The God within: Rituals, beliefs and experiences of New Age seekers in a large Southwestern city
AuthorMcIlwaine, Mary Kris
AdvisorSnow, David A.
Morrill, Calvin K.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis case study of the New Age movement uses ethnographic methods to acquire and analyze data on a sample of movement participants in a large Southwestern U.S. city. The study provides an ecology of the local manifestation of the larger movement, looking at multiple New Age institutes, periodicals, radio broadcasts, churches, commercial expositions; participants; and rituals, beliefs and experiences of participants. The study contributes to scholarship in the sociology of religion, social movements, and general sociological theory. This study elaborates empirically and theoretically several key principles and processes in the sociology of religion. First, participants engage in five main types of rituals---regarding material recognition, healing, group-focus, spirit connections and psyche reorientation. Second, participants' most significant belief is that of "perfectionistic monism," with derivative beliefs diagnosing ego as humans' problem, prescribing awareness to ameliorate ego's ill effects, and implying that desirable results (concerning efficacy, morality, wellbeing) arise from believing along these lines. Third, participants emphasize experiences over doctrine, positively experience almost all stimuli in their lives, and benefit from a significant overlap between their movement's ideal and real cultures. This study examines rituals, beliefs and experiences to ask three questions social movements scholars sometimes neglect: How does ritual action contribute to movement persistence? How do movement participants see themselves and the world? How does movement involvement affect participants? It finds rituals to contribute to "religious value," the "perfectionistic monism" belief and the "religious logic" of the movement to contribute to participant identity, and all three of these things to contribute to movement persistence. At a more general level, the study of the interrelatedness of rituals, beliefs and experiences expands analytic possibilities for social movements scholars. Moreover, the inclusion of religious movements in the study of social movements can refine theorizations of the concept of social movement. Finally, the study suggests further questions for general sociological theory via its finding that New Agers are explicitly aware of the part they play in the social construction of reality. This finding should spur sociologists to further examine the relationship between actor awareness and sustainability of institutions that self-aware actors build.
Degree ProgramGraduate College