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Geomancy in Theory and Practice by Stephen Skinner (Golden Hoard Press) Geomancy - divination by earth - ranks alongside the tarot, astrology and the I Ching as a major form of divination. Since the Renaissance it has largely fallen out of favour for want of a generally available book on its practice. This is the first and most comprehensive book in English to cover the full historical background and practice of divinatory geomancy, and will therefore be invaluable to all those interested in geomancy, divination, and astrology. It is the only complete history in any language, covering geomancy's various manifestations in different cultures, as well as being a practical manual showing how to cast and interpret geomantic figures.
Drawing on material from Latin, French, German and Arabic sources, Stephen Skinner explores the roots of geomancy in the Islamic raml divination of northern Africa, which lead to Fa, IA and voodoo divinatory practices on the West Coast and sikidy in Madagascar.
He examines the impact Islamic geomancy had on medieval Europe, where it rose to prominence and became, after astrology, the prime method of divination. The part it played in Renaissance thinking and in the great astrological revival of the nineteenth century is followed by an examination of its use in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its declining influence in the twentieth century, only to be revived again in the last two decades.
The second section of the book is concerned with the practice, manipulation and generation of geomantic figures as standardized in Europe, and gives practical examples as a guide to the interpretation and practice of the art. It also covers astrogeomany which uses the Houses of astrology in geomancy. More

Spirituality in the Modern World: Within Religious Tradition and Beyond 4 volume set by Paul Heelas (Critical Concepts in Religious Studies: Routledge) It would not be an exaggeration to say that during the last century, most especially during and since the 1960s, the language of spirituality has become one of the most significant ways in which the sacred has come to be understood and judged in the West, and, increasingly, elsewhere. Whether it is true that ‘spirituality’ has eclipsed ‘religion’ in Western settings remains debatable. What is incontestable is that the language of spirituality, together with practices (most noticeably spiritual, complementary, and alternative medicine), has become a major feature of the sacred dimensions of contemporary modernity. Equally incontestably, spirituality is a growing force in all those developing countries where its presence is increasingly felt among the cosmopolitan elite, and where spiritual forms of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicine are thriving.
This new four-volume, 1,856 page, Spirituality in the Modern World: Within Religious Tradition and Beyond collection from Routledge provides a coherent compilation of landmark texts which cannot be ignored by those intent on making sense of what is happening to the sacred as spirituality—more exactly what is taken to be spirituality—develops as an increasingly important lingua franca, series of practices, and as a humanistic ethicality. More

Magic and the Law: A collection of Essays edited by Christine A. Corcos (Durham: Carolina University Press) The nearly two dozen studies in this collection explore the very rich ways in which the rule of law and the practice of magic enrich and inform each other. The authors bring both a U.S. and a comparative law perspective while examining areas such as law and religion, criminal law, intellectual property law, the law of evidence, and animal rights. Topics include alchemy in fifteenth-century England, a discussion of how a courtroom is like a magic show, stage hypnotism and the law, Scottish witchcraft trials in the eighteenth century, the question of whether stage magicians can look to intellectual property to protect their rights, tarot card readings and the First Amendment, and an analysis of whether a magician can be qualified as an expert witness under the Federal Rules of Evidence. More

The Existence of God: An Exposition and Application of Fregean Meta-Ontology by Stig Børsen Hansen (Quellen Und Studien Zur Philosophie: De Gruyter) This study breaks new ground on the question of the existence of God. It innovatively combines biblical scholarship with an analysis of existence drawn from the writings of the philosopher Gottlob Frege. It shows that the strength of Frege's approach is its emphasis on the notions of proper name and predicate; this in turn sheds new light on important elements of theological language. Finally, the Fregean approach in this book is defended against objections drawn from readings of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.  More

Christian Conceptions of Jewish Books: The Pfefferkorn Affair by Avner Shamir (Museum Tusculanum Press) explores the conflicting perceptions that Christians held of the meaning and significance of Jewish books at the beginning of the 16th century - a time when, following their general expulsion from many countries and territories, there were fewer Jews in western and central Europe than in the previous thousand years. The book tells the story of the so-called "Pfefferkorn affair": a tenacious campaign led by the German Johann Pfefferkorn - previously a Jew and converted to Christianity - to confiscate and burn all Jewish post-biblical literature in the Holy Roman Empire in the years 1509-1510. The author follows the fate of the confiscated books and their examination by a commission of experts, exploring how Christians perceived Jewish scholarship and knowledge and the consequences of those perceptions. More

Popular Religion and Shamanism by Edited by Ma Xisha and Meng Huiying (Religious Studies in Contemporary China Collection: Brill Academic) addresses two areas of religion within Chinese society; the lay teachings that Chinese scholars term folk or `popular' religion, and shamanism. Each area represents a distinct tradition of scholarship, and the book is therefore split into two parts.
PART I: Popular Religion discusses the evolution of organized lay movements over an arc often centuries. Its eight chapters focus on three key points: the arrival and integration of new ideas before the Song dynasty, the coalescence of an intellectual and scriptural tradition during the Ming, and the efflorescence of new organizations during the late Qing.
PART II: Shamanism reflects the revived interest of scholars in traditional beliefs and culture that reemerged with the 'open' policy in China that occurred in the 197os. Two of the essays included in this section address shamanism in northeast China where the traditions played an important role in the cultures of the Manchu, Mongol, Sibe, Daur, Oroqen, Evenki, and Hezhen. The other essay discusses divination rites in a local culture of southwest China.
Both sections of Popular Religion and Shamanism will introduce Western readers to the ideas of Chinese scholars, not just their data. More

Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla's Hermeneutics by Elke Morlok (Mohr Siebeck) Elke Morlok deals with the hermeneutics of R. Joseph Gikatilla, one of the most outstanding and influential kabbalists of medieval Jewish mysticism. His literary creativity falls onto the last decades of the 13th century, when very innovative ideas on kabbalah and its hermeneutics were developed and formulated for the first time. The author analyzes several key concepts throughout his writings such as his ideas on letter combination, symbol, memory, imagination and ritual and their varying functions within the hermeneutical and theosophic structures that underlie Gikatilla's approach. With the application of methods derived from modern theories on language and literature, she tries to create the basis for a fruitful encounter between medieval mystical hermeneutics and postmodern hermeneutical approaches. As Gikatilla incorporates two main trends of kabbalistic thinking during the medieval period, he was one of the most valuable sources for Christian thinkers interested in medieval kabbalistic thought. More

Never Revoked: Nostra Aetate as Ongoing Challenge for Jewish-Christian Dialogue  by Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt(Louvain Theological & Pastoral Monographs: Peeters, Eerdmans) The Declaration Nostra Aetate issued by the Second Vatican Council on October 28, 1965, on 'the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions' marks a revolutionary milestone in the history of interreligious relations. With this document the Catholic Church sought to establish a new climate in which encounter and dialogue were understood as part of the Church's role in the world. As such, Nostra Aetate expresses the dialogical spirit of the Second Vatican Council. This book is inspired by the same dialogical spirit of Nostra Aetate, addressing some of the difficult theological challenges that lie ahead of us. It takes Nostra Aetate as an ongoing challenge to develop new theological reflections in the dialogical spirit of Vatican II. The contributors in this volume therefore do not only look to the past, but also critically articulate the challenges and obstacles confronting Jewish-Christian relations today, all the while looking forward to strengthening the dialogue. They not only show the courage of naming the resistances against dialogue, the remnants of substitution theology, the asymmetry in Jewish-Christian dialogue; they set out to develop new perspectives for the theology of Jewish-Christian dialogue. More

Women & Gender in Ancient Religions: Interdisciplinary Approaches by Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament: Mohr Siebeck) Following a scholarly conference given in honor of Adela Yarbro Collins, this collection of essays offers focused studies on the wide range of ways that women and gender contribute to the religious landscape of the ancient world. Experts in Greek and Roman religions, Early Christianity, Ancient Judaism, and Ancient Christianity engage in literary, social, historical, and cultural analysis of various ancient texts, inscriptions, social phenomena, and cultic activity. These studies continue the welcomed trend in scholarship that expands the social location of women in ancient Mediterranean religion to include the public sphere and consciousness.
The result is an important and lively book that deepens the understanding of ancient religion as a whole. More

