Endings Without End: "When Prophecy Fails" and the Rise of New Age Spirituality and Cognitive Dissonance

May 12, 2014

Betty M. Bayer will deliver her Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion Senior Fellows Symposium—"Endings Without End: When Prophecy Fails and the Rise of New Age Spirituality and Cognitive Dissonance – on Thursday, May 15 at 4pm in Swift Hall's Common Room (first floor). A reception will follow.

Professor Bayer is Professor of Women's Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a Martin Marty Center Senior Fellow for 2013-2014.

Bayer's current project is a history of the renowned 1956 book When Prophecy Fails by social psychologists Leon Festinger, Henry Reicken, and Stanley Schachter and its place in the longer and larger history of debate amongst religion, psychology, spirituality and science on the soul or psyche. Situated in mid-1950s America, When Prophecy Fails enters the scene amidst cybernetic science, a time of reframing religion to become "newly psychological" (Ellwood, 1997), a shift in psychology toward cognition and away from behaviorism, and the sitrrings of new age spirituality. The book as the theory it introduces thus marks a critical turning point in the long history of interplay amongst psychology, religion, science, and spirituality.

The Martin Marty Center encourages advanced research in the diverse disciplines of the study of religion. Each year, the Center hosts fellows under a variety of programs. Senior Fellows are scholars from around the world, typically on leave from their home institutions. They situate their research within a broader cultural frame of reference, bringing their perspectives to bear on religious questions facing the wider public. They do so in the Marty Seminar, in which they present their work and critically discuss the presentations of other fellows, and by delivering a Marty Center symposium.