for anticultists
against music with a heavy beat (especially rock and roll); and
in the battle against NRMs now that the brainwashing weap-
some teen dissatisfaction, characterized by feeling ignored
on has lost its potency (Richardson, 1999, p. 172). Accusa-
and ridiculed by outsiders, particularly when preparation was
tions about child abuse in new religious movements have be-
made in the 1990s for nuclear war. The church made some
come the “ultimate weapon” used in attempts to control new
changes in the 1990s, however, to address parenting prob-
religious movements. After the Jonestown murders-suicides
lems. Realizing that intense commitment to organizational
in 1978, there was an explosion of negative media stories
jobs in the church was affecting parent-child relationships,
about “cults,” and accusations of child abuse increased. The
the church gave staff with children more time; parenting
reason for this was that so-called cultic groups, according to
skills were encouraged and parenting workshops introduced;
anticultists, are disposed to abuse children. In their view all
youth antidrug programs and ties to national youth pro-
cult parents are extremists, obsessed with personal salvation
grams were established. Researchers were impressed by the
or creating a heaven on earth, dependent on a leader and now
openness of the parents to exposing children to a diversity
unable to think critically and independently.
of religious views and by their respect for free choice. They
described CUT children as having high but realistic stan-
Moreover, because they are portrayed as working in ex-
dards, as self-reliant, and as having appropriate dependency
ploitative conditions, they must have little time for family.
attitudes and strong feelings of competence and confidence
Kaj Moos in Save Our Children describes cult children as
in their ability. Reporting that the parents were resigned to
simply “an imposition upon their emotionally fragile, depen-
the fact that most of the children would become religious de-
dent parents,” which tends to “lead toward a path of child
fectors, they in fact concluded that the church may have in-
abuse, for the cultist parent is regressed and unable to cope
troduced new structures that could increase the loyalty of the
with the parenting demands and need of children” (Moos,
second generation. Though previously charged with isola-
1993, p. 12). According to Moos, “cult children” are raised
tion, lack of parenting skills, and other concerns expressed
in organizations predisposed toward abusive practices. Mi-
by Langone and Moos, the Church Universal and Trium-
chael Langone, editor of the Cultic Studies Journal, is more
phant introduced changes that led observers to view the orga-
cautious in his writing and as such has been influential in ar-
nization more favorably.
guing that cults have a particular capacity to harm children
physically and psychologically. In Recovery from Cults: Help
The notion put forward by Langone and others seeking
for Victims of Psychological and Physical Abuse (1993), Lan-
to control “cults”—that NRMs, unlike other religions such
gone argues that it is their absolutist ideology that provides
as Catholicism, are predisposed to child abuse—is not sup-
a rationalization for child abuse and makes them different
ported by the evidence. Anson Shupe, editor of Wolves with-
from Catholics, Baptists, or Episcopalians. Their ideology,
in the Fold: Religious Leadership and Abuses of Power, points
he argues, compels harsh physical discipline and the rejection
out that Catholic priests “have preyed upon literally hun-
of medical intervention and supports physical isolation and
dreds of young victims” (Shupe, 1998, p. 5). A survey by the
resistance to investigations of child abuse, the members using
National Review Board (February 2004) revealed that from
religious beliefs to justify their ideology and isolation (Lan-
1950 to 2002 in the United States, 4,450 Catholic priests
gone, 1993, pp. 327–329). Langone makes this case while
were accused of sexual abuse of minors. With such evidence
at the same time admitting it is hard to draw conclusions spe-
it is no longer appropriate to suspect new religions as being
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6540
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
any more or less likely to breed sexual abuse. Children raised
Raid Begins New Pattern” (1994) and by Vanessa Malcarne
in NRMs are not more likely to be abused than those raised
and John Burchard in “Investigations of Child Abuse/
in any other religion, but in the case of NRMs, the religious
Neglect Allegations in Religious Cults: A Case Study in Ver-
group and its ideology or structure are usually blamed rather
mont” (1992). The Messianic Communities, also known as
than individuals. The Catholic Church has tried to separate
the Twelve Tribes, continue to have problems in France and
individual abuse from any connection with the social struc-
Germany on issues of homeschooling and discipline. These
ture or practices of the church. There is research, described
and other groups advocating strict discipline and openly sup-
by contributors to Shupe’s volume, to suggest that, in fact,
porting corporal punishment believe it is in the children’s
there may be problems when the total economic structure
best interests, sometimes even to “break the will” of the child.
and power of a group rests on male, unmarried clergy.
The Community in Island Pond in Vermont is a strongly
Careful scrutiny of the child abuse accusations against
fundamentalist community, homeschooling their children
NRMs reveals that many of the allegations have been con-
and disciplining them with a stick for minor disobediences
cerned with harsh discipline and corporal punishment. This
and adult strikes for more serious offenses. In 1984 the com-
is a highly controversial area, the rights and wrongs of
munity was raided, and more than a hundred adults and 112
“smacking” being hotly debated. The new tide of opinion
children were taken into custody. Although all the children
against any form of physical punishment of children makes
were returned to their parents, the techniques for the allega-
the adoption of the more disciplinarian view more controver-
tions of abuse, as George Robertson (1994) points out,
sial. Over the years theories of socially and politically accept-
worked for the anticult movement—the raids made headline
able discipline have varied greatly. The quotation from Prov-
news, highlighting the allegations of abuse, but the children’s
erbs (13:24), “he who spares the rod hates his child,” is
return was hardly mentioned. What is striking is that in 2004
central to one theory, advocated, for example, by James Dob-
the Vermont community continued its strict fundamentalist
son in his book Dare to Discipline (1970). According to this
lifestyle and lived without conflict with its neighbors.
theory, children need to be taught strong self-discipline and
Some children have suffered from severe corporal pun-
self-control, which are best encouraged by strong disciplin-
ishment. The famous American case is that of the twelve-
ing of the child, including the use of corporal punishment.
year-old boy in the House of Judah who died as the result
This is still the theory favored by some mainstream evangeli-
of beatings at a camp. Children raised in belief systems that
cal Christians worldwide and by some Christian NRMs,
advocate severe physical punishment in some cases are de-
such as The Family.
fenseless against the group if they live within a closed com-
The more liberal attitudes of later child-care experts,
munity. However, no evidence has as yet been produced to
such as Dr. Spock or the “modern” Penelope Leach, are sup-
show that children in new religious movements are more
ported by liberal, secular, and New Age parents. In the past
likely to be harmed than children in other institutions or
two decades countries have in general become more liberal.
mainstream society. The Institute for the Study of American
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,
Religion carried out a survey in 1986 exploring reports of
adopted in 1989 and ratified by every country in the world
child abuse in cults and concluded that beliefs about corporal
except the United States and Somalia, makes it clear that
punishment and strict discipline could lead to violent ten-
children should be protected from all forms of physical and
dencies in children. But the survey also concluded that such
mental violence, injury, or abuse (Article 19.1). It states that
behavior “did not come from the major non-conventional re-
any form of discipline should take into account the child’s
ligions (that is, those identified as cults in the public mind)
human dignity. Nevertheless, in the United Kingdom there
but from conservative evangelical Christian groups” (Mel-
still exists a Victorian law allowing a defense in terms of rea-
ton, 1986, pp. 255, 258).
sonable chastisement allowing parents to hit children when
It could be argued that many of the accusations of child
they can claim the punishment was justified. Laws were
abuse by anticultists have in themselves led to abuse of chil-
passed to abolish spanking in British state schools in 1986
dren. Accusations about child abuse were made against the
and in privately funded schools in 1998; it is still permitted
Family in Argentina, France, Spain, Australia, Peru, Norway,
in some states in the United States. Nowhere is it allowed
and the United Kingdom. Worldwide raids on the Family
in Scandinavia; Sweden banned smacking thirty years ago.
homes made front-page news as the allegedly abused children
The question of whether parents should be restricted from
were dragged from their parents in the night, with scarcely
hitting their children will become increasingly an issue be-
a mention of their return after no abuse could be found in
tween religious conservatives and liberals. It is not an issue
any of the children in any of the countries. Some of the offi-
that is limited to new religious movements.
cials’ treatment of the children of the Family might on the
One of the better-known cases involving accusations
other hand be seen to constitute abuse. In Australia social
about severe corporal punishment involved the Northeast
services took more than 190 children away from parents who
Kingdom Community Church, a fundamentalist Christian
were members of the Family in 1992, but within a few days
sect that was the object of much controversy in the 1980s
all were returned. Based on similarly false information, chil-
and that was described by George Robertson in “Island Pond
dren in France and Spain were kept in custody and separated
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
6541
from their mothers for weeks or months. In all cases courts
abusive practices is that there is then little need to explore
dismissed the charges. A few of the key anticult figures who
in depth any particular NRM to see the reality of whether
instigated some of these raids (Rick Ross, for example) also
child abuse is occurring. Anticultists see unchecked informa-
used child abuse allegations against David Koresh and the
tion from ex-members about the totalitarian nature and life-
Branch Davidians.
style of the organization as sufficient. If a group can be de-
fined as a “destructive cult” or an “extreme cult,” detailed
It should be noted in terms of child abuse that there is
evaluations of the religious group are not needed to make al-
a particularly complex relationship between gender, age,
legations of child abuse. In France, where there is a govern-
power, and spirituality. Particularly difficult is the relation-
mental preference for listening to the “victims” of sects and
ship of guru and disciple, or priest and child, with the enor-
to the anticultists who deal with the practical problems of
mous potential for religious exploitation. For example, Eliza-
these victims rather than taking an academic viewpoint, very
beth Puttick has commented that the master-disciple
little scholarly work is being undertaken, and an anticult
relationship was a profound experience for many Rajneesh
scare continues. In 1996 the French National Assembly de-
followers with “little evidence of sexual exploitation of fe-
clared a list of 172 groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses,
male disciples by Osho” (Puttick, 1999, p. 102). But prob-
Mormons, Catholic charismatics, evangelicals, and Quakers,
lems of authority and misuse of power did arise in the Inter-
as potentially dangerous. In Belgium a similar parliamentary
national Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
report produced in 1997 declared 189 sects potentially dan-
There were cases of child abuse and instances of second-class
gerous. Sweden has been critical of the attitudes expressed
child care. In June 2000 children of ISKCON filed a federal
in these reports, and the report of the Swedish Government’s
complaint naming ISKCON and its governing body as de-
Commission on New Religious Movements (1998), “In
fendants. In Betrayal of the Spirit (2001) Nori Muster de-
Good Faith: Society and the New Religious Movements,”
scribes how the worst abuses took place between 1971 and
gives a far more balanced view of the needs of children in
1986 in the Dallas boarding school, the West Virginia
unconventional religions and calls for more research:
boarding school in New Vrindavan, and in the Vrindavana
The right of parents to bring up their children in accor-
(India) boarding school. The scandals about child abuse in
dance with their faith and convictions is above dispute,
ISKCON, with the leaders’ focus on attaining spiritual ob-
but it has to be balanced against the knowledge that
jectives rather than looking after their children in schools and
there are children who suffer harm in new religious
child-care facilities, have played a large part in destroying the
movements. . . . The Commission considers it essen-
second generation’s trust in this movement. Many of the sec-
tial that children living in closed groups should have the
ond generation, who now mostly attend non-ISKCON
same form of support, protection and rights as other
schools, are critical of some of the fanaticism of the first gen-
children. At the same time it is important that children
eration, as Burke Rochford describes in “Reactions of Hare
growing up in these movements should not be stigma-
Krishna Devotees to Scandals of Leaders’ Misconduct”
tized.
(1998). Another article by Rochford, “Education and Col-
Unfortunately not all governments have been as open-
lective Identity” (1999), analyzes how the second-generation
minded. A new law introduced by the French parliament in
members hold on to their identity as Krishna devotees but
June 2000 was Europe’s toughest antisect legislation to date.
have a less-strong collective ISKCON identity. Incidents of
It allows judges to order the dissolution of a sect if members
underage sex in the early years of The Family have also been
are convicted of a criminal offence. It bans sects from adver-
documented by James Chancellor in Life in the Family: An
tising. It has also made “mental manipulation” a crime. Tar-
Oral History of the Children of God (2000). David Koresh,
geting youth, such as touting for new members near schools
the leader of the Branch Davidians, is cited as having sexual
or offering children’s Sunday school by any church, is now
relations with underage girls to create a new spiritual lineage.
illegal in France.
There are concerns about children in Christian Science,
Allegations of child abuse over the last two decades have
which has been criticized for promoting faith healing and ne-
been used very effectively against particular NRMs. In those
glecting children in need of medical attention. In the United
countries in Europe where brainwashing and mind-control
States adults can either seek medical attention to deal with
claims are still accepted and experts are sought among an-
a physical disorder, or they can use faith healing or alterna-
ticultists (e.g., France, Belgium), it seems likely that those
tive medicine. If a child dies from not receiving medical at-
who want to hinder the activities of any NRM will in the
tention, however, parents can face criminal charges. In
last resort use child abuse accusations to persuade the local
“Christian Science Spiritual Healing, the Law, and Public
authorities to act.
Opinion” (1992), James Richardson and John Dewitt argue
that concern about the welfare of children has at times over-
FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE
ridden concern about parental rights and freedom of
CHILD. It is a standard principle of child welfare law and pol-
religion.
icy that the “best interests” of a child should be promoted.
Article 13.1 of the United Nations Convention on the
What is dangerous about an approach that accepts that
Rights of the Child (1989) states that “in all actions concern-
certain organizations like NRMs are predisposed toward
ing children . . . the best interests of the child shall be a pri-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6542
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
mary consideration.” Key articles of the convention also
which could harm their own children, seen as sinless and vul-
stress the need to respect both “the right of the child to free-
nerable. Examples can be found in Sahaja Yoga, the Family,
dom of thought, conscience and religion” (Article 14.1) and
the Unification Church, and ISKCON. Boundaries are
“the rights and duties of parents in providing religious and
maintained between the movement and the outside. For ex-
moral guidance to their children in a manner consistent with
ample, separate sets of clothes are kept by Family members;
the evolving capacities of the child” (Article 14.2). These
purification rituals like foot soaking and meditation are car-
principles have been welcomed by religious groups of all
ried out by Sahaja Yoga children after school to negate any
kinds, mainstream and minority religions, because they indi-
negative vibrations picked up at school. Practices and life-
cate that the United Nations has no interest in preventing
styles are emphasized to help children participate in building
parents from bringing up their children within a religious
the new kingdom or to become spiritually pure. As one Fam-
tradition and endorses freedom of religion.
ily/Children of God publication commented, “If the millen-
nium is that close, it’s all the more reason to get these kids
The main difficulty for courts in Europe or the United
trained in a hurry” (Teen Rev., no. 7, 1986), hence the im-
States lies in the precarious balance between these two no-
portance of teaching the very young to be toilet trained and
tions: freedom of religion and the best interests of the child.
to read and write and the importance of learning Scriptures.
From research on court cases dealing with the custody of a
These world-rejecting groups create alternative childhoods
child with one parent in a so-called cult or minority religion,
that emphasize the importance of growing up within a saved
Anthony Bradney, in “Children of a Newer God,” says there
community, and therefore the emphasis is on detachment
is no doubt that because courts rely on evidence and argu-
from worldly life. If they are not living in communes, mem-
ments given by the parties involved, some judgments have
bers of these groups emphasize socialization into their values
been swayed by incomplete evidence and anticult “experts”
and practices in weekend gatherings, camps, or ashrams.
(Bradney, 1999, p. 215). How this balance is achieved in the
World-rejecting movements often create their own forms of
United States and in Europe is well documented in the arti-
cles by Bradney, Richardson, and Michael Homer in Chil-
homeschooling, particularly for preteens, not wanting their
dren in New Religions (1999), although much research is still
children to be exposed to the vice-ridden, secular schools of
to be undertaken on the European interpretation of these
the outside world. CUT and the Family homeschool using
principles in custody cases. It is already clear, however, that
the Montessori approach and education philosophies that
how a particular country views NRMs, cults, or sects has an
stress precocious acquisition of reading skills (such as those
impact on the legal process and on child custody cases. Cus-
of Glenn Doman). The more conservative of these groups
tody cases may not actually assess the quality of parenting in
attempt to revive paternal authoritarianism and strong disci-
any new religious group because very often the judges are as
pline. These children, like adults, have a prescribed role to
ignorant about NRMs as are members of the public. As
play; toys and books are carefully supervised because children
Bradney has discussed in Religions, Rights, and Laws, al-
can be led astray by the devil, who may try to tempt them
though courts in the United Kingdom are supposed to be
through the wrong kind of music or unsupervised TV or try
neutral about religious matters, some parents have lost custo-
to tempt them into losing their innocence.
dy of their child or children “precisely because of their reli-
At the other end of the spectrum are those NRMs em-
gion” (Bradney, 1993, p. 49). As yet it is not clear how the
phasizing the importance of affirming the individual (“self”
French or Belgian reports advocating anticult laws or indeed
religions, such as the Human Potential Movement, Daman-
any of those commissioned by European governments will
hur, Scientology, Transcendental Meditation, Rajneesh).
affect the courts and the custody of children in NRMs.
The emphasis in raising children must be to help them fill
S
their potential, especially their inner spirituality, and find
OCIALIZATION AND EDUCATION IN NRMS: FROM DE-
ways to cope with the world and its stresses. Many of these
TACHMENT TO AFFIRMATION. All societies and all new reli-
gious movements attach considerable importance to the up-
groups are less obviously “religious,” have less dogmatic
bringing of their children, but what practices are perceived
ideas, and are more highly individualized, emphasizing chil-
as being most conducive to the general good (including the
dren’s empowerment and affirming individual children’s
welfare of the children themselves) are often strikingly differ-
goals and values. Child socialization and education in the
ent. The alternative childhoods to be found in NRMs can
mainstream is criticized for being an outdated conventional
be usefully understood according to the Weberian perspec-
institution. Children need to be emancipated from the nar-
tive offered by Roy Wallis in The Elementary Forms of the
row bondage of an educational system that focuses solely on
New Religious Life (1984), from the “world-rejecting” to the
the intellect and a future accepting the materialistic values
“world-affirming.” These “ideal types” focus on “how a
associated with capitalism. For these more countercultural
movement orients itself toward the social world into which
movements, schooling should emphasize creativity, intu-
it emerges” (Wallis, 1984, p. 4).
ition, and natural intelligence. One must maintain faith in
the goodness of children and their potential. Strong disci-
At one end of the spectrum, children are raised in move-
pline and punishment, far from being advocated, are seen as
ments rejecting the world, emphasizing the polluting, per-
creating fear and a distance between the generations, pre-
missive, evil, contaminating aspects of the mainstream,
venting emotional growth, self-actualization, personal re-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND CHILDREN
6543
sponsibility, and maturity. Children in many of the Eastern-
tices is still little explored. It is important to emphasize the
influenced groups, such as Transcendental Meditation,
diversity of the systems of meaning in terms of which chil-
Sathya Sai Baba, Ananda Marga, School of Economic Sci-
dren give form, order, and direction to their lives within new
ence, and Western Buddhist Order, learn early on to medi-
religions. It will be seen here, however, that the key issues
tate, and in response their parents may face condemnation
that have influenced the popular view of children in NRMs
and accusations of indoctrination or exploitation.
are ones that are not fundamentally different from the issues
involved in raising children in mainstream religions: issues
As Wallis noted, empirical examples will only approxi-
of child abuse, child custody, and the precarious balance of
mate to these ideal types and may well combine elements of
religious freedom, parental rights, and the “best interests of
both (Wallis, 1984, p. 5). Although in terms of beliefs and
the child” with the extent to which children are “indoctrinat-
organization a group may be world-rejecting, in terms of the
ed” or “freely choose” the views of their parents. One sad
ideal childhood envisaged it may have elements of both de-
consequence of imposing restrictions on NRMs, on reducing
tachment from the world and the importance of developing
freedom of religion, is a reduced tolerance of diversity.
potential power and self-actualization. For example, the in-
ternational movements of Rajneesh (now Osho), Sahaja
SEE ALSO Anticult Movements; Brainwashing (Debate);
Yoga, or Damanhur in Italy, all world-rejecting movements,
Branch Davidians; Christian Science; Church Universal and
see the outside world as contaminating, its mainstream
Triumphant; Cults and Sects; Family, The; Hutterian
schools and patriarchal nuclear-family structures as the root
Brethren; International Society for Krishna Consciousness;
of Western bad habits and neurosis; the alternative is to be
Jehovah’s Witnesses; Jonestown and Peoples Temple;
found in communal living, detached from the rest of the
Koresh, David; Mormonism; Neopaganism; Quakers; Sai
world. At the same time, there are strong world-affirming el-
Baba Movement; Scientology; Transcendental Meditation;
ements; correct child-rearing practices are seen as crucial in
Twelve Tribes; Unification Church.
helping Rajneesh children attain their full potential (Puttick,
1999), and the New Age Damanhurians involve their chil-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
dren in “harmonization,” a form of yoga to restore human
Bradney, Anthony. Religions, Rights, and Laws. Leicester, U.K.,
beings to their original and authentic condition (Introvigne,
1993. British law professor analyzes the legal attitude to reli-
1999).
gion and laws pertaining to religion in Britain. Looking at
case studies, he questions that courts are neutral in regard to
CONCLUSIONS. The significance of studying children in
religious issues.
NRMs began to be taken seriously when they were consis-
tently used by anticultists to bolster their attacks on move-
Bradney, Anthony. “Children of a Newer God.” In Children in
ments. Since then, however, much of the debate has focused
New Religions, edited by Susan J. Palmer and Charlotte E.
Hardman, pp. 210–223. New Brunswick, N.J., and London,
on countering these attacks, and the literature on children
1999.
is heavily weighted with discussions on child abuse, child
custody cases, and the indoctrination of children. Although
Chancellor, James. Life in the Family: An Oral History of the Chil-
the debates have furthered the understanding of children in
dren of God. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. An insider’s personal view
new religious movements, the focus on these areas to the ex-
of the history of the Children of God, backed up by rigorous
research.
clusion of others has led to a distorted picture of children in
NRMs.
Homer, Michael. “The Precarious Balance between Freedom of
Religion and the Best Interests of the Child.” In Children in
In the academic research there is general agreement that
New Religions, edited by Susan J. Palmer and Charlotte E.
although children in NRMs may have unusual childhoods,
Hardman, pp. 187–209. New Brunswick, N.J., and London,
which in itself can produce difficulties for children, the ma-
1999.
jority are not worse off in NRMs than children whose par-
Introvigne, Massimo. “Children of the Underground Temple:
ents belong to mainstream religions. Yet the literature focus-
Growing up in Damanhur.” In Children in New Religions,
ing on scandals leaves an impression of deviancy. For
edited by Susan J. Palmer and Charlotte E. Hardman,
research on children to progress there needs to be less focus
pp. 138–149. New Brunswick, N.J., and London, 1999.
on the scandals and more attention on understanding the
Langone, Michael. Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psycho-
impact of children on any religious movement. Wider re-
logical and Physical Abuse. New York, 1993. Edited by an an-
search is needed on how children develop spiritually, how
ticultist, the book is intended as a practical reference book
they gain meaning and order from the religious and cultural
for mental health professionals dealing with cults, psycholog-
patterns in which they live, and what children think about
ical manipulation, and “mind control,” including special sec-
religion and spirituality whether they grow up in new reli-
tions on children and cults and the ritualistic abuse of chil-
gious movements or the mainstream. There is need for a
dren in day-care centers.
great deal more research to confront the stereotypical nega-
Malcarne, Vanessa, and John Burchard. “Investigations of Child
tive attitude to these children’s lives by actually looking at
Abuse/Neglect Allegations in Religious Cults: A Case Study
what goes on. Children do change religions, but exactly how
in Vermont.” Behavioural Sciences and the Law 10 (1992):
they change both organizational patterns and religious prac-
75–88.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6544
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
Markowitz, A., and D. A. Halperin. “Cults and Children. The
An essay expanding Stark’s 1987 theory of why religious
Abuse of the Young.” Cultic Studies Journal 1 (1984):
groups succeed or fail and applying it to sects as well as new
143–155.
religions.
Melton, Gordon. Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America. New
United Nations. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
York and London, 1986. Useful and detailed reference book
Child. Available from http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/
on NRMs, including bibliographies on each movement.
b/k2crc.htm.
Muster, Nori. Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life in the Hare Krishna
Wallis, Roy. The Elementary Forms of the New Religious Life. Lon-
Movement. Urbana, Ill., 1997. One woman’s account of liv-
don, 1984. An analytic comparison of types of NRMs by a
ing in ISKCON. Critical of the movement, she examines
British sociologist illustrating the characteristics of each type
scandals of child abuse in ISKCON schools and schisms that
from actual movements.
forced most original members to leave.
CHARLOTTE E. HARDMAN (2005)
Niebuhr, Richard. The Social Sources of Denominationalism. New
York, 1929. A sociological study of religion and denomina-
tional divisions identifying the change across generations
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
from sectarian to denominational religious life.
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND
Palmer, Susan J., and Charlotte E. Hardman, eds. Children in
MILLENNIALISM
New Religions. New Brunswick, N.J., and London, 1999. Es-
The religious patterns that scholars term millennialism or
says examining the impact children have on NRMs and their
millenarianism are noteworthy among new religious move-
chances of surviving in the future, discussing how move-
ments (NRMs). While many NRMs are not oriented toward
ments socialize children, and addressing the legal and human
a millennial outlook, millennialism is often found in the
rights issues, including child abuse allegations worldwide.
early stages of a religion. A millennial worldview is well
Puttick, Elizabeth. “Osho Ko Hsuan School: Educating the ‘New
suited to motivating people to convert to completely new re-
Child.’” In Children in New Religions, edited by Susan J.
ligions, accept the spiritual guidance of new teachers, and
Palmer and Charlotte E. Hardman, pp. 88–107. New Bruns-
build new communities. The millennial expectation of an
wick, N.J., and London, 1999.
imminent transition to a new order of existence represents
Richardson, James. “Social Control of New Religions: From
a rejection of the status quo, thereby putting millennialists
‘Brainwashing’ Claims to Child Sex Abuse Allegations.” In
in tension with mainstream society; tension with society also
Children in New Religions, edited by Susan J. Palmer and
characterizes new religious movements in general. Millenni-
Charlotte E. Hardman, pp.172–186. New Brunswick, N.J.,
alists are often not involved in violence, but in some signifi-
and London, 1999.
cant cases millennialists become caught up in dynamics lead-
Richardson, James, and John Dewitt. “Christian Science Spiritual
ing to violence: they may initiate violent acts or be assaulted
Healing, the Law, and Public Opinion.” Journal of Church
by opponents in the dominant society. While the term mil-
and State 34 (1992): 550–561. An article that examines legal
lennialism is derived from Christianity, millennial religious
cases involving Christian Scientists whose children have died
as a result of spiritual healing, leading to a church response
patterns can be found in diverse religious traditions in many
altering policy and practice.
times and places.
Robertson, George. “Island Pond Raid Begins New Pattern.” In
DEFINING MILLENNIALISM. The terms millennialism or mil-
Sex, Slander, and Salvation: Investigating the Family/Children
lenarianism come from millennium, meaning one thousand
of God, edited by James R. Lewis and Gordon Melton,
years. These terms originate in Christianity with the state-
pp. 153–158. Palo Alto, Calif., 1994.
ment in the New Testament Book of Revelation (Apocalypse)
Rochford, E. Burke. “Child Abuse in the Hare Krishna Move-
that the rule of Christ on earth will last one thousand years
ment: 1971–1986.” ISKCON Communications Journal 6
(Rev. 20:1–4). Scholars now apply the terms to several com-
(1998): 43–69.
mon religious patterns found in many religions.
Rochford, E. Burke. “Reactions of Hare Krishna Devotees to
Based on his study of medieval Christian revolutionary
Scandals of Leaders’ Misconduct.” In Wolves within the Fold,
millennial movements, Norman Cohn defined millennialism
edited by Anson Shupe, pp. 101–117. New Brunswick, N.J.,
as expecting a salvation that is:
1998.
(a) collective, in the sense that it is to be enjoyed by the
Rochford, E. Burke. “Education and Collective Identity: Public
faithful as a collectivity; (b) terrestrial, in the sense that
Schooling of Hare Krishna Youths.” In Children in New Reli-
it is to be realized on this earth and not in some other-
gions, edited by Susan Palmer and Charlotte E. Hardman,
worldly heaven; (c) imminent, in the sense that it is to
pp. 29–50. New Brunswick, N.J., and London, 1999.
come both soon and suddenly; (d) total, in the sense
Shupe, Anson. Wolves within the Fold: Religious Leadership and
that it is utterly to transform life on earth, so that the
Abuses of Power. New Brunswick, N.J., 1998. A collection of
new dispensation will be no mere improvement on the
articles dealing with what Shupe terms “clergy malfeasance,”
present but perfect itself; (e) miraculous, in the sense
that is, the abuse of power by religious authorities and reli-
that it is to be accomplished by, or with the help of, su-
gious leaders at the expense of followers.
pernatural agencies. (Cohn, 1970, Introduction)
Stark, Rodney. “Why Religions Movements Succeed or Fail.”
The study of new religious movements reveals the need to
Journal of Contemporary Religion 11, no. 2 (1996): 133–146.
modify this definition of millennialism in several ways to
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
6545
make it more accurately descriptive. Many millennialists ex-
tially oriented toward a progressive New Age millennialism
pect a heavenly collective salvation, and many believe in
but whose catastrophic millennial expectations increased
agencies that should more accurately be called “superhu-
when it experienced opposition from the anticult movement
man,” which includes the supernatural.
and as it adopted Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Converse-
ly, an NRM that has catastrophic millennial ideas and is in
While many millennialists are expecting an earthly col-
opposition to society can put these ideas on the back burner
lective salvation, many others are expecting a heavenly collec-
and begin to highlight progressive millennial ideas as its
tive salvation, or both. If the earthly collective salvation is ut-
members and organization feel more comfortable in society.
terly disproved, then it is easy for millennialists to shift to
pinning their hopes on a heavenly salvation. This was the
Catastrophic Millennialism. The majority of scholarly
case with the Solar Temple, which committed group mur-
writings on millennialism are actually studies of catastrophic
ders and suicides in Switzerland, Quebec, and France in
millennialism, or apocalypticism, because this type of millen-
1994, 1995, and 1997. When their hope for a transition to
nialism is prone to dramatic episodes of failure: a predicted
an earthly New Age was disproved, they undertook to make
salvation event fails to occur, or sometimes the believers be-
a “transit” to a heavenly salvation on another planet.
come involved in horrifying episodes of violence. Cata-
strophic millennialism, the belief in an imminent catastroph-
Heaven’s Gate, which committed a group suicide near
ic transition to the collective salvation orchestrated by
San Diego, California, in 1997, never expected an earthly
superhuman agencies, is very common in NRMs. Cata-
salvation. The Heaven’s Gate “class” members saw earthly
strophic millennialism has a pessimistic view of society and
human existence as irredeemable, they believed there would
human beings; humans are so evil and corrupt that the old
be imminent apocalyptic violence “to spade under” the
order must be destroyed so the new order can be created. A
human “plants” growing in this earthly “garden,” and their
rigid dualistic outlook may be associated with catastrophic
goal was to “exit” their physical “vehicles” to attain a type
millennialism: things are seen in terms of good versus evil,
of heavenly salvation on the “mother ship.” They believed
which often translates into a sense of us versus them. Cata-
they would attain eternal, neuter extraterrestrial bodies, trav-
strophic millennialism expects, and may provoke, conflict.
el among the galaxies on flying saucers, and guide evolution
In the history of Christianity, this type of millennialism has
on other planets.
been called “pre-millennialism” because the belief is that
Contemporary NRMs also demonstrate that many be-
Christ will return first, destroy evil, resurrect the dead, judge
lievers may no longer understand as being supernatural or
everyone, and then create the millennial kingdom, either
miraculous the agencies causing the transition to the collec-
earthly or heavenly.
tive salvation. Increasingly in NRMs, extraterrestrials, space
Catastrophic millennialism has the power to motivate
aliens, and UFOs are taking on the roles formerly attributed
people to convert to entirely new religions, even when there
to God, Satan, angels, and devils. The similarity is that these
is social and familial opposition. Belief that the world will
are all superhuman beings who are normally unseen but are
be destroyed very soon and that the only access to salvation
believed to contact certain people. For UFO millennialists,
is through this new religion provides a great incentive to dis-
the transition to the collective salvation will take place ac-
regard the stigma of joining the new group.
cording to natural laws and be influenced by superhuman
agents.
Religions that start out as catastrophic millennial move-
ments may remain small, such as the Branch Davidians; they
Reflecting the results of NRM studies, millennialism is
may achieve notable success in becoming international
here defined as involving belief in an imminent transition to
movements with millions of members, such as the Church
a collective salvation, either earthly or heavenly, accom-
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons); and a few
plished by superhuman agencies. The collective salvation is
may become diverse world religions, such as Christianity and
understood as eliminating the unpleasant limitations of the
Islam. A religious tradition that did not begin as a millennial
human condition.
movement may develop millennial movements within it
later, such as the Buddhist hope for the coming of the
Millennial patterns can be called either catastrophic mil-
Maitreya Buddha. Messianism may be added later if it was
lennialism or progressive millennialism. Catastrophic millen-
missing in the early versions of the millennial expectations,
nialism expects a violent transition to the collective salvation.
as in subsequent expectations in Islam of a coming savior fig-
Progressive millennialism is characterized by a strong belief
ure called the mahd¯ı.
in progress, a confidence that things are getting better. These
two patterns are not mutually exclusive; believers can shift
The gospels in the New Testament depict Jesus (c. 4
from one to the other. Catastrophic millennialism seems
BCE–c. 30 CE) as an apocalyptic prophet and messiah, who
most prevalent among people who feel persecuted, although
predicted imminent catastrophic destruction and the descent
the teachings of a religious tradition also promote these be-
of the Son of man from heaven before that generation died
liefs. Progressive millennialism reflects optimism about the
out (Matthew 24). The earliest revelations given to Muham-
future. The Holy Order of MANS, originating among 1960s
mad (570–632) predicted an imminent “Day of Clamor” in
hippies in California, is an example of an NRM that was ini-
which the sun, moon, and stars would fall from the sky, the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6546
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
earth would shake, graves would open, the dead would be
Robert Ellwood (2000), Richard Salter (2000), and Scott
resurrected, and everyone would be judged, some going to
Lowe (2000) have suggested that there have been revolution-
heaven and others going to hell (QurDa¯n 101:11; see also
ary progressive millennial movements, as represented by the
su¯rah 56:1–74; 77; 81:1–14; 82:1–19; 84:1–12; 99:1–8).
Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, and Mao Ze-dong’s movement.
These Nazis and Communists believed in progress so fer-
Progressive millennialism. Progressive millennialism
vently that they stopped at nothing to speed progress up “to
is an optimistic view of human nature and the possibility of
an apocalyptic rate” (Ellwood, 2000, p. 253) to create their
society to improve. Progressive millennialism is the belief
collective salvation.
that the imminent transition to the collective salvation will
occur through human effort in harmony with a divine or su-
When catastrophic millennialists and progressive mil-
perhuman plan. The guiding agent may be divine, such as
lennialists become revolutionary, they have more in common
God or angels, but is often superhuman, as in extraterrestri-
with each other than with catastrophic and progressive mil-
als, ascended masters, or earthly masters with superhuman
lennialists on the benign end of the spectrum. Revolutionary
powers, as in the Theosophical and New Age movements.
millennialists of both types possess rigid dualistic perspec-
The progressive millennial belief is that humans can create
tives, seeing things in terms of good versus evil, of us versus
the collective salvation if they cooperate with the guidance
them, and they do not hesitate to kill many people to achieve
of the divine or superhuman agencies. In Christianity this
their ends.
pattern has been called “post-millennialism” because the be-
CHARISMA, LEADERS, AND FOLLOWERS. From the perspec-
lief is that Christians must work according to God’s plan to
tive of religious studies, individuals who are believed to have
create God’s kingdom on Earth, and then Christ will return.
access to revelation from an unseen source of authority (God,
Christian progressive millennialism has been manifested in
angels, saints, ancestors, masters, extraterrestrials) are said to
the Protestant Social Gospel movement and in the post–
have “charisma.” Charisma is socially constructed. If no one
Vatican II Roman Catholic orientation toward having a
believes a person’s claimed access to revelation, he or she does
“special option for the poor” and working for social justice.
not have charisma. The person has charisma only if others
A RANGE OF BEHAVIORS. A range of behaviors is associated
believe the claim.
with both catastrophic millennialism and progressive millen-
Both prophets and messiahs have charisma. Catastroph-
nialism. At one end of the spectrum, millennial movements
ic and progressive millennial movements may or may not
are benign: catastrophic millennialists await divine interven-
have prophets and/or messiahs. Some millennial movements,
tion to destroy the world and, at the most, engage in intense
such as Christian Identity, may arise out of a widely shared
proselytizing and may separate themselves from sinful soci-
millennial expectation without one exceptional person tak-
ety; progressive millennialists perform social work to im-
ing on the prophetic or messianic role for the whole move-
prove society and may also attempt to build communities as
ment, although there may be numerous people predicting
forerunners of the ideal society. Katherine Tingley’s (1847–
the imminent transition to the collective salvation.
1929) Point Loma Theosophical community in California
from 1900 to 1942 is an example of the latter.
