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New Age and Neopagan Religions in America (Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series) 1st Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231124027
ISBN-10: 0231124023
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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
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Review

This work offers general readers a scholarly assessment of Neopaganism and the New Age movement.... Pike provides an overview of key themes of these movements and traces their beliefs back to 19th-century traditions of mesmerism, seances, Swedenborgianism, and Theosophy.... her book provides a necessary complement to Margot Adler'sDrawing Down the Moon and Paul Heelas'sThe New Age Movement.

(Library Journal)

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

(Michael F. Brown Natural History)

Pike's study is fascinating in all its detail.

(Dan Barnett Enterprise Record)

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

(W. L. Pitts Jr. Choice)

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

(Philip Jenkins Journal of American History)

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

(David H. Vila, John Brown University Religious Studies Review)

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

(Ed Cook Journal of Church and State)

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

(Cynthia Eller Journal of Religion)

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

(Guy Lancaster Mission Studies)
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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1 edition (July 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231124023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231124027
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,069,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Christopher W. Chase on February 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sarah Pike's 2004 study is an accessible, enjoyable, very general overview of New Age and Contemporary Pagan religion in the United States. It is intended for students and interested non-students, rather than the religionist per se, and is written from a balanced, critical point of view. Her introduction provides a quick guide to most other major works of this kind, including Graham Harvey's study, and is a vast improvement over other, more polemical studies, such as Philip Davis's "The Goddess Unmasked." Pike's biggest challenge, and a controversial one, is to include yet separate New Age and Pagan religion from each other. Her efforts are probably more successful in this area than other attempts to either totally distinguish them or collapse them together.

What makes Pike's study different is that her goal is not to provide a comprehensive guide to traditions and practices. Rather, her work concentrates on situating the contours of these religions in an American historical context, and demonstrating their continuity, as well as divergence, from other aspects of American Religious History. As well her main areas of investigation are trends in in healing, gender/sexuality, apocalypticism/millenialism, and in the ethics or style of practice, rather than content or specific denominations. This is significant because New Age and Neopagan religions are radically decentralized movements. Lacking a single charasmatic leader, or even one authoritative organization, these movements are for the most part, difficult to study. Unlike early century or 19th century esotericisms, they lack founding texts, or single leaders.
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Format: Paperback
As a fellow academic in sociology and religion, I am familiar with Pike's work in general. She is an excellent scholar and one of the foremost authorities on alternative religion. However, I will spare you all the tedium of academic discourse and instead make one critique: the book is mostly about new age and neopagan religions as manifested on the west coast of the US. As a scholar of midwest alternative religion, I think her book would benefit greatly from a visit to Chicago and Detroit for example, where paganism and other forms of alternative religion are equally manifest--but with some significant differences. Other areas of the country likely exhibit unique characteristics as well. Still, I strongly recommend the book for academic readers as well as practitioners and other students of religion.
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