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Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition
Lindsay Jones, Editor in Chief
© 2005 Thomson Gale, a part of The
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Program in Religious Studies,
University of Wisconsin—Madison
Professor, Department of Literary and
Associate Professor, Department of
Cultural Studies, Faculty of Modern
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of History of Religions,
Languages, University of Latvia
Baltic Religion and Slavic Religion
Emeritus, and Former Director of
Research Center for Black Studies,

University of California, Santa Barbara
Center for Muslim–Christian
Understanding and Liberal Studies
Neil Rudenstine Professor of Study of
Program, Georgetown University
Professor, History of Religions, Le
Latin America, Divinity School and
Art and Religion
Moyne College (Syracuse, New York)
Department of Anthropology, Harvard
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s
Professor of Religious Studies, and
Studies, George Washington University
Chair, Department of Religious
Australian Indigenous Religions
Professor of History of Religions,
Studies, Yale University
Dipartimento di Scienze
Professor Emeritus of History,
dell’Antichità, Università degli Studi
Professor and Director, The Institute
University of California, Los Angeles,
di Salerno
of Ismaili Studies, London
and Fellow, Netherlands Institute for
Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service
Professor, African American and
and Social Sciences
Professor of the History of Religions,
African Studies Program, University
History of Religions
University of Chicago
of California, Davis
Associate Professor in the Department
Professor of History and Religious
Professor of Hebrew and Religious
of East Asian Languages and
Studies, and Director, UMKC Center
Studies, Ohio State University
Literature and the Program in
for Religious Studies, University of
Religious Studies, University of
Missouri—Kansas City
Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Chinese Religions
Department, University of California,
Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies,
Santa Barbara
Faculty of Comparative Culture,
The Divinity School, Harvard
Sophia University
Humor and Religion
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Associate Professor, Department of
McDaniel College
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Languages and Cultures of Asia and
Study of Religion
University and Co-Coordinator,

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Harvard Forum on Religion and
Religion, University of Chicago
Professor of Systematic Theology,
Law and Religion
Ecology and Religion
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
and the Center for Theology and the
Associate Professor of Religious Studies,
Francis Lee Higginson Professor of
Natural Sciences at the Graduate
and Director, Center for Latin
English Literature and Professor of
Theological Union, Berkeley,
American Studies, Arizona State
Folklore, Harvard University
Germanic Religions
Science and Religion
South American Religions
Professor Emerita, Senior Research
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor of Religion, Bucknell
Fellow and Associate Member of the
and Buddhist Studies in the Divinity
University, Founder and Coordinator,
Institute for Advanced Studies,
School and the Department of South
University of Bristol, England, and
Asian Languages and Civilizations,
Harvard Forum on Religion and
Professorial Research Associate, Centre
Emeritus, University of Chicago
Ecology, Research Fellow, Harvard
for Gender and Religions Research,
History of Religions
Yenching Institute, Research Associate,
School of Oriental and African
Harvard Reischauer Institute of
Studies, University of London
Assistant Professor, Department of
Japanese Studies
Gender and Religion
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean
Ecology and Religion
Studies and Department of History
Duesenberg Professor of Christianity
and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania
Associate Professor, Department of
and the Arts, and
State University
Comparative Studies, Ohio State
Professor of Humanities and Art
Ancient Near Eastern Religions
History, Valparaiso University
Politics and Religion
Color Inserts and Essays
Director of Research, Religion, Health
and Healing Initiative, Center for the
Professor of the History of Religions
Professor, Department of English,
Study of World Religions, Harvard
and Women’s Studies, Loyola
University of California, Los Angeles
University, and Senior Research
University New Orleans
Celtic Religion
Associate, Center for Women’s Health
New Religious Movements
and Human Rights, Suffolk University
Healing, Medicine, and Religion
Obafemi Awolowo University
African Religions
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, University
of Toronto

Professor, Department of Theology,
Law and Religion
Professor of Comparative Religion, The
University of Notre Dame
History of Religions
University of Helsinki, Member of
Academia Scientiarum Fennica,
Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious
Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer
Studies, Lafayette College
Arctic Religions and Uralic Religions
in the Anthropology and Sociology of
Literature and Religion
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abbr. abbreviated; abbreviation
3 Bar. 3 Baruch
2 Chr. 2 Chronicles
abr. abridged; abridgment
4 Bar. 4 Baruch
Ch. Slav. Church Slavic
AD anno Domini, in the year of the
B.B. BavaD batraD
cm centimeters
(our) Lord
BBC British Broadcasting
col. column (pl., cols.)
Afrik. Afrikaans
Col. Colossians
AH anno Hegirae, in the year of the
BC before Christ
Colo. Colorado
BCE before the common era
comp. compiler (pl., comps.)
Akk. Akkadian
B.D. Bachelor of Divinity
Conn. Connecticut
Ala. Alabama
Beits. Beitsah
cont. continued
Alb. Albanian
Bekh. Bekhorot
Copt. Coptic
Am. Amos
Beng. Bengali
1 Cor. 1 Corinthians
AM ante meridiem, before noon
Ber. Berakhot
2 Cor. 2 Corinthians
amend. amended; amendment
Berb. Berber
corr. corrected
annot. annotated; annotation
Bik. Bikkurim
C.S.P. Congregatio Sancti Pauli,
Ap. Apocalypse
bk. book (pl., bks.)
Congregation of Saint Paul
Apn. Apocryphon
B.M. BavaD metsiEaD
app. appendix
BP before the present
d. died
Arab. Arabic
B.Q. BavaD qammaD
D Deuteronomic (source of the
EArakh. EArakhin
Bra¯h. Bra¯hman.a
Aram. Aramaic
Bret. Breton
Dan. Danish
Ariz. Arizona
B.T. Babylonian Talmud
D.B. Divinitatis Baccalaureus,
Ark. Arkansas
Bulg. Bulgarian
Bachelor of Divinity
Arm. Armenian
Burm. Burmese
D.C. District of Columbia
art. article (pl., arts.)
c. circa, about, approximately
D.D. Divinitatis Doctor, Doctor of
AS Anglo-Saxon
Calif. California
Asm. Mos. Assumption of Moses
Can. Canaanite
Del. Delaware
Assyr. Assyrian
Catal. Catalan
Dem. DemaDi
A.S.S.R. Autonomous Soviet Socialist
CE of the common era
dim. diminutive
Celt. Celtic
diss. dissertation
Av. Avestan
cf. confer, compare
Dn. Daniel
EA.Z. EAvodah zarah
Chald. Chaldean
D.Phil. Doctor of Philosophy
b. born
chap. chapter (pl., chaps.)
Dt. Deuteronomy
Bab. Babylonian
Chin. Chinese
Du. Dutch
Ban. Bantu
C.H.M. Community of the Holy
E Elohist (source of the Pentateuch)
1 Bar. 1 Baruch
Eccl. Ecclesiastes
2 Bar. 2 Baruch
1 Chr. 1 Chronicles
ed. editor (pl., eds.); edition; edited by

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EEduy. EEduyyot
Hung. Hungarian
Lith. Lithuanian
e.g. exempli gratia, for example
ibid. ibidem, in the same place (as the
Lk. Luke
Egyp. Egyptian
one immediately preceding)
LL Late Latin
1 En. 1 Enoch
Icel. Icelandic
LL.D. Legum Doctor, Doctor of Laws
2 En. 2 Enoch
i.e. id est, that is
Lv. Leviticus
3 En. 3 Enoch
IE Indo-European
m meters
Eng. English
Ill. Illinois
m. masculine
enl. enlarged
Ind. Indiana
M.A. Master of Arts
Eph. Ephesians
intro. introduction
Ma Eas. MaEaserot
EEruv. EEruvin
Ir. Gael. Irish Gaelic
Ma Eas. Sh. MaE aser sheni
1 Esd. 1 Esdras
Iran. Iranian
Mak. Makkot
2 Esd. 2 Esdras
Is. Isaiah
Makh. Makhshirin
3 Esd. 3 Esdras
Ital. Italian
Mal. Malachi
4 Esd. 4 Esdras
J Yahvist (source of the Pentateuch)
Mar. Marathi
esp. especially
Jas. James
Mass. Massachusetts
Est. Estonian
Jav. Javanese
1 Mc. 1 Maccabees
Est. Esther
Jb. Job
2 Mc. 2 Maccabees
et al. et alii, and others
Jdt. Judith
3 Mc. 3 Maccabees
etc. et cetera, and so forth
Jer. Jeremiah
4 Mc. 4 Maccabees
Eth. Ethiopic
Jgs. Judges
Md. Maryland
EV English version
Jl. Joel
M.D. Medicinae Doctor, Doctor of
Ex. Exodus
Jn. John
exp. expanded
1 Jn. 1 John
ME Middle English
Ez. Ezekiel
2 Jn. 2 John
Meg. Megillah
Ezr. Ezra
3 Jn. 3 John
Me Eil. MeEilah
2 Ezr. 2 Ezra
Jon. Jonah
Men. Menah.ot
4 Ezr. 4 Ezra
Jos. Joshua
MHG Middle High German
f. feminine; and following (pl., ff.)
Jpn. Japanese
mi. miles
fasc. fascicle (pl., fascs.)
JPS Jewish Publication Society trans-
Mi. Micah
fig. figure (pl., figs.)
lation (1985) of the Hebrew Bible
Mich. Michigan
Finn. Finnish
J.T. Jerusalem Talmud
Mid. Middot
fl. floruit, flourished
Jub. Jubilees
Minn. Minnesota
Fla. Florida
Kans. Kansas
Miq. MiqvaDot
Fr. French
Kel. Kelim
MIran. Middle Iranian
frag. fragment
Ker. Keritot
Miss. Mississippi
ft. feet
Ket. Ketubbot
Mk. Mark
Ga. Georgia
1 Kgs. 1 Kings
Mo. Missouri
Gal. Galatians
2 Kgs. 2 Kings
MoEed Q. MoEed qat.an
Gaul. Gaulish
Khois. Khoisan
Mont. Montana
Ger. German
Kil. Kil Dayim
MPers. Middle Persian
Git.. Git.t.in
km kilometers
MS. manuscriptum, manuscript (pl.,
Gn. Genesis
Kor. Korean
Gr. Greek
Ky. Kentucky
Mt. Matthew
. ag. H
. agigah
l. line (pl., ll.)
MT Masoretic text
. al. H
. allah
La. Louisiana
n. note
Hau. Hausa
Lam. Lamentations
Na. Nahum
Hb. Habakkuk
Lat. Latin
Nah. Nahuatl
Heb. Hebrew
Latv. Latvian
Naz. Nazir
Heb. Hebrews
L. en Th. Licencié en Théologie,
N.B. nota bene, take careful note
Hg. Haggai
Licentiate in Theology
N.C. North Carolina
Hitt. Hittite
L. ès L. Licencié ès Lettres, Licentiate
n.d. no date
Hor. Horayot
in Literature
N.Dak. North Dakota
Hos. Hosea
Let. Jer. Letter of Jeremiah
NEB New English Bible
. ul. H
. ullin
lit. literally
Nebr. Nebraska
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Ned. Nedarim
pop. population
sp. species (pl., spp.)
Neg. Nega Eim
Port. Portuguese
Span. Spanish
Neh. Nehemiah
Prv. Proverbs
sq. square
Nev. Nevada
Ps. Psalms
S.S.R. Soviet Socialist Republic
N.H. New Hampshire
Ps. 151 Psalm 151
st. stanza (pl., ss.)
Nid. Niddah
Ps. Sol. Psalms of Solomon
S.T.M. Sacrae Theologiae Magister,
N.J. New Jersey
pt. part (pl., pts.)
Master of Sacred Theology
Nm. Numbers
1Pt. 1 Peter
Suk. Sukkah
N.Mex. New Mexico
2 Pt. 2 Peter
Sum. Sumerian
no. number (pl., nos.)
Pth. Parthian
supp. supplement; supplementary
Nor. Norwegian
Q hypothetical source of the synoptic
Sus. Susanna
n.p. no place
s.v. sub verbo, under the word (pl.,
n.s. new series
Qid. Qiddushin
N.Y. New York
Qin. Qinnim
Swed. Swedish
Ob. Obadiah
r. reigned; ruled
Syr. Syriac
O.Cist. Ordo Cisterciencium, Order
Rab. Rabbah
Syr. Men. Syriac Menander
of Cîteaux (Cistercians)
rev. revised
TaE an. TaEanit
OCS Old Church Slavonic
R. ha-Sh. RoDsh ha-shanah
Tam. Tamil
OE Old English
R.I. Rhode Island
Tam. Tamid
O.F.M. Ordo Fratrum Minorum,
Rom. Romanian
Tb. Tobit
Order of Friars Minor
Rom. Romans
T.D. Taisho¯ shinshu¯ daizo¯kyo¯, edited
R.S.C.J. Societas Sacratissimi Cordis
by Takakusu Junjiro¯ et al.
OFr. Old French
Jesu, Religious of the Sacred Heart
Ohal. Ohalot
RSV Revised Standard Version of the
Tem. Temurah
OHG Old High German
Tenn. Tennessee
OIr. Old Irish
Ru. Ruth
Ter. Terumot
OIran. Old Iranian
Rus. Russian
. ev. Y. T
. evul yom
Okla. Oklahoma
Rv. Revelation
Tex. Texas
ON Old Norse
Rv. Ezr. Revelation of Ezra
Th.D. Theologicae Doctor, Doctor of
O.P. Ordo Praedicatorum, Order of
San. Sanhedrin
Preachers (Dominicans)
S.C. South Carolina
1 Thes. 1 Thessalonians
OPers. Old Persian
Scot. Gael. Scottish Gaelic
2 Thes. 2 Thessalonians
op. cit. opere citato, in the work cited
S.Dak. South Dakota
Thrac. Thracian
OPrus. Old Prussian
sec. section (pl., secs.)
Ti. Titus
Oreg. Oregon
Sem. Semitic
Tib. Tibetan
EOrl. EOrlah
ser. series
1 Tm. 1 Timothy
O.S.B. Ordo Sancti Benedicti, Order
sg. singular
2 Tm. 2 Timothy
of Saint Benedict (Benedictines)
Sg. Song of Songs
T. of 12 Testaments of the Twelve
p. page (pl., pp.)
Sg. of 3 Prayer of Azariah and the
P Priestly (source of the Pentateuch)
Song of the Three Young Men
. oh. t.ohorot
Pa. Pennsylvania
Shab. Shabbat
Tong. Tongan
Pahl. Pahlavi
Shav. ShavuEot
trans. translator, translators; translated
Par. Parah
Sheq. Sheqalim
by; translation
para. paragraph (pl., paras.)
Sib. Or. Sibylline Oracles
Turk. Turkish
Pers. Persian
Sind. Sindhi
Ukr. Ukrainian
Pes. Pesahim
Sinh. Sinhala
Upan. Upanis.ad
Ph.D. Philosophiae Doctor, Doctor
Sir. Ben Sira
U.S. United States
of Philosophy
S.J. Societas Jesu, Society of Jesus
U.S.S.R. Union of Soviet Socialist
Phil. Philippians
Phlm. Philemon
Skt. Sanskrit
Uqts. Uqtsin
Phoen. Phoenician
1 Sm. 1 Samuel
v. verse (pl., vv.)
pl. plural; plate (pl., pls.)
2 Sm. 2 Samuel
Va. Virginia
PM post meridiem, after noon
Sogd. Sogdian
var. variant; variation
Pol. Polish
Sot.. Sot.ah
Viet. Vietnamese
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viz. videlicet, namely
Yad. Yadayim
* hypothetical
vol. volume (pl., vols.)
Yev. Yevamot
? uncertain; possibly; perhaps
Vt. Vermont
Yi. Yiddish
° degrees
Wash. Washington
Yor. Yoruba
+ plus
Wel. Welsh
Zav. Zavim
Wis. Wisconsin
Zec. Zechariah
= equals; is equivalent to
Wis. Wisdom of Solomon
Zep. Zephaniah
× by; multiplied by
W.Va. West Virginia
Zev. Zevah.im
→ yields
Wyo. Wyoming
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

