Sarah Pike traces the history of New Age and Neopagan religions in the United States from their origins in the nineteenth century to their reemergence in the 1960s counterculture. She also considers the differences and similarities between the New Age and Neopagan movements as well as the antagonistic relationship between these two practices and other religions in America, particularly Christianity. Covering such topics as healing, gender and sexuality, millennialism, and ritual experience, she offers a sympathetic yet critical treatment of religious practices often marginalized yet soaring in popularity. Her book is a rich analysis of these spiritual worlds and social networks and questions why these faiths are flourishing at this point in American history.
This installment in Columbia's Contemporary American Religion series explores the rise of New Age and Neopagan religions in America, phenomena that are difficult to study because of the diverse array of people and movements that claim shelter under their umbrellas. Pike, who teaches religion at California State University, draws attention to the main concerns and daily lives of participants in these new religious movements, dissecting what healing rituals, self-awareness meditation and channeling mean to the people who practice them. Although most readers could do without the dissertation-like literature review that dominates the introduction, the remainder of the book is informative and accessible for the general reader. Pike writes well, with a journalist's eye for an engaging story and a scholar's sense of the larger historical picture. One particularly helpful chapter surveys the traditions' most visible groups and central teachings, which include an emphasis on nature, women's spiritual leadership, seasonal ritual, and personal transformation.