An inner circle of believers around a prophet or messiah
become “secondary leaders.” They help empower the proph-
Further in on the belief and behavior spectrum are mil-
et or messiah to positions of authority in their movement.
lennialists who arm themselves for protection. Catastrophic
The secondary leaders and the rank-and-file members can
millennialists, such as Christian Identity believers and the
withdraw their faith in the charismatic leader at any time.
Branch Davidians, may arm themselves for protection dur-
Thus, the charismatic leader is under constant pressure to
ing the anticipated tribulation period; if they are attacked
maintain his or her position by avoiding disconfirmation of
they will fight back. Progressive millennialists who arm
prophecies and authority in the eyes of the believers.
themselves for protection are a logical possibility, but exam-
Prophet. A prophet is someone who is believed to re-
ples of this pattern have not yet been identified and studied.
ceive revelation from an unseen source of authority. Prophets
Interestingly, at the extreme end of the spectrum, both
often predict the imminent coming of the millennial king-
catastrophic millennialists and progressive millennialists are
dom, or they may predict the imminent appearance of a mes-
violent revolutionaries whose goal is to overthrow the old
siah. Muhammad was an apocalyptic prophet warning of the
order and create the new. The connection between cata-
imminent Day of Sorting Out (QurDa¯n 77). According to the
strophic millennialism and a revolutionary outlook is appar-
gospels, Jesus also served as one who warned of God’s immi-
ent; the old order is seen as being so corrupt that people feel
nent destruction and judgment (Matt. 25). John the Baptist
called to participate in violent events to destroy it. The nu-
was a prophet of the imminent appearance of the messiah.
merous medieval Christian revolutionary millennial move-
Joseph Smith Jr. (d. 1844) was the founding prophet of the
ments studied by Cohn exemplify this perspective. David
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Annie Besant
Cook (2002) has suggested that early Islamic military expan-
(1847–1933) of the Theosophical Society was a progressive
sion was, in part, a way to extend the Muslim faith to more
millennial prophet of the imminent coming of the “New
people before the anticipated end of the world one hundred
Civilization” and the “World-Teacher” who would accom-
years after the establishment of the Muslim community.
plish it.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
6547
Messiah. A messiah (Hebrew, “anointed”) is a prophet,
ing countercultural Christians, takes a low-key approach to
because he or she is believed to receive revelation, but the
leadership, which is shared among elders and other commu-
messiah is more than a prophet, because he or she is believed
nity leaders.
to have the superhuman power to create the collective salva-
Followers. The followers have crucial roles to play in
tion. Jesus is regarded as the messiah (christ) by Christians.
determining the direction of a millennial movement. They
Mother Ann Lee (1736–1784) was seen by the Shakers as
have autonomy and choose whether or not to think critically
the “Second Appearing of Christ in female form”; the Heav-
about their leaders’ teachings and projects. Followers choose
enly Father and Holy Mother Wisdom had a son and daugh-
whether to cooperate in authoritarian schemes leading to to-
ter, Jesus and Ann Lee. The Branch Davidians see David
talitarian organization and coercion, or whether they insist
Koresh (1959–1993) as the messiah who will destroy evil in
on accountability from their leaders. They can choose to
the catastrophic endtime events; like the earliest Christians,
withdraw their faith in the leader’s charisma at any time.
the most committed Branch Davidians are expecting
However, once a group has gone so far down the path of at-
Koresh’s imminent return. Asahara Sho¯ko¯ (b. 1955) of Aum
tempting to exercise totalitarian control over followers, it can
Shinrikyo¯ was seen as an enlightened Buddha and the suffer-
be very difficult to leave. Additionally, if the believer has
ing Lamb of Christianity—as the messiah who would create
committed a great deal to the group in terms of lifestyle, sex-
a Buddhist millennial kingdom called Shambhala. The
uality, relationships, family attachments, livelihood, identity,
young J. Krishnamurti (1895–1986) was groomed to func-
and even crimes, then the very high “exit costs” can discour-
tion as the messiah in Annie Besant’s progressive millennial
age a person from choosing to leave.
movement in the early twentieth century; she taught that he
would be the World-Teacher who would present a teaching
NATIVIST MILLENNIAL MOVEMENTS. A distinctive form of
that would raise humanity to an awareness of universal unity
millennialism has been called “nativist movements” or some-
and move the world into the New Civilization.
times “revitalization” movements. These movements consist
of people who feel they are being oppressed by a foreign colo-
A millennial movement does not necessarily have to
nizing government that is destroying their traditional way of
have a messiah. The passages in the QurDa¯n about the Day
life and is removing them from their land. They long for a
of Clamor do not mention a messiah; Allah will bring about
return to an idealized past, which they remember as having
the endtime events all by himself.
been perfect. Numerous nativists who have been exposed to
Secondary leaders. Secondary leaders, the inner circle,
the Christian Bible identify with the story in the Old Testa-
are crucial for validating the authority of the prophet or mes-
ment of the Israelites’ liberation from bondage, and may
siah. They may even receive some revelation themselves, but
even call themselves Israelites, such as the Israelitas (the Isra-
usually the prophet or messiah will attempt to restrict claims
elites of the New Universal Covenant) of Peru whose messiah
of charisma to himself or herself. The decisions made by sec-
is Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal. Nativists may be either cata-
ondary leaders can help determine the trajectory of the
strophic millennialists or progressive millennialists, or they
movement, whether it will be benign or become totalitarian
may shift between catastrophic and progressive expectations.
and violent.
Nativists have the same range of behaviors discussed
The inner circle of young white leaders around Jim
above. They may await divine intervention to remove their
Jones (1931–1978) of Peoples Temple colluded with him to
oppressors and bring prosperity. They may believe that cer-
fabricate healings and other miracles, and they helped facili-
tain purifying and magical acts will stimulate the divine in-
tate the group murders and suicides on November 18, 1978,
tervention, as in the Xhosa Cattle-Killing movement in 1856
in Jonestown, Guyana. The inner circle of scientists, doctors,
in South Africa, or the Ghost Dance movement among nine-
and others around Asahara Sho¯ko¯ made Aum Shinrikyo¯ into
teenth-century Native Americans. Nativists may engage in
an organization that committed numerous murders and de-
active rebellion, such as the rebellion in Java against the
veloped a variety of weapons of mass destruction before com-
Dutch in 1825–1830 led by Prince Dipanagara, who was be-
mitting the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways in 1995.
lieved to be the Ratu Adil, the awaited “Just King,” and the
The inner circle of men around Adolf Hitler helped create
rebellion of Burmese against the British in 1930–1932, led
a totalitarian, aggressive state that killed millions in its quest
by Saya San, who was believed to be the Buddhist righteous
to create a millennial kingdom, the Third Reich, for the pure
king or even the Maitreya Buddha. Both Dipanagara and
German völk (folk).
Saya San were believed to be destined to establish perfect
Secondary leaders can also help direct a millennial group
reigns of happiness after the oppressors were removed. The
into a direction to lessen conflict with society and become
diverse Pai Marire movement among the Maori in New Zea-
more democratic. In the 1990s the inner circle around Eliza-
land in the nineteenth century had several prophets and
beth Clare Prophet (b. 1939) of the Church Universal and
demonstrated different approaches. Some people attempted
Triumphant helped steer the church away from authoritari-
to build their perfect society apart from their oppressors; oth-
anism and catastrophic prophecies to create a denomination-
ers carried out revolution.
al structure with shared authority. Apostle Elbert Spriggs
AVERTIVE APOCALYPTICISM. A distinctive form of cata-
(b. 1937), founder of the Twelve Tribes in the 1970s attract-
strophic millennialism may be termed avertive apocalypti-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6548
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
cism. A prophet will make predictions of imminent destruc-
Family reformed their sexual activities to exclude children
tion but also say that the catastrophe may be averted if people
while maintaining their free-love ethic between consenting
convert, live moral lives, and practice certain spiritual tech-
adults. They stopped a controversial practice initiated in the
niques.
1970s called “flirty fishing,” in which women became “fish-
ers of men” by using sexual relations as a recruiting tool.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, avertive apocalypti-
Nevertheless, the Family homes in various countries contin-
cism was the major theme of Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the
ue to be subjected to raids by authorities suspecting child
Church Universal and Triumphant, who stressed that nucle-
abuse, but the children are typically returned to their parents
ar Armageddon could be averted through vigorous practice
when the charges are found to be baseless.
of verbal “decrees” calling on the protective powers of the as-
cended masters.
David Koresh’s claim to be the apocalyptic Christ, his
Avertive apocalypticism is an important theme in many
polygamy, which included sexual relations with underage
Marian apparitions, such as the Bayside apparitions in New
girls with the permission of their parents, and his weapons
York City given to Veronica Leuken beginning in 1968 until
stockpiling put the Branch Davidians in great tension with
her death in 1995. According to the Bayside apparitions,
authorities and citizens, a situation that ended with disas-
God’s imminent chastisement by World War III, nuclear
trous results in 1993. Koresh’s activities were based on his
war, and a great fireball can be averted if people return to
interpretation of prophecies in the Bible. Koresh taught that
God’s ways and believe and practice as good Catholics. The
the Branch Davidians would be called upon to fight and die
faithful can protect themselves from the catastrophic events
in Armageddon predicted to occur in Israel in 1995. He also
by means of talismans such as crucifixes, scapulars, rosaries,
taught that he was a messiah destined to have children who
religious medals, saints’ statues, and praying the Hail Mary.
would be the twenty-four Elders (Rev. 4:4 ff.) who would
help rule God’s kingdom. Fourteen of Koresh’s children and
TENSIONS BETWEEN MILLENNIALISTS AND SOCIETY. The
their mothers were among the twenty-three children who
millennial vision represents a challenge to the current order.
died in the fire that resulted from the tank and CS (tear) gas
Society may be rejected as sinful, or millennialists may direct
assault on April 19, 1993, carried out by agents of the Feder-
their energies toward transforming it, or they may become
al Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
revolutionaries to overthrow the status quo. The values and
lifestyles of millennialists are often very different from those
MILLENNIALISM AND VIOLENCE. Most millennialists are
of the dominant society. People in mainstream society may
peaceful. Some become caught up in dynamics leading to vi-
find millennialists’ lifestyles and new religious commitments
olence. Millennialists are not necessarily the ones who initi-
to be offensive and take punitive actions. The two character-
ate the violence. Millennial groups that become involved in
istics found to be most offensive are the claim of a new reve-
violence may be assaulted millennial groups, fragile millenni-
lation by a new prophet or messiah and unconventional sexu-
al groups, or revolutionary millennial movements. These cat-
al lifestyles.
egories are not mutually exclusive; they indicate the primary
characteristics of a group at the time the violence occurred.
Americans in the late eighteenth century found the new
A group may shift from one category to another according
revelation of Mother Ann Lee and the celibate, separate life-
to circumstances and may possess aspects of multiple catego-
style and unusual worship of the Shakers to be offensive. Ann
ries at the time of the violence.
Lee and her followers were subjected to repeated beatings
and harassment. On one occasion Ann Lee and two second-
Assaulted millennial groups. Millennial groups have
ary leaders were physically expelled from Massachusetts by
been assaulted in many times and places because of their ten-
a mob.
sion with the dominant society. They are assaulted because
people in the wider society perceive them as being dangerous.
In the nineteenth century both the claim that Joseph
Examples of assaulted millennial groups include: a band of
Smith Jr. had received a new revelation and scripture and the
Lakota Sioux massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota,
polygamy practiced by Smith and other Mormons were of-
in 1890 by U.S. soldiers who were frightened by the Ghost
fensive to the American public. Smith and his brother died
Dance movement; a group of black South Africans calling
at the hands of a mob in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844, and
themselves “Israelites,” who refused to move from crown
there were numerous acts of violence against Mormons even
land, fired upon by white South African police in 1921; the
after most of them relocated to Utah. (In 2004 the state of
Branch Davidians, who were assaulted twice in 1993 by
Illinois apologized to Mormons for the violence against their
American federal agents, first by agents of the Bureau of Al-
ancestors.) The church officially ended the practice of polyg-
cohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in an unnecessary “dynamic
amy in 1890, but pockets of fundamentalist Mormons still
entry,” and then by FBI agents with tanks and CS gas, who
live in marginal communities.
first waged psychological warfare against them during a fifty-
A group called the Children of God, now known as the
one-day siege; the Mormons in the nineteenth century who
Family, was formed in the late 1960s. Its members practice
were repeatedly attacked by civilians and authorities across
free love among their communities, which in the past some-
the United States and had an extermination order issued
times included children. By the late 1980s members of the
against them by the governor of Missouri in 1838; Rastafari
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
6549
(called Dreads) in Dominica who in 1974 were subjected to
tember 11, 2001, al-Qa¯Eidah became the most visible portion
a shoot-on-sight order; and in the new temporal millennium,
of a diffuse revolutionary Islamist movement aimed at creat-
Falun Gong practitioners in the People’s Republic of China,
ing the true Islamic state as its millennial goal.
who were repeatedly arrested, with many of them dying in
CONCLUSION. Millennial movements express the human
custody, for asserting their right to freedom of religion and
longing for the elimination of suffering for a group of people,
practicing their qigong exercises in public. The early Chris-
the collective salvation. The millennial longing has sparked
tians may also be regarded as members of an assaulted mil-
new religions since the time of Zoroaster, dating perhaps as
lennial movement. It is not unusual for leaders of millennial
early as 1000 BCE, through Jesus, Muhammad, and many
movements to be executed by the state—for example, Jesus
other prophets and founders of new religious movements.
and the Bab (d. 1850), one of the foundational prophets of
Baha¯’¯ı from Iran—or imprisoned like Bahá’u’lláh (1817–
As a millennial movement becomes more accommodat-
1892), the other Baha¯’¯ı prophet-founder.
ed to society, its millennial expectation may move to the
background and the sense of imminence diminish. This is
Fragile millennial groups. A fragile millennial move-
what Jacqueline Stone (2000) calls “managed millennial-
ment initiates violence as a final effort to preserve the ulti-
ism.” But the millennial prophecies will be preserved in
mate concern, the millennial goal on which believers are fo-
scriptures to be utilized by subsequent prophets, messiahs,
cused. Jonestown in Guyana in 1978, Solar Temple in
and believers searching for meaning and hope, who will initi-
Switzerland in 1994, Aum Shinrikyo¯ in Japan in 1995,
ate even more new religious movements.
Heaven’s Gate in the United States in 1997, and probably
the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Command-
SEE ALSO Anticult Movements; Aum Shinrikyo¯; Besant,
ments of God in Uganda in 2000 were fragile millennial
Annie; Branch Davidians; Christian Identity Movement;
groups.
Church Universal and Triumphant; Falun Gong; Family,
The; Heaven’s Gate; Holy Order of MANS; Jones, Jim;
A fragile millennial group is suffering from an accumu-
Jonestown and Peoples Temple; Koresh, David; Krishna-
lation of stresses, some internal to the group, such as dissent,
murti, Jiddu; Lee, Ann; Mormonism; Nation of Islam; New
money problems, illness of the leader, threats to the leader’s
Age Movement; Point Loma Theosophical Community;
credibility, failure to accomplish goals set by the leader, com-
Prophet, Mark and Elizabeth Clare; Shakers; Smith, Joseph;
bined with stresses coming from outside the group, such as
Temple Solaire; Theosophical Society; Tingley, Katherine;
vocal apostates, investigations by authorities, lawsuits, hostile
Transcendental Meditation; Twelve Tribes; UFO Religions;
neighbors, concerned family members, negative press, and
Unarius Academy of Science; Zoroastrianism.
pressures from anticult groups. In some cases the stresses may
be primarily internal to the group; in other cases the stresses
BIBLIOGRAPHY
may come primarily from outside the group. Usually there
Adas, Michael. Prophets of Rebellion: Millenarian Protest Move-
is a combination of endogenous and exogenous factors that
ments against the European Colonial Order. Chapel Hill,
threaten the millennial goal. Instead of giving up their ulti-
N.C., 1979. Excellent comparison of case studies of revolu-
mate concern, members of fragile millennial groups opt to
tionary nativist movements.
commit violence to preserve it. They may choose to attack
Ashcraft, W. Michael. The Dawn of the New Cycle: Point Loma
and kill perceived enemies. They may choose to commit
Theosophists and American Culture. Knoxville, Tenn., 2002.
group suicide to preserve the cohesiveness of the group (if
One of the few in-depth studies of a progressive millennial
that was their ultimate concern, as with the Jonestown resi-
community.
dents) or to go to a type of heavenly salvation (Solar Temple,
Barkun, Michael. Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the
Heaven’s Gate). They often direct the violence both out-
Christian Identity Movement. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1997. De-
wardly and inwardly.
finitive history of Christian Identity and its roots in British
Israelism.
Revolutionary millennial movements. Revolutionary
Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Mil-
millennial movements carry out violence to overthrow the
lenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. Rev. ed.
old order to create the new. If they become socially domi-
Oxford, 1970. Classic study of millennialism with focus on
nant, they cause massive violence, such as the Nazis, the
medieval revolutionary Christian movements.
Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Taiping Rebellion in
Cook, David. “Suicide Attacks or ‘Martyrdom Operations’; in
China in 1850–1864, which caused 20 million deaths and
Contemporary Jihad Literature.” Nova Religio: The Journal
for a time established the Taiping capital at Nanjing. If the
of Alternative and Emergent Religions 6, no. 1 (2002): 7–44.
revolutionary movement is not socially dominant, some par-
Illuminating discussion of the scriptural, historical, and so-
ticipants will undertake terrorist acts. Examples are to be
ciological roots of the contemporary practice of suicide at-
found in the diffuse Euro-American nativist (white suprema-
tacks by radical Muslims. An appendix contains a translation
cist) movement in the United States, which includes Identity
of “Last Night” instructions found in the luggage of Muham-
Christians, racist Neopagans, secular survivalists, and disaf-
mad Atta, the leader of the September 11, 2001, terrorists.
fected former military men, such as Timothy McVeigh, who
Ellwood, Robert. “Nazism as a Millennialist Movement.” In Mil-
committed the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. With Sep-
lennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6550
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND MILLENNIALISM
by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 241–260. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000.
lennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited
Startling analysis of Nazi millennialism as a progressive mil-
by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 261–280. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000.
lennial movement.
Discusses Buddhist millennial contributions to the Japanese
Kaplan, Jeffrey. Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Move-
war effort in World War II, and the subsequent shift by
ments from the Far Right to the Children of Noah. Syracuse,
many to pacifism after the defeat.
N.Y., 1997. Study of American millennial movements on the
Thompson, Damian. “A Peruvian Messiah and the Retreat from
far right: Christian Identity, Odinism and Ásatrú, and B’nai
Apocalypse.” In Christian Millenarianism: From the Early
Noah, and the anticult movement and watchdog groups who
Church to Waco, edited by Stephen Hunt, pp. 187–195.
oppose them.
Bloomington, Ind., 2001. This study of the Israelites of the
Lanternari, Vittorio. The Religions of the Oppressed: A Study of
New Universal Covenant discusses how their messiah is
Modern Messianic Cults. Translated by Lisa Sergio. New
abandoning predictions of the end of the world as the group
York, 1963. Pioneering study of nativist millennial move-
is successful in establishing its community.
ments as the products of “culture clash” situations.
Van Zandt, David E. “The Children of God.” In America’s Alter-
native Religions, edited by Timothy Miller, pp. 127–132. Al-
Lowe, Scott. “Western Millennial Ideology Goes East: The Tai-
bany, N.Y., 1995. Solid discussion of the controversial mil-
ping Revolution and Mao’s Great Leap Forward.” In Millen-
lennial religion also known as the Family.
nialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, edited by
Catherine Wessinger, pp. 220–240. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000.
Wallace, Anthony F. C. “Revitalization Movements.” American
Compares the Taiping Revolution with Mao Ze-dong’s
Anthropologist 58, no. 2 (1956): 264–281. Classic article in-
Great Leap Forward.
troducing the term “revitalization movement” as “a deliber-
ate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to
Lucas, Phillip Charles. The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy
construct a more satisfying culture” (265). Most of the exam-
Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy. Bloomington,
ples used by Wallace are what have come to be termed “na-
Ind., 1995. In-depth case study of the development of a new
tivist movements” or “nativist millennial movements.”
religious movement, which provides an excellent example of
how a group’s millennial views change in response to changes
Wessinger, Catherine Lowman. Annie Besant and Progressive Mes-
in the social context.
sianism. Lewiston, N.Y., 1988. Study of Annie Besant’s
Theosophical progressive millennialism, which culminated
Palmer, Susan J. “Peace, Persecution and Preparations for Yah-
in her creation of a messianic movement centered on J. Kr-
shua’s Return: The Case of the Messianic Communities’
ishnamurti.
Twelve Tribes.” In Christian Millenarianism: From the Early
Church to Waco,
edited by Stephen Hunt, pp. 209–223.
Wessinger, Catherine. “Millennialism with and without the May-
Bloomington, Ind., 2001. Excellent study of the dynamics
hem.” In Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary
of a millennial group’s peaceful responses to persecution.
Apocalyptic Movements, edited by Thomas Robbins and
Susan J. Palmer, pp. 47–59. New York, 1997. Proposes the
Robbins, Thomas, and Dick Anthony. “Sects and Violence: Fac-
categories “catastrophic millennialism” and “progressive mil-
tors Enhancing the Volatility of Marginal Religious Move-
lennialism” as being more conducive to promoting the study
ments.” In Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the
of millennial phenomena in diverse religious traditions as op-
Branch Davidian Conflict, edited by Stuart A. Wright,
posed to the categories applicable only to Christianity, “pre-
pp. 236–259. Chicago, 1995. An important discussion of the
millennialism” and post-millennialism.
factors that promote volatility of millennial groups. Particu-
larly noteworthy is the discussion of the instability of charis-
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence:
matic leadership.
Historical Cases. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Cross-cultural study
of cases of millennial groups involved in violence, including
Robbins, Thomas, and Susan J. Palmer, eds. Millennium, Messi-
assaulted millennial groups, fragile millennial groups, and
ahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements. New
revolutionary millennial movements.
York, 1997. Collection of excellent articles by experts on di-
verse contemporary millennial movements.
Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently: From
Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate. New York, 2000. Compares case
Rosenfeld, Jean. E. “Pai Marire: Peace and Violence in a New Zea-
studies of Jonestown, Branch Davidians, Aum Shinrikyo¯, the
land Millenarian Tradition.” Terrorism and Political Violence
Montana Freemen, Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate, and Chen
7, no. 3 (1995): 83–108. Discusses the factors involved in
Tao, to discern dynamics that involve millennial groups in
the different phases of the Pai Marire movement among the
violence.
Maori.
Wessinger, Catherine. “New Religious Movements and Conflicts
Salter, Richard. “Time, Authority, and Ethics in the Khmer
with Law Enforcement.” In New Religious Movements and
Rouge: Elements of the Millennial Vision in Year Zero.” In
Religious Liberty in America, edited by Derek Davis and Barry
Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases, ed-
Hankins, pp. 89–106, 201–204. 2nd ed. Waco, Tex., 2003.
ited by Catherine Wessinger, pp. 281–298. Syracuse, N.Y.,
Proposes relevant factors and categories for use when evaluat-
2000. Demonstrates continuities of Khmer Rouge Commu-
ing situations involving millennial groups for the potential
nism with Cambodian Buddhism.
for volatility, and makes recommendations to law enforce-
Stein, Stephen J. The Shaker Experience in America. New Haven,
ment agents about how best to deal with such cases.
Conn., 1992. The definitive history of the Shakers.
Wojcik, Daniel. The End of the World as We Know It: Faith, Fatal-
Stone, Jacqueline. “Japanese Lotus Millennialism: From Militant
ism, and Apocalypse in America. New York, 1997. A folklor-
Nationalism to Contemporary Peace Movements.” In Mil-
ist’s detailed approach to the study of the varieties of millen-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND VIOLENCE
6551
nialism in America. Movements discussed include Christian
and family based organizations (the anticult movement). Re-
Dispensationalism, the Bayside apparitions, Punk, and UFO
ferred to as cults by both sets of oppositional groups, new reli-
millennialism. Among the book’s many insights is that there
gions have often been characterized as dangerously unstable
are currently secular, fatalistic, and nonredemptive apocalyp-
and predisposed to violence. This global assertion of a pro-
tic expressions, particularly in response to the nuclear age.
clivity of new religions for violence, however, has not stood
Zablocki, Benjamin D. “Exit Cost Analysis: A New Approach to
the test of close scrutiny.
the Scientific Study of Brainwashing.” Nova Religio: The
One problem in linking new religions to violence is that
Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 1, no. 2 (1998):
216–249. Introduces the concept of high “exit costs” as
distinguishing new religious movements from established re-
being a barrier to people choosing to leave unconventional
ligions is more complex than it first appears. Most new reli-
religious groups in an article seeking to rehabilitate the brain-
gions are not entirely novel. Rather, most have borrowed
washing theory.
both cultural and organizational elements from established
traditions, and many different traditions are represented. For
CATHERINE WESSINGER (2005)
example, the International Society for Krishna Conscious-
ness (Hare Krishnas) is a sectarian Hindu movement; Aum
Shinrikyo¯ draws on the Buddhist tradition; the Branch
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
Davidians are one of a myriad of schismatic offshoots of Sev-
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND VIOLENCE
enth-day Adventism; the Family (Children of God) grew out
of the Jesus People movement; and Heaven’s Gate blended
The study of religion and violence has largely centered on
the Christian and UFO traditions. This means that far from
established traditions, given the long history of religiously in-
being a homogeneous set of movements that can be contrast-
spired wars, crusades, witch-hunts, and persecutions around
ed to established traditions, as conveyed by the term cults,
the world. Contemporary cases include, for example, Protes-
new religious movements are diverse in doctrines, practices,
tant-Catholic violence in Northern Ireland, Israeli-
and organization.
Palestinian violence in the Middle East, and Hindu-Muslim
violence in India. The appearance of a cohort of new reli-
There have been a few historical cases of violence by reli-
gious movements, popularly called cults, in the early 1970s
gious movements in North America, such as the nineteenth-
triggered renewed scholarly and public policy concern with
century attacks by Mormons on pioneers passing through
the religion-violence connection. There were ongoing, large-
Mountain Meadows, Utah. Contemporary instances would
ly unfounded allegations of impending violence by new reli-
include the 1970s murders during a power struggle by Ervil
gious groups during the early 1970s. However, it was the
Le Baron’s polygamist Church of the Lamb of God, and the
1978 conflict between the Peoples Temple and its oppo-
Nation of Islam’s murders of leaders of rival Muslim organi-
nents, resulting in the deaths of 914 individuals in Jones-
zations, also in the 1970s. However, these incidents have
town, Guyana, that raised scholarly and public policy con-
been rare. The more common occurrence has been violence
cerns about potential violent episodes involving new
against minority religious groups. The public hanging of
religions.
Quakers in New England during the 1660s and the 1890 as-
sault on a Lakota Sioux band at Wounded Knee by federal
The Peoples Temple episode was followed by four inci-
troops are well-documented incidents.
dents during the 1990s: the death of eighty people during
the conflict between federal agents and the Branch Davidians
Violence by contemporary new religions also appears to
at their residence outside of Waco, Texas, in 1993; the mur-
be rare. There are currently over two thousand religious
ders-suicides of seventy-five members of the Solar Temple in
groups now functioning in the United States, and half of
Switzerland and Quebec in 1994, 1996, and 1997; the mur-
these were established since 1960. If all groups that incorpo-
ders by members of Aum Shinrikyo¯ of thirty-one members
rate religious qualities are included, such as many New Age
and opponents, as well as a dozen other innocent subway
groups, then the numbers are far higher. However, since the
passengers in Tokyo in 1995; and the collective suicide of
1970s fewer than two dozen groups have been involved in
thirty-nine members of Heaven’s Gate in California in 1997.
incidents of homicide or suicide resulting in multiple deaths.
There was also a major episode in Uganda in 2000 in which
By contrast, there have been numerous cases in which mem-
approximately 780 members of the Movement for the Resto-
bers of new religious groups have been the targets of abduc-
ration of the Ten Commandments of God were murdered
tion, armed attacks, and provocative police actions. In virtu-
or committed suicide. Relatively little is known about this
ally all of these cases, movements have responded by
incident, however, because of its remote location and a lack
initiating civil and criminal judicial proceedings rather than
of systematic investigation. This entry will focus on the three
physical reprisal.
cases of collective violence that have occurred since the 1970s
Finally, incidents of violence involving new religions
in North America and Europe.
have appeared to be more numerous than they actually are.
THE VIOLENCE AND NEW RELIGIONS CONNECTION. New
When individuals affiliated with new religions are involved
religious movements have encountered intense opposition
in violent acts, as either perpetrators or victims, these acts are
from some established religions (the countercult movement)
much more newsworthy and more likely to be connected to
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6552
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND VIOLENCE
their religious tradition than is the case for members of con-
tions, societal control initiatives may be taken as
ventional faiths. Further, unsubstantiated rumors of impend-
confirmation of societal intractability and a sign of the im-
ing violence by new religions receive widespread press cover-
pending apocalypse.
age, while disconfirmation is rarely reported. Allegations of
Two elements of movement organization have been
imminent mass suicide in 1988 by Chen Tao, a Taiwanese
postulated as predictive of violence, charismatic leadership
millennial group located in Texas at the time, and the Colo-
and totalistic organization. Many new movements begin
rado-based Concerned Christians, who were expelled from
with a charismatic leader and a few dozen followers. (A char-
Israel in 1999, were cases of this kind. The aggregation of
ismatic leader is one who is believed to have access to an un-
all types of violence involving members of new religions, at-
seen source of authority, such as revelation.) Charismatic
tributions of acts to “cultic” qualities, and the high-profile
leadership has been characterized as problematic because it
publicizing of rumors and incidents has created the impres-
is a less stable, noninstitutionalized form in which the per-
sion of pervasive violence. It certainly is true that, by con-
sonal volatility of the prophet or messiah can have a substan-
trast, mainline denominations in Western societies currently
tial impact on a group. When leaders claim or are granted
are not in active resistance to established social institutions.
extraordinary spiritual status, they are likely to have enor-
However, many denominations have relatively stormy histo-
mous influence over a movement’s functioning and develop-
ries, and fringe elements of these traditions have counte-
ment. Therefore, there has been speculation that charismatic
nanced or perpetrated violence over such issues as racial inte-
leadership predisposes those groups to violence. However,
gration, abortion, and centralized governmental authority.
there are numerous highly charismatic religious leaders (e.g.,
EXPLANATIONS OF VIOLENCE INVOLVING NEW RELIGIOUS
Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Oral Roberts) who have
MOVEMENTS. Given assertions of a proclivity to violence by
shown no proclivity to violence.
new religions, the five major episodes of collective violence
that occurred between 1993 and 2000 produced an impetus
A more useful approach may be to examine how charis-
to investigate the relationship between new religions and vio-
matic leadership is organized. Certain attributes of charis-
lence. The result has been theoretical explorations of specific
matic leadership may contribute to movement volatility.
factors thought to be linked to violence, as well as general
Many movement leaders withdraw from followers at some
models that propose sets of factors that, in combination,
point to preserve an aura of mystery that is critical to their
yield violent outcomes. A central concern in both types of
power. This can result in isolation and an inability to obtain
explanation has been the extent to which violent episodes are
appropriate feedback from both inside and outside the move-
the product of the internal organization of the religious
ment, which can lead to extreme decisions. The over-
movements involved, external pressures, and interaction be-
identification of followers with a leader can lead to a sense
tween movements and societal control agencies. There is vig-
of threat throughout the movement if the leader is de-
orous ongoing debate over this issue.
nounced by outsiders or former members. In such instances,
there may well be an escalation of tension. Charismatic lead-
Single-factor explanations. Three potentially causal
ers may resist the development of more institutionalized
factors have been identified in violent episodes involving new
forms of movement governance in order to preserve personal
religious groups: ideology, leadership, and organizational
power. They may employ a variety of tactics—changing doc-
structure. It has been hypothesized that groups with millen-
trines, increasing demands for personal sacrifice and loyalty,
nial/apocalyptic belief systems might be more violence prone
creating crises, suppressing dissent—in order to render fol-
because they reject established social institutions, have limit-
lowers more dependent on their personal authority. Such
ed commitment to institutional normative proscriptions,
tactics can increase instability in movements and create the
and have dualistic worldviews that expect conflict. However,
potential for extreme actions.
numerous conservative Christian denominations, such as the
While such factors as specific forms of organization and
Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, hold mil-
leadership are useful in explaining violence, it is likely that
lennial/apocalyptic beliefs, and there is no evidence that such
combinations of factors will be more predictive of violent ep-
denominations are predisposed to violence. Although mil-
isodes. For that reason, several general models have been de-
lennialism and apocalypticism probably do not predict vio-
veloped that attempt to specify sets of factors, and interac-
lence, there is continuing exploration of the possible connec-
tions among, them that are associated with the outbreak of
tion of specific forms of millennialism and violence.
violence.
Millennial belief systems in which humans are depicted as
playing a major role in setting the stage for divine interven-
General models of movement-society violence. Three
tion tend to have a gradualist orientation, with decisive
general explanatory models have been proposed to account
events set some time in the future. The result may be less
for violence involving new religious movements. All three are
group volatility and a less confrontational stance. By con-
concerned with the combination of factors that produces vio-
trast, belief systems that define the existing social order as
lent episodes, and with the issue of whether these factors con-
morally unredeemable and predict its imminent, catastroph-
stitute movement or external-control agency precipitation of
ic destruction are more likely to produce a polarized relation-
violence. Marc Galanter’s model, developed in Cults: Faith,
ship between movement and society. Under these condi-
Healing, and Coercion (1999), stresses internal factors; the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND VIOLENCE
6553
John Hall, Philip Schuyler, and Silvaine Trinh model de-
Bromley argues that movement-society conflicts develop
tailed in Apocalypse Observed: Religious Movements, the Social
through three stages: latent tension, nascent conflict, and in-
Order, and Violence in North America, Europe, and Japan
tensified conflict. Most conflicts do not reach an intensified
(2000) emphasizes external factors; and David Bromley’s
level because all parties have the option of contestation, ac-
model, outlined in Cults, Religion, and Violence (2002),
commodation, or retreat. In most cases conflict is resolved
allows for a preponderance of either internal or external
at a lower level. At the intensified level, the movement and
factors.
its opponents engage in heightened mobilization and radical-
Galanter analyzes the Peoples Temple, Branch Davidi-
ization; coalitions of allies and opponents form, and parties
an, Aum Shinrikyo¯, and Heaven’s Gate cases. He concludes
mutually begin to define one another as dangerous rather
that these episodes contain four conditions in common:
than merely troublesome. When conflict reaches the intensi-
group isolation, leader grandiosity and paranoia, absolute
fied stage, what Bromley terms “dramatic denouements”
dominion, and governmental mismanagement. Isolation can
occur.
lead to extreme actions because groups reduce the possibility
Dramatic denouements are climactic moments when
of external feedback to their actions and operate solely on the
the movement, society, or both conclude that the requisite
basis of internally constructed definitions of events. Move-
conditions for their existence are being subverted. The par-
ments can isolate themselves from conventional society ei-
ties to the conflict polarize as they engage in threatening ac-
ther through geographic separation or constant mobility.
tions, symbolic degradation of opponents, and internal radi-
Galanter argues that another dynamic in violent episodes is
calization. The conflict relationship destabilizes as a result of
the need of the leader or leaders to maintain absolute control,
secrecy of actions, elimination of mediating third parties, and
which can produce paranoid fears that others inside or out-
organizational consolidation or fragmentation. With polar-
side the movement will usurp their power. In order to pro-
ization and conflict destabilization, one or both parties em-
tect their positions, leaders create a siege mentality within the
bark on a project of final reckoning that is intended to rees-
group in order to maintain solidarity and loyalty. Move-
tablish appropriate moral order. The most likely projects are
ments may also exercise centripetal control mechanisms that
either “exodus” (collective withdrawal from the realm in
closely regulate members’ lives, leading to absolute domina-
which the conflict is taking place) or “battle,” in which the
tion of the thoughts and behavior of individuals. Finally,
initiating party rejects the prospect of mutual existence and
governmental mismanagement refers to the failure of govern-
seeks to restore appropriate moral order through coercion.
ment agencies to immediately control illicit activity and to
Each of these two responses is thus premised on a position
prevent young adults from being enticed into these move-
of moral superiority and on a repudiation of continued mu-
ments. In the Galanter model, then, all of the factors except
tual existence in the same social space. In the Bromley model,
governmental mismanagement refer to attributes of move-
violent episodes are clearly interactional, and either the reli-
ments, and the one external factor specifies government inac-
gious movement or societal units may precipitate a dramatic
tion rather than overreaction.
denouement.
Hall, Schuyler, and Trinh base their analysis on the Peo-
ples Temple, Branch Davidian, Aum Shinrikyo¯, Solar Tem-
CASE STUDIES OF VIOLENT EPISODES. One of the central is-
ple, and Heaven’s Gate cases. They identify a number of
sues in the study of violent episodes involving new religious
movement characteristics that may create a proclivity toward
movements has been whether these episodes are the product
violence: an apocalyptic worldview, charismatic leadership,
of movement characteristics, external provocation, or the na-
a high level of internal control, and high internal solidarity
ture of interaction between the movement and control agen-
or isolation from conventional society. However, it is not
cies. While there is debate over this issue, there is broad
these characteristics in themselves that result in conflict, but
agreement that cases vary on this dimension. Of the major
rather the interaction between the movement and society.
episodes of violence during the 1990s that have been studied
According to Hall, Schuyler, and Trinh, conflict is likely to
in depth, the Branch Davidian case is the most likely to be
move in one of two directions. A “warring apocalypse of reli-
attributed to external provocation, the Solar Temple case to
gious conflict” describes a situation in which conflict esca-
mixed internal and external factors, and the Heaven’s Gate
lates between a movement and a coalition of movement op-
incident to primarily internal dynamics.
ponents, governmental agencies, and media representatives.
