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America is experiencing a religious revival and a huge growth in the exploration and practice of alternative religions. The American Religions Collection, located at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is one of the largest collections of materials on alternative religious movements and practices in the world. It offers thousands of hard-to-find serials relating to twentieth-century nontraditional religions and splinter groups of larger religious bodies in North America.
The collection was initially assembled by the Institute for the Study of American Religion (ISAR), an independent religious studies research facility founded in Evanston, Illinois in 1968. The collection would serve as the research foundation for the the Encyclopedia of American Religions (now in its 9th edition), as well as other reference works produced by ISAR. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, as hundreds of new religions made their presence known in the North America, ISAR undertook a systematic effort to gather the full of spectrum of materials they were generating—books, posters, pamphlets, ephemera and periodicals. In 1985, ISAR moved to Santa Barbara, California, at which time it donated the collection to the Special Collections Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara’s library.
At its inception and throughout its development, the American Religions Collection took as its special agenda the assembling of materials from “small sects in America,” the term used by Elmer T. Clark in his 1937 book of the same title and which was applied to those groups that, because of their size, limited agendas, fragile nature, or lack of organizational development, were least likely to preserve their own archives. Of special interest were those materials from the “Western esoteric” tradition.
In the early 2000s, over 600 rare serial publications from this tradition within the American Religions Collection was published in microform as The American Religions Collection, Parts 1 and 2, Western Esotericism from Witchcraft to the New Age Serials. The periodicals gathered on Wicca, Neo-Paganism, Magick, New Age, and Occult organizations and churches range in period from the 1920s through 1990s, with the bulk published from the 1970s onward. Western Esotericism is used here as an umbrella term for these families of religious groups. Wicca and Neo- Paganism emphasize religious experience and goddess worship, which will be of particular interest to women's studies historians. Magick groups have their roots in a pre-Christian tradition and are characterized by ritual and secret ancient wisdom. New Age is a revival movement of post-Spiritualist groups that came of age in the 1970s, with an emphasis on the Occult.
The serials in this collection provide much needed primary source material for divinity schools, departments of religion, American studies, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and women's studies programs with interest in women and religion.
From Occult to Western Esotericism
In order to understand Western Esotericism, one must first understand the occult. Defined as the realm of Satan in the Middle Ages, the occult was feared; its practitioners were seen as workers of black magic with the ability to curse their adversaries and wreak havoc on the masses. Believed to be the enemy, occultists were considered the rightful targets of the wrath of both God and the church. The perceived threat posed by the workers of (presumably malevolent) magic led to the great Witchcraft scare that peaked in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, finally climaxing in the execution of the “witches” of Salem Village in colonial Massachusetts in 1692.
By the nineteenth century, the occult was less feared than derided; belief in its powers was dismissed as ignorant superstition and its followers were seen as deluded. Those who sought to form occult religious groups were considered frivolous seekers whose ideas did not merit a place in serious religious discussions. Occultism was absent from the university curriculum, with the exception of attempts by cultural historians to understand pre-Enlightenment attention to Witchcraft. As a result, literature of the occult went unpreserved, and most discussion of it as a phenomenon was limited to popular polemics and exposés.
But occult movements—and their related metaphysical movements, such as Christian Science and New Thought—would become more prominent in the relatively free religious environment of the post-World-War-II West. This allowed a small group of European and American scholars to draw connections among the common roots of the many diverse occult groups and piece together their history. What emerged, as first defined by French scholar Antoine Faivre, was the understanding that through centuries of Western history, Christianity—in spite of its dominance—to be continuously challenged by a second religious tradition, one that Faivre named “Western Esotericism.”
The History of Western Esotericism
Western Esotericism is best described as a set of interrelated intellectual groups and trends that have much in common with ancient Gnosticism. Through the centuries, Esotericists developed forms of thought that contrasted with mainstream Christianity, although some Esoteric groups have attempted to locate themselves under the broad umbrella of Christianity as practitioners of a form of mysticism. Emphasizing an impersonal deity or Ultimate Reality that is beyond personality, as opposed to the personal God of Christianity, Esotericists tend to view spiritual activity as a means to enlightenment and union or attunement with the Ultimate rather than as a pathway to redemption. Thus, the goal is not to attain salvation from the evil world, but to discover the spiritual realms through gnosis, or wisdom. In the Esoteric scheme, Christ, if present, is seen as an exemplar who shows the way rather than as a savior.
