New Age and Neopagan Religions in America / Edition 1

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Overview

From Shirley MacLaine's spiritual biography Out on a Limb to the teenage witches in the film The Craft, New Age and Neopagan beliefs have made sensationalistic headlines. In the mid- to late 1990s, several important scholarly studies of the New Age and Neopagan movements were published, attesting to academic as well as popular recognition that these religions are a significant presence on the contemporary North American religious landscape. Self-help books by New Age channelers and psychics are a large and growing market; annual spending on channeling, self-help businesses, and alternative health care is at $10 to $14 billion; an estimated 12 million Americans are involved with New Age activities; and American Neopagans are estimated at around 200,000. New Age and Neopagan Religions in America introduces the beliefs and practices behind the public faces of these controversial movements, which have been growing steadily in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century America.

What is the New Age movement, and how is it different from and similar to Neopaganism in its underlying beliefs and still-evolving practices? Where did these decentralized and eclectic movements come from, and why have they grown and flourished at this point in American religious history? What is the relationship between the New Age and Neopaganism and other religions in America, particularly Christianity, which is often construed as antagonistic to them? Drawing on historical and ethnographic accounts, Sarah Pike explores these questions and offers a sympathetic yet critical treatment of religious practices often marginalized yet soaring in popularity. The book provides a general introduction to the varieties of New Age and Neopagan religions in the United States today as well as an account of their nineteenth-century roots and emergence from the 1960s counterculture. Covering such topics as healing, gender and sexuality, millennialism, and ritual experience, it also furnishes a rich description and analysis of the spiritual worlds and social networks created by participants.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
[A] lucid and interesting survey of esoteric and New-Age religions.

— Philip Jenkins

Religious Studies Review
Pike makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of New Age and Neopagan religions in America...

— David H. Vila, John Brown University

Journal of Church and State
[Pike] offers a succinct, thorough introduction to the wolrds of Neo-Pagan and New Age practices.

— Ed Cook

Journal of Religion
This book works wonderfully to introduce readers to the fascinating and still developing religions... An excellent text for courses.

— Cynthia Eller

Mission Studies
A clear and well-written primer for what is a bedazzling array of religious worldviews and practices.

— Guy Lancaster

Natural History - Michael F. Brown

A view from the mountain...an admirable job of weaving together multiple strands of New Age practice into a single pattern.

Enterprise Record - Dan Barnett

Pike's study is fascinating in all its detail.

Choice - W.L. Pitts Jr.
A superb introduction to the visions and practices of both neopagan and New Age movements.... Highly recommended.
Journal of American History - Philip Jenkins

[A] lucid and interesting survey of esoteric and New-Age religions.

Religious Studies Review - David H. Vila

Pike makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of New Age and Neopagan religions in America...

Journal of Church and State - Ed Cook

[Pike] offers a succinct, thorough introduction to the wolrds of Neo-Pagan and New Age practices.

Journal of Religion - Cynthia Eller

This book works wonderfully to introduce readers to the fascinating and still developing religions... An excellent text for courses.

Mission Studies - Guy Lancaster

A clear and well-written primer for what is a bedazzling array of religious worldviews and practices.

Choice - W. L. Pitts Jr.

A superb introduction to the visions and practices of both neopagan and New Age movements.... Highly recommended.

Natural History
A view from the mountain...an admirable job of weaving together multiple strands of New Age practice into a single pattern.

— Michael F. Brown

Enterprise Record
Pike's study is fascinating in all its detail.

— Dan Barnett

Choice
A superb introduction to the visions and practices of both neopagan and New Age movements.... Highly recommended.

— W. L. Pitts Jr.

Publishers Weekly
This installment in Columbia's Contemporary American Religion series explores the rise of New Age and Neopagan religions in America, phenomena that are difficult to study because of the diverse array of people and movements that claim shelter under their umbrellas. Pike, who teaches religion at California State University, draws attention to the main concerns and daily lives of participants in these new religious movements, dissecting what healing rituals, self-awareness meditation and channeling mean to the people who practice them. Although most readers could do without the dissertation-like literature review that dominates the introduction, the remainder of the book is informative and accessible for the general reader. Pike writes well, with a journalist's eye for an engaging story and a scholar's sense of the larger historical picture. One particularly helpful chapter surveys the traditions' most visible groups and central teachings, which include an emphasis on nature, women's spiritual leadership, seasonal ritual, and personal transformation.
Library Journal
This work offers general readers a scholarly assessment of Neopaganism and the New Age movement. Neopaganism, or Wicca, seeks to revive rituals of pre-Christian paganism and update them to contemporary needs. The New Age movement offers personal spiritual healing and helps individuals create an ecologically sensitive and post-sexist world. Pike (California State Univ., Chico) provides an overview of key themes of these movements-their eclecticism, focus on personal spirituality, and relationship to feminism, alternative medicine, and utopian counterculture experiments-and traces their beliefs back to 19th-century traditions of mesmerism, seances, Swedenborgianism, and Theosophy. Pike manages to survey the terrain without turning her text into a laundry list of leaders and organizations. As such, her book provides a necessary complement to Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, a journalistic account of witchcraft, and Paul Heelas's The New Age Movement, which examines the New Age movement in Great Britain.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231124034
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/3/2006
  • Series: Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,155,047
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah M. Pike is associate professor of religious studies at California State University in Chico.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Ancient Mysteries in Contemporary AmericaIntroduction to the Religious Worlds of Neopagans and New AgersEarly Varieties of Alternative Spirituality in American Religious HistoryThe 1960s Watershed YearsHealing and Techniques of the Self"All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are My Rituals": Sex, Gender, and the SacredThe Age of Aquarius

Columbia University Press

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