Department of Sociology University of Oregon

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Marion S. Goldman

Emeritus Professor

727 PLC
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
Phone: (541) 346-5014
Fax: (541) 346-5026

My current research focuses on new religious movements (cults). I am working on two projects right now. The first explores the complicated dynamic between food and faith. The second considers the ways that paganism has become a public religion in Northern Europe.

I explore questions through documentary and historical research, field methods, and in-depth interviewing.

Along the way, I have (very briefly) tended bar at a Nevada brothel, attended psychodrama workshops, and fallen into a secret room where poisons were brewed in the communal city of Rajneeshpuram. Now I am talking with interesting people while eating and cooking for my new work about food and faith. I have written a chapter on “Food Faith and Fraud” for a new book in the Ashgate/Inform Series.

In Gold Diggers and Silver Miners, a Hamilton Prize winner, I explored the relationships between frontier prostitution and community life. Passionate Journeys described the successful American women who left the mainstream to follow their guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to central Oregon. I recently consulted for an Oregon Public Broadcasting program on The Oregon Experience: Rajneeshuram. You can learn more and hear me talk about it at the show website:

My new book, The American Soul Rush, looks at a small spiritual retreat on the California coast and the ways that it reshaped contemporary spirituality. It has appealed to wider audiences and here is the review in the San Francisco Chronicle:

I am currently Scholar in Residence at the Portland Center for Public Humanities at Portland State University. One more website: The people involved with the Center share my commitment to bringing scholarship to wider audiences. Even though I am at PSU right now, I am still engaged with and inspired by Sociology at the University of Oregon.


Research Interests

  • new religious movements
  • religious violence
  • social theory

Teaching Areas

  • sociology of religion
  • cults and social movements
  • historical methods
  • gender

Courses Taught

SOC 311 Intro to Sociological Method
SOC 410 Cults/New Religious Movements
SOC 461 Sociology of Religion
SOC 612 Overview of Sociological Method
SOC 613 Historical Method in Sociology
SOC 661 Issues in Sociology of Religion

Selected Books

2012 The American Soul Rush: Esalen and the Rise of Spiritual Privilege . New York: NYU Press

1999 Passionate journeys: Why successful women joined a cult. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press

1995 Sex, schemes, and sanctity: Religion and deviance. Co-editedGreenwich, CT: JAI press, sponsored by the Association for the Sociology of Religion

1987 Advances in psychoanalytic sociology. Co-edited. Melbourne, FL: Kreiger publishing company

1981 Gold diggers and silver miners: Prostitution and social life on the Comstock Lode. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, Women and Culture Series

1972 A portrait of the black attorney in Chicago. Chicago: American Bar Foundation Press

Selected Articles

2009  Avoiding Apocalypse at Rajneeshpuram. Sociology of Religion .70: 311-327

2006 Cults, new religions, and the spiritual landscape. Journal for the scientific study of religion 45: 86-96

2004 "Dueling symbols: A review essay." Contexts: A journal of the American Sociological Association. 3:60-62

2003 "When leaders dissolve: Solutions to controversy and stagnation in the Rajneesh movement." In Controversial New Religions. Edited by James Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press

2002 "Voicing spiritualities: Anchored composites in research on religion." In Reshaping the Ethnography of Religion edited by James Spickard and Shawn Landres. New York: New York University Press

2001 "The ethnographer as holy clown: Ignoring dangers in the field." In Reflexive Ethnography edited by Lewis Carter and David Bromley, Greenwich, CT: Jai Press, pp. 53-76

1999 "Enduring affiliation and gender doctrine for Shiloh Sisters and Rajneesh sannyasins." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38: 411-423

1996 "Alice Miller's contributions to the sociology of religion." In Religion, Society, and Psychoanalysis edited by Donald Capps and Janet Jacobs. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press

1995 "Continuity in collapse: Departures from Shiloh." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34: 342-353


Ph.D. -- University of Chicago