Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers, Rajneesh Lovers: Women's Roles in New Religions / Edition 1

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Celibate sister or devoted Hindu wife; domineering, sexually expressive lover or veiled Nubian bride in polygamy; or perhaps, an asexual shaman. Such are the various roles available to women in some of today's new religious movements. This is one of the first books to delve into feminine conversion or opportunities for leadership which women have in these contemporary communal or millenarian groups. Based almost exclusively on interviews and first-hand data, Susan Palmer shows what innovative roles are afforded those women who choose to become members of these groups. Palmer focuses on seven specific groups: the International Society for the Krishna Consciousness, the Rajneesh Movement, the Unification Church, the Institute of Applied Metaphysics, Northeast Kingdom Community Church, the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being, and the Raelian Movement. Each of these groups allow women to experiment to varying degrees with new concepts of gender and sexuality. Krishna-conscious women, for example, are defined solely as mothers. Unmarried or childless women alike hold the same status. The sexually expressive Rajneeshee is strictly a lover to the Swamis in the commune, but she is not permitted to give birth or raise her existing children and must ultimately reject marriage. Women begin their careers in the Unification Church as celibate sisters and become daughters of Reverend Moon who then blesses them in marriage to one of their brothers. More roles are then available to the women, but only in increments and as designated by the leader. No matter which group it is, whether lover or wife, a woman transfers spiritual qualities not just to her lover or husband but to the whole community. Through this transfer, she may earn power and respect and often authority within the organization. Why do women join such groups? Palmer's research indicates that women sometimes see these religious movements as a temporary refuge in which they may accomplish a

A study of women's roles and alternative patterns of sexuality in seven contemporary communal and millenarian movements. Based almost exclusively on interviews and first-hand data, this book will be of interest to scholars and students in communal and utopian studies, American religious history, and new religious movements. 10 illustrations. Index.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Palmer's splendid investigation of the deep bonds between women's spiritual identity and women's sexual identity inaugurates a significant new series on Women and Gender in North American Religions. Drawing on case studies and interviews with members of a variety of new religious movements ranging from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the Rajneesh Movement to the Unification Church and the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being, Palmer demonstrates that women's participation in such religions often allows them to redefine their traditional social roles through a playful reinterpretation of their sexual roles. The religious movements are grouped according to the extent to which they promote models sexual polarity, sexual complementarity or sexual unity. Palmer's dense, often academic, jargon is nicely balanced by the stories of the women themselves. The result is a study groundbreaking in its clarity in recording for the first time the voices of women interpreting the almost palpable bond between the sacred and the sexual. (Jan.)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

1 New Religious Feminine Roles 1
Pt. 1 Sex Polarity Groups
2 Mothers and Widows in Krishna Consciousness 15
3 Lovers and Leaders in the Rajneesh Movement 44
Pt. 2 Sex Complementarity Groups
4 Sisters in the Unification Church 75
5 Actualizers in the Institute of Applied Metaphysics 105
6 Helpmeets in the Messianic Community 133
Pt. 3 Sex Unity Groups
7 Playmates in the Raelian Movement 157
8 Secret Shamans in the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being 188
Pt. 4 Paradigms or Parodies?
9 Spiritual Solutions to Problems Besetting the Family 209
10 Social Experimentation and Sexual Innovations 238
Endnotes 269
Bibliography 275
Index 283
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