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The Authority and Empowerment of Women among Spiritualist Groups

Carol Lois Haywood
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 22, No. 2 (Jun., 1983), pp. 157-166
DOI: 10.2307/1385675
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1385675
Page Count: 10
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The Authority and Empowerment of Women among Spiritualist Groups
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Abstract

Participation-observation with four Spiritualist groups uncovered some institutional patterns apparently amenable to the exercise of authority by women: the Spiritualist preference for non-professional helping, of a spiritual and quasi-medical kind, provides a specific alternative to conventional definitions of authority; the role of the seeker offers a more active model for relating to self and to community than the more passive stereotype of femininity; and mediumship as a style of spiritual leadership grants greater initiative to followers than do most models of clerical authority. Maintaining a deviant gender-authority pattern is enhanced by the centrality of mild trance states to worship. Unconventionality, in belief and identity, has positive consequences in defending Spiritualists psychologically from the dominance of patriarchal patterns otherwise in society. These choices, while not obviously radical in themselves, offer resources for establishing and perpetuating a feminine style of religious authority within the movement.

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