The Branch Davidian episode. The Branch Davidians
The second type—a “mystical apocalypse of deathly tran-
began in 1929 as a schismatic offshoot of Seventh-day Ad-
scendence”—involves flight from external opposition. In this
ventism and existed for more than fifty years in relative ob-
case, the group elects collective suicide and, from the groups’
scurity before the arrival of David Koresh (1959–1993). The
perspective, moves to another realm of existence. The Hall,
community was in disarray when Koresh assumed leader-
Schuyler, and Trinh model thus emphasizes movement-
ship; he rebuilt the group’s economic and membership bases
societal conflict in which movements respond to external op-
and enhanced his spiritual authority by pronouncing himself
position.
an heir to the biblical King David. His divinely ordained er-
In his analysis of the Peoples Temple, Branch Davidian,
rand was to interpret the seven seals contained in the New
Aum Shinrikyo¯, Solar Temple, and Heaven’s Gate episodes,
Testament Book of Revelation and to reveal the sequence of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6554
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND VIOLENCE
imminent endtime events. Under Koresh’s leadership the
armored vehicles, and flooding the residence with noise and
Branch Davidian community became more tightly orga-
light around the clock. During the standoff, Koresh led the
nized, communal, and hierarchical (earlier Davidians lived
Branch Davidians in seeking divine instruction on the prop-
in a community but not communally). There were height-
er course to follow. Ultimately, federal agents perceived,
ened expectations of an imminent apocalypse, which the
probably incorrectly, that neither conciliation nor duress
Branch Davidians believed would begin with an attack on
would succeed and that continued flouting of legitimate au-
their group.
thority could not be tolerated. A CS (tear) gas assault on the
residence was launched on April 19; seventy-four residents,
While the Branch Davidians were characterized by a
including twenty-three children, died in ensuing the fire.
high level of charismatic authority, communal organization,
and apocalyptic expectation, it was Koresh’s “new light” doc-
The Solar Temple episode. The Order of the Solar
trine, proclaimed in 1989, that was pivotal in mobilizing op-
Temple (abbreviated OTS from the French form of the
position. Koresh taught that he must father children with
name, Ordre du Temple Solaire) is one of a number of reli-
women in the community to create a new spiritual lineage;
gious movements drawing on Western esotericism, including
the children born of these unions would erect the House of
Rosicrucianism (a mythical, ancient brotherhood) and the
David and ultimately rule the world. Some of the members
Knights Templar movements (groups claiming an associa-
Koresh selected for his House of David were wives and
tion with the Catholic religious order suppressed in the four-
daughters of members, and some of the daughters were legal-
teenth century). The Order of the Solar Temple was founded
ly minors. The result was a number of defections, as well as
by Joseph Di Mambro (1924–1994), a Swiss jeweler. Di
legal grounds for external intervention by Texas Child Pro-
Mambro had previously been involved in a variety of con-
tective Services. Beginning in 1989 a coalition of Koresh op-
temporary esoteric groups, such as the Golden Way Founda-
ponents formed, including family members concerned about
tion, before establishing the Solar Temple in 1981 with Dr.
the children’s welfare, some of Koresh’s past sexual partners
Luc Jouret (1947–1994). The charismatic Jouret added to
who were hostile to the House of David, and apostate mem-
Di Mambro’s esoteric teachings a mix of homeopathic medi-
bers. This coalition appealed to the media and a number of
cine, New Age spirituality, and environmental apocalypti-
state and federal agencies, most notably the Texas Child Pro-
cism. His personal charm also attracted large audiences of
tective Services, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
well-educated and prosperous individuals to his public lec-
Firearms (ATF), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
tures in Europe, the Caribbean, and Canada. The OTS was
(FBI).
a highly secretive organization. Di Mambro and Jouret estab-
lished two public groups, the Amenta Club and Arcadia
There were two sources of tension that escalated the
Club that served as recruiting organizations for the OTS.
conflict. Koresh’s sexual relationships with teenage girls con-
Members of the Solar Temple engaged in secret initiations,
stituted a direct challenge to the child-abuse protection man-
vows of secrecy, and encounters in hidden ritual chambers
date of the Texas Child Protective Services. The agency’s
with the spiritual manifestations of a mysterious group of as-
frustration mounted when it was unable to document abuse
cended “Masters.”
through inspections and investigations. The ATF suspected
the Branch Davidians were involved in weapons violations
Based on its apocalyptic expectations, the OTS began
and placed an undercover agent in the group, whose identity
expanding into North America in the mid-1980s. The group
was soon discovered. Several factors contributed to the ATF’s
established its headquarters and a commune in Quebec, a lo-
decision to conduct a raid on the Branch Davidian commu-
cation deemed to be relatively safe against impending envi-
nity at Mount Carmel, near Waco. The bureau was con-
ronmental catastrophes. By 1989, OTS had about five hun-
cerned about weapons violations, but it was also seeking
dred members in Europe and North America. In the early
high-profile interventions to fend off efforts to reduce its
1990s, due to opposition, the group’s outlook became in-
budget and reorganize its structure. Furthermore, the oppo-
creasingly bleak and apocalyptic, and group leaders began
sitional coalition fed the ATF false information about drug
discussing a mystical “transit” to another realm of existence.
manufacturing at the residence, widespread child abuse, and
Leadership authority and member commitment were both
potential mass suicide.
heightened. For example, leaders assumed authority for ar-
ranging “cosmic marriages” that restructured members’ exist-
After the initial AFT raid on February 28, 1993, in
ing marital relationships.
which there were both Branch Davidian and AFT casualties,
the FBI assumed control of the situation. The conflict was
The movement’s public troubles began early in the
now highly polarized because law enforcement officers had
1990s when two members were arrested for purchasing ille-
been killed, and because the Branch Davidians interpreted
gal weapons for unknown reasons, a rift developed between
the ATF raid as the beginning of the apocalypse. As the
Jouret and Di Mambro, and the movement’s ability to re-
standoff between the Branch Davidians and the FBI contin-
cruit members plummeted as its apocalyptic message was
ued, tactical units of the FBI gained the upper hand over the
publicly revealed. Even more threatening were a series of de-
negotiating teams and initiated psychological warfare, which
fections by members who threatened to expose financial ir-
included cutting off utilities, surrounding the residence with
regularities by leaders. The technician who orchestrated the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND VIOLENCE
6555
electronic special effects used to create the appearances of the
in opposition to the conversions and unflattering media cov-
Masters left the movement, and revelations that the Masters’
erage. In response, the group went underground in 1976 and
appearances had been carefully orchestrated illusions under-
lived a migratory communal existence with a much smaller
mined the commitment of members. A wife who had lost
number of members. Members prepared for life at the Next
her spouse to a cosmic marriage took her complaints to the
Level by relinquishing all earthly habits and relationships and
media and anticult groups. In addition, the police mistakenly
acquiring appropriate Next Level attributes.
connected the OTS to anonymous threats made to the life
Because the group lived a secretive lifestyle, it largely es-
of the Quebec minister of public security and several parlia-
caped conflict with control agencies. Members were appre-
mentary deputies, resulting in an intensive investigation of
hensive about their own fate following the conflagration that
the movement. As a result of these developments, the loyalty
destroyed the Branch Davidians, and they harbored unsub-
of members was eroded, the authority of the OTS leaders was
stantiated suspicions that they were under police surveil-
undermined, and the financial base was endangered. OTS
leaders concluded that the movement was the object of a vast
lance. However, the only reaction by Heaven’s Gate to sus-
conspiracy and faced the prospect of public disgrace. The
pected opposition was a largely ineffectual campaign to
group was, therefore, confronting both internal and external
challenge what it regarded as misinformation and miscon-
sources of destabilization.
ceptions about the movement. The developments that
moved Heaven’s Gate toward a “transit” to the Next Level
Late in 1993 and early in 1994 the final events appear
were primarily internal in nature. In 1985 Nettles died of
to have begun coalescing. OTS leaders began planning an in-
cancer. Her death brought into question the movement’s be-
terstellar “transit” that they believed would be supported and
lief that entry to the Next Level would be achieved with a
protected by transcendent powers. In early October, many
corporeal body. The group then came to regard the human
current and past members of the group were invited to meet
“vehicle” as simply a “container” that could be jettisoned, a
in Switzerland. Some were aware that the meeting was to be
development that made it possible to think about abandon-
a time of reckoning and initiation of a transit, others were
ing earthly bodies. The movement’s ideology also became
not. On October 4, 1994, police began receiving reports of
more apocalyptic as members proposed the existence of evil
fires in Cheiry and Granges-sur-Salvan in Switzerland and
space aliens who used religion and sexuality to keep humans
Morin Heights in Canada. Ultimately, fifty-three members
in bondage. Indeed, when the group was unsuccessful in
and former members of the OTS were found dead from stab-
eliminating sexual desire, some members arranged their own
bing, gunshots, poisoning, or suffocation. Opponents and
castrations to resolve the problem. Finally, members progres-
former members who were viewed as traitors appear to have
sively replaced earthly social forms with those they under-
been executed. Some OTS members and leaders took their
stood to be appropriate to the Next Level. They lived their
own lives to initiate the transit, and other members who
day-to-day lives as an “Away Team” in a replica of the space-
lacked the courage to take their own lives apparently were
craft environment through which they would be transported
“helped” to undertake the transit. The group left messages
to the Next Level. Much of their time was spent attempting
intended to condemn its critics and defend its own vision of
to connect with the Next Level and learn the timing of their
its mission. More than one year later sixteen OTS members
impending transit.
decided to join their comrades and ritualistically took their
own lives in France; five more did the same in Quebec in
As the process of distancing from conventional society
1997.
continued, the movement gradually was left with a small
number of long-term members with little connection to out-
The Heaven’s Gate episode. The movement that came
siders. Applewhite, who was the source of the group’s revela-
to be known as Heaven’s Gate began as a spiritual quest by
tions, believed he was suffering from progressively declining
Marshall Herff Applewhite (1931–1997) and Bonnie Lu
health. Increasingly disillusioned with conventional society,
Nettles (1924–1985) in 1973. Over the next two years a
the movement initiated one final effort to publicize its mes-
loosely organized movement emerged. Applewhite and Net-
sage and warn outsiders of the apocalypse that awaited them.
tles first began referring to themselves as the “two witnesses”
When this campaign was met with indifference and ridicule,
in the Book of Revelation who would be martyred and then
the group concluded that their preparation for the exit was
ascend to heaven in a cloud, which they believed would actu-
over. The appearance of the Hale Bopp comet in 1997 was
ally be a space ship. They taught their small group of follow-
viewed as a sign that the moment for departure had arrived,
ers that members of the “Next Level” had created earth as
and members quickly prepared for the exit. Those who made
an experiment in evolution. Jesus’ mission had been to gather
the exit on March 22 to 24, 1997, regarded their act as a
the faithful on earth to ascend to the Next Level, but humans
demonstration of the power of Heaven’s Gate to transcend
were not yet prepared. However, humans would soon be
the apocalypse that awaited those who had chosen not to join
transported by spacecraft to the kingdom of heaven and live
them. The members consumed a deadly combination of al-
eternally as androgynous beings. Through vigorous prosely-
cohol and barbiturates, lay down dressed in their Away Team
tizing, the group gradually grew to more than two hundred
uniforms covered by purple shrouds, and tied plastic bags
members by the mid-1970s. Recruitment successes resulted
over their heads. Two more Heaven’s Gate members at-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6556
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
tempted an exit on May 7, 1997; one succeeded and the
phasizes internal movement factors as the initial source of
other was revived. This member, Chuck Humphrey, after
violence.
distributing informational materials about Heaven’s Gate,
Richardson, James T. “Minority Religions and the Context of Vi-
made his exit in February 1998.
olence: A Conflict/Interactionist Perspective.” Terrorism and
C
Political Violence 13, no. 1 (2001): 103–133.
ONCLUSIONS. The series of unrelated violent episodes in-
volving new religious movements during the 1990s propelled
Robbins, Thomas, and Susan J. Palmer, eds. Millennium, Messi-
violence onto the scholarly and public policy agendas. Wide-
ahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements. New
York, 1997. A collection of essays examining apocalypticism
ly accepted assertions about a proclivity for violence by new
in a variety of religious traditions.
religions have not been supported, however, and the histori-
Tabor, James D., and Eugene V. Gallagher. Why Waco? Cults and
cal evidence indicates that instances of movement-
the Battle for Religious Freedom in America. Berkeley, 1995.
precipitated violence have been rare. Specific characteristics
A comprehensive analysis of the history of the Branch
of religious movements—apocalyptic ideology, charismatic
Davidians and the dynamics of the confrontation between
leadership, and totalistic organization—are significant in un-
the movement and federal authorities.
derstanding the likelihood of violence, but general models
Wessinger, Catherine. “New Religious Movements and Conflicts
that incorporate an interrelated set of factors are more prom-
with Law Enforcement.” In New Religious Movements and
ising. A major debate continues over what balance of internal
Religious Liberty in American, edited by Derek H. Davis and
and external factors is most useful in understanding violent
Barry Hankins, 2d ed., pp. 89–106, 201–204. Waco, Tex.,
incidents. There is general agreement that cases vary in their
2002.
internal-external causation, and that useful models must
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. How the Millennium Comes Violently:
allow for this diversity. There is also agreement that future
From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate. New York, 2000. An analy-
episodes will be difficult to anticipate because they tend to
sis of Peoples Temple, Branch Davidian, Aum Shinrikyo¯,
involve small, relatively unknown groups rather than more
Montana Freemen, Solar Temple, and Heaven’s Gate vio-
visible groups that are in open conflict with conventional
lence episodes emphasizing the role of both internal and ex-
society.
ternal factors in precipitating violence.
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence:
SEE ALSO Anticult Movements; Aum Shinrikyo¯; Branch
Historical Cases. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. Includes articles by
Davidians; Deprogramming; Heaven’s Gate; Jonestown and
Michelene Pesantubbee on Wounded Knee, Massimo In-
Peoples Temple; Koresh, David; Movement for the Restora-
trovigne on Solar Temple, Grant Underwood on the Mor-
tion of the Ten Commandments of God; Temple Solaire;
mons, among others, plus Wessinger’s introduction, “The
Violence.
Interacting Dynamics of Millennialism, Persecution, and Vi-
olence.”
Wright, Stuart, ed. Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on
BIBLIOGRAPHY
the Branch Davidian Conflict. Chicago, 2000. A collection of
Bromley, David G., and J. Gordon Melton, eds. Cults, Religion,
essays thoroughly analyzing the Branch Davidian violence
and Violence. Cambridge, U.K., 2002. A collection of essays
episode, including the role of the media, government agen-
focused on the major episodes of collective violence involv-
cies, experts and consultants, and movement opponents.
ing new religious groups during the 1990s.
DAVID G. BROMLEY (2005)
Galanter, Marc. Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion. 2d ed. New
York, 1999. A theoretical analysis of a number of charismatic
groups that includes a discussion of internal movement fac-
tors conducive to collective violence.
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED

Hall, John R. Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American
Cultural History. New Brunswick, N.J., 1987. A thorough
STATES
sociological and historical account of the Peoples Temple.
Shortly after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1788,
the new nation ratified a Bill of Rights whose first order of
Hall, John R., with Philip Schuyler, and Silvaine Trinh. Apoca-
business was freedom of religion. The First Amendment laid
lypse Observed: Religious Movements, the Social Order, and Vi-
down what was then a bold precept: the United States would
olence in North America, Europe, and Japan. New York, 2000.
A theoretically informed series of case studies of collective vi-
have no established, or officially endorsed, religion, and it
olence involving new religious groups that proposes a model
would permit the free exercise of religion. More than two
for connecting these diverse events.
centuries later more religions are being freely exercised than
the nation’s founders could possibly have anticipated. Every
Lifton, Robert Jay. Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo¯,
Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism. New
substantial religion in the world has an American manifesta-
York, 1999. A more psychologically oriented analysis of one
tion, and many homegrown startups have appeared in the
of the major episodes of collective violence involving new re-
United States. It is safe to say that no place in the world has
ligious groups during the 1990s.
greater religious diversity than the United States at the dawn
of the twenty-first century.
Reader, Ian. Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case
of Aum Shinrikyo¯. Richmond, U.K., and Honolulu, 2000.
TERMINOLOGY. One small but vital part of that diversity
An account of the Aum Shinrikyo¯ violence episode that em-
consists of what are variously known by dozens of labels—
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
6557
sects, cults, new religious movements, alternative religions,
American religious mainstream that consists of the major,
marginal religions, and many more. Among scholars special-
culturally well-established branches of Christianity and Juda-
izing in the study of such groups, the prevailing label is new
ism, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy,
religious movements (NRMs), although not all are happy with
mainline Protestantism, most evangelical Protestantism, and
this term. It has one notable flaw: most of the groups includ-
the three major branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conserva-
ed in the category are not new. Some, in fact, are thousands
tive, and Reform). New religious movements are groups out-
of years old. But new religious movements has been used
side that mainstream. Admittedly there are many shades of
more widely than any other nonpejorative term, and it does
gray in such a definition, but living with ambiguity is essen-
a good job of conveying the subject to most people.
tial to any study of religion.
Sect and cult are terms that were once used with a fair
One might argue that groups derived from great world
degree of academic precision. Classically a sect is a splinter
religions, all of which are present in the United States, should
group, a movement that has split from an existing religious
not be regarded as NRMs. The point of their inclusion in
body for some reason. Often such groups see themselves as
that category is simply that in the United States they do not
revitalization movements that seek to return to a pristine pu-
have the long histories, cultural dominance, and (usually)
rity from which, it is believed, the parent group has departed.
large numbers of adherents that the mainstream groups do.
The Holiness movement, for example, began when some
These NRMs may be growing substantially and may be in
Methodists came to believe that their church had undergone
the process of moving into the mainstream, but in the eyes
a degree of liberalization that took it unacceptably far from
of most Americans they are not yet fully mainstream.
its Wesleyan roots, and the dissenters set up new churches
that they saw as restoring pure Methodist doctrine. A cult,
NRMS IN AMERICAN HISTORY. NRMs have always been a
on the other hand, is classically a more distinct group—one
part of the American religious scene, and controversy has al-
that does not have clear roots in an existing, well-established
ways surrounded them. Some of the earliest European set-
tradition. A cult may be a newly created religion, usually one
tlers came to what is now the United States precisely because
formulated by a founding prophet of some kind, or it may
their dissenting forms of religion were not well accepted in
be a religion that is simply unfamiliar (and in that sense
their home cultures. These settlers may not have been devot-
“new”) in the American context. Some Hindu movements
ed to religious freedom, however; in many cases they tried
that have come to the United States, for example, have been
to make their own forms of Christianity dominant in their
widely regarded as cults because they are not familiar to
new provinces (the Puritans of New England are a dramatic
Americans, even though they would be part of the religious
example). Nevertheless religious dissent cropped up almost
mainstream in India.
as soon as the pioneering settlers stepped off their ships. As
early as 1627, when Thomas Morton (c. 1575–1647) erected
These once-precise terms, however, became pejoratives
a maypole for a May Day celebration, he was deported to En-
in the last decades of the twentieth century. The word cult,
gland for recognizing a pagan holiday. A few years later the
especially in popular usage, is decidedly negative in tone. A
Puritan authorities of Boston attacked Samuel Gorton (c.
cult is regarded as somehow evil or at least misguided. At all
1592–1677) for “all manner of blasphemies,” eventually
costs one should avoid cults, which are popularly understood
forcing him from the colony. By the 1650s a new threat con-
to be grasping and deceiving, trying to catch newcomers in
fronted the orthodox rulers of Massachusetts with the arrival
their webs. The neutral descriptive term of earlier times has
of the Quakers. Adopting a series of ever more stringent laws,
changed, just as the word gay has evolved, for the most part,
Massachusetts in 1658 made Quakerism a capital crime.
from meaning “happy” to meaning “homosexual.” The case
Four Quakers were subsequently executed for their faith.
is less severe with the word sect, at least in the United States,
The first Mennonites arrived later in the century; they were
but it too tends to have a pejorative edge. In Europe sect is
refugees from Europe, where they were persecuted for such
the equivalent of the American cult—a term that carries
distinctive beliefs as adult baptism, pacifism, and separation
strong derogatory implications.
of church and state. Throughout the Mennonites’ long histo-
Academic scholars of new religions therefore generally
ry in the United States they have attracted controversy; in
shy away from using both sect and cult. Lacking consensus
wartime especially they have been derided, and in some cases
support for any other term, they generally speak of new reli-
assaulted, for their refusal to perform military service.
gious movements. Alternative religions is also used by some,
By the eighteenth century adherents of dissenting reli-
and other terms, such as the adjective nonmainstream, have
gions were arriving on American shores with some regularity,
their advocates as well. Although those terms have the advan-
and just as regularly they experienced persecution in a coun-
tage of not containing the word new, new religious move-
try whose devotion to religious liberty was less than perfect.
ments is the generally accepted nonpejorative term.
In 1774 a small group of Shakers arrived under the leader-
What constitutes a new religious movement? Matters of
ship of Ann Lee (1736–1784), and eventually they opened
definition are exceedingly thorny, but this entry seeks to sur-
a communal settlement in upstate New York. A 1780 con-
vey a wide range of nonmainstream religions and will cast
vert, Valentine Rathbun, soon dropped out of the movement
its net broadly. This entry will presume that there is an
and accused the Shakers of deception and even, perhaps,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6558
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
what some would now call brainwashing. The Shakers re-
more persecution than the Mormons; for nearly a century
ceived visitors joyfully, Rathbun wrote, feeding and lodging
they were widely derided as devious outlaws and sexual mis-
them readily. But after his departure from the group, he
creants. Conflicts with neighbors drove the early Mormons
claimed it was all a ruse designed to create “absolute depen-
from New York State to Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and finally
dence” among members. Some years later the Shakers found
to Utah after the lynching of the founder Smith in 1844. Ex-
themselves challenged by an even more formidable oppo-
Mormons fanned the flames with stories of dictatorial theoc-
nent, Mary Marshall Dyer (1780–1867), whose opposition
racy, violence, and corruption among the Latter-day Saints.
to the group she had joined and then left became her life’s
Although their practice of polygamy was not announced
work. Dyer’s anti-Shaker polemics sounded like many an-
publicly until after the migration to Utah, it had been prac-
ticult diatribes of the late twentieth century; among other
ticed for years. Such early Mormon leaders as Smith and his
things, she accused the movement of using mind control of
successor Brigham Young (1801–1877) each had dozens of
a sort that amounted to hypnotism. In the twenty-first cen-
plural wives. Word about the practice that leaked out provid-
tury the Shakers are best known for their classic furniture and
ed sensational fuel for the anti-Mormon flames. Only with
exquisite villages, and the few surviving Shakers in Maine
the passage of time did anti-Mormon agitation diminish.
enjoy great admiration and support. Only with time—and
The Mormons, for their part, helped deprive their opponents
perhaps with their steep decline in numbers—has their un-
of rhetorical ammunition by retreating from their most con-
usual religion become acceptable.
troversial ideas and practices. Polygamy was phased out in
the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, and
A similar situation obtained with the arrival of groups
a teaching that suggested that African Americans were inferi-
of radical German Pietists in the eighteenth and nineteenth
or to whites was abandoned in 1978.
centuries. The Pietists’ dissent was founded in their critique
The Mormons were not the only religious believers to
of the state churches in their homeland, which they consid-
be attacked for their unconventional marital and sexual prac-
ered formal and cold. The dissenters became entangled in
tices. The nineteenth century saw a proliferation of move-
disputes with various German authorities and in several cases
ments addressing all kinds of social reforms, and some of the
decided to depart for the New World, where, they thought,
more radical reformers promoted decidedly unconventional
they could pursue their chosen way of life in peace. Levels
sexual arrangements. No group was more famous for its un-
of controversy surrounding them varied. Some Pietists, such
orthodox marital philosophy than the Oneida Community,
as the group that became known as the Amana Society in
a body of Christian Perfectionists who created a long-lasting
Iowa, managed to live in relative isolation and to avoid end-
group marriage involving hundreds of men and women.
lessly antagonistic relationships with their neighbors. But
Prosperous from businesses producing such commodities as
others were not so lucky. The Harmony Society, for exam-
animal traps and silverware, the Oneidans flourished from
ple, was caught up in the same kinds of disputes that had af-
the early 1850s through the 1870s. Although internal ten-
flicted the Shakers. Arriving in the United States in 1804,
sions contributed to their eventual dissolution, it was vehe-
the Harmonists founded communal villages in Pennsylvania
ment persecution by a variety of opponents that finally
and Indiana, where they experienced conflict repeatedly.
proved overwhelming. Perhaps the most striking part of the
Their practices of celibacy and community ownership of
story is that a community publicly engaging in such wildly
goods were suspect to the American majority. When a large
unconventional sexual arrangements managed to survive as
group of members defected in 1832, they accused the Har-
long as it did in the Victorian-era United States.
monist leader George Rapp (1757–1847) of being power
In the 1830s and 1840s millennial excitement swept the
mad and voraciously greedy. The lawsuits that dogged the
country, especially with the rise of the Adventist movement
Harmonists throughout their history typically made the
of William Miller (1782–1849), who predicted that the
kinds of charges that “cult” opponents have made more re-
world would come to an end soon, finally settling on Octo-
cently—mind control, coercive leadership, and misuse of
ber 22, 1844, as the apocalyptic date. Miller’s movement was
funds. Although the Harmonist movement withstood the
controversial, and in the wake of the failure of the world-
conflicts, it gradually declined after Rapp’s death and died
ending events to happen on schedule (October 22, 1844, has
quietly in the early twentieth century, leaving behind, as did
ever since been known to the faithful as the “Great Disap-
the Shakers, several charming museum villages.
pointment”), several subsequent millennial groups coalesced.
Another religious movement that arose while the Shak-
The Seventh-day Adventists began to take shape in the 1850s
ers and Harmonists were flourishing had the dubious distinc-
under Ellen White (1827–1915), who was regarded as a
tion of being arguably the most controversial religious group
prophet and who had thousands of visionary experiences in
in American history. Founded in 1830, the Latter-day Saints,
her lifetime. The Adventists were distinctive not only for
or Mormons, based their distinctive version of Christianity,
their ongoing anticipation of an imminent millennium but
which featured an unorthodox account of American history
for observing the Jewish Sabbath and for a strong focus on
before Christopher Columbus, on revelations that the
diet and health.
founder Joseph Smith Jr. (1805–1844) claimed to have re-
In the 1870s another millennial group, eventually
ceived. No religious group in American history has suffered
known as Jehovah’s Witnesses, developed under the leader-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
6559
ship of Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916), who, like Miller,
order of India, stole the show at the parliament, demolishing
undertook an extensive analysis of the Bible and concluded
stereotypes about Hinduism and offering a religion that was
that he could predict the year of the final culmination—
peaceful, tolerant, and charitable. He stayed in the United
1914. Although Russell’s chronology was obviously impre-
States for a time after the parliament and laid the ground-
cise, his movement continued to grow long after the appoint-
work for Vedanta Societies in major cities. It was the first
ed date, eventually embracing millions worldwide. Contro-
Asian religious movement to have a substantial appeal to a
versy grew apace. The Witnesses’ tireless door-to-door
non-Asian constituency in the United States. A few years
evangelism always had its detractors, and their refusal to sa-
later another swami, Yogananda (1893–1952), arrived with
lute the American flag (on the grounds that the flag salute
similarly expansive teachings and started the Self-Realization
was tantamount to idolatry) spawned legal cases that twice
Fellowship, which became one of the largest Asian-based reli-
reached the U.S. Supreme Court (where their right not to
gions in the country. Several Buddhist teachers, like their
salute the flag was upheld). Jehovah’s Witnesses have consis-
Hindu counterparts, also began to attract non-Asian follow-
tently refused military service on grounds that their service
ers. The Asian teachers were decidedly out of the American
must be to God, not to any earthly government. And much
mainstream, and for that, if nothing else, they had their crit-
controversy has surrounded their refusal to accept blood
ics, but their work formed a base for an ongoing Asian reli-
transfusions, which they regard as a violation of the biblical
gious presence in the United States.
injunction not to consume blood.
This list of NRMs in American history could be extend-
In 1848 two sisters, Kate Fox (c. 1839–1892) and Mar-
ed almost indefinitely. Inescapably new religions have been
garet Fox (c. 1833–1893), began hearing rapping noises that
a part of the American landscape for hundreds of years.
they said conveyed intelligible messages from a mysterious
These groups have never been large, but they have constitut-
spirit being. Their apparent ability to exchange messages
ed a steady minority presence within the realm of American
with an otherworldly being quickly attracted a wide follow-
religion, and they have always attracted critics.
ing, and soon Spiritualism, as the movement became known,
A
was a nationwide phenomenon with such manifestations as
FTER 1965. Changes in the immigration laws that allowed
spiritual teachers to enter the United States in much greater
automatic writing, clairvoyance, and trance speaking. Even-
numbers than previously are frequently credited with the
tually it became clear that many of the spiritual phenomena
great surge in NRMs that erupted after 1965. Still the cultur-
associated with devotees of the movement were fraudulent,
al upheaval that shook Western society during the same peri-
and Spiritualism declined. It has remained a small but steady
od had as much to do with the expansion of alternative religi-
part of the alternative religious world, however, and new ver-
osity as did the arrival of spiritual teachers from abroad. The
sions of it have emerged and found followings from time to
cultural ferment of the 1960s era (actually the late 1960s and
time, as in the case of the Urantia Book, a huge tome pur-
early 1970s) brought to prominence certain NRMs that had
portedly dictated by spirit beings to an anonymous scribe in
previously operated in relative obscurity, and the decade saw
the 1930s. Many forms of Spiritualism are active at the be-
many more NRMs start up. New religions since 1965 have
ginning of the twenty-first century, and they remain as con-
been enormously diverse, consisting of groups based in Asian
troversial as ever.
religious traditions, new and unconventional versions of
One form of Spiritualism went on to become a separate
Christianity, movements claiming to restore ancient but for-
cluster of NRMs. Founded in 1875 and based on the teach-
gotten traditions, and a few groups that seem largely unrelat-
ings of Helena P. Blavatsky (1831–1891), Theosophy com-
ed to anything that has come before.
bined a belief in psychic communications from “masters”
(spiritual adepts living in remote places) with what it called
Scientology was on the scene as early as the 1950s, but
“ancient wisdom,” teachings from various alternative West-
its main growth took place in the last years of the twentieth
ern traditions (such as Neoplatonism) as well as from Asian
century. Founded by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hub-
religions. Like its precursor Spiritualism, Theosophy had its
bard (1911–1986), Scientology promoted a kind of psycho-
detractors; especially heated were assertions that Blavatsky
logical therapy program in an unconventional religious con-
fabricated her supposed communications from the “masters
text. The psychological analysis of practitioners was
of the wisdom,” notably those that took the form of letters
facilitated using a device known as the e-meter, a type of lie
written on paper and appeared mysteriously in certain places.
detector. The promises made to practitioners were nothing
Although the movement splintered after the death of Blavat-
short of spectacular: one could, with enough work, become
sky, many branches have survived, and Theosophy has be-
an optimal and enormously powerful human being. Whatev-
come a well-established fixture in the firmament of NRMs.
er the truth of those claims, Scientology has received a great
deal of criticism. It has operated largely on a fee-for-services
At the end of the nineteenth century Hinduism and
basis (rather than by free-will offerings), and critics have ac-
Buddhism got a boost in public visibility when both were
cused the leaders of raking in enormous amounts of money.
represented by delegates to the World’s Parliament of Reli-
The authoritarian leadership style of Scientology and its
gions at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Vivekananda
overly vigorous response to its critics have also come under
(1863–1902), a bright young swami from the Ramakrishna
attack. Nevertheless the movement has attracted large num-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6560
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
bers of followers, including entertainment and sports celebri-
(clothing and hairstyles, for example) of hippies. Although
ties, and Scientology represents a major force among con-
some of them were eventually absorbed into relatively con-
temporary NRMs.
ventional churches, others came together in new movements
that reflected their cultural style and values. One of the most
Another movement active in the United States before
visible of the new groups, and certainly the most controver-
1965, but only coming into prominence after that date, is
sial, was the Children of God. Founded in 1967 as a coffee-
the Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon (1920–) of
house ministry in Los Angeles by David Berg (1919–1994),
Korea started this new religion, which blended elements of
a former Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, the Chil-
Christianity with various Asian religions, including tradi-
dren of God soon developed a distinctive evangelistic style
tional Korean shamanism, in 1954; five years later Moon’s
that included wearing biblical robes and carrying signs warn-
followers began to spread the Unification message in the
United States. Central to Unification teachings is the precept
ing of impending doom. By about 1970 members of the
of the restoration of the true church and of fallen humanity
Children of God began to withdraw from contact with the
to their proper godliness. Moon himself is understood to
outside world; most left the United States. The group’s evan-
play a messianic role in the process of restoration. The early
gelization continued, however, and one new development
American growth of the Unification Church was slow, but
was especially controversial—“flirty fishing,” or the use of sex
it reached prominence with a series of speaking tours that
to attract new (usually male) converts. In the late 1980s
Moon undertook in the 1970s. As his visibility grew, so did
members began to return to the United States and to reestab-
controversy about his movement, which was accused of de-
lish a public presence there. Although accusations of misbe-
ceptive recruiting practices and exploitation of its young
havior, including child abuse and sexual misconduct, have
members. Deprogramming, the practice of forcibly remov-
continued to be aimed at the Children of God (now known
ing an NRM member to a remote location and putting him
as the Family), over time they have dropped some of their
or her through a deconversion process, was perhaps aimed
most controversial practices and have moved closer to ortho-
at “Moonies” more than adherents of any other religious
dox evangelical Protestantism. Their relatively liberal sexual
group. Controversy has lingered, although it has become
attitudes, however, continue to be a major point of contro-
muted as Moon has established ties to American political
versy.
conservatives and has focused his work increasingly on other
Another NRM with roots in the Jesus Movement is the
parts of the world, especially South America.
federation of Christian communities known as the Twelve
A quintessential new religion of the late 1960s counter-
Tribes. From enthusiastic beginnings in Chattanooga, Ten-
culture was the International Society for Krishna Conscious-
nessee, in 1972 under the leadership of Elbert Eugene Sprig-
ness (ISKCON), commonly referred to as the Hare Krishna
gs (1937–), the movement in the early twenty-first century
movement after its mantra (devotional chant). ISKCON’s
consisted of nearly three dozen communities, including sev-
founder, Swami A. C. Bhaktivedanta (1896–1977), known
eral in South America, Europe, and Australia. Although
to his followers as Prabhupada, undertook a mission to
spawned in the freewheeling environment of the American
spread his form of Hinduism in the West and to that end
1960s era, the Twelve Tribes has become a strongly disci-
arrived in the United States in 1965. Setting up headquarters
plined movement with patriarchal leadership and strict
in New York, Bhaktivedanta began to draw a variety of spiri-
child-rearing practices. Twelve Tribes communities are con-
tual seekers to his work. Soon there were ISKCON temples
troversial in some locations, but they are becoming well es-
in several American cities as well as farm communes and
tablished on the American religious scene.
businesses supporting the movement and its members. To
Another spiritual path that has garnered wide appeal
the public the ISKCON devotees were best known for
during and since the 1970s is earth-centered religiosity, most
sankirtan (public chanting and dancing in praise of Kr:s:n:a)
frequently known as Neopaganism or simply paganism.
and for selling books in public places, especially airports.
