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Social reproduction and transcendence : an analysis of the Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyōdan, a heterodox religious movement in contemporary Japan Miyanaga, Kuniko


This dissertation examines the Sekai (World) Mahikari (True Light) Bunmei (Civilization) Kyodan (Religious Association), known to English readers by the acronym SMBK, both in its internal structure which designates a socio-religious system and in its external relationships with the wider society, In particular, the theme of social creation is explored in the possibility of the dialectic between ideology and social organization. With regard to the external relationships between SMBK and the wider society, the reversal of the norm is the major issue. SMBK reverses the wider society's norm of formal democracy and informal hierarchy by offering formal hierarchy and informal egalitarian engagement. In so doing, SMBK realizes a democratic ideal of equality in its informal organization, although the egalitarianism has to be discarded individually for upward mobility. In relation to the internal structure, the SMBK model of the religious movement shows that neither ideology nor social organization is the reflection of the other. On the contrary, social organization provides a contradictory pathway to the ideology, in which believers are called to participate in the divine order through spirit possession. In this way, SMBK offers to individual believers a gradual educational procedure like a stairway for self-cure towards assimilation into the SMBK religious paradigm. In this process, individual believers' negation of the achieved epistemologies constitutes the condition for advancement to the next steps. A behavioral submission to the context of the purification ritual enables self-cure in SMBK. This process, also being pressed by the recruitment activity, constitutes a dialectic of self and others. However, this dialectic at the individual level does not generate a dialectic at the collective level. Consequently, the dialectic at the individual level is contained in, and is ensured by, the unchangeable framework of the SMBK religious system.

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