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Revelatory Events

Three Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths

Ann Taves

Unseen presences. Apparitions. Hearing voices. Although some people would find such experiences to be distressing and seek clinical help, others perceive them as transformative. Occasionally, these unusual phenomena give rise to new spiritual paths or religious movements. Revelatory Events provides fresh insights into what is perhaps the bedrock of all religious belief—the claim that otherworldly powers are active in human affairs.

Ann Taves looks at Mormonism, Alcoholics Anonymous, and A Course in Miracles—three cases in which insiders claimed that a spiritual presence guided the emergence of a new spiritual path. In the 1820s, Joseph Smith, Jr., reportedly translated the Book of Mormon from ancient gold plates unearthed with the help of an angel. Bill Wilson cofounded AA after having an ecstatic experience while hospitalized for alcoholism in 1934. Helen Schucman scribed the words of an inner voice that she attributed to Jesus, which formed the basis of her 1976 best-selling self-study course. In each case, Taves argues, the sense of a guiding presence emerged through a complex, creative interaction between a founding figure with unusual mental abilities and an initial set of collaborators who were drawn into the process by diverse motives of their own.

A major work of scholarship, this compelling and accessible book traces the very human processes behind such events.

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Russia's Steppe Frontier

The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800

Michael Khodarkovsky

"... a tremendously important contribution to the field of Russian history and the comparative study of empires and frontiers. There is no comparable work in any language.... The book presents an intricate and gripping narrative of a vast sweep of histories, weaving them together into a comprehensive and comprehensible chronology." -- Valerie Kivelson

From the time of the decline of the Mongol Golden Horde to the end of the 18th century, the Russian government expanded its influence and power throughout its southern borderlands. The process of incorporating these lands and peoples into the Russian Empire was not only a military and political struggle but also a contest between the conceptual worlds of the indigenous peoples and the Russians. Drawing on sources and archival materials in Russian and Turkic languages, Michael Khodarkovsky presents a complex picture of the encounter between the Russian authorities and native peoples.

Russia's Steppe Frontier is an original and invaluable resource for understanding Russia's imperial experience.

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Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean

Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries

Edited by Dionigi Albera and Maria Couroucli

While devotional practices are usually viewed as mechanisms for reinforcing religious boundaries, in the multicultural, multiconfessional world of the Eastern Mediterranean, shared shrines sustain intercommunal and interreligious contact among groups. Heterodox, marginal, and largely ignored by central authorities, these practices persist despite aggressive, homogenizing nationalist movements. This volume challenges much of the received wisdom concerning the three major monotheistic religions and the "clash of civilizations." Contributors examine intertwined religious traditions along the shores of the Near East from North Africa to the Balkans.

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Sin, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Christian and Muslim Perspectives

Lucinda Mosher and David Marshall, Editors

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The Sinister Way

The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture

Richard von Glahn

The most striking feature of Wutong, the preeminent God of Wealth in late imperial China, was the deity's diabolical character. Wutong was perceived not as a heroic figure or paragon of noble qualities but rather as an embodiment of humanity's basest vices, greed and lust, a maleficent demon who preyed on the weak and vulnerable. In The Sinister Way, Richard von Glahn examines the emergence and evolution of the Wutong cult within the larger framework of the historical development of Chinese popular or vernacular religion—as opposed to institutional religions such as Buddhism or Daoism. Von Glahn's study, spanning three millennia, gives due recognition to the morally ambivalent and demonic aspects of divine power within the common Chinese religious culture.

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Spirit, Qi, and the Multitude

