Messianism, Mysticism, and Magic: A Sociological Analysis of Jewish Religious Movements

By Stephen Sharot | Go to book overview

14.

Conclusions

THE RELIGIOUS movements discussed in this work varied considerably in size and duration. Three types may be distinguished. The first type includes ephemeral millenarian outbursts that did not extend beyond a local community or limited area. Most of the incidents during the crusades and some at a later date in Spain were of this type. The second group is composed of millenarian outbursts that encompassed larger numbers in a region or nation. These outbursts were less ephemeral than the first type, but they rarely lasted more than a decade or two. Examples of this type include the movements in Persia in the eighth and eleventh centuries, in Spain at the ends of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and in Italy at the beginning and end of the sixteenth century. The third type comprises movements that spread considerably beyond the area of origin and continued for an extensive period (a century or more). The movements in this category were Sabbatianism, the only Jewish millenarian movement to continue for such a long period, and Hasidism, the only popular mystical movement to develop within the context of rabbinic Judaism. Differences in the scale and longevity of religious movements should be kept in mind in assessing theoretical perspectives. A particular perspective may, for example, address itself to the origins of movements, but ignore the problems of growth and consolidation.


The Remedy-Compensation Perspective

The most common perspective found in studies of religious movements is the remedy-compensation perspective. Explanations within this perspective may be distinguished by their relative emphases on oppression, disaster, relative deprivation, and social disorganization and anomie.

Oppression. Millenarian movements have often been interpreted as protests of a social class or people against their economic and political oppressors. Interpretations of the effect of oppression on Jewish movements

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