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Title: 'A Better Way' : A Course in Miracles : the development and legitimation of a new religious discourse and its diffusion through spiritual self help literature
Author: Bradby, Ruth Astrid
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2006
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This study examines the development and legitimation of the religious discourse inspired by the text, A Course in Miracles. Part One places Course spirituality in the context of other channelled texts of the 1960s and 70s which were a significant feature of the New Age network of the 1980s. It also explores themes from other channelled material of the time, the 'Seth ' texts by Jane Roberts, and argues that the widespread acceptance of channelled wisdom by New Age devotees suggests that they accept authority from outside the Self whilst holding to an epistemology of individual experience. An examination of emic definitions of the New Age in the 1980s suggests that the New Age network of spiritualities was not as amorphous as many scholars believed. It offers a five-point definition of ' holistic spiritualities' and suggests that this term could replace the term 'New Age' . Part Two follows Weber's study of how religions develop legitimation strateg ies for their followers. It shows that the narrative of how the Course came to be written developed into a tradition that legitimised the Course for its devotees and conferred chari sma on its scribe, Helen Schucman. An analysis is of the text of the Course demonstrates how appeals are made to rational ism through the internal logic of its thought system. The text is also shown to make links with ancient traditions by hark ng back to a biblical metanarrative and an ontology reminiscent of Hindu Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Hermeneutical battles between Course teachers in the last decade are shown to demonstrate Weber's routinisation of charisma, which marks the passing of the founding charisma. The study challenges Weber's lineal' model of development from charisma to routinisation. Part Three explores the popular spiritual self help literature derived from A Course in Miracles. These bestselling books detraditionalise religious language and authority making spiritual themes accessible to a wider public. The commercial success of the self help industry has caused publishers to commission further books of this genre. Part Four describes the fieldwork undertaken for the thesis, including descriptions of a se lection of Course meetings attended as a participant observer, the results of a survey placed in Miracle Worker magazine and interviews with Course devotees and readers of Course-related self help texts. In the context of contemporary secularisation debates, the thesis concludes that religious discourse is developing rather than disappearing. It argues that holistic spiritualities should no longer be regarded as 'alternative'. This has come about, in part, through the diffusion of holistic spiritual themes in popular Course-related self help literature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available