In the Esoteric cosmos, the universe is formed by stages of emanation of the deity, rather than by an act of “His” will. These emanations produce a series of layers, or realms—each successive layer being slightly less spiritual—until the lowest level—our material existence—is reached. Individuals are seen as sparks of the divine that are trapped in the material world. Common to Esoteric groups is a belief that human spirits or souls have forgotten their state as divine beings and are ignorant of the means of escape. It is their task to acquire the knowledge and tools needed in order to be free of the body and return to their purely spiritual home. Esoteric groups differ on the number of realms and sub-realms and the nature of the wisdom required.
This basic view can also lead to a belief in reincarnation—the idea that beings are doomed to keep returning to Earth until they discover and act upon the knowledge of how to escape. This common perspective (which, like Christianity, admits of a large number of variations) appears in fragmentary ways in the Bible, where some of its specifics are denounced, especially in the writings attributed to John the Apostle. It took form in second-century Gnosticism, and then passed to such movements as Manichaeism, Bogomilism and Abigensianism (the Cathars), hermeticism, and alchemy. In the sixteenth century, Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522) articulated a Christianized form of Jewish Kabbalism, which is essential to the reemergence of this concept.
The Reformation, which split Western and Northern Europe into four competing camps (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Anglican), also made way for a host of other, smaller groups. In the sixteenth century, Rosicrucianism emerged; the first of the modern Western Esoteric groups, it was essentially presented to Europe as a new form of Esotericism upon which anyone could elaborate. It was originally announced through three publications that described the Rosicrucian order, laid out its supposed history and organization, and provided its version of the basic myth. The author of the original Rosicrucian documents, however, provided no address for the order and offered no explanation for how readers might join.
The lack of information on locating the Rosicrucian order left a vacuum which, in the eighteenth century, was filled by the rise of Freemasonry. It spread across Europe and North America in the middle of the century; the national Freemason headquarters and its groups were very visible from country to country. In their semi-secretive gatherings, Freemasons offered a place for occult speculation, encouraged religious and political dissent, and inspired many to revolution. Freemasonry was the ultimate base from which many new currents of Esoteric thought emerged in the nineteenth century. In the United States, these currents evolved into Spiritualism and Theosophy.
Through the twentieth century, the movement spawned by Freemasonry produced hundreds of groups; most were relatively small, but collectively, they existed as a loosely connected social movement. This movement saw itself as possessed of ancient wisdom on the nature of the universe and humanity’s place in it—wisdom that had escaped the eyes of the masses and was, at best, obscured in the teachings of the church.
In tune with the times, the new Esoteric groups of the nineteenth century shed much of the supernatural worldview that preceded the Enlightenment and allied themselves with the scientific spirit and its search for technological dominance of the world. They sought a scientific grounding of spiritual claims—for example, through Mesmerism, which posited an underlying cosmic magnetic power. Given many names, the magnetic power defined and subsequently manipulated by the Mesmerists became the technological agent by which magic operated. As science created an ever-enlarging body of knowledge, the occult world continually reinvented itself, periodically reconstructing its picture of the universe and the forces that held it together and empowered it.
Documenting Twentieth-Century Esotericism
The formation of the Institute for the Study of American Religion (ISAR) and the American Religions Collection were precipitated by two events. In 1968, Elmer Clark’s widow donated the library her husband used to write his classic volume, The Small Sects in America, to J. Gordon Melton. ISAR was formed and incorporated in order to provide a proper home for that collection.
At the same time, ISAR’s founders became aware that in the United States, libraries and archives of religious studies lacked documentation of the twentieth-century occult. Because no one had gathered the materials published by occult groups throughout the century, ISAR set out to collect the publications then being produced, including periodicals. This project went forward with only a vague awareness that Esotericism was in the process of taking a quantum leap in popularity. The resultant assemblage of periodicals would provide key documentation of that unprecedented growth, which would be anchored in three movements—Wicca, or Witchcraft; Ritual or Ceremonial Magick; and the New Age movement.
Witchcraft has a special place in the history of the West. For several centuries, the Roman Catholic Church redefined the old religion of Europe as Satanism; this culminated in the 1485 book, The Witches Hammer. Those who continued to follow the old ways by worshipping pre- Christian deities were seen by the church as being engaged in the magical invocation of His Infernal Majesty. As such, the church made efforts to ferret out and destroy these practitioners. The witch hunts initiated by Catholics were enthusiastically continued by Protestants in the sixteenth century and by Puritans in the seventeenth century.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Westerners finally decided that Witchcraft and malevolent magic did not really exist and ceased the prosecution of their reputed practitioners. By then, little was left of pre-Christian belief; because it had been transmitted orally, most of it was lost to posterity. There remained hints of what had been: a variety of old sites (such as Britain’s Stonehenge); a few early accounts (such as Julius Caesar’s observations of the Druids); and some disconnected practices that survived in local folklore.