Much of the contemporary pagan movement—if it can be
Like Unificationists, they inspired spirited criticism, and
called a movement, given its diversity and lack of dominating
some ISKCON members were subjected to deprogramming.
organization—sees itself as re-creating the pre-Christian reli-
After the death of Bhaktivedanta, the movement experienced
gions of Europe, especially northern Europe. Wiccans, or
tumultuous internal upheavals and scandals over problems
Witches, the best-known of the Neopagans, fall into that cat-
ranging from venal leadership to child abuse. In the early
egory. Other Neopagans look to ancient Egyptian or classical
twenty-first century small numbers of devotees continue to
Roman and Greek religions for models. Whatever their spe-
live the disciplined spiritual life that has long been the ISK-
cific orientations, most Neopagans incorporate into their be-
CON hallmark.
liefs and rituals a strong connection to the earth, fertility, and
One important component of the 1960s countercultur-
nature; not incidentally many Neopagans are also environ-
al search for spiritual fulfillment was the rise of the Jesus
mental activists. In addition they typically emphasize a re-
Movement. The Jesus freaks, as the movement’s adherents
covery of feminine power and authority, which they believe
were popularly known, were young people who espoused
was suppressed as male-dominated Christianity spread over
evangelical Protestantism but retained the outer trappings
most of the Western world. Leadership in Neopagan groups
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
6561
is to a large degree female, and the deities invoked are as like-
(1885–1955). One of the factions, headed by Benjamin
ly to be feminine as masculine. Because of popular prejudices
Roden, came to be known as the Branch, or Branch Davidi-
against witchcraft and paganism, many practitioners keep
ans. Vernon Howell (1959–1993) joined that group in 1981
their allegiances hidden, but persons who consider them-
and a few years later became its leader, changing his name
selves at least to some degree pagan are found throughout the
to David Koresh. In February 1993 agents of the federal Bu-
United States in greater numbers than many would expect.
reau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms conducted a raid on
the Branch Davidian headquarters in Waco. The raid led to
Although the 1960s era was a time of great ferment for
a fifty-one-day siege by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
American religion, other new religions emerged (and became
(FBI) and ended with a fire that killed most of the Branch
subject to controversy) after that period. One controversial
Davidians present, including Koresh.
religious movement that rose to prominence is the Interna-
tional Church of Christ, also known as the Boston Move-
In March 1997 thirty-nine members of the Heaven’s
ment. The Boston Movement arose from the Churches of
Gate movement committed suicide at Rancho Santa Fe, Cal-
Christ, a branch of the Restoration movement of nineteenth-
ifornia. Heaven’s Gate took shape in the 1970s as the found-
century America whose most prominent descendant in the
ers Marshall Herff Applewhite (1931–1997) and Bonnie Lu
twenty-first century is the Christian Church (Disciples of
Nettles (1924–1985) began to develop an evolutionary the-
Christ). Kip McKean (1954–) became pastor of the local
ology in which a few selected humans would advance to a
Church of Christ in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1979 and
level above human; a spacecraft would be the vehicle that
soon moved it into Boston, renaming it the Boston Church
would take them to the next realm. The appearance of the
of Christ. By the early 1980s satellite churches were being
comet Hale-Bopp was taken as the signal that it was time for
founded in other American cities, and the movement experi-
believers to abandon their human bodies—hence the
enced great growth, all of it accompanied by increasing con-
suicides.
troversy. The heaviest criticism was aimed at “discipling,” a
The Peoples Temple, the Branch Davidians, and Heav-
practice in which each member is assigned a spiritual supervi-
en’s Gate were dissimilar movements, and the circumstances
sor who oversees much of the member’s day-to-day life. Al-
of their dramatic and fatal ends differed enormously. Never-
though the strictness of life in the Boston Movement has
theless the massive media coverage that followed the demise
contributed to a high attrition rate, a steady stream of new
of each group tended to cause the three to merge in the pub-
converts has assured continued growth.
lic mind, and activism against NRMs was stimulated as a
CONTROVERSY AND CRITICISM. Unconventional religions
result.
have always been socially controversial, and the last decades
of the twentieth century witnessed seemingly endless conten-
Opposition to new religious movements tends to be of
tion over what some saw as a growing and threatening pres-
two types, commonly referred to as anticult and countercult.
ence of dangerous religions in the United States. Those con-
Anticult activists believe that “cults” pose a threat to their
flicts became particularly prominent in the wake of several
members and to society and thus need to be denounced, per-
spectacular and, in some cases, fatal events. In the United
haps abolished, in the interest of the common welfare. Coun-
States three such events stand out.
tercult activism, on the other hand, is based in relatively or-
thodox (usually evangelical Protestant) churches and opposes
In November 1978 more than nine hundred mostly
NRMs as heresies, or false religions, that must be challenged
American members of the Peoples Temple died in a mass
theologically and socially. The two strands have combined
murder-suicide at Jonestown, Guyana. The Peoples Temple,
to produce wide agreement in American culture that “cults”
led by Jim Jones (1931–1978), was a California-based local
do exist and the public needs to be aware of their danger. The
congregation of the mainstream Disciples of Christ denomi-
general image that has developed is that dangerous “cults”
nation. The Peoples Temple first received wide attention for
are widespread and growing, that they are led by evil or at
its high level of racial integration and extensive social service
least power-hungry leaders, that they are highly skilled at ac-
programs. In 1974 the church established a communal “agri-
cumulating money, and that they pose a threat not only to
cultural mission” in Guyana, South America, and eventually
the individuals who join them but to the larger society as
many church members migrated there, in part to escape the
well. Moreover because “cults” tend to appeal to young
increasing conflicts, both internal and external, that plagued
adults who are sometimes still living with their parents and
the church in California. The murder-suicide took place in
siblings, such religious groups are destructive of traditional
the context of a visit by a U.S. congressman seeking to inves-
family life.
tigate conditions at the colony.
Perhaps the most contentious debate about the influ-
In April 1993 approximately eighty members of the
ence of NRMs involves the allegation that they engage in
Branch Davidian movement died in a federal raid and subse-
what is often called brainwashing or mind control. Oppo-
quent fire that swept their communal center outside Waco,
nents of new and unconventional religiosity contend that
Texas. The original Davidian movement emerged as a Sev-
“cult” leaders use mental, and sometimes physical, coercion
enth-day Adventist splinter group in 1929; it divided into
to induce members to do things they would not normally do.
factions after the death of the founder Victor Houteff
Sometimes, it is argued, members operate in trance-like
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6562
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
states or behave in previously unthinkable ways. Most schol-
be inescapable in all areas of life that a few persons will be-
ars who study NRMs hold the opinion that nothing that
have unethically, and no one has demonstrated that NRM
merits the label of brainwashing or mind control has been
leadership has a greater propensity for such behavior than
shown to have occurred by critics of NRMs. These scholars
leadership in any other phase of human endeavor.
argue that some people can be influenced to join and become
Similarly most religious movements do not end up
devoted to a particular movement, but the social phenomena
amassing great wealth. If anything the opposite is true; reli-
of religious conversion and commitment found in NRMs are
gions of all kinds typically struggle to make ends meet. The
not essentially different from those seen in mainstream
financial circumstances of American religions are difficult to
religions.
investigate, however, because the U.S. government does not
A related charge is that of totalism, the allegation that
require religious organizations to provide financial disclo-
movements demand not merely casual participation, such as
sure; even when such information is voluntarily provided, it
Sunday churchgoing, but absolute and total involvement on
is not usually audited and thus may not accurately reflect the
the part of an adherent. However, although some NRMs do
true financial situation of the organization and its leaders. A
ask for high levels of commitment and involvement, no one
few NRMs, in particular the Church of Scientology, do ap-
has shown that such commitment is involuntary or otherwise
pear to have substantial resources. However, it is likely that
contrary to the standards of a society that generally allows
NRMs in general do not possess greater per capita wealth
its members to make their own decisions concerning their
than do other religious organizations.
lives.
Critics of NRMs often say that they are destructive of
During the 1970s and 1980s, when promoters of the
families. New members are presumed to be typically young
brainwashing and mind control hypothesis enjoyed their
adults just setting out in life and moving away from their
highest visibility, some opponents of NRMs (often the par-
parents. NRMs, as the conventional picture has it, provide
ents of young adults who had joined various movements)
members with highly controlled environments and isolate
concluded that coercion had to be met with coercion, and
them from social influences that might undermine their
they began to engage in what became known as deprogram-
newfound commitments. NRM leaders thus regard contact
ming. In the typical scenario an NRM member was abducted
with parents and siblings as especially dangerous and there-
forcibly, taken to isolated surroundings, and subjected to in-
fore to be avoided.
tensive argumentation and psychological pressure (and occa-
This stereotype, like others, has some truth to it, but it
sionally physical abuse) in an effort to convince the adherent
can hardly be accurate in every case. Religious conversion
to leave the group in question. Professional deprogrammers
does sometimes entail a changing of one’s personal frame of
charged steep fees for their services, which were not always
reference, and more than a few religions think of themselves
successful. Eventually the practice fell out of fashion, espe-
as families—spiritual families that may displace members’
cially after some deprogrammers were convicted of kidnap-
birth families, partially or entirely. Cutting oneself off from
ping and illegal restraint. Thereafter a less-coercive strategy
old friends and family members is one long-accepted way to
known as exit counseling was developed by those who sought
promote one’s chosen new spiritual path. Jesus is reported
to convince adherents to leave NRMs.
in the Gospels to have demanded that his disciples renounce
Closely related to the controversy over brainwashing,
their parents and siblings (Lk. 14:26), and historically per-
mind control, and deprogramming is the issue of leadership
sons who have joined monastic orders have sharply reduced
in NRMs. Opponents of NRMs often charge that move-
their family contacts. Many Shakers broke relations with
ments are dominated by powerful, charismatic leaders who
their families, and some of their movement’s spiritual songs
typically manipulate members for their own ends. Although
denounce family ties, as does one called “Gospel Relation.”
most religions are indeed founded and led by strong person-
Of all the relation that ever I see
alities (religions are rarely created by committees), most
My old Fleshly kindred are furthest from me,
NRM founders have not proved to be deviant or pathologi-
So bad and so ugly, so hateful they feel
cal. It is inevitably true that some leaders of religious move-
To see them and hate them increases my zeal.
ments are greedy and amass substantial assets. Some have also
O how ugly they look! How ugly they look! How nasty
engaged in physical, psychological, or sexual abuse of their
they feel!
followers, and a few (probably very few) have been outright
charlatans, fleecing the unwary. However, those patterns
Nevertheless it is not the case that complete separation from
clearly do not typify NRM leaders any more than they typify
one’s family is a necessary adjunct of religious conversion.
religious or social leaders generally. There is no evidence, for
Most religious movements permit members to have as much
example, that NRM leaders have abused their followers in
contact with their families as they like. Various movements
proportionately larger numbers than some Catholic priests
have tried to shield members from their families when mem-
have abused young church members. As for greed, one could
bers are threatened with deprogramming or other overtly
argue that the abuses of a small number of NRM leaders pale
hostile activity, and some NRM members have chosen to
beside the excesses of some corporate executives. It seems to
minimize contact with their families, especially when they
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
6563
perceive family members as hostile to their new faith. How-
come priests (until the movement merged into Eastern Or-
ever, in most cases contact with one’s birth family is per-
thodoxy in 1988).
mitted.
ETHNICITY AND NRMS. The ethnic makeup of NRMs varies
WOMEN IN NEW RELIGIONS. New religious movements, like
widely from group to group. Some movements with roots
other religions, have tended to be defined and dominated by
in Asia have appealed heavily to Americans of Asian extrac-
males, but that pattern is not universal. Some movements,
tion and thus have ethnic Asian majorities. The International
especially those rooted in religious traditions that mandate
Society for Krishna Consciousness, for example, originally
specific gender roles, have restricted the participation of
made converts among non-Asian Americans but later found
women in various ways. The International Society for Krish-
more and more ethnic Indians participating, and in the early
na Consciousness, for example, which is rooted in traditional
twenty-first century the active members of many temples are
Indian Hindu culture, has always maintained a male-only
overwhelmingly Indian. Most NRMs, however, have constit-
top leadership and has carefully circumscribed male-female
uencies that are not ethnically related to the movement’s for-
interaction. Many Christian-based NRMs, like the majority
eign land of origin. Most American S:u¯f¯ıs, for example, are
of Christian churches historically, have barred women from
not from the Islamic lands that gave birth to Sufism.
playing leading roles, especially participation in the clergy.
It is a fair guess that African American membership in
Other movements offer gender equality in theory but not in
NRMs is low, but some movements, usually those with black
practice, a tendency that reflects the pattern of many main-
leadership, have developed strong African American follow-
stream contemporary religious and social institutions.
ings. One of the most prominent of the predominantly black
However, although NRMs have not as a whole been
NRMs was the Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine
bastions of egalitarianism, they have offered women oppor-
(1879–1965), which reached its peak in the 1930s. Father
tunities for leadership and participation that have rarely been
Divine was regarded as God in the flesh by his followers, and
available in more traditional religions. Many founders and
he addressed his members’ material as well as spiritual needs,
leaders of American new religions have been female. Ann Lee
providing food, housing, and jobs to a predominantly poor
led the early Shakers to the United States, and she presided
membership. Other African American religious movements,
over their formation as one of America’s longest-lived com-
such as the United House of Prayer for All People, led by
munal religious groups. Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910)
Charles “Sweet Daddy” Grace (1881–1960), followed simi-
founded and led Christian Science, one of the most influen-
lar patterns.
tial of America’s new religions. Emma Curtis Hopkins
Some African American religious leaders have rejected
(1849–1925) was the most influential of the founders of
Christianity as a slave religion and have sought freedom in
New Thought, a nineteenth-century movement that es-
other traditions, notably Judaism and Islam. The first black
poused human health and happiness, and Myrtle Fillmore
Jews appeared in the 1890s with the founding of the improb-
(1845–1931) was the visionary leader of Unity, the largest
ably named Church of God and Saints of Christ by William
of the many New Thought organizations. Helena P. Blavat-
S. Crowdy (1847–1908). Other similar organizations ap-
sky created and led the Theosophical Society. Spiritualism
peared over the next several decades, drawing on growing
was the creation of the Fox sisters of upstate New York. The
currents of black nationalism in the northern cities of the
list is a long one; clearly NRMs have provided an opening
United States. In 1913 the religious focus of such groups
for the exercise of spiritual and organizational gifts that some
began to shift from Judaism to Islam with the founding of
extraordinary women have manifested—gifts that might
the Moorish Science Temple of America by Timothy Drew,
have been stifled in more traditional religions.
known as Noble Drew Ali (1886–1929). Then in 1930 a
Most women and men are not founders or leaders of re-
mysterious peddler commonly referred to as W. D. Fard
ligions; they are day-to-day adherents. Here the pattern in
began to preach a new racialistic version of Islam that grew
NRMs is mixed; in some cases women cook, clean, and raise
into the Nation of Islam. Fard disappeared in 1934, but
children, whereas men have a wider range of options avail-
under his successor, Elijah Muhammad (1897–1975), the
able to them, but in other NRMs women are freed from lim-
movement spread nationwide. Muhammad’s son and succes-
ited and subservient roles. In the Oneida Community, the
sor, Wallace Muhammad, later known as W. Deen Moham-
nineteenth-century Perfectionist commune in upstate New
med (1933–), steered the movement away from black su-
York, women worked alongside men in construction and
premacy toward conventional Islam. Traditionalists led by
other traditionally male work. Oneida women also modified
Louis Farrakhan (1933–) subsequently built a reconstituted
their clothing and hair for practical reasons, wearing pants
version of the former Nation of Islam. In the meantime sev-
(with short skirts over them) and cutting their hair short.
eral other African American Muslim groups appeared in the
Both women and men were allowed, indeed encouraged, to
United States.
have multiple sexual partners in the Oneida Community’s
MILLENNIALISM AND VIOLENCE IN NRMS. Many new reli-
system of “complex marriage.” In the Holy Order of MANS,
gions are characterized by an urgency that is driven by
an esoteric Christian group founded in 1968 that empha-
millennial expectations—a sense that the world is headed to-
sized monasticism and human services, women could be-
ward apocalyptic upheaval, or at least a major transforma-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6564
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
tion, in the near future. In addition many NRMs are associ-
tanic groups have been portrayed as purveyors of violence
ated in the public mind with violence, or the potential for
(they have been accused, for example, of the ritual killing of
violence, although historically NRM members have more
infants), but actual Satanists are few in number, and evidence
frequently been victims than perpetrators of violence.
of murders for ritual purposes has been virtually impossible
to locate. Some members of NRMs do own weapons, but no
Some NRMs have optimistic expectations for the mil-
research has shown that NRM members are more likely to
lennial future; others are profoundly pessimistic. The expect-
own or use them than are other Americans.
ed changes may be violent or peaceful; the world may be de-
stroyed or it may be transformed into something far better
Some Christian-based (and occasionally other) move-
than humans have ever seen. Supernatural intervention may
ments have espoused strict discipline and corporal punish-
cause the dramatic events to happen, or good faith and works
ment of children, and physical abuse of children has taken
by devoted humans may suffice. NRMs embrace the wide
place in a number of instances. In addition some would re-
range of millennialism found in the religions of the world.
gard the withholding of medical treatment, which is prac-
The two principal categories of millennialism may be la-
ticed by certain NRMs, as child abuse. Most cases of NRM–
beled progressive and catastrophic. The catastrophic variety,
related violence, however, are perpetrated by individuals who
which is associated with conservative Protestantism as well
may invoke religious precepts (such as holy war or divine ret-
as with some NRMs, is the more vivid of the two; it sees the
ribution) to justify their aberrant acts. Moreover American
world becoming increasingly degraded, increasingly distant
NRMs operate in a broader culture that encourages owner-
from the divine will and purpose, and headed inevitably to-
ship of deadly weapons and generally tolerates a high level
ward such events as an ultimate war between the forces of
of violence. Specific incidents of NRM–related violence tend
good and the forces of evil, rule of the world by unspeakably
to arise from the convergence of specific expectations and
evil agents, and a final judgment in which the vast legions
characteristics of a given group and some kind of external sit-
of the unfaithful will be cast into eternal torment. Many
uational trigger, perhaps the response the group has evoked
Christian-based NRMs espouse this kind of scenario. Pro-
from its neighbors and antagonists or from public authori-
gressive millennialism, on the other hand, sees the coming
ties. There is nothing inherent to NRMs that makes them
transformations in a positive light. Through the efforts of
more violent than other social institutions, nor is there any
dedicated souls the world will become a better and better
reason to suspect that NRMs attract unusually violent per-
place; long-standing evils such as poverty, war, and injustice
sons as members.
will gradually disappear, and a perfect human society will be
MATURATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF NRMS. As recently as
established at last. Some Theosophical and New Thought
the 1960s scholars generally assumed that religions of the
groups, as well as many mainline Christian denominations,
“cult” type were heavily centered on strong founder-leaders
see millennialism in such a fashion.
and that such a group would not long survive the leader’s de-
parture. Additional decades of observation of NRMs, howev-
Although violence is linked to NRMs in the public
er, demonstrate clearly that most do not vanish soon after
mind, NRMs have only rarely been notable perpetrators of
the deaths of their founders. Although charismatic leadership
violence. Perhaps the most vivid image of NRM–related vio-
is frequently key to the early development and spread of an
lence is the deadly conflagration that ended the siege of the
NRM, over time many groups develop more enduring and
Branch Davidians at Waco. That siege, however, was initiat-
institutionalized types of management that enable them to
ed by an agency of the federal government, and the FBI’s
survive the deaths of their founders. Such movements as
subsequent tank and CS gas assault culminated in a fire, al-
Spiritualism, Theosophy, New Thought, and Mormonism
though the actual cause of the fire that killed the group’s
are prospering in their second centuries of existence, long
members remains disputed.
after the passing of their founders.
Some NRMs have used violent rhetoric, but their words
When a charismatic founder lives a long and full life,
have rarely led to deeds. The Nation of Islam as it developed
he or she typically begins to look toward the future and to
under Elijah Muhammad envisioned a millennial race war
set up structures that will carry the movement forward under
in which the dominant white race would finally be over-
second-generation leadership. Normally the transition in-
thrown. In practice, however, Muhammad’s followers were
volves a movement toward increased bureaucratization; lead-
remarkably restrained. A number of groups associated with
ership becomes less concentrated in one person, and the or-
the Christian Identity movement have been involved in mili-
ganization comes to be administered through regulations and
taristic activities that have sometimes threatened violence
committees. For example, the leadership of Christian Science
against African Americans as well as Jews and other non-
became vested in committees operating under rules that
Christians, but as with the Black Muslims, Christian Identity
Mary Baker Eddy laid down before her death.
rhetoric has been much stronger than the actions of mem-
bers. The few acts of racial violence that have occurred, in-
In other cases, especially when the founding leader dies
cluding some attacks on Jews and on mixed-race couples,
or is deposed unexpectedly, a new authoritative figure may
have been perpetrated by loners not acting as sanctioned rep-
step forward to lead a movement that otherwise would suffer
resentatives of any organized Christian Identity group. Sa-
from lack of firm guidance. That happened with the Mor-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
6565
mons after the founder Joseph Smith Jr. was murdered when
gist Max Weber (1864–1920) remains influential, especially
he was only thirty-eight years old. Several potential new lead-
for his observations about the pivotal role of charismatic
ers claimed Smith’s mantle, and some of them started their
leadership in the development of new religions. The theolo-
own Mormon-based movements, but the largest group of
gian Ernst Troeltsch (1865–1923), also a German, wrote at
Mormons fell into line behind Brigham Young, who provid-
length about the differences between church-type and sect-
ed another three decades of charismatic leadership in his own
type religions, showing that sectarianism was a social phe-
style. Young also oversaw the development of bureaucratic
nomenon that deserved study in and of itself and not merely
structures that have enabled the church to function effective-
in terms of its deviation from received truth. H. Richard Nie-
ly ever since.
buhr (1894–1962) provided a distinctly American focus for
the scholarly conversation in his examination of sectarian so-
It is probably impossible for strongly charismatic leader-
cial dynamics.
ship to continue indefinitely, generation after generation.
Charismatic leadership involves a unique interaction be-
Several propositions that emerged from early-twentieth-
tween a given leader and his or her followers that has the
century scholarship have proved less than reliable. Troeltsch
“chemistry” to sustain deep commitment. No matter how
and Niebuhr were convinced that sectarianism was a phe-
great the ability or attractiveness of a next-generation leader,
nomenon that emerged from the lower social classes. Anoth-
he or she will differ from the predecessor leader, and the for-
er generally accepted analysis maintained that a group
mer chemistry will not be present. Although commitment
founded by a charismatic leader could not long survive the
to a common cause may enable the new leader and group
death of that leader. What is now clear is that generalizations
members to push ahead for a time, the development of a
about NRMs can be hazardous. It is now known that people
more-bureaucratic and less-spontaneous leadership style
from all levels of society can be attracted to NRMs and that
seems inevitable. A later-generation charismatic leader may
many movements have had their greatest success long after
develop his or her own chemistry with a group of believers;
the lifetime of the founder, without, as Niebuhr posited,
in that case a splinter group typically develops, whereas the
evolving into completely conventional denominations.
main movement continues under bureaucratic leadership.
Other scholars studied new religions later in the twenti-
The move from charismatic leadership to collective ad-
eth century. J. Milton Yinger wrote important sociological
ministration engenders the development of a leadership co-
analyses of NRMs in the 1950s. During the 1940s and 1950s
hort whose expertise is certified by appropriate training rath-
such observers as Marcus Bach, Elmer T. Clark, and Charles
er than force of personality. In the United States expertise
S. Braden surveyed the nonmainstream religious scene and
is typically certified by the completion of academic courses
discovered many previously little-noticed religious move-
of study. Thus the development of an intelligentsia is a typi-
ments, describing them in terms that did not dismiss them
cal step in the maturation of a religious movement. That pat-
as heretical or diabolical.
tern tends to take shape even in movements that originally
The greatly increased visibility of NRMs in American
disavow formal leadership training in favor of charismatically
culture after 1965 spawned a new generation of scholarly
based qualifications. The Unification Church offers an excel-
NRM researchers. One drawing card for many of them was
lent example of the process: less than two decades after its
the opportunity to study a religion in its formative stages, as
arrival in the United States, the movement opened a theolog-
it develops its beliefs and practices, rather than as a fully
ical seminary that began to train church leaders and minis-
evolved social institution. In the 1970s and 1980s several
ters, and it sent its best intellectuals to some of the nation’s
major academic organizations, including the Society for the
leading graduate schools for advanced study. Ranking Unifi-
Scientific Study of Religion and the American Academy of
cationists now have doctorates from such institutions as Har-
Religion, began to provide venues for research in the field,
vard, Yale, and Vanderbilt.
and publishers disseminated new findings.
Furthermore the spreading of an NRM’s message is
By and large the new research on NRMs looked at the
often conducted through mass media, and expertise in writ-
movements descriptively, tracking their social evolution,
ing and speaking, video production, and Web site develop-
their beliefs, and the processes through which new converts
ment has become a critical tool for the propagation of a
joined. Most researchers found that NRMs were not more
group’s message. Here again the growth of a class of special-
virtuous or more pathological than other American religions.
ized professionals is essential to a religious movement’s
Many also argued that hostility toward NRMs manifested a
growth and prosperity.
fear of the different and a belief that the different is danger-
THE ACADEMIC STUDY OF NEW RELIGIONS. Scholarly study
ous, a pair of pervasive themes in American society. The
of NRMs has expanded and changed with the increased visi-
scholars’ conclusion of benignity, however, ran sharply
bility of movements after 1965. Before 1900 scholars paid
counter to the public’s perception that “evil cults” were pro-
little attention to dissenting religious movements except in
liferating in the land, brainwashing impressionable young
judgmental terms: they were considered heresies, departures
people and turning them into subservient lackeys, amassing
from the true faith. After 1900 a few pioneers began to take
huge assets (sometimes through deceptive means), and
a less-jaundiced view of new religions. The German sociolo-
threatening American peace and tranquility. That public per-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6566
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
ception was fueled by a number of organizations founded
Melton, J. Gordon. The Encyclopedia of American Religions. De-
specifically to combat what they saw as the menace of “cults”
troit, Mich., 2003.
(the Cult Awareness Network became the best-known of
Miller, Timothy, ed. When Prophets Die: The Postcharismatic Fate
them), supported by a minority of scholars. For several years
of New Religious Movements. Albany, N.Y., 1991.
the fulcrum of the dispute was the hotly debated phenome-
Miller, Timothy, ed. America’s Alternative Religions. Albany, N.Y.,
non of deprogramming, regarded by its advocates as a radical
1995.
strategy necessitated by the enormity of the misconduct of
Niebuhr, H. Richard. The Social Sources of Denominationalism.
the “cults” but seen by its opponents as nothing more than
New York, 1929.
kidnapping, assault, and battery. Deprogramming eventually
Palmer, Susan Jean. Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lov-
faded as a popular anticult strategy, but the deep division be-
ers: Women’s Roles in New Religions. Syracuse, N.Y., 1994.
tween scholarly consensus and prevailing public perception
Troeltsch, Ernst. The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches
endures.
(1911). Translated by Olive Wyon. New York, 1931.
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
A majority of scholars eventually coalesced around what
(1904–1905). Translated by Talcott Parsons. New York,
might be called a “freedom of religion” position, an agree-
1930.
ment that there was no basis for sweeping condemnation of
Wessinger, Catherine. How the Millennium Comes Violently: From
“cults” as a category but rather that a principle of innocent
Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate. New York, 2000.
until proven guilty should apply to NRMs. A minority of
Wessinger, Catherine, ed. Women’s Leadership in Marginal Reli-
scholars demurred, contending that something that could be
gions: Explorations outside the Mainstream. Urbana, Ill., 1993.
called brainwashing or mind control did in fact occur and
Yinger, J. Milton. Religion, Society, and the Individual: An Intro-
that many NRMs posed real threats to society. These schol-
duction to the Sociology of Religion. New York, 1957.
ars, aligned with the larger anticult and countercult move-
Zablocki, Benjamin, and Thomas Robbins, eds. Misunderstanding
ment, criticized the scholarly majority as naive about the
Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field. To-
groups they studied and as unwitting accomplices to aberrant
ronto, 2001.
“cult” activities. Relations between the two schools of
TIMOTHY MILLER (2005)
thought continue to be troubled.
Despite the controversies, stereotypes, and allegations of
misbehavior directed at NRMs, these new religious groups
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
do, like other religions, reflect the society from which they
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
arise. Their members are not unlike other people who search
The new religious movements (NRMs) with which this arti-
for meaning and value in ways that suit them best.
cle is mainly concerned are those that first appeared, or be-
came noticeable, in Europe during the second half of the
SEE ALSO Anticult Movements; Blavatsky, H. P.; Brain-
twentieth century. Many, indeed most, have their roots in
washing (Debate); Branch Davidians; Christian Identity
one or more religious tradition, but they are termed new be-
Movement; Christian Science; Cults and Sects; Daddy
cause they arose in a new form, with a new facet to their be-
Grace; Deprogramming; Disciples of Christ; Eddy, Mary
liefs, or with a new organization or leadership that renounced
Baker; Elijah Muhammad; Family, The; Father Divine; Fill-
more orthodox beliefs and/or ways of life. They are, more-
more, Charles and Myrtle; Heaven’s Gate; Holiness Move-
over, distinguishable from those religions that are new mere-
ment; Holy Order of MANS; Hopkins, Emma Curtis;
ly to Europe, having been brought by immigrants, in that
Hubbard, L. Ron; International Society for Krishna Con-
the NRMs have consisted, at least initially, of a predomi-
sciousness; Jehovah’s Witnesses; Jesus Movement; Jones,
nantly first-generation membership of converts. Some of the
Jim; Jonestown and Peoples Temple; Koresh, David; Law
movements have been denounced by other movements, or
and Religion; Lee, Ann; Mennonites; Mormonism; Nation
have themselves rejected the label “religious.” No attempt
of Islam; Neopaganism; New Thought Movement; Pietism;
Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta; Puritanism; Quakers; Sa-
will be made here to argue what a “real” religion should or
tanism; Scientology; Seventh-day Adventism; Shakers;
should not consist of, beyond stating that the movement/
Smith, Joseph; Spiritualism; Sufism; Theosophical Society;
group makes some attempt to address questions of ultimate
Twelve Tribes; Unification Church; Unity; White, Ellen
concern. The term NRM is, thus, employed as a general con-
Gould; Wicca; Witchcraft, article on Concepts of Witch-
cept that refers to a multitude of groups that others might
craft; World’s Parliament of Religions; Yogananda; Young,
call cults, sects, spiritual groups, or alternative belief systems.
Brigham.
Already it will be apparent that, faced with such a wide
classification, NRMs will differ greatly from each other, and
BIBLIOGRAPHY
indeed the first generalization that must be made about them
Bach, Marcus. Strange Sects and Curious Cults. New York, 1961.
is that one cannot generalize. One could in fact say that the
Braden, Charles S. These Also Believe: A Study of Modern American
only attribute which all the movements have in common is
Cults and Minority Religious Movements. New York, 1949.
that they have been referred to as new religions. That said,
Clark, Elmer T. The Small Sects in America. Nashville, Tenn.,
however, some trends and some characteristics are shared by
1937; rev. ed., New York, 1949.
some NRMs.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
6567
MILLENNIA-LONG BACKGROUND OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSI-
Western imperialism, and bourgeois capitalism. By the end
TY. From the brochs of the Shetland Isles in the north to Cape
of the 1960s, however, this section of middle-class youth
Sounion’s Temple of Poseidon in the south, and in literature
seemed to be giving up hope of changing the structure of so-
still taught in some schools, there is abundant evidence of
ciety through mobilizing political pressure and organizing
a rich European history of pagan beliefs and practices associ-
demonstrations. They turned instead to an outright rejection
ated with Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic, and other indige-
of structures and standards, replacing these with the celebra-
nous gods. Christianity entered Europe immediately after
tion of free love. Although the “flower children” were never
the death of Jesus, eventually spreading throughout the en-
as visible in Europe as they were in California, they certainly
tire continent—although it was not until the mid-twelfth
existed, being most obviously evident among segments of
century that it succeeded in supplanting Paganism in Swe-
English, Scandinavian, Dutch, and German culture; howev-
den. In Western Europe, the mushrooming of assorted varie-
er, the sunny Mediterranean coasts of Greece, France, and
ties of Protestants from the fifteenth century to the present
Spain were attracting seekers who intermingled with those
day followed the Reformation. Islam has also played an im-
who had discovered, often with the help of hallucinogenic
portant role in European history: Islamic Spain contained a
drugs, their paths to a new truth or spiritual enlightenment
mostly harmonious multicultural mixture of Muslims, Jews,
in California and/or along the hippie trails of India, Nepal,
and Christians for more than six centuries. Under the Otto-
and Afghanistan.
man Empire, diversity was controlled through the millet sys-
tem, in which relatively autonomous religious communities
Then, during the 1970s, this wave of alternative move-
were ruled by their own religious leaders.
ments was augmented by a conservative backlash and the es-
tablishment of more organized and authoritarian NRMs,
While there have always been new religions emerging
which imposed strict rules, order, and offered clear answers
throughout Europe, there have been periods when these be-
in place of the antinomian laxity of the hippies. At the same
came particularly visible and gave rise to persecution. Early
time, there was the spread of neo-Pentecostal revivalism and
Christian heretics such as the Aryans or Manichaeans were
charismatic renewal. The search for order and certainty was
dealt with on an ad hoc basis, but during the Middle Ages
also apparent in conservative reactions within many tradi-
more institutionalized methods evolved. For example, Cath-
tional churches in opposition to the liberalization of theology
ars were systematically burned at the stake by the Papal In-
and general worldview evidenced, in part, by Vatican II
quisition. Later sectarian communities (including Hutteri-
(1962–1965). By the early 1980s, there existed many hun-
ans, Mennonites, Doukhobors, and Separatists) emigrated to
dreds of groups competing for souls and, frequently, the total
the New World to escape the persecution they suffered in
commitment and financial resources of the young, and, in
different parts of Europe.
some cases the not so young, throughout most of Western
Europe.
While the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw
the emergence of various Christian-based groups such as the
There had been a handful of representatives of various
Salvation Army, there also surfaced several esoteric groups
NRMs in at least some parts of Eastern Europe during the
and/or groups of Eastern origin (including Theosophy, An-
1980s and even earlier. These had frequently operated un-
throposophy, Subud, and the Martinus Institute). These
derground (some slipping into Poland, Hungary, and
spread their gnoses to North America and, when American
Czechoslovakia from bases in Vienna). When discovered,
immigration law was liberalized in 1965, several gurus de-
members might be deported or imprisoned; some, including
parted from Europe to find new disciples on the other side
four members of the International Society for Krishna Con-
of the Atlantic.
sciousness (ISKCON), died in jail in the Soviet Union. But
with the arrival of glasnost and perestroika and the eventual
IMMEDIATE HISTORICAL SETTING. During the late 1940s
removal of state-imposed secularism, missionaries from
and early 1950s, there was a widespread concern to “pick up
NRMs and several older religions swarmed into Eastern Eu-
the pieces” in the aftermath of World War II, which had it-
rope. Apart from providing a context within which (and con-
self followed a period of economic depression and high un-
cepts with which) the religiously starved could explore reli-
employment throughout most of the West. By the late
gious ideas and practice spiritual rituals and techniques, the
1950s, Western Europe had, generally speaking, made a re-
movements brought all manner of secular hand-outs: Unifi-
markable recovery. Future prospects seemed hopeful. By the
cationists offered visits to the West and English language les-
middle 1960s, however, there had grown up a new genera-
sons; Scientologists offered communication and purification
tion with a new set of hopes and values. The immediate relief
courses; posters were pasted on walls and lampposts through-
of peace and the relative political and economic stability were
out the region, advertising classes leading to health and
forgotten as it became increasingly obvious that the rosy ex-
wealth and a wide variety of yogic, meditation, and other
pectations of continuing tranquility and prosperity were not
Eastern practices.
being entirely fulfilled. A vociferous group of students in uni-
versities throughout Europe, but especially in England, Ger-
THE RANGE OF MOVEMENTS. Most European countries
many, France, the Netherlands, and Italy, joined the protest-
have produced at least some of their own NRMs. Among
ers of North America in attacking the Vietnam War,
these, the Aetherius Society, Emin Foundation, Exegesis,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6568
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
Findhorn, the Jesus Army, the Process, the School of Eco-
though many NRMs may appear alien and/or exotic to Eu-
nomic Science, TOPY, and various esoteric orders associated
ropeans, it is possible to identify a not inconsiderable
with Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) and Gerald Gardener
contribution from Europe that could have “prepared the
(1884–1964) originated in Britain. The Raelians, Aumism,
way” or made the novelties more acceptable to Westerners.
and Roux’s L’Église Chrétienne Universelle were founded in
There is, moreover, a further twist to this growth of cultural
France; the Ananda Ashram in Denmark; Damanhur in
exchange and syncretism: it is sometimes the accretions of
Italy; Dragon Rouge and Livets Ord in Sweden; the Lou
American culture, such as a “happy-clappy” enthusiasm, that
Movement in the Netherlands; and Al-Murabitun in Spain.
the new movements bring across the Atlantic that are most
In Eastern Europe, Vissarion’s Church of the Last Testament
strongly objected to by their European critics.
in Russia, the New Jerusalem in Romania, and Mariya Devi
Mention should also be made of what has come to be
Khristos’ White Brotherhood in Ukraine emerged, or, as in
known by Troeltsch’s term, popularized by Colin Campbell
the case of Duenov’s Brotherhood of Light in Bulgaria, re-
(1972): “cultic milieu.” Many Europeans who would not
emerged. Several Neopagan groups and Wicca covens have
consider themselves to have any connection with an NRM
professed their allegiance to local European gods and god-
do, nonetheless, draw on concepts that owe their origin to
desses in, for instance, the Caucuses, the Baltic, Volga,
Eastern philosophies, often transported through NRMs and
Norse, and Celtic regions. Moreover, several movements
the media—concepts such as reincarnation, for example, are
considered to exhibit sectarian characteristics have arisen
accepted (often with the concept of resurrection) by roughly
within the Roman Catholic Church (Focolare, Communion
one-quarter of Europeans, and many Christians can be
and Liberation, Neocatechumenate, Poland’s Radio Maryja,
found attending yoga and meditation classes that are based
and, although it was founded in 1928, some would include
on religious precepts at variance with traditional interpreta-
Opus Dei).
tions of the New Testament.
