Upcoming interview with Hugh Urban

#1
Really looking forward to this! Big thanks to Hilary for putting it together :)

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Zorba the Buddha is the first comprehensive study of the life, teachings, and following of the controversial Indian guru known in his youth as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and in his later years as Osho (1931–1990). Most Americans today remember him only as the “sex guru” and the “Rolls Royce guru,” who built a hugely successful but scandal-ridden utopian community in central Oregon during the 1980s. Yet Osho was arguably the first truly global guru of the twentieth century, creating a large transnational movement that traced a complex global circuit from post-Independence India of the 1960s to Reagan’s America of the 1980s and back to a developing new India in the 1990s. The Osho movement embodies some of the most important economic and spiritual currents of the past forty years, emerging and adapting within an increasingly interconnected and conflicted late-capitalist world order. Based on extensive ethnographic and archival research, Hugh Urban has created a rich and powerful narrative that is a must-read for anyone interested in religion and globalization.

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Scientology is one of the wealthiest and most powerful new religions to emerge in the past century. To its detractors, L. Ron Hubbard's space-age mysticism is a moneymaking scam and sinister brainwashing cult. But to its adherents, it is humanity's brightest hope. Few religious movements have been subject to public scrutiny like Scientology, yet much of what is written about the church is sensationalist and inaccurate.

Here for the first time is the story of Scientology's protracted and turbulent journey to recognition as a religion in the postwar American landscape. Hugh Urban tells the real story of Scientology from its cold-war-era beginnings in the 1950s to its prominence today as the religion of Hollywood's celebrity elite. Urban paints a vivid portrait of Hubbard, the enigmatic founder who once commanded his own private fleet and an intelligence apparatus rivaling that of the U.S. government. One FBI agent described him as "a mental case", but to his followers he is the man who "solved the riddle of the human mind". Urban details Scientology's decades-long war with the IRS, which ended with the church winning tax-exempt status as a religion; the rancorous cult wars of the 1970s and 1980s; as well as the latest challenges confronting Scientology, from attacks by the Internet group Anonymous to the church's efforts to suppress the online dissemination of its esoteric teachings.

This book demonstrates how Scientology has reflected the broader anxieties and obsessions of postwar America, and raises profound questions about how religion is defined and who gets to define it.
 
#3
Alex Osho's no2 was probably more interesting and complex than him and is still kicking about (Sheela).
Could you please ask him about his ideas about what happened between the two.
Cheers
Blaise
 
#4
Really looking forward to this! Big thanks to Hilary for putting it together :)

View attachment 1373

Zorba the Buddha is the first comprehensive study of the life, teachings, and following of the controversial Indian guru known in his youth as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and in his later years as Osho (1931–1990). Most Americans today remember him only as the “sex guru” and the “Rolls Royce guru,” who built a hugely successful but scandal-ridden utopian community in central Oregon during the 1980s. Yet Osho was arguably the first truly global guru of the twentieth century, creating a large transnational movement that traced a complex global circuit from post-Independence India of the 1960s to Reagan’s America of the 1980s and back to a developing new India in the 1990s. The Osho movement embodies some of the most important economic and spiritual currents of the past forty years, emerging and adapting within an increasingly interconnected and conflicted late-capitalist world order. Based on extensive ethnographic and archival research, Hugh Urban has created a rich and powerful narrative that is a must-read for anyone interested in religion and globalization.

View attachment 1374
Scientology is one of the wealthiest and most powerful new religions to emerge in the past century. To its detractors, L. Ron Hubbard's space-age mysticism is a moneymaking scam and sinister brainwashing cult. But to its adherents, it is humanity's brightest hope. Few religious movements have been subject to public scrutiny like Scientology, yet much of what is written about the church is sensationalist and inaccurate.

Here for the first time is the story of Scientology's protracted and turbulent journey to recognition as a religion in the postwar American landscape. Hugh Urban tells the real story of Scientology from its cold-war-era beginnings in the 1950s to its prominence today as the religion of Hollywood's celebrity elite. Urban paints a vivid portrait of Hubbard, the enigmatic founder who once commanded his own private fleet and an intelligence apparatus rivaling that of the U.S. government. One FBI agent described him as "a mental case", but to his followers he is the man who "solved the riddle of the human mind". Urban details Scientology's decades-long war with the IRS, which ended with the church winning tax-exempt status as a religion; the rancorous cult wars of the 1970s and 1980s; as well as the latest challenges confronting Scientology, from attacks by the Internet group Anonymous to the church's efforts to suppress the online dissemination of its esoteric teachings.