By the twentieth century, there was relatively little substantive information about pre-Christian faith and its practices, thus any reconstruction left much to the imagination. In the 1940s and 1950s, one man did try to create a modern version of the old religion of pre-Christian Europe, which he termed “Witchcraft.” Gerald Brousseau Gardner* (1884-1964) claimed to have made contact with a dying remnant of the old faith—a coven of witches in the New Forest area of southern England. In the early 1950s, Gardner published several books reporting on the beliefs and practices of these witches, ostensibly so that some record of them would survive as they passed into oblivion.
Gardner and his followers, especially Doreen Valiente (1922-1999), gathered material from older poetic and occult works and also produced writings of their own. Taking inspiration from the fact that a pre-Christian Pagan faith had existed, Gardner and his colleagues created a new faith, almost out of whole cloth. The new Witchcraft was characterized by the central worship of the Mother Goddess, the practice of magick, and a ritual cycle tied to the movement of the sun and moon. Major festivals (sabbats) were held eight times a year—at the Equinoxes and Solstices and halfway between each. Regular worship gatherings (esbats) were held twice monthly—at the new moon and at the full moon. Organizational leadership was invested in a priesthood and authority passed through a lineage of high priestesses.
Rather than documenting a dying faith, Gardner’s writings became the trumpet call to those interested in joining this new religion. By the early 1970s, the movement had spread across North America, but a schism soon developed over what was termed “skyclad” worship. Gardner, a nudist, advocated worship in the nude—a practice abandoned by large segments of the rapidly spreading movement. Robed worshippers often claimed pre-Gardnerian authorities as the basis for their practice.
Another faction of the movement deemphasized magick and the regular semi-monthly gatherings in favor of the solar festivals. Rejecting their designation as witches, its members preferred to be known as Pagans and centered their life around the eight annual celebrations of the Goddess. They also looked to pre-Gardnerian roots in several (admittedly very limited) attempts that had been made to establish Goddess worship in America earlier in the century. Although the movement spread rapidly, it was not too large to prevent representatives of the factions from freely associating with one another, especially at the Solstice and Equinox celebrations.
As the Witchcraft (or “Wicca,” as it came to be termed) and Pagan movement developed, Gardner’s appropriation of the tradition, as well as his role in creating it, began to diminish. With the loss of direct organizational ties to surviving Pagan groups, the movement took on a feminist perspective, which held that patriarchal religion (primarily in the form of Christianity) had destroyed the earlier matriarchal religions the modern Goddess movement was destined to rediscover. This change of perspective gave authority to many newly founded groups within Paganism and sanctioned writings about many new rituals. Some emerging groups projected themselves as totally new embodiments of Goddess worship, eschewing any ties to the past.
Contemporary Wicca and Paganism emerged as a highly decentralized movement that manifested itself through many informally produced periodicals and newsletters that circulated to one or a few groups and to a select circle of acquaintances around the country. Most of these serials were short-lived and are represented here by scattered issues rather than complete runs. Together, however, they offer a very good picture of the informal nature of much of the movement.
In the early 1970s, a few efforts were made to upgrade periodicals—such as the Witches’ Trine— that were representative of some of the more substantial groups, or even to have certain publications speak to/for the whole movement. Two early publications—one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast—which shared the name Crystal Well, are notable examples of a periodical that spoke to the whole movement. These would give way to two of the more important periodicals that would serve the movement over the first generation—Green Egg and Circle.
Green Egg was one of the first Pagan periodicals. Its founder, Tim Zell (also known as Oberon Zell), took credit for coining the term “Neo-Paganism” in recognition of the contemporary nature of modern Pagan groups. Beginning as an informal periodical entitled Atlan Annals, Green Egg emerged in the 1970s as the first truly national periodical to chronicle the emerging movement and to network its leadership. It became well known and was at times the center of intense controversy due to its letters column, “The Forum,” which regularly printed uncensored epistles from Pagans expressing the most outrageous and inflammatory opinions and often criticizing other Pagans.
