1.Mark Juergensmeyer refers to Radhasoami as a "transnational religion" in Radhasoami Reality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).
2. In Radhasoami Reality Juergensmeyer suggests that the appeal of Radhasoami to the Western mind is its ability to juxtapose cultural tradition with a modern approach: it combines a sense of trust with skepticism and community feeling with individualism.
3. An important Radhasoami connection to America was Kirpal Singh's Ruhani Satsang. Kirpal Singh, who was initiated by Sawan Singh of Radhasoami Satsang Beas, claimed that he was the legitimate successor to Sawan Singh after his guru's death in April of 1948. However, Kirpal Singh's claim met with severe resistance since another guru named Jagat Singh was appointed via a registered will by Sawan Singh to be his spiritual successor at Beas. Several months later Kirpal Singh founded his own distinct movement, Ruhani Satsang, in Old Delhi, India. Kirpal Singh eventually gathered a significant following both in India and North America. In 1955 he made his first trip to the United States. It was during that trip that Kirpal Singh initiated Paul Twitchell in Washington, D.C. Although Twitchell kept up a ten year correspondence with his guru, he eventually disconnected himself from Ruhani Satsang and founded his own movement in 1965 entitled Eckankar: The Ancient Science of Soul Travel.
4. The term "virtual" actually refers to a concept in physics. During the first third of this century physicists discovered that atoms were made of infinitesimally small particles which, in turn, were made of even smaller particles. However, most of the particles did not exist in our normal frame of time. In fact, certain particles only "existed" for millionths of a second and even then only under certain extremely "hot" conditions. To describethese particles, physicists coined the term "virtual particles"--virtual precisely because these only existed for the most part as constructs, even though they really did have a defined, if albeit extraordinary brief, existence. Moving to a much larger spatial dimension, that of the study of religion, we find that many religious movements do not last very long. Indeed, some exist for such a short span of time (comparatively speaking) that most of them never get recorded in history or studied by scholars. Such groups are, no doubt, reminiscent of "virtual particles."
5. Edmund Husserl appears to have been one of the first philosophers to have used the term phenomenology as a discipline of study. This methodological approach seeks to objectively understand religious phenomena and refrains from making value judgements on what is ontologically true. Utilizing the methods of epoche (bracketing out one's prejudices) and verstehen (empathy), phenomenology allows outsiders an inside glimpse of the inner workings and logic behind a religious faith.
6. Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge, The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation (Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1985).
7. In The Heretical Imperative, Peter Berger makes the distinction among three methodological approaches: deduction, reduction, and induction. He rejects the first two altogether as outdated and unacceptable methodologies, namely because deduction resists critical scholarship, and reduction does not take seriously the religious claim. The inductive approach, phenomenological at heart, seems to Berger to be the best option, since this approach allows an air of openness between scholar and devotee and greater insight into the religion in question. I agree with Berger on the value of induction when collecting data. Yet, when critically analyzing that data the reductive approach can play a valuable role. The sociology of religion is in many ways a reductive procedure, since it is an attempt to ground religion in material culture. Instead of proposing a theological explanation for religious data, the sociologist places it within a material context, although not necessarily reducing the data to simply materialistic underpinnings. It is both its objectivity and its utilization of occam's razor--the shaving away of "hypothetical entities" and opting for a more "simple" explanation--that essentially classifies sociology of religion as a scientific endeavor.