v o l u m e f i v e
sacred spaceSACRED SPACE
A sacred space is any place recognized for its ability to direct
the mind and body to holy matters. The basis for this power
varies considerably. Sometimes spaces act like reliquaries—enclosures that mark the
deposit of a saint’s remains, or the site of an unusual event such as a vision or mani-
festation of divine power, or the place where a holy person preached or lived. Alter-
natively, sacred spaces are often built environments that seek to shape
human consciousness toward states of worship or mindfulness. For
example, Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein, an immigrant Catholic
priest, constructed the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa
(a and b), as well as seven other shrines and grottos in the midwest-
ern United States, as spaces meant to awe and fascinate, but also to
claim attention for the purpose of reflection and devotion. The beauty
the priest admired in stone was
dedicated to the spiritual beauty
of Mary. Sacred space is therefore
in many instances intended as an
aesthetic shaping of consciousness
as an act of adoration, an attempt
to segregate the worshiper from
other forms of life for the sake
of cultivating a special dedication
to a saint or deity. To that end,
many sacred spaces are grand in
scale and expensively appointed,
particularly those associated with
mass pilgrimage, such as the Bud-
dhist temple district of Ayutthyā,
(a) Grotto of the Redemption,
Bangkok (c); the many cathedrals
West Bend, Iowa, begun 1912.
and public churches of Europe
[©2003 Phillip Morgan]
(d); or the Kacbah (e), the central
pilgrimage site among the world’s
(b) Nativity, Grotto of the Redemption. [©2003
Muslims, who go there to visit the
Phillip Morgan]
site where Muh.ammad established
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(c) Phra Sri Ratana Chedi, a nineteenth-century Buddhist stupa within the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok, Thailand.
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(d) The main apse of the Church of San Vitale, completed in the mid-sixth century, Ravenna, Italy. [©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.]
(e) The Kacbah, draped in black velvet, is the focal point of Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. [©Reuters/Corbis]
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the faith, a site believed to have been first consecrated by
Abraham, and even by Adam. And when they are not at
Mecca, Muslims pray each day in its direction, which is
registered in every mosque’s mih.rāb (f), the niche in the
wall that indicates the qiblah, Mecca’s direction, and the
place where the imām stands to address the assembled
company of the prayerful. Although the ancient temple
is completely gone, Jews visit the last trace of the installa-
tion, the wall in Jerusalem (g), for prayer and devotion.

While many Protestants might feel uneasy about the
idea of “sacred space” in their practice, the pride they take
in building and maintaining their church buildings (h)
suggests an enduring commitment to a place set apart,
even if its sacredness consists more in the public state-
ment the building makes. In addition to this, however, the
interior space fashions a gathering site where the faithful
experience a sense of community, which for many Prot-
estants is the primary locus of the sacred. The material
architecture, in other words, provides a shell in which the
(f ) A mih.rāb, a niche in the wall of a mosque indicating the
direction of Mecca, at the Friday Mosque in Kerman, Iran.
[©Roger Wood/Corbis]
(g) An Orthodox Jew (right) and three Israeli soldiers pray at the
(h) The St. James-Bond United Church in Toronto, Ontario.
Western Wall in Jerusalem. [©David H. Wells/Corbis]
[©2004 Photograph by Neil Graham]
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human architecture of ordered bodies performs the com-
munal event of sacred assembly.

In addition to being built, sacred space is also found
in the natural state of trees, rivers, mountains, canyons, or
the ocean. The Ganges is the dominant symbol of Hindu
piety and is the daily site of ablutions, prayer, burial, and
offerings (i). Tree shrines are also a familiar part of Hindu
practice. The holy is not understood to be limited to one
place or object, but pervades the entire locale, every aspect
of the natural and built environment. But the divine may
be addressed at one site, marked by a tree or sculpture or
image, like the sacred tree reproduced here (j), a station
along the road where passersby stop to pray or make an
offering or simply to remember the goodness of the deity
honored there.

In other instances, sacred spaces are constructed from
local materials, which allow for an international religious
(i) Hindu pilgrims gather along the Ganges River in Vārān.asī,
(Banaras) an important pilgrimage site in northern India.
[©Brian A. Vikander/Corbis] (j) A Hindu tree shrine, marked by a
wooden sculpture, in the Udaipur district in Rajasthan, India.
[©Photograph by Stephen P. Huyler]
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(k) An elaborate compound made from reeds by disciples
tradition to assume indigenous roots. The elaborate reed
of Serigne Omar Sy, a Sūfī holy man in Djourbel,
construction of a compound (k) at Djourbel, Senegal, was
Senegal. [Photograph by Mary N. Roberts and Allen F. Roberts]
built by the followers of a local Sūfī holy man, Serigne
Omar Sy, from the same material used to make the pens
that write the word of God. Serigne Sy explained that
the reed appeared to him in a dream and asked to be
honored. Like Father Dobberstein’s grotto in Iowa, the
reed compound proceeded as a labor of love, in which
followers of the Sūfī marabout joined to bring the dream
to realization.

Still other sacred spaces are designed to recall the
natural state of their site or components, as in the Zen
rock garden (l) at Ryōanji in Kyoto, Japan. The Japanese
Zen aesthetic seeks to amplify the peculiar characteristics
of objects such as trees, bushes, rocks, or streams by care-
fully cultivating their natural setting. By surrounding the
rock garden with walls and raking the pebbles into long
rows that caress the contours of island-like boulders, the
garden evokes a kind of microcosm. Absorbed in medita-
tion, Zen practitioners may experience many levels of
reality in a stillness that undermines the mind-body and
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human nature dualities that Buddhists believe condemn
(l) A Japanese Zen rock garden, constructed in the 1480s, at
human beings to suffering and illusion. There is no intrin-
Ryōanji in Kyoto. [©Archivo Iconographico, S.A./Corbis]
sic or autonomous power in this space. Its elements may
be changed, but when they are, it is in accord with an
aesthetic sensibility that recognizes the power of forms to
serve as suggestive prompts to meditation.

A final source for sacred space is appropriation: the
adoption of a nonreligious form of built environment for
sacred purposes. This occurs in modern urban societies
with great frequency when small congregations or char-
ismatic religious leaders acquire an abandoned store and
convert it to a church or temple (m). Given the expense
of building anew, storefront churches are an affordable
alternative. But convenience is not all they are about as
sacred spaces. They offer congregants a space of their
own that they modify to suit their practical purposes but
also to act as public signage. And the appropriated spaces
situate the sacred not in elaborate, dedicated structures,
but in small, adapted environments that do not lose
in most instances their connection to the surrounding
secular world. Many storefront Christian and Spiritual-
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(m) Tabernáculo de Fe, Iglesia de Dios en Cristo (Tabernacle of
ist churches in the United States operate ministries of
Faith, Church of God in Christ), a storefront church in South-
outreach among the downtrodden and those who suffer
Central Los Angeles. Photograph by Camilo Vergara.
from alcohol and drug abuse, broken homes, joblessness,
[©Camilo José Vergara. Reproduced by permission]
poor health, and chronic poverty. While they might long
for wealth, health, and homes in the suburbs, those who
belong to or are served by storefront churches often find
in them a supportive community organized around char-
ismatic preachers and healers whose churches are outposts
in a brutal and dangerous landscape. The sacred is not the
space itself, but what happens there.
Berthier, François. Reading Zen in the Rocks: The Japanese Dry
Landscape Garden. Translated by Graham Parkes. Chicago,
Huyler, Stephen P. Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion. New
Haven, 1999.
Jones, Lindsay. The Hermeneutics of Sacred Architecture: Experience,
Interpretation, Comparison. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 2000.
Metcalf, Barbara Daly, ed. Making Muslim Space in North America
and Europe. Berkeley, 1996.
Meyer, Jeffrey F. Myths in Stone: Religious Dimensions of Washing-
ton, D.C. Berkeley, 2001.
Roberts, Allen F., and Mary Nooter Roberts. A Saint in the City:
Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal. Los Angeles, 2003.
David Morgan ()
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ETERNITY is the condition or attribute of divine life by which it relates with equal
immediacy and potency to all times. The notion emerges at the point of contact of three
distinct religious concerns. The oldest of these is the question of the state of life after
death, especially in light of the continuing presence of the dead among the living as ac-
knowledged in the various forms of the cult of the dead. A later-developing speculative
concern is the question about divine creation, especially when creative power is seen as
the production in a divine mind of a world of ideas, a logos or paradigm made present
in this world as in an image. Finally, there is the concern with contemplative or mystical
experience, especially when regarded as a way of partaking of the divine life within the
conditions of present existence. Reflection on these themes converges upon the notion
of a dimension of life that is “vertically” related to the “horizontal” flowing of time, that
transcends time without being apart from it.
Because eternity touches each and every time, it is easily confused with the closely
related concept of what “always was, is, and will be,” or, in a word, the everlasting. But
in its own proper concept, the eternal only “is”; only in the present tense can it be said
to be or act in any way. Exempted from all having-been and going-to-be, eternity is famil-
iarly defined as timelessness, in distinction from the everlasting (sometimes also called the
sempiternal). The everlasting antecedes and outlasts everything that begins and ends in
time, but because it is just as much given over to being partly past, partly future as are
things that come to be and perish, it is therefore just as much in time. Eternity, on the
other hand, does not transcend finite spans of time extensively, but intensively. It draws
the multiplicity of times into a unity no longer mediated by relations of precedence and
posteriority and therefore, at least in this specific sense, no longer timelike.
Yet it oversimplifies to call eternity timelessness. Though eternity excludes pastness
and futurity, it remains correct to speak of it as presence, which after all is one of the
three fundamental determinations of time. In the Platonic tradition, which gave the con-
cept its classical development and passed it on through Muslim and Christian theology
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Colossus of Ramses II at the Temple of Amun in Karnak,
Egypt. [©Gian Berto Vanni/Corbis]; Coptic ceremonial fan depicting Ethiopian saints.
[©Werner Forman/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Reverse of an early-fourth-century BCE Etruscan bronze
mirror showing the mythical seer Calchas dressed as an haruspex and examining an animal
liver. Museo Gregoriano Profano, Vatican Museums. [©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Twelfth-
century mosaic of Jesus as Pantocrator. Duomo di Cefalu, Sicily. [©Adam Woolfitt/Corbis];
Glazed pottery eagle from second- to third-century CE Italy. Museo Ostiense, Ostia. [©Erich
Lessing/Art Resource, N.Y.]