During the 1970s, Circle, a group led by Selena Fox, was slowly growing. Its original newsletter, Circle Network News, matured into Circle Magazine, possibly the most substantive periodical for Wiccans that is capable of sustaining itself over time. Through the years, Circle’s newsletters have documented the movement and served the Wiccan cause as a forum for discussing such emerging needs as the training of leaders and the development of ritual.
The American Religion Collection contains the largest publicly available collection of newsletters and other periodicals of the emergent Wicca and Pagan movement in North America. The collection is reproduced in its entirety and is possibly the best entrée into the life of the innovative new religious community. Such periodicals as the Georgian Newsletter, the Sword of Dyrnwyn, the Covenant of the Goddess Newsletter, and New Moon Rising supply a broad picture of the Wicca movement. Korythalia was produced over a number of years by one of the original Pagans, artist Fred Adams. Runestone and Vor Tru represent the Norse Pagan tradition, a distinct Pagan subculture, while the Druid Chronicler, the Druids’ Progress, and the Pentalpha Journal are representative of the Druids.
Among the first movements to arise out of the milieu created by Freemasonry was ritual magick (the “k” was added in the twentieth century to distinguish the practice from that of stage magic). Drawing on the work of the great Esoteric thinkers of past centuries as well as the new sciences, ritual magicians sought to command the essential forces of the universe and use them to manipulate the world in accord with the magicians’ goals. Those goals fit into two categories: low magic sought changes in the mundane world and was usually associated with such things as love spells and money rituals; high magic sought changes in the magician him/herself—a transformation usually spoken of in alchemical terms as changing the dross of the lower self into the pure gold of spiritual enlightenment. Such change involved great discipline and self-mastery.
Ritual magick was always an elitist tradition. Occasionally compared to yoga, it included the learning of meditation and concentration. It also incorporated an understanding of the spiritual rhythms of a universe held together by a complex set of correspondences: times and seasons, colors and sounds, attitudes and attentions. In order to produce a change, the magician had to create or choose the appropriate ritual, which had to be performed in the proper location, at the proper time of the day and week; these factors had to be determined by the magician, who also had to be surrounded by the correct colors. Most importantly, the magician had to learn the names of the forces and personalities that might be encountered in ritual work as well as how to control them.
As the practice of ritual magick developed, it came to include two aspects. First, in spite of a façade of compatibility, the essence of magick was quite different from Christianity; therefore, magicians pursued their real work in secret. The few books embodying magick rituals and their accompanying instructions were closely guarded. Second, as modern Esoteric practice developed, the knowledge was revealed to the student in a series of initiations, each one building on mastery of the previous knowledge set, and leading to the student becoming a master magician.
The practice of ritual magick, which all but disappeared in the eighteenth century, underwent a revival in the nineteenth century that is generally traced to the mid-century publications of Eliphas Levi (1810-1875). This former Roman Catholic priest produced a set of books summarizing the knowledge that was then prevalent about “transcendental magic,” as he called it. His work inspired the formation of a series of groups in England and France that soon spread through Europe and reached across the Atlantic to the Americas.
The most important of the new ceremonial groups was the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD), founded in England in 1888 by several master Masons. The leaders of the order, especially S. L. MacGregor Mathers (1854-1917), drew upon a variety of older texts, many of which were found in museums in London and Paris. Representative of alchemical, Hermetic, and Kabbalistic traditions, these texts were added to the order’s prior knowledge of Masonic and Rosicrucian materials. The HOGD became the parent and grandparent to most of the twentieth- century magical groups, which followed its organizational pattern.
Among the members of the HOGD was Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), who became the most prominent theoretician of modern magical practice. Expelled from the HOGD after a series of bitter disagreements with the leadership, he all but destroyed it by publishing items of its internal materials and revealing most of its secrets. He then aligned himself with a small German initiatory magical group, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). Like the HOGD, the OTO trained magicians in the traditional disciplines, to which it added an ultimate secret: the use of sex as the most effective tool in raising the energy required to do magick.
Crowley’s use of sex and his exploration of mood-altering drugs have often overshadowed the major theoretical reworking of magical thought around his concept of thelema, or will. According to this theory, it is the task of the magician to discover her/his destiny, or true will, in this earthly embodiment and then to subordinate every other endeavor to the accomplishment of that goal—a perspective stated in the popular thelemic motto, “Do what thou Will shall be the whole of the law.” Magic is the tool by which the magician accomplishes her/his will; therefore, the more proficient the magician becomes, the closer to attaining her/his true will s/he will become. Crowley’s work became an intellectual watershed for modern magick and all late- twentieth-century groups can be seen as either thelemic or consciously deviating from thelema.
