My current research focuses on personal change, social transformation and new religious movements (cults). I am working on two projects right now.
Steven Pfaff from the University of Washington and I recently signed a contract with Bloomsbury, Harry Potter’s publishers. This new book reflects my commitment to make scholarship on alternative religion and social change interesting and accessible to wider audiences. The working title is: The Spiritual Virtuoso, How Religious Activists Reshaped the Western World. And (fingers crossed)the book will be published in fall of 2017.
A spiritual virtuoso is someone who seeks personal salvation through intense practices like study, prayer, or meditation and occasionally joins with other virtuosi to work toward religious innovation and social transformation. The book begins with the Reformation and explores how spiritual virtuosi have implemented greater social equality over the past six centuries.
Although it’s on the “back burner” I am also doing more research about the complicated dynamics of food and faith. My first publication on that subject is a chapter, “ Food, Faith and fraud in two New Religious Movements” in Amanda Van Eck’s Minority Religions and Fraud: http://www.amazon.com/Minority-Religions-Fraud-Spiritual-Movements/dp/1472409116/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451885917&sr=12&keywords=Amanda+van+Eck#reader_1472409116
I explore sociological 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 learning more about spiritual virtuosity in settings like the Sunday Gathering—an Atheist Church in London and at the Solstice Celebrations at Seurassari, Finland.
In Gold Diggers and Silber 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 find out more and hear me talk about it at the show website: http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperience/programs/41-Rajneeshpuram
My most recent 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: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/01/RVNB1MH4GN.DTL
I am currently Scholar in Residence at the Portland Center for Public Humanities at Portland State University. One more website: http://www.pdx.edu/public-humanities/ 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.
- new religious movements
- religious violence
- social theory
- sociology of religion
- cults and social movements
- historical methods