A Comparative Theology for the Democracy of Creation

Hyo-Dong Lee

We live in an increasingly global, interconnected, and interdependent world, in which various forms of systemic imbalance in power have given birth to a growing demand for genuine pluralism and democracy. As befits a world so interconnected, this book presents a comparative theological and philosophical attempt to construct new underpinnings for the idea of democracy by bringing the Western concept of spirit into dialogue with the East Asian nondualistic and nonhierarchical notion of qi. The book follows the historical adventures of the idea of qi through some of its Confucian and Daoist textual histories in East Asia, mainly Laozi, Zhu Xi, Toegye, Nongmun, and Su-un, and compares them with analogous conceptualizations of the ultimate creative and spiritual power found in the intellectual constellations of Western and/or Christian thought namely, Whitehead's Creativity, Hegel's Geist, Deleuze's chaosmos, and Catherine Keller's Tehom. The book adds to the growing body of pneumatocentric (Spirit-centered), panentheistic Christian theologies that emphasize God's liberating, equalizing, and pluralizing immanence in the cosmos. Furthermore, it injects into the theological and philosophical dialogue between the West and Confucian and Daoist East Asia, which has heretofore been dominated by the American pragmatist and process traditions, a fresh voice shaped by Hegelian, postmodern, and postcolonial thought. This enriches the ways in which the pluralistic and democratic implications of the notion of qi may be articulated. In addition, by offering a valuable introduction to some representative Korean thinkers who are largely unknown to Western scholars, the book advances the study of East Asia and Neo-Confucianism in particular. Last but not least, the book provides a model of Asian contextual theology that draws on the religious and philosophical resources of East Asia to offer a vision of pluralism and democracy. A reader interested in the conversation between the East and West in light of the global reality of political oppression, economic exploitation, and cultural marginalization will find this book informative, engaging, and enlightening

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The Spirits of Crossbones Graveyard

Time, Ritual, and Sexual Commerce in London

Sondra L. Hausner

Every month, a ragtag group of Londoners gather in the site known as Crossbones Graveyard to commemorate the souls of medieval prostitutes believed to be buried there—the "Winchester Geese," women who were under the protection of the Church but denied Christian burial. In the Borough of Southwark, not far from Shakespeare's Globe, is a pilgrimage site for self-identified misfits, nonconformists, and contemporary sex workers who leave memorials to the outcast dead. Ceremonies combining raucous humor and eclectic spirituality are led by a local playwright, John Constable, also known as John Crow. His interpretation of the history of the site has struck a chord with many who feel alienated in present-day London. Sondra L. Hausner offers a nuanced ethnography of Crossbones that tacks between past and present to look at the historical practices of sex work, the relation of the Church to these professions, and their representation in the present. She draws on anthropological approaches to ritual and time to understand the forms of spiritual healing conveyed by the Crossbones rites. She shows that ritual is a way of creating the present by mobilizing the stories of the past for contemporary purposes.

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Spiritual Grammar

Genre and the Saintly Subject in Islam and Christianity

F. Dominic Longo

Spiritual Grammar identifies a genre of religious literature that until now has not been recognized as such. In this surprising and theoretically nuanced study, F. Dominic Longo reveals how grammatical structures of language addressed in two medieval texts published nearly four centuries apart, from distinct religious traditions, offer a metaphor for how the self is embedded in spiritual reality. Reading The Grammar of Hearts (Nahw al-qulūb) by the great Sufi shaykh and Islamic scholar 'Abd al-Karīm al-Qushayrī (d. 1074) and Moralized Grammar (Donatus moralizatus) by Christian theologian Jean Gerson (d. 1429), Longo reveals how both authors use the rules of language and syntax to advance their pastoral goals. Indeed, grammar provides the two masters with a fresh way of explaining spiritual reality to their pupils and to discipline the souls of their readers in the hopes that their writings would make others adept in the grammar of the heart.

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Strangers or Co-Pilgrims?

The Impact of Interfaith Dialogue on Christian Faith and Practice

By S. Wesley Ariarajah

This book argues that interfaith dialogue begins with the basic goal of improving Christian relationships with people of other religious traditions. But gradually we become aware that this new ministry, when taken seriously, presents many new challenges. We are forced to reexamine our approach to religious plurality, to the Bible, and to our understanding of Chrisitan missions and our theology of religions.

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Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion

Hugh Urban

A complex body of religious practices that spread throughout the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions; a form of spirituality that seemingly combines sexuality, sensual pleasure, and the full range of physical experience with the religious life—Tantra has held a central yet conflicted role within the Western imagination ever since the first "discovery" of Indian religions by European scholars. Always radical, always extremely Other, Tantra has proven a key factor in the imagining of India. This book offers a critical account of how the phenomenon has come to be.

Tracing the complex genealogy of Tantra as a category within the history of religions, Hugh B. Urban reveals how it has been formed through the interplay of popular and scholarly imaginations. Tantra emerges as a product of mirroring and misrepresentation at work between East and West--a dialectical category born out of the ongoing play between Western and Indian minds. Combining historical detail, textual analysis, popular cultural phenomena, and critical theory, this book shows Tantra as a shifting amalgam of fantasies, fears, and wish-fulfillment, at once native and Other, that strikes at the very heart of our constructions of the exotic Orient and the contemporary West.

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