“New Religions: A Guide” is an encyclopedia for easy reference about New Religious Movements, a rather unwieldy term which covers everything from the Mormons (established in 1830) to groups formed during our lifetime.
Inevitably, the contributions are uneven and the editing could perhaps be improved. What I like about the volume is its global scope. Apart from all the usual Neo-Hindu groups active in the Bay Area, we also get to meet native African versions of Christianity such as Ngunzism, Kimbangism and Aladura, the Filipino Iglesia ni Cristo, and various Japanese new religions. I admit that I never heard of some of the groups included, such as the Parsee Theosophists who claim that Zoroaster is higher than the traditional mahatmas of Blavatsky's system!
Most photos are pretty “neutral”, but some evoke the usual stereotypes: rastas smoking “ganga” or hippies meditating in stone cirles. The mass suicide at Jonestown is shown. Trigger warning! A negative is that the book has a “pro-cultist” slant, so don't expect too much criticism of Scientology, Moonies, the Children of God or Adidam. One curious entry deals with Mao's Red Guards. That's a religion?
I've seen a Swedish edition of this work. The differences between the American and the Swedish editions could be interesting to analyze. The original is edited by J Gordon Melton, a pro-cultist, with many contributions from George D Chryssides, another pro-cult apologist. The Swedish version, by contrast, has been hijacked by Per Beskow and Håkan Arlebrand, two heavily polemical anti-cultist/anti-everything Christian writers. Brace yourself for attacks on Vassula Rydén and various “deviant” Catholic groups, not included in Melton's original! Beskow has also written a criticism of Traditionalism, which he considers a deviant form of Islam, pointing to René Guénon's early “initiation” by Ivan Aguéli into a Sufi order as evidence that the former cannot possibly have been a Catholic in good standing…
If you already know a lot about so-called NRM's, this probably isn't for you, but if you are relatively new to the subject and want to know more, this might be worth a second glance.