|Black Rose Spiritual Center, Inc : Belief Systems
|The groups considered in this section manifest the wide variety of
religious options available in the U.S. They draw upon several distinct
religious impulses, each with a long heritage.
One can trace within the Western religion an alternative tradition
which might be termed mystical, Platonic, or idealistic. This tradition
emerged in force in the nineteenth century in philosophical idealism
which in America became visible in the movement called
Transcendentalism. What has been termed the Metaphysical movements
in America represent a blossoming of this old alternative tradition in the
atmosphere of religious freedom and relative secularity of nineteenth
century America. The three main branches of metaphysical religion
emerged in the nineteenth century as Spiritualism, Theosophy, and New
Thought. Each affirmed the reality of a spiritual reality of which the
visible material world was but a pale reflection.
Spiritualism was built around the belief in the possibility of contacting
the spiritual world, specifically the spirits of the departed, through the
use of the talents of very special people called mediums. Spiritual became
a fad in the 1850s and then settled into a quieter existence as a new
religious movement. The Universal Church of the Master described
below is a typical Spiritualist group.
Theosophy grew out of spiritualism but directed its contact to a more
evolved group of spiritual being who comprise what was thought of as
the Spiritual Hierarchy of the cosmos. These masters spoke to the leaders
of the Theosophical Society which became the source of a number of
groups as new claims to contact with the Masters were put forth. The "I
AM" Religious Activity and the Church Universal and Triumphant are
two contemporary groups which have claimed contact with the
Spiritual Hierarchy through their founder/leaders.
New Thought grew directly out of Christian Science. Christian Science
had asked the question of healing within the context of an idealist
philosophical framework. New Thought, begun by one of Mary Baker
Eddy's students, Emma Curtis Hopkins, differed from Christian Science
at first over organizational disputes, but has during the twentieth
century developed in various new perspectives which have taken it some
distance form Christian Science. The United Church of Religious Science
is one form of New Thought (as is the Unity School of Christianity
considered in the first section of this manual).
From ancient times, people have claimed powers of mind and spirit far
|Other Groups Introduction
|surpassing those recognized by modern science. In years past, these phenomena (e.g., spiritual healing,
telepathy, clairvoyance, mind over matter) were termed "supernatural; they are now known as "psychic,"
and studied by scientists.
The growth of psychic practitioners led to the development of psychical research. The British Society for
Psychical Research was established in 1880, and the American Society in 1882. In studying psychic
phenomena, Dr. Rhine of Duke University coined the term "extra sensory perception (ESP)" and helped
make "parapsychology" a discipline of study. The growth of parapsychology, including its membership in
the American Association for the Advancement of Science, provided a dynamic base upon which psychic
groups could build.
Religious groups with an essential element of belief and practice in psychic phenomena, including the
Church of Scientology and the Foundation Faith of the Millennium, continue the older metaphysical
tradition and cannot be sharply distinguished from the older metaphysical groups. In general, they
believe in the reality of the phenomena studied by parapsychologists. They usually offer members various
ways to develop their powers, and some have members with special abilities which can be used by
individuals to aid in dealing with personal problems.
There are several hundred psychically oriented bodies in the U.S. The two considered here grow out of
this general background, and are not directly related to other bodies.
Magick (not "magic," which is considered a stage performer's art and not a religion) groups have
experienced considerable growth since the 1960s. These groups are distinguished by their use of occult
practices (astrology and divination) and magick (the ability to willfully change the world by
manipulating the cosmic forces). While like the psychic dimension, magick is as old as known history. Its
contemporary revival, however, began in the early 1900s.
The most popular form of magical religion Neo Paganism is a nature oriented religion based on the
worship of the male female polarity, the observance of the agricultural seasons, and magic. Worship of
the male female aspects of nature usually is expressed as allegiance to the Horned God and the Great
Mother Goddess. Ritual follows the movement of the sun and moon. Neo Pagans see themselves as
reviving the pre Christian religion of Europe and the Mediterranean Basin and manifest as Norse, Druid,
or Egyptian in format. By far the Wiccans compose the largest segment of the neo Pagan community.
