Academic interest, etc.
Research on newer forms of spirituality done in religious studies and psychology generally differs in some respects. Studies of the former kind are mostly descriptive and rarely have any views on whether the specific spirituality is "good" or "bad", "healthy" or "harmful", or whether society should even step in and control it. The approach is more normalizing. For example, a sect can be compared to Christianity in its beginning. Wasn't it like a sect? Was not the biblical Jesus a leader of a small group who were called upon to abandon his family and instead follow him, etc.
Research based on psychology has focused a lot on destructive sects, peer pressure, "mind control" and the like. How does it affect an individual to embrace a world of thought that sometimes drastically differs from how the outside world views things? How does it affect an individual to withdraw from the world, in mind or in concrete terms? What makes someone want to do that? What psychological mechanisms allow a person to take command of a group who are then prepared for great sacrifices for their leader? In addition to writing a couple of books in recent years about destructive aspects of the new spirituality, psychologist and author Håkan Järvå has also participated in the media: "The knowledge in healthcare and social services about sect problems is generally quite poor and there are still many prejudices circulating," he writes in an opinion piece on Sveriges Television's website (Järvå, 2014, April 12).
The subject of religion and spirituality in general is not so much written about from an initiated psychological point of view, at least not in the Swedish language. It is possible that religion and spirituality are perceived as an overly sensitive subject to treat based on psychology.
Observers with a Christian frame of reference tend to have a more skeptical view of newness, although there are examples to the contrary. The reviews go from highly critical (Faber, 1996; Arlebrand, 1992), understanding or affirming (Månsus, 1997). It is my personal opinion that even the most critical often have views that are illustrative and valuable for how the new spirituality can be understood from a psychological point of view and therefore some such references have been included in the essay.
In addition to this, many books are written by people from different backgrounds. These books can be mapping and/or for the purpose of informing or raising public opinion. Often this literature deals with sects and cults. Not so rarely does such literature be based on one's own experiences.
This study will refer primarily to religious and psychological theory and research.
Religious studies background
Academic research on newness conducted in religious studies is generally less critical than that conducted from a psychological point of view, that is my impression. Possibly, these two approaches differ from each other much as linguists of the union may differ from, for example, those who study individual languages: The latter have a more normative view of how language should be, while the former rejoice in detecting deviations, variation and mapping their origins. Or to borrow a picture from the mushroom forest: Religious scholars are happy to find many and new specimens and try to understand how they spread there, while psychology, to the extent that it delves into the subject, focuses more on who is poisonous and who is harmless.
Liselotte Frisk and Peter Åkerbäck present in "The Meditating Dala Horse" (2013) a religious studies survey of the kind described above. The authors, both of whom are researchers at dalarna University, have tried to very thoroughly investigate the spread of new arrivals within this particular county.