The majority of NRMs are, however, not indigenous to
THE SPREAD OF THE MOVEMENTS. All European countries
Europe. Many can be traced to the United States (frequently
play host to some new religions, with a number of geographi-
to California), including offshoots of the Jesus Movement
cal centers such as Glastonbury, Lyons, Turin, St. Peters-
(such as the Children of God, later known as the Family);
burg, and Amsterdam attracting particular genres. Rodney
the Way International; International Churches of Christ; the
Stark (1985) has argued that much of Europe, having experi-
Church Universal and Triumphant (known as Summit
enced more secularization than the United States, is more re-
Lighthouse in England); and much of the human potential
ceptive to NRMs than had been generally assumed, and that
movement (such as est, which gave rise to the Landmark
the more northern, Protestant countries, in which traditional
Forum, and various practices developed through the Esalen
churches are weakest, are the most receptive to alien religions
Institute). Several of the movements came from Asia, mainly
(cults), whereas the more southern, Catholic countries, in
India (Rajneesh; ISKCON; Brahma Kumaris; Divine Light
which conventional religion is stronger, are more likely to be
Mission [later called Élan Vital]; Sathya Sai Baba, Transcen-
receptive to sectarian (revivalist) activity.
dental Meditation; Sahaja Yoga; Ananda Marga; and various
Calculating precise statistics for NRMs and their mem-
practices associated with Tantra, kun:d:alin¯ı, and other types
bership is difficult because definitions as to what is and is not
of yoga), but also from Japan (So¯ka Gakkai; Rissho¯ Kosei
an NRM vary; many movements do not advertise their exis-
Kai; Agon Shu; Mahikari; Tenrikyo¯); Korea (the Unification
tence and may not be recognized for some time; several
Church); and other parts of Asia (Caodaism from Vietnam;
movements are secretive about, or grossly exaggerate, their
Fo Guang from Taiwan; Falun Gong from China). There
membership numbers; and most NRMs, like traditional reli-
are also groups from the Caribbean (Rastafarianism) and Af-
gions, have different levels of membership ranging from an
rica (Cherubim and Seraphim; the Brotherhood of the Cross
inner core to associate members, and each group is liable to
and Star), most of these finding their home among the black
use a different criterion for what comprises membership.
populations residing in Europe. Another development has
Moreover, NRMs frequently gloss over their high turnover
been the growth of a number of Islamic groups (Hizb ut-
rates, counting only converts, not defectors.
Tahrir; the Nation of Islam; Al-Muhajiroun; Murabitun).
It is, however, likely that the number of NRMs in Eu-
Not infrequently, movements with roots in the East
rope is in excess of two thousand, but that most have a rela-
(such as ISKCON) have been introduced to Europe indirect-
tively small membership (occasionally less than a score, with
ly, via the United States. It is, however, noteworthy that sev-
only a handful having more than a thousand members in any
eral of the Eastern religions show the influence of Europeans
one country at any one time). Britain is certainly not repre-
who had traveled to Asia, carrying with them either the
sentative of Europe as a whole, but INFORM had collected
Christian message or, more recently, the language and per-
details about more than 800 different NRMs that were active
spectives of various forms of humanistic psychology and the
in the United Kingdom at some point between 1984 and
human potential movement—a movement that has itself
2004. This number might be doubled if, for example, they
been traced both to the East and to seventeenth- and eigh-
included all New Age and pagan groups as separate entities,
teenth-centuries pietism in the West. Thus it is that, al-
nineteenth-century religions (such as the Jehovah’s Witness-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
6569
es and Mormons), and Buddhist and Hindu groups consid-
in the Tokyo subway by members of Aum Shinrikyo¯ alerted
ered traditional in their countries of origin. Just under half
European governments to dangers not merely to those asso-
(373) of the 806 NRMs were recognizably of Christian ori-
ciated with NRMs, but also to the public at large—a fear that
gin, and by far the largest number of these (171) could most
was confirmed and magnified beyond any previously imag-
easily be classified as some form of Protestantism, with twen-
ined expectation when al-Qa¯Eidah hijackers flew airplanes
ty-seven being related to Catholicism, and twenty to African
into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Septem-
Independent Churches. There were, unambiguously, sixty-
ber 11, 2001, with the fear of “sectarian terrorism” in Europe
six Buddhist, thirty-eight Hindu, forty Muslim, and twelve
becoming firmly established in 2004 with the railway bomb-
Jewish NRMs, and a motley assortment of syncretistic,
ings in Madrid.
Shinto¯, yoga, esoteric, Gnostic, New Age, pagan, shaman,
human potential, Satanic, Spiritualist, UFO, and other
By the end of the 1970s, a loose network of groups,
groups. Altogether INFORM has a record of more than
whose avowed goal was to expose and curtail the activities
three thousand different organizations, including several that
of NRMs, had been established throughout most of the con-
are active elsewhere in Europe. And there are undoubtedly
tinent. Anticult groups were particularly prominent in
many other groups about which INFORM (and most other
France, Germany, and Britain, but there were also individu-
people) are ignorant.
als or small groups actively opposing NRMs in Denmark, the
Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and elsewhere. Some of these,
REACTIONS TO NRMS. As elsewhere throughout the world,
founded in the mid-1970s, such as FAIR (Family Action In-
NRMs in Europe have been greeted with suspicion and hos-
formation and Rescue—the R being changed to Resource in
tility. Almost without exception, media coverage has been of
1994) in Britain and ADFI (Association de Défense de la
a sensational and negative nature. Headlines have told of
Famille et de l’Individu) in France, organized a number of
mass suicides and murders; bizarre sexual practices; blasphe-
forcible deprogrammings, but by the end of the century these
mous beliefs; brainwashing techniques; kidnapping; decep-
illegal abductions were almost completely stopped in Eu-
tion; broken-hearted parents; political intrigue; exploitation
rope, non-forcible exit counseling having become the pre-
of members; and the vast wealth amassed by leaders.
ferred option. Nonetheless, the number of cult-watching
The intensity and focus of responses to NRMs have var-
groups expanded and these were joined by some in Eastern
ied both between and within the different countries of Eu-
Europe in the 1990s, one of the most active and influential,
rope at different times, each of which started from a different
St. Irinaeus of Lyon Information-Consultation Center, oper-
position—while religious freedom was virtually unchal-
ating under the patronage of the Moscow Patriarchy. In
lenged in Britain, Scandinavia, and the Netherlands, it was
1994, a network of European anticult groups, FECRIS (Féd-
not until 1970 that non-Catholic religions could operate le-
ération Européene des Centres de Recherche et d’Informa-
gally in Spain, and there was state-imposed secularism in
tion sur le Sectarisme), was formed. This network includes
Eastern Europe until the collapse of communism. In the
among its members AGPF (Aktion für Geistige und Psychis-
1970s, the movement that received the most attention was
che Freiheit) in Germany; FRI (Förening Rädda Individen)
the Unification Church, its members being popularly re-
in Sweden; the Polish Family Association; GSK (Gesellschaft
ferred to as “Moonies.” The French displayed concern par-
Gegen Sekten und Kult Gefahren) in Austria; AIS (Asesora-
ticularly about the movement’s political and financial con-
miento e Información sobre Sectas) in Spain; SADK (Schwe-
cerns; the Norwegians about its theological status; the
izerische Arbeitgemeinschaft Destruktive Kulte) in Switzer-
English worried about brainwashing and the break-up of
land; and the Ukrainian National Center of Religious Safety
families; the Germans about social security payments and the
and Help to Victims of Destructive Cults.
possible emergence of a new Hitler Youth movement; while
There also emerged a number of centers run on more
the Finns appeared remarkably unaware of the Unification-
academic lines that were largely the result of scholars reacting
ists in their midst. Another group to be singled out at a rela-
to the selective and sometimes inaccurate information being
tively early stage was Scientology, which has continued to be
disseminated in the media and elsewhere by both the NRMs
met with considerable opposition, especially in Germany and
and their opponents. Among these were CESNUR in Italy,
Belgium. Other NRMs that have frequently hit the headlines
which has a useful Web site (http://www.cesnur.com);
include ISKCON, the Children of God (later known as the
FINYAIR in Sweden; VIK (Center for Information on Reli-
Family), the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and the
gion) in Hungary; RENNER (Research Network on New
International Churches of Christ.
Religions) in Denmark, REMID (Religionswissenschaftli-
Whatever the movement in the news, after 1978 almost
cher Medien- und Informationsdienst) in Germany; NRTIC
all media reports referred to the horrific events in Jonestown;
(New Religions Research and Information Center) in Lithu-
but it was not until after the 1994/5 murders and suicides
ania; and INFORM (Information Network Focus on Reli-
of members of the Solar Temple in French-speaking Canada
gious Movements), an information network based at the
and Switzerland and, later, in France itself that “cult-
London School of Economics and supported by the British
associated atrocities” became widely recognized in the Euro-
government and mainstream churches. In Eastern Europe,
pean political scene. Then, in 1995, the release of sarin gas
there had been very little opportunity to study new religions
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6570
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
before 1990, but some scholars who had been interested in
or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms
the subject have been meeting (with one or two Westerners)
of others,” has formed a more persuasive basis for advocating
since 1991, and by 1995 they had founded ISORECEA (In-
control in one form or another in some European countries.
ternational Association for the Study of Religion in Eastern
and Central Europe), which holds regular conferences and
In 1995, a second government-sponsored report was
has published, mainly through the Polish publishing house
published in France. This contained a list of 173 sectes (in-
Nomos, a number of volumes containing papers about
cluding Anthroposophy, which later (2000) successfully sued
NRMs in post-communist Europe.
the Rapporteur for defamation). This report resulted in 1998
in the establishment of MILS (Interministerial Mission to
Official government interest in NRMs in Europe has,
Fight the Sects), which was replaced in 2002 by MIVI-
unsurprisingly, varied from country to country. There was
LUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Fight
not much concern until after the Jonestown incident, and
against Sectarian Deviances). In 1997, a report commis-
even then it was minimal. A number of reports were commis-
sioned by the Belgian government included a list of 189
sioned: both the Germans (1980 and 1998) and the Dutch
movements (including the Quakers and the YWCA, though
(1984) concluded that there was little to worry about that
not the YMCA). This resulted in a law establishing CIAOSN
could not be dealt with by the law as it stood; a French report
(Information and Advice Centre Concerning Harmful Sec-
(1985) expressed more anxiety and included the recommen-
tarian Organizations), which has offered its services, includ-
dation that judges be allowed to give parents the power to
ing access to a now-substantial library, to the public since
extract their adult children from religious organizations, but
2000. Although neither the French nor the Belgian govern-
little action was taken at the time. In England, the Unifica-
ments officially incorporated their lists into law, several
tion Church lost a six-month libel action against the Daily
NRMs have been discriminated against merely because they
Mail (1981) and pressure was put on the Charity Commis-
were on one of the lists. When the Swedish government pub-
sioners to remove the charitable status of two Unification-
lished a report in 1998, its list included all known religions
related organizations, but by 1988 the case had been dropped
in Sweden, including both Satanism and the (then-
due to insufficient evidence.
established) Lutheran Church of Sweden.
In May 1984, the European Parliament adopted a reso-
Other West European governments, including Austria
lution calling for “a common approach by the Member
States of the European Community towards various in-
(1998) and the Swiss Canton of Geneva (1997 and 1999),
fringements of the law by new organizations operating under
have produced reports and/or passed laws that result directly
the protection afforded to religious bodies” (PE 90.562:49).
or indirectly in NRMs either being denied privileges (such
The resolution expressed concern about some of the practices
as registration) that are available to older traditions, or treat-
of the new religions, and listed a number of “criteria [that
ed in some way that distinguishes them from more socially
should] be applied in investigating, reviewing and assessing
acceptable religions.
the activity of the . . . organizations” (PE 90.562:51). The
Appealing to the European Court of Human Rights
supporters of the resolution were in favor of instituting a vol-
(ECHR) is a final option available to NRMs that believe
untary code of practices to be followed by the movements;
their rights have been violated. There are numerous cases in
several of the movements responded that not only did they
which Jehovah’s Witnesses have, on the basis of Article 9,
follow most of the code’s rules anyway, but that any such
won decisions in their favor from the court on issues such
code ought to apply to all religions, not just to the “new”
as child custody, conscientious objection to military service,
ones (which were, furthermore, notoriously difficult to de-
the right to proselytize, the right to gather for worship, and
fine). Further reports for the Council of Europe (1999) and
the right to refuse to participate in ceremonies or activities
two commissioned by the European Parliament (1992 and
(such as bearing arms) that would violate their conscience.
1998) again warned of the need to be alert to the dangers
One of the best-known cases is that of Minos Kokkinakis,
NRMs might pose, but no action was taken.
who had been arrested for proselytism on more than 60 occa-
One of the reasons for government reluctance to intro-
sions. In 1993, the ECHR ruled in his favor and Greece was
duce special legislation to control NRMs has been a concern
ordered to pay both damages and costs. Greece remains,
to observe Article 9 of the European Convention on Human
however, the only European Union country that bans prose-
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950): “Everyone has
lytism under its constitution, and the police can prosecute
the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this
religious communities that operate or build places of worship
right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and
without the permission of both the government and the
freedom, either alone or in community with others and in
Greek Orthodox Church. Another case concerned an Austri-
public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in wor-
an court’s decision that a mother was “unfit” as a parent be-
ship, teaching, practice and observance.” After the Solar
cause she was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The ECHR deter-
Temple and Aum Shinrikyo¯ episodes, the Article’s second
mined that “a distinction based essentially on a difference in
clause, which stated “subject only to such limitations as . . .
religion alone is not acceptable,” and custody was returned
are necessary . . . for the protection of public order, health
to the mother.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE
6571
Despite the euphoria of celebrating religious freedom
By the start of the third millennium, few, if any, NRMs
after the collapse of communism, by the end of the century
had succeeded in becoming a major player in the European
the majority of Eastern European countries were introducing
religious scene. It is, indeed, arguable that reactions to
laws that curbed the activities of NRMs. These laws have fre-
NRMs are more significant than the movements themselves.
quently been related to registration, which often entails hav-
Taken as a group, new religions have certainly contributed
ing a minimum number of members and a minimum num-
to the growing multiculturalism that is most evidenced in the
ber of years of residency in the country. In 1997, Russia
effects of mass media, migration, and globalization. They are
passed its Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious As-
also playing a significant role in testing limits of tolerance
sociations, in which one of the requirements for registration
and control of minority religions through the legal activities
is documental proof that the organization “has existed over
of several countries and the ECHR. What remains to be seen
the course of no less than fifteen years on the relevant territo-
is the role they may yet have to play in a constantly changing
ry” (Article 11.5). Those religions that do not succeed in get-
Europe, with its expanding economic and political interac-
ting registered may be “liquidated.” In March 2004, the
tions through the pan-European structures that are seen by
Moscow Golovinsky District Court issued an order that the
many to undermine individual identity and the cultural and
local Jehovah’s Witness society be closed down, and numer-
religious heritage of the 47 or so countries of Europe.
ous landlords throughout the country immediately canceled
rental agreements with local congregations.
SEE ALSO Anthroposophy; Anticult Movement; Aum
Shinrikyo¯; Church Universal and Triumphant; Crowley, Al-
THE AGING OF NRMS. While stressing the importance of
eister; Cults and Sects; Falun Gong; Family, The; Interna-
not generalizing about NRMs, there might, nonetheless, be
tional Society for Krishna Consciousness; Jehovah’s Wit-
certain characteristics that some of them tend to share at all
nesses; Jonestown and Peoples Temple; Mormonism;
times and all places merely because they are new and reli-
Nation of Islam; Neopaganism; New Age Movement; Raëli-
gious. One universal fact is that NRMs do not remain new
ans; Rajneesh; Rastafarianism; Satanism; Scientology; So¯ka
forever. With the passage of time, many disappear; a few,
Gakkai; Temple Solaire; Tenrikyo¯; Theosophical Society;
such as the Worldwide Church of God, start to grow then
Transcendental Meditation; Unification Church; Wicca.
shatter into literally hundreds of schisms. Those that survive
exhibit a tendency towards “denominationalization.” Enthu-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
siastic young converts mature and have to devote time and
There are no books dealing systematically with the new religious
money to children who need to be socialized and are quite
movements in Europe as a whole. Much of the American lit-
likely to question the movement’s beliefs and practices.
erature is, however, applicable to the European scene so far
Founders die, and their charismatic authority becomes rou-
as individual movements are concerned, and there are nu-
tinized, making the movement more predictable. Dichoto-
merous collections that include articles on European move-
mous worldviews with sharp distinctions (godly/satanic,
ments, concentrating on particular movements and/or Euro-
true/false, right/wrong, them/us) become modified and,
pean societies. New Religious Movements in the Twenty-First
Century Legal, Political, and Social Challenges in Global Per-

rather than insisting on how different they are from the rest
spective, edited by Phillip Charles Lucas and Thomas Rob-
of society, members begin to stress how normal they are. The
bins. New York and London, 2004. Includes chapters on
host society may become less fearful of the movements, even
NRMs in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the
accepting them as part of the religious scene. In Britain, for
Baltic States, Russia, and the Caucasus. Eileen Barker and
example, dropouts and former drug addicts from the hippie
Margit Warburg, eds. New Religions and New Religiosity. Aar-
scene who decided to become Krishna devotees can be heard
hus and Oxford, 1998. Contains further chapters on particu-
representing the Hindu community on the BBC. In most of
lar movements and comparisons between the situation in Eu-
Eastern Europe, however, ISKCON continues to be treated
rope and elsewhere. Robert Towler, ed. New Religions and the
as a dangerous cult. Some NRMs, whose techniques, such
New Europe. Aarhus, 1995. With chapters on movements in
as yoga and meditation, appeal to a wide range of Europeans
Lithuania, Romania, Belgium. Helle Meldgaard and Johan-
and have gained sufficient respectability to organize classes
nes Aagaard, eds. New Religious Movements in Europe. Aar-
hus, 1997. With contributions on Greece, Italy, Switzerland,
under the auspices of local authorities, or to provide courses
Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Den-
for large corporations and even government departments.
mark, and Scandinavia, as well as some more general com-
LONG-TERM SIGNIFICANCE. It is difficult to assess the long-
parisons. The following countries are featured: Poland, Be-
term significance of NRMs in Europe. New new religions
larus, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, East
continue to emerge, but it must be stressed that only a tiny
Germany. Ukraine and Russia are among the countries that
proportion of those that abandon their commitment to tra-
feature in New Religious Phenomena in Central and Eastern
Europe,
edited by Irena Borowik and Grzegorz Babinski.
ditional religions avail themselves of the new options. Far
Krakow, 1997. Among the many books on European Pagan-
more common in Europe is a “soft secularism,” which turns
ism, a good starting point is Graham Harvey and Charlotte
to religious institutions only at times of crisis or for formal
Hardman’s edited volume Paganism Today: Wiccans, Druids,
rites of passage. Others may claim that they enjoy some kind
the Goddess and Ancient Earth Traditions for the Twenty-First
of spirituality in their lives but that this has little or nothing
Century. London, 1995. For an overview of the New Age, see
to do with any formal religiosity.
Paul Heelas’ The New Age Movement: The Celebration of the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6572
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN JAPAN
Self and the Sacralization of Modernity. Oxford, 1996, and
Some Japanese new religions since the 1960s have become
Wouter Hanegraaff’s New Age Religion and Western Culture:
international religions with converts in other countries, while
Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought. Albany, 1998.
new religions originating in other countries have made con-
A report on the Satanism scare in Britain is to be found in
verts in Japan. Japans’s new religions are significant in the
Jean La Fontaine’s Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse
history of religions in Japan and are an important part of
in Contemporary England. Cambridge, 1998. Some of the
global pluralism.
darker aspects of occult Europe are explored in Nicholas
Goodrick-Clarke’s Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND. Japanese new religions general-
and the Politics of Identity. New York, 2002. Some excellent
ly fall into one of the following categories: (1) early new reli-
articles on how Europe has responded to the recently increas-
gions, basically Shinto¯ in style of worship but focusing on
ing religious diversity (and other aspects of NRMs) can be
one central deity and incorporating various Buddhist ideas,
read in Challenging Religion, edited by James A. Beckford
and originating before the Meiji restoration of 1868;
and James T. Richardson. London, 2003. Detailed analyses
of legal issues surrounding NRMs in Europe (and elsewhere)
(2) O
¯ moto, whose founders were influenced by the syncretis-
are included in Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around
tic, eschatological, and spiritualistic movement of that name
the Globe, edited by James T. Richardson, New York and
dating from the 1890s and its offspring; and (3) the Nichiren
Dordrecht, 2004, and in Facilitating Freedom of Religion and
group, a category representing revitalizations of Nichiren
Belief: Perspectives, Impulses and Recommendations from the
Buddhism. But there are all sorts of new religions whose reli-
Oslo Coalition, edited by Tore Lindholm, Bahia Tahzib-Lie,
gious sources are diverse, including Buddhism, Shinto¯, Con-
and W. Cole Durham. Dordrecht, 2004. Numerous refer-
fucianism, Christianity, and others.
ences and contact details can be found in Eileen Barker’s
New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction. London,
The roots of such movements in Japan lie in the rising
1989. Two books by Grace Davie, Religion in Modern Eu-
popular discontent that marked the Tokugawa shogunate
rope: A Memory Mutates (Oxford, 2000) and Europe: The Ex-
(1600–1868) as it drew to a close. During the entire period
ceptional Case: Parameters of Faith in the Modern World (Lon-
mass pilgrimages to the shrine of the sun goddess, Amatera-
don, 2002), while not focusing specifically on NRMs,
su, at Ise, countryside shamanism, and religious dance rituals
discuss the overall context within which the movements op-
were aspects of popular religion, as were the more decorous
erate. Reference was made in the foregoing article to Rodney
movements associated with moral philosophers, such as Ishi-
Stark’s ideas in “Europe’s Receptivity to Religious Move-
ments,” found in pp. 301–344 of Religious Movements: Gene-
da Baigan (1685–1744), founder of Shingaku (heart learn-
sis, Exodus and Numbers, which Stark himself edited. New
ing), and the “peasant sage” Ninomiya Sontoku (1787–
York, 1985. Colin Campbell was largely responsible for pop-
1856). The moralists reinforced the Confucian values of
ularizing the concept of the cultic milieu through his article
work and obligation that made society function, whereas the
“The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularization” in A Socio-
syncretic “enthusiasts” gave vent to diverse spiritual impulses
logical Yearbook of Religion in Britain 5 (1972): 119–136.
within a nominally regimented Confucian order. Both tasks
E
became more urgent as the Tokugawa regime went into de-
ILEEN BARKER (1987 AND 2005)
cline in the early nineteenth century. In those decades the
early new religions, synthesizing elements of both popular
exuberance and conventional morality, crystallized out of the
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
spiritual ferment.
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN JAPAN
The modern era has been a prolific period for new religious
Many of the new religions offered stability by making
movements in Japan. In Japan, scholars define a new religion
pivotal a single example of each type of religious expression
as having most or all of the following attributes:
in popular religion. Each featured one god out of the many
kami and buddhas; one divine teacher and one revelation out
1. Establishment within the last two centuries, usually
of the numerous shamans and visions of the era; one preemi-
characterized by features that suggest a religious re-
nent rite; one religious center and magnet for pilgrimage; one
sponse to the crises of modernity;
scripture; one institution. At the same time, they interpreted
2. A definite moment of establishment and usually a
rapid change by explaining it in familiar eschatological lan-
founder possessing special charisma;
guage: God is hastening the coming of a new divine age.
They helped ordinary people adjust to the ways of the new
3. An important new, distinctive revelation or realization,
civilization through their own adaptations of its schools,
expressed through some novel doctrine and usually at-
bureaucracies, and mass media. At the same time by expect-
tributed to supernatural sources;
ing a definite personal commitment of faith (unlike the tradi-
4. A separate institutional structure;
tional community Shinto¯ shrines and Buddhist temples),
they aided people in meeting the most profound challenge
5. Distinctive rites or practices.
imposed by modernization: taking responsibility for one’s
In Japan, “old” new religions, which appeared before the res-
own life in a changing and pluralistic world. The influence
toration of the Meiji emperor in 1868, are distinguished
of the idea of the holy empire gradually dominated the mil-
from “new” new religions, which originated after 1970.
lennialistic imagination during the first half of the twentieth
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN JAPAN
6573
century. Many groups suffered from the strict control of the
being and, compared to later movements, show little real evi-
government because of their deviance from the state system
dence of Western influence.
of emperor worship.
Kurozumikyo¯. The saintly Kurozumi Munetada
After 1945, with the coming of full religious freedom
(1780–1850) founded this movement after a revelation in
and the discrediting of prewar Shinto¯ and Buddhism in the
1814. Kurozumi believed himself possessed by the Shinto¯
eyes of many, the new religions grew mightily for several dec-
sun goddess Amaterasu, whom he identified as the infinite
ades. Most were direct or indirect continuations of prewar
deity. This small but influential movement emphasizes
movements. But they took advantage of the new liberal at-
healthy living, healing, the cultivation of joy, and worship
mosphere to purify their teaching and practice and drew on
of the indwelling divine spirit.
Japan’s burgeoning affluence to build great temples and even
Tenrikyo¯. Tenrikyo¯ (religion of heavenly wisdom) orig-
spiritual cities. In the 1970s and 1980s their rate of growth
inated in 1838, when a farmer’s wife, Nakayama Miki
tended to level off, but the new religions remain important
(1798–1887), was possessed during a shamanistic rite by a
aspects of Japanese society; their total membership was esti-
deity who identified himself to her as the true and original
mated somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of the Japanese
God. Subsequently, this deity, now known to followers as
population in the early twenty-first century.
God the Parent, imparted through Miki healing gifts and re-
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS. Common characteristics of the
vealed scripture. Tenrikyo¯ features an account of the Cre-
Japanese new religions include the following:
ation and the performance of a dance ritual that recalls it.
1. Founding by a charismatic figure whose career often re-
Konko¯kyo¯. In 1859 a peasant, Kawate Bunjiro¯ (1868–
calls the shamanistic model; that is, supernatural calling,
1912), felt himself called by the high god Tenchi Kane no
initiatory ordeal, wandering, and oracular deliverances
Kami to a ministry of mediation between the divine and hu-
from the spiritual world. As in Japanese shamanism gen-
mankind. This he did through the Konko¯kyo¯ (religion of
erally, the founder is often female.
golden light), a faith that teaches that God is benevolent and
that offers a practice called toritsugi, in which supplicants re-
2. Tendency toward monotheism or a single, monistic
ceive spiritual counsel from a priest.
source of spiritual power and value. Against the back-
THE O¯MOTO GROUP. The prolific O
¯ moto (great source) new
ground of the spiritual pluralism of popular Shinto¯ and
religions, stemming from the late-nineteenth-century
Buddhism, the new movements set one deity, one
O
¯ moto faith itself, are characterized by a monotheism com-
founder, and one revelation as definitive.
bined with a rich vision of a complex spiritual world from
3. Syncretism, drawing from several strands of religion and
which souls descend into matter, a picture somewhat remi-
culture. The new religions typically embrace Buddhist
niscent of Western Neoplatonism and Gnosticism. They also
doctrine (at least to the extent of inculcating doctrines
have a strong affirmation of immediate and continuing di-
of karma and reincarnation), extol a basically Confucian
vine revelation and an eschatological bent emphasizing an
morality (as well as what is really a neo-Confucian idea
imminent paradisical new age. The influence of Western
of God as supreme principle or unity), and incorporate
Spiritualism, Swedenborgianism, and New Thought is ap-
Shinto¯ styles of worship. At the same time, notions may
parent.
be borrowed from Western Spiritualism, New Thought
O
¯ moto. In 1892 Deguchi Nao (1837–1918), a peasant
(a nineteenth-century movement stressing the power of
woman and member of Konko¯kyo¯ who had experienced
thought to heal and bring success), or evolutionism.
many personal troubles, began to deliver divine oracles. Al-
There is also a strong desire to harmonize the religion
though the messages were initially from the Konko¯kyo¯ deity,
with “modern science.”
Nao left that faith in 1897 and soon thereafter met Ueda
4. The centrality of this world, human beings, and body;
Kisaburo¯ (1871–1948, later Deguchi Onisaburo¯), a mystic
a definite, this-worldly eschatology or millennialism.
and spiritualist whom she believed to be the great teacher her
The new religions usually teach that rapid change is
revelations had predicted would be sent from God. Under
afoot and a divine new age imminent, and they place
him O
¯ moto became a well-organized and rapidly expanding
an emphasis on healing. Indeed most of the new reli-
religion that emphasized the oneness of God, the existence
gions began as spiritual healing movements, only gradu-
of a formative spiritual world behind the material, the tem-
ally developing a full spectrum of doctrine and practice.
porary descent of souls from the spirit realm into the world
Personal experiences by ordinary people are regarded as
of matter, the expression of the divine through art, and the
important, and accounts of religious experiences play
coming of a new age heralded by a great teacher. Onisaburo¯
central roles in their practices.
also devised rites of healing, as had Nao in the early years of
T
the movement. The increasingly totalitarian government
HE EARLY NEW RELIGIONS. The “old” new religions,
which appeared before the Meiji restoration, served as proto-
forced it to disband in 1935. Although it was reorganized in
types and often training grounds for later new religions.
1946, it has never regained its former strength.
They are characterized by a rural background, making an
Seicho¯ no Ie. The founder of Seicho¯ no Ie (literally,
originally Shinto¯ or folk deity into a monotheistic supreme
house of growth), Taniguchi Masaharu (1893–1985), was an
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6574
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN JAPAN
avid reader of Western and Eastern philosophy as a young
unteer teachers. In addition to the usual Nichiren emphases,
man and participated in O
¯ moto for four years. In 1928, by
Reiyu¯kai stresses the importance of ancestor worship, fea-
chance, he discovered a book by the American New Thought
tures quasi-shamanistic faith-healing practices, and has de-
teacher Fenwicke Holmes. This book helped him crystallize
veloped an influential kind of group counseling called hoza
a system of thought that was officially launched as Seicho¯ no
(dharma circle). Reiyu¯kai suffered many difficulties after
Ie in 1930, when Taniguchi began publishing a magazine of
World War II, but by the 1970s the movement was again
that name. Seicho¯ no Ie affirms the perfection and spiritual
an established part of Japanese spiritual life, inculcating con-
nature of all things and denies the reality of matter, suffering,
servative social values.
or evil—one may escape from them through the affirmative
Rissho¯ Ko¯seikai. Many new Nichiren movements
power of mind. It teaches a distinctive form of meditation
arose out of the decentralized, charismatic matrix of
called shinsokan and certain chants.
Reiyu¯kai. By far the most successful was Rissho¯ Ko¯seikai (so-
World Messianity. The founder of World Messianity,
ciety establishing righteousness and harmony), founded in
Okada Mokichi (1882–1955), was an active worker in the
1938 by Niwano Nikkyo¯ (b. 1906) and a housewife, Na-
O
¯ moto faith until 1934, when he felt called to form his own
ganuma Myo¯ko¯ (1889–1957), both former members of
organization. The present name was adopted in 1950. Em-
Reiyu¯kai. Rissho¯ Ko¯seikai includes healing and divination
phasizing the coming of a paradise on earth through an accel-
practices and hoza group counseling; it presents an eclectic
erating inpouring of divine light, World Messianity seeks to
form of Nichiren Buddhism. After World War II, Niwano
prepare the way through a practice called jorei, channeling
attained international recognition for his activity in world-
divine light through a cupped, upraised hand to a body or
wide peace and interreligious organizations.
other object to cleanse it of evil. World Messianity also re-
JAPANESE NEW RELIGIONS AROUND THE WORLD. New reli-
gards art and beauty, including gardens, as precursors of the
gions in Japan were eager to propagate themselves among the
earthly paradise.
Japanese immigrants, but they were rarely successful in re-
THE NICHIREN GROUP. The medieval Buddhist prophet
cruiting foreigners until the 1950s. Exceptions were
Nichiren (1222–1282) started a movement from which most
Tenrikyo¯ in colonial Korea and O
¯ moto in Brazil. But after
important sectarian developments in Japanese Buddhism
the 1960s many new religions started systematically to influ-
have stemmed. Nichiren Buddhism’s fundamental convic-
ence foreigners and experienced some success. In Brazil and
tion is that the Lotus Su¯tra is the supreme and full doctrine;
Korea many groups attracted substantial numbers of follow-
it is worshiped in the form of a man:d:ala, the Gohonzon, by
ers. Seicho¯ no Ie, in particular, claims to have millions of fol-
means of a chant called the Daimoku. Nichiren Buddhism
lowers in Brazil, most of them non-Japanese. In 2003, So¯ka
claims to be the one true Buddhism. It emphasizes the com-
Gakkai claimed more than 1.5 million followers in 186
ing of a spiritual new age and the power of the faith to bring
countries all over the world.
benefits here and now.
NEW NEW RELIGIONS. After around 1970, most of the exist-
So¯ka Gakkai. So¯ka Gakkai was established in 1937 by
ing new religions fell into stagnation. On the other hand,
Makiguchi Tsunesaburo¯ (1871–1944), an educator and con-
some newly organizing new religions, sometimes called “new
vert to Nichiren Sho¯shu¯. He shared the belief of pragmatism
new religions,” gained recognition. Among the fastest grow-
that human benefit is of greater importance than truth re-
ing were Agonshu¯, Su¯kyo¯ Mahikari, and GLA (God Light
garded as an abstract ideal, and he saw a compatible view in
Association). Also, other groups, including the Unification
Nichiren’s emphasis on present attainment of the benefits of
Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses, that were established in
practice. So¯ka Gakkai was reconstructed after World War II
other countries started to grow rapidly in Japan after around
under the dynamic leadership of Toda Jo¯sei (1900–1958)
1970.
and became a highly organized promotional arm of Nichiren
Although most of the older new religions were stagnant
Sho¯shu¯. Whereas its tactics were often criticized, in this peri-
after the 1970s, Shin’nyoen, established in 1936 by Ito Shin-
od it was hailed as the “fastest growing religion in the world,”
jo and his wife Ito Tomoji, was an exception. Their spiritual
claiming by 1960 some 750,000 households. After Toda’s
resources are derived from shamanistic folk religions, mod-
death, leadership passed to Ikeda Daisaku (b. 1928). Empha-
ern spiritualism, and Esoteric Buddhism of the older Bud-
sizing the movement’s cultural and social significance, Ikeda
dhist sect in Japan. They have their own system of shamanis-
founded a related political party, the Ko¯meito¯ (Clean Gov-
tic or spiritualistic mediumship combined with counseling
ernment Party) and otherwise sought to advance the coming
and the Esoteric Buddhist system. In the 1960s they were al-
of the Third Civilization, when true faith would spread over
ready a fairly big organization. They continued to grow in
the world, ushering in an era of peace and plenty.
the later decades and became one of the largest new religions
in the 1980s.
Reiyu¯kai. The oldest major modern Nichiren sect,
Reiyu¯kai (spiritual friends association) was founded in 1925
The 1980s produced a new wave of aggressive move-
by Kubo Kakutaro¯ (1892–1944) and his sister-in-law Kotani
ments, including Kofuku no Kagaku, Aum Shinrikyo¯, and
Kimi (1901–1971), both of humble backgrounds. Essential-
Worldmate. The founders of these new religions were young
ly a lay organization, it depends on informal groups and vol-
and sometimes well educated. In the case of Kofuku no Ka-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
6575
gaku, the founder graduated from the prestigious University
Dojo: Magic and Exorcism in Modern Japan (Stanford, Calif.,
of Tokyo. In the case of Aum Shinrikyo¯, although the found-
1980); Helen Hardacre’s Lay Buddhism in Contemporary
er, Asahara Sho¯ko¯, did not attend any university, the move-
Japan, Reiyu¯kai Kyo¯dan (Princeton, N.J., 1984), representing
ment attracted many converts who had studied in well-
high-level sociological research; and Delwin Byron Schnei-
known universities and graduate schools. While most active
der’s Konkokyo, A Japanese Religion (Tokyo, 1962). For a
members of the older new religions were middle-aged house-
complete bibliography, see H. Byron Earhart’s The New Reli-
gions of Japan: A Bibliography of Western-Language Materials,

wives, young people are active participants in some new new
2d ed. (Ann Arbor, 1983). Works of detailed study on new
religions.
religions in Japan include Helen Hardacre’s Kurozumikyo¯
One important feature of new new religions is that they
and the New Religions of Japan (Princeton, N.J., 1986) and
are less this-world affirming than older new religions. They
H. Byron Earhart’s Gedatsu-Kai and Religion in Contempo-
tend to emphasize the reality of the other dimensions of the
rary Japan (Bloomington, Ind., 1989). A detailed description
world, and sometimes they segregate themselves from the
of Aum Shinrikyo¯ in English is in Ian Reader, Religious Vio-
lence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyô

outer society. The life after death and the eternal existence
(Richmond, U.K., 2000).
of the human soul is emphasized. In contrast, ancestors and
family are cherished less. The emphasis is on individuality,
ROBERT S. ELLWOOD (1987)
and ritual settings tend to be less interactive and more
SHIMAZONO SUSUMU (2005)
theatrical.