Wicca or Witchcraft is derived from the ancient Paganism practiced in Western Europe, especially the
Magick, an essential element in modern Wicca, seeks mastery of all the cosmic forces believed to control
the world. Witches believe in the ancient principal of "as above, so below," and in their worship seek to
create a microcosm, a magical image of the whole. The universe is generally viewed as a sphere. The
magical circle, drawn at the beginning of all magical rituals, is the outline of the microcosm intersecting
Witchcraft had grown slowly until the repeal of the last of England's anti witchcraft laws in the
1950s. Growth accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s. There are no less than thirty different Wicca groups
and hundreds of independent covens functioning in the United States. The Gardnerians are one of
several modern Wicca groups. They trace their history to Gerald B. Gardner who initiated the current
Wiccan revival. However, most Wiccans now follow an eclectic practice which values creativity and is
constantly changing and altering ritual while remaining within the basic nature Goddess orientation.
During the 1980s many Neo Pagans and Wiccans joined the Armed Forces. Recently they have formed a
network to assist in their relating to the military. The Network may be contacted through its
newsletter, Pagan Military Newsletter, 829 Lynn Haven Parkway, Virginia Beach, VA 23452.
Secrecy is a major element of the existence of both Witchcraft and Satanism (discussed below). Secrecy is
protective (known members often lose their jobs, friends or status), and serves to guard the sacred
mysteries of the group.
Often confused with Neo Paganism and Wicca, Satanism is the worship of Satan (also known as
Baphomet or Lucifer). Classical Satanism, often involving "black masses," human sacrifice, and other
sacrilegious or illegal acts, is now rare. Modern Satanism is based on both the knowledge of ritual magic
and the "anti establishment" mood of the 1960s. It is related to classical Satanism more in image than
substance, and generally focuses on "rational self interest with ritualistic trappings." Modern Satanism
began with the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey in 1966. From it, in the 1970s, several groups
emerged and quickly disappeared. The Temple of Set is the only substantive offshoot to survive into the
Modern Satanists have found it relevant to distinguish themselves from what is termed contemporary
devil worship. By Devil worship is meant the various informal activities which have appeared in the
1980s around teenage use of Satanic symbols, killings of serial killers professing to have been
worshipping the Devil, and various reports of "Satanic" crime. Modern Satanists (i.e., the Church of
Satan and Temple of Set) profess a pro life philosophy and do not condone illegal action by people
affiliated with those organizations.
INDIVIDUALLY DISTINCTIVE GROUPS
Within the variety of American religion are a number of groups which are highly individual in nature.
That is, while their origins can often be traced to any number of the major world religions, they have
developed beliefs, systems, or structures which are considerably different from those traditions.
Several of the groups discussed in this section fall within this general framework: the Baha'i Faith, the
Native American Church, and the Universal Life Church.
Baha'i is a major new faith built on the revelations given to several Persian mystics of the 19th century.
While growing on an Islamic base, it has moved to a more universal outlook.
The Native American Church is one of many that uses psychedelic substances as a visionary aid and
sacramental element. They are distinctive in being both the oldest and the only one with government
sanction to use the designated drugs.
The Universal Life Church represents a response to the religious freedom in America by individuals with
a strong independent strain in their religious thought.
The Universal Life Church has spawned a number of similar church bodies including the Crown of Life
Fellowship, the Life Science Church, the Calvary Grace Church and the Brotherhood of Peace and
Rastafarian are a new religion developed in Jamaica in the early twentieth century and imported to
America in recent decades. It draws on themes familiar from Black Judaism and Black Islam, but is
distinct from both.
Finally, Vajradhatu is a Buddhist group, but out of a Tibetan rather than a Japanese tradition.