Reading Reflection #13
Reading assignment for this session:
OPTIONAL reading is the e-mail attachment I send out - it is three articles on the material we discussed last week. The third article is fairly long - if you are interested, I recommend reading at least some of it to get a flavor of the teachings expressed.
1. Reread the summary overview of James (posted on this Website earlier in the semester) as a bit of a review.
2. Reread your own full set of reading responses from beginning to end, in order of writing. This will also serve as review, and help in making the connections you need to make in your paper (see reading reflection below).
3. Read around in the Eckankar material posted below, enough to get some sense of the history of the religion, primary beliefs, and some of the controversy it caused, especially earlier on in its development. We will be using Eckankar as a case study in our group exercise applying course concepts.
For classroom discussion only (NOT for the reading reflection - that's posted below):
1. What are the key beliefs and practices of this contemporary religious movement?
2. Do you get any sense from browsing these sites of changes that have happened over the decades of the movement’s existence?
3. What connections do you see to other contemporary religious movements or practices?
4. What are some of the biggest controversies that seem to be connected to this movement?
5. Discuss the role of truth claims in contemporary religions compared to truth claims in historic religions (for example, the claim that Eckankar is the only way to salvation, which is stated in some early foundational writings, but not stressed by the current group). Should it matter whether or not Paul Twitchell plagiarized his sacred writings and possibly fabricated his own claim to spiritual authority? Given what you can glean from the links below about Paul Twitchell, discuss his life in light of William James’s discussion of religious founders.
http://www.eckankar.org/ - the official web site
From Religious Tolerance.Org – quick summary of beliefs – non-critical
A fairly even-handed piece to browse – has links to the controversies.
This is a long article, so read it if you have time, but you will find that it is a very well-written and a good summary of the characteristics of the movement at an earlier point of its history, as well as a summary of the controversies. Written in 1995 by a woman who left the movement.
David Lane’s online book accusing Paul Twitchell of plagiarizing in founding the movement. Skim a bit of this to get a sense of Lane’s argument. He also presents a link to other materials.
Some fairly contemporary critiques of Eckankar by more members who have left the organization. This gives a flavor of the in-house discussions and tensions.
Reading Reflection for Session (Due April 10): This reading reflection is in two parts.
#1 Describe your topic again, and summarize the sources of information you have explored so far in gathering information.
#2 (IN PREPARATION FOR HANDING IN YOUR SECOND SET OF READING REFLECTIONS, DUE APRIL 10 - SESSION #8 THROUGH THIS ONE) Read through your own full set of reading reflections and notes in order of writing them one more time. This will help refresh your thinking about connections to course reading that might be useful for your paper writing process. Write for 30 minutes on this topic, after setting your notes aside (DON'T look at your notes or your books for this reflective writing process): What are some insights and understandings I have gained from the reading I've done over the semester related to contemporary "Shadow Culture" psychologies and spiritualities? How can this understanding help me in my analysis of my paper topic?
In particular, how do these insights illuminate the contemporary situation?
Below is a partial list of some of the contemporary conditions that might affect religion and might contribute to "Shadow Culture" attempted religious solutions:
* globalization and the movement of people to new areas of the world;
* industrialization, including a large-scale movement of people to urban, human-constructed environments out of natural environments;
* the spread of market economies worldwide displacing subsistence economies;
* environmental degradation;
* the changing roles of men and women;
* the challenges of overcoming racism, sexism, and homophobia in different world cultures;
* blending of world religious ideas;
* scientific materialism and the consequent challenge to Biblical literalism - and U.S. political tensions around these different core beliefs;
* tensions between secular and religious domains in general, including the role of public education in providing a place of reflection for these issues (or failing to);
* religious underpinnings of some world political conflicts;
* growing acceptance of non-Western healing approaches;
* and mass media and popular culture, including the impact of best-seller lists, Oprah's book club, and marketing of new religious or spiritual ideas gaining mass appeal (such as The Secret).
This list is just what comes to mind as I think about the question - there are certainly more examples that we can do some additional brainstorming about in class.