Aum Shinrikyo¯ has committed many crimes, including
the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subways in 1995, which
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW
injured over five thousand people and killed twelve. The
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
founder, Asahara Sho¯ko¯, was sentenced to death in 2004. As-
Latin American societies have fostered an abundance of reli-
ahara, born in 1955, was a member of Agonshu¯ around
gious revitalization movements since the early colonial peri-
1980, but, influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, he practiced
od. Ongoing religious ferment and innovation in
Yoga meditation much more intensely. Gradually he became
Iberoamerican contexts has often been interpreted as an
an independent religious leader and claimed to have achieved
adaptive response to such conditions as land dispossession,
the last stage of spiritual emancipation. In the late 1980s he
widespread poverty, racialized social systems, acculturative
started to kill members who wanted to defect and those
processes, political instability, and the demands of nation-
whom he assumed to be enemies. Then, in the 1990s, he em-
building. Explanations of these movements must also consid-
phasized that Armageddon was coming soon and that to sur-
er the fact that religious systems have long played central
vive Japan and the whole world had to change. After the sub-
roles in constructing and critiquing the social order in Latin
way sarin gas attack in 1995, not only Aum Shinrikyo¯ but
America. Since remote antiquity, the indigenous peoples of
other new religions were viewed critically as “cults.”
the Americas have fashioned highly adaptive cultures cen-
New religions in early twenty-first-century Japan are less
tered on mystical cosmologies that encompass all aspects of
powerful compared with the latter half of the twentieth cen-
life and natural relationships. The Spanish and Portuguese
tury, which is characterized as the period that started with
colonizers, and the later independent states, espoused forms
the amazingly rapid growth of new religions and ended with
of governance and culture rooted in an almost hermetically
catastrophic trauma for new religions as a whole.
Catholic conception of social life. The encounters of these
religious influences, in the context of severe social circum-
SEE ALSO Aum Shinrikyo¯; Konko¯kyo¯; Kurozumikyo¯;
stances and frequently shifting political orders, create fertile
Nichirenshu¯; O
¯ motokyo¯; Reiyu¯kai Kyo¯dan; Rissho¯
conditions for symbolic change and religious mobilization.
Ko¯seikai; So¯ka Gakkai; Tenrikyo¯.
In his seminal 1956 work on revitalization movements,
Anthony Wallace proposed that the process of religious revi-
BIBLIOGRAPHY
talization involves an effort by a segment of a society to re-
Several books accessible to the general reader on the new religions
solve incommensurability between existing religious formu-
of Japan can be recommended, including H. Neill McFar-
lations and changing perceived realities. From this
land’s The Rush Hour of the Gods (New York, 1967), a well
perspective, prophets function as diagnosticians who resyn-
researched, sometimes critical overview; Clark B. Offner and
Henry van Straelen’s Modern Japanese Religions (Leiden,
thesize religious knowledge and address sociocultural stress-
1963), a careful study emphasizing healing practices; and
es. This article surveys the nature of Latin American revital-
Harry Thomsen’s The New Religions of Japan (Rutland, Vt.,
ization movements through four empirical varieties of
1963), a lively survey. Among accounts of particular religions
movement activity:
are Kenneth J. Dale and Akahoshi Susumu’s Circle of Har-
(1) Indigenous nativisms and utopias;
mony (Tokyo, 1975) on the hoza (group counseling) proce-
dures of Rissho¯ Ko¯seikai; James Allen Dator’s So¯ka Gakkai,
(2) Folk-saint movements;
Builders of the Third Civilization (Seattle, Wash., 1969), a
(3) Spiritist cults;
substantial sociological study; Robert S. Ellwood’s Tenrikyo,
A Pilgrimage Faith
(Tenri, Japan, 1982); Winston Davis’s
(4) Protestant-related religious movements.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6576
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
Burgeoning Protestant recruitment since the 1970s accounts
search for an ideal age through the creation of an indigenous
for the fastest rate of religious change that Iberoamerica has
saint, the indigenous Christ, and an Indian mother of God,
experienced since the introduction of Catholicism.
sprang from Mayan yearnings for cultural and economic self-
INDIGENOUS RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS. From the Amazon to
determination. Oracular flint cults have ancient roots in
the deserts of northern Mexico, the impact of European con-
Mayan religions. But, as with similar movements, the sym-
tact and modern state–minority relations have precipitated
bolic solution proposed by the prophet incorporated non-
dramatic religious responses among indigenous peoples. The
indigenous elements in an effort to exercise control over the
most common variety of indigenous religious movement is
Indians’ acculturative realities.
nativism, a belief in the return of an idealized native culture
Amazonian nativistic movements tend to exhibit defi-
or age, as exemplified in the nineteenth-century Ghost
nite millenarian traits. Tukanoan, Arawakan, and Tupí-
Dance of the Plains Indians. However, the imagined past
Guaraní peoples of the Amazonian lowlands have an exten-
usually reflects some blending of symbolic elements that re-
sive record of nativistic activity. Some movements have led
sults from acculturative processes. Historically, armed rebel-
to insurgency under messianic leadership, occasionally by an
lions have frequently followed nativistic prophecies and ritu-
outsider, as in the Chamulan revolt. Perhaps the best-known
als. As one might expect, native movements that involved
millenarian cases from this region are the so-called “Land
uprisings produced the richest archival evidence. Such move-
Without Evil” movements of colonial Brazil. During the six-
ments generally represent attempts to intensify and defend
teenth and seventeenth centuries, Tupí-Guaraní believers
ethnic boundaries and to symbolically mediate (often
migrated great distances across South America, following the
through syncretism) between the religion and social-status
revelations of marginal shaman-prophets (caraís), men some-
system of a minority group and those of dominant society.
times identified with Catholic supernaturals. The pilgrims’
Mexican indigenous societies have produced some of the
goal was to reach a utopian land where they would find
most famed examples of nativistic movements. Prominent
peace, immortality, and safety from the mass die-offs of na-
among these are the Chiapanec Mayan cults and rebellions
tive peoples caused by European diseases plaguing the Portu-
of Cancuc (1712) and Chamula (1867–1870), the Yucatec
guese-dominated coastal regions. Michael Brown’s 1991 eth-
Mayan Caste War movement of the Talking Cross of the
nohistorical study of Amazonian millenarian movements
mid-1800s, Yaqui and Mayo millenarian movements of the
suggests that cultural blending and hierarchical shifts within
late nineteenth century, and the Great God Engineer cult of
these movements point to an internal cultural critique, as
the Oaxacan Chinantec of the 1970s. The Chinantec cult
well as a reaction against external forces. Movement adepts
arose in response to the Mexican government’s proposal to
may view their cultural systems as lacking in certain adaptive
relocate peasants in order to build a dam for commercial ag-
powers and may attempt, through religious means, to adopt
riculture.
certain aspects of the majority cultural tradition that they re-
The movement centered on the town of Chamula, in
gard as more efficacious.
the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, resulted in a revolt
Andean indigenous cosmologies possess a millenarian
known as Cuscat’s War, or the War of Saint Rose. It exem-
strain expressed in the notion of the pachacuti, a divinely
plifies the themes of resistance and religious blending of
caused upheaval or change in era. Since colonial times, mem-
many nativistic movements. The cult was a response to 350
bers of Kechwa (Inca) nativistic movements have awaited the
years of domination by regional elites and rising pressures
return of Inkarri, a mythical Inca ruler executed by the Span-
within Mayan communities resulting from Mexico’s recently
ish. Though decaptitated, Inkarri’s body continued to grow
promulgated liberal laws, which aimed at breaking up all
inside the earth. Andean messianic tradition holds that he
land corporations. A Chamulan prophet, Pedro Díaz Cuscat,
will liberate Peru’s indigenous peoples by reestablishing the
declared himself to be an Indian priest, and he donned a
pre-Conquest Inca state and civilization. Perhaps the most
Catholic priest’s garb after three obsidian oracle stones began
renowned movement based on this tradition was that led in
to speak through his niece. Cuscat established an altar with
1780 to 1781 by José Gabriel Condorcanqui, or Túpac
a deity’s image, declaring his niece to be the mother of the
Amaru II, a descendant of the Inca emperor Huayna Cápac.
god. The movement attracted throngs of Maya, and the cult
He led more than 20,000 Kechwa peasants into armed rebel-
center became an important marketplace. Cuscat revealed
lion against Spanish abuses in the Andes. Followers regarded
that the Maya should reject worship before any ladino (Euro-
him as a legitimate Inca ruler with a corresponding semi-
Mexican) sacred images. He presided over the crucifixion of
divine nature. Túpac Amaru rebels were unable to take the
a Mayan boy on Good Friday of 1868. Ladino authorities,
ancient Incan capital of Cusco, and the movement waned.
worried about a possible Mayan revolt, imprisoned Cuscat
The colonial administration executed Túpac Amaru II and
for a brief period. The following year, a mestizo militarized
members of his family in 1781.
cult followers and was executed for leading a failed assault
on San Cristóbal, the region’s seniorial city. Cuscat raided
Even when nativistic groups were not engaging in mili-
ladino properties up until 1870, when he died and the move-
tary activities, as in some Amazonian cases, governments
ment faded. Some features of modern-day Chamulan ritual
often regarded them as politically threatening. A prophet
still show the influence of the Cuscat cult. The nativistic
might urge followers to alter their economic behavior or to
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
6577
criticize governmental legitimacy. For instance, in the Ve-
larly, a millenarian thaumaturge in the mountains of the
nancio Christo movement of the northwest Amazon, from
Dominican Republic, Olivorio Mateo, died leading hun-
1857 to 1858, the prophet revealed that his tribal followers
dreds of his chiliastic rural followers in their defense against
should not perform any labor for whites. He also prophesied
government attacks on their camps around 1916.
that whites who did not heed his message would be obliterat-
Recruitment to the Brazilian colonies was promoted by
ed. Missionaries were excluded by Venancio’s creation of a
a long-standing fervent millenarian brand of folk-Catholic
ministerial corps bearing saints’ names to confer the sacra-
belief common among the Serta˜o region’s peasants. The re-
ments. Consequently, the Brazilian government vigorously
public at the turn of the century began to encourage the
persecuted the movement. Violent state suppression of vari-
breakdown of patron-client ties between landholders and
ous kinds of prophetic groups has been common in many
peasants through the sale of land and contractual labor poli-
Latin American countries.
cies. Severe droughts produced widespread destitution and
FOLK-SAINT MOVEMENTS. Since the 1870s, Latin American
hunger, along with loss of access to cultivable land and food
peasantries have produced several messianic movements and
redistribution. Peasants believed that their protective patron-
prophetic holy cities based upon a folk-Catholic worldview,
client ties were divinely ordained. Thus, the sacred order ap-
folk-saint cults, apocalypticism, and oppositional ideologies.
peared to be in upheaval, requiring an apocalyptic restora-
Folk Catholicism is a religious worldview associated primari-
tion under a new, saintly patron. Historical evidence points
ly with the poor. It focuses on practical solutions and thau-
to peasant seekers’ desire to join the colonies in order to es-
maturgy over other-worldly salvational issues. Folk saints are
cape banditry, to acquire a livelihood and food, and to find
individuals whom folk-Catholic practitioners, rather than
personal religious reform.
the hegemonic Roman Catholic Church, regard as charged
A contemporary millenarian colony has existed in Mi-
with saintliness in both life and death. The holiness of the
choacán State, Mexico, since 1973. Nueva Jerusalén origi-
folk saint is judged by his or her willingness to suffer vicari-
nated in a movement centered on millenarian apparitions of
ously, and by his or her readiness to use divine gifts for mi-
the Virgin of the Rosary to a peasant seer, Gabina Romero
raculous healing, giving counsel, and interpreting mystical
(d. 1981). The Virgin announced that the world would end
signs in order to aid the believer. Folk-saint cults using doc-
before the year 2000, and that the Catholic hierarchy had
trinal revelation through a medium have shown considerable
lost its legitimacy. She requested a special community where
potential to evolve into sectarian organizations.
she could live in body and soul and save the world. Gabina
The holy city of Joaseiro do Norte, today a large city
took the Virgin’s message to Father Nabor Cárdenas, a local
in the northeast Brazilian state of Ceará, began as a secular
parish priest whom the Virgin had designated as her “chosen
hamlet of the same name. In 1889 Father Cícero Roma˜o Ba-
son.” Father Nabor, also called “Papá,” founded the colony,
tista was distributing Ash Wednesday communion in the
became a charismatic leader, and renounced the post–
town when a host shed blood on the tongue of a young laun-
Vatican II church. The Virgin gave ongoing messages to Ga-
dress, Maria de Araújo. Thousands of impoverished north-
bina and her successor medium, building up the colony’s
eastern Brazilians poured into the town, drawn by the mirac-
doctrine and highly stratified social structure. Residents and
ulous sign and the saintly reputations of Father Cícero and
pilgrims spun miracle stories about seer and prophet over the
Maria. Maria revealed that Joaseiro would be the ark of salva-
years. Gabina became the Virgin’s chosen handservant, the
tion to protect humanity from the punishing hand of God.
holiest woman on earth. The Virgin made Father Nabor the
Father Cícero was suspended by his bishop for preaching his
acting head of the church and declared that he is incapable
millenarian notion that the shedding of Christ’s blood in the
of intentionally offending God.
latter days at Joaseiro represented a second redemption. The
Nueva Jerusalén’s population of mostly peasants
colony’s population reached 15,000 by 1910. Even in death,
reached nearly 5,000 in the early 1980s, and currently stands
Father Cícero continues to enjoy a reputation as a thauma-
at about 3,100 members. The sect’s beliefs are rooted in Fa-
turge and national hero.
ther Nabor’s interpretation of apocalyptic varieties of the
Catholic Traditionalist movement, combined with elements
Joaseiro was preceded by the colony of Império do Belo
of Mexican folk Catholicism. Traditionalists hold that the
Monte (Canudos) of the folk saint and prophet Antonio
post–Vatican II church is in apostasy. As Nueva Jerusalén is
Conselheiro. In the1880s, Conselheiro (or Good Jesus, as his
believed to be the remnant Catholic Church in the latter
followers called him) preached the condemnation of the new
days, its bureaucracy replicates various religious orders for
Republican government of Brazil and led revivalistic folk-
priests, monks, and a convent of about 400 nuns. Lay resi-
Catholic services in the impoverished backlands of northeast
dents are ranked in quasi-monastic groups with an ascetic
Brazil. A holy city of perhaps 5,000 followers sprang up in
lifestyle. Ritual participation, penance, and work life are in-
the region. The colony’s professed belief that the republic
tensive and tightly regulated.
was ungodly and that the monarchy should return prompted
a military siege of the city. Conselheiro died during the at-
Recruits joined the colony with many of the same moti-
tacks, most of the male defenders were massacred, and gov-
vations as the Brazilian followers. Mexican peasants in the
ernment militias captured a large number of prisoners. Simi-
1970s were under rising pressure due to increasing produc-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6578
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
tion costs, poor and inadequate land, and government efforts
century French educator, Allan Kardec, regarding human
to connect rural producers to agribusiness. These factors pro-
contact with the spirit world.) These therapeutic new reli-
moted many peasants’ availability to migrate to the colony.
gious movements (NRMs) are usually diffuse, have no folk
In addition, ethnographic research on the colony shows a
saints, and draw upon folk-Catholic traditions. Spiritualist
strong pattern of interest in personal reform among men,
healing, centered on temples and mediums, witnessed an up-
with women acting as key agents in their sons’ and husbands’
swing in popularity in Latin American societies during the
recruitments. The folk-saint colony functions as a total insti-
early twentieth century. Theosophical spirituality has con-
tution where personal problems are formulated entirely in
tributed to the rise of a number of healing movements, such
mythological and ritual terms. The highly structured, world-
as the Mexican Espiritualismo Trinitario Mariano (Marian
rejecting lifestyle of the colony’s elect strongly supports per-
Trinitarian Spiritualism). Umbanda is among the most stud-
sonal change and discourages recidivism after conversion.
ied of the spiritist movements.
Nueva Jerusalén’s millenarian teachings do not appear to
have played a significant role in most peasants’ recruitments,
Umbanda (an invented term) is essentially an eclectic
although they do underwrite the colony lifestyle that many
audience cult. Men of the business and upper classes in Brazil
recruits found attractive.
started the movement in the 1920s by melding Kardecism,
aspects of Catholic teaching, and Afro-Brazilian Candomblé,
El Niño Fidencio is perhaps the most successful folk-
a creolized spirit-possession tradition centered on the wor-
saint healer in Latin American history. José Fidencio de Jesús
ship of Yoruban deities, called orixás (orishas). The syncret-
Síntora Constantino, a ranch worker in northern Mexico, re-
ization became part of an effort to forge a distinctively Brazil-
ceived visions of Christ and God the Father instructing him
ian spiritual tradition that could sidestep allegedly backward
to cure the sick. Between 1925 and his death in 1938, his
black ethnic religion and Catholic dogma, both of which
healing ministry attracted tens of thousands of pilgrims to
were considered inappropriate for modernizing whites and
the desert site of Espinazo, Nuevo León. Fidencio combined
mulattos. Umbanda temples, or terreiros, now exist by the
spiritualist techniques and beliefs with those of folk-Catholic
thousands in major Brazilian cities. It has been estimated that
curanderismo (the Mexican folk health-care system). A line
at least 60 percent of adult Brazilians, most of whom identify
of trained mediums, mostly women, have ensured that he
as Catholics, consult with Umbanda mediums. The move-
could continue to work after his death through spirit posses-
ment has indeed become a national religious tradition.
sion. Networks of El Niño’s devotees are spread throughout
Umbanda takes a variety of forms that may be arranged
Mexico and U.S.-Mexican communities. In July 1993 the
along a continuum, from the most Candomblé-like appear-
Mexican government registered an independent religious as-
ance to the most Kardecist. All Umbanda varieties focus on
sociation derived from the cult, the Iglesia Fidencista Cris-
spiritualist notions of charity and spirit consultation as a
tiana. The new church is an unusual example of an institu-
means of aiding the living. The most Kardecist form is some-
tionalized, officially recognized folk-saint movement, for
times referred to as Umbanda Pura or Umbanda Branca.
most of these cults remain diffuse and noncorporate in char-
Mediums wear white spiritist robes, and African orishas, or
acter. The Fidencista Church employs its own adaptation of
deities, are shunned. However, the term orixás is used gener-
the Novus Ordo Catholic mass, containing references to
ally in Umbanda to denote the spirits. Umbanda’s creators
spiritualist beliefs and the supremacy of Fidencio in the spirit
introduced spirits of Brazilian political and other historical
world. More than 600 mediums are said to be registered with
luminaries, masculine Amazonian Indians (caboclos), and
the church in both Mexico and the United States. Unaffili-
wise black slaves (pretos velhos). A panoply of spirits has
ated mediums and devotees still constitute the overwhelming
grown over the decades to include people from many walks
majority of followers. Like Fidencio himself, they consider
of life, each with his or her own personal history, known spe-
their identity to be simply Catholic.
cialties, and favorite ritual offerings. The terreiro is headed
Another large Mexican folk-saint movement was that of
by a master medium, called a mother of the saint (ma˜e de
Teresa Urrea, known as the Saint of Cabora, who was active
santo) or a father of the saint (pa˜e de santo). A believer identi-
between 1889 and 1906 in the Arizona-Mexico border re-
fies a spirit with whom she or he wishes to consult for a reme-
gion. Teresa was famed for her ability to heal miraculously
dy, then approaches a medium in trance. The spirit will often
with mixes of dirt, oil, and saliva. “Long live the Saint of Ca-
prescribe a ritual involving such features as number symbol-
bora” became a rallying cry in nativistic, millenarian revolts
ism or food offerings to keep trickster spirits (exús) at bay.
among the Rarámuri and the Mayo in 1891 and 1892. Fear-
An offering is left for the temple. Head mediums compete
ful of her reputation, the regime of Porfirio Díaz banished
for clients in Brazil’s libertarian religious environment, mak-
her to Arizona, where she continued to heal until her death
ing the terreiro an unstable enterprise.
in 1906.
The spirit possession cult of María Lionza in Venezuela
SPIRITIST CULTS. Latin American movements oriented
strongly resembles Umbanda. María Lionza also originated
around the mystical provision of health and advice often
in the early twentieth century as part of an effort to invent
show strong roots in Kardecist spiritualism. (Kardecist beliefs
a national image rooted partly in imagery of an indigenous
and practices stem from the teachings of the nineteenth-
past. The principal spirit being, María Lionza, is symbolized
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
6579
under two representations: as a nude Indian girl, Yara, who
that prevents the nonbeliever from making prudent lifestyle
straddles a tapir, and as María, a girl dressed in the style of
decisions and becoming a prosperous wage-earner or entre-
the Virgin Mary. Other spirits include Simón Bolívar, the
preneur.
spirit-doctor and folk hero José Gregorio Hernández (now
in the process of canonization), and other prominent Vene-
The growth of evangelical Protestantism, Mormonism,
zuelans. Mount Sorte in María Lionza National Park, near
and the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole is supported by an
Caracas, serves as the focal point for pilgrimages and is be-
ascetic ethic that rejects the male prestige complex of heavy
lieved to be an ancient indigenous sacred site. Clearly, Um-
alcohol consumption and sexual conquests, along with secu-
banda and María Lionza originated as symbolic resources for
lar entertainments in general. Women’s interests in domesti-
shaping and celebrating emerging national identities.
cating their husbands and sons thus drive much of the expan-
sion. Pentecostal congregations in Brazil and elsewhere draw
PROTESTANT RELIGIOUS CHANGE. The spectacular growth
strong distinctions between the folk-Catholic male domain
of Protestant-related faiths in Latin America is now the sub-
of the street and the household. Male Pentecostal converts
ject of a large body of scholarly publications. In the twentieth
in Brazil are said to change from being “kings of the street”
century such groups as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church
to “masters of the house.” Protestant emphases on work, fru-
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baptists, and Presbyteri-
gality, marital fidelity, and financial security of the family
ans have become firmly established in every Latin American
helps converts to maintain personal health and to accumulate
country, and over half of all Protestant members practice
assets. Although women do not usually acquire ministerial
some type of Pentecostal worship. In most cases, U.S. Protes-
status within these churches, neither do they escape a patriar-
tant missionaries helped to establish these groups early on.
chal social system, but they do welcome the investments that
Later, new churches developed authochtonous leadership
a man makes in his household as a result of his conversion.
and adapted their worship to local cultures. For instance, two
Women also receive treatment as spiritual equals in the
Swedish Americans founded the first Pentecostal church in
churches, because they have the gift of the Spirit, give testi-
Brazil in 1910, Assambléias de Deus. The church has long
monials, and serve in congregational ministries. In Me-
since become totally Brazilian in its hierarchy and operation.
soamerican and Andean indigenous communities, evangeli-
Migrants to the United States often have imported Pentecos-
cal or Mormon frugality and the rejection of Catholicism
tal or other Protestant models for building native churches.
enable converts to abandon systems of ritual obligation, such
In 1914 Romana Valenzuela established the first Mexican
as the fiesta system, that hinder the accumulation of capital.
Pentecostal church in Chihuahua State, following her con-
Thus, studies of non-Catholic conversion are contributing
tact with William Seymour’s Azusa Street Mission. Her Igle-
ethnographic perspectives towards the critique of Max
sia Apostólica de la Fe en Cristo Jesús had grown to 130 con-
Weber’s thesis linking the the capitalist ethic to the rise of
gregations by 1944. Mexico’s largest Protestant church is
Protestant values.
Iglesia de La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World), founded
by a prophet from Guadalajara in the 1920s. The church has
An interesting counterpoint to Pentecostal recruitment
charismatic leadership and a sectarian colony organizational
rates is the fact that Pentecostal churches tend to have the
model, with colonies in various parts of central and eastern
highest apostasy rates of all Latin American Protestant
Mexico. La Luz del Mundo has expanded into the United
churches. The drop-out rate results partly from tension with
States, carried by missionaries and Mexican immigrants.
the broader society and stringent behavioral and commit-
ment norms. Congregants may be expected to attend long,
Pentecostal churches have several features that substan-
ecstatic evening worship services twice a week, producing
tially enhance their appeal among masses of folk Catholics.
burn-out and lack of moral compliance, particularly for
Pastors require little or no formal education in the ministry,
males. Thus, most Pentecostal groups rely on constant prose-
and most possess class and cultural backgrounds similar to
lytization for replacement and sustained growth.
those of their working-class congregants. Pentecostal wor-
ship is ecstatic, involving a heightened emotional style
Latin American Pentecostalism may be understood as
through the use of glossolalia (speaking in tongues), lively
a largely endogenous movement, generated out of a folk-
music, liturgical dancing, and testimonials. Pentecostal
Catholic milieu. Since folk Catholicism is a practical reli-
churches are mostly local, independent congregations rooted
gious variety that places high value on thaumaturgy, Pente-
in oral tradition. Pentecostals see the causes of illness largely
costal claims do not fundamentally break from the dominant
in the folk-Catholic terms of negative spiritual forces, such
religious worldview of the poor. Latin American Pentecostal-
as witchcraft, which only the Holy Spirit can banish. Most
ism entails a redirecting of folk-Catholic belief. Nonetheless,
Pentecostal converts are attracted by promises of miraculous
Pentecostal and other non-Catholic groups significantly dif-
cures, something of great importance in an impoverished en-
fer from surrounding society in the formation of corporate
vironment. They often remain because they either witness or
structures. Corporateness is marked and reinforced by a sense
receive a miraculous healing. Brazil’s largest Pentecostal (or
of spiritual election, signalled by glossolalia and baptism of
neo-Pentecostal) church, Edir Maçedo’s Universal Church
the Spirit in Pentecostalism. Evangelicals often refer to them-
of the Kingdom of God, specializes in exorcising Umbanda
selves as creyentes or crentes (believers), distinguishing them-
orishas. The spirits are believed to cause mental confusion
selves from the dominant Catholic milieu. Church structures
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6580
NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
exert needed social pressure for healing the social illnesses as-
mittees to resolve long-standing religious conflicts in his
sociated with the male prestige complex and maintaining
state, which has the largest non-Catholic population in Mex-
separation from worldliness. Dense internal networks of be-
ico. In recent years, Mexican Pentecostals have begun to dis-
lievers and tithing provide members with security, the faith
cuss the formation of local evangelical political parties.
that their investment in the church will mystically give them
Protestant ideology and organization are highly adaptive
a return of health and prosperity. Such features are largely
in both rural and urban environments. The Protestant work
absent in spirit cults and folk Catholicism, whose practition-
ethic and its associated asceticism enable followers to gain
ers do not profess a clear break with worldly behaviors.
some upward mobility and to foster a sense of well-being and
Political adaptations of Protestant groups are far from
cooperation. Latin American societies will continue to en-
uniform in Latin America. Major denominations have
gender a wide range of spiritual traditions in response to the
formed political associations at the national level to defend
rapid socioeconomic and cultural changes sweeping the
their interests. Unlike the mainline Protestant churches, the
region.
majority of Pentecostal congregations are small and marginal
For five centuries, movements of religious change in
and have no bureaucracies to represent them before the state.
Latin America have generated remarkably wide-ranging
In Mexico and other countries with histories of hostility to-
blends of native and exogenous religious influences. The re-
wards Protestants, Pentecostals are often vulnerable to perse-
vitalization process has served as a potent means of defending
cutions and discrimination by government and the general
indigenous cultures, advancing political ideologies, restoring
populace. In Chiapas State, Mexico, Maya traditionalists and
health, and bringing hope to the marginalized in the region.
folk Catholics have forcibly expelled large numbers of Protes-
Thus, new religious activities among Latin American peoples
tants from Chamula. In recent years, the Mexican govern-
richly illustrate the dynamic nature of their cultures and
ment considered a measure, backed by the country’s Catholic
identities.
bishops, that would have excluded any church having less
than 1.5 percent of the national population from being rec-
SEE ALSO Afro-Brazilian Religions; Kardecism; Pentecostal
ognized officially as a religious association. Obviously, this
and Charismatic Christianity; Spiritualism; Yoruba Religion.
would rule out most Mexican Pentecostal groups.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
In Brazil and Mexico, Pentecostal pastors may seek to
Annis, Sheldon. God and Production in a Guatemalan Town. Aus-
forge patron-client ties with powerful political figures, ex-
tin, Tex., 1987. A widely cited study of Protestant conver-
changing votes for “God’s candidate” for material improve-
sion and its effects on peasant household economics.
ments for their congregants. Bargaining of this sort often
Barabas, Alicia M. “Chinantec Messianism: The Mediator of the
leads to public controversy. La Luz del Mundo has courted
Divine.” In Western Expansion and Indigenous Peoples: The
the Mexican official party, the Partido Revolucionario Insti-
Heritage of Las Casa, edited by Elías Sevilla-Casas,
pp. 221–254. The Hague, 1977. An in-depth study of the
tucional (PRI), bringing party officials to their mother colo-
Great God Engineer nativistic movement in Oaxaca, Mexi-
ny in Guadalajara. Pentecostal members are likely to hold
co, a reaction to a development project.
that divine blessings accrue to the church from working
Barabas, Alicia M. Utopías indias: Movimientos sociorreligiosos en
within a system of political patronage. By contrast, progres-
México. Mexico City, 1989. An excellent ethnohistorical
sive Catholic groups, such as the Base Ecclesial Communi-
compendium of Mexican indigenous religious movements
ties, attempt to improve conditions for the poor through di-
from the Spanish Conquest to the 1970s.
rect confrontation and political activism. Pentecostal
Bastian, Jean-Pierre. “The Metamorphosis of Latin American
ideology deemphasizes political activism in part because of
Protestant Groups: A Sociohistorical Perspective.” Latin
a fundamentalist scriptural orientation, supporting the no-
American Research Review 28 (1993): 33–62.
tion that secular authorities are divinely sanctioned. Their
Bowen, Kurt Derek. Evangelism and Apostasy: The Evolution and
viewpoint derives in large measure from their reading of Ro-
Impact of Evangelicals in Modern Mexico. Montréal and Buf-
mans 14:1–2.
falo, N.Y., 1996. One of the most complete studies of re-
cruitment and attrition in Latin American Pentecostal envi-
Pentecostal orientation towards political participation
ronments.
with other Protestants is changing somewhat in response to
Bricker, Victoria Reifler. The Indian Christ, the Indian King: The
economic hardship and political crises. In Chiapas, the win-
Historical Substrate of Maya Myth and Ritual. Austin, Tex.,
ner of the gubernatorial election of 2000 was the indepen-
1981. Several Mayan religious movements are explored in
dent candidate, Pablo Salazar Mendicuchia, a lawyer with a
this volume, including the War of St. Rose and the Talking
Presbyterian and Nazarene family background. He ran on a
Cross cult. A major source on Maya religion and worldview.
platform critical of governmental neglect of indigenous
Brown, Diana DeG. Umbanda: Religion and Politics in Urban Bra-
rights and failure to resolve the guerrilla conflict in the state.
zil. New York, 1994. A detailed study of the origins, evolu-
Salazar was backed by Presbyterians, Nazarenes, Baptists,
tion, and structure of Umbanda varieties. Includes a case
and the Assemblies of God, as well as the liberal and influen-
study of Umbanda practice in Rio de Janeiro.
tial Catholic bishop, Samuel Ruiz. The first Protestant Mexi-
Brown, Michael F. “Beyond Resistance: A Comparative Study of
can governor, Salazar has created effective ecumenical com-
Utopian Renewal in Amazonia.” Ethnohistory 38 (1991):
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS: NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA
6581
388–413. Provides new insights into the ways in which Ama-
graphic analysis of recruitment and conversion to Pentecos-
zonian indigenous movements not only express protest, but
talism among the highland Maya. Evans examines the roles
also critique sociocultural features in tension within their
of the recovery of mysticism and the progressive Catholic
own societies.
clergy’s influence in Pentecostal growth.
Brusco, Elizabeth E. The Reformation of Machismo: Evangelical
Finkler, Kaja. Spiritualist Healers in Mexico: Successes and Failures
Conversion and Gender in Colombia. Austin, Tex., 1995. A
of Alternative Therapeutics. South Hadley, Mass., 1985. A
nicely written ethnological case study of Pentecostal, Luther-
highly recommended study of spiritualist history, beliefs, re-
an, and Presbyterian evangelicals in a Colombian town. One
cruitment, curing practices, and reformative effects in central
of the first ethnographies of women’s issues in Latin Ameri-
Mexican temple communities. A thorough analysis of gen-
can non-Catholic expansion. Complements Finkler’s (1985)
dered differences in recruitment motivations and treatment
and Chesnut’s (1997) studies of Mexico and Brazil, respec-
outcomes.
tively.
Fortuny Loret de Mola, Patricia. El protestantismo y sus implicac-
Burdick, John. Looking for God in Brazil: The Progressive Catholic
iones en la vida política: Un estudio de comunidad en la ciudad
Church in Urban Brazil’s Religious Arena. Berkeley, Calif.,
de Mérida. Cuadernos de la Casa Chata 165. Mexico City,
1993. Burdick introduces the concept of the “religious
1989. A landmark comparative study of conversion and
arena” to analyze the competition and coadaptation that oc-
urban adaptation among Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals,
curs among progressive Catholic (CEB), Pentecostal, and
and Latter-day Saints in Mérida, Yucatán.
Umbanda groups. Based on fieldwork in the Rio de Janeiro
Fortuny Loret de Mola, Patricia. “Origins, Development and Per-
area. A highly influential ethnological study of Brazilian reli-
spectives of La Luz del Mundo Church.” Religion 25 (1995):
gions.
147–162. Fortuny, an anthropological expert on Protestant
Chesnut, R. Andrew. Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom
religious groups in Mexico, provides an overview of Mexico’s
and the Pathogens of Poverty. New Brunswick, N.J., 1997. A
largest charismatic-led movement.
well-written ethnographic treatment of the relationship of
Garma Navarro, Carlos. Protestantismo en una comunidad totonaca
gender and class backgrounds to Brazilian Pentecostal re-
de Puebla. México, 1987. An award-winning (and the first)
cruitment and conversion, with a good discussion of folk-
ethnological study of an authochtonous variety of Pentecos-
Catholic background factors. Focuses on Belém, northeast
talism in a Latin American indigenous community. Analyzes
Brazil, in its discussion of Pentecostal varieties, expansion
the impact of Pentecostal membership on local politics, eco-
trends, and national political engagement. An important
nomic behavior, and Totonac ethnic identity.
source.
Garma Navarro, Carlos. “Pentecostal Churches and Their Rela-
Clawson, David Leslie. Religion and Change in a Mexican Village.
tionship to the Mexican State and Political Parties.” Journal
Ann Arbor, Mich., 1976. A pioneering study of schism, revi-
of Ritual Studies 15 (2001): 55–65. An update on the chang-
talization, and economic impacts of religious change among
ing political views and activities of Pentecostal groups in
indigenous Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in central Mexico.
Mexico.
Crumrine, N. Ross. The Mayo Indians of Sonora: A People who Re-
Gow, Rosalind. “Inkarri and Revolutionary Leadership in the
fuse to Die. Tucson, Ariz., 1977. An ethnographic study
Southern Andes.” Journal of Latin American Lore 8 (1982):
highlighting Mayo nativism in northwest Mexico.
197–223. Examines the impact of Andean messianism on
Deive, Carlos Esteban. “Olivorio: Estudio de un movimiento me-
movements of political change in Peru.
siánico en Santo Domingo.” Actas del XLI Congreso Interna-
Griffith, James S. Folk Saints of the Borderlands: Victims, Bandits,
cional de Americanistas 3: 132–142. Mexico City, 1970.
and Healers. Tucson, Ariz., 2003. A welcome synthesis of
Documentation of a neglected but fascinating folk-saint
ethnographic investigations into folk-saint shrines and asso-
movement among Dominican peasants.
ciated movements in the Mexico–United States borderlands
Della Cava, Ralph. Miracle at Joaseiro. New York, 1970. A defini-
region.
tive and dramatic account of Father Cícero’s Joaseiro move-
Knowlton, David C. “Mormonism in Latin America: Towards the
ment.
Twenty-First Century.” Dialogue 29 (1996): 159–176.
Diacon, Todd A. Millenarian Vision, Capitalist Reality: Brazil’s
Trends in Latter-day Saints’ adaptation in Latin American
Contestado Rebellion, 1912–1916. Durham, N.C., and Lon-
settings, by an ethnologist with extensive fieldwork on Mor-
don, 1991. An ethnohistorical analysis of the political-
monism in Andean societies.
economic roots of one of the great prophetic new religious
Lagarriga Attias, Isabel. Espiritualismo Trinitario Mariano: Nuevas
movements of Latin America.
perspectivas de análisis. Xalapa, Mexico, 1975. A major study
Dow, James, and Alan Sandstrom, eds. Holy Saints and Fiery
of this well-known and fascinating Mexican healing sect,
Preachers: The Anthropology of Protestantism in Mexico and
which syncretizes theosophy and Catholicism.
Central America. Westport, Conn., and London, 2001. An
Leatham, Miguel C. “Practical Religion and Peasant Recruitment
excellent collection of articles exploring the causes of expan-
to Non-Catholic Groups in Latin America.” Religion and the
sion and cultural change associated with Pentecostal and
Social Order 6 (1996): 175–190. Compares recruitment
other Evangelical groups in Mesoamerica, primarily in indig-
themes from several types of rural religious movement in
enous communities.
Latin America, and discusses the nature of folk Catholicism.
Evans, Timothy Edward. Religious Conversion in Quetzaltenango,
Leatham, Miguel C. “Rethinking Religious Decision Making in
Guatemala. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990. An insightful ethno-
Peasant Millenarianism: The Case of Nueva Jerusalén.” Jour-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6582
NEW TESTAMENT
nal of Contemporary Religion 12 (1997): 295–309. An ethno-
NEW TESTAMENT SEE BIBLICAL LITERATURE
logical analysis of peasant recruitment dynamics at the sectar-
ian colony of Nueva Jerusalén, Mexico.