to modern European philosophy, the present tense retains its
ges the gap according to Plotinus, and this makes possible
temporal sense in affirmations concerning eternity. In this
an account of the experience of eternity itself.
way the Western notion of eternity differs from some Bud-
In some ways it is an extremely familiar experience.
dhist accounts of nirva¯n:a, into which not just pastness and
Consider reading a book that one finds completely compel-
futurity but presence as well are dissolved. Platonic eternity
ling, that draws one along in apparently inexhaustible atten-
by contrast is a paradigmatic presence, and the present in
tiveness and interest. Hours can pass unregistered; it can be
time is its partial but authentic image.
shocking to discover how much time has passed, and how
The present is called the “now.” Latin metaphysics
meaningless that fact seems compared with the inner compo-
spoke therefore of eternity as nunc stans, a “standing now,”
sure and vividness of the interval. Any activity that is intense-
and of time as nunc fluens, a “flowing now.” Since the now
ly self-collected, full of purposiveness and power, can gener-
of time, which is always experienced as having a certain dura-
ate this effect—not just intellectual but also aesthetic, even
tion, converges under logical analysis toward the limiting
physical activity such as dancing or athletics.
concept of the instantaneous, the dimensionless moment of
Experiences of this kind are a threshold for the pure ex-
transition, the problem arises whether the eternal Now is it-
perience of eternity, contemplation. It is important to notice
self a kind of frozen instant, a durationless simplicity about
that they are not without duration, indeed they are rich in
which no experiences of life in time are instructive. Remark-
inner activity and movement. One experiences something
ably, the single feature most vividly affirmed of eternity by
like time in them, but a time that arises more than passes,
its classic expositors is that it is life, and not just life but di-
that gives rather than takes. An inexhaustible power seems
vine life, “a god, manifesting himself as he is,” as the third-
to well up within oneself. When, as is inevitable, the spell
century CE Neoplatonist mystic Plotinus says in one place
is broken, one speaks of having fallen away from that power,
(see the following). How does one incorporate a religious dis-
not of the power itself having lapsed.
course in which eternity is divine life into the stark conceptu-
al analyses of pure metaphysics, which seem to lead to a stat-
Plotinus calls this power the life of the Mind, and in
ic, almost mathematical abstraction?
order to express its inexhaustibility says that it is infinite, lim-
itless. In earlier Greek philosophy, to be infinite was to be
The synthesis of logical, psychological, and theological
indefinite, without form or intelligibility, wholly a negative
analyses into a rigorous conception of eternity is proprietary
condition. Plotinus too portrays the intelligible world of Pla-
to the Platonic philosophical tradition, and is in many ways
tonic Ideas as finite, formally and structurally. But grasped
the single-handed achievement of Plotinus. There are rather
within the living Mind that is its origin and substrate, it is
complete analogies to the concept in some of the Upanis:ads
limitlessly vivacious, a world “boiling with life” (6.7.12). The
in India, but in Asia one finds in the main only partial paral-
living and dynamic quality of eternal Mind is as central a
lels; the metaphysical cake that is the complex Western idea
theme in Plotinus as its simplicity and composure, and is ex-
is there cut apart in different ways, so to speak. Pending the
pressed in a remarkable passage where he says that “its nature
outcome of more penetrating philosophical study than the
is to become other in every way,” accomplished in a “wander-
Asian texts have so far received from Western translators and
ing” (plan¯e, as of the planets) within itself that is like a cease-
historians, the story of eternity remains at present the story
less adventure on the “plain of truth” (6.7.13).
of the Plotinian synthesis, its sources and its influences. The
discussion that follows reflects this situation. It reviews, in
For the soul that awakens to this presence of mind, the
decreasing detail (1) the classic Platonic conception of eterni-
experience is like a homecoming, a coming into oneself rath-
ty as Plotinus understands it, (2) the place of this conception
er than a journey to another self or state of existence. The
in its own, mainly European, spiritual history, and (3) those
old Platonic image of this movement as an anamn¯esis, an un-
points in Indian and Asian philosophy where search for anal-
forgetting, depended on the Orphic mythical theme of the
ogous intuitions most plausibly might begin.
preexistence of the soul and was therefore easily understood
to be a recollection from elsewhere and elsewhen, so to speak.
PLATONIC ETERNITY IN PLOTINUS. In the Platonic tradition,
But in Plotinus anamn¯esis is altogether what it is in Augus-
eternity and time are regularly considered together. They
tine also, an interior conversion of the soul completed in
make up in fact a single topic, in the old literary sense of the
contemplative immediacy—conversion both in the sense of
Greek term topos (“place”), where it refers to a particular
a turning, from distracting cares to tranquil insight, and of
place in a canonical text. The discussion of eternity invari-
a transformation, from the condition of life that is soul to
ably proceeds among Platonists as a meditation on the place
that of pure intellectual apprehension or Mind.
in the Timaeus of Plato where eternity is described as “abid-
ing in unity” and time as an “eternal image of eternity, mov-
Because the condition of the life of the soul is time, hu-
ing according to number” (37d). At a minimum, this passage
mans fall away from presence of mind in a recurrent down-
imposes the idea that eternity and time are in some respect
ward movement that makes one’s encounter with eternity
comparable to one another. But Neoplatonism makes a
multiple and episodic. Yet, “if you look attentively at it again,
stronger claim for a vision of eternity and time as extremes
you will find it as it was” (3.7.5). In that contemplation one
of a continuum. Life itself, the interior life of the soul, brid-
will be one’s self again, self-possessed and self-contained,
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puzzled by the vulnerability to scatteredness and confusion
by measure, dying down by measure” (B30). Under the con-
into which the soul falls in time. A traditional term for the
trol of this ruling image, aio¯n again means a form of comple-
self-possession of eternal life is stasis, still used in English, and
tion embracing birth and death and the process that weaves
especially in the familiar complaint that the eternity of Greek
them together.
metaphysics is “static.” This is a fundamental misunder-
It is not at all clear to what degree Plato distinguishes
between the adjectival form aio¯nios, “eternal,” and another
Stasis means “staying, standing rather than falling, hold-
term aïdios, “everlasting.” Because in fact he inclines to the
ing together rather than lapsing into dispersion.” One can
(false) etymology that takes aio¯n from aei o¯n, “always being,”
get the sense of eternal stasis best from the English word ho-
he gives place to the very confusion the Neoplatonists are
meostasis, as used in biology to name the dynamic composure
most concerned to prevent. In the very text in Timaeus that
that the very diverse movements of metabolism and organic
becomes decisive, he says of aio¯n that “its nature is everlasting
activity maintain within a living system. The simplicity and
[aïdios]” (37d).
unity of eternal life is that of a homeostasis, a self-enveloping
Among consequences of this situation is a protracted
completion that is at the same time the space for an unlimit-
controversy among the Hellenistic Platonists of the centuries
ed enjoyment of activity, purpose, and power.
around the beginning of the common era concerning what
“Hence,” Plotinus writes, “eternity is a majestic thing,
is called “the eternity of the world.” The question was wheth-
and thought declares it identical with the god.” He goes on:
er, as Aristotle argues in the Metaphysics (12.6), the world is
“Eternity could be well described as a god proclaiming and
everlasting and has no beginning in time or whether, as Ti-
manifesting himself as he is, that is, as being which is un-
maeus would suggest if its mythical form were given substan-
shakeable and self-identical and always as it is, and firmly
tive import, the world began to be at some definite time. Al-
grounded in life.” From this follows the definition: Eternity
exandrian Jewish and later Christian Platonists tended to
is “life that is here and now endless because it is total and
join the argument on the latter side, partly through their ef-
expends nothing of itself” (3.7.5).
fort to coordinate the story in Timaeus with that of Genesis.
It should be clear that once the rigorous nontemporal con-
Familiar in the Latin West through the paraphrase of
cept of eternity had been established, it was a mistake to call
Boethius, “interminabilis vitae tota simul et perfecta posses-
this question the question of the “eternity” of the world, but
sio” (“the all-at-once total and perfect possession of endless
only Augustine (Confessions 11) diagnoses the category mis-
life,” The Consolation of Philosophy 5.6), the Plotinian experi-
take with full philosophical precision.
ence of eternity marks the divine life as a presence and opens
the route of human approach to this life through contempla-
The antecedents of the Neoplatonic conception of eter-
tive mysticism.
nity lie not in the lexicography of the term’s classical philo-
sophical usage, but in the associations it takes on through the
constant interaction of Platonic image and argument with
term that translates as “eternity” in Plato and Plotinus is
popular religious consciousness. This includes first of all the
aio¯n, and this has given many students of the history of the
concern with immortality and afterlife, the context for talk
notion pause. Aio¯n survives in English in the Latinized spell-
of the eternal life of the soul. Because this concern is pro-
ing aeon, and here retains much of its original meaning. Aio¯n
foundly rooted in the archaic, mythological sensibility and
means “life, span of life, lifetime; epoch, aeon.” While it
its experience of the structure that Mircea Eliade has called
never suggests duration simply on the level of measure or
“eternal return,” it made available the notion of another
standard interval, even the Homeric places where it comes
time, a transcending and divine time that could intersect
closest to meaning “inner life force” include strongly the sug-
with mundane time, embedding life in a dimension that sur-
gestion of power to perdure, of life reaching out to take up
passes birth and death. The eternity that can be abstracted
its proper span of time. It seems a very timelike term, not
from this archaic experience is an eternal past more than the
only because of its connotation of span or duration, but be-
eternal present of the proper concept; fundamental imagina-
cause beginning, middle, and end belong so much to the
tive possibilities were appropriated from this origin. The me-
kind of totality or completion it expresses still in English.
diating religious context was in large measure the emergence
of the mystery religions in the Greco-Roman world, among
The term first occurs in surviving fragments of early
them the mysteries of baptism and of table blessing central
Greek philosophy in the fifth-century BCE writer Heraclitus,
to Christianity.
in the gnome “Aio¯n is a child playing a board game; the king-
ly power is a child’s” (Heraclitus, B52). The translation
Aio¯n in the New Testament is principally an apocalyptic
“eternity” is clearly inadmissible; those translators who in-
term, qualified as “this aeon” as against “the aeon to come”
stead supply “time” have good cause. Heraclitus’s theme is
(synoptic Gospels, Paul). It shares with the rest of the apoca-
the spontaneity and immanence of the laws or patterns mani-
lyptic scenario a Persian, Zoroastrian background, and in a
fest in the give-and-take of natural processes; the intelligibili-
few Pauline or deutero-Pauline places (e.g., Col. 1:26, Eph.
ty of constant change is not outside nature like a god, but
3:9) seems to be personified in the sense of an equation of
the cosmos is in and by itself an “Everliving Fire, flaring up
Aion with Zurwa¯n, an equation that sets the stage for the
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florid multiplication of such personified aions in the gnostic
nary pointers about other treatments of eternity are here ap-
literature of the second century CE. Though there has been
speculation that this kind of connection between Mediterra-
The striking parallels that are being discovered between
nean and Near Eastern symbolism contributed to the emer-
Neoplatonism and Veda¯nta philosophy appear to hold also
gence of the novel Neoplatonic sense of aio¯n, it seems prefer-
in the case of eternity. The Sanskrit nitya can be translated
able to portray this as a digression.
“eternity” with some confidence already in Upanis:ads, espe-
A richer question is whether “eternal life” in the Gospel
cially at the point where “immortality,” amr:ta, is pressed be-
of John is consonant with the radical Platonic idea, or already
yond the popular image of outliving death, or life after death,
on common ground with it. The predominance of present-
to the radical notion of moks:a, “liberation,” deliverance from
tense statements by the glorified Son in that text (“Before
the cycle of birth and death itself. The fundamental concep-
Abraham was, I am,” Jn. 8:58, et al.), its transformation of
tion in the Upanis:ads that the authentic self, the a¯tman,
apocalyptic into realized eschatology, and its eucharist of
gathered into its own interior unity from the levels of psychic
epiphany and participation (“He who eats my flesh and
life, is one with brahman, the universal spirit, is developed
drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him,” Jn. 6:56) made
in ways that regularly parallel the account of the authentic
it possible for Christian Neoplatonism of the Augustinian
self on the level of the Nous, or divine Mind, in Plotinus. It
type to embrace the strict nontemporal eternity without
is less clear, however, whether the eternal present, self-
sensing any violence in its interpretation of scripture.
consolidated beyond all passage through birth and death, is
to be found in the Vedas.
The story of the appropriation of Plotinian contempla-
tive mysticism by later Christian and Muslim theology de-
Buddhism presents a much more complex situation.
feats summary. Suffice it to say that the Neoplatonic system
The negative assessment of timelike continuity and the rejec-
was adapted to biblical monotheism with considerable pene-
tion of substantiality and causality that are frequent in Bud-
tration and accuracy, especially by Augustine and the Latin
dhist philosophy lead to descriptions of enlightenment that
tradition through Boethius and Bonaventure, by the apopha-
often have a Platonic ring. In Buddhism, the parallels are
tic tradition from Dionysius the Areopagite through John
particularly pronounced in the meditative traditions that em-
Scottus Eriugena to Meister Eckhart, and by S:u¯f¯ı philoso-
phasize “sudden enlightenment,” where the unconditioned
phy. The close connection between the theoretical role of
and spontaneous quality of transcendental insight (Skt.,
eternity as an attribute or name of God and its experiential
prajña¯) is stressed. In the Maha¯ya¯na Pure Land tradition, the
richness as an element of contemplative spirituality remained
paradisical Sukha¯vat¯ı (“land of bliss”) of the Buddha
characteristic of these traditions.
Amita¯bha is sometimes developed in ways reminiscent of the
Platonic world of ideal presences, pervaded by divine mental-
A certain purely logical interest in the eternity/time con-
ity. If there is an authentic parallel here to the notion of eter-
trast, detectable already in Boethius (responding more to
nity, this will have to be tested by careful analysis of the ac-
Porphyry than Plotinus) and Thomas Aquinas, was ampli-
count of temporal presence itself, for it is this that is ascribed
fied by the new mathematical spirit of the metaphysics of the
to eternity by Platonism, and in turn made the image of eter-
seventeenth century, resulting in the reduction of eternal
nity and mark of authentic being for life in time. In those
presence to a kind of schematic simplicity illustrated particu-
radical portrayals of nirva¯n:a as release from all forms of tem-
larly clearly in the system of Spinoza. The effect was to disso-
poral conditioning, not just pastness and futurity, but pres-
ciate the speculative notion from its experiential basis, pro-
ence itself sometimes seems to be denied of awakened mind.
ducing in the end the degraded conception of eternity as
lifeless stasis or logical tenselessness that has been the target
A focal problem in the search for analogy to eternity in
of complaint in historicist, existentialist, and process theolo-
Chinese thought is the proper account of the first line of the
gies of the past century.
Dao de jing, often translated, “The Dao that can be spoken
is not the eternal Dao [chang dao].” “Eternal” may overtran-
slate chang; the core meaning is closer to “steadfast,” “cons-
place that the religious themes of afterlife, divine creation,
tant,” “abiding.” The parallel seems strongest to aio¯n at the
and the nature of the soul are drawn together in different pat-
stage it had reached in Heraclitus. It needs study whether the
terns by non-Western traditions. The Buddha is represented
idealization found in the Veda¯nta or late Platonic pattern is
as holding that speculation on none of these furthers one to-
appropriate for interpretation of this text.
ward enlightenment. It is no surprise to find that a concept
Special wariness should be reserved for the use of the
like eternity, which emerges at the intersection of these
phrase “eternal life” in describing prephilosophical doctrines
themes in Platonism and then becomes influential precisely
of immortality and afterlife, or “eternal return” for the tran-
through its adaptability to biblical theology, does not always
scendental relation of divine life to mundane in the experi-
have strict analogies in other religious discourse.
ence of cyclical time that is fundamental in myth-using cul-
The exegetical and hermeneutical complications that
tures. Most commonly what is meant by “eternal” in this
derive from this situation have not always been registered in
context is “perpetual” or “everlasting.” Whether the primor-
the translations of non-Western sources. Only some prelimi-
dial time of beginnings, the transcendent past of divine cre-
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ative action, is a predecessor of the eternal present is a sepa-
ETHICAL CULTURE, a movement dedicated to the
rate question that needs careful consideration. While the
ethical improvement of society and the ethical growth of the
proper notion of eternity may be very near the surface in
individual, was inaugurated with the founding of the New
Egypt, it is much less likely to exist in the preliterate cultures
York Society for Ethical Culture in May 1876 by Felix Adler
for which the cycle of death and rebirth is a naturalistic
and a group of his Jewish supporters. Adler was the son of
image more than a philosophical idealization.
Rabbi Samuel Adler of New York’s Temple Emanu-El, and
he was expected to succeed his father in this cathedral pulpit
SEE ALSO Anamne¯sis; Plotinus; Sacred Time.
of American Reform Judaism. But having been exposed in
German universities to nineteenth-century science, Kantian
philosophy, and historical criticism of religion, he came to
The concept of eternity is still most accessible from primary
reject theism and the finality of Jewish theology even in its
sources, notably the treatise “On Eternity and Time” of Plo-
most liberal form. His new faith consisted of a passionate be-
tinus, Enneads 3.7.45, in Plotinus, translated by A. Hilary
lief in the inviolability and power of the moral law and the
Armstrong, “Loeb Classical Library,” vol. 3 (Cambridge,
duty to apply it to society, especially to the problems of in-
Mass., 1966), and book 11 of the Confessions of Augustine,
dustrialization, urbanization, and the working poor.
for which there are many suitable editions. An instructive
summary of the concept in the full technical development it
What initially began as a Sunday lecture movement,
received in medieval theology can be found in the article by
somewhat patterned after the Independent Church move-
Adolf Darlap and Joseph de Finance, “Eternity,” in Sacra-
ment and free religious societies such as those of O. B. Froth-
mentum Mundi, edited by Karl Rahner (New York, 1968),
ingham, grew under Adler’s leadership to become a vital or-
vol. 2. Mircea Eliade’s Cosmos and History: The Myth of Eter-
ganization spearheading social reforms and social
nal Return (New York, 1954) remains a standard introduc-
tion to the role of a transcending divine time in the religious
reconstruction. Adler’s personal magnetism drew a member-
experience of myth-using cultures. A very helpful account of
ship of well more than one thousand to the society by the
eternity is incorporated into a sketch of the history of the
early 1880s, mostly but not exclusively people of Jewish ori-
idea of immortality in the ancient Near East and Christian
gin. He also attracted ethically idealistic and socially commit-
Europe by John S. Dunne, The City of the Gods (Notre
ted people of liberal Christian background whom he helped
Dame, Ind., 1978). The classic exposition of the interior ex-
groom to be leaders of other Ethical Culture societies. The
perience of eternity in Western mysticism is Bonaventure’s
Ethical Culture movement took on a national flavor as
“The Soul’s Journey into God,” in Bonaventure, edited and
Adler’s apprentices organized new societies in other cities:
translated by Ewert Cousins (New York, 1978). For eternity
William M. Salter, Chicago, 1883; S. Burns Weston, Phila-
in Indian thought, the edition of The Principal Upanis:ads by
delphia, 1885; Walter L. Sheldon, Saint Louis, 1886. The
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (New York, 1953) is especially
useful, both for its extensive introduction and its very rich
American societies federated as a national organization in
annotations, which include frequent citation of Western par-
1889, the American Ethical Union, and over the years, new
societies springing up in urban and suburban areas across the
country (Brooklyn, Westchester County, Washington, Balti-
New Sources
more, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Essex County,
Ashton, John. The Quest for Paradise: Heaven and Eternity in the
N.J.) were added to its roster. By 1930, membership in
World’s Myths and Religions. San Francisco, 2001.
American Ethical Culture societies numbered about thirty-
Bernstein, Alan. The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in
five hundred, and by the mid-1980s, membership in the
the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca, N.Y., 1993.
more than twenty societies totaled approximately five thou-
Dales, Richard. Medieval Discussions of the Eternity of the World.
sand. (The largest society remains the New York branch, at
New York, 1990.
about one thousand.)
Futch, Michael. “Leibniz on Plenitude, Infinity, and the Eternity
Ethical Culture became truly international in scope in
of the World.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 10
the 1890s. The London Ethical Society had been founded
(November 2002): 541–561.
in 1886, with such distinguished thinkers participating as
Padgett, Alan. God, Eternity, and the Nature of Time. New York,
Bernard Bosanquet, Edward Caird, and Leslie Stephen, and
British interest had been spurred when Stanton Coit, anoth-
Rouner, Leroy, ed. If I Should Die. Notre Dame, Ind., 2001.
er Adler apprentice, arrived in 1887 and led London’s South
Place Chapel into the Ethical Culture movement. Coit sub-
Russell, Jeffrey Burton. “Goodness, Gracious(ness) Great Balls of
sequently created a British Ethical Union in 1896. The
Fire: Visions of Eternity Just Aren’t What They Used to Be.”
movement reached Germany, where a society was founded
Christian History 70 (2001): 38–42.
in Berlin in 1892, and societies also appeared in France, Aus-
Walter, Tony. The Eclipse of Eternity: A Sociology of the Afterlife.
tria, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan in this new decade. The
Basingstoke, U.K., 1996.
various societies, each with its own nuanced organizational
goals and ethical approaches, were in contact and quite cog-
Revised Bibliography
nizant of each other’s activities. At a Zurich meeting in 1896
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

