Degree Granting Department
Margarethe Kusenbach, Ph.D.
Career, Conversion, Ethnography, New Age, New religious movements
Many scholars have examined the religious phenomenon known as the New Age Movement, resulting in a large body of literature on the subject. Despite this abundance of prior research, only a small number of studies conducted in the United States investigate what it means to be a "New Ager" from the perspective of the members. In order to contribute to the academic understanding of New Age identities and communities, I conducted an ethnographic study of an alternative spiritual center in the Tampa Bay area, here called the Spirit Grove. My research includes over fifty hours of participant observations, ten in-depth interviews, and an analysis of documents collected at the center. My findings indicate that Spirit Grove members typically follow a career trajectory consisting of five stages. After they become members of the community, practitioners tend to interpret their journey as a spiritual discovery. Next, I identify and describe five community practices that are performed at the center, including discovering the self, healing the self, embracing diversity, creating order, and finding proof. In the conclusion, I discuss the larger implications of this study, including its limitations and possibilities for future research.
Scholar Commons Citation
Currie, Sean E., "Sacred selves: An ethnographic study of narratives and community practices at a spiritual center" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.