Magic and the Millennium: A Sociological Study of Religious Movements of Protest among Tribal and Third-World Peoples

By Bryan R. Wilson | Go to book overview

15
Conclusions

Concepts and categories

THE conceptual framework adopted in this study of new religious movements among less-developed peoples was borrowed from a typological scheme developed in respect of the sects of advanced society, which was intended to exhaust the logic of religious deviance.1 The use of such a framework should make apparent the divergences of response within movements, and provide some type of measuring rod against which to trace changes in a movement's orientation over time. Obviously, to discuss movements in terms of orientations is not to specify their cultural content, to indicate, for example, the extent to which a revolutionist response is nativistic and restorative, or futuristic or imitative. These are important cultural variables, and the analysis has sought to indicate the type of social circumstances in which the content of a movement's concern is broadly restorative or broadly imitative. In plotting the mutation of responses some indication of the broad shifts of consciousness have also been suggested.

The dominant orientations in the new movement arising among less-developed peoples are thaumaturgical and revolutionist, responses for which I have used the terms magical and millenial as rough approximations. But thaumaturgy is a more encompassing term than magic, and the revolutionist response embrace more than millennialism. the term millenial is a misnomer if the strictly Christian implications of the word are borne in mind, whilst in common usage magic does not always include belief in the power of witch-finders as well as of witches. In these pages it is belief in empirically unjustified practices and procedures which affect personal well-being.

Such practices and procedures are predominantly personal in application--rarely extending beyond individuals to families or communities. The revolutionist response in contrast is always social-- tribal or ethnic--and rarely localized to the merely communal. Analytically, magical and millennial solutions--the thaumaturgical response and the revolutionist response--are polar opposites both in

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1
See Chapter 1.

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