Re: Virulent Offshoots and Others

From: Gudmundur Ingi Markusson (
Date: Mon 06 Jan 2003 - 18:21:14 GMT

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    Keith Henson <> wrote:

    >>It certainly seem that an overarching model of religious
    >>mutation/selection/evolution is indeed possible, but such a model is
    >>likely to be much too complex to be completely explained by a 'virulent
    >>offshoot' theory, although such a theory would remain a major
    >>component of any possible model.

    Discourse about mainstream denominations and their more reactionary offshoots has of been going on ever since Max Weber in the sociology and theory of religion.

    A recent theory in this direction is Harvey Whitehouse's "modes of religiosity". In his books, _Inside the Cult: Religious Innovation and Transmission in Papua New Guinea_ (ca. 1995), and _Arguments and Icons: Divergent Modes of Religiosity_ (UP 2000), in extremely simplified terms, he constructs a theory based on his observations of a conservative mainstream movement in Papua New Guinea and its reactionary offshoot, looking into the different modes of transmission (of ideas and practices ... memes?), cognitive support (semantic and episodic memory), social organization, etc., and how these factors intercept in the life of these movements. Since he backs his theorizing up with extensive ethnographic observations about the dynamics of mainstream—offshoot interaction "in the wild", it might be of interest to those attempting memetic modelling of such processes.

    > For example, while it has many sources, a major source of
    >scientology is Crowley's OTO. That is still around, though not very

    Well. The OTO (mainly in the form of the American Caliphate OTO) has probably never been as active as to day ... in Crowley's time its existence was to a large extent on paper, with only a handful of members, far apart, doing any sort of practice, such as in the Californian lodge were Hubbard found himself. Maybe esoteric religious groups, and their memes, exhibit different dynamics to the more openly proselytizing groups you have been discussing?




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