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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Thirty-One


By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update February 26, 2015)

Other Voices of the Third Great Awakening

With so many diverse groups and ideologies arising during these few years even the most jaded skeptic must surely acknowledge that 'something' unusual was going on! Human consciousnesses was awakening, and yet with no apparent unified direction. Among the new groups were the Baha'i Faith, the Christadelphians, the Christian Scientists, the New Apostolic Church, the 70 plus churches based on the teachings of Phineas P. Quimby (including the Church of Divine Science, the Institute of Religious Science and Philosophy, the Religious Science Churches, the Churches of Religious Science, the Church of Truth, and perhaps best known of these, the Unity School of Christianity). There was also 'the Old Catholic movement' and other redefinition groups.

The Azuza Street Revival began in Los Angeles under the preaching of Reverend William J. Seymour. The revival began on April 9, 1906 and continued until the end of the Awakening in 1914. According to participants, as well as various media outlets that covered the events taking place, the revival was characterized by ecstatic spiritual experiences including various miracles, dramatic worship services, 'speaking in tongues', and inter-racial mingling (something unheard of at the time). The participants were criticized by the secular media as crazed cultists and by Christian theologians for behavior considered to be outrageous and un-Christian, especially at the time. Today however, the Azuza Street revival is considered by religious historians as the catalyst of Pentecostalism and the more subsequent more sedate Charismatic Movement. Several Pentecostal and Charismatic sects were spawned by the experiences at Azuza Street. Some of these new Pentacostals were fundamentalists, others 'Progressives'. The Azuza Street experiences changed the religious landscape of America.

Other Third Great Awakening born groups include the Polish Old Catholic Church (aka. the Polish National Catholic Church), the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (or Rosicrucian Order), diverse Spiritualist groups, the renewed popularity (and condemnation) of the Free Masons, the Vedanta Society, the Institute for Research and Enlightenment (organized around the sleep work of Edgar Cayce), Paramahamsa Yogananda's Self Realization Fellowship and many many other.

As with the Second Great Awakening, some view the Third as ongoing. While people like Edgar Cayce (1877 - 1945) became much widely known after the Third Great Awakening ended (1014) the trends that he and others established arose from within the Awakening. Such flows are always best viewed as fluid estimations.

Whereas the earlier Awakenings were concerned primarily with Christian reforms, the Third Great Awakening, especially in its later stages, incorporated Eastern and Pagan wisdom into the Western consciousness like never before and gave birth to what is known as New Age Movement.

Attempting to resist the rational secularist scientific paradigm and traditional religions both, this Awakening saw the real advent of popular Occultism as well as independant personal spirituality. Groups like Theosophy and the more anarchistic New Age Movement sought to replace all previous beliefs in order to establish a Spiritist universalism that would be consistent with the emerging Secular Humanism. They succeeded more fully at this than most people imagine. The Christianity and non-Orthodox Judaism of today are vary different than the Christianity and Judaism practiced befor the Third Great Awakening.

Jewish Hasidism and Mysticism

The celebrated Jewish master Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (1698 - May 22, 1760), known as the Ba'al Shem Tov or Master of the Good/High Name) lived prior to this period, however as we discussed above, Judaism was largely a closed system. Its influence often comes to non-Jews after the fact. As the non-Orthodox movements that arose during this period began publicizing Jewish wisdom traditions to the world many Gentiles began discovering the great Hasidic master and his spiritual descendants, like Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (April 4, 1772 - October 16, 1810), the Lubivicher Rebbes (the first being Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya), and many others.

From within the sub-schools of the Ba'al Shem Tov Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (September 4, 1745 - December 15, 1812) established Chabad. This school indirectly played quit a role in the Third Great Awakening, although as is so often the case their contributions are seldom recognized outside of Judaism. Likewise the exciting Revelations of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, while from the period of the Second Awakening, made meaningful contributions that are not noted in the Second due to his obscurity outside of Eastern Judaism. Today his popularity is growing everywhere due in part to the Nanach Movement (insprired by Rabbi Yisroel Dov Ber Odesser aka Saba), and Breslov Institute. The West is only now coming to appreciate his Likutey Moharan and other teachings.

Also during this period more Gentiles discovered Kabbalah and other forms of Jewish mysticism, or New Age versions of them. I've actually had Christians tell me that "Christian Kabbalah" came first and that the Jews usurped it from them! Among those who claimed these ancient Jewish (and other) teachings as their own, and in significant ways altered them, was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. She and Colonel Henry Steel Olcott were leading the pack during this period.

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