Book Review - Peculiar Prophets

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 2000, Volume 17, pages 204-205. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - Peculiar Prophets: Biographical Dictionary of New Religions. 

James R. Lewis. Paragon House, 2700 University Ave., West, St. Paul MN, 55114. 1999. ISBN. 1-22778-768-9. Paperback, 400 pages, $19.95

This peculiar presentation of nearly 350 newer religious "prophets" spans the last two centuries or so. From Abdu'l-Baha, a major figure of the Baha'i Faith, to Oberon Zell, the founder of the Church of All Worlds, James R. Lewis has managed to summarize a good collection of the more interesting religious characters in recent history. Students of the new religions will recognize names, such as L. Ron Hubbard, Rajneesh/Osho, Anton LaVey, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, J. Z. Knight, Peter Caddy, Louis Farrakhan, and William Miller. Lewis includes many names you may not be familiar with: Louisa Teish, Orange Scott, Francisco Olazabal, John Wroe, Gavin Frost, Dorothy Clutterbuck, and Asa Alonzo Allen as samples.

Some of the many names missing that I believe are worthy of this collection are: Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, Torkom Saraydarian, E. J. Gold, Ramona Africa, Lee Carroll [Kryon], Tara Singh, Helen Schucman [A Course in Miracles] and Dr. William S. Sadler [Urantia Book]. I mention these not to fault the author, but to indicate to the reader that a more thorough enterprise could easily have included a thousand or more names. A complete listing is not the purpose of this "dictionary." The beginning student of the new religions will find this volume to be a valuable primer on the colorful diversity of new sects. Critics of the more controversial "prophets" in this book will be dismayed by the paucity of evidence for why there is a controversy. The prophets included in the book, and their devotees, should have little to complain about. Lewis indicates in his forward that this is a work in progress. He would like to hear from "churches" included in the list that did not receive initial clarification requests to correct any errors or addresses.

Joe Szimhart

Cult Information Specialist and Consultant

Pottstown, PA

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 17 2000