Gender and spirituality are both terms that signify alterity, especially a critique of established social conventions, including conventions of disciplining personhood on the basis of gender classifications and according to doctrinal and ritual patterns of organized religion. To be aware of gender as a hierarchical system is a modern phenomenon; “spirituality” has a much longer history of use and was generated from within organized religion, though its evolution increasingly marked it as a perspective distinct from, and necessitating the evaluative intervention of, official religious channels. Developing through a confluence of interest in Western esotericism, Transcendentalism, Theosophy, the German Romantics, and Asian traditions in the early 20th century, spirituality as a cultural concept and practice was poised to respond to widespread late modern questioning of received social modes, especially in terms of defining oneself. Contesting theoretical predictions of society’s secularization but supporting those of the “subjective turn,” late modern spirituality groups, especially those inspired by feminism, civil rights, and gay rights, valorized marginalized bodies and their distinctive experiences, creating new paths of spiritual expression in which personal experience in the context of group affirmation was foregrounded. Postmodern ideas on the fluidity of gender further contributed to the voices of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer) people who critiqued residual gender binaries operative in some New Age spiritualities and provided new arguments for social inclusivity in spirituality groups and in the wider society. What characterizes spirituality into the 21st century is the “turn to holism,” in which a wide variety of methods are promoted as leading to a holistic sense of the well-being of body and spirit. Diverse practices include Kirlian aura photography, Johrei Fellowship healing, tarot cards, shiatsu massage, acupressure, aromatherapy, kinesiology, and yoga, leading some scholars to critique the spirituality climate as a neoliberal capitalist “spiritual marketplace.” Others view it as a generative opportunity for seeking and bricolage construction of the self that has transformative potential for both self and society.
Emily Suzanne Clark
Alternative religious movements have played a significant role in American history. There is no easy definition for these types of groups; their ideas and practices vary. One clear commonality, though, is their development on the sociocultural margins. Thus, inherent in alternative religious movements is a critique of dominant culture, and this offers a powerful means of engaging issues of race in America. Other groups, however, choose to echo prevailing racial ideas as a means of making themselves mainstream. The typical narrative of American religious history is white and Protestant, and alternative religious movements have provided both criticism and approval of that story. While a close look at every alternative religious movement would be impossible, even an abbreviated exploration is revealing. During the antebellum period the question of slavery and the white supremacy that supported it prompted alternative religious movements to ask questions about equality. While many Shakers and Spiritualists recognized value in all, other groups, like the Mormons, encoded contemporary racial assumptions in their early theology. Throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, African Americans and Native Americans criticized white supremacy by offering alternative explanations of humanity’s history and destiny. The 1890s Ghost Dance movement envisioned an Indian paradise devoid of whites, and in the early 20th century black alternative movements in northern cities emphasized the religious significance of their blackness. Though these groups criticized the white supremacy surrounding them, others continued to emphasize the superiority of whiteness. In the latter part of the 20th century, many Americans associated racialized alternative religious movements, such as the Nation of Islam, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, and the Peoples Temple, with fear or brainwashing. In examining how alternative religious movements engage racial assumptions, articulate racial discourse, or create religio-racial identities, a study of these movements illuminates the interplay between religion and culture in American history.
Chas S. Clifton
Paganism is based largely in an Enlightenment-era rejection of Christianity and Romantic-era ideas of the individual experience, emotion, and creativity, combined with a search for true ethnic culture in the lore and practices of the pre-Christian past and a rejection of universal transcendental religion, in favor of the local, the particular, the polytheistic, and the animist. Particularly in the United States, Pagans have challenged governmental accommodations for existing religions by demanding equal status in public spaces. Contemporary Pagan groups began forming in the 1930s, but the largest, Wicca, emerged in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s.
The term multiverse is derived from multiple universes. A multiverse is a theoretical concept denoting a collection of universes that are causally disconnected and whatever may exist beyond or between the boundaries of these universes. In essence, it is the totality of physical reality, whatever form that may take. An equivalent term is megaverse. The physically distinct universes composing a multiverse are often referred to as alternative, alternate, quantum, parallel, or bubble universes. The American philosopher William James invented the specific term multiverse in 1895, not in a cosmological context but in reference to his view of the natural world. In the 20th century the application of the term was broadened from James’s original intent to a range of areas including cosmology, religion, philosophy, and psychology. More recently, David Lewis (1941–2001) considered philosophical implications of a multiverse from his modal realism perspective. In fact, the concept of a cosmological multiverse and its philosophical and religious implications were actually considered more than a millennium prior throughout various societies and religions. The scientific implications have predominantly been analyzed since the early 20th century. In efforts to answer fundamental questions about the origin and properties of our universe, many cosmologists have converged on a scientific concept of a multiverse of one form or another. Multiverses with vastly different properties have been developed. To organize the collection of multiverses in a consistent way, in 2003, MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark proposed a multiverse taxonomy. Tegmark argued that all multiverses can be fit into four classes, which he designated as Levels 1 through 4. A given higher level multiverse contains a set or sets of lower level multiverses. In 2007, string theorist Brian Greene of Columbia University refined Tegmark’s classification system. Each of Greene’s nine classes fit within one of Tegmark’s four Levels. While theoretical multiverses take many forms, common to most all of them is the idea that a vast number of universes exists outside the limits of our observable region. Given that a multiverse beyond our universe is not currently (and perhaps never will be) empirically testable or detectable, the multiverse concept is very controversial. This is especially so within and among the science, philosophy, and religion communities. There is disagreement regarding the question of the existence of the multiverse and whether the multiverse is a proper subject of scientific inquiry. Some argue that a multiverse is a philosophical concept, rather than a scientific one. Alternatively, some scientists believe that most or all multiverse proposals present a deconstructionist science that avoids providing answers grounded in meaningful science. In contrast, many theoretical physicists (especially cosmologists) and some philosophers affirm that a multiverse offers a more likely and more robust resolution to fundamental cosmological issues that a sole (even infinite) universe cannot answer.
Bryan D. Spinks
What exactly is meant by the term “Modern Christian Liturgy”? At one level it could mean any recent worship service in any church, for example, the Divine Liturgy of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Orthodox churches celebrated last week. Although a modern celebration, with adaptations made to the rite amongst the diaspora, the rite itself was formulated in the late medieval era and has much older roots in Egypt. Sometimes the term applies to the most recent official liturgical services of a particular main line denomination growing out of the Liturgical Movement, such as the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic rites compared to the so-called “Tridentine” rite represented by the missal of John XXIII, or the Church of England’s Common Worship 2000 rites compared to those of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Here, the term is reserved for those newer forms of service that have appeared officially or unofficially in contemporary Euro-Atlantic protestant, evangelical, and charismatic churches in the 20th century, frequently adopting the current fashions of popular music for worship songs, and incorporating modern technology.