This book demonstrates how Scientology has reflected the broader anxieties and obsessions of postwar America, and raises profound questions about how religion is defined and who gets to define it.
Would really appreciate your help in preparing for this one... lots of different angles to cover.
Alex, if you want to deal with new religious movements (NRMs) and controversies surrounding them, the source you should aquaint yourself with is CESNUR, probably the best congregation of social scientists and humanitarian scholars dealing with the NRMs and conflicts surrounding them:

https://www.cesnur.org/

The Journal of CESNUR is freely downloadable, and a valuable source:

https://cesnur.net/
 
#5
I haven't looked into Osho much before, but a few years back I compulsively read everything about the CoS that I could find online. I have a tonne of bookmarked links that I could share with you, Alex, but it would probably be overload. Instead, I can recommend this 2015 documentary on the Church, which is powerful, although it might at times stray a little into the "sensational" aspects mentioned in the blurb for Hugh's book which you posted above:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_Clear_(film)
 
#6
I haven't looked into Osho much before, but a few years back I compulsively read everything about the CoS that I could find online. I have a tonne of bookmarked links that I could share with you, Alex, but it would probably be overload. Instead, I can recommend this 2015 documentary on the Church, which is powerful, although it might at times stray a little into the "sensational" aspects mentioned in the blurb for Hugh's book which you posted above:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_Clear_(film)
thx. I don't think Hugh's book is sensationalized... he's more academic/scholarly. in fact, this is one of the points of the interview... ie maybe his approach is a little too distant
 
#8
Oh, yep, I get that - I was referring to this part of the blurb from your OP where it mentions other writings about the church being sensationalistic:
ok I get what you mean. you know one of the interesting things about digging into dr Urban's work is this whole "religious studies" thing. on one hand I get that there's real important work to be done in terms of being objective and taking a political science / sociology / anthropology kind of perspective, but on the other hand it seems to be skirting some of the fundamental questions about religion and spirituality and consciousness science... and, when it comes to Cults it's skirting questions about evil.
 
#9
when it comes to Cults it's skirting questions about evil.
That's a very interesting angle, which I think it would be fruitful to explore. Are (at least some) cults evil, and if so, how do they end up that way? Are they perverted from a pure original motivation, or was the motivation all along to control and oppress? And are the answers to these questions even different from cult to cult?

Also: to what extent are malevolent spirits involved in cults? Are their founders effectively beholden to such spirits, at least at some point, or are cults a purely "human" evil? My money's on the involvement of spirits, big time.
 
#10
That's a very interesting angle, which I think it would be fruitful to explore. Are (at least some) cults evil, and if so, how do they end up that way? Are they perverted from a pure original motivation, or was the motivation all along to control and oppress? And are the answers to these questions even different from cult to cult?

Also: to what extent are malevolent spirits involved in cults? Are their founders effectively beholden to such spirits, at least at some point, or are cults a purely "human" evil? My money's on the involvement of spirits, big time.
all great questions. And very much in line with the stuff I'm wondering about. the problem is seeing if Dr. Urban can go there :)

I mean, he's done some great scholarship, but it's very bracketed within this academic social science groupthink.
 
#11
all great questions. And very much in line with the stuff I'm wondering about. the problem is seeing if Dr. Urban can go there :)

I mean, he's done some great scholarship, but it's very bracketed within this academic social science groupthink.
I wonder what his spiritual/metaphysical/religious beliefs are? Do you have access to that information, or can you get hold of it before the show, so you kind of have a sense of what he's likely to be open to in principle?
 
#12
I wonder what his spiritual/metaphysical/religious beliefs are? Do you have access to that information, or can you get hold of it before the show, so you kind of have a sense of what he's likely to be open to in principle?
I'll ask... ought to make for a good interview
 
#13
ok I get what you mean. you know one of the interesting things about digging into dr Urban's work is this whole "religious studies" thing. on one hand I get that there's real important work to be done in terms of being objective and taking a political science / sociology / anthropology kind of perspective, but on the other hand it seems to be skirting some of the fundamental questions about religion and spirituality and consciousness science... and, when it comes to Cults it's skirting questions about evil.
That's a very interesting angle, which I think it would be fruitful to explore. Are (at least some) cults evil, and if so, how do they end up that way? Are they perverted from a pure original motivation, or was the motivation all along to control and oppress? And are the answers to these questions even different from cult to cult?

Also: to what extent are malevolent spirits involved in cults? Are their founders effectively beholden to such spirits, at least at some point, or are cults a purely "human" evil? My money's on the involvement of spirits, big time.
Alex, Laird, I'm sure - well, I hope... - that neither of you would claim that ALL new religious movements (NRMs) are "evil cults". Wouldn't you? Since some extreme "anti-cultists" insist exactly on that.