Paradise in Antiquity: Jewish and Christian Views by Markus Bockmuehl and Guy G. Stroumsa (Cambridge University Press) The social and intellectual vitality of Judaism and Christianity in antiquity was in large part/ a function of their ability to articulate a viably transcendent hope for the human condition. Narratives of paradise — based on the concrete symbol of the Garden of Delights —came to play a central role for Jews, Christians, and eventually Muslims too.
These collected essays highlight the multiple hermeneutical perspectives on biblical paradise from Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins to the systematic expositions of Augustine and rabbinic literature, and show that while early Christian and Jewish sources draw on texts from the same Bible, their perceptions of paradise often reflect the highly different structures of the two sister religions. Dealing with a wide variety of texts, these essays explore major themes such as the allegorical and literal interpretations of paradise, the tension between heaven and earth, and paradise's physical location in space and time.
MARKUS BOCKMUEHL is Professor of Biblical and Early Christian Studies and a Fellow of Keble College at the University of Oxford. He is the editor of the The Cambridge Companion to Jesus  (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and the co-editor (with Donald A. Hagner) of The Written Gospel  (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
GUY G. STROUMSA is Professor of the Study of the Abrahamic Religions and a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford, and Martin Buber Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity (2009) and A New Science: The Discovery of Religion in the Age of Reason (2010), as well as the co-editor (with Graham N. Stanton) of Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity (Cambridge University Press, 1998). More

Beshara and Ibn 'Arabi: A Movement of Sufi Spirituality in the Modern World by Suha Taji-Farouki (Anqa Publishers) Investigating sufi-inspired spirituality in the modern world, this interdisciplinary volume focuses on Beshara, a spiritual movement that originated in Britain in the 1970s.
Beshara's main inspiration is the Andalusian mystic Muhyi al-Din Ibn 'Arabi (d.1240), possibly the most influential thinker of the second half of Islamic history. Ibn Arabi's teaching was brought to Britain by Bulent Rauf (d. 1987), a descendant of the Ottoman elite, and discovered there by counterculture youth searching for new spiritual ways. Beshara is their joint legacy.
The first detailed analysis of the adoption and adaptation of Ibn Arabi's heritage by non-Muslims in the West, Beshara and Ibn 'Arabi is a study of the movement's history, teachings and practices. It explores the interface between sufism and the New Age, and the broader contemporary encounter between Islam and the West. Investigating from a global perspective the impact of cultural transformations associated with modernisation and globalization on religion, this timely volume concludes by tracing possible futures of sufi spirituality both in the West and in the Muslim world.
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in religious studies and the sociology of religion, Islamic studies and Sufism, and issues of cultural and spiritual dialogue between West and East.
Suha Taji-Farouki is Senior Lecturer in Modern Islam at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, and Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London. She has published widely on modern Islamic thought, including (ed.) Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Century (Institute for Ismaili Studies) and Modern Muslim Intellectuals and the Qur'an (Oxford University Press). Her most recent work is a study and translation of A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection by Ibn 'Arabi (Anqa). More 

Religion and the New Atheism  by Edited by Amarnath Amarasingam (Studies in Critical Social Sciences: Studies in Critical Research on Religion 1: Brill Academic) The term "new atheism" has been given to the recent barrage of bestselling books written by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and others. These books and their authors have had a significant media presence and have only grown in popularity over the years. This book brings together scholars from religious studies, science, sociology of religion, sociology of science, philosophy, and theology to engage the new atheism and place it in the context of broader scholarly discourses. This volume will serve to contextualize and critically examine the claims, arguments and goals of the new atheism so that readers can become more informed of some of the debates with which the new atheists inevitably and, at times unknowingly, engage.

Contributors include Richard Harries, Reza Aslan, Amarnath Amarasingam, Robert Platzner, Jeffrey Robbins, Christopher Rodkey, Rory Dickson, Steve Fuller, William Sims Bainbridge, William A. Stahl, Stephen Bullivant, Michael Borer, Richard Cimino, Christopher Smith, Gregory R. Peterson, Jeff Nall, Ryan Falcioni, and Mark Vernon. More

Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam by Wouter J. Hanegraaff and Joyce Pijnenburg (Amsterdam University Press) In 1999, an innovative chair and expertise center was created at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam, focused on the history of Western esotericism from the Renaissance to the present. The label "Western esotericism" refers here to a complex of historical currents such as, notably, the Hermetic philosophy of the Renaissance, mystical, magical, alchemical and astrological currents, Christian kabbalah, Paracelsianism, Rosicrucianism, Christian theosophy, and the many occultist and related esoteric currents that developed in their wake during the 19th and the 20th centuries. This complex of "alternative" religious currents is studied from a critical historical and interdisciplinary perspective, with the intention of studying the roles that they have played in the history of Western culture.
In the past ten years, the chair for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents has succeeded in establishing itself as the most important center for study and teaching in this domain, and has strongly contributed to the establishment of Western esotericism as a recognized academic field of research. This volume is published at the occasion of the 10th anniversary. It contains a history of the creation and development of the chair, followed by articles on aspects of Western esotericism by the previous and current staff members, contributions by students and Ph.D. students about the study program, and reflections by international top specialists about the field of research and its academic development. More

Celibacy in the Ancient World: Its Ideal and Practice in Pre-Hellenistic Israel, Mesopotami, and Greece by Dale Launderville (A Michael Glazier Book, Liturgical Press) Celibacy is a commitment to remain unmarried and to renounce sexual relations for a limited period or for a lifetime. Such a commitment places an individual outside human society in its usual form. What significance does such an individual, and such a choice, have for the human family and community as a whole?

These questions guide Dale Launderville, OSB, in Celibacy in the Ancient World, his study of celibacy in the ancient cultures of Israel, Mesopotamia, and Greece prior to Hellenism and the rise of Christianity. Launderville, professor of theology at Saint John's University School of Theology Seminary, Collegeville, Minnesota, focuses especially on literary witnesses, because those enduring texts have helped to shape modern attitudes and can help in understanding the factors that may call forth the practice of celibacy in our own time. Readers discover how celibacy fits within a context of relationships, and what kinds of relationships support a healthy and varied society, one aware of and oriented to its cosmic destiny. More 

Reading and the Work of Restoration: History and Scripture in the Theology of Hugh St. Victor by Franlkin T. Harkins (Studies and Texts: PIMS) This book represents the first comprehensive study of the role of historia in the processes of reading and restoration (or salvation) in the theology of Hugh of St Victor. By providing a close reading of Hugh's major works, it affords a window onto the holistic vision of liberal arts education, scriptural exegesis, moral formation, and spirituality that attracted young students to the Parisian School of St Victor in the early twelfth century. Hugh's teaching on memory-training and his view of the liberal arts as roads leading the reader toward God have the aim of preparing students for scriptural reading and its three subdisciplines — historia, allegory, and tropology. This pedagogical program both draws on and diverges from the thought of Augustine. For Hugh, the fallen human being begins to be restored to the image of God through a program of ordered reading in the liberal arts and Sacred Scripture; this restoration continues at the fundamental level of historia even as the student advances through reading's higher disciplines. In responding to and concretizing the moral teaching found in the scriptural text, the reader comes to participate in the ongoing history of salvation. More

Language and Ritual in Sabellic Italy  by Michael L. Weiss (Brill's Studies in Indo-European Languages & Linguistics: Brill Academic) The Iguvine Tables (Tabulae Iguvinae) are among the most invaluable documents of Italic linguistics and religion. Seven bronze tablets discovered in 1444 in the Umbrian town of Gubbio (ancient Iguvium), they record the rites and sacral laws of a priestly brotherhood, the Fratres Atiedii, with a degree of detail unparalleled elsewhere in ancient Italy. Taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines philological and linguistic, as well as ritual analysis, Michael Weiss not only addresses the many interpretive cruces that have puzzled scholars for a century and a half, but also constructs a coherent theory of the entire ritual performance described on Tables III and IV. In addition, Weiss sheds light on many questions of Roman ritual practice and places the Iguvine Tables in their broader Italic and Indo-European contexts. More

Inquiring about God: Volume 1,  Selected Essays by Nicholas Wolterstorff and Terence Cuneo (Cambridge University Press) This volume collects Nicholas Wolterstorff's essays on the philosophy of religion written over the last thirty-five years. Of interest to both philosophers and theologians, Inquiring about God offers a lively sense of the creative and powerful work done in contemporary philosophical theology by one of its foremost practitioners.
Inquiring about God is the first of two volumes of Nicholas Wolterstorff's collected papers. This volume collects Wolterstorff's essays on the philosophy of religion written over the last thirty-five years. The essays, which span a range of topics including Kant's philosophy of religion, the medieval (or classical) conception of God, and the problem of evil, are unified by the conviction that some of the central claims made by the classical theistic tradition, such as the claims that God is timeless, simple, and impassible, should be rejected. Still, Wolterstorff contends, rejecting the classical conception of God does not imply that theists should accept the Kantian view according to which God cannot be known. Of interest to both philosophers and theologians, Inquiring about God should give the reader a lively sense of the creative and powerful work done in contemporary philosophical theology by one of its foremost practitioners. More

