FORUM FOCUSES ON RAJNEESHEES

April 07, 2002 11:00 pm

The lasting implications of Rajneeshpuram will be the focus of a Blue Mountain Forum and Oregon Chautauqua program at 7 p.m. Saturday at Eastern Oregon University.

Marion Sherman Goldman, a professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Oregon, will discuss the Legacies of Rajneeshpuram: Enduring Effects of Oregons Most Controversial Cult.

Admission to the forum, which will take place in Hoke 201, is free. It is co-sponsored by the Blue Mountain Forum and the Student Lectures Committee of EOU with funding from the Oregon Council for the Humanities. The presentation will include a video, a lecture and a question and answer period.

Goldman teaches undergraduate and graduate classes about religion in the United States, theories of religion and the sociology of new religious movements.

She has done research about many of Oregons past and present movements, including Jesus People of Shiloh Youth Revival Centers, Promise Keepers and Rajneeshs Sannyasins. Her new book, Passionate Journeys, considers the high-achieving women who lived at Rajneeshpuram and the ways they articulated the contradictions of work and love in contemporary America.

Rajneeshpuram was established by followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh near Antelope in the early 1980s. What began as a religious commune that converted the former Big Muddy Ranch into a productive area gradually evolved into a society that armed itself and was involved in Oregons only bioterrorism attack. The commune broke apart in the mid-1980s.

Goldman approaches new religions, often called cults, as a healthy part of Americas religious marketplace.

Oregon is a wonderful place for research on new religions, Goldman said.

For the past century, our state has always ranked among the top 10 in the nation in terms of religious movements and their social influence. Oregonians believe in higher powers, but we tend to innovate rather than affiliate with established groups.