Macklin, Barbara June, and N. Ross Crumrine. “Three North
Mexican Folk Saint Movements.” Comparative Studies in So-
NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT. The New
ciety and History 15 (1973): 96. Charts and compares the
Thought movement is a diverse and loosely affiliated collec-
folk-saint careers of Niño Fidencio, Teresa Urrea, and the
tion of religious communities that share an idealistic theolo-
Mayo prophet San Damián Bohorqui. An important explo-
gy, an optimistic worldview, and an emphasis on religious
ration of folk-saint charisma-building.
rituals that focus on personal well-being, health, and material
Martin, David. Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in
success. The movement emerged in the United States in the
Latin America. Oxford, 1990. A major source on the process
last quarter of the nineteenth century and was well estab-
of Pentecostal expansion throughout Latin America. Martin
also explores Pentecostalism’s potential to promote political
lished by the first decade of the twentieth. It is the largest
transformation in the region.
movement in what is often broadly referred to as the “meta-
Ossio, Juan M., ed. Ideología mesiánica del mundo andino. Lima,
physical” tradition, which also includes Christian Science,
Peru, 1973. An important volume of ethnohistorical and
Theosophy, and Spiritualism. In theory and practice, New
ethnographic articles on messianic and millenarian myths in
Thought, like Christian Science, is a popular expression of
the indigenous Andes.
religious idealism, and idealism is the unifying foundation
Pereira de Queiroz, Maria Isaura. O Mesianismo: No Brazil e no
of all forms of New Thought. Emma Curtis Hopkins (1849–
mundo. Sa˜o Paulo, Brazil, 1977. An encyclopedic sociologi-
1925) is properly cited as the founder of the movement, with
cal discussion of the histories and dynamics of Brazilian reli-
its immediate precursors including Mary Baker Eddy (1821–
gious movements.
1910) and her Church of Christ, Scientist; Phineas Parkhurst
Pessar, Patricia R. “Unmasking the Politics of Religion: The Case
Quimby (1802–1866) and his students; the New England
of Brazilian Millenarianism.” Journal of Latin American Lore
“Mind Cure” movement; and various independent groups
7 (1981): 255–277. An ethnohistorical interpretation of
and individuals practicing mental healing. Other less signifi-
nineteenth-century peasant millenarianism in the context of
cant but notable formative influences can be attributed to
rapid socioeconomic change. Provides perspectives on how
Swedenborgianism, spiritualism, New England Transcen-
the worldview of Brazil’s peasantry influenced participation
in prophetic movements.
dentalism, the Hegelian Societies of the late nineteenth cen-
tury, imported forms of Hinduism (especially Veda¯nta), and
Placido, Barbara. “It’s All to Do with Words: An Analysis of Spirit
Possession in the Venezuelan Cult of María Lionza.” Man 7
secularization. New Thought is still centered in the United
(2001): 207–224. An ethnographic study of spirit mediums’
States, although the movement is well represented through-
active shaping of messages during spirit possession in a Vene-
out the world.
zuelan new religion. A brief historical overview of the cult is
The New Thought movement has revealed sustained
provided.
growth throughout the twentieth century, and since the
Stoll, David. Is Latin America Turning Protestant?: The Politics of
1950s it has supplied institutional legitimation and theologi-
Evangelical Growth. Berkeley, Calif., 1990. A somewhat con-
cal support to the alternative healing movement and various
troversial survey of Protestantization trends around Latin
beliefs and practices associated with the New Age movement.
America. Stoll focuses on foreign political connections and
questions the role of new Evangelical groups in maintaining
The impact of New Thought on American culture is revealed
U.S. hegemony in Latin American countries.
in its role as a precursor to and possible precipitating influ-
Vanderwood, Paul J. The Power of God against the Guns of Govern-
ence on popular psychology and the self-help movement, the
ment: Religious Upheaval in Mexico at the Turn of the Nine-
ordination of women as ministers in mainstream Protestant-
teenth Century. Stanford, Calif., 1998. Examines the role of
ism, best-selling popularizations of idealism such as Napo-
Teresa Urrea’s folk-saint cult in the famed Tomóchic nativis-
leon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937) and Norman Vin-
tic revolt of the Rarámuri.
cent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking (1952), and the
Vidaurri, Cynthia L. “Las que Menos Quería el Niño: Women of
development of prosperity and success teachings in secular
the Fidencista Movement.” In Chicana Traditions: Continu-
culture and mainstream Protestantism.
ity and Change, edited by Norma E. Cantú and Olga Nájera-
Despite its longevity and impact on American culture,
Ramírez, pp. 133–142. Urbana, Ill. and Chicago, 2002. An
ethnographic account of gendered experience among Mex-
New Thought and its various subgroups have received little
icana mediums in a folk-saint movement.
scholarly attention, although publications by Gail M. Har-
Wallace, Anthony F. C. “Revitalization Movements: Some Theo-
ley, Beryl Satter, John K. Simmons, and J. Gordon Melton
retical Considerations for Their Comparative Study.” Ameri-
have offered good insights into certain aspects of its forma-
can Anthropologist 58 (1956): 264–281. Frequently cited an-
tive period. Encyclopedias and general texts on new religions
thropological formulation of the multistage process by which
often have brief sections on New Thought or representative
new religious movements form. Highlights the role of pro-
groups (especially Unity), as do textbooks on religion in
phetic revelators in resolving cultural crises. Illustrates with
America. As often as not, however, New Thought is absent
cases of prophetic movements in tribal settings.
in general dictionaries of religion and textbooks on world re-
MIGUEL C. LEATHAM (2005)
ligions. There are no critical histories of the movement and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT
6583
no significant scholarly treatments of its theology. In this re-
The failure of humans to fully demonstrate their innate
gard, Charles S. Braden’s now dated Spirits in Rebellion
spiritual perfection is the result of ignorance and wrong
(1963) still offers the only general history of New Thought,
thinking (e.g., “error thought” and “mortal consciousness”).
and J. Stillson Judah’s equally dated History and Philosophy
New Thought believes that because human consciousness is
of the Metaphysical Movements in America (1967) is the best
causative it is the source for all the experiences and condi-
overview of the movement’s theology.
tions in a person’s life—both positive and negative. Negative
experiences and conditions (illness, poverty, theft, death,
WORLDVIEW, PRACTICES, AND AIMS. As a contemporary
etc.) are the result of negative states in consciousness, and
manifestation of popular religious idealism, the deepest his-
positive experiences and conditions are the result of positive
torical roots of New Thought can be traced to Plato (428–
states. The key to eliminating specific negative conditions
348 BCE), the father of the idealist tradition in philosophy.
and creating a tendency to ever more positive experiences is
Other distant forebears include ancient Gnosticism, Neopla-
based in the belief that all persons are in essence spiritual be-
tonism, and pre-Nicean forms of Christianity associated with
ings, and that Divine Mind is accessible to human minds.
the Alexandrian school and typified by Origen (185–254).
When Divine Mind is properly engaged by human con-
Philosophical precursors in the modern period are Rational-
sciousness, the Good is brought into material/physical mani-
ists such as René Descartes (1596–1650) and Baruch Spino-
festation, thus eliminating negative experiences and condi-
za (1632–1677), and Idealists such as Johann Fichte (1763–
tions and replacing them with positive ones. This
1814) and G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831).
engagement is believed to occur “scientifically” through pre-
New Thought’s brand of idealism holds that the ulti-
cise and systematic religious exercises, such as prayer, “spiri-
mate basis of existence is mental (God as Mind) and all mate-
tual treatment,” “visualization,” “affirmations,” and, in some
rial/physical conditions are secondary to and products of
cases, “denials.”
human mental states and conditions. What this means for
Through continued practice of these exercises (which
New Thought is that consciousness, ideas, and thoughts are
are typically quite specific and individualized but may be
the basis of reality and function as the casual forces behind
general and collective) an individual’s consciousness becomes
all material/physical phenomena—from objects, including
increasingly attuned to the “Truth” so that the reality of Di-
human bodies, to the events and circumstances of an individ-
vine Mind is more frequently brought into manifestation. As
ual’s life. A formal statement of New Thought’s foundational
a result, adherents may report improvement in general and
idealism is offered in the “Declaration of Principles” of the
specific conditions of their lives. This thoroughgoing ideal-
International New Thought Alliance (INTA), which de-
ism forms the basis of New Thought’s theology and the
clares (among other claims): “We affirm God as Mind, Infi-
foundation for its optimistic worldview. It is the premise
nite Being, Spirit, Ultimate Reality. . . . [and] that our
upon which the movement’s primary myths and rituals are
mental states are carried forward into manifestation and be-
predicated.
come our experience in daily living” (“Declaration of Princi-
ples,” 2001, p. 19). In principle, New Thought’s idealism is
In practice, most New Thought rituals are individualis-
similar to that of Christian Science, yet unlike the earlier
tic in focus and aim to bring about improvements in precise
movement, New Thought generally interprets matter and
areas of a special concern to individuals. The most common
physical experiences in a positive light, viewing them as lim-
areas are the following: physical and emotional health, mate-
ited (but perfectible) manifestations of Spirit (Divine Mind).
rial prosperity, and personal relationships. Corporate reli-
In this regard, New Thought groups tend to be world-
gious activities are less common than individual religious
affirming, harmonial (with respect to ultimate reality and
practices, although New Thought congregations routinely
humans), and proponents of human spiritual evolution.
engage in group prayer and treatment rituals. The movement
as a whole affirms a positive expectancy for humanity and
In New Thought the ultimate power (e.g., God, Mind,
a belief in spiritual evolution, but individual groups are sel-
Divine Mind, Principle, Truth, Intelligence) is understood
dom socially active and tend to be silent on political, eco-
as supremely good (the Good) and the ground of perfection.
nomic, and legal issues.
The omnipotence of the Good is expressed succinctly in
INTA’s Declaration of Principles as follows: “We affirm that
Early in its history, New Thought produced two notable
God, the Good, is supreme, universal and eternal”
theorists, Warren Felt Evans (1817–1889) and Horatio
(“Declaration of Principles,” 2001, p. 19). The essence of
Dresser (1866–1954), but the movement as a whole rejected
humanity is divine, and humans are seen as spiritual beings
their scholarly explications of religious idealism in favor of
that are linked with Divine Mind through their highest con-
the popular approaches utilized by Emma Curtis Hopkins
sciousness (e.g., Christ Mind, superconsciousness, Christ
and her students. As a result, the New Thought movement
within). This relationship of unity is analogous to the rela-
has never articulated its idealistic cosmology in a formal
tionship of brahman (the manifestation of ultimate reality)
philosophical context. Rather, it has restricted academic ho-
and a¯tman (the self) in Hinduism, as well as understandings
rizons, it lacks a systematic theology, and it has developed
of the human essence found in the Western Esoteric tradi-
no schools of higher learning. Nonetheless, in an era that has
tion, influenced by Neoplatonism and Gnosticism.
seen the devaluation of idealism in the academic community,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6584
NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT
especially among professional philosophers, it is significant
Wilcox (1850–1919), poet and syndicated columnist; and
that New Thought has remained firmly committed to its ide-
Elizabeth Towne (1865–1960), INTA president (1924–
alistic theology. Equally significant is the sustained growth
1925) and the publisher of the major New Thought periodi-
of the movement in light of the decline of America’s other
cal, The Nautilus (1898–1954). After her retirement from
major version of popular religious idealism, Christian
public teaching and administrative work, Hopkins tutored
Science.
Ernest S. Holmes (1887–1960), founder of Religious Sci-
ence. All told, by the time Hopkins left active ministry in
ORIGINS, DEVELOPMENT, LEADERS. As a unique expression
1895, she had ordained more than one hundred persons, and
of human religiosity, New Thought is a decidedly American
these, together with numerous others who had been exposed
religious phenomenon. From its birth in the 1880s in the
to her work, formed the first generation of New Thought
Chicago ministry of Emma Curtis Hopkins, New Thought
leaders. For this reason, Hopkins was referred to as “the
emerged in the context of (and was enriched by) the secular-
teacher of teachers” in the movement.
ization process. Although the roots of New Thought can be
traced to Christian Science, Mind Cure, and the mental heal-
As Hopkins’s version of Christian Science transformed
ing movement, from its earliest days New Thought offered
itself into New Thought, the younger movement became
a unique and comprehensive interpretation of individual ex-
clearly distinguished from Eddy’s work. Aside from aban-
istence and humanity as a whole. Mental healing has contin-
doning the term Christian Science in its self-references, the
ued to be a major component in New Thought systems, but
three most prominent distinctions pertain to the status of
as the movement grew the implications of mental healing ex-
doctrine, the material world, and medicine. In contrast to
panded beyond bodily healing to include all areas of life.
Christian Science, New Thought and its representative
This is especially to be noted in the movement’s “prosperity”
groups have no authoritative doctrines, and even in denomi-
teachings, which began to develop in the late 1880s.
nations with distinct and venerated founders (e.g., Unity and
Religious Science) the authority of the founder’s teachings
The decisive origin of the movement, per se, can be
is minimal at best. New Thought also differs from Christian
traced to the writing, teaching, and evangelical ministry of
Science in its generally positive evaluation of the material
Hopkins, a former student and professional associate of the
world. In distinction to Christian Science beliefs, in New
founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. Strong ar-
Thought, matter is not illusionary and the material world is
guments are sometimes advanced for ascribing its origin to
not antithetical to Spirit (Divine Mind). Instead, New
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, a mental healer and former mes-
Thought tends to view the material world (including hu-
merist who shared his technique with a small circle of his cli-
mankind) as an extension or expression of Spirit, which is
ents. Another reasonable source for New Thought is Chris-
growing toward perfection. Finally, New Thought is not op-
tian Science and Eddy herself. Eddy had been a client and
posed to the medical resolution of physical illness. In confor-
student of Quimby and later a teacher of Hopkins. Hop-
mity with its generally optimistic and harmonial worldview,
kins’s dissatisfaction with Eddy’s religion, and possibly a pro-
New Thought embraces all forms of healing, including tradi-
fessional misunderstanding between the two women, led to
tional Western medicine.
Hopkins’s separation from Eddy’s work and her develop-
ment of an independent form of Christian Science in Chica-
Entering the twentieth century, New Thought’s idealis-
go in the mid-1880s.
tic theology and optimistic worldview allowed it to assume
a congenial stance relative to the new realities of American
Hopkins’s Chicago work led to the establishment of a
life: secularization, urbanization, industrialization, pluralism,
seminary and, beginning in 1889, the ordination of minis-
and consumerism. Called “the religion of healthy minded-
ters. On the basis of her encouragement, Hopkins’s students
ness” by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experi-
took the New Thought message to all parts of the United
ence (1902), the movement affirmed a positive vision of hu-
States, chiefly the emerging urban centers of the Midwest
manity and sacralized critical aspects of what was coming to
and West, in particular San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City,
be the American dream: health, wealth, and peace of mind.
and Saint Louis. Included among the major New Thought
Its message of happiness and prosperity had particular reso-
leaders who studied with Hopkins were Kate (Mrs. Frank)
nance with members of the expanding urban middle class,
Bingham, the teacher of Nona Brooks (1861–1945) and a
which was then reaching majority status and sociocultural
founder of Divine Science; Malinda Cramer (1844–1906),
self-consciousness. It was this class that first embraced New
also a founder of Divine Science; Charles Fillmore (1854–
Thought, and it has remained the primary source for mem-
1948) and Myrtle Fillmore (1845–1931), co-founders of
bership in the movement.
Unity; Annie Rix Militz (1856–1924), a prominent author
in Unity’s early years, founder of Homes of Truth, and pub-
From a practical standpoint, and in addition to its ideal-
lisher of Master Mind (1911–1931) magazine; Helen Wil-
istic principles and “scientific” optimism, New Thought’s
mans (1835–1907), the founder of Mental Science; Frances
early and enduring success is owed to five major factors,
Lord, who carried New Thought to England; H. Emilie
probably in this order: (1) confidence of its leaders and
Cady (1848–1941), author of New Thought’s most widely
movement-building; (2) professional empowerment of
disseminated text, Unity’s Lessons In Truth; Ella Wheeler
women; (3) prosperity teachings; (4) skillful use of mass
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT
6585
media; and (5) a general ease with and adaptability to secu-
gard, New Thought’s prosperity teachings have affinities
larization.
with Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth (1900) and later
Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937). Prosperity
The confidence of the early New Thought leaders was
continues to be a major theme of New Thought literature,
intense. Zealous missionaries, they believed in the truth of
with Charles Fillmore’s Prosperity (1936) and Catherine
their message with the evangelical ardor frequently expressed
Ponder’s The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity (1962) being clas-
by members of young and dynamic religions. The writings
sics of the genre.
and addresses of Hopkins’s and her students reveal the confi-
dence typical of early New Thought leaders, with Hopkins’s
From its earliest days, New Thought leaders were quick
“Baccalaureate Address” (1891) and High Mysticism (1920)
to recognize the potential of the mass media. By the early
serving as representative texts. Following Hopkins’s model,
twentieth century, periodicals with a national reach were
many of her students developed distinct movements of their
widely used to disseminate the New Thought message to the
own, establishing ministerial schools, ordaining ministers,
general public. They also served to maintain the networks of
and sending them forth to establish religious communities
the developing denominations. Later (and this is especially
(churches, societies, centers, and temples), then networking
true of Unity), New Thought leaders made extensive use of
these communities together into distinct, though loosely
radio. Only with the dawning of television did New
structured, denominations. Examples of this developmental
Thought’s aggressive use of advanced media technology
strategy include Hopkins’s own movement, Wilmans’s Men-
begin to decline. In the twenty-first century, New Thought
tal Science Association, Militz’s Homes of Truth, the Fill-
denominations and many individual churches have websites,
more’s Unity School of Christianity, and Cramer’s and
and worship services of larger churches are aired on radio and
Brooks’s Divine Science. Although many of the early denom-
cable television in most metropolitan areas. Although both
inations were short-lived, Unity and Divine Science, both
the number and circulation of New Thought publications
founded in the 1880s, have endured, ranking first and third,
have been declining since the mid-twentieth century, major
respectively, in size at the beginning of the twenty-first
New Thought groups continue to publish periodicals, in-
century.
cluding Unity’s Daily Word, the United Church of Religious
Science’s Science of Mind, and INTA’s New Thought. Daily
The majority of Hopkins’s students and ministers were
Word is the largest of these publications, with over a million
women, and the early movement had a distinctly feminist
subscribers.
character and public profile. Hopkins appears to have been
the first woman in modern times to ordain women as Chris-
Unlike many traditional forms of American religion,
tian ministers. As a consequence, New Thought had particu-
New Thought was not and is not antagonistic to the aston-
lar appeal to women with professional aspirations who were
ishing transformation of culture and society wrought by sec-
otherwise often excluded from public life. The professional
ularization. Rather than decrying the sins of secularization,
empowerment of women contributed to the early success of
New Thought either ignored or actively embraced the wide-
New Thought by not only attracting talented women to the
spread cultural change that characterized Western culture in
movement, but also reform-minded men and persons of
the twentieth century. In doing so, New Thought has proven
both genders with progressive social visions. The movement
itself remarkably adaptable to and implicitly (if not explicit-
has maintained its commitment to female leadership, with
ly) supportive of pluralism, individualism, racial and gender
women forming the majority of New Thought ministers.
equality, modifications in traditional gender roles and family
New Thought’s growth was also fueled by its promotion
structures, globalization, and consumerism. Nonetheless, in
of prosperity teachings, whose deepest cultural influences can
harmony with its general apolitical character, the movement
be traced to the Calvinist notion of the “visible signs” of
has seldom taken public positions advocating social change.
one’s predestination for salvation. Other contributing influ-
MAJOR COMMUNITIES. The twenty-first-century New
ences were Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Thought movement is comprised of numerous religious
both of whom proposed methods of general self-
communities, most of which are small independent church-
improvement, which they believed would also lead to eco-
es, although several can be rightly classified as denomi-
nomic success. An even more direct influence was the expan-
nations.
sion of economic opportunity for members of the middle
class in the late nineteenth century, as well as the growing
Divine Science. Among these major groups, the oldest
acceptance that material affluence was a cultural ideal if not
is Divine Science. The roots of Divine Science can be traced
a moral imperative. New Thought offered the promise that
to the ministry of Malinda E. Cramer in San Francisco in
affluence could be achieved; in fact, New Thought affirmed
1888 and, more significantly, to the work of three sisters
that God wanted all people to be prosperous. Through its
(Fannie Brooks James, Alethea Brooks, and especially Nona
prosperity techniques, which were essentially extensions of
Brooks) in Denver in the 1890s. Cramer’s International Di-
its mental-healing methods, New Thought introduced itself
vine Science Association (founded in 1892) was the first na-
to America’s middle class as a religion that proclaimed the
tional organization of New Thought religious communities
spiritual virtue of affluence and financial success. In this re-
and arguably the predecessor of INTA. Of the major forms
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6586
NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT
of New Thought, Divine Science has been the least evange-
in 1927 by Ernest Holmes. Originally established as the In-
listic and least institutionalized.
stitute of Religious Science and Philosophy, churches were
being established by the 1940s, and the movement began to
In the late 1990s a small number of churches separated
develop a more traditional religious appearance. In 1954,
from the original Divine Science Federation, forming the
tensions over ecclesiastical structure led to a schism, with a
United Divine Science Ministries. Central texts of Divine
small number of churches separating from what became the
Science are Cramer’s Divine Science and Healing (1902) and
United Church of Religious Science and forming what be-
a compilation from the works of Cramer and Fannie Brooks
came Religious Science International. Over the years, the
James, Divine Science: Its Principle and Practice (1957). The
two groups have maintained a relatively cordial relationship,
movement’s most recognized leader was Emmet Fox (1886–
with the major differences being organizational rather than
1951), the author of numerous widely popular texts, includ-
doctrinal. In the early 1990s a third Religious Science organi-
ing The Sermon on the Mount (1934) and Power Through
zation was formed: Global Religious Science Ministries.
Constructive Thinking (1940). His pamphlet The Golden Key
(1937) offers an abbreviated outline of spiritual healing treat-
Religious Science is notable for its rejection of identifi-
ment as it is practiced in New Thought, and his idealistic
cation with Christianity. The United Church remains the
maxim, “life is consciousness,” is among the most well-
largest branch of the denomination. All branches of Reli-
known aphorisms in the movement. Divine Science is the
gious Science recognize Holmes’s Science of Mind (1926) as
smallest of New Thought’s denominations, with a total
their foundational text. Other notable works by Holmes are
membership of less than five thousand as of 2004.
This Thing Called Life (1943) and What Religious Science
Unity is second oldest and most clearly Christian de-
Teaches (1944). Total membership in all branches of Reli-
nomination in New Thought. It is the largest and most cul-
gious Science is around sixty thousand worldwide.
turally prominent New Thought group. Unity was cofound-
Universal Foundation for Better Living. The youn-
ed in Kansas City in 1889 by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore,
gest New Thought denomination is the Universal Founda-
a married couple. From its inception as a prayer and publica-
tion for Better Living (UFBL), founded in Chicago in 1974
tion ministry, it has experienced relatively sustained growth.
by Johnnie Colemon (Johnnie May Colemon Nedd). UFBL
Since 1966 it has been represented by two loosely affiliated
is the most successful Unity-derived movement, although
organizations: Unity School of Christianity and the Associa-
there are no formal ties between UFBL and Unity’s historical
tion of Unity Churches. Unity School, located at Unity Vil-
institutions. Prior to the founding of UFBL, Colemon had
lage in Kansas City, Missouri, is the largest material complex
been a successful minister in the Unity movement, develop-
in New Thought. It is the successor of the Fillmores’ original
ing a large congregation in Chicago, expanding the reach of
organization and directs the denomination’s publishing,
New Thought teachings to the African American communi-
prayer, and education ministries. The Association manages
ty, and serving as the President of the Association of Unity
Unity’s ecclesiastical operations, ordains ministers, supervises
Churches (1970). Institutional disagreements led to the
churches, and directs expansion.
founding of UFBL, which was originally founded as Unity
Two other small independent Unity groups emerged in
Foundation for Better Living but changed by Colemon when
the 1990s: the Unity-Progressive Council and the World
authorities in the Unity movement challenged the use of the
Federation for Practical Christianity (formerly the World
name “Unity.” The current President is Mary Ann Tump-
Federation of Independent Unity Churches [name changed
kin, who replaced Johnnie Colemon in 1996.
in 2003]). Unity’s primary textbook (“together with the
UFBL bases its beliefs on the traditional teachings of the
Bible”) is Cady’s Lessons in Truth, which was first published
Unity movement, especially as promulgated in the works of
as a series of articles in Unity magazine beginning in 1894.
Unity’s founders, Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, and H. Emi-
Unity is New Thought’s largest book publisher, and, among
lie Cady’s Lessons In Truth. The movement is strongly com-
its sizable collection of texts, two of the more distinctive are
mitted to higher learning in the New Thought tradition and
Charles Fillmore’s Christian Healing (1909) and The Twelve
has developed a number of unique educational initiatives,
Powers of Man (1930). His Metaphysical Bible Dictionary
most notably a project to establish an accredited New
(1931) is New Thought’s only comprehensive lexicon offer-
Thought seminary.
ing a “metaphysical” (allegorical) interpretation of the names
of persons and places found in the Bible. Outside of New
The movement is the third largest New Thought de-
Thought, Unity is perhaps best known for its prayer minis-
nomination, with 27 affiliated religious communities and an
try, Silent Unity, which receives about one million contacts
estimated 20,000 members. In addition to the USA, UFBL
annually—a number far in excess of the total number of ac-
has affiliated groups in Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and
tive Unity participants. There are nearly one thousand min-
Guyana. It publishes a monthly devotional magazine, Daily
istries and study groups worldwide, with membership proba-
Inspiration for Better Living.
bly in the 150,000 range.
INTA. Properly speaking, the International New
Religious Science. The second largest New Thought
Thought Alliance (INTA) is not a denomination but rather
denomination is Religious Science, founded in Los Angeles
an umbrella organization comprised of religious groups, in-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT
6587
dividual churches, and individuals. INTA is the most de-
Carpenter, Robert T., and Wade Clark Roof. “The Transplanting
mocratically structured of all the major New Thought
of Seicho-no-ie from Japan to Brazil: Moving Beyond the
groups, with full membership rights extended to laypersons.
Ethnic Enclave.” In Journal of the Society for the Study of
Its general aims are to promote the New Thought movement
Metaphysical Religion 2, no. 2 (1996): 117–139.
as a whole, disseminate New Thought teachings internation-
deChant, Dell. “New Thought and the New Age.” In New Age
ally, and facilitate solidarity among all New Thought partici-
Encyclopedia, edited by J. Gordon Melton. Detroit, Mich.,
pants. INTA was founded in 1914, although its roots can be
1990.
traced to predecessor groups dating to the 1890s. Through-
deChant, Dell. “Myrtle Fillmore and Her Daughters.” In Women’s
out its history, the success of INTA has largely been contin-
Leadership in Marginal Religions: Explorations Outside the
Mainstream
, edited by Catherine Wessinger. Urbana, Ill.,
gent on the support of the major New Thought denomina-
and Chicago, 1993.
tions and prominent leaders in the movement. Since the
early 1990s the significance of INTA appears to have de-
“Declaration of Principles.” New Thought 85, No. 3 (2001): 19.
creased as individual denominations have grown in size and
Dresser, Horatio W. A History of the New Thought Movement.
institutional self-identity. In addition, a leadership struggle
New York, 1919.
in 1996 resulted in a number of influential leaders leaving
Dresser, Horatio W., ed. The Quimby Manuscripts. New York,
INTA to form the Association for Global New Thought.
1919.
The president of INTA in 2004 was Blaine C. Mays, who
Fuller, Robert C. Mesmerism and the American Cure of Souls. Phil-
became president in 1974 and held the office longer than any
adelphia, 1982.
other INTA president. The Alliance publishes New Thought,
Harley, Gail M. Emma Curtis Hopkins: Forgotten Founder of New
a quarterly magazine, and its creedlike “Declaration of Prin-
Thought. Syracuse, N.Y., 2002.
ciples” embodies the general beliefs of most New Thought
Jackson, Carl T. “The New Thought Movement and the Nine-
adherents.
teenth Century Discovery of Oriental Philosophy.” In Jour-
nal of Popular Culture
9 (1975): 523–548.
Seicho-no-Ie. The global scope of New Thought is re-
Judah, J. Stillson. The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical
flected in its presence on all continents and in more than
Movements in America. Philadelphia, 1967.
sixty countries, with a particularly strong presence in sub-
Laughlin, Paul. “Re-Turning East: Watering the Withered Orien-
Saharan Africa. A related movement, Seicho-no-Ie (Home of
tal Roots of New Thought.” Journal of the Society for the
Infinite Life, or House of Blessing), was founded by Masa-
Study of Metaphysical Religion 3, no. 2 (1997): 113–133.
haru Taniguchi (1893–1985) in Japan in 1930. Taniguchi
Melton, J. Gordon, ed. New Thought: A Reader. Santa Barbara,
was inspired in part by Religious Science, and the move-
Calif., 1990.
ment’s foundational idealism and optimistic worldview sug-
Melton, J. Gordon. “Emma Curtis Hopkins: A Feminist of the
gests a close affinity with traditional New Thought beliefs.
1880s and Mother of New Thought.” In Women’s Leadership
Seicho-no-Ie is, however, more broadly syncretistic than
in Marginal Religions: Explorations Outside the Mainstream,
other New Thought groups and includes elements of Bud-
edited by Catherine Wessinger. Urbana, Ill., and Chicago,
dhism and Shinto¯ otherwise not found in the movement.
1993.
Seicho-no-Ie is also more socially conservative and politically
Melton, J. Gordon. “The Case of Edward J. Arens and the Distor-
active than traditional New Thought denominations. If in-
tion of New Thought History.” Journal of the Society for the
cluded within the movement, Seicho-no-Ie would be by far
Study of Metaphysical Religion 2, no. 1 (1996): 13–29.
New Thought’s largest denomination, with a worldwide
Melton, J. Gordon. “How Divine Science Got to Denver.” In
membership of over 1.25 million, including 400,000 to
Journal of the Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion 7,
500,000 members in Brazil.
no. 2 (2001): 103–122.
Parker, Gail T. Mind Cure in New England: From the Civil War
SEE ALSO Hopkins, Emma Curtis; Unity.
to World War I. Hanover, N.H., 1973.
Satter, Beryl. Each Mind a Kingdom: American Women, Sexual Pu-
B
rity, and the New Thought Movement, 1875–1920. Berkeley,
IBLIOGRAPHY
Anderson, C. Alan. Contrasting Strains of Metaphysical Idealism
Calif., 1999.
Contributing to New Thought. Santa Barbara, Calif., 1991.
Simmons, John K. “The Ascension of Annie Rix Militz and the
Home(s) of Truth: Perfection Meets Paradise in Early Twen-
Anderson, C. Alan. Healing Hypotheses: Horatio W. Dresser and the
tieth-Century Los Angeles.” Ph.D. diss., University of Cali-
Philosophy of New Thought. Boston: Ph.D. Dissertation. Bos-
fornia, Santa Barbara, 1987.
ton University, 1963. New York, 1993.
Simmons, John K. “The Forgotten Contributions of Annie Rix
Anderson, C. Alan. “Quimby as Founder of New Thought.” In
Militz to the Unity School of Christianity.” In Nova Religio:
Journal of the Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion 3,
The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 2, no. 1
no. 1 (1997): 5–22.
(1998): 76–92.
Anderson, Ferne. “Emma Curtis Hopkins: Springboard to New
Simmons, John K. “The Eddy-Hopkins Paradigm: A ‘Metaphysi-
Thought.” M.A. thesis, University of Denver, 1981.
cal Look’ at Their Historic Relationship.” In Journal of the
Braden, Charles S. Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development
Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion 8, no. 2 (2002):
of New Thought. Dallas, Tex., 1963.
129–151.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6588
NEWTON, ISAAC
Szasz, Ferenc. “‘New Thought’ and the American West.” In Jour-
cal points concerning gravitational attraction (Halley and
nal of the West 23, no. 2 (1984): 83–90.
Hooke had been working on this problem for some time).
Teener, James W. “Unity School of Christianity.” Ph.D. diss.,
To Halley’s great surprise, Newton replied that he had al-
University of Chicago, 1942.
ready made these calculations many years earlier, but that he
DELL DECHANT (2005)
could not find the appropriate papers. Halley urged Newton
to recalculate, using his original theorems, and to prepare a
manuscript for the Royal Society. Halley showed enormous
NEWTON, ISAAC
tact and good judgment in not letting Hooke’s claim to the
(1642–1727), widely regarded as
inverse-square law of gravitation and the attendant acrimony
the greatest scientist of all time. Born prematurely (at Wools-
between Hooke and Newton vitiate the whole project. Fi-
thorpe, Lincolnshire, England), Newton developed into a
nanced by moneys from Halley’s personal funds, Newton’s
physically weak, lonely, unhappy child; he was also an indif-
work was finally published in 1687 under the title Philo-
ferent student until an encounter with a school bully roused
sophia naturalis principia mathematica.
him to excel. In 1661, he entered Trinity College at Cam-
bridge University, where he showed no distinction until he
Newton’s Principia, as it has come to be known, is justi-
came under the influence of Isaac Barrow, a professor of
fiably regarded as the greatest scientific work ever produced.
mathematics. A man of great insight, Barrow was the first
It integrated into one coherent whole diverse data and math-
to recognize Newton’s genius; in fact, he resigned his profes-
ematical principles concerning the motion of material parti-
sorship so that Newton, at age twenty-six, could be appoint-
cles and gravitation. As the publication of Copernicus’s De
ed to it.
revolutionibus in 1543 marked the beginning of the great sci-
Shortly after Newton graduated in 1665, the university
entific revolution, the publication of the Principia marked
was closed because of plague, and he had to return to Wools-
its completion and the beginning of the modern scientific
thorpe. There he spent eighteen months in studies that laid
age.
the foundation for much of his later work. He discovered the
Indeed, Newton is often described as the inaugurator of
binomial theorem, differential and integral calculus, the the-
the “age of reason.” Alexander Pope hailed him thus:
ory of color, several other important theorems in mathemat-
ics, and the celebrated law of gravitation—which for nearly
Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, let
250 years was regarded as the epitome and exemplar of scien-
Newton be! and all was light.
tific laws of nature.
And many were other accolades from philosophers, theolo-
Newton’s interests were both mathematical and experi-
gians, and poets, although few of them ever read the Prin-
mental. He invented a reflecting telescope to free telescopes
cipia or had the mathematical ability to comprehend it, as
from the chromatic aberration of refracting lenses. He pres-
the philosopher John Locke confessed about himself. For his
ented a small version of his telescope to the Royal Society,
own and the immediately succeeding generation, Newton
which honored him by electing him a fellow when he was
epitomized reason, sound judgment, and even saintly good-
only thirty. In 1672, when Newton published his new theory
ness. But by the beginning of the nineteenth century, poets
of light and color—including the experiments showing that
like Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats had vilified
white light can be separated into its component colors by a
Newton, identifying him—and the science that he had
prism—the society was bombarded with letters disputing his
helped create—with the forces of mechanization that were
conclusions. Some of the correspondents were scientists of
despiritualizing the cosmos. Blake, for example, regarded
note, among them Robert Hooke and Christiaan Huygens.
Newton, along with Locke and Francis Bacon, as a member
The controversy affected Newton greatly and, thereafter, he
of an “infernal trinity” that had a satanic influence on “Albi-
tended to withdraw from the public eye. Though he had
on,” by which Blake meant unspoiled England, or archetypal
vowed after the controversy not to publish any further dis-
man.
coveries, he did, in fact, continue to publish.
In 1693, Newton suffered a sort of nervous breakdown.
Newton conceived a proprietary interest in every subject
He had represented the university as a member of Parliament
he investigated; there was hardly any achievement of his cre-
since 1689, and he had devotedly attended to his mother
ative scientific life that was unaccompanied by acrimony and
during her final illness, and these responsibilities must have
quarreling. This was largely owing to a great deal of paranoia
weighed on him. After his recovery, he resumed his life in
and self-doubt in Newton’s personality. His ego needed to
London, where he became warden and later master of the
be continually bolstered by the praise and admiration of oth-
Royal Mint. In 1703 he became president of the Royal Soci-
ers, a trait that may have had its cause in Newton’s humble
ety, a post he used, often unscrupulously, in his various and
origins—his father was a yeoman, a fact that always made
many feuds, including one with G. W. Leibniz over the ques-
Newton uneasy and that he tried to obscure by inventing
tion as to which of them had first discovered differential cal-
grandiose genealogies for himself.
culus. He published his Opticks, written in a very different
In 1684, Newton received a visit from the astronomer
style from the Principia, in 1704; it was actually read not
Edmond Halley, who consulted him about some mathemati-
only by his scientific colleagues but also by other intellectu-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW YEAR FESTIVALS
6589
als. He was knighted in 1705. Shortly before his death,
fied Newton, who felt an emotional, personal relationship
he removed to the country air of the village of Kensington.
with God. In fact, Newton himself would have wished to be
He died there in 1727, without having requested last rites.
regarded as a prophet of God.
He was buried alongside kings and princes in Westminster
Abbey.
SEE ALSO Alchemy, article on Renaissance Alchemy; Rosi-
crucians.
