New religious movements (NRM’S)

meditation hall

A basic paradigm of NRM’S

The analysis of New Religious Movements (NRM’s) is based on the concept of modernity and its discontents. That is a thesis that traditional values of which world religions are central have shifted towards, what has been dubbed as, secularisation. Secularisation is the notion that religion has become less not so important in the lives of the typical modern citizen as it was prior to the age of enlightenment. However the thesis also ascribes an innate need for humans to have a sense of group identity. Therefore a search for meaning through group formations based on interests and ideas. NRM’s fall within this cluster of “neo-tribal identities“. What distinguishes the NRM’s from say a skateboard interest group is their position to world politics within a paradigm of modernisation or what has become known more specifically as urbanisation. Three categories are discussed as to how NRM’s construct their identity towards urbanisation:

  • World or urbanisation affirming movements.
  • World rejecting movements.
  • World accommodating movements.

However NRM’s like people don’t fit neatly into boxes, and so a group may have elements of all three properties, although exhibit through a chapter of the organisation one or another predominant category.

World or urbanisation affirming movements

New religious movements based on self-help performance are known as human potential movements. Their goal is primarily to succeed with the contemporary urban social context through enhancing personal identity. A characteristic is the blending of traditional religious symbols and methodologies. Although world affirming the group may be insular in many ways so as to protect members from negative vibes. However such groups seek to be socially included into the mainstream institutional process linked to governance. So persons can be hyper socially inclusive in their goals that can in effect cause push back from conservative sectors of society.

World rejecting movements

The characteristic of a movement is to critique the role of modernisation and the urban structure on grounds that it dehumanises. It is in this sense the NRM resembles Carl Marx’s critique of capitalism as mode of degrading a class of humans called the proletariat. It is no surprise that the group has an ethical code often written up for all to view. How else to define the self if not for dressing up or what is known as paraphernalia NRM’s. The ethics are the more serious edge to identity politics. A problem arises for such groups if their ethics are not in line with the legal framework of the state who as Max Weber points out has powers to enforce ethics as law.

World accommodating movements

The emphasis within these groups seems to be around the notion of having an inner life. The means to accomplish being above worldly concerns or the pressures of modern life on the individual is to build a form of resilience through a spiritual practice by living in a spiritual pod. The notion of reclaiming a lost purity seems important, but so too is carrying on with resemblances of a worldly career. The career is not necessarily for capital accumulation, but as a form of self help. This entails a stable state of mind. The emphasis is on an inner purity/clarity of self consciousness, as primary, with social engagement to maintain a positive valance. The emphasis on consciousness correlates to forms of negation pertaining to physicalism.

The emphasis on an individual direct experience of a transcendent element may give a sense that participants are cool and detached from the modernisation paradigm of competition, realisable individually as a form of status stratification within society.