Practices of Belief: Volume 2,  Selected Essays by Nicholas Wolterstorff(Cambridge University Press) The second volume of Nicholas Wolterstorff's collected papers brings together his essays on epistemology from 1983 to 2008. Of interest to epistemologists, philosophers of religion, and theologians, it will appeal to those interested in the topic of whether religious belief can be responsibly formed and maintained in the contemporary world.
Practices of Belief, the second volume of Nicholas Wolterstorff's collected papers, brings together his essays on epistemology from 1983 to 2008. It includes not only the essays which first presented 'Reformed epistemology' to the philosophical world, but also Wolterstorff's latest work on the topic of entitled (or responsible) belief and its intersection with religious belief. The volume presents five new essays and a retrospective essay that chronicles the changes in the course of philosophy over the last fifty years. Of interest to epistemologists, philosophers of religion, and theologians, Practices of Belief should engage a wide audience of those interested in the topic of whether religious belief can be responsibly formed and maintained in the contemporary world. More

Pathways to an Inner Islam: Massignon, Corbin, Guénon, and Schuon by Patrick Laude (State University of New York Press) provides an introduction to the esoteric or spiritual "inner Islam" presented by Western thinkers Louis Massignon, Henry Corbin, René Guénon, and Frithjof Schuon. Particularly interested in Sufism--the mystical tradition of Islam--these four twentieth-century authors who wrote in French played an important role in presenting Islamic spirituality to the West and have also had an influence in parts of the Muslim world, such as Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. Patrick Laude brings them together to argue that an understanding of their inner Islam challenges reductionist views of Islam as an essentially legalistic tradition and highlights its spiritual qualities. The book discusses their thought on the definitions of spiritual Islam and Sufism, the metaphysical and mystical understanding of the Prophet and the Qur<aµn, the function of femininity in Islamic spirituality, and the inner understanding of jihaµd. In addition, the writers' Christian backgrounds and their participation in the intellectual and spiritual traditions of both Christianity and Islam offer a dynamic perspective on interfaith dialogue. More

Human Rights or Religious Rules? by J. A. van der Ven (Empirical Research in Religion and Human Rights: Brill) The relation between religion and human rights is a contested one, as they appear to compete with one another. Religion is often considered to represent a tradition of heteronomy and subordination in premodern times. Human rights emerged from early modern and modern times and stand for principles like human dignity, autonomy, equality. The first question in this book is how to define religion, its meaning, functions and structures, and how to study it. The second question is how to understand religion from its relation with human rights in such a way that justice is done to both religion and human rights. These questions are dealt with using a historical and systematic approach. The third question is what the impact of religion might be On attitudes towards human rights, i.e. human rights culture. For an answer, empirical research is reported among about woo students, Christians, Muslims, and nonreligious, at the end of secondary and the beginning of tertiary education in the Netherlands. More

A Journey into the Zohar: An Introduction to the Book of Radiance by Nathan Wolski (State University of New York Press: SUNY) The crowning work of medieval Kabbalah, the Zohar is unlike any other work in the Jewish canon. Written in Aramaic, the Zohar contains complex mystical exegesis as well as a delightful epic narrative about the Companions--a group of sages who wander through second-century Israel discussing the Torah while encountering children, donkey drivers, and other surprising figures who reveal profound mysteries to them. Nathan Wolski offers original translations of episodes involving this mystical fellowship and goes on to provide a sustained reading of each. With particular emphasis on the literary and performative dimensions of the composition, Wolski takes the reader on a journey through the central themes and motifs of the zoharic world: kabbalistic hermeneutics, the structure of divinity, the nature of the soul, and, above all, the experiential core of the Zohar--the desire to be saturated and intoxicated with the flowing fluids of divinity. A Journey into the Zohar opens the mysterious, wondrous, and at times bewildering universe of one of the masterpieces of world mystical literature to a wider community of scholars, students, and general readers alike. More

Schleiermacher, the Study of Religion, and the Future of Theology: A Transatlantic Dialogue by Wilhelm Grab, Brent W. Sockness, and Wilhelm Grab (Theologische Bibliothek Topelmann: De Gruyter)  The past three decades have witnessed a significant transatlantic and trans-disciplinary resurgence of interest in the early nineteenth-century Protestant theologian and philosopher, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). As the first major Christian thinker to theorize religion in a post-Enlightenment context and re-conceive the task of theology accordingly, Schleiermacher holds a seminal place in the histories of modern Christian thought and the modern academic study of religion alike. Whereas his "liberalism" and humanism have always made him a controversial figure among theological traditionalists, it is only recently that Schleiermacher´s understanding of religion has become the target of polemics from Religious Studies scholars keen to disassociate their discipline from its partial origins in liberal Protestantism. Schleiermacher, the Study of Religion, and the Future of Theology documents an important meeting in the history of Schleiermacher studies at which leading scholars from Europe and North America gathered to probe the viability of key features of Schleiermacher´s theological and philosophical program in light of its contested place in the study of religion. More

Ritual Dynamic Structure by Roy Gane (Gorgias Dissertations, 14: Gorgias Press ) Scientific study of rituals requires an understanding of their natural. As perceived by H. Hubert and M. Mauss (Essai sur la nature et la fontion du sacrifice, 1898), a basic aspect of the nature of sacrificial ritual is its dynamic structure. The present work takes up the neglected quest for a theory of ritual and methodology of analysis that recognize and trace the contours of ritual dynamic structure.

The resulting fresh approach provides a controlled framework for interpreting rituals belonging to various cultures and f9r identifying bases of comparison between them. Two important innovations are:

  1. Application of General Systems Theory concepts to study of human rituals as hierarchically, structured human activity systems.
  2. Application of F. Staal's "ritual syntax" (developed in the context of Vedic studies) to ancient Near Eastern rituals.

The first part of Ritual Dynamic Structure builds a theory and definition of ritual and a corresponding methodology for analyzing specific rituals in terms of their activities and the meanings attached to those activities. The second part illustrates this methodology and its usefulness for comparative studies by applying it to ceremonies belonging to three ancient Near. Eastern festival days of cult purification: the Israelite Day of Atonement, the fifth day of the Babylonian New Year Festival of Spring, and the fourth day of the Hittite Ninth Year Festival of Telipinu. More

Interaction Between Judaism and Christianity in History, Religion, Art, and Literature edited by Marcel Poorthuis, Joshua Schwartz, Joseph Turner (Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series: Brill) contains a variety of essays that deal with the complex relationships between Judaism and Christianity. From the Jewish side, particularly in Orthodox circles, there is the position maintaining the independence of Judaism from outside influences including Christianity. Traditional Christian theology, on the other hand, held to a supercessionist view in which Judaism was seen merely as a historical preparation for the later revelation of Christianity. Was there no real interaction? When and how did Judaism and Christianity became two distinct religions? When did the 'parting of ways' take place, if indeed there really was such a parting of ways? This present volume takes a bold step forward by assuming that no historical period can be excluded from the interactive process between Judaism and Christianity, conscious or unconscious, as a polemical rejection or as tacit appropriation. More

36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction by Rebecca Goldstein (Pantheon) After Cass Seltzer’s book becomes a surprise best seller, he’s dubbed “the atheist with a soul” and becomes a celebrity. He wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, “the goddess of game theory,” and loses himself in a spiritually expansive infatuation. A former girlfriend appears: an anthropologist who invites him to join in her quest for immortality through biochemistry. And he is haunted by reminders of the two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his mentor and professor—a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism—and an angelic six-year-old mathematical genius who is heir to the leadership of a Hasidic sect. Each encounter reinforces Cass’s theory that the religious impulse spills over into life at large. More

Arguing about Gods by Graham Robert Oppy (Cambridge University Press)  examines contemporary arguments for and against the existence of God. He shows that none of these arguments is powerful enough to change the minds of reasonable participants in debates on the question of the existence of God. His conclusion is supported by detailed analyses of the contemporary arguments, as well as by the development of a theory about the purpose of arguments, and the criteria that should be used in judging whether or not arguments are successful. Oppy discusses the work of a wide array of philosophers, including Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Kant, Hume, and, more recently, Plantinga, Dembski, White, Dawkins, Bergman, Gale, and Pruss. More

Ritual Alliances of the Putian Plain Volume One: Historical Introduction to the Return of the Gods by Kenneth Dean, Zheng Zhenman (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik, Volume 23, 1: Brill Academic)

Ritual Alliances of the Putian Plain Volume 2: A Survey of Village Temples and Ritual Activities by Kenneth Dean, Zheng Zhenman (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik, Volume 23, 2: Brill Academic) Making ingenious use of a wide variety of sources, and old as well as modern technical resources, Kenneth Dean and Zheng Zhenman here set a new standard for an histoire totale for a coherently well-defined cultural region in China. At the same time, these books deal in-depth with the ongoing negotiation of modernity in Chinese village rituals. This study will no doubt become a major advance in the descriptive and theoretically integrative account of religious practice. All those interested in contemporary China, Chinese religion, ritual and modernity, regional history, Chinese popular culture, Daoism and local cults, and comparative religion and globalization.

