Religious Sects: A Sociological Study

By Bryan Wilson | Go to book overview

8
Manipulationists

Sects with the imprint of secularity

Whilst conversionist, revolutionist and introversionist sects all espouse radically different values from those of the wider society, manipulationist sects are much more congenial to the prevailing secular culture. What they provide for their votaries is less an alternative set of values for life, than the semi-esoteric means to the ends that are general to society. Whereas introversionist sects (and, in lesser measure, conversionist sects) represent communities of love, with a high premium on affective values, group cohesiveness and primary relationships, manipulationist sects represent almost the opposite. They are much more instrumental in their concerns: the community is not an end in itself. The meeting of the manipulationist group is not the congregating of a community, but the gathering of an associationof like-minded and like-instructed people, who use a common method in coping with the world. The manipulationists have found a method by which to achieve salvation, but salvation is largely seen as the ability to realise the good things of the world, and particularly long life, health, happiness and a sense of superiority or even of triumph. The sect provides short-cuts to attain these ends. These values are sometimes expressed in terms scarcely religious, although such sects have often presented their teachings in metaphysical language. Manipulationist sects are secularised sects, for which only the means to salvation are religious: the goals are largely those of secular hedonism.

Sects emphasising special knowledge of this kind, a gnosis that gives the diligent believer mastery to manipulate the world, arise only in particular historical periods and social circumstances. They are most evident in metropolitan centres, where relationships are impersonal and dominated by role-performances. The people who belong to the manipulationist sects regard themselves as sophisticates. Their sectarian adherence is, for them, the superior means of coping intellectually with the complexities of involvement in a social system and a way of life that can be comprehended only in abstract terms. They are acquainted, usually, with other systems of religious

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Religious Sects: A Sociological Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • 1 - Introduction: Sects in Sociological Perspective 7
  • 2 - The Problem of Definition 22
  • 3 - Sectarian Responses to the World 36
  • 4 - The Early Fundamentalists 48
  • 5 - The Pentecostal Movements 66
  • 6 - Revolutionist Sects 93
  • 7 - Introversionists 118
  • 8 - Manipulationists 141
  • 9 - Thaurnaturgical, Reformist and Utopian Sects 167
  • 10 - Some Exceptional Cases 189
  • 11 - Sects in Two Developing Societies 212
  • 12 - Origins, Functions and Development 226
  • Notes 243
  • Acknowledgments 244
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 252
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