Institute for the Study of American Religion (ISAR)

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Institute for the Study of American Religion (ISAR)

Educational research organization formed to further research and the study of the numerous small religious bodies and psychic/occult organizations formed in America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It existed in Evanston, Illinois, for many years before moving to Santa Barbara, California, in 1985. At the time of the move the institute donated its library of more than 40,000 volumes to the Davidson Library at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where it now exists as the American Religions Collection. The institute continues to support and build the collection. The American Religions Collection houses more than volumes in addition to research files, magazines, and ephemeral literature. Among its unique materials is the Elmer T. Clark Memorial set of volumes used by him in writing his classic work The Small Sects in America (Abingdon, 1949). The collection is open to the public for research through the special collections department of the university.

Above and beyond building a research library, ISAR has worked at creating reference books and other scholarly tools for the study of new religious movements, especially occult, magic, and Eastern groups. With the relocation of the library to the university, the research and publication program took center stage. In cooperation with the Gale Group and Garland Publishing Company, the institute has been responsible for producing almost 200 separate publications during the 25 years of its existence. With the help of the Institute of World Spirituality, the institute began the International Relgions of World Spirituality Project in 1996.

ISAR's director is J. Gordon Melton, who also serves as a research specialist with the Department of Religious Studies at UCSB. He has written and edited a number of the institute's publications. The institute also sponsors periodic conferences. Address: P.O. Box 90709, Santa Barbara, CA 93190-0709. Website:


Institute for the Study of American Religion. March 8, 2000.

Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religions. 6th ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999.

. Religious Leaders of America. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1999.

Melton, J. Gordon, Jerome Clark, and Aidan Kelly. New Age Encyclopedia. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990.

Murphy, Larry J., Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward, eds. Encyclopedia of African American Religion. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993.

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Institute for the Study of American Religion (ISAR)

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Institute for the Study of American Religion (ISAR)