Over the past thirty years, local popular religion has been revived and re-invented in the villages of the irrigated alluvial plain of Putian, Fujian, China. Volume 1 provides a historical introduction to the formation of 153 regional ritual alliances made up of 724 villages. Early popular cults, Ming lineages, Qing multi-village alliances, late Qing spirit-medium associations, 20th  century state attacks on local religion, and the role of Overseas Chinese and local communities in rebuilding the temple networks are discussed. Volume 2 surveys the current population, lineages, temples, gods, and annual rituals of these villages. Maps of each ritual alliance, the distribution of major cults and lineages, are included. More

The Neuroscience of Religious Experience by Patrick McNamara (Cambridge University Press) Recent technical advances in the life and medical sciences have revolutionized our understanding of the brain, while the emerging disciplines of social, cognitive, and affective neuroscience continue to reveal the connections of the higher cognitive functions and emotional states associated with religious experience to underlying brain states. At the same time, a host of developing theories in psychology and anthropology posit evolutionary explanations for the ubiquity and persistence of religious beliefs and the reports of religious experiences across human cultures, while gesturing toward physical bases for these behaviors. What is missing from this literature is a strong voice speaking to these behavioral and social scientists - as well as to the intellectually curious in the religious studies community - from the perspective of a brain scientist. More

The Feminine Personification of Wisdom: A Study of Homer's Penelope, Cappadocian Macrina, Boethius' Philosophia and Dante's Beatrice by Wendy Elgersma Helleman (Edwin Mellen Press) examines the attribution of abstract values to women by analyzing four characters spanning literary genres and more that 2000 years. Penelope, Macrina, Philosophia, and Beatrice are connected by their contribution to the theme of wisdom through their use of reason against passion. Feminine personification of reason and wisdom makes its own contribution as antidote to traditional understanding of 'feminine' as 'emotional' or 'irrational'. This book examines allegorical personification of Sophia, or wisdom, in ancient and medieval philosophy and literature, examining four feminine figures who personify wisdom. The first is Penelope of Homeric epic, weaving and unraveling to forestall her suitors; the tale is interpreted allegorically by Cynics and Stoics to discuss the place of logic in philosophy. The second example, Macrina, sister of Gregory of Nyssa, is less obviously allegorical. But Gregory depicts her as an embodiment of wisdom using the theme, 'reason against passion'. Boethius' Philosophia is portrayed as the lady who consoles as she reminds the prisoner of divine reason ruling the world. And finally, Dante's Beatrice, his muse, teacher and guide in achieving the beatific vision. Contemporary recognition of allegory as rhetorical technique supports appreciation of Dante's skill in depicting Beatrice as Lady Wisdom. More

Sacred Schisms: How Religions Divide by James R. Lewis and Sarah M. Lewis ( Cambridge University Press) Schism (from the Greek "to split") refers to a group that breaks away from another, usually larger organization and forms a new organization. Though the term is typically confined to religious schisms, it can be extended to other kinds of breakaway groups. Because schisms emerge out of controversies, the term has negative connotations. Though they are an important component of many analyses, schisms in general have not been subjected to systematic analysis.
This volume provides the first book-length study of religious schisms as a general phenomenon. Some chapters examine specific case studies while others provide surveys of the history of schisms within larger religious traditions, such as Islam and Buddhism. Other chapters are more theoretically focused. Examples are drawn from a wide variety of different traditions and geographical areas, from early Mediterranean Christianity to modern Japanese new religions, and from the Jehovah's Witnesses to Neopagans.

Polemical Encounters: Esoteric Discourse and Its Others by Olav Hammer, Kocku Von Stuckrad (Aries Book Series: Brill Academic) In its historical development from late antiquity to the present, western esotericism has repeatedly been the issue of polemical discourse. This volume engages the polemical structures that underlie both the identities within and the controversy about esoteric currents in European history. From Jewish and Christian kabbalah through heretical discourse and interconfessional polemics in early modernity to the legitimization of esoteric identity in modern culture, the 12 chapters, accompanied by an editors' introduction, provide a cornucopia of relevant cases that are interpreted in a framework of polemical discourse and 'Othering'. This volume sheds new light on the ultimately polemical structure of western esotericism and thus opens new vistas for further research into esoteric discourse. More

The Secret History of Western Sexual Mysticism: Sacred Practices and Spiritual Marriage by Arthur Versluis  (Destiny Books) Beginning with the ancient Greek Mystery traditions, Gnosticism, and the practices in early Christianity, Arthur Versluis uncovers the secret line of Western sexual mysticism that, like the Tantra of the East, seeks transcendence or union with God through sexually charged practices. Throughout antiquity, and right into the present day, sexuality has played an important, if largely hidden, role in religious traditions and practices. This includes not only Christian but also kabbalistic, hermetic, and alchemical currents of sexual mysticism, many discussed together here for the first time. More

Iconoclasm and Iconoclash edited by Willem Van Asselt, Paul Van Geest, Daniela Muller, Theo Salemink (Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series: Brill) A first difference introduced and explored in this volume that between (1) iconoclash and (2) iconoclasm. While it is clear that they are integrally and these studies aim at covering both themes, it is useful to distinguish carefully between them. More

Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body edited by Gerard Loughlin (Wiley-Blackwell) (Paperback) Queer Theology makes an important contribution to public debate about Christianity and sex. This remarkable collection of essays reconceptualizes the body and its desires, enlarging the meaning of sexuality for the good of the churches.
Written by some of the most able and insightful of Anglo-American scholars, established and up-coming, and from a variety of academic and religious backgrounds, the book shows how western bodies are queerer than often thought, and that the same is true of the God who elicits and tutors their desires.  More

Faithfulness and the Purpose of Hebrews: A Social Identity Approach by Matthew J. Marohl (Princeton Theological Monograph Series: Pickwick Publications) Why was Hebrews written? What was the purpose of the text? The discussion of the purpose of Hebrews is traditionally connected to the discussion of the identity and social context of the addressees. In other words, it is often assumed that to answer why Hebrews was written, it must first be established to whom Hebrews was written. Herein lies a problem for modern readers of the text. There is little, if any, consensus regarding the identity of the addressees. And there is little, if any, consensus re­garding the purpose of Hebrews. While most still hold to the ‘traditional view,’ that the addressees were ‘Jewish Christians’ in danger of falling back into ‘Judaism,’ a growing number of interpreters have concluded that nothing can be known regarding the identity of the addressees.
The aim of Faithfulness and the Purpose of Hebrews is to provide answers to these questions by employing that branch of social psychology known as social identity theory. More

Martin Luther and Islam: A Study in Sixteenth-Century Polemics and Apologetics by Adam S. Francisco (The History of Christian-Muslim Relations: Brill) The Ottoman assault upon Vienna in 1529 sent shockwaves through­out Germany. Although the Habsburg army had successfully thwarted the attack, according to eyewitness accounts some 30,000 people in sur­rounding towns and villages had either been killed or taken back to Istanbul for sale in the slave market.' What was perhaps more unsettling, at least to those who were perceptive of the ideological motivation behind the siege, was the determination of Sultan Suleyman (1520­1566) and his Muslim Turkish army to 'conquer the infidel lands for Islam.'2 In response to the threat, and after reading what he considered the best description of Ottoman religion and culture Georgius de Hungaria's Tractatus de moribus, condictionibus et nequicia Turcorum (1481) Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote, 'Since we now have the Turk and his religion at our very doorstep our people must be warned lest, either moved by the splendour of the Turkish religion and the exter­nal appearances of their customs or displeased by the meagre display of our own faith or the deformity of our customs, they deny their Christ and follow Muhammad. Assessing the nature of Ottoman religion and culture, and the threat that it posed to Christians. More

Hinduism & Buddhism

Sarasvati Riverine Goddess of Knowledge: From the Manuscript-Carrying Vina-player to the Weapon-Wielding by Catherine Ludvik Defender of the Dharma (Brill's Indological Library: Brill) The name Sarasvati evokes images of the beautiful vina-playing goddess of knowledge and recalls an ancient river that is now believed to flow underground, meeting the Ganga and the Yamuna at the sacred confluence of Triveni at Prayaga/Allahabad.' The fair Sarasvati embodies beauty, music, flowing water, but above all knowledge, and, as the presiding deity of knowledge, the goddess has been worshipped on a pan-Indian scale among Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists alike. More