they created an international confederation, the Internation-
Algernon D. Black, among others—were actively involved
al Ethical Union, which kept member organizations in touch
in most of the progressive causes of social welfare and reform.
with each other and which also convened world congresses
They and their societies were pioneers in the areas of educa-
devoted to specific themes, such as those in London (1908)
tion for young and old, tenement reforms, settlement work,
and the Hague (1912). In the wake of World War II the
legal aid societies, boys’ clubs, good government clubs, and
union became moribund, but in 1952 humanist organiza-
visiting nursing associations. Many of their ventures—free
tions joined with Ethical Culture societies led by the Ameri-
kindergarten (1877), district visiting nursing (1877), the
can Ethical Union to found the International Humanist and
Neighborhood Guild (1886), the Bureau of Justice (1888),
Ethical Union with member groups in North and Latin
the Arts High School (1913)—served as models for similar
America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
undertakings by urban communities. In more recent dec-
ades, Ethical Culture, while not a leader as it once was, has
Whether or not Ethical Culture is judged a religion de-
nevertheless been involved with significant programs sup-
pends on one’s definition of religion and one’s inclination ei-
porting liberal social causes, such as prison reform, drug re-
ther to use or not use the word to designate an ethical hu-
habilitation, the right to abortion. The movement has also
manist posture. Felix Adler did regard Ethical Culture to be
sponsored journals of popular and scholarly nature to reflect
a religion and in his later years tried to work out a metaphysic
on the ethical domain as it relates to public policy and philos-
to express it. Still, he adamantly insisted that Ethical Culture
ophy: Ethical Record (1888); International Journal of Ethics
embraced all in ethical fellowship regardless of diverse ap-
(1890); Ethical Addresses (1895); The Standard (1914); Ethi-
proaches and different names given to the quest for meaning
cal Outlook (1956); Ethical Forum (1965).
in life. This openness has clearly persisted to this day. None-
theless, the societies do assume the guise of a religious organi-
SEE ALSO Adler, Felix; Morality and Religion.
zation to some extent. (In the United States, many are incor-
porated as “religious and educational” institutions in their
respective states.) A weekly meeting is usually held on Sun-
The most comprehensive one-volume history of Ethical Culture
day morning or evening (in Germany, during the weekdays),
is Howard B. Radest’s Toward Common Ground: The Story
of the Ethical Societies in the United States
(New York, 1969),
consisting of music, an inspirational reading, and a major ad-
which deals with the origins and evolution of the movement
dress on a topical issue, usually with an eye to its ethical im-
through the 1960s. Although written by an insider, the book
plications. There are no symbols or ritual acts, although the
is not unwilling to take a critical look at the movement and
English societies tend to be a bit more ceremonial. Ethical
its leaders. My book From Reform Judaism to Ethical Culture:
leaders officiate at life-cycle events such as marriage and fu-
The Religious Evolution of Felix Adler (Cincinnati, 1979)
nerals; they come individually from a variety of social and
gives a detailed institutional history of the founding of the
intellectual backgrounds and may have previous religious af-
New York Society for Ethical Culture and forwards a careful
filiations. There is no Ethical Culture seminary, but each
analysis of Adler’s early ideological postures. Important eval-
prospective leader undertakes a personally tailored training
uations of the meaning of Ethical Culture can be found in
program administered by the Leadership Training Commit-
Horace L. Friess’s Felix Adler and Ethical Culture (New York,
tee of the American Ethical Union.
1981), which traces the development of Adler’s own think-
ing on the subject, from initial conceptions to mature refor-
No established Ethical Culture ideology exists, although
mulations. Robert S. Guttchen’s Felix Adler (New York,
general principles certainly have been articulated. To a large
1974) analyzes Adler’s concept of human worth, which re-
extent, Adler’s early motto, “Not the creed, but the deed,”
mains vital to Ethical Culture’s own self-understanding. An-
still serves as the unifying theoretical orientation of Ethical
other important analysis of Ethical Culture has been made
by David S. Muzzey in Ethics as a Religion, 2d ed. (New
Culture, although with a deepened and richer meaning than
York, 1967). A second-generation leader in the movement,
Adler himself provided. Members are free to believe what
and distinguished professor of American history, Muzzey ar-
they wish on all issues, including religion, but they generally
gues for the religious nature of Ethical Culture. The book
subscribe to the following ideals: (1) the intrinsic worth of
contains a brief, useful epilogue on the founding of the
each human being, (2) the importance of seeking ethical
movement by Adler.
principles as a guide to all aspects of life, and (3) the need
to work for the material and spiritual betterment of society
and humanity.
This last commitment to applied social ethics rather
than to any theoretical formulation of an ethical approach
has been the quintessential characteristic of Ethical Culture
from its inception. In this regard, the Ethical Culture move-
ment, particularly in the United States, has been quite suc-
cessful, far beyond its limited membership. Its leaders in the
first four to five decades—Adler, Salter, Weston, Coit, John
ETHIOPIAN CHURCH. The Ethiopian or Abyssin-
L. Elliott, Alfred Martin, David Muzzey, Henry Newman,
ian church, on the Horn of Africa, is one of the five so-called
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

monophysite Christian churches that reject the Council of
(Ecclesiastical History 1.9) tells us how this came about. A cer-
Chalcedon (451) and its formula of faith. The church does
tain ship was attacked while calling on one of the Ethiopian
not call itself monophysite but rather Ta¯wah:edo (Unionite;
ports. Of the voyagers, only two Syrian boys from Tyre
also spelled Tewahedo), a word expressing the union in
(modern-day south Lebanon), Frumentius and Aedesius, es-
Christ of the human and divine natures, to distinguish itself
caped death. The boys were taken to the palace, where the
from the Eastern Orthodox churches, which accept the for-
king made Frumentius his secretary and Aedesius his cup-
mulas accepted at Chalcedon. For the Ta¯wah:edo Orthodox
bearer. Frumentius used his influence in the palace to facili-
Church of Ethiopia, both Nestorius and Eutyches are here-
tate the building of an oratory by the Christians in the city.
tics. Although formally under the jurisdiction of the Coptic
This center was also used as a school where children, even
church of Alexandria until 1950, the Ethiopian Orthodox
those from non-Christian families, came to receive religious
church has managed to retain its indigenous language, litera-
instruction. As soon as the two foreigners received their free-
ture, art, and music. It expects its faithful to practice circum-
dom, Frumentius went to Alexandria to ask the archbishop
cision, observe the food prescriptions set forth in the Hebrew
there to consecrate a bishop for the Christians in Ethiopia.
scriptures (Old Testament), and honor Saturday as the Sab-
Athanasius thereupon chose Frumentius to be the bishop of
bath. The church has its own liturgy, including an horolo-
Aksum. Rufinus says that he received this story “from the
gion that contains the daily offices (initially for each of the
mouth of Aedesius himself,” who became a priest in Tyre.
twenty-four hours of the day), a missal of over fourteen
Even though Rufinus, like some other historians, calls the
anaphoras, the Deggwa¯ (an antiphonary for each day of the
country India, there is no doubt that the story deals with
year), doxologies (various collections of nag´s hymns), and
Ethiopia. A letter from the Arian emperor, Constantius II (r.
homiliaries in honor of the angels, saints, and martyrs. The
337–361), to the rulers of Ethiopia, Ezana (EE¯za¯na¯) and Sa-
most innovative aspect of this church is the provision in the
zana, concerning Frumentius is extant in Athanasius’s Apolo-
Deggwa¯ for the chanting of qen¯e (poetic hymns) in the litur-
gy to Constantine (Patrologia Graeca, ed. by J.-P. Migne, 25.
gy. There are several types of qen¯e varying in number of lines
636–637). From Ezana’s rule to the middle of the twentieth
from two to eleven, which one of the clergy usually impro-
century, the head of the Ethiopian church remained a Copt.
vises during the service in keeping with the spirit of Psalms
It was only in the twentieth century that an Ethiopian,
149:1, “Sing unto the Lord a new song.”
Ba¯sleyos (1951–1970), was consecrated patriarch. It must be
noted, however, that the Coptic metropolitan was in charge
Until the Ethiopian revolution of 1974, the Ethiopian
primarily of spiritual and theological matters. The adminis-
Orthodox Church (the population of which was at least six-
tration of other church affairs was the responsibility of a na-
teen million in the early twenty-first century, according to
tive official with the title of Eaqqa¯b¯e sa Ea¯t and subsequently
the World Council of Churches) had been a national church
defended by the political leader of the country. The mon-
arch’s reign had to be legitimized by the church at a religious
MEDIEVAL PERIOD. The Ethiopian church took many sig-
ceremony where the new king swore allegiance to the church
nificant steps forward between the fourth and the seventh
and committed himself to defend the Christian kingdom.
century. It vigorously translated a great deal of Christian lit-
erature from Greek. This included the Old Testament from
EARLY HISTORY. Historians disagree in assigning a date to
the Septuagint and the New Testament from the Lucianic
the introduction of Christianity into Ethiopia, depending
recension (the Greek Bible revised by Lucian of Antioch, d.
upon which Ethiopian king they think first adopted the
312) used in the Syrian church. The Ethiopian Bible of
faith. The conversion of the monarch, however, is a poor in-
eighty-one books includes the Book of Jubilees and the Book
dication of the date of that introduction because not only
of Enoch, two books that have been preserved in their entirety
was he by no means among the country’s first converts, but
only in Ethiopic. The Synodicon (a collection of canon law),
also because until about 960, the monarchy changed hands
the Didascalia Apostolorum (a church order), the Testament
so frequently that the ruler was not as consistently Christian
of Our Lord, and the Qal¯ement:os (an apocalyptic writing as-
as were certain segments of the population. We should also
cribed to Clement of Rome) are also part of the Ethiopian
be wary of using the local tradition that the Ethiopian eu-
canonical scriptures. The number of churches and monaste-
nuch Qina¯qis (Acts 8:26–39) was martyred teaching Chris-
ries also grew quickly. Traveling through Ethiopian territo-
tianity in Ethiopia as evidence of the country’s conversion.
ries in the sixth century, a Greek monk, Cosmas Indico-
However, we do know that Adulis, the famous port of Ethio-
pleustes, was impressed to see churches everywhere.
pia, and Aksum, the capital, were frequented by Christian
traders from the Hellenistic world since the early history of
It has been suggested that the Rule of Pachomius and the
Christianity. Some of these settled there, forming Christian
theological writings of the Fathers in the Q¯erelos (including
communities and attracting to their religion those with
writings from Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius, et al.) were
whom they interacted daily.
brought to Ethiopia by the so-called Nine Saints who came
from the Hellenistic or Mediterranean world, including
Ethiopia officially joined the Christian world when Fru-
Egypt, in the sixth or seventh century. But any of the many
mentius was consecrated its first bishop by Athanasius of Al-
travelers and anchorites (such as Abba¯ Yoh:annes Kama¯) who
exandria in about 347. The contemporary historian Rufinus
came to Ethiopia much earlier than the Nine Saints might
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

have brought them along with several other works. Our his-
one has seen God.” They also maintained a different theolo-
torical knowledge about the Nine Saints is not firmly based
gy of the unity and trinity of God (one sun with three attri-
even though they are highly revered in the church as the
butes—disc, light, and heat). Another dispute developed
founders of monasticism in Ethiopia.
when some monasteries objected to the use of the Deggwa¯
in the liturgy; this intricate collection of antiphonary hymns
Unfortunately for the faithful, the young church suf-
recommends dancing while chanting during service (Ps.
fered encroachment and harassment by Islam, starting in the
150:4). The number of canonical books and the inclusion
eighth century. Locally, too, a vassal queen of one of the
of the pseudepigrapha and the pseudoapostolic writings in
provinces, Gudit, revolted and devastated the Christian civi-
the canon were also challenged.
lization, paving the way for another dynasty, the Za¯gwe¯
chronic skirmishes between the Christians and the Muslims
The Za¯gwe¯ kings were more interested in religion than
in Ethiopia took a different form in the sixteenth century
in politics. Many of them were priests as well as rulers, and
when the latter, led by Ima¯m Ahmad ibn Ibra¯h¯ım al-Gha¯z¯ı
the last four of the dynasty are, in fact, among the saints of
(or Ahmad Gra¯ñ), sought and received help from the Turks.
the church. The building of the several rock-hewn churches
By this time also the astounding wealth of the individual
in La¯sta¯ (central Ethiopia) is ascribed to them. The so-called
churches in solid gold, silver, and precious clothes had be-
Solomonic dynasty, which was to overthrow them, would
come an irresistible booty and the gra¯ñ sacked the monaste-
boast of its alleged descendance from Solomon of Israel,
ries and burned the churches of the empire for about fifteen
while the Za¯gwe¯ attempted to reproduce the holy places in
years (1527–1542). The Christians turned to Portugal for
their own land, calling their capital Roha (after Edessa), their
help. The army of the ima¯m collapsed when he was killed
river Yordanos (after Jordan), and so on.
in early 1543. But it was about this time that the Cushitic
In 1270 the clergy, led by Takla Ha¯yma¯not, the founder
people the Galla, who call themselves Oromo, migrated into
of the Monastery of Dabra Libanos (in Shewa), and Iyyasus
Ethiopia en masse, destroying a great part of the Christian
MoDa, the founder of the Monastery of H:ayq Est:ifa¯nos (in
heritage that had escaped the gra¯ñ’s devastation.
Amhara), collaborated with Yekunno Amla¯k to overthrow
the Za¯gwe¯ and to found the Solomonic dynasty. Although
THE JESUITS’ ENTERPRISE. The Portuguese came to help the
the Solomonic kings did not always observe the church’s
church in its war against Islam with the assumption that the
teaching, it was nonetheless during this period that indige-
lost flock, the church of Ethiopia, would come back to the
nous religious literature flourished, and Christianity spread
Roman Catholic Church. The Ethiopians, however, were
into the south and west through the efforts of the monks of
never ready to abandon their faith. The pressure of the Jesu-
Dabra Libanos of Shewa, the twelve nebura¯na ed, chosen by
its, however, which started with missionaries sent by Pope
the metropolitan according to the number of the apostles.
Julius III (1487–1555), continued until the seventeenth cen-
tury, when they succeeded in converting Emperor Suseneyos
RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSIES. Late in the medieval period
(r. 1607–1632) to Catholicism. In 1626 a Catholic patri-
and afterward, religious controversies arose because of objec-
arch, Alphonsus Mendez, came from Rome, and the emperor
tions by some to the tradition of undue reverence for the
issued a decree that his subjects should follow his own exam-
Cross, icons of the Madonna and Child, and the king. We
ple. However, the sweeping change that Mendez attempted
hear of these disputes during the reign of Ya¯qbeDa S:eyon (r.
to introduce into the age-old religious traditions of the na-
1285–1294), and they appear again in the days of Sayfa
tion met with stiff resistance. Led by the monastic leaders,
ArEada (r. 1344–1372). The controversies became serious
tens of thousands of the faithful were martyred. The Catholic
during the reign of ZarDa Ya¯Eeqob (1434–1468), when an an-
missionaries were finally asked to leave, and the emperor was
chorite, Est:ifa¯nos, succeeded in attracting to his teaching of
assassinated, even though he had abdicated the throne to his
rejection of the tradition many monks who, like him, refused
son Fa¯siladas (r. 1632–1667). Fa¯siladas was magnanimous
to be shaken by the dreadful persecution that ensued. Anoth-
with the Jesuits despite the fact that they had attempted to
er controversy, this time involving the Coptic church also,
overthrow him by courting one of his brothers.
centered around the Sabbath observance of Saturday in addi-
tion to Sunday. Several monasteries, led by the monk
Even though the Jesuits left, the controversy stemming
E¯wost:a¯te¯wos (d. 1369), successfully defied the decree of the
from their theology of the two natures of Christ continues
king and the Coptic metropolitan that sought to abolish the
to the present, taking a local character and creating schism
practice of observing the first Sabbath (Saturday). But the
in the Ethiopian church. Overtly, this controversy is centered
most serious controversy dealt with the concept of the unity
on the theological significance of qebDat, unction (Acts
and trinity of God. The church taught that each being in the
10:38), and bakwr, first-born (Rom. 8:29), when applied to
Trinity (three suns with one light) has a form or image,
Christ the Messiah, the only Son of God. But those who
malke E, which must look like that of a human because hu-
raised these questions were clearly attempting to show the
mans were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). The heretics,
monophysites the implication of a theology of one nature in
followers of Zamika¯’e¯l, while admitting that God has an
Christ, by drawing their attention to the distinct presence of
image, refused to define a form, quoting John 1:18—“No
the human nature in him and its inferior position vis-à-vis
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

