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In: Vigiliae Christianae

In 1974, Robert Fripp—leader of the progressive rock group King Crimson—had a spiritual experience in which “the top of [his] head blew off.” He became a student of J. G. Bennett, himself a former student of G. I. Gurdjieff, at Sherborne House in Gloucestershire, and remains a member of the Bennett Foundation to this day. When Fripp returned to the music industry, it was with an approach that favored disciplined and geometric compositions over the jagged improvisation of the earlier period. This article explores the influence of Gurdjieff and Bennett’s teaching upon Fripp and his work, and his apparent attempts to realize the former’s idea of “objective art” through his music. I pay particular attention to the development of Guitar Craft, in which Fripp applies Gurdjieff’s techniques through the teaching of the guitar. I argue that Fripp’s teaching is a little examined scion of the Gurdjieff lineage, and a case study of discrete cultural production.

In: Religion and the Arts
In: Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production

How is authority built up and maintained in a milieu in which all information is treated with distrust? How is charisma institutionalised in fields which reject institutions? This chapter attempts to answer these questions through examining two prominent conspiracist authorities with different geographical and political positions, David Icke and Alex Jones. Drawing on Max Weber’s (1964) concept of “charisma”, Matthew Wood’s description of multiple and relative “non-formative” authorities, and my own model of “epistemic capital”, I will argue that in this field authority is accumulated through a strategic mobilisation of a range of both mainstream and alternative sources of knowledge, drawing from traditional, scientific, channelled, experiential, and synthetic epistemic strategies.

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
In: Handbook of Scientology


April DeConick’s The Gnostic New Age demonstrates that scholarship of Gnosticism is still entrenched in an Eliadian phenomenological paradigm which essentializes an ahistorical sui generis “Gnosis”. This approach is traceable to the Eranos Circle, particularly Carl G. Jung and Gilles Quispel, and builds certain philosophical and psychoanalytical affinities into an ahistorical religious current. DeConick’ comparison with New Age is tenuous, and misses the important fact that Gnosticism and New Age share specific genealogical antecedents. Interdisciplinary work needs to pay more attention to the theological and colonial implications of categories, or such problematic categories will continue to take root in the gaps between academic specialisms.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Conspiracy theories are a ubiquitous feature of our times. The Handbook of Conspiracy Theories and Contemporary Religion is the first reference work to offer a comprehensive, transnational overview of this phenomenon along with in-depth discussions of how conspiracy theories relate to religion(s). Bringing together experts from a wide range of disciplines, from psychology and philosophy to political science and the history of religions, the book sets the standard for the interdisciplinary study of religion and conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theory and religion are both contested categories. They are ’complex cultural concepts’ the use of which depends on the specific social formations making use of them. These constructions, all involving struggles over power, meaning, and signification, can both help and hinder interdisciplinary dialogue and multidisiplinary approaches. In this chapter we trace some of the building blocks that different academic disciplines bring to and make use of in their study of conspiracy theory to show the potential connections and delineate some of the conflicts. The chapter centres on the building blocks going into studying conspiracy theory as knowledge and as narrative, and goes on to highlight some of the potential ties to the study of religion.

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion
In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion

Conspiracy theory and religion are complex phenomena. The relationship between them varies. This chapter introduces some of these relations, highlighting conspiracy theory in, about, and as religion. Conspiracy theory as religion highlights conspiracy thinking as worldview – conspiracism – and the parallels and differences between religion and conspiracism in modes of thinking and organizing collective action. Conspiracy theory in religion highlights religions as organized collectives, the content of and the roles more specific conspiracy theories play in different regions for different groups. Conspiracy theory about religion highlights the varied uses of conspiracy theories in demonizing religious collectives.

In: Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion