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Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism
Sexuality and the occult arts have long been associated in the western imagination, but it was not until the nineteenth century that a large and sophisticated body of literature on sexual magic—the use of sex as a source of magical power—emerged. This book, the first history of western sexual magic as a modern spiritual tradition, places these practices in the context of the larger discourse surrounding sexuality in American and European society over the last 150 years to discover how sexual magic was transformed from a terrifying medieval nightmare of heresy and social subversion into a modern ideal of personal empowerment and social liberation. Focusing on a series of key figures including American spiritualist Paschal Beverly Randolph, Aleister Crowley, Julius Evola, Gerald Gardner, and Anton LaVey, Hugh Urban traces the emergence of sexual magic out of older western esoteric traditions including Gnosticism and Kabbalah, which were progressively fused with recently-discovered eastern traditions such as Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. His study gives remarkable new insight into sexuality in the modern era, specifically on issues such as the politics of birth control, the classification of sexual "deviance," debates over homosexuality and feminism, and the role of sexuality in our own new world of post-modern spirituality, consumer capitalism, and the Internet.
Can Christian-Muslim relations be better understood and even interfaith conflicts resolved if Christians and Muslims joined together in an existential and phenomenological engagement with common spatiality? To answer this question, 12 Christian students from St. Paulís University, Limuru, Kenya and 12 Muslim students from Eastleigh, Nairobi mapped the 12 streets of Eastleigh, a sprawling Nairobi suburb largely populated by Somali Muslis. The mapping method in the above exercise was phenomenological, that is, mapping spatiality as a ìlived experienceî and interpreting spatial observations in light of individual and group existential experiences. The result of the mapping exercise was a radical transformation both in the Mappersí own self-perceptions as well as their perceptions of Christian- Muslim relations. The seven chapters in this unique book look at the above finding from different perspectives, both Christian and Muslim.
Representing Indian and African American Belief
The spiritual and religious beliefs and practices of Native Americans and African Americans have long been sources of fascination and curiosity, owing to their marked difference from the religious traditions of white writers and researchers. Matter, Magic, and Spirit explores the ways religious and magical beliefs of Native Americans and African Americans have been represented in a range of discourses including anthropology, comparative religion, and literature. Though these beliefs were widely dismissed as primitive superstition and inferior to "higher" religions like Christianity, distinctions were still made between the supposed spiritual capacities of the different groups.
David Murray's analysis is unique in bringing together Indian and African beliefs and their representations. First tracing the development of European ideas about both African fetishism and Native American "primitive belief," he goes on to explore the ways in which the hierarchies of race created by white Europeans coincided with hierarchies of religion as expressed in the developing study of comparative religion and folklore through the nineteenth century. Crucially this comparative approach to practices that were dismissed as conjure or black magic or Indian "medicine" points as well to the importance of their cultural and political roles in their own communities at times of destructive change.
Murray also explores the ways in which Indian and African writers later reformulated the models developed by white observers, as demonstrated through the work of Charles Chesnutt and Simon Pokagon and then in the later conjunctions of modernism and ethnography in the 1920s and 1930s, through the work of Zora Neale Hurston, Zitkala Sa, and others. Later sections demonstrate how contemporary writers including Ishmael Reed and Leslie Silko deal with the revaluation of traditional beliefs as spiritual resources against a background of New Age spirituality and postmodern conceptions of racial and ethnic identity.
Commentary, Conflict, and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean
Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have a common belief in the sanctity of a core holy scripture, and commentary on scripture (exegesis) was at the heart of all three traditions in the Middle Ages. At the same time, because it dealt with issues such as the nature of the canon, the limits of acceptable interpretation, and the meaning of salvation history from the perspective of faith, exegesis was elaborated in the Middle Ages along the faultlines of interconfessional disputation and polemical conflict. This collection of thirteen essays by world-renowned scholars of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam explores the nature of exegesis during the High and especially the Late Middle Ages as a discourse of cross-cultural and interreligious conflict, paying particular attention to the commentaries of scholars in the western and southern Mediterranean from Iberia and Italy to Morocco and Egypt.Unlike other comparative studies of religion, this collection is not a chronological history or an encyclopedic guide. Instead, it presents essays in four conceptual clusters (“Writing on the Borders of Islam,” “Jewish-Christian Conflict,” “The Intellectual Activity of the Dominican Order,” and “Gender”) that explore medieval exegesis as a vehicle for the expression of communal or religious identity, one that reflects shared or competing notions of sacred history and sacred text. This timely book will appeal to scholars and lay readers alike and will be essential reading for students of comparative religion, historians charting the history of religious conflict in the medieval Mediterranean, and all those interested in the intersection of Jewish,Christian, and Muslim beliefs and practices.
Wonder and Meaning in World Religions
“In a pluralistic world, Weddle presents an engaging study of what millions of religious people in the world believe about miracles even while others do not. This comprehensive history of miracles for both believers and skeptics should appeal not only to academics but also to anyone interested in the enigmas of faith.”
The Heart of Submission
The Mosque is an extended meditation on a dimension of Islam unfamiliar to most Western readers. The mosque, Rusmir Mahmuticehajiic argues, is not an analogue of the Christian church, not least because in Islam there is no priesthood and no institutionalized hierarchy. Rather, every Muslim is his or her own priest, andmost religious obligations are performed in the home. The function of the mosque is thus dispersed throughout society and, indeed, throughout the natural world as well. The Arabic word from which English mosque derives means literally place of prostration-the place one performs the daily ritual prayer of submission to God, so as to become a guest at the table God has sent down to manifest himself. That table is also the world's mosque, the world as mosque. Among the many tragic victims of the Bosnian genocide are its mosques; more than a thousand were destroyed. A part of the essential fabric of Bosnian life was changed. With this book, Rusmir Mahmuticehajiic seeks to rebuild the spirit and majesty of each mosque that was destroyed, the spiritual grace it lent the Bosnian landscape.Beautifully composed, elegantly written and constructed, this is a primary text of Islamic spirituality, by one of the most significant Muslim European voices of our age . . . . A book to be returned to again and again.-Adam B. Seligman, Boston UniversityThis work by one of the leading intellectual figures of Bosnia is one of the finest written in the English language on the spiritual significance of the mosque. It speaks the language of universal spirituality and is able to open a door for Western readers to the relationship between the mosque, as understood outwardly, and the inner mosque, which is the heart. The book also reflects in most elegant language the reality of a land where mosques, churches, and synagogues have stood side by side over the centuries, each bearing witness in its own way to the Presence of the One.-Seyyed Hossein Nasr, George Washington University
Mythical Trickster Figures, is the first substantial collection of essays about the trickster to appear since Radin's 1955 The Trickster. Contributions by leading scholars treat a wide range of manifestations of this mischievous character, ranging from the Coyote of the American Southwest to such African figures as Eshu-Elegba and Ananse, the Japanese Susa-no-o, the Greek Hermes, Christian adaptations of Saint Peter, and examples found in contemporary American fiction and drama. The many humorous trickster stories included are fascinating in themselves, but Hynes and Doty also highlight the wide range of features of the trickster--the figure whose comic appearance often signifies that the most serious cultural values are being both challenged and enforced. William J. Hynes is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College of California. William G. Doty is Professor of Religious Studies at The University of Alabama and the author of Mythography: The Study of Myths and Rituals also published by The University of Alabama Press.
The Final Passage through Life and Death
How do our ideas about dying influence the way we live? Life has often been envisioned as a journey, the river of time carrying us inexorably toward the unknown country—and in our day we increasingly turn to myth and magic, ritual and virtual reality, cloning and cryostasis in the hope of eluding the reality of the inevitable end. In this book a preeminent and eminently wise writer on death and dying proposes a new way of understanding our last transition. A fresh exploration of the final passage through life and perhaps through death, his work deftly interweaves historical and contemporary experiences and reflections to demonstrate that we are always on our way.
Drawing on a remarkable range of observations—from psychology, anthropology, religion, biology, and personal experience—Robert Kastenbaum re-envisions life's forward-looking progress, from early-childhood bedtime rituals to the many small rehearsals we stage for our final separation. Along the way he illuminates such moments and ideas as becoming a "corpsed person," going down to earth or up in flames, respecting or abusing (and eating) the dead, coping with "too many dead," conceiving and achieving a "good death," undertaking the journey of the dead, and learning to live through the scrimmage of daily life fully knowing that Eternity does not really come in a designer flask. Profound, insightful, often moving, this look at death as many cultures await it or approach it enriches our understanding of life as a never-ending passage.
Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context
Monotheism, the idea that there is only one true God, is a powerful religious concept that was shaped by competing ideas and the problems they raised. Surveying New Testament writings and Jewish sources from before and after the rise of Christianity, James F. McGrath argues that even the most developed Christologies in the New Testament fit within the context of first century Jewish "monotheism." In doing so, he pinpoints more precisely when the parting of ways took place over the issue of God's oneness, and he explores philosophical ideas such as "creation out of nothing," which caused Jews and Christians to develop differing concepts and definitions about God.
The old Masters were fond of a little joke. For instance one of them might say that the Buddha had a secret, but that Mahākāshyapa let it out. Mahākāshyapa, you may remember, was the bodhisattva to whom the Supreme Vehicle, chiefly represented by Ch'an and Zen to-day, is attributed.