Temple Consecration Rituals in Ancient India: Text and Archaeology by Anna A. Slaczka (Brill's Indological Library: Brill) The principal aim of this book is to study three important construction rituals of the Hindu tradition: the laying of the first stones, the placing of the consecration deposit and the placing of the crowning bricks. These rituals are described in numerous Sanskrit texts on architecture and religion, which date from ca. 7th  to 16th centuries CE.' It is therefore hardly surprising that the present study is based mainly on textual sources. The chief source is the Kasyapasilpa, a South Indian treatise on art and architecture and ritual, written in Sanskrit, usually dated 11th- 12th century CE. Three chapters from the Kasyapasilpa, which deal with the three construction rituals mentioned above, have been critically edited, translated and provided with a commentary. For this purpose, unpublished manuscripts of the Kasyapasilpa were collected in various Southern Indian libraries. In order to place the three chapters of the Kasyapasilpa in a broader context, the descriptions of the construction rituals given by cognate texts, some of them still unpublished, have also been studied. More


Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life edited by Louise M. Antony (Oxford University Press) Atheists are frequently demonized as arrogant intellectuals, antagonistic to religion, devoid of moral sentiments, advocates of an "anything goes" lifestyle. Now, in this revealing volume, nineteen leading philosophers open a window on the inner life of atheism, shattering these common stereotypes as they reveal how they came to turn away from religious belief. These highly engaging personal essays capture the marvelous diversity to be found among atheists, providing a portrait that will surprise most readers. Many of the authors, for example, express great affection for particular religious traditions, even as they explain why they cannot, in good conscience, embrace them. None of the contributors dismiss religious belief as stupid or primitive, and several even express regret that they cannot, or can no longer, believe. Perhaps more important, in these reflective pieces, they offer fresh insight into some of the oldest and most difficult problems facing the human mind and spirit. For instance, if God is dead, is everything permitted? Philosophers without Gods demonstrates convincingly, with arguments that date back to Plato, that morality is independent of the existence of God. Indeed, every writer in this volume adamantly affirms the objectivity of right and wrong. Moreover, they contend that secular life can provide rewards as great and as rich as religious life. A naturalistic understanding of the human condition presents a set of challenges--to pursue our goals without illusions, to act morally without hope of reward--challenges that can impart a lasting value to finite and fragile human lives. Collectively, these essays highlight the richness of atheistic belief--not only as a valid alternative to religion, but as a profoundly fulfilling and moral way of life. More

Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers by Bruce E. Hunsberger, Bob Altemeyer (Prometheus Books) Hunsberger is one of the few researchers to look deeply into the soul (or should I say mind?) of an atheist, and what his studies show will be both pleasing and disturbing to nonbelievers and believers alike. The authors descriptions and conclusions are clear, brief and to the point. More

The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville (Author), translated by Nancy Huston (Viking) Can we do without religion? Can we have ethics without God? Is there such thing as “atheist spirituality”? In this powerful book, the internationally bestselling author André Comte-Sponville presents a philosophical exploration of atheism—and comes to some startling conclusions. According to Comte-Sponville, we have allowed the concept of spirituality to become intertwined with religion, and thus have lost touch with the nature of a true spiritual existence. In order to change this, however, we need not reject the ancient traditions and values that are part of our heritage; rather, we must rethink our relationship to these values and ask ourselves whether their significance comes from the existence of a higher power or simply the human need to connect to one another and the universe. Comte-Sponville offers rigorous, reasoned arguments that take both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions into account, and through his clear, concise, and often humorous prose, he offers a convincing treatise on a new form of spiritual life. More


The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief edited by Tom Flynn, Foreword by Richard Dawkins (Prometheus Books) Successor to the highly acclaimed Encyclopedia of Unbelief (1985), edited by the late Gordon Stein, The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief is a comprehensive reference work on the history, beliefs, and thinking of America’s fastest growing minority: those who live without religion.

As in the previous edition, this work does more to define a necessary cognitive and social critique of religion that is couched in a naturalistic avowal of culminative, demonstratable scientific enquiry and skepticism toward magical characterizations of transcendental aspirations. Personally I feel this critical stance toward religions should show greater tolerance for the innate conservatism of human longing for certainty and consolation. By taking an forceful secular stance against all religion, the importance of unbelief is marginalized in the very areas where its critique is likely to thrive.  For instance the Society of Evangelical Agnostics, which for 12 short years starting in 1975, united well over 1000 agnostics in a loose fellowship around Huxley's understanding of the meaning of agnosticism, and other such initiatives.

All-new articles by the field’s foremost scholars describe and explain every aspect of atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism, secularism, and religious skepticism. Topics include morality without religion, unbelief in the historicity of Jesus, critiques of intelligent design theory, unbelief and sexual values, and summaries of the state of unbelief around the world and within religions. More than 130 respected scholars and activists worldwide served on the editorial advisory board and over 100 authoritative contributors have written in excess of 500 entries.

In addition to covering developments since the publication of the original edition, The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief  includes a larger number of biographical entries and much-expanded coverage of the linkages between unbelief and social reform movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, including the labor movement, woman suffrage, anarchism, sex radicalism, and second-wave feminism.

Unfortunately the volume does not cover the arts or major poets and writers many of whom deal extensively with implications of unbelief in their work. The poet Philip Larkin or John Asbury to name a few, even William Blake can be read as a satirist rather than a prophet. Also, Ayn Rand merits an entry (and rightly so), but she was surely not a novelist of the literary caliber of George Eliot. And yet Eliot fails to win an entry of her own (she is mentioned, briefly, in the article on British Literature and Unbelief). Likewise, Emily Dickinson gets only the briefest mention in the "American Literature and Unbelief" article, but receives no in-depth treatment. I'm sorry, but George Eliot and Emily Dickinson deserve far more space in such an encyclopedia than Steve Allen.

In terms of energy and entertainment value, the editor also made what I would regard as some fatal decisions. He decided not to include stand-alone entries concerning still-living non-believers, and he decided not to include internet references or contemporary atheist groups. This constitutes just pure timidity and laziness on his part. The effect of this is to give the volume the feeling of having been written in the 1980s, and not the 21st century. It thus gives off a dusty, historical, and non-contemporary feel. It is stupifying to open up a book purporting itself to be a "new" encyclopedia of unbelief, and being unable to find an entry for, say, "the flying spaghetti monster," or "richard dawkins." And even though there is an article on atheist periodicals, there is nothing on atheists on the internet. And even though you can find articles on literature and non-belief, somehow you can look far and wide for anything on film or contemporary pop culture and unbelief. in other words, this 21st century "new" encyclopedia has missed the dominant art medium of our times (film), the dominant communication vehicle of our times (the internet), and the dominant cultural phenomenon of our times (capitalist pop culture). Non-belief is represented in all these spaces in ways interesting for academic study, and yet they are not included in a purportedly contemporary encyclopedia.

My advice to the editor of future volumes: don't just listen to, or solicit articles from, academics over fifty. Spice it up. How about an entry by or about that fire-breathing atheist, Camille Paglia? She'd set some old geezers' knickers aflame if you set her loose on an entry titled, "sex and non-belief."

The major religions are covered with some credibility except for the egregious entry on unbelief in Buddhism which totally ignores the radical critique of Nagarjuna that has an antimetaphysical discernment in its long tradition. Eventually trends in the sciences and philosophy need to be considered within the frames of unbelief; and the entry on unbelief and the neglect of social and behavioral sciences to investigate it as a cultural and social phenomena may hopefully prod many a graduate student research project.

Unbelief is an important social and cultural style of diffidence toward totalizing ideologies and dogmas that attempt to dampen the brash realization of human dignity and freedom includes to know things for ourselves and not just by obedience to asserted authority. Unbelief attempts to allocate our resources toward social and political, environmental schemes that will maximize our efforts to the greater good of all. Unbelief has a long pedigree in skepticism and an important future in religious as well as secular thought. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief continues to offer a guide in the necessary direction of human freedom in the ability to doubt, questions and rework reasons for understanding and avowal.

The distinguished contributors—philosophers, scientists, scholars, and Nobel Prize laureates—include Robert Alley, Joe Barnhart, David Berman, Sir Hermann Bondi, Vern L. Bullough, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Dennett, Paul Edwards, Barbara Ehrenreich, Antony Flew, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Peter Hare, Van Harvey, Susan Jacoby, Paul Kurtz, Richard Leakey, Gerd Lüdemann, Michael Martin, Martin E. Marty, Kai Nielsen, Steven Pinker, Robert M. Price, Richard Rorty, John R. Searle, Peter Singer, Ibn Warraq, Steven Weinberg, George A. Wells, David Tribe, Sherwin Wine, and many others.

