5 The Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness: Demographic Patterns, 1998–2011
James R. Lewis [+]
In Chapters Four and Five, I examine data that I and others gathered on members of two NRMs, the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA) and the Order of Christ Sophia (OCS). These two groups provide contrasting examples of longitudinal approaches, and in these two chapters findings from surveys are presented and discussed in terms of the parameters laid out by Lorne Dawson in his 1996 summary of NRM conversion research, “Who Joins New Religions and Why: Twenty Years of Research and What Have We Learned?” (later republished as a chapter in his 2003 reader, Cults and New Religions, and in his 2006 textbook, Comprehending Cults). The Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness is a medium-sized New Religion that can roughly be described as a blend of Sant Mat (Radhasoami) and “new age” teachings. In 1998, a sample of 566 movement participants responded to a demographic survey administered by a colleague. Then again in late 2011, I administered a much longer, online questionnaire to MSIA’s active North American membership, eventually gathering 531 respondents. Chapter Five compares the profiles derived from these two surveys. Though in many ways the average participant remained essentially the same between 1998 and 2011, in the intervening 13 years the membership excelled in terms of the classic indicators of achievement – education, income and professional achievement.