Before you answer, reflect on this: in the eyes of extreme "anti-cultists", any individual, community and organization connected to anything paranormal and / or spiritual - even as an object of study, rather than worship - is also "cultic" and thus "evil". Say, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) and the Esalen Institute - they were also bashed as "evil cults" by some of their dedicated opponents.

Skeptiko and Psience Quest communities would also pass these people's very loose criteria of "cultism", BTW.

P.S. I want to make my previous recommendation of CESNUR a small bit more precise (and thus more useful). Here are two specific sections. One is about the Church of Scientology - and, most importantly, about the accusations of "brainwashing", as well as the violent and cruel acts of "deprogramming" that were performed by militant "anti-cultists" - and why these accusations were ultimately dismissed, and "deprogramming" banned:

https://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_scientology.htm

https://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_brainwash.htm
 
#14
Alex, Laird, I'm sure - well, I hope... - that neither of you would claim that ALL new religious movements (NRMs) are "evil cults".
Vortex, you're right - I wouldn't. I expect that there are a range of motivations and outcomes for NRMs, and that only some of them go so wrong as to become "evil cults". Perhaps we could suggest that they exist on a spectrum from benign to malign. ("Spectrum" thinking has become more and more appealing to me in recent times, and seems to me more and more to be generally applicable, regarding issues like this, as opposed to black-and-white "dichotomous" thinking).

Since some extreme "anti-cultists" insist exactly on that.
I agree with you that some anti-cultists are too extreme themselves. Perhaps they are too subject to the sort of dichotomous thinking I referenced above: it's either an evil cult or it's not, and if it is, and somebody is a member, then that somebody is brainwashed, and their decision-making capacity is compromised, and thus others have the right to coercively remove them from the "cult"... whereas in reality there are shades of grey, and people always retain the right to make their own decisions, even if we think they're succumbing to a "cult" - coercion is unjustified.
 
#15
Alex, Laird, I'm sure - well, I hope... - that neither of you would claim that ALL new religious movements (NRMs) are "evil cults". Wouldn't you? Since some extreme "anti-cultists" insist exactly on that.

Before you answer, reflect on this: in the eyes of extreme "anti-cultists", any individual, community and organization connected to anything paranormal and / or spiritual - even as an object of study, rather than worship - is also "cultic" and thus "evil". Say, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) and the Esalen Institute - they were also bashed as "evil cults" by some of their dedicated opponents.

Skeptiko and Psience Quest communities would also pass these people's very loose criteria of "cultism", BTW.

P.S. I want to make my previous recommendation of CESNUR a small bit more precise (and thus more useful). Here are two specific sections. One is about the Church of Scientology - and, most importantly, about the accusations of "brainwashing", as well as the violent and cruel acts of "deprogramming" that were performed by militant "anti-cultists" - and why these accusations were ultimately dismissed, and "deprogramming" banned:

https://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_scientology.htm

https://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_brainwash.htm
just finished this interview. Dr. Urban was a really good sport about things but I could tell he was a little uncomfortable about some of this stuff... on the other hand, he had some great push-back. very solid guy.

as to the above, I'm pretty hard-line anti-cult. got an interview with Kevin Annett that I was trying to get out this week... Maybe later today or maybe it will have to wait. Anyway he had a great line regarding an old quaker saying -- god doesn't like crowds
 
#16
Alex, Laird, I'm sure - well, I hope... - that neither of you would claim that ALL new religious movements (NRMs) are "evil cults". Wouldn't you? Since some extreme "anti-cultists" insist exactly on that.

Before you answer, reflect on this: in the eyes of extreme "anti-cultists", any individual, community and organization connected to anything paranormal and / or spiritual - even as an object of study, rather than worship - is also "cultic" and thus "evil". Say, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) and the Esalen Institute - they were also bashed as "evil cults" by some of their dedicated opponents.

Skeptiko and Psience Quest communities would also pass these people's very loose criteria of "cultism", BTW.

P.S. I want to make my previous recommendation of CESNUR a small bit more precise (and thus more useful). Here are two specific sections. One is about the Church of Scientology - and, most importantly, about the accusations of "brainwashing", as well as the violent and cruel acts of "deprogramming" that were performed by militant "anti-cultists" - and why these accusations were ultimately dismissed, and "deprogramming" banned:

https://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_scientology.htm

https://www.cesnur.org/testi/se_brainwash.htm
Perhaps IONS is less a cult, and more a (perhaps unwitting) munitions factory for prospective cults? Arming and empowering those that might have a spiritual bent and cultish tendencies.
 
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