With a foreword by evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins, this unparalleled reference work provides comprehensive knowledge about unbelief in its many varieties and manifestations. More

Intertextuality in the Tales of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav: A Close Reading of Sippurey Ma'asiyot by Marianne Schleicher (Numen Book Series: Brill Academic Publishers) Until 1806, Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (1772-1810) disseminated his thoughts on redemption through homilies. In 1806, however, Nahman chose the genre of tales as an additional and innovative means of religious discourse. An academic close reading of all of the tales, known as Sippurey Ma'asiyot, has not yet been undertaken. As the first comprehensive scholarly work on the whole selection of tales and contrary to previous scholarship, this book does not reduce the tales to biographical expressions of Nahman's tormented soul and messianic aspirations. Instead, it treats them as religious literature where the concept of "intertextuality" is considered essential to explain how Nahman defines his theology of redemption and invites his listeners and readers to appropriate his religious world-view.  More

An Introductory Dictionary of Theology & Religious Studies edited by Orlando Espin, James B. Nickoloff (Liturgical Press) Students enrolled in undergraduate theology and religious studies courses are frequently confronted with the daunting task of mastering new and unfamiliar terminology. While some textbooks include glossaries to aid the introductory student, many educators assign classroom texts that assume students' prior knowledge of key terms. Having ready access to a wide variety of definitions in a single, compact volume is especially important in our multicultural and religiously plural world. Spanning the gamut from "Aaron" to "Zwingli," this dictionary includes nearly 3,000 entries written by about sixty authors, all of whom are specialists in their various theological and religious disciplines. The editors have designed the dictionary especially to aid the introductory-level student with instant access to definitions of terms likely to be encountered in--but not to substitute for--classroom presentations or reading assignments. Designed as a supplement for student coursework, An Introductory Dictionary of Theology and Religious Studies is also a useful resource for catechesis or religious education, for those pursuing interfaith or interreligious dialogue, and for those whose duties require communication with persons from diverse religious traditions.
This well designed and useful guide to words and terms in religious studies offers a balanced and reasonably thorough introductory definitions to current topics in religious studies. The book is especially good in presenting catholic topics but it also offers germane definitions of other Christian confessions and the major world religions. The entries do not recognize the new religions or esoteric religious history or topics. I would assume a second edition would include metaphysical and occult trends in religious studies. I believe this reference work, that is offered at a modest price belongs in all public community libraries as well as high school and college libraries where religion is likely part of the curriculum.  More

A Companion to Greek Religion edited by Daniel Ogden (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World: Blackwell) covers all aspects of religion in the ancient Greek world from the archaic, through the classical and into the Hellenistic period. Each of the volume’s 29 essays is written by an international expert and provides a survey of a particular area that reflects contemporary scholarship. All the contributions place an emphasis on religious life as it was experienced by Greek men and women at different times and in different places. Myth is considered alongside religion throughout. The Companion opens with a series of contextual essays devoted to the Near-Eastern and Minoan backgrounds to Greek religion, the religious structures of Greek society, women and sex in religious life, and mystery cults and magic. There follow major sections on local religious systems, sacred space and ritual, and the divine. Other chapters consider the interactions between religion and art, literature and philosophy, and look at particular topics, such as time in Greek religion, whether the Greeks can be said to have had religious wars, and representations of Greek religion in cinema. More

Companion to Roman Religion edited by Jorg Ruepke (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World: Blackwell) provides a comprehensive treatment of Roman religion within its cultural, social, and historical contexts.Written by international experts, this volume offers a new approach, directing its focus away from the gods and concentrating on the human-figures of Roman religion. The book addresses the media through which religion was experienced and shared, including epigraphy, mosaics, wall-paintings, drama, and poetry, and provides, for example, the first ever history of religious motifs on coins. Placing the various discourses and practices into a larger geographical and cultural framework, this volume also considers the cults, gods, iconography, rituals, and texts that were exported widely throughout the empire, revealing the sprawling landscape of Roman religion. Judaism and Christianity are firmly placed within a strongly historical approach, covering the period from the eighth century BC to the fourth century AD.  More

Echoes from the Gnosis: 100th Anniversary Edition of the Spiritual Classics by G.R.S. Mead edited by John Algeo, introduction Robert Gilbert, Commentary by Stephan Hoeller (Quest Books) Long before the mid-twentieth-century discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library, G. R. S. Mead had translated ancient Gnostic texts. Here in one book is the entire collection of his eleven volumes first published between 1906 and 1908, including "The Hymn of Jesus" and "The Wedding Song of Wisdom."
Each Gnostic text has added historical background, source information, literary comment, and spiritual interpretation. Mead, who devoted his life to esoteric studies and was a pioneer in the Gnostic revival, uniquely understood the complex symbolism of his subject. The reader may be surprised to learn that some of these texts were originally not books, but instead initiatory mystery rituals.
Editor John Algeo preserves Mead's own inspired language. To enhance the texts for today's readers, the volume includes new explanatory essays by contemporary Gnostic Stephan Hoeller and a biography by Robert Gilbert, a world authority on Mead. More

Fifty Years of Philosophy of Religion: A Select Bibliography (1955-2005) by Andy F. Sanders, Kristof De Ridder (Brill Academic Publishers) Excerpt: In the mid-1970s, my teacher Huib Hubbeling, professor of the philosophy of religion, launched a bibliographical project that was meant to give advanced students the opportunity to get acquainted with the preparatory stages of inquiry. As a result, a systematic, selected bibliography of works in the field of the logic, epistemology and analysis of religious language appeared in 1974.' Listing nearly 920 titles of hooks and articles from 72 journals, its terminus a quo was 1955, the year in which the influential collection New Essays in Philosophical Theology was published for the first time. A sequel with a broader category system, covering the years from 1975 until 1986 and listing almost 2300 entries, appeared in 1988. The present vol­ume not only includes most of the material contained in these ear­lier bibliographies but has been updated for the period 1987 -2005 with nearly 4800 additional entries. More

The Word Has Been Abroad: A Guide Through Balthasar's Aesthetics by Aidan Nichols (Introduction to Hans Urs Von Balthasar: T. & T. Clark Publishers) (Hardcover) 

No Bloodless Myth: A Guide Through Balthasar's Dramatics by Aidan Nichols (Introduction to Hans Urs Von Balthasar: T. & T. Clark Publishers) (Hardcover) 

Say It Is Pentecost: A Guide Through Balthasar's Logic (Introduction to Hans Urs Von Balthasar) by Aidan Nichols (Introduction to Hans Urs Von Balthasar: T. & T. Clark Publishers) (Hardcover) 

Scattering the Seed: A Guide Through Balthasar's Early Writings on Philosophy And the Arts by Aidan Nichols (Introduction to Hans Urs Von Balthasar: T. & T. Clark Publishers) (Hardcover) 

Divine Fruitfulness: A Guide to Balthasar's Theology beyond the Trilogy by Aidan Nichols (Introduction to Hans Urs Von Balthasar: T. & T. Clark Publishers) (Hardcover)  

With the present work Nichols concludes the five-volume Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar which has offered readers a series of 'guides' to the different parts of his corpus. In calling this fifth and final installment a 'Guide to Balthasar's Theology', Nichols means to institute a contrast with the fourth book in the series, Scattering the Seed, which took as subject his early writings on philosophy and the arts. In Balthasar's mature theology we see the seed there sown springing up, flowering and fruiting in an abundance of theological applications. Hence the title of the book: Divine Fruitfulness. Its subtitle also includes the words, 'Beyond the Trilogy'. To Nichols' three studies dedicated to Balthasar's great Trilogy (The Word has been Abroad on his theological aesthetics, No Bloodless Myth on his theological dramatics, Say it is Pentecost on his theological logic), Divine Fruitfulness goes further in four respects.

First, while at the opening of my three-part commentary on the Trilogy Nichols offered an introduction to Balthasar's life-story as well as to the works of the Trilogy itself, here in the opening chapter, 'Introduction to the Wider Oeuvre', Nichols ventures to consider not only other aspects of his literary production but also the Church-political context of his work. How did he see contemporary Catholicism – and, for that matter, how did it see him? Secondly, whereas the studies of the Trilogy touch wherever appropriate on the literally dozens of writers – both Christian and non-Christians – of whom Balthasar makes occasional use, this book identifies the principal origins of his architectonic approach to the structure, content and ethos of theology as a whole.  Thirdly, though the Trilogy contains, no doubt, Balthasar's richest theological fare, to grasp the bread-and-butter of his theological doctrine the remaining writings are frequently more helpful. To alter the metaphor from gastronomy to optics: the aesthetics, dramatics and logic offer three perspectives on revelation, perspectives that correspond to the three 'transcendentals', the beautiful, the good, the true. But that is not to say that the great affirmations of revelation, and the major motifs of the Christian life, are incapable of exhibition by a multi-focal approach which prescinds from these particular 'formalities' – to use the more precise Scholastic expression in place of the somewhat impressionistic contemporary term 'perspective'.  Fourthly, while Say it is Pentecost included a brief 'Postword', Divine Fruitfulness offers a Conclusion to the whole five-part series, asking at greater length the question, What will the Catholic theology of the twenty-first century (and later) owe to this enormously ambitious oeuvre? More

Jean Gerson And the Last Medieval Reformation by Brian Patrick McGuire (Hardcover) (Pennsylvania State University Press) One of the problems of dividing our history into epochs, such as ancient, medieval, Renaissance and Reformation; is that these great divisions of time cast a shadow on transitional people who belong to their place in history without the prescience of future history's flow. Jean Gerson, the major French religious reformer, educator, and theologian who lived between the 14th and 15th century is such a transitional figure.  McGuire's intensive biography and study of Gerson, the first since 1929, provides a rich overview of the life and times of this visionary scholar by giving a summary account of his writings that were very influential on Luther and to a lesser extent, Calvin in the generation after Gerson’s death.  Gerson played an important role in attempts to heal the Great Schism which culminated in the Council of Constance (1414 – 1418) More

The Song of Songs: A Philological Analysis of the Hebrew Book by P. W. T. Stoop-van Paridon (Ancient Near Eastern Studies: Peeters) Since time immemorial the Song of Songs (SofS) has been a source of amazement and inspiration. The countless translations and interpretations of this book differ strongly from each other. Does the Hebrew text indeed justify this? To answer this question, an unprejudiced philological analysis is necessary that keeps strictly to the text, which does justice to the context, and approaches the book intrinsically as rationally as possible. More

Rereading the Mishnah: A New Approach to Ancient Jewish Texts by Judith Hauptman (Texts & Studies in Ancient Judaism: Paul Mohr Verlag) An important historical reworking of the development of the tradition.

