From Mother Divine to the Corner Swami: Religious Cults in Philadelphia

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Overview
Religious cults have marked every society since the beginning of time. Some have an audacious presence, like Anton Szandor LaVey’s Church of the Process, whose black-caped “missionaries” used to walk streets of Philadelphia. Other cults seem to be the very soul of respectability, like Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement, a name that does justice to the group’s well intentioned beginnings and the good the Peace Mission went on to accomplish, but which nevertheless hides a history of skullduggery and intrigue. Father Divine, to his believers, was God, placing him in an already overcrowded cosmos inhabited by pop-up gurus, false shamans, “embodiment of divinity” leaders, and assorted New Age marketers like Philadelphia’s own Swami Nostradamus Virato, publisher of New Frontier Magazine, once the toast of the city’s New Age community. Some cults, like Scientology, began as a fringe movement that mushroomed into Hollywood-centric empires, while other cults, like Madame Blavatsky and her 19th Century Theosophical Society, swept the world before ending up as a small lecture society just off Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. In the post-modern era, the death of religion has transformed political and social causes into doctrinaire factions that might as well be religious cults that advocate the most severe forms of orthodoxy.
Details
ISBN: 9781634992633
Format: Paperback
Publisher: America Through Time
Date:
State: Pennsylvania
Series: America Through Time
Images: 16
Pages: 192
Dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 6 (h)
Author
THOM NICKELS is the author of fifteen books, including: Philadelphia Architecture (2005); Spore (2010); Literary Philadelphia: A History of Prose & Poetry in the City of Brotherly Love (2015); and Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls (2018). Nickels’ essays on his years as a Vietnam War-era conscientious objector were published by The New Oxford Review and Oklahoma Humanities Magazine. His feature essay on Agnes Repplier, “The Secular Writer as Saint,” was published by the American Catholic Studies journal. Nickels worked as the theater critic for ICON Magazine and as the architecture critic for Metro Philadelphia. He is currently a regular columnist for the Philadelphia Free Press, Philadelphia Irish Edition, and City Journal (New York).