his divinity. For one group, the Ka¯rroch, or Ta¯wah:edo (the
The compromise reached was to retain some parts of the lit-
Unionists of Tegra¯y), whose position the church has held of-
urgy in GeEez and conduct the rest in English. This compro-
ficially since 1878, unction means the union of divinity with
mise was not only unsatisfactory to both the church authori-
humanity: Christ, who is the ointment and the anointed, be-
ties and congregations, but it also meant training the clergy,
came the natural Son of God in his humanity through this
Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians alike, in GeEez and English.
union. For the Qebatoch (unctionists of Gonder and
In spite of several problems, the church is gaining strength,
Gojam), unction means that Christ in his humanity became
especially in the West Indies and the Caribbean (e.g., Jamai-
the natural Son of God through the unction of the Holy
ca, Guyana, Trinidad, and Tobago). The number of the
Spirit: God the Father is the anointer, the Son the anointed,
faithful in the United States (New York, Washington, D.C.,
and the Holy Spirit the ointment. The third group, the
and Los Angeles) grew because of the influx of Ethiopian ref-
S:aggoch (adoptionists of Shewa), who are accused of tending
ugees fleeing the military Marxist repression that started with
toward Catholicism, believe that Christ in his humanity be-
the overthrow of the monarchy in 1974.
came the Son of God by grace through the unction of the
In 1987 Ethiopia officially became the People’s Demo-
Holy Spirit either in Mary’s womb at the Annunciation or
cratic Republic of Ethiopia, but a rebel movement later over-
at the baptism. They call the occasion when he became the
threw the government and with it centuries of Amharic rule.
Son of God by grace a third birth for Christ, in relation to
Eritrea declared its independence from Ethiopia following a
the eternal birth from the Father and the temporal birth from
UN-sponsored referendum in 1993, and the Orthodox
Mary, hence the heresy of the three births condemned at the
Church of Eritrea broke away from the Ethiopian Church.
Council of Boru Meda in Welo (central Ethiopia) in 1878.
In 1991 the patriarch of Ethiopia, Abune Merkorios, accused
The S:aggoch vehemently oppose the notion that Christ be-
of collaboration with the communist authorities, was re-
came the natural Son of God in his humanity. They are,
moved by the Holy Synod. Merkorios was replaced by
however, in the minority.
Abune Paulos in 1992. Paulos is recognized as the patriarch
THE CHURCH OUTSIDE AFRICA. Designed to express its spir-
by the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Ta¯wah:edo
itual message and to perform the services in the local culture,
Church inside Ethiopia. Merkorios went into exile in Kenya
the Ethiopian church is strictly local and national. In its his-
and is upheld as patriarch by the Holy Synod in Exile. Efforts
tory it has not engaged in any missionary activities beyond
continue to avert a permanent schism of the church.
the frontiers that political leaders claimed to be territories of
their ancestors. King Ka¯le¯b’s expedition to Najra¯n (southern
SEE ALSO Aksumite Religion.
Arabia) in about 525, to rescue the Christians from the per-
secution of a Jewish ruler and to reorganize the Christian
communities there, may not be considered sustained activity
For the history of both the church and the country, Jean Doresse’s
by the church outside Ethiopia. Even the Ethiopian churches
Ethiopia (London, 1959) is a good introduction even though
in the Holy Land could not be exceptions to this historical
it lacks annotation to the sources. Carlo Conti Rossini’s
fact, since they were built to serve Ethiopian nationals who
Storia d’Etiopia, vol. 1, Dalle origini all’ avvento della dinastia
visited the holy places in Palestine and Egypt. Ethiopian mo-
Salomonide (Bergamo, Italy, 1928), remains the standard ref-
nastic communities have lived in Jerusalem since the Middle
erence for the early history. Unfortunately, however, this
Ages, and they were Ethiopia’s main window to the outside
book too has neither adequate annotation to sources nor a
world. In modern times, there were also Ethiopian churches
bibliography. An index for it has been prepared by Edward
in the former British Somaliland, Kenya, and the Sudan, but
Ullendorff in Rassegna di studi etiopici 18 (1962): 97–141.
they too were serving Ethiopian nationals, refugees who fled
The only book that examines many aspects of the Ethiopian Bible
the 1936 to 1941 Italian occupation of Ethiopia.
is Edward Ullendorff’s Ethiopia and the Bible (London,
1968). This book also contains an excellent bibliography. See
In the 1950s the Ethiopian church was faced with a
also Roger W. Cowley’s The Traditional Interpretation of the
most unusual challenge. The local church was called upon
Apocalypse of St. John in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
to respond to the need for cultural and racial identity of the
(Cambridge, U.K., 1983). The introduction to this work of-
oppressed black people in Africa and the Americas. Churches
fers more than the title suggests. The history of GeEez (Ethio-
with the term Abyssinian as part of their name started to
pic) literature has been ably surveyed in Enrico Cerulli’s La
emerge in these continents. Although the historical link be-
letteratura etiopica, 3d ed. (Florence, Italy, 1968). Ernst
Hammerschmidt’s Studies in the Ethiopic Anaphoras (Berlin,
tween the Ethiopian church and these churches is lacking,
1961) summarizes the different studies of the anaphoras in
and the Ethiopian church was not economically, education-
one small volume. For an English version of the anaphoras
ally, and politically up to the challenge, delegates consisting
themselves, see Marcos Daoud and Marsie Hazen’s The Lit-
of clergy were sent from Ethiopia to East Africa (still under
urgy of the Ethiopian Church (Cairo, 1959). The most com-
British rule), the Caribbean region, and North America. The
prehensive study thus far on qen¯e hymns is Anton Schall’s
inevitable problems were how to attract the middle class to
Zur äthiopischen Verskunst (Wiesbaden, Germany, 1961).
an African church and how to adapt the culturally alien
The period of the Za¯gwe¯ dynasty and the rock-hewn churches of
church services to English-speaking communities in Africa
La¯sta¯ are well treated in Georg Gerster’s Churches in Rock
and the Americas, not to mention the question of rebaptism.
(London, 1970), with many large and impressive photo-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

graphs and an adequate bibliography. The history of the
ETHNOASTRONOMY. This article is limited to dis-
church from the beginning of the Solomonic dynasty to the
cussion of the ethnoastronomies of native South America be-
Islamic invasion of the sixteenth century has been uniquely
cause of their primary importance in the development of this
treated in Taddesse Tamrat’s Church and State in Ethiopia,
area of study.
1270–1527 (Oxford, 1972). Francisco Alvarez’s Narrative of
the Portuguese Embassy to Abyssinia during the Years 1520–

PATTERNS. In the ethnographic literature on indigenous
1527, translated by Lord Stanley of Alderley (London,
South American Indian populations, there is a considerable
1881), is a rare description of church and secular life imme-
body of evidence attesting to the importance of ethnoastro-
diately before the war with the gra¯ññ. The translation was re-
nomical beliefs. These beliefs, expressed with varying degrees
vised by C. F. Beckingham and G. W. B. Huntingford and
of emphasis in mythology and ritual, bear witness to long-
published under the title The Prester John of the Indies, 2 vols.
standing traditions of astronomical observations undertaken
(Cambridge, U.K., 1961).
for a variety of purposes, ranging from the construction of
Some of the sources for the religious controversies of the late me-
precise calendar systems to the production of symbols and
dieval period were edited and translated in Enrico Cerulli’s
metaphors for expressing enduring relationships that charac-
Il libro etiopico dei miracoli di Maria e le sue fonti nelle lettera-
terize interactions between men and women, social groups,
ture del medio evo latino (Rome, 1943) and Scritti teologici et-
humans and animals, and so forth. While there are no uni-
iopici dei secoli XVI–XVII, 2 vols., “Studi e testi,” no. 198
versally shared astronomical symbols, several recurrent the-
(Rome, 1958).
matic patterns emerge from a comparative study of the ways
The unique source for the destruction of the churches by the
in which different groupings of celestial bodies are interrelat-
forces of the graññ in the sixteenth century is Futu¯h:
ed in the mythology and ritualism of the Andean and Tropi-
al-H:abashah, composed by EArab Faq¯ıh, the chronicler of
cal Forest (Amazonian and Orinocoan) religious traditions.
the ima¯m, edited and translated in René Basset’s Histoire de
la conquête de l’Abyssinie (seizième siècle) par Chihab ed-Din

Sun and Moon. A clear expression of the notion of the
Ah:med ben EAbd el-Qâder surnommé Arab-Faqih, 2 vols.
thematic patterning of relations in an astronomical mode is
(Paris, 1898–1901). The Portuguese, too, have left invalu-
found in a number of origin myths, especially those in which
able though sometimes exaggerated and conflicting reports
the origin of humans is thought to have occurred virtually
of the campaign. See The Portuguese Expedition to Abyssinia
simultaneously with their separation into different—but
in 1541–1543, as Narrated by Castanhoso, with Some Letters,
complementary—kinship or social categories (e.g., siblings,
the Short Account of Bermudez, and Certain Extracts from Cor-
(London, 1902).
spouses, clans, or moieties). The Apinagé of the Araguaya
River of Brazil hold that Sun created the two moieties and
The best work on the religious controversies that started in the
localized one (the Kolti moiety) in his own northern half of
seventeenth century is Friedrich Heyer’s Die Kirche Äthio-
piens: Eine Bestandsaufnahme
(Berlin and New York, 1971).
the circular villages while leaving the other (the Kolre) with
The history of the religious controversy caused particularly
his sister, Moon, in the south. The Apinagé held ceremonies
by the Portuguese has been ably and succinctly presented in
directed to Sun during the planting and harvesting periods,
Germa B:eshah and Merid Wolde Aregay’s The Question of
while they invoked Moon to help the crops mature (Ni-
the Union of the Churches in Luso-Ethiopian Relations (1500–
muendajú, 1967, p. 164). The pairing of Sun and Moon as,
1632) (Lisbon, 1964). See also Donald Crummey’s Priests
respectively, brother and sister is also found among the
and Politicians: Protestant and Catholic Missions in Orthodox
Tapirapé (Wagley, 1940, p. 256) and the Conibo (Handbook
Ethiopia, 1830–1868 (Oxford, 1972). The book has an ex-
of South American Indians, 1948, p. 595; hereafter referred
cellent bibliography with useful comments on some of the
to as H. S. A. I.). Among the Chiriguano (H. S. A. I., 1948,
pp. 483–484), the Kogi (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1982, p. 178),
Questions about the church that are of interest to Western Chris-
and the Inca, Sun and Moon are simultaneously brother and
tians are answered in The Teaching of the Abyssinian Church
sister and husband and wife. For the Xerente, who once oc-
as Set forth by the Doctors of the Same, translated from Amhar-
cupied several villages southeast of the Apinagé along the To-
ic, the vernacular of Ethiopia, by A. F. Matthew (London,
cantins River, Sun and Moon are “companions” (i. e., nei-
1936). See also Harry Middleton Hyatt’s The Church of Ab-
(London, 1928). This work describes in detail the reli-
ther siblings nor spouses), although each is associated with
gious practices of the church.
one of the two moieties. Sun, who is referred to by all Xer-
ente regardless of their moiety affiliation as “Our Creator,”
Kirsten Pedersen’s The History of the Ethiopian Community in the
Holy Land from the Time of Emperor Tewodros II till 1974 (Je-
communicated with the Siptato moiety through a group of
rusalem, 1983) is a result of several years of study of the origi-
intermediaries, including Venus, Jupiter, the Belt of Orion,
nal and secondary sources on the subject. The minor mis-
and k Orionis; the intermediaries between Moon and the
takes pertaining to modern history of Ethiopia do not in any
people of the Sdakra moiety are Mars, Carrion Vultures, and
way minimize the usefulness of this work. The major English
Seven Stars (probably the Pleiades; Nimuendajú, 1942,
sources on all aspects of the church are surveyed in Jon
pp. 84–85). Through the association of Sun and Moon with
Bonk’s An Annotated and Classified Bibliography of English
linked pairs of complementary, yet often asymmetric and hi-
Literature Pertaining to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (Me-
erarchical, social categories (e.g., husband and wife, brother
tuchen, N.J., 1984).
and sister, and the moieties), astronomical phenomena are
made to participate in the process of classifying human soci-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ety on the basis of fundamental dichotomies and processes
other toward the south, where they collide in the heavens
(e.g., alliance and reproduction) that occur throughout the
near the Southern Cross. The foam (posuqu) stirred up by
natural world. The relations between Sun and Moon serve
their collision is seen in the bright clouds of the southern
as the “charter” for cosmic and social order throughout the
Milky Way from the Southern Triangle to the False Cross
succession of the generations. Yet just as inevitably as social
in Carina. The two branches of the celestial river alternately
order is established and maintained within each society by
rise, pass through the zenith, and set; one branch, when it
rules governing relations among different groups of people,
stands in the zenith, passes from the northeast to the south-
the rules are forever being broken and the right order of
west, while the other branch passes from the northwest
things momentarily threatened. The inevitability of disorder
through the zenith to the southeast (Urton, 1981,
arising from the violation of rules and prohibitions has its
pp. 54–63). The Barasana, a Tucanoan-speaking group on
celestial reminder in the spots besmirching the face of the full
the Vaupés River in Colombia, conceive of the Milky Way
moon. Throughout the mythological traditions of the tropi-
as divided into two “star paths”; one, called New Path, is ori-
cal forest, the spots on the moon are commonly associated
ented southeast-northwest, while the other, Old Path, is ori-
with incestuous relations, especially between brothers and
ented northeast-southwest. New Path and Old Path are the
sisters. In a typical example of this theme, the Záparoan-
sites of most of the constellations recognized by the Barasana
speaking tribes of the Marañón, Napo, and Pastaza rivers say
(Hugh-Jones, 1982, p. 182). For the Desána, another Tu-
that Moon was formerly a man who, in the dark of night,
canoan-speaking group of the Vaupés region, the Milky
had sexual intercourse with his sister. In order to identify her
Way, as a single construct, is likened to a river, a trail in the
lover, the girl one night smeared his face with genipa (a blue-
forest, an immense cortege of people, a cast-off snake skin,
black vegetable dye). Out of shame, the man went away to
and a fertilizing stream of semen. In a dualistic image focus-
the sky and became the moon, his genipa-covered face being
ing on its cyclical, alternating axes, the Milky Way is imag-
reexposed to the Záparo every month (H. S. A. I., 1948,
ined as two huge snakes: the starry, luminous part is a rain-
p. 649; cf. Roth, 1908–1909, p. 255; Wagley, 1940,
bow boa, a male principle; the dark part is an anaconda, a
p. 256). Asocial (incestuous) sexual relations may generally
female principle. The shifting of the Milky Way, seen as a
be compared with unproductive sexual encounters, which
swinging motion made by the two snakes, punctuates the
are everywhere signaled by menstruation. Among the con-
cycle of fertilizing forces emanating from the sky (Reichel-
temporary Quechua of the Peruvian highlands, Sun (Inti) is
Dolmatoff, 1982, pp. 170–171). Using metaphors of human
male and Moon (Killa) is female; menses is referred to as killa
sexuality that recall the menstrual cycle of the moon, the
chayamushan (“moon coming, or arriving”). Sun and Moon
Barasana, like the Desána, conceive of the Milky Way as par-
are also often associated with brightly colored birds or with
ticipating in a cycle of fertilizing forces. The connection be-
the plumage of such birds. For example, the Trumai and the
tween the principle of fertility, the Milky Way, and the flow
Paresí (H. S. A. I., 1948, pp. 348, 360) say that Sun is a ball
of menses is occasioned by the comparison of the menstrual
or headdress of red parrot feathers, while they identify Moon
and seasonal cycles. The rainy season is the menstrual period
as a collection of yellow feathers. In the Záparo myth dis-
of the sky, which is personified by Woman Shaman, a creator
cussed above, the wife of the incestuous man who became
who has a gourd of wax identified with the Pleiades, which
the moon was herself simultaneously transformed into a
are called Star Thing and are the principal aspect of the New
night bird. And in a congeries of these various bird images
Path of the Milky Way. The gourd is Woman Shaman’s va-
and relations, the Tapirapé of central Brazil, west of the Ara-
gina; the wax, her menstrual blood; and the melting of the
guaya River, say that Moon was the sister of Sun and that
wax, her menstrual period, which is compared, as an internal,
the latter wears a headdress of red parrot feathers. Sun is said
rejuvenating “skin change,” to the rainy season, which begins
to have slapped Moon’s face with his genipa-covered hand
in the Vaupés in April, as the stars of the Pleiades set. In
because of her sexual misbehavior. Moon was married to a
Barasana cosmology, the internal skin change of Woman
culture hero who divided all birds into two groups. Among
Shaman, associated with Star Thing (the gourd of melting
the Tapirapé, the two men’s moities are subdivided into
wax), is contrasted with the external skin change of the con-
three age grades, each of which carries the name of a bird
stellation called Caterpillar Jaguar (Scorpius), which stands
(Wagley, 1940, p. 256).
opposed to, and alternates with, Star Thing (Hugh-Jones,
1982, pp. 196–197).
The Milky Way. Aside from the sun and the moon, one
other celestial phenomenon is important throughout the eth-
Bright-star and dark-cloud constellations. Data from
noastronomies of South America: the Milky Way. The
the Barasana and Desána introduce a final and far more com-
Milky Way serves as a means for organizing and orienting
plex recurrent theme, one that forms perhaps the core of eth-
the celestial sphere in the spatial, temporal, and mythological
noastronomical symbolism among South American Indian
dimensions. The Quechua-speakers of the Peruvian Andes
societies. This theme concerns groups of interrelated meta-
refer to the Milky Way as a river (mayu) composed of two
phorical images built up out of animals, anthropomorphic
branches. The branches originate in the north within the cos-
beings, and constellations stretched along the bright path or
mic sea that encircles the earth. Water is taken into the Milky
paths of the Milky Way. The theme of animals and humans
Way, and the two branches separate, flowing away from each
as constellations concerns a group of celestial phenomena lo-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