The ritual magick tradition, which never had a large following, was pursued by relatively few groups through the 1930s and 1940s—primarily those in central Europe, which faced repression by the Nazi regime. However, following Crowley’s death in 1947, a set of his books and papers, including many of the secret OTO materials, was deposited in the Warburg Institute at the University of London. When that archive was discovered, the secrets of the OTO were made public; through the 1970s and 1980s, almost all of its secret ritual and teaching material was published.
In response to the publishing of the secrets, several surviving magick groups expanded rapidly and a number of new groups were formed. Israel Regardie, Crowley’s former secretary, had moved to America where, at the end of the 1930s, he published all of the previously unavailable ritual materials of the HOGD. With the use of these materials, new post-Crowleyan Golden Dawn groups were formed.
Members of the ritual magick groups interacted freely with Pagans and Wiccans, whom they considered popularizers of magic and among whom they often found adherents ready for the more rigorous effort demanded by the magicians. At the same time, Wiccans viewed the ritual magicians as their theologians and drew freely on their writings to underpin their own positions. Gardner relied heavily on Crowley’s materials in composing the third-degree Witchcraft rituals.
In contrast to the Wiccans, the ritual magicians have produced considerable material for public consumption. The community is a much smaller, more elite group—quite different from the mass movement of Paganism. The small size of these groups allowed for much more oral communication and less need for newsletters. Also, while secrecy has its place in Wicca, it has been a much more important element in the ongoing life of the ritual magicians. In spite of this secrecy, several periodicals have circulated, primarily to inform the larger world of groups that are receptive to new initiates engaged in substantive work. For example, the Ordo Templi Astarte was one of the early magical groups to develop in southern California and its Seventh Ray journal has appeared sporadically over the years.
The OTO, in its several factions, has been the largest of the ritual magick groups and is represented in the collection by issues of several periodicals. Of particular interest is the OTO Newsletter, published by Grady McMurtry during the last years of his leadership as the American order’s caliph. Finding the order in some chaos in the 1960s—its major group in southern California had disbanded and the office of outer head of its international order was vacant—McMurtry asserted his right to act, based on some documents from Aleister Crowley, and began the work of rebuilding the order. Notably successful, he established his authority over that of other claimants from Brazil and England. The Newsletter documents some of the struggles and the accomplishments that took place under his caliphate. This small but intellectually important aspect of the Esoteric community is well represented by the periodicals Mezlin, the Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magick, The White Light, Thelema, and Kaaba.
It should be noted that Satanism forms the most distinct and separate element of the magical Esoteric world. It has traditionally seen itself in opposition to Christianity, paying allegiance to its anti-deity. Wiccans, Pagans, and ritual magicians have taken pains to distinguish themselves from Satanists, claiming that they are neither against Christianity nor derived from it; like Buddhists, they are simply part of a different religion.
At the same time, the new Satanism initiated by Anton LaVey (1930-1997) in the 1960s attempted to draw on modern Esoteric material while reinterpreting the whole of Satanism as it had emerged in the eighteenth century. A few periodicals in this collection document modern Satanism—the Scroll of Set and the Black Lite are representative—though it has not been a particularly literary movement.
The New Age movement is one of the aspects of the modern Esoteric world that is the most difficult to describe. It is based upon the occult community, which arose in the nineteenth century as a collection of groups with various goals and agendas, as well as a number of individuals who practiced one or more of the “occult arts,” as they were termed. Their skills were made available to those members of the public who sought them.
Occult groups ran the gamut from the Spiritualists to the Theosophists, and from the Rosicrucians to the magicians. Through the twentieth century, the relatively small number of groups expanded exponentially. The Theosophical Society, based upon the messages received by Madame Helena Blavatsky from the Ascended Masters, would ultimately become the parent of more than a hundred groups, many formed by people who also claimed to be in contact with various evolved beings from which they channeled information. In the 1950s, a set of new groups emerged—some with Theosophical or Spiritualist backgrounds—claiming contact with evolved beings from outer space: the inhabitants of the flying saucers.