There are two main arguments to this volume. The first is that not only are individual passages of the Mishnah based on individual, parallel passages of the Tosefta, but even entire chapters of the Mishnah are based on entire chapters of the Tosefta. If one were to line up all the Tosefta paragraphs that give rise to Mishnah paragraphs, they would join together to form a vast net­work. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that there existed an ordered collection of tannaitic passages that preceded the Mishnah and served as one of its sources. That collection was the Tosefta. More 

Luminal Darkness: Imaginal Gleanings from Zoharic Literature by Elliot Wolfson (One World)  Since 1945, scholarship and interest in the ancient tradition of Kabbalah have reached unprecedented heights. What originated as an esoteric ritual, secretly studied by a select elite, is yielding increasingly widespread interest.  Renowned as one of the world's most astute interpreters of Kabbalistic texts, Elliot Wolfson offers an illuminating and original presentation of Kabbalah. Combining its wisdom with Western philosophical heritage from Plato to Heidegger and beyond, synergy guides his elucidation of the fundamentals of Jewish mysticism and shapes his taxonomy of Kabbalistic thought. More

When Rituals Go Wrong: Mistakes, Failure, and the Dynamics of Ritual by Ute Hüsken (Numen Book: Brill Academic Publishers) The present volume is dedicated entirely to the investigation of the implications and effects of breaking ritual rules, of failed performances and of the extinction of ritual systems.

While rituals are often seen as infallible mechanisms which 'work' irrespective of the individual motivations of the performers, it is clearly visible here that rituals can fail, and that improper performances are a cause for concern. These essays break new ground in their respective fields, and the comparative analysis of rituals that go wrong introduces new perspectives to ritual studies. As the first book-length study on ritual mistakes and failure, this volume begins to fill a significant gap in the existing literature. Contributors include: Claus Ambos, Christiane Brosius, Johanna Buss, Burckhard Dücker, Christoph Emmrich, Brigitta Hauser-Schãublin, Maren Hoffmeister, Ute HUsken, Brigitte Merz, Axel Michaels, Karin Polit, Michael Rudolph, Edward L. Schieffelin, Jan A.M. Snoek, Eftychia Stavrianopoulou, and Jan Weinhold. More

Religion Past And Present: Encyclopedia of Theology And Religion (Complete 10 volume set)

Religion Past & Present: A-Bhu: Encyclopedia of Theology and Religion by Hans Dieter Betz, Don S. Browning, Bernd Janowski, Eberhard Jungel (Religion Past and Present: Brill Academic Publishers) At this time I’ve only seen the first volume, but this eventually 10 volume set offers a very fundamental  survey of Christian religious thought with a reasonable representation of Jewish and Islamic influences. The volumes do not represent Eastern religious traditions except in a once over lightly fashion. I have included the subject areas because it best describes the strengths of this reference book which is in its theological considerations of major religious themes as institutionally defined primarily by Christian dogmatics, secondarily considered is the Jewish tradition, with some nods to the Islamic especially in its historical modes.  There are articles on the major non-Western religions but for the most part none are representative or integrated into the theological discussions that the reference chronicles. Perhaps some future edition, where comparative theologies have wrangled with the nature of Buddha and the divine, the paramitas and virtues, the nature of prayer, the rise of Pentecostalism and other features of our global religious outlook. More

Theorizing Rituals: Classical Topics, Theoretical Approaches, Analytical Concepts edited by Jens Kreinath, Joannes Augustinus Maria Snoek, Michael Stausberg (Numen Book Series: Brill Academic Publishers) Volume one of Theorizing Rituals assembles 34 leading scholars from various countries and disciplines working within this field. The authors review main methodological and meta-theoretical problems (part I) followed by some of the classical issues (part II). Further chapters discuss main approaches to theorizing rituals (part III) and explore some key analytical concepts for theorizing rituals (part IV). The volume is provided with extensive indices. More

Gnostic Revisions of Genesis Stories And Early Jesus Traditions by Gerard P. Luttikhuizen (Nag Hammadi & Manichaean Studies: Brill Academic) argues that the intellectuals behind early Gnostic revisions of Genesis stories were second-century Christians with an ideological background in Greek-Hellenistic philosophy, who adopted and reinterpreted biblical narrative materials with a view to exposing the inferiority of the creator-God of Genesis and the ignorance of those Christians who continued to worship this God. It also discusses controversies between Gnostic and early orthodox Christians about the person and the mission of Jesus Christ. More

The Brill Dictionary of Religion, 4 volume set edited by Kocku Von Stuckrad (Brill Academic Publishers) given the size of this dictionary, one might be led to consider that the entries would be more inclusive of the unique features of each religion, their special terms, unique theologies, traditional metaphysics, rituals and festivities, lifecycle events, history and philosophy.  Instead the editors have focused on how religion is studied academically in the West through social scientific, anthropological, phenomenological, sociological, historical and humanistic studies.  In some ways this dictionary is how religion can be look at non-religiously.  However this dictionary is not written with the view that religion will eventually wither away in human experience but rather with a renewed appreciation of the traditional strengths and esoteric vigor of religious studies today and of the religions as they affect history and culture.  These volumes act as a nearly encyclopedic overview of the pattern of religious studies in Europe and America.  It is possible that the English edition of this German original has been slightly ‘dumbed-down’ for its new audience but only a detailed comparison with the German original could give an answer to this qualm.  All in all, this dictionary will provide students of religious studies a healthy panorama of the way real religions are approached academically.  Highly recommended.  More

The Conservative Revolutionaries: The Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany after Radical Political Change in the 1990s by Barbara Theriault (Monographs in German History: Berghahn Books) During the forty years of division, the Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany were the only organizations to retain strong ties and organizational structures: they embodied continuity in a country marked by discontinuity. As such, the churches were both expected to undergo smooth and rapid institutional consolidation and undertake an active role in the public realm of the new eastern German states in the 1990s. Yet critical voices were heard over the West German system of church-state relations and the public role it confers on religious organizations, and critics often expressed the idea that despite all their difficulties, something precious was lost in the collapse of the German democratic republic. Against this backdrop, the author delineates the conflicting conceptions of the Protestant and Catholic churches' public role and pays special attention to the East German model, or what is generally termed the "positive experiences of the GDR and the Wende." More

The Divine Lawmaker: Lectures on Induction, Laws of Nature, and the Existence of God by John Foster (Oxford University Press) presents a clear and powerful discussion of a range of topics relating to our understanding of the universe: induction, laws of nature, and the existence of God. He begins by developing a solution to the problem of induction—a solution whose key idea is that the regularities in the workings of nature that have held in our experience hitherto are to he explained by appeal to the controlling influence of laws, as forms of natural necessity. His second line of argument focuses on the issue of what we should take such necessitational laws to be, and whether we can even make sense of them at all. Having considered and rejected various alternatives, Foster puts forward his own proposal: the obtaining of a law consists in the causal imposing of a regularity on the universe as a regularity. With this causal account of laws in place, he is now equipped to offer an argument for theism. His claim is that natural regularities call for explanation, and that, whatever explanatory role we may initially assign to laws, the only plausible ultimate explanation is in terms of the agency of God. Finally, he argues that, once we accept the existence of God, we need to think of him as creating the universe by a method which imposes regularities on it in the relevant law-yielding way. In this new perspective, the original nomological-explanatory solution to the problem of induction becomes a theological-explanatory solution. More

Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals and Festivals edited by Frank A. Salamone (Religion and Society: Routledge) Religious beliefs are expressed through ritualized behavior and festivals. Many rituals and festivals take place in public, meaning that such expressions of faith are societal as well as individual forms of human behavior. The similarity in the general patterns of rituals and festivals across cultures and religions is striking. For example, most cultures and religions mark major life-course transitions such as birth, marriage, and death with public ritual expressions, and numerous festivals are tied to food-producing activities such as planting and harvesting. Where religions and societies vary is in the meanings associated with ritual behavior and the specific forms those behaviors take.  More

Soul, Psyche, Brain: New Directions in the Study of Religion and Brain-Mind Science edited by Kelly Bulkeley (Palgrave) is a collection of essays that address the relationships between neuroscience, religion and human nature. The book highlights some startling new developments in neuroscience that have many people rethinking spirituality, the mind-body connection, and cognition in general. Soul, Psyche, Brain explores questions like: What are the neurological effects of meditation and prayer? How does the mind develop psychological and spiritual self-awareness? And what are the practical implications of brain-mind science for religious faith and moral reasoning? More

Dictionary Of Atheism, Skepticism, & Humanism by Bill Cooke (Prometheus Press) In the tradition of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary, and Joseph McCabe’s Rationalist Encyclopedia, this accessible dictionary addresses the contemporary need for a reference book that succinctly summarizes the key concepts, current terminology, and major contributions of influential thinkers broadly associated with atheism, skepticism, and humanism. In the preface, author Bill Cooke notes that his work is intended "for freethinkers in the broadest sense of the word: people who like to think for themselves and not according to the preplanned routes set by others." This dictionary will serve as a guide for all those people striving to lead fulfilling, morally responsible lives without religious belief. Readers are offered a wide range of concepts, from ancient, well-known notions such as God, free will, and evil to new concepts such as "eupraxsophy." Also included are current "buzzwords" that have some bearing on the freethought worldview such as "metrosexual." The names of many people whose lives or work reflect freethought principles form a major portion of the entries. Finally, a humanist calendar is included, on which events of interest to freethinkers are noted. This unique, accessible, and highly informative work will be a welcome addition to the libraries.  More

The Unity of Mystical Traditions: The Transformation of Consciousness in Tibetan and German Mysticism by Randall Studstill (Studies in the History of Religions, Vol. 107: Brill Academic) argues that mystical doctrines and practices initiate parallel transformative processes in the consciousness of mystics. This thesis is supported through a comparative analysis of Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen (rdzogs-chen) and the medieval German mysticism of Eckhart, Suso, and Tauler. These traditions are interpreted using a system/cybernetic model of consciousness. This model provides a theoretical framework for assessing the cognitive effects of mystical doctrines and practices and showing how different doctrines and practices may nevertheless initiate common transformative processes. This systems approach contributes to current philosophical discourse on mysticism by (1) making possible a precise analysis of the cognitive effects of mystical doctrines and practices, and (2) reconciling mystical heterogeneity with the essential unity of mystical traditions.

Randall Studstill, Ph.D. (2002) in Religious Studies, The Graduate Theological Union, is an Adjunct Instructor of Religious Studies at San Jose State University. He has published on the phenomenological method of Mircea Eliade and the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

The purpose of this study is to present and support a mystical pluralist interpretation of mysticism. Through the application of a systems-based understanding of mind to Dzogchen and German mysticism, Studstill shows that the doctrines and practices of these two mystical traditions and by implication, mystical traditions in general, bring about common transformative processes in the consciousness of the mystic, experientially realized as a deepening attunement to the Real. The mystical pluralist thesis has close affinities to a number of other essentialist and transper­sonal approaches to mysticism. Mystical pluralism, Forman's perennial psychology, Combs' systems approach, shares the same core thesis: mystical paths function in similar ways to decondition structures of ordinary consciousness. Studstill goes beyond this basic idea by addressing in more precise terms how mystical doctrines and prac­tices cause transformation and what this transformation involves. It also addresses areas of the mystical data often ignored or left unex­plained by essentialist, constructivist, and transpersonal theories: the nature of visionary mystical experiences and their relation to contentless, unmediated mystical states. The role of doctrine and ethics in generating mystical transformation, and the intrinsic epistemic value of mystical experiences is also delineated. As comprehensive as this account is in its reach and clarity, this reviewer finds a greater insistence on a divorce with “ordinary consciousness” that this study most seriously breaches aspects of the traditions taken to support  and account for mystical pluralism. There is too much insistence upon transformation rather than upon the recovery of the Real in the real of ordinary experience.

 For Studstill mystical pluralism is justified on two levels. First, it is justified by the fundamental inadequacy of constructivism alone. Specifically, Studstill argues that constructivism is inadequate in its description of the mystical data, and both philosophically and psychologically problematic. The problems with constructivism provide the grist for an alternative view of mystical that Studstill calls mystical pluralism, based on its own philosophical, epistemological, and psychological merits, as well as its ability to account for the data. Studstill explains what a systems approach to consciousness and mysticism involves, reviewing some of the general principles of systems theory and discussing how such principles may be applied to consciousness or mind. Next the study presents doctrinally nuanced mystical data through overviews of two mystical traditions: Dzogchen and German mysticism respectively. Using the systems-based model of consciousness, Studstill’s interpretation of these traditions focuses on the issue of therapeutic efficacy: how they might transform the consciousness of the practitioner who internalizes them and lives them. Studstill concludes the study by comparing the traditions from a systems per­spective. This systems approach shows how both Dzogchen and German mysticism function to elicit common transformative processes and thereby supports a mystical pluralist interpretation of mystical traditions.

I admire the close reading and clear presentation that Studstill’s work accounts for mysticism as the conscious alternation of conscious experience through meditative exercise. However Studstill’s account stresses the phenomenal, peak experience aspect of mysticism rather than the subtle deepening of “ordinary awareness.” I am reminded of Underhill’s youthful work Mysticism, 1901 which also tended to stress the extraordinary, to her own later more subtle formulations of contemplative experience. Perhaps Studstill will also exercise a more moderate and inclusive revision of his views, if he continues to develop his systems approach to a wider variety of religious experience.

Living Religions - Western Traditions by Mary Pat Fisher (Prentice Hall) is a highly readable and stimulating survey of the major global religions and new religious movements that originated in the West, with particular focus on how people are trying to live by them in today's world. Evocative illustrations enhance this approach; first-person interviews of ordinary people and boxes uncovering the spiritual roots of well-known public figures bring this book to life. Covering the key religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and new religious movements together with a brief chapter on indigenous religions that focuses primarily on Native American traditions, the social context, origins, teachers, scriptures, and historical development of each faith are carefully explored, with emphasis on how practitioners themselves understand their tradition from the inside. For readers interested in a comprehensive book about Western religions, as well as the clergy of various faiths. More

Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Beings: Experiences of an American Diplomat with Maitreya and the Masters of Wisdom by Wayne S. Peterson (Hampton Roads) It this book is true, then it is important – and the author’s credentials may convince you to take a look – Peterson, a retired American diplomat – may not be a kook. Having traveled from the political halls of power to the spiritual “Hall of Wisdom”, Peterson reveals an amazing story – a message of hope and evidence of humanity’s opportunity to redefine its institutions based on the “Ancient Wisdom Teaching” common to all religious traditions – to love one another.

From the age of four, Peterson began experiencing things other people didn't – Mary,  mother of Jesus, appeared to him, saved his life, and made a promise that gave him a reason to live. That promise was forgotten until...

One evening many years later, flipping through the TV channels, Wayne was stopped by something he saw on the "Merv Griffin Show" – the cover of a book entitled The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom. At that moment the memory of Mary’s promise to him as a child rushed back: "I am going to tell you a secret that few now know. If you stay with your family, you will see the Christ, because he will come to live with the people of the world."  

Political Theologies in Shakespeare’s England: The Sacred and the State in Measure for Measure by Debora Kuller Shuger (Palgrave) offers a defining reinterpretation of English political thought in the aftermath of the Reformation. Debora Kuller Shuger focuses not on the tension between Crown and Parliament but on the relation of the sacred to the state. The book examines Measure for Measure, for the issues at the heart of this play also shape the deep structure of English politics in the aftermath of the Reformation.
Author Introduction: The earliest recorded performance of Measure for Measure took place at Whitehall on 26 December, 1604, opening the first full‑scale Christmas revels of the new king's reign. The play must have been composed shortly before this performance, since it alludes to events that had occurred as recently as the beginning of December. Shakespeare may well have written Measure for Measure for this at once sacred and state occasion. The political theme dominates from the outset, its importance signalled by the opening line of the Duke's first speech: 'Of government the properties to unfold.'  Measure for Measure is the only Shakespeare play to begin with this sort of overt thematic statement; it is also the only one to have an (equally thematic) biblical titles ‑ a yoking of government and Gospel recalling the king's promise in the medieval English coronation oath to observe both 'justice and mercy ... that by his merciful dealing with others, the God of mercy may take commiseration upon him.  More


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