self religion

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self religion (plural self religions)

  1. (religion) A religious self-improvement group.
    • 1992 July 21, Ray Clancy, “Professionals fall prey to New Age gurus”, in The Times, United Kingdom:
      Werner Erhard, a former used-car salesman, founded his Erhard Seminar Training system (EST) in 1971. He drew upon many sources in the development of his philosophy including Zen Buddhism, Dale Carnegie's Positive Thinking, L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology and Jose Silva's Silva Mind Control. Erhard's seminars were at first 60-hour courses over two weeks designed to give insights into the meaning of life; his philosophy has been described as 'the most important of the self religions' that developed in the 1970s and 1980s.
    • 2000, Peter Bernard Clarke, Japanese New Religions: In Global Perspective, Routledge, →ISBN, page 64:
      Rupert (1992) discusses a range of cases where religious or philosophical ideas have been used to underpin business training seminars, including both movements which fall under the 'New Age' umbrella and the so-called 'self religions' such as the human potential movement, est, or Scientology.
    • 2005, Peter Clarke, Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements, Routledge, →ISBN, page 445:
      New Age communities appear to be driven more by a concern for individual spiritual growth than by collective concerns. A majority focus on teaching the various techniques for improving the quality of one's life and greater effectiveness by kindling the divine spark within. Transcendental meditation, the Self-religions (see Self-religion, The Self, and self) including The Forum, formerly est, Insight, The Life Training, the Silva Method of Mind Control, based largely on New Thought, Mind Dynamics, an offshoot of Silva Mind Control fall into this category.
    • 2006, Elisabeth Arweck, Researching New Religious Movements: Responses and Redefinitions, Routledge, →ISBN, page 171-172:
      Est is subsumed under 'other self-improvement groups'. The latter probably comprise groups for which Paul Heelas coined the term 'self-religions': groups which offer techniques and practices which encourage experience and perfection of the self (Heelas 1982; 1984; 1988).
    • 2007, Daren Kemp, James R. Lewis, Handbook of New Age, Brill, →ISBN, page 6:
      Paul Heelas, for example, includes a significant number of what he calls the 'self religions': groups like Landmark Forum (also known simply as The Forum, formerly est or Erhard Seminar Training) and Programmes Limited (formerly Exegesis).
    • 2011, Chryssides, George D., Heaven's Gate: Postmodernity and Popular Culture in a Suicide Group, Ashgate, →ISBN, page 4:
      Paul Heelas, in his study of the New Age movement, includes firmly structured organizations such as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Osho and the so-called 'self religions' such as est (Erhard Seminar Training), among others.


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  • Chryssides, George D. (2001) Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements, Lanham, Maryland and London: The Scarecrow Press, →ISBN
  • Chryssides, George D. (2006) The A to Z of New Religious Movements, Scarecrow Press, →ISBN, page 290: “Self religions. A term devised by Paul Heelas to denote a group of religions and self-improvement organizations that aim to develop the 'self'.”
  • Heelas, Paul (1991-10-01) The World's Religions: The Study of Religion, Traditional and New Religion[1], Routledge, →ISBN, pages 167–173 [170]