Konkokyo (Golden Light Teachings) and Modernity

A Test of the Faivre-Hanegraaff Six-Point Typology of Western Esotericism


  • Carole M. Cusack University of Sydney




New Religious Movement


Scholarly interest in Japanese new religions (shin shukyo) or newly arising religions (shinko shukyo) appears to have peaked in the 1960s when a number of book-length studies appeared. In the early twenty-first century, such movements have been marginal within the academic study of religion. This may be due to three stereotypes that were promoted in the 1960s as to the nature and function of Japanese new and ‘new new’ religions (shin shin shukyo) which are still influential. Earhart has trenchantly criticised the reductionist tendency to characterise these movements as ‘crisis cults’ and the false logic that when social upheaval is followed by formation of new religions that there is a causal relationship between the two. The similarly reductionist claim that the universalising tendencies of the kami venerated by Japanese new religions are the result of Christian influences has also been challenged. The third stereotype, that the new religions were founded by charlatans, attract the gullible, and lack religious authenticity has not been as effectively refuted, though some recent research has offered a more positive assessment (Pfeiffer 2000; Pye 1994).

Author Biography

Carole M. Cusack, University of Sydney

Dr Cusack has been associated with the university of Sydney for over twenty five years firstly as a student then as tutor, research assistant and lecturer in Studies of Religions. Presently she is Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Studies in Religions and a co-editor of the Journal of the History of Religion. Dr Cusack completed her B.A. and Ph.D at Sydney and also has a M.Ed in Educational Psychology. Her main research area is in medieval religion and her doctoral thesis was published as Conversion of the Germanic Peoples (Cassel, 1998). Dr Cusack also researches and writes on theories of conversion and contemporary religious trends in a global context, with an interest on Japan in particular.


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How to Cite

Cusack, C. M. (2008). Konkokyo (Golden Light Teachings) and Modernity: A Test of the Faivre-Hanegraaff Six-Point Typology of Western Esotericism. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 20(3), 317–333. https://doi.org/10.1558/arsr.v20i3.317

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