cated principally along, or within, the path of the Milky
ern Cross is a bees’ nest (Weiss, 1972, p. 160). The Múra,
Way. In order to understand many of the references dis-
however, see in the Coalsack a manatee carrying a fisherman
cussed below, it is necessary to see the Milky Way as visually
on its back (H. S. A. I., 1948, p. 265). As is clear from the
composed of two distinct but interconnected elements: first,
illustrations above, the identification of the dark clouds of
it appears in its overall form as a wide, bright band of stars;
the Milky Way with animals is a widely shared feature in
and second, it contains several dark spots and streaks formed
South American Indian ethnoastronomies. Although the
by fixed clouds of interstellar dust that cut through the cen-
specific animals vary from tradition to tradition (as one
tral path. Both of these galactic phenomena, the bright band
would expect, given that the various ethnoastronomical data
of stars against the dark background of the night sky and the
derive from societies in widely differing environmental set-
dark clouds cutting through the bright path of stars, are rec-
tings), it is reasonable to suppose that the animals may be
ognized as named celestial constructs in South American eth-
identified and interrelated according to similar classificatory
noastronomical traditions. When viewed as a path, the Milky
principles and symbolic interests as one moves from one soci-
Way is often considered to be a road along which animals,
ety to the next. That this may be so, in at least one respect,
humans, and spirits move. The Indians of Guiana refer to
is suggested by the fact that the ethnographic literature con-
the Milky Way as both the “path of the tapir” and the path
tains several references to the belief that there is a conceived
that is walked upon by a group of people bearing white clay,
(if not perceived) relationship between an animal’s reproduc-
the type used for making pottery (Roth, 1908–1909,
tive cycle and the first appearance of that animal’s celestial
p. 260). The Chiriguano (H. S. A. I., 1948, p. 483) know
counterpart in the early morning skies (Urton, 1981,
the Milky Way as the “path of the rhea”; they identify the
pp. 176–189). In addition, there are suggestions that the ris-
head of the rhea either with the Southern Cross or with the
ing of the celestial representation of an animal or bird serves
Coalsack, the dark spot at the foot of the Southern Cross.
as an indication that the season to hunt the terrestrial version
The Amahuaca say that the Milky Way is the trail or path
of that same animal or bird has arrived (Roth, 1908–1909,
of the sun, formed when a jaguar dragged a manatee across
p. 261). These data suggest that in the process of establishing
the sky. For the Trumai, the Milky Way is like a drum con-
local calendar systems there is considered to be a temporal
taining animals; it is the road to the afterworld and the abode
correlation between the appearance of a particular dark-
of jaguars (H. S. A. I., 1948, p. 348). Finally, the Tapirapé
cloud animal and the biological periodicity of, or the cycles
see in the Milky Way the “path of the shamans,” by which
of human activity in the exploitation of, its terrestrial coun-
shamans travel to the sky to visit celestial bodies (Wagley,
1940, p. 257). That many of the characters who move along
CLASSIFICATION AND SYMBOLISM. Such a purely calendrical-
the celestial path (or river) are animals reinforces the observa-
ly oriented interpretation of the significance of the animals
tion that the most common identifications of the dark clouds
located in the dark spots of the Milky Way should be aug-
that cut through the Milky Way are with animals, birds, or
mented by two other considerations, one classificatory, the
fish. As mentioned earlier, among the Quechua of the central
other symbolic. In relation to the former, the animals of the
Andes, the Milky Way is seen as two interconnected branch-
Milky Way may represent those forms considered to be clas-
es of a river. Within the river, in the southern skies, are sever-
sificatorily “prototypical,” the most representative members
al animals, each identified as one of the dark clouds (yana
of particular classes of animals. Alternatively, they may repre-
phuyu); these include a snake, a toad, a tinamou, a mother
sent “marked” animals, ones that do not fit comfortably into
llama with her baby, and a fox that pursues the llamas
a single class but that rather bridge two or more classes. That
(Urton, 1981, p. 170). The pursuit of a herbivore by a carni-
one or the other of these considerations may be significant
vore, as in the pursuit of the llamas by the fox, is a common
in Quechua astronomy is suggested by the fact that the se-
element in the South American ethnoastronomical symbol-
quence of animals that stretches along, and within, the Milky
ism of the dark spots. Within the tropical forest, however,
Way includes a reptile (snake), an amphibian (toad), a bird
the carnivore is most often a jaguar rather than a fox. For in-
(tinamou), a herbivorous mammal (llama), and a carnivorous
stance, the Paresí and Conibo see a jaguar pursuing a deer
mammal (fox). The classificatory significance of these life
in some dark spots in the southern Milky Way (H. S. A. I.,
forms would therefore rest not only on the particular charac-
1948, pp. 360, 595). Certain tribes of Guiana see, in the
teristics of each individual animal in turn but also on the re-
same general area, a tapir being chased by a dog, which in
lations between and among the various types as they are pro-
turn is pursued by a jaguar (Roth, 1908–1909, p. 260). The
jected into the sky in a particular sequence (i.e., from a
Tukuna locate the bodies of a jaguar and an anteater in dark
reptile to a mammal). Another classificatory factor that may
clouds in the southern skies near the constellation of Centau-
be important throughout the various ethnoastronomical tra-
rus; the two animals are locked in a nightly struggle, al-
ditions is a consideration of the color of the animals in ques-
though in a Tukuna myth that describes a similar fight the
tion. That is, many of the animals have either a dull, dark
anteater defeats the jaguar, rips open his stomach, and sucks
coloring (e.g., fox, deer, anteater), or else they are spotted or
out his liver (Nimuendajú, 1952, p. 143). The Campa say
mottled (e.g., tinamou, toad, anaconda, rainbow boa, jag-
that a dark streak near Antares (in the constellation of Scorpi-
uar). The dark spots along the “body” of the Milky Way re-
us) is a digging stick and that the Coalsack below the South-
call the dark or mottled coloring of the terrestrial animals.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