Individual occult practitioners included psychic readers who professed to be clairvoyant and therefore capable of assisting people to gain self-understanding and guidance. Some of these psychics made use of tarot cards, palmistry, or crystal balls to enhance their own psychic abilities. Astrologers were at the top of the hierarchy of occult professionals; for many years, they struggled to have their discipline of reading the stars recognized as a science and to rid the practice of the derisive label “fortune telling.”
In the 1970s, this diverse world of occult groups and individual psychics, channelers, card readers, and astrologers was presented with a new idea: a “new age” of peace and love. According to this concept—initially heralded by independent Theosophist David Spangler—the cosmos had so arranged itself that during the next generation, a powerful amount of spiritual energy would become available, which, if properly accessed and utilized by those aware of it, would bring about a transformation of society and humanity.
That idea began to attract people almost immediately. Many who identified with the occult community harbored the hope that its years of being ignored would be over. Others with no previous contact with the occult were attracted to the millennial dream. By the end of the 1980s, observers were aware of the movement and its importance in reshaping the older occult milieu. However, the movement actually had a much more dramatic effect throughout the 1980s, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to the old occultism under its refashioned image as the New Age.
Even sophisticated observers of new religious movements were caught unaware by the sudden emergence of the New Age as a decentralized social movement tied together by a shared vision. The movement was very different from the tight-knit groups they had been studying, and the number of people it attracted—in the millions—was staggering.
The New Age reshaped the worldview of the older Esoteric community. In the nineteenth century, occultists had looked to the natural sciences—physics, biology, astronomy—for basic models in order to understand spiritual realities. During the 1970s and 1980s, psychology offered a new approach and a new language for Esoteric views. The spiritual life was seen as one of continual transformation (as opposed, for example, to alchemical change), reaching toward attunement with the highest level. The older occult techniques shed their image as fortune-telling practices and were now seen as tools of transformation and, where needed, healing. The lead had been taken by astrology, which had earlier developed humanistic and transpersonal formats, but astrologers were now joined by psychics and tarot card readers as spiritual counselors. Crystals, long a tool of magicians, became popular as batteries of spiritual energy.
The recasting of the older occult life as a pathway to spiritual transformation and healing changed the image of a community that was largely derided and despised into one that was capable of assuming a place in the new pluralistic religious culture of America. The New Age movement attracted celebrities and built an intelligentsia. Although still a distinct minority in American life, followers of the occult can no longer be dismissed as an irrelevant community of a deluded few.
Like Paganism, New Age emerged as an intensely decentralized movement that offered itself to the general public. It was, however, infinitely more popular. Where Wicca counted its adherents in the tens of thousands, New Age found hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of followers. The size of its following is reflected by the varying nature of its publications; these run the gamut from numerous informal newsletters and limited-circulation periodicals to several high- quality newsstand magazines.
Of particular note in this collection are the early occult periodicals, which anticipate the success of the New Age movement. The Occult Digest, published for many years in Chicago, provides the best picture of the occult community as it existed prior to the New Age.
The annual volumes compiled by William C. Hartmann, produced with slight variations on the title Who’s Who in Occult, Psychic, and Spiritual Realms, provide an excellent place to start one’s exploration of the contemporary New Age. These volumes survey the Esoteric community as it existed in the 1920s and provide a base for understanding the historical development of alternative spiritualities. Early periodicals, such as Chimes, the Psychic Observer, and the Journal of Borderland Science, fill out the picture through the mid-twentieth century.
Most of the periodicals in the New Age section are reflective of the movement’s history. A few of the publications, such as the Father’s House, were integral to its beginnings, while Body, Mind and Spirit was one of the major newsstand magazines serving the movement. To get an overview of the New Age and the vital ideas that motivated it, examine issues of Crystal Pathways, Stonehenge Viewpoint, and the Masters Speak.
The resulting periodical collection constitutes a large body of untapped primary source material that documents essential aspects of Esoteric experience and a plethora of key ideas. The content represented in Religions of America provide researchers with many new insights and avenues into the Western Esoteric tradition. At the undergraduate level, the collection can be useful both in the classroom and as a resource for research papers as a means of providing students with a quick, entertaining, and informative introduction to the spiritual worlds created by modern Esotericists. Possibly even more use can be made by graduate students preparing theses and dissertations on Esoteric topics, as the primary source material is both extensive and largely unavailable in any other library. Through this material, researchers will gain a much fuller and deeper understanding of the origin and development of the modern occult community in America.
J. Gordon Melton, 'Western Esoteric Religious Traditions in America', Religions of America, Cengage Learning (EMEA) Ltd, 2019.