Throughout his life—and by no means only during his
nervous breakdown, as some have maintained—Newton was
BIBLIOGRAPHY
highly interested in theological, chronological, and alchemi-
The standard biography of Newton is Louis Trenchard More’s
cal studies. It is estimated that he wrote some two million
Isaac Newton: A Biography (New York, 1934). A short, popu-
words on these subjects, a total far surpassing that of his writ-
lar account is given by E. N. Andrade in his Sir Isaac Newton
ings in mathematics and physics. Much of this material, par-
(New York, 1954). A more recent, reliable biography is Rich-
ticularly that on alchemy, consists of the writings of others
ard S. Westfall’s Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton
that Newton copied for his own use, but he also wrote books
(Cambridge, 1980). A fascinating study of the psychology of
this complex genius is Frank E. Manuel’s A Portrait of Isaac
of his own on these subjects. It may even be true, as Newton
Newton (Cambridge, 1968). For Newton’s chronological, re-
himself seems to have hinted, that his real interest lay in a
ligious, and alchemical interests and studies, the following
wide and comprehensive knowledge that he hoped to acquire
three books, respectively, are indispensable: Isaac Newton:
through alchemy and theology, and that he viewed his scien-
Historian (Cambridge, Mass., 1963) and The Religion of Isaac
tific studies only as amusing diversions. Since he could not,
Newton (Oxford, 1974), both by Frank E. Manuel, and The
in general, be accused of excessive humility, we may have to
Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy, or “The Hunting of the
understand in another light a well-known remark he made
Greene Lyon” (Cambridge, 1975) by Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs.
toward the end of his life: “I do not know what I may appear
A good and representative selection of Newton’s writings
to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a
concerning his philosophy of nature and natural theology is
boy, playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now
to be found in Newton’s Philosophy of Nature, edited, ar-
and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than
ranged, and annotated by H. S. Thayer (New York, 1953).
ordinary, while the great ocean of Truth lay all undiscovered
New Sources
before me.”
Aughton, Peter. Newton’s Apple: Issac Newton and the English Sci-
entific Renaissance. London, 2003.
Newton certainly believed in the prisca sapienta, an an-
English, John C. “John Hutchinson’s Critique of Newtonian Het-
cient wisdom that had existed among priest-scientists such
erodoxy,” Church History 68/3 (1999): 581–597.
as the Chaldeans in Babylonia, the brahmans in India, and
Lincoln, Bruce. “Issac Newton and Oriental Jones on Myth, An-
Moses and Pythagoras among the Hebrews and the Greeks.
cient History and the Relative Prestige of Peoples,” History
He believed that this wisdom was now largely lost, that he,
of Religions 42/1 (2002): 1–18.
Newton, was one of an esoteric brotherhood extending back
to ancient times, and that he was redisclosing this knowledge
Newton and Religion. Dordrecht, Netherlands, 1999.
in a new form, more mathematical than metaphysical or
Pfizenmaier, Thomas C. “Was Issac Newton an Arian?” Journal
mythological. “Newton was not the first of the age of rea-
of the History of Ideas 58 (1997): 57–80.
son,” the economist John Maynard Keynes concluded after
RAVI RAVINDRA (1987)
examining Newton’s alchemical papers. “He was the last of
Revised Bibliography
the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the
last great mind which looked out on the visible and the intel-
lectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build
NEW YEAR FESTIVALS.
our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years
The concept of year, which
ago.”
is found in all higher cultures (as solar year or lunar year or
some combination of the two), is not known in all archaic
Newton was a staunch monotheist and strongly an-
cultures. Some cultures reckon only in periods of approxi-
titrinitarian. Perhaps owing to this, he never took holy orders
mately six months; this is especially the case in tropical lands
and could not become the master of Trinity College. His an-
where seedtime and harvest come twice in the course of a sin-
titrinitarian sentiment, however, was a dreadful secret that
gle year. Even when the year is regarded as a basic division
Newton tried desperately all his life to conceal. He himself
of time, the calculation is often based not (or not exclusively)
often maintained the philosophical autonomy of nature and
on the sun and the moon but on the visibility of certain con-
revelation, but for himself he certainly regarded his work in
stellations; in tropical and subtropical areas, it is based with
natural philosophy to be a gloria and a study of God’s works.
special frequency on the heliacal early rising of the Pleiades.
Future generations, in denigrating religion and exiling God
The beginning of the year, or the “New Year,” is often not
from natural philosophy, were more influenced by the sci-
a precise and fixed date that is astronomically determined
ence and its mechanistic implications, a science of which he
(e.g., by equinoxes or solstices). Rather, it is a period that is
was the supreme representative and symbol, than by New-
determined by the annual vegetation cycle or, more general-
ton’s own example or beliefs. This trend would have horri-
ly, by climatic processes (passage from the dark period of the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6590
NEW YEAR FESTIVALS
year to the bright, from the cold to the warm, from the
of chaotic conditions but also as an attempt at the forcible
stormy to the calm, from the dry to the rainy). Such periods
augmentation of the life forces). In agrarian cultures there is
are often accompanied by festivities, and when the interval
often a suspension of taboos at the new harvest and the re-
between such festivities is approximately as long as a solar
newal of food reserves. Only rarely, however, are all these ele-
year, one is justified in speaking of New Year festivals.
ments found conjoined. In any case, a purely phenomeno-
logical approach is inadequate and can even be misleading,
Even where the year is known as a unit of time, it does
because it presumes a fictitious universality. A phenomeno-
not necessarily follow that the years are counted and that a
logical consideration of the traits common to New Year festi-
chronology exists. “It is true indeed of most primitive peo-
vals must therefore be supplemented by a detailed examina-
ples . . . that they are well acquainted with . . . the concrete
tion of the form they have taken in the context of particular
phenomenon of the year . . . as a single period of the season-
cultures. This kind of detailed analysis is extensively provid-
al variation, but do not reckon in years in this sense. That
ed in works by Vittorio Lanternari (1959, 1976).
is to say, the year is by them empirically given but not limited
in the abstract: above all it is not a calendrical and numerical
ARCHAIC CULTURES. In most archaic cultures New Year cer-
quantity” (Nilsson, 1920, p. 90). Thus in archaic cultures
emonies are a dramatic representation of occurrences in the
and in early high cultures the importance of New Year festi-
primordial time and, more specifically, of the fondazione
vals is not, or is only in small measure, found in the fact that
degli alimenti or the establishment of the manner of obtain-
they are measures of time; the principal function of such cer-
ing food, which is recorded in myths about the primordial
emonies is to ensure, during a critical transitional period, a
time. To this symbolic re-creation of the established order
renewal of life and the life force. In fact in many instances
is added the concern with the expulsion of the unfavorable
they even assume the form of a symbolic new creation out
period of the year and the inauguration of the favorable
of chaos.
period.
Whereas New Year ceremonies vary widely from culture
Hunting and food-gathering cultures. In most hunt-
to culture, their meaning is essentially concerned with the
ing and food-gathering cultures New Year ceremonies take
phenomenon of transition or passage in its two aspects of
place at a time when food is beginning to be scarce. In Aus-
“elimination” and “inauguration.” What is old, exhausted,
tralia this is usually toward the end of the dry period (in
weakened, inferior, and harmful is to be eliminated, and
many parts of Australia the rainy season begins in October,
what is new, fresh, powerful, good, and healthy is to be intro-
in other parts in December). The San of the Kalahari Desert
duced and ensured. The first aspect finds expression in cere-
in southern Africa also conduct their New Year ceremonies
monies of dissociation, purification, destruction, and so on.
at the beginning of the rainy season. Among the SelkDnam
These involve washing, fasting, putting off or destroying old
(in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago) and the Andaman Is-
clothing, and quenching fires as well as the expulsion of sick-
landers, the ceremonies focus chiefly on banishing the bad
nesses and evil powers (demons) through cries, noisemaking,
(cold or stormy) season of the year; elsewhere the emphasis
and blows or through the dispatch of an animal or human
is on inaugurating the good season with its abundant food
being on which are loaded the sins of the previous period of
(as in the ceremonies of the Australian Aborigines, which aim
time. The ceremonies may also reintroduce chaos through
at an increase in certain species of animals). In the arctic cli-
the dissolution of the social order and the suspension of ta-
mate of the Inuit (Eskimo) hunting (which consists chiefly
boos in force at other times and, in some cases, through the
of the slaying of marine mammals) is impossible during the
election of a temporary pseudo-king. The conflict between
winter months; these months are instead a time of intense
the old and the new time is also symbolized by ceremonial
ritual activity that reaches its climax at the winter solstice.
battles and by masquerades (in which the demons to be ex-
Among the Inuit, religious exaltation finds expression in sha-
pelled or the creative ancestors of the primordial time may
manistic activity and especially, as with hunters and food col-
be represented). In addition there is often a temporary sus-
lectors generally, in dancing. These dances represent in dra-
pension of the division between the world of the living and
matic form the events of the primordial time, that is, the
the world of the dead, with a return of the latter to the houses
deeds of the ancestors and culture heroes.
of the living, where they receive sacrifices and food but from
which they are ceremoniously dismissed at the end of the fes-
Unrestrained eating and drinking are not found at these
tal period.
feasts of hunters and gatherers, and sexual orgies are rare.
Such orgies do occur among some Western Inuit tribes, but
The second and positive aspect of the passage from old
their New Year festivals clearly show the influence of the fish-
to new is seen in the donning of new clothes, the lighting
ing cultures of the American Indians of the Northwest Coast.
of a new fire, and the drawing of freshwater as well as in
Among Australian Aborigines, sexual orgies are connected
green branches and other symbols of life, in initiations (re-
with initiations, but these are not part of New Year festivals.
ception of young people into the cult community), and in
The belief in collective return of the dead from the sea is usu-
orgiastic festive joy that leads to many kinds of excesses: im-
ally not found except among some few Inuit tribes, and in
moderate eating, drinking, and dancing and, often, sexual
this case the form of the belief is connected with their man-
orgies (these are to be regarded not only as a reintroduction
ner of life as hunters of marine mammals, a connection
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW YEAR FESTIVALS
6591
found also in the belief systems of the fishing cultures. Final-
milk); often too the rite of bloodless dedication of animals
ly, among hunting and food-gathering cultures, the sacrifice
is practiced. Festive joy finds expression also in abundant
of firstlings is not part of New Year celebrations (as it is
meals and in sporting competitions that represent in symbol-
among nomadic herdsmen and cultivators). Where sacrifices
ic form the victory of summer over winter.
of firstlings are customary, they are offered immediately after
In tropical regions the shift of seasons often occurs in
a successful hunt.
a less striking way, and animals often produce young
Fishing cultures. The term fishing cultures is here used
throughout the entire year. For this reason New Year festivals
in a broad sense to include those peoples who hunt chiefly
of the type found in northern Eurasia are rarely found among
marine mammals or even other sea animals, such as tortoises.
the herding peoples of Africa, except for certain festivals that
Because the peoples in question are sedentary inhabitants of
occur before the beginning of the rainy season. But in sub-
islands and coasts, they are also often agriculturalists, where
tropical regions, for example, in Southwest Asia, springtime
climatic conditions allow. But where the character of experi-
festivals are found, or at least traces of them can be seen, as
ence is determined primarily by the group’s relation to the
among the Arabs and in the Israelite Pesah:.
sea, this relation manifests itself in the New Year festival.
It can be said of all nomadic herding cultures that they
Thus even the time for the New Year festival is determined
do not have a belief in the regular collective return of the
by the condition of the sea; the festival may occur at the sol-
dead. Sexual orgies too are almost unknown among them.
emn inauguration of the fishing period (when, for example,
certain fish or other marine animals appear in great numbers)
Primitive cultivation cultures. According to Lanter-
or at the close of this period (when fishing becomes impossi-
nari (1976), three types of agrarian cultures are to be distin-
ble for a long time because of storms or excessive cold).
guished: (1) primitive cultivators (tuber cultivators) without
Among the American Indians of the Northwest Coast (the
social stratification; (2) advanced cultivators with improved
Kwakiutl, Tsimshian, and others), the ceremonies take place
methods of tilling and a social stratification; and (3) grain
when the salmon enter the rivers in great schools and the
growers, who already represent a transition to the high cul-
salmon catch begins; during the ceremonies certain parts of
tures. A vivid example of the New Year festivals of primitive
the catch are thrown back into the water (the same is done
tuber cultivators is the Milamala festival of the Trobriand Is-
among some Inuit tribes of the Northwest Coast). Similar
landers of Melanesia, which Bronislaw Malinowski, in par-
ceremonies are conducted by the coastal Koriak and coastal
ticular, described in great detail. It has its foundation in my-
Chukchi, Siberian peoples who live chiefly by hunting
thology and is celebrated for an entire lunar month, that is,
whales and seals, but these ceremonies are conducted at the
in August–September, when the harvest of yams, which are
end of the hunting season.
the principal food, has been completed and there is thus an
abundance of food. During the entire month work in the
An important element in the New Year festivals of fish-
produce gardens is strictly forbidden; the time is spent in
ing cultures is the belief in a collective return of the dead,
singing, dancing, eating copious meals, and engaging in sex-
especially of those drowned at sea; this idea is particularly im-
ual orgies. During this period the spirits of the dead enter
portant among peoples of the Northern Hemisphere, and it
the village and are offered food; at the end of the festive peri-
has left its mark on European folklore. Where sacrifices of
od they are ceremonially expelled.
the animals caught are offered (these are to be regarded in
part as sacrifices of firstlings), they are addressed either to the
Festivals of a similar character are widespread among the
sea as such or to the dead; in the former case a belief in a
tribal peoples of Melanesia (Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji,
return of the animals to life is also of some importance at
New Britain, New Ireland, New Guinea, New Caledonia),
times.
where the cultivation of tuberous plants everywhere provides
the staple foods. Typical elements in these festivals are rever-
Nomadic herding cultures. The special characteristics
ence for the earth (as agent of fruitfulness and dwelling place
of New Year festivals among cattle-breeding nomads are
of the dead); the collective return of the dead, to whom sacri-
most clearly seen in northern Eurasia, where the distinction
fices of firstfruits from the new harvests are offered; and the
between the cold and warm seasons of the year is pro-
orgy in its various forms (copious meals, dances, sexual aban-
nounced. These peoples, whether breeders of reindeer
don). The collective return of the spirits of the dead and the
(Saami, Samoyeds, Tunguz, Koriak, Chukchi) or breeders of
sacrifice of firstfruits from the harvest are also documented
horses, sheep, and cattle (Altai Tatars, Abakan Tatars, Ya-
outside Melanesia (in Africa, Indonesia, and elsewhere). In
kuts, Mongols), celebrate their New Year festivals in the
some parts of Melanesia cultic societies (of a more or less se-
spring, when the vegetation revives, the animals produce
cret character) play a role in the New Year festivals. Other
their young, and milk and milk products are abundant. At
Melanesian tribes have special ceremonies not found in the
this time sacrifices of firstlings are offered to the higher pow-
Milamala festival, including, for example, initiatory celebra-
ers and especially to the supreme heavenly being in gratitude
tions, the appearance of masked dancers in dramatic presen-
for the increase of the flocks; these offerings consist both of
tations, and the slaying of large numbers of pigs. Moreover
young animals and of bloodless victims (milk and milk prod-
the Festival of Pigs frequently takes a form in which the en-
ucts, such as koumiss, an alcoholic drink made of mare’s
hancement of social prestige plays a special role. Whereas this
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6592
NEW YEAR FESTIVALS
particular festival is celebrated not annually but at longer in-
en (the sun) and earth. In some grain-growing cultures the
tervals, there are nonetheless many indications that it was
New Year festivals are connected with the solstices, in others
originally connected with the New Year festivals.
with the revival of the vegetation in the spring or with the
conclusion of the harvest.
Sexual orgies are regarded as a means of intensifying the
life force and promoting the fertility of plant life. Such cele-
CULTURES OF THE ANCIENT MIDDLE EAST AND OF THE
brations are also found as part of the New Year celebrations
MEDITERRANEAN WORLD. The influence of the mythical
among more highly developed agrarian cultures.
ideas and corresponding rituals of the grain-growing cultures
reaches into the agrarian and urban cultures of the ancient
Advanced cultivation cultures. The culture of the
Middle East and of the Mediterranean region. In these cul-
Polynesians may be taken as a typical example of advanced
tures, however, the ceremonies are enriched with numerous
cultivation cultures. Polynesian culture is based chiefly on
new elements. First, the vegetative cycle and its accompany-
the cultivation of the breadfruit tree; on some islands this is
ing round of agricultural labors determine the demarcations
supplemented by taro or sweet potatoes, for which irrigation
of the year; however, there is also a more refined astronomi-
is used. Because of the climate, there is no sharp contrast be-
cal observation. Thus the beginning of the year is determined
tween the seasons of the years and between periods of abun-
partly by climate and vegetation (therefore the year begins
dance and dearth. Surplus agricultural production has made
either in the spring or in the autumn), partly by the equinox-
possible the development of a hierarchic social order, often
es, and more rarely by the solstices (as in Phoenicia and
with a sacral or even divinized king at its apex. The upper
Syria). In Ugarit there seems to have been a cultic year that
classes are not directly involved in agricultural production
began in the autumn and a “civic” year that began in the
but exercise other functions, particularly ritual ones. For this
spring. In Mesopotamia the Akitu festival among the Sume-
reason the purpose of the New Year ceremonies (which do
rians was originally an autumn festival marking the resump-
not occur at the same time on all the islands) is less to ensure
tion of fieldwork after the summer drought. The Babylonian
the food needed for life and much more to validate the social
New Year festival (Sumerian, Zagmuk; Akkadian, Zagmuk-
order: the first fruits of the harvest are not offered to the re-
ku), also called Akitu, which was celebrated in the spring at
turning dead as a whole but to the kings and the chiefs (who
the beginning of the month Nisan, represented the fusion
then often make a further distribution of them) as well as to
of two originally distinct festivals, one in the spring, the
the royal ancestors and the gods; the latter are often of an
other in the fall. The Iranian New Year festival (Nowru¯z),
agrarian-solar type. Ceremonial battles take place and at
celebrated at the time of the spring equinox, also replaced
times a symbolic deposition or slaying of the king, followed
an older custom of starting the year in the fall. In pre-Islamic
by his reenthronement. Unrestrained dancing and sexual or-
Arabia the year began in the fall; in only a few northern fron-
gies are often part of the fertility cult, as they are among
tier areas was there a shift to a year beginning in the spring.
primitive cultivators. The New Year festival shows compara-
It is not known when the year began in the ancient cultures
ble forms with a similar content in various cultures that com-
of southern Arabia; in modern times the year begins some-
bine cultivation of the soil and cattle breeding and that also
times in the spring, sometimes in the fall.
have a hierarchic social structure, such as among southeast-
As for the ceremonies of the New Year festivals in the
ern Bantu peoples, in West Africa, and in Madagascar.
Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures, members of the
Grain-growing cultures. The New Year festival in
“cult history” school (known also as the “myth and ritual”
grain-growing cultures has much in common with the festi-
school) delineated a “pattern” for the urban New Year festi-
val found in other agrarian cultures; there are, however, dis-
val that includes the following elements: “The dramatic rep-
tinguishing features that can be seen among rice farmers (an-
resentation of the death and resurrection of the god; the reci-
cient Japan, ancient China) and maize growers (North
tation or symbolic representation of the myth of the creation;
America and Mesoamerica). The contrast between the cold,
the ritual combat, in which the triumph of the god over his
dark, and unfruitful and the warm, bright, and fertile periods
enemies was depicted; the sacred marriage; the triumphal
of the year is marked (this opposition accounts, for example,
procession, in which the king played the part of the god, fol-
for the great importance of new fire as a symbol of light in
lowed by a train of lesser gods or visiting deities” (A. M.
the New Year ceremonies—something also found among
Johnson in Hooke, 1958, p. 226). Judah B. Segal brings to-
nonagrarian peoples of the north, such as the Inuit and
gether what is known about New Year ceremonies in ancient
northern Asiatics). In grain-growing cultures the sun, the in-
Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Babylonia, among the Hittites,
fluence of which on the growth of cereals is directly visible,
and in Syria, Phoenicia, and Arabia to derive components of
is of paramount importance; not so among tuber cultivators,
a general pattern:
who ascribe fertility directly to the earth and the dead. (The
The New Year is fixed by the calendar. In all communi-
great importance of the solar complex among the Polynesians
ties we find a ritual going-forth from the city to the
can be traced back to Asian elements in their culture; a fur-
open country. In all are rites of purification, which in-
ther significant similarity with East Asia is the importance
clude fasting and the wearing of new clothes, proces-
of the sacral ruler for the general prosperity.) A dominant
sions, the exchange of gifts, sacrifices, and feasting. In
theme in the myths of grain growers is the marriage of heav-
some communities there is a solemn recital of a myth
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEW YEAR FESTIVALS
6593
of Creation, in several the sacred marriage is enacted.
wear because it was believed that this would bring good luck.
Most include the temporal removal of conventional so-
In addition special dishes, such as carp and sweetbreads in
cial restrictions. The New Year appears to be an appro-
Germany, are served on New Year’s Day. Some Germans
priate time for the dedication of a temple. (Segal, 1963,
smelt lead on New Year’s Eve in order to predict the future
pp. 125–126)
on the basis of the forms the lead takes after it has warmed
The Israelite New Year festival is not derived from this urban
up. Chimney sweeps are believed to bring good luck on New
type, which supposedly split into a spring festival and an au-
Year’s Day. Good wishes are often exchanged, orally or in
tumn festival. One must suppose rather that the Israelite fes-
letters and postcards. A specific German New Year’s wish is
tivals contained independent elements derived from the no-
that of a good Rutsch, which is a slight deformation of the
madic period and that in part they were remodeled
Yiddish-Hebrew word Ro Dsh, an abbreviation of RoDsh ha-
Canaanite festivals (through which Mesopotamian influ-
Shanah.
ences were indirectly at work) that were taken over after the
Jewish celebrations. RoDsh ha-Shanah is the Hebrew
settlement. The Canaanite influence is especially apparent
name for the Jewish New Year in autumn. It is celebrated
in the New Year festival in the autumn; nomadic traditions,
on the first of the month of Tishri, the seventh month of the
on the other hand, are reflected in the spring festival (Pesah:)
Jewish calendar year. The name was unknown in biblical
at the beginning of the year. The very details that give the
times, where, with reference to Leviticus 23:24–25, the sa-
Pesah: ritual its specific character are the ones that do not fit
cred day was called the Day of Remembrance (Yom ha-
into the general pattern that has been presented by Segal. In
Zikkaron) or Day of Sounding the Shofar (Yom Teruah). It
Arabia the pre-Islamic (nomadic) spring festival lives on in
marks the beginning of a ten-day period of spiritual self-
changed form in the Eumrah of Mecca, whereas the pre-
examination and repentance that culminates with Yom Kip-
Islamic (agrarian) autumn festival can be seen in the h:a¯jj.
pur, the Day of Atonement. This period of celebration is
Spring and autumn festivals that mark the beginning of
clearly not mirthful compared with the New Year celebra-
the year (or at least critical turning points during the year)
tions that are held at the beginning of the secular year. Rath-
are also to be regarded, in the folklore of North Africa and
er, RoDsh ha-Shanah carries strong religious implications of
the southern European countries, as survivals of a common
remembering the sins of the past year. The holiday finds its
ancient Mediterranean agrarian culture. Among the com-
expression when people walk, according to an old tradition,
mon features are sexual rituals as a means of promoting fertil-
to a source of flowing water, such as a creek or a river, on
ity (although these have for the most part been reduced to
the afternoon of the first day and empty their pockets into
symbolic actions or purely verbal manifestations), masks as
the water, symbolically casting off their sins.
representations of the returning dead, and the role played by
Many Jews, in particular American Jews, use the New
a temporary sacral “agrarian king.”
Year as a time to plan a better life, making “resolutions” for
The Christian feast of Easter is connected with the Isra-
the year to come. It is in this spirit of renewal that white
elite Pesah: and, as the feast of the resurrection of Christ, has
clothes are recommended and white skullcaps are suggested
its own specific salvation-historical content. In addition,
as symbols of purity. Intensive house cleaning is on the agen-
however, it contains (partly in the official rites of the Roman
da, debts are paid back, and reconciliation is sought in cases
Catholic and Eastern Churches, partly in popular customs)
of discord. The sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, is the
numerous details that derive from archaic cultures and the
most characteristic sign marking the New Year. “During the
cultures of the ancient Middle East; these details symbolize
course of the Rosh Hashana service, a total of 100 notes are
a transition and a new beginning and to this extent make it
sounded. Ancient tradition has handed down three distinct
possible to regard Easter as the real Christian New Year
shofar notes: a long drawn-out sound (tekiah), a broken,
festival.
plaintive sound (shevarim), a series of sharp, staccato sounds
CONTEMPORARY SOCIETIES. The New Year is usually cele-
(teruah)” (Donin, 1972, p. 245). If the New Year falls on a
brated at the beginning of the secular year on January 1,
Sabbath, the shofar is not blown. No work is permitted on
though other New Year celebrations are also practiced. These
RoDsh ha-Shanah. Much of the day is spent in the synagogue.
include secular celebrations, such as the beginning of the
Eating apples dipped in honey is popular on this day, as is
school or university year, and religious celebrations, includ-
sending postcards to wish a happy New Year to relatives and
ing the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist
friends.
New Year celebrations.
Christian observances. In all Christian churches and
Secularized Western Christian celebrations. Many re-
denominations the secular New Year is the designated date
gional and local traditions mark the secular New Year. In
for New Year observances, be it the reformed Gregorian cal-
Germany firecrackers at midnight (between December 31
endar date of January 1 or, as in some Orthodox areas, the
and January 1) indicate the end of the old and the beginning
original Julian date of mid-January. Thus the beginning of
of the new year. According to Germanic traditions, loud
the religious year (in Western Christianity the first Sunday
noise helps hinder bad spirits from entering the new year. In
of Advent, four weeks before Christmas) has no importance
Italy men used to wear red pieces of cloth with their under-
as a Christian New Year. However, many Western Christian
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6594
NEW YEAR FESTIVALS
churches welcome the secular New Year by ringing the
(Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Laos) the
church bells at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
New Year is celebrated three days from the first full moon
day in April. In Maha¯ya¯na countries the first full moon day
Muslim observances. In the Muslim world there are
in January is considered the New Year. The date of the Bud-
two types of New Year: the lunar Islamic New Year on the
dhist New Year also depends on the country of origin or eth-
first day of Muh:arram, the first month of the lunar calendar,
nic background of the people who are celebrating it. For ex-
and the solar Nowru¯z in March. The lunar calendar is the
ample, Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese celebrate the New
official Muslim calendar and reminds Muslims of the foun-
Year in late January or early February, according to the lunar
dation of the ummah in Medina after the prophet
calendar, whereas Tibetans usually do so about one month
Muh:ammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE.
later. Water plays an important role in Buddhist New Year
Because the lunar year is eleven days shorter than the solar
celebrations, where it is used for purification of temples,
year, the lunar Islamic New Year moves backward over the
homes, and individuals.
seasons and thus can occur in any season. Remembrance of
the prophet Muh:ammad’s migration is central, and this story
Chinese observances. The Chinese New Year starts
is recounted in private ceremonies, publicly in mosques, and
with the new moon on the first day of the new secular year
in the modern Muslim world on radio and television. Some
and ends on the full moon fifteen days later. The fifteenth
Muslims have also started sending postcards to wish friends
day is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night
and relatives a happy New Year.
with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in pa-
rades. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as
There is no official religious service associated with the
a family affair. Heaven and earth are honored, as well as the
Muslim lunar New Year. In some areas, in particular those
gods of the household and the family ancestors. Rules govern
under Persian cultural influence, a fixed date, namely the
what to eat and what to do on each of the fifteen days. Many
spring equinox, marks the New Year, which is recognized
families use special New Year’s recipes for the holiday foods.
with a celebration that dates back more than three thousand
It is common to abstain from eating meat on the first day
years. This holiday is celebrated by all Iranians regardless of
of the new year because this will ensure a long and happy
religious affiliation, including both Zoroastrians and Mus-
life. People also visit temples to pray for good fortune and
lims. People generally clean their houses and themselves be-
health.
fore the New Year starts. New clothes mark the event. Rural
Iranians construct and light piles of thorn and brushwood,
Japanese observances. The Japanese New Year (Osho-
and people jump over the fire on the last Tuesday of the year.
gatsu) lasts for a week, starting on December 28 and running
It is believed that this act will purify the jumper and help rid
through January 6. Cleaning and cooking are important ac-
him or her of illnesses and misfortunes. Every day of this
tivities in preparation for the Oshogatsu. Shortly before mid-
thirteen-day celebration is marked by a special action, in-
night on New Year’s Eve, toshi-koshi soba, a type of noodle
cluding visiting relatives and friends and exchanging gifts
soup, is served. People then listen to 108 midnight gongs
and good wishes. New Year’s Day is set aside for the prepara-
rung at local temples and broadcast throughout Japan. The
tion of seven items (haft s¯ın), the names of which all begin
108 gongs symbolize each of the 108 desires, listed in Bud-
with the letter s¯ın: s¯ıb (apple), s¯ır (garlic), suma¯k: (sumac),
dhist texts, which hinder people from reaching salvation. On
sindj¯ıd (jujube), samanu¯ (a kind of sweetmeat), sirka (vine-
New Year’s Day specific traditional meals are served, good
gar), and sabz¯ı (greens).
wishes cards are delivered, and people gather with their fami-
lies and visit temples.
Hindu observances. In Hindu communities the begin-
ning of the New Year is celebrated by the D¯ıva¯l¯ı (Diwali)
SEE ALSO Akitu; D¯ıva¯l¯ı; Dragons; Hieros Gamos; Light
Festival of Lights in November. It is celebrated all over India,
and Darkness; Nowru¯z; Seasonal Ceremonies.
although different regions celebrate D¯ıva¯l¯ı in different ways.
What is common is the lighting of many small earthenware
BIBLIOGRAPHY
oil lamps, which set homes and gardens aglow with twinkling
Caillois, Roger. Man and the Sacred. Translated by Meyer Barash.
lights. The origin of the feast is the return of Ra¯ma to his
Glencoe, Ill., 1959.
northern kingdom after having been sent away by his mother
Donin, Hayim Halevy. To Be a Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance
Bha¯rat to hinder him from becoming king. Ra¯ma finally re-
in Contemporary Life. New York, 1972.
turns successfully, thus symbolizing the victory of good over
Eliade, Mircea. Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Re-
evil. People exchange good wishes and give gifts during the
turn. Translated by Willard R. Trask. New York, 1959.
D¯ıva¯l¯ı festival; they also buy and wear new clothes, hold
Henninger, Joseph. “Primitialopfer and Neujahrsfest.” In An-
family meetings, serve special holiday meals, and decorate
thropica: Gedenkschrift zum 100, Geburtstag von P. Wilhelm
doorways and homes with small red and white footprints to
Schmidt, pp. 147–189. Sankt Augustin bei Bonn, Germany,
symbolize Ra¯ma’s happy return. Fireworks and firecrackers
1968. Includes a critical evaluation of Vittorio Lanternari
(1959).
are also an important part of the celebration.
Henninger, Joseph. Les fêtes de printemps chez les Sémites et la
Buddhist observances. In Buddhist countries several
Pâque israélite. Paris, 1975. Includes a critical evaluation of
dates are used to mark the New Year. In Therava¯da countries
S. H. Hooke (1958) and Segal (1963).
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

NEZ PERCE (NIIMÍIPUU) RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS
6595
Henninger, Joseph. “Zur Kulturgeschichte des Neujahrsfestes.”
however, it is also quite common for tribal members to use
Anthropos 77 (1982): 579–591. Includes a critical evaluation
their ancestral band designation as an identity marker. In the
of Vittorio Lanternari (1976).
historic period, the name Nez Percé, a French term meaning
Hooke, S. H., ed. Myth, Ritual, and Kingship: Essays on the Theory
pierced nose, was applied to the Niimíipuu by French fur
and Practice of Kingship in the Ancient Near East and in Israel.
traders and through later historic usage the name has come
Oxford, U.K., 1958.
to identify both the Niimíipuu language and its people.
Lanternari, Vittorio. La grande festa: Storia del Capodanno nelle
Today, the majority of the Nez Perce people (a population
civiltà primitive. Milan, Italy, 1959.
estimated at 3,000) reside on the Nez Perce Reservation in
Lanternari, Vittorio. La grande festa: Vita rituale e sistemi di
central Idaho, with several smaller communities of Nez Perce
produzione nelle società tradizionali. 2d ed. Bari, Italy, 1976.
in Oregon and Washington. The Nez Perce language, like
many indigenous languages of North America, is endangered
Levy, R. “Nawru¯z: In the Islamic Heartlands.” In Encyclopaedia
and is spoken by sixty to seventy fluent elders, the majority
of Islam, new edition, edited by C. E. Bosworth, vol. 7. Lei-
den, Netherlands, and New York, 1993.
of whom speak the Upper River dialect. Only a handful of
elders still speak the Lower River dialect.
MacCulloch, J. A. “Feasting (Introductory).” In Encyclopaedia of
Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol. 5. Edin-
The religious traditions of the Niimíipuu, the Nez Perce
burgh, U.K., 1914.
people, trace their origin to the mythic emergence of the Ne-
tíitelwit,
the first human beings to inhabit the earth. The
Nilsson, Martin P. Primitive Time-Reckoning: A Study in the Ori-
gins and First Development of the Art of Counting Time among
emergence of the Netíitelwit brought to an end the existence
the Primitive and Early Culture Peoples. Lund, Sweden, 1920.
of powerful mythic beings and signaled the beginning of a
world inhabited by ordinary humans. A principal myth cele-
Segal, Judah B. The Hebrew Passover from the Earliest Times to A.D.
brates this transformation and is known among the Nez
70. New York, 1963.
Perce as the climactic episode in a long series of encounters
Servier, Jean. Les portes de l’année, rites et symboles: L’Algérie dans
in which ’Itseyéeye (Coyote) slays a mythic being too powerful
la tradition méditerranéenne. Paris, 1962.
and dangerous for the emerging Netíitelwit. The dismem-
Waddell, L. A., et al. “Festivals and Feasts.” In Encyclopaedia of
bered remains of this slain being embody the cultural land-
Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol. 5. Edin-
scape as Tim’néepe (Heart Place), Sit’éexspe (Liver Place), and
burgh, 1914.
Qaháspa (Breast Place) and locate the mythic emergence of
JOSEPH HENNINGER (1987)
the Netíitelwit on the Clearwater River of north-central
PETER ANTES (2005)
Idaho.
Through the mythic emergence of the Netíitelwit, a core
Nez Perce cosmology is conceived. The universe is distinctly
NEZ PERCE (NIIMÍIPUU) RELIGIOUS
defined as including the realm of humans and a former world
TRADITIONS. The Nez Perce people are one of two
inhabited by supernatural entities. Its structure is mediated
Sahaptian-speaking groups—the Nez Perce and the Sahap-
by a deep time separation whereby the mythic past remotely
tin—to inhabit the southern Columbia Plateau region of
precedes the human present. Though rare, this time separa-
western North America. Aboriginally, the Nez Perce–
tion is sometimes breached by accounts of supernatural enti-
speaking peoples are ancient occupants of the southern Co-
ties coexisting with and coming into contact with ordinary
lumbia Plateau whose ancestral lands extend along middle
humans. Nez Perce oral traditions, known as titwatitnáawit,
Snake River in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The Nez
reinforce this notion of mythic time as an enduring continu-
Perce, as well as other Sahaptin groups, report no migration
um between two possible worlds. The more immediate social
tradition placing them outside their current ancestral home-
value of titwatitnáawit, however, is to impart fundamental
lands; instead, their oral traditions contain imagery of mam-
knowledge about the world and its living inhabitants in addi-
moths, ice-age phenomena, and ancient volcanic activity. At
tion to basic human values and beliefs.
the time of contact, the Nez Perce were composed of an esti-
THE WÉEYEKIN SYSTEM. The Nez Perce, like many cultures
mated forty independent bands and were dispersed along
throughout the Columbia Plateau, base their belief system
three major tributaries of the Snake River: the Grande Ronde
upon the wéeyekin (spirit guardian), also called the spirit-
River (Oregon), the Clearwater River (Idaho), and the Salm-
guardian tradition. The wéeyekin system consists of a core set
on River (Idaho). Two dialect variants differentiated the Nez
of religious beliefs centering on the existence of transcendent
Perce speech community: the Lower River dialect and the
power as well as a set of unifying cultural practices that inte-
Upper River dialect. Like other neighboring Sahaptin
grate such beliefs into Nez Perce society. A fundamental no-
groups, the Nez Perce were known principally as a hunting
tion informing the wéeyekin system is the existence of an in-
and gathering culture, centered on the annual food quest of
nate power or force in the universe. Elements of this power
fishing, hunting, and gathering roots. As a consequence, the
can become manifest as superhuman agents or spirit beings
Nez Perce territory covers a diverse geography, each part of
who become attached to individual human beings. Once ac-
which has its own biodiversity. Culturally, the Nez Perce
quired, a wéeyekin acts as a lifelong tutelary to its human re-
people identify themselves as Niimíipuu the Real People;
cipient.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

6596
NEZ PERCE (NIIMÍIPUU) RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS
A wéeyekin is obtained through a childhood spirit-
the visionary content upon which the new religious tradi-
guardian quest, inheritance, dreams, life crises, or incidental
tions are based appear