In this regard, there may also be a conceptual similarity be-
(cf. Hugh-Jones, 1982; Zuidema, 1982; Wilbert, 1975). The
tween the dark spots of the Milky Way and the spots on the
questions to be addressed with regard to these observations
moon. The latter, as mentioned earlier, are typically associat-
are “On what bases are the Pleiades contrasted with other,
ed with asocial (e.g., incestuous) relationships.
nearby constellations?” and “On what bases are the Pleiades
grouped together with these nearby constellations and con-
Mythic oppositions. The symbolic significance of the
trasted with another, more distant group of constellations?”
dark-cloud animals will vary considerably from one eth-
I suggest that the first question may be approached primarily
noastronomical tradition to another and can be understood
only on the basis of a careful consideration of the particular
through a consideration of the mythological data referring
characteristics of the celestial animals as they are portrayed
to social relations and social organization, whereas the sec-
in the mythology of each culture. In considering the mytho-
ond question can best be addressed on the basis of data refer-
logical descriptions of celestial phenomena, however, it is es-
ring to meteorological, seasonal, and, ultimately, economic
sential first to turn to the material referring to those constel-
concerns. As for the contrast between the Pleiades, the Hya-
lations that are composed of clusters or groupings of stars,
des, and Orion, there are several myths that mention these
since the mythological data for stellar constellations are more
three constellations in related mythological contexts. For in-
abundant, and explicit, than those for the dark spots of the
stance, among certain Carib-speaking tribes there are myths
Milky Way. The principal stellar constellations recognized
of a woman (the Pleiades) who cuts off her husband’s leg
in South American ethnoastronomies are, for the most part,
(Orion’s Belt and Sword) and runs away with a tapir (the
also located near or within the Milky Way; these include the
Hyades; Jara and Magaña, 1983, p. 125; cf. Roth, 1908–
Pleiades, the Hyades, the Belt (and Sword) of Orion, Scorpi-
1909, p. 262). The Amahuaca of eastern Peru say that the
us, the Southern Cross, and α and β Centauri. By far the
V-shaped Hyades represent the jaw of a caiman that bit off
richest ethnoastronomical material concerns the Pleiades, a
the leg of a man who mistook it for a canoe; the leg is seen
small cluster of some six to ten stars (visible with the naked
in the Pleiades, while Orion’s Belt and Sword represent the
eye) in the constellation of Taurus. The Pleiades are referred
man’s brother holding the lance with which he killed the cai-
to in a variety of ways, many of which emphasize the visual
man (cf. Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1982, pp. 173–174). The
appearance of this cluster of stars as a group or “bunch” of
Campa see in the Pleiades a Campa man and his family; the
things. In the tropical forest, the Pleiades are variously re-
man’s brother-in-law is the Belt and Sword of Orion. They
ferred to as bees, wasps, a handful of flour spilled on the
also say that Orion is a Campa man who is being pursued
ground, parrots, white down, a bunch of flowers, and so
by a warrior wasp and has received an arrow in his leg (Weiss,
forth (Lévi-Strauss, 1969, p. 222). Claude Lévi-Strauss
1972, p. 160). The various myths that deal with the Pleiades,
pointed out an important principle in Tropical Forest eth-
the Hyades, and Orion are centered on animals and people
noastronomies when he argued that the Pleiades are typically
(or their body parts) who are related by ties of blood or, more
classed together with, while at the same time opposed to, the
commonly, marriage. In many cases, there are also characters
nearby constellation of the Belt and Sword of Orion. The
present who are implicated in the violation of these kinship
latter is referred to as a tortoise shell, a bird, a stick, and a
and marriage ties (e.g., the tapir who seduces and runs away
leg (or a one-legged man; Lévi-Strauss, 1969, pp. 222–223;
with a man’s wife). In this regard, it should be recalled that
cf. Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1982, pp. 173–174). Lévi-Strauss’s
among the Xerente, who practice moiety exogamy, the belt
argument is that the Pleiades and Orion are diachronically
of Orion and k Orionis are related to one moiety, while
associated, since they rise within a few days of each other,
Seven Stars (the Pleiades?) are related to the other (Nimuen-
but that they are synchronically opposed, since the Pleiades
dajú, 1942, pp. 25, 85). In addition to the “local” contrast
represent, or are in the category of, the continuous, whereas
between the Pleiades and the neighboring constellations of
Orion is in that of the discontinuous. For the Pleiades and
the Hyades and Orion, there are several references to the
Orion, respectively, he notes that “we have names that boil
contrast between the Pleiades and constellations farther re-
down to collective terms describing a chance distribution of
moved. In Barasana cosmology, the Pleiades (Star Thing) are
. . . related elements: and on the other, analytical terms de-
associated with the dry season and opposed to Scorpius (Cat-
scribing a systematic arrangement of clearly individualized
erpillar Jaguar), which is associated with the wet season
elements” (Lévi-Strauss, 1969, pp. 222–223; cf. 1973,
(Hugh-Jones, 1982, p. 197). The Pleiades and Scorpius are
pp. 268–270). Throughout South America, it can be shown
similarly opposed, and each is related to either the dry or the
that the Pleiades are contrasted in various ways with other
wet season, or to planting or harvest, in the cosmology of the
nearby star groupings (e.g., Orion and the Hyades), whereas,
Quechua (Urton, 1981, pp. 122–125) and the Chiriguano
on another level, they are grouped together with these same
(H. S. A. I., 1948, p. 483). Similar examples of the opposi-
nearby stars and contrasted with other constellations (e.g.,
tion of the Pleiades to other constellations (e.g., Corvus and
Coma Berenices, Corvus, Scorpius, the Southern Cross, and
Coma Berenices) appear in the timing of fishing cycles (Lévi-
α and β Centauri). These two groupings of stars are contrast-
Strauss, 1978, pp. 36–40), honey availability (Lévi-Strauss,
ed or deemed complementary in terms of their symbolic
1973, pp. 57–58, 268–272, 282–285), or both fishing cycles
characteristics, and they are coincidental or alternating in
and honey availability (Lévi-Strauss, 1973, p. 114). The eve-
terms of the phasing of the dates of their rising and setting
ning rising and setting of the Pleiades (which occur at differ-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ent times of the year) are associated by the Barasana and the
2001). Separate ethnographic descriptions, many of which
Desána with the fruiting periods of trees (Hugh-Jones, 1982,
include ethnoastronomical material for a variety of Tropical
p. 190; Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1982, p. 173). R. Tom Zuidema
Forest tribes, can be found in The Tropical Forest Tribes, vol.
has shown that the critical dates in the Inca calendar system,
3 of the Handbook of South American Indians, edited by Ju-
a system that coordinated political, ritual, and agricultural
lian H. Steward (Washington, D.C., 1948). Collections of
events throughout the year, were determined by the times of
Tropical Forest Indian myths are included in the following
three books by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-
the rising, setting, and the upper and lower culminations of
Strauss: The Raw and the Cooked (New York, 1969), From
the Pleiades in opposition to the Southern Cross and α and
Honey to Ashes (New York, 1973), and The Origin of Table
Centauri. In Inca and contemporary Quechua astronomy,
Manners (New York, 1978), all translated by John Weight-
the Pleiades represent (among other things) a storehouse; the
man and Doreen Weightman. An excellent resource for Am-
Southern Cross is important, as it stands just above the
azonian and Andean mythological and cosmological tradi-
dark-cloud constellation of the tinamou; and α and β Cen-
tions is Lawrence E. Sullivan’s, Icanchu’s Drum: An
tauri are the eyes of the dark-cloud constellation of the llama
Orientation to Meaning in South American Religions (New
(Zuidema, 1982, pp. 221–224; Urton, 1981,
York and London, 1988). The ethnoastronomies of various
pp. 181–188).
tribes in northeastern South America are described in Fabiola
Jara and Edmundo Magaña’s “Astronomy of the Coastal
Mythic similarities. While particular contrasts between
Caribs of Surinam,” L’homme 23 (1983): 111–133; Walter
(1) the Pleiades, the Hyades, and Orion and (2) the Southern
E. Roth’s “An Inquiry into the Animism and Folklore of the
Cross, α and β Centauri, Corvus, Coma Berenices, and Scor-
Guiana Indians,” in the Thirtieth Annual Report of the Bureau
pius vary over different parts of South America, the temporal
of American Ethnology (Washington, D.C., 1908–1909); and
relations between the two groups of constellations represent
Johannes Wilbert’s “Eschatology in a Participatory Universe:
essentially similar seasonal oppositions regardless of which
Destinies of the Soul among the Warao Indians of Venezue-
particular members of the two sets are contrasted. In terms
la,” in Death and the Afterlife in Pre-Columbian America, ed-
ited by Elizabeth P. Benson (Washington, D.C., 1975). Eth-
of their celestial locations, the constellations in group 1 are
noastronomies of the Indians of the Colombian rain forest
located between right ascension three to six hours, while
are discussed in Stephen Hugh-Jones’s “The Pleiades and
those of group 2 are between right ascension twelve to sixteen
Scorpius in Barasana Cosmology” and in Gerardo Reichel-
hours. Therefore, the members of one group will rise as the
Dolmatoff’s “Astronomical Models of Social Behavior
members of the other set. This temporal opposition, and its
among Some Indians of Colombia,” both of which can be
attendant symbolic and mythological associations, is one
found in Ethnoastronomy and Archaeoastronomy in the Ameri-
other important feature shared by the ethnoastronomies of
can Tropics, edited by Anthony F. Aveni and Gary Urton
South American Indians. Although the various Indian tribes
(New York, 1982). The ethnoastronomies of Tropical Forest
of South America are situated in extremely diverse environ-
tribes in eastern Peru are discussed in Gerald Weiss’s
mental regions, from the dense tropical forests of the Ama-
“Campa Cosmology,” Ethnology 11 (April 1972): 157–172
zon and Orinoco basins to the high Andean mountains along
and in Peter Roe’s The Cosmic Zygote: Cosmology in the Ama-
the western side of the continent, there are a number of simi-
zon Basin (New Brunswick, N.J., 1982). Some of the best de-
scriptions of the astronomy and cosmology of the tribes of
larities in the ethnoastronomical traditions of these various
the southern Amazon basin are to be found in three works
groups. One source of similarities may lie in the fact that
by Curt Nimuendajú: The Sherente, translated by Robert H.
these cultures are all located within the tropics (see Aveni,
Lowie (Los Angeles, 1942); The Tukuna, translated by Wil-
1981): the Amazon River is roughly coincident with the line
liam D. Hohenthal, edited by Robert H. Lowie (Berkeley,
of the equator. But beyond the similarities that are encoun-
Calif., 1952); and The Apinayé, translated by Robert H.
tered in the observational phenomena viewed by these cul-
Lowie, edited by John M. Cooper and Robert H. Lowie
tures, there are perhaps more fundamental similarities in the
(Oosterhout, The Netherlands, 1967). Additional valuable
way in which the celestial bodies are described and interrelat-
discussions of southern Amazonian ethnoastronomy are to
ed in their mythological and religious traditions. There are
be found in Charles Wagley’s “World View of the Tapirape
fundamental principles that give meaning and coherence to
Indians,” Journal of American Folklore 53 (1940): 252–260
ethnoastronomical beliefs concerning the sun and the moon,
and Stephen M. Fabian, Space-Time of the Bororo of Brazil
(Gainesville, Fla., 1992). For descriptions and analyses of
the Milky Way, and the two types of constellations. These
Inca and contemporary Quechua ethnoastronomy, see R.
are the same conceptual foundations that ground the various
Tom Zuidema’s article “Catachillay: The Role of the Pleia-
religious traditions. These basic premises revolve around re-
des and of the Southern Cross and α and β Centauri in the
lations between and among men and women, humans and
Calendar of the Incas,” in Ethnoastronomy and Ar-
animals, and beings on earth and those in the sky.
chaeoastronomy in the American Tropics, mentioned above;
and my book, At the Crossroads of the Earth and the Sky: An
Andean Cosmology (Austin, Tex., 1981). For an example of
astronomic configurations in the religious life of hunters, see
For excellent discussions of naked-eye observational astronomy in
Otto Zerries’s “Sternbilder als Audruck Jägerischer Geiste-
the Americas, see Anthony F. Aveni’s Skywatchers (Austin,
shaltung in Südamerika,” Paideuma 5 (1952): 220–235.
Tex., 2001), and Stephen M. Fabian’s Patterns in the Sky: An
Introduction to Ethnoastronomy
(Prospect Heights, Ill.,
GARY URTON (1987 AND 2005)
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

and its physiological and genetic foundation. At the same
time they assumed that similar action patterns had been de-
veloped to serve as social signals or releasers for appropriate
behavior, not only among animal species but among humans
as well. As a result, the study of human ethology attempted
ETHOLOGY OF RELIGION. Human ethology is
to apply ethological methods and the evolutionary perspec-
the biological study of human behavior. It emphasizes the
tive to psychological, sociological and, finally, even religious
notion that both the behavior of humankind and its physio-
logical basis have evolved phylogenetically and should be
studied as an aspect of evolution. Ethology overlaps other
During the following decades the German zoologist
disciplines such as sociobiology, behavioral ecology, evolu-
Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1928–) and others contributed to
tionary psychology, human anthropology, and even con-
this new discipline by studying expressive movements with
sciousness studies, which in part employ similar strategies of
signal functions. These behavior patterns are usually incor-
porated into more complex behavioral events for which the
term ritual was introduced by Julian Huxley (1887–1975).
ISTORY OF ETHOLOGY. The historical roots of ethology can
be traced to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. In his
As for the origin of behavioral patterns, a distinction can be
book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
made between phylogenetically evolved, culturally acquired,
(1872) Darwin recognized that the role of instinct is just as
and individually invented signals. The criteria of homology
important for the survival of the species as the adaptation of
are applicable to phylogenetically acquired, as well as to cul-
morphological structures in the course of their phylogenetic
turally acquired, signals. Expressive behavior and ritual be-
histories. During the following decades, however, the Dar-
havior both serve the function of communication. As far as
winian approach continued to be disregarded. Instead, a sci-
religions are concerned, two important remarks have to be
entific school with roots in psychology dominated the study
taken into account: first, expressive behavior does not neces-
of animal and human behavior. This behaviorism was based
sarily mean that a message is consciously intended; second,
on the premise that psychology should be regarded as the sci-
originally functional acts can change their function from
ence of behavior, rather than the science of mental life. Pro-
goal-directed acts into symbolic acts, so that, in the end, even
ceeding from the assumption that behavior is a product of
elaborate displays mainly serve the function of social
learning, American behaviorists focused on the study of ob-
servable behavior and the ascertainable or contrived circum-
STRATEGIES OF INTERACTION. Darwin had already pointed
stances of its occurrence. As a result, behaviorists were suc-
out that a number of facial and bodily expressions are inher-
cessful in all kinds of research with regard to general laws of
ent to humankind. Evidence could be derived from studying
learning, but failed to take evolutionary approaches into ac-
the expressive behavior of those born blind and deaf, who
count. Until the 1970s most behaviorists and sociologists
were deprived of visual and auditory knowledge regarding
were convinced that the behavior of humans and animals was
the facial expressions of their fellow humans and who, never-
mainly a product of their environment and education.
theless, exhibited the usual patterns of smiling, laughing, and
Within the scientific climate at that time, anthropology
crying. Besides such ontogenetic studies, cross-cultural docu-
and the study of religions developed approaches of cultural
mentation of human behavior and primate comparison con-
relativism that considered human culture as phenomena
firm the assumption that certain human behavior patterns
upon which the biological heritage had no influence. This
are the result of phylogenetic adaptations.
opinion first came into question when the experienced histo-
Eibl-Eibesfeldt’s cross-cultural documentation contains
rian of religions Karl Meuli (1891–1968) was able to prove
many examples of universals in human behavior, which of
that religions as distinct from one another as the religions of
course only occur in a very generalized form and may vary
ancient Greece, imperial Rome, recent arctic hunter-
considerably from culture to culture. The display of the geni-
gatherers, and probably even prehistoric hunters, shared sim-
tals, for example, originates in the sexual behavior of pri-
ilar ritual customs. This observation was unintelligible from
mates, in which erection of the penis expresses not only a
an environmental point of view. In spite of the prevailing
willingness for sexual intercourse but also masculine power
paradigm, Meuli concluded that these similar manifestations
and vigor. Contrarily, the display of the female breasts is sup-
of sacrificial practices must originate in an innate behavior
posed to have an appeasing effect, while the act of raising the
pattern acquired during human evolution.
arm and showing the palm of one’s hand is usually taken as
From a biological standpoint, the final impulses for the
a gesture of defense. All these gestures serve as signals that
revision of the extremely environmentally oriented ap-
safely trigger certain responses from the recipient and are
proaches came from zoologists like Konrad Lorenz (1903–
universally understood, even if not acted out but manifested
1989) and Nikolaas Tinbergen (1907–1988). During the
in objects of art. The phallic sculpture, therefore, must be
1940s and 1950s, Tinbergen and Lorenz focused on the in-
understood as a threatening object warding off enemies or
vestigation of instinctive behavior in the animal’s natural
evil forces. Phallic figures and signs are frequently used in a
habitat, its meaning seen from an evolutionary point of view,
religious context to mark tribal territory or serve as a protec-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tive guardian of a house or temple. A similar gesture can be
the animal world, where they may contribute to the survival
observed in patterns of female behavior. The obscene display
of the individual or the group in dangerous situations.
of the vulva provokes a fear reaction and demonstrates supe-
riority and dominance. At the same time, this threatening
The anthropologist Marvin Harris (1927–2001) raises
gesture of the female is combined with an encouragement for
the question of whether or not religious behavior should be
sexual intercourse, having an appeasing effect on the possible
understood as the result of the adaptation of a culture to its
aggressor. As a result, the obscene female idols, amulets, and
specific ecological niche. For example, Harris describes the
pendants that frequently occur in various cultures and reli-
Aztec religion, with its focus on human sacrifice and religious
gions can be understood as bearers of might, with the capa-
cannibalism. Because population growth and the depleted
bility of protecting the owner from harm.
condition of the natural fauna led to a lack of animal foods,
it is assumed that the Aztecs pursued a strategy of religious
Unfortunately, ethological signs and figures are some-
cannibalism to achieve the necessary amount of proteins, vi-
times difficult to decipher or to encode. As human ethology
tamins, and minerals. Their religious beliefs, therefore, re-
has been able to prove, these behavioral signals are often por-
flected the importance of a high-protein diet and the lack of
trayed in a devious manner. This form of communication
natural resources in their habitat. The occurrence of rites of
media developed its own traditions, and the manner in
passage, especially seen in male initiation, can also be traced
which an object is portrayed will probably modify during
to biological roots. A low-protein diet makes prolonged nurs-
history. Pictures will change into signs after several genera-
ing a necessity. This, however, results in a postpartum sex
tions, signs into mere patterns. In human ethology, art histo-
taboo that leads to polygyny. The resulting mother-child
ry, the history of religions, and related fields of research,
households, together with prolonged nursing, lead to an in-
scholars have analyzed the historical development of symbols
tensive bonding between mother and child and, finally, to
and patterns in pagan art and have achieved remarkable re-
cross-sex identification. Severe male initiation ceremonies
sults. For example, Otto König’s documentation of the pat-
that include circumcision or other forms of ritual torture and
terns on the boats of Mediterranean fishermen exemplifies
mind control are then required to break the prepubescent
the change of the image of the protective “staring eye” from
identity in order to allow for later identification with fathers
representation into an abstract symbol, and Karl von den St-
and other males.
einen (1855–1929) was able to explain the meaning of Mar-
A different concern with issues of function and structure
quesan tattoos by tracing them back to former portrayals of
shaped the work of the anthropologist Roy Rappaport
the skulls of the deceased.
(1926–1997). As Rappaport points out, ritual and language
Not only expressive behavior, but also the more com-
have coevolved, with ritual providing a necessary counterac-
plex rituals, serve the function of communication. In ritual,
tion to language-created problems that may otherwise lead
acts are fused into longer sequences that support strategies
to social disorder and violence. Ritual contains self-
of social interaction. A functional equivalent of these ritual-
referential messages that supply information about the size,
ized sequences of action is language, where verbalized behav-
density, or strength of the group, and similarly serve the pur-
ior takes the place of expressive gesture.
pose of competition by supplying information about the so-
cial status and psychophysical characteristics of the partici-
Ritualized human behavior as observed in greeting ritu-
pants. By participating in ritual, in which invariable words
als and feasts usually displays a certain structure characterized
and actions recur, men and women assume wider commit-
by three successive stages: the opening phase, the phase of
ments—the so-called ultimate sacred postulates—which are
interaction, and the phase of parting. Each of these three
forged at a deeper level of the psyche. Even if these postulates
phases is characterized by a set of verbal and nonverbal be-
are ideally untestable and have no immediate consequences,
havior patterns that not only correlates with a specific func-
they cannot be questioned and hold a key position in the
tional aspect of the phase, but also appears in repetition to
governing hierarchy of ideas. Rituals, therefore, as religion’s
deliver the same message through different channels and in
main components, form the concepts that people consider
different forms.
to be religious, and therefore they have been central in the
adaptation of the human species as part of a larger ecological
Any behavior pattern is adaptive in the sense that it contrib-
utes to the reproductive success or to the survival of the indi-
While Burkert, Rappaport, and Harris mostly refer to
vidual, the group, or the species. In that sense, as the histori-
the adaptive values of religious behavior and thought, the In-
an of ancient religions Walter Burkert (1931–) points out,
dologist Frits Staal focuses on the analysis of ritual and man-
well-adapted religious activities promote the success of a cul-
tra by adopting an ethological approach in order to explain
ture. He refers explicitly to the results of human ethology
the origin of religion. Far from sharing the common scholar-
when tracing rituals and other activities within the scope of
ly opinion that ritual is a symbolic representation of what
religious behavior to their supposed biological origins. Sever-
people believe, he emphasizes that rituals have to be under-
al basic elements of religious practice and thought, and, in
stood without reference to their supposed religious back-
particular, sacrifice, have to be seen as being inherited from
ground. Staal’s careful investigation and documentation of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Vedic rituals result in the statement that rituals are pure ac-
history. According to the historians Carlo Ginzburg (1939–)
tivity without any meaning or goal, in which only faultless
and Jean-Pierre Vernant (1914–), the specific history of a so-
execution in accordance with the rules counts. Staal draws
ciety and its religion shapes the spiritual universe of a people
the conclusion that the origins of religion lie deep in inborn
and modifies certain psychological attitudes, which have re-
behavior patterns. Religions, which do not necessarily have
troactive effects on religious behavior and thought.
doctrines and beliefs, originate in ritualization as observed in
Anthropological approaches stressing the results of et-
animal behavior. Only later does ritual become religious in
hological research are undoubtedly of great value as starting
the Western and monotheistic sense of the word, when pro-
points for new and interesting inquiries, but in abandoning
vided with a religious interpretation that includes doctrine
the historical method such approaches partially miss the goal
and the belief in an afterlife.
of ethology. Because the emphasis of ethology has been based
For the anthropologist Weston La Barre (1911–1996)
on the notion that the behavior of humans and its manifesta-
religion is the result of the adaptation of human beings to
tions in religion have evolved throughout history, ethological
their ecological niche and is shaped by both biological and
inquiry must consider the historical circumstances under
cultural evolution. In particular, human biology with neote-
which the custom in question developed. To make matters
ny (i.e., the persistence of larval features in adult animals)
perfectly clear, the theory of evolution has made biology into
and the resulting need for domestication leads to psychologi-
a historical science. Methodologically speaking, the descrip-
cal responses that establish the basis for the capacity and the
tive techniques used by both ethologists and historians of re-
propensity for magic and religion in men. Belief in God,
ligions are now fairly sophisticated, and they should be put
therefore, is the result of male-fantasized omnipotence as ac-
to use by scholars surveying the religious behavior of closely
quired by being locked into a lifelong phallic paranoid state.
defined groups. Comparative studies can be a fertile source
When vatic personalities, such as priests and their more
of ideas and data if they avoid the implication that one group
primitive counterparts, shamans, speak with the voice of
of people is just like another, and instead provide principles
God, it is nothing but an expression of the self, deprived of
whose applicability to the religion under question can be as-
its psychosexual maturity.
sessed. Finally, the basic scientific issues of ethological re-
search have to be taken into account, as there are questions
According to La Barre, religion first emerged when an
of causation, ontogeny, function, and evolution (history). It
early shaman, as depicted in the Stone Age cave of Les Trois
would be desirable to include not only ethological theory and
Frères, proclaimed to have magic power over game and, after
terminology, but also ethological method, especially in
his death, became the supernatural helper of later shamans
small-scale research. Such an approach would surely lead to
and, finally, the master of animals. Shaped by Paleolithic be-
remarkable results in future research.
lief, shamans persisted as gods into protohistoric and historic
times, where they were transformed to suit the needs of an
SEE ALSO Ecology and Religion; Evolution; Prehistoric Reli-
agricultural society. In discovering the human nature of their
gions; Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology.
gods, the Greeks resecularized their nature deities into mere
heroes, while the Hebrews sacralized their patriarchal sheikhs
Bronkhorst, Johannes. “Asceticism, Religion, and Biological Evo-
and shamans into a moral and spiritual god, who, due to the
lution.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 13
influence of Greek crisis cults, developed into the Christian
(2001): 374–418.
Burkert, Walter. Homo necans: Interpretationen altgriechischer Op-
Although ethological approaches to the study of reli-
ferriten und Mythen. Berlin and New York, 1972. Translated
by Peter Bing as Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient
gions have helped to gain insight into the ways multiple cul-
Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth (Berkeley, 1983).
tural systems are related to the biology of the human species,
Burkert, Walter. Creation of the Sacred: Tracks of Biology in Early
heavy criticism has been heaped upon an approach that is ac-
Religions. Cambridge, Mass., 1996.
cused of being materialistic and nonhistoric—and of work-
Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Irenäus. Die Biologie des menschlichen Verhaltens:
ing with unnecessary complex and nonverifiable models of
Grundriss der Humanethologie. Munich, 1984.
social dynamics. The assumed structural parallels of religions
Ginzburg, Carlo. Miti, emblemi, spie: Morfologia e storia. Turin,
with biology, consciousness studies, and linguistics suggest
Italy, 1986. Translated by John and Anne Tedeschi as Clues,
a scientific character that aims at a natural truth underlying
Myths, and the Historical Method (Baltimore, 1989).
conventional scholarly results. As the anthropologist and
Ginzburg, Carlo. Storia notturna: Una decifrazione del sabba.
scholar of religions Benson Saler (1930–) points out, the ref-
Turin, Italy, 1989. Translated by Raymond Rosenthal as Ec-
erence to universals existing in all cultures leads to definitions
stasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath (New York, 1991).
of universal categories that are so vague and abstract they are
Harris, Marvin. Culture, People, Nature: An Introduction to Gener-
nearly useless and, furthermore, contradict the archaeological
al Anthropology. New York, 1975. 7th ed., 1997.
and anthropological records. The stress on universals, there-
Harris, Marvin. Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Culture. New
fore, runs the risk of deflecting attention from the character-
York, 1977.
istics of a given religion that make it a solitary system of con-
Hinde, Robert A. Ethology: Its Nature and Relations with Other Sci-
ceptions and deeds acquired throughout the course of
ences. New York and Oxford 1982.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

