Swedenborg's attempt to unite science and religion and his prediction of a coming era in particular have been cited as ways that he prefigured the New Age. New Agers critique western monotheists, and particularly Christians, for considering sexuality sinful and dirty, devaluing female sexuality, and enforcing a rigid heterosexual patriarchy. An exploration of selected new religions from the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries demonstrates, nonetheless, at least some general patterns.
Because childrearing was turned over to the community after the first year, women experienced both liberation and deprivation in this respect, according to documents left by community members. And, like at any orgy, you need to be careful who you go home with. The most striking thing about the Happinez festival is the sea of stands selling endless trinkets, candles, crystals, water-purifiers, icons, statues, birth-charts, yoga mats, prayer-beads, weekend retreats. The Convergence attracted more people to the movement than any other single event. Nonetheless, there may be demonstrations of charismatic power by women in these groups sufficient in the power and respect they generate to override the community's reluctance to grant women public authority if they are also willing to satisfy traditional expectations for marriage and motherhood. A shamanic workshop run by Moonfeather: Buddhism's non-theism, its emphasis on impermanence, its various female images of power, its teachings that insist on the ultimate irrelevance of gender, and its focus on the primacy of experience are all resources from which women Buddhists draw to foster female leadership, a more Earth-centered practice of Buddhism, and innovations in the teaching of Buddhism. Looked at comparatively, they offer women very different possibilities for both traditional relational roles and alternatives to Western marriage traditions that illustrate what can appear to the cultural mainstream as paradoxical, unappealing, and even dangerous combinations of freedom and restriction. Elise did not realize that in the eyes of the law what she was doing was running an illegal enterprise and continues to believe in her teachings in spite of her conviction. At the same time, the security of a highly ordered sexual life and the comfort and support of the women's ashram is appealing to the women of ISKCON, and there is evidence to suggest that women exercise significant power indirectly, a pattern common in traditionally male-dominated religions. The Christian warning against spiritual experimentation and dabbling in the occult might seem particularly paranoid and primitive to us. They opposed what they called exterior religion and priestly authority, and emphasized lay ministry. The best of these writings are not only coherent and plausible, but eloquently persuasive and sometimes disarmingly moving. The authors of much of this material make claims that, while not necessarily untrue or fraudulent, are difficult or impossible for the reader to verify. All manifestations of this movement are characterized by a popular western culture criticism expressed in terms of a secularized esotericism. Studies of women in new religions have been emerging since the s; they work to avoid ultimately unsupportable conclusions about cause-and-effect relationships between beliefs and particular forms of religious organization and practice and their consequences for the participation or exclusion of women. A few things though: The th-monkey idea led to a series of mass gatherings beginning with the Harmonic Convergence, which was a set of coordinated gatherings of people at various places around the world on August 16—17, that was designed to bring about a leap in human consciousness. The New Age is much more Romantic about sex, much less uptight about sexual experimentation, sex before marriage, same-sex relationships. No one explanation suffices, since women offer many, many reasons for their attractiveness, even if, as sociological data indicate, women who join new religions do not necessarily stay in them forever. Nearly all New Agers consider sex a positive practice, and generally they consider sex a form of self-expression, spiritual development, and healing. Buddhism is famously hierarchical. Ancient Gnosticism was succeeded by various esoteric movements through the centuries, including Rosicrucianism in the 17th century and Freemasonry , theosophy , and ritual magic in the 19th and 20th centuries. Men and women alike in the New Age understand their own religious practices as a rejection of those norms. For Christian Science, the site of struggle for achieving health and social transformation was "mind," an arena obviously open to women who had little opportunity for active, public involvement in institutional religion, politics, or the marketplace.
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