König, Otto. Kultur und Verhaltensforschung: Einführung in die
to be simply a rather ordinary polytheism with gods like
Kulturethologie. Munich, 1970.
those in the Greek or Roman pantheon. This is the picture
La Barre, Weston. The Ghost Dance: Origins of Religion. New
that comes through from the majority of the existing sources.
York, 1970.
These sources are restricted. Apart from divination, a
Lévêque, Pierre. Bêtes, dieux, et hommes: L’imaginaire des premières
subject this article will return to, Greek and Latin writers give
religions. Paris, 1985.
few details, and Etruscan literature that could provide this
Lorenz, Konrad. Über tierisches und menschliches Verhalten: Aus
information has not survived. As for Etruscan inscriptions,
dem Werdegang der Verhaltenslehre. Munich, 1965.
they make a limited contribution. The majority are epitaphs,
Meuli, Karl. “Griechische Opferbräuche.” In Phyllobolia (Fest-
which yield only the name of the deceased, while the votive
schrift Peter von der Mühll), pp. 185–288. Basel, Switzer-
plaques placed in temples reveal only the name of the divini-
land, 1946; reprinted in Karl Meuli, Gesammelte Schriften,
ty to which they were dedicated. Admittedly, some longer
vol. 2, pp. 907–1021 (Basel, Switzerland, and Stuttgart, Ger-
documentary sources are available, which could be of greater
many, 1975).
interest concerning the subject, but the continued inability
Meuli, Karl. “An Karl Schefold.” In Gestalt und Geschichte (Fest-
to understand the language means that they are only partially
schrift Karl Schefold zu seinem sechzigsten Geburtstag am
understood. This is the case with the two longest extant
26. January 1965), pp. 159–161. Bern, Switzerland, 1967;
Etruscan texts: the Capua Tile, a terra-cotta plaque bearing
reprinted in Karl Meuli, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 2,
three hundred legible words, and the Liber Linteus (Linen
pp. 1083–1092 (Basel, Switzerland, and Stuttgart, Germany,
book) of Zagreb, a text of twelve hundred words. The story
of the latter’s survival is amazing. It was written in ink, as
Müller, Hans-Peter. “Religion als Teil der Natur des Menschen.”
was the practice in ancient Italy, on a linen cloth that was
Archiv fur Religionsgeschichte 5 (2003): 227–242.
taken to Egypt, where it was cut into strips and used as the
Rappaport, Roy. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity.
wrapping for a mummy now preserved at the Zagreb Muse-
Cambridge, UK, 1999.
um. These texts are both ritual calendars, in any case.
Saler, Benson. “Biology and Religion.” Method and Theory in the
Study of Religion 11 (1999): 386–394.
Some archaeological finds exist. Even with these, how-
ever, what can be deduced remains limited. The results of
Staal, Frits. Rules without Meaning: Ritual, Mantras, and the
excavations of many Etruscan temples are known, and they
Human Sciences. New York, 1989.
confirm the statement of the Roman architect Vitruvius that
Vernant, Jean-Pierre. Les origines de la pensée grecque. Paris, 1962.
the Etruscans were responsible for the spread of the “Tuscan
English translation: The Origins of Greek Thought. Ithaca,
temple” that, in contrast to the Greek temple from which it
N.Y., 1982.
took its inspiration, was raised on a high podium, dominat-
Wunn, Ina. “Beginning of Religion.” Numen 47 (2000): 417–
ing the town the god protected. However, it is impossible
to be certain that, as Latin authors claim, the main city tem-
INA WUNN (2005)
ples were dedicated to triads (groups of three gods). Only
certain temples at Veii (Portonaccio), Orvieto (Belvedere),
or Marzabotto (temple C) demonstrate evidence of a triple
structure. It is not impossible that the idea of triadic temples
Between the beginning of
was inferred from the Roman Capitol built by the Etruscan
the eighth century BCE and the end of the fifth century BCE,
kings (the Tarquins), where Jupiter was flanked by two god-
Etruria was the dominant power in central Italy. The Etrus-
desses, Juno and Minerva.
cans had built up profitable commercial relations with the
Phoenicians and the Greeks, established on the island of Pi-
There remains an extensive amount of iconography on
thecusa (modern Ischia) in Campania, then on the mainland
tomb or vase paintings, statues, stone and terracotta reliefs,
in the town of Cumae around 750 BCE. This wealth and
and engravings on bronze mirrors. From its beginnings,
these relations allowed them to develop a much more ad-
however, Etruscan art was suffused with Hellenic influence.
vanced level of civilization than other peoples of the region.
Often, Etruscan documents portray scenes from Greek my-
One indication of this is that Rome was under the rule of
thology. Nonetheless, this has one advantage: these Etruscan
Etruscan kings between 616 and 509 BCE. Yet it is not this
documents provide the names of the gods corresponding to
image of a military and political power that the Romans re-
their Greek equivalents, using the process of interpretation
tained concerning their northern neighbors; as the historian
that consists of identifying a Greek god with the local god
Livy remarked at the time of Emperor Augustus, they were
whose functions are most similar.
“the people most dedicated to matters of religion” (Livy
THE ETRUSCAN PANTHEON. In this way, scholars have some
5.1.6). Thus the Romans saw the Etruscans’ intense religious
idea of the Etruscan pantheon. It included a heavenly chief
nature as their distinctive characteristic.
god, analogous to the Greek Zeus or the Latin Jupiter, whom
they called Tin or Tinia, which means “the shining day” (like
This appreciative judgment concerning Etruscan religion
the names Zeus and Jupiter). Just as with the Greek Zeus,
might appear surprising in that the Etruscan religion seems
this god is portrayed as a majestic bearded figure armed with
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

thunderbolts. This Tinia is associated with a female consort,
One should also be aware of the deities with Latin or Italic
Uni, identified with the Greek Hera or the Latin Juno
equivalents, including Nethuns, Selvans, Velchans, Vetis,
(whose name is perhaps related). Other female divinities are
Menerva, and certainly Uni and Satre, who bear names that
known, sometimes with names of Greek origin, such as Pher-
may be explained as derived from Italic forms (and not the
sipnai, who is the Etruscan equivalent of the Greek Perseph-
other way around). This shows that the Etruscan religion was
one. She appears enthroned at the side of her husband Aita
formed in the same mold as the religions of the other peoples
(an Etruscan transcription of the Greek god of the under-
of the peninsula in prehistoric Italy at the end of the second
world, Hades) in paintings on the tomb of the Orcus at Tar-
and the beginning of the first millennium BCE.
quinia and the Golini tomb at Orvieto. Another underworld
divinity, Vei, has a purely Etruscan name, however. This
name, which must be part of the name of the town of Veii,
however, mean that the Etruscan religion is not original.
remains obscure. This is not the case with another indige-
Leaving aside divination, Etruria made its mark on what it
nous underworld goddess, Culsu, who is depicted on the sar-
borrowed from others. This can be seen most obviously in
cophagus of Hasti Afunei at Chiusi as placed at the entrance
their portrayal of the underworld, where Greek influence is
of the underworld. She is its guardian, and the Etruscan
evident. The sacred books dealing with these matters were
word culs, meaning “gate,” derives from her name. The in-
called the Books of Acheron, after the underworld river in
digenous name Lasa is given to a series of minor female dei-
Greek mythology, from which the Etruscans took the infer-
ties with various names who appear to be associated with
nal boatman Charon. But Charon, who is called Charun, ap-
more important goddesses, such as Achavisur, Alpanu, and
peared on tomb paintings brandishing a huge hammer with
Zipna, and who can be seen on mirrors assisting Turan, the
which he made ready to strike those who were about to die,
goddess of love, the equivalent of Aphrodite, in getting
an element not found in the Greek original. More generally,
dressed. The Etruscans also recognized a powerful chthonic
the Etruscans created an entire demonology that was perhaps
goddess, Cel ati; the two parts of her name mean “earth” and
inspired by certain Greek pieces (such as the depiction of the
“mother.” She is a “Mother Earth,” analogous to the Greek
underworld by Polygnotus in the Cnidian Lesche at Delphi)
Demeter and the Latin Terra Mater. Mention should also
but that, starting from the first paintings, such as the Tomb
be made of Menerva, derived from the Latin Minerva, god-
of the Blue Demons at Tarquinia from the fifth century BCE,
dess of the intellect (mens).
certainly underwent considerable development. Another
male demon is Tuchulcha, depicted with a hooked beak and
Among the male gods is a god of water, Nethuns, and
pointed ears with two snakes rising on his head. Female de-
a god of the forest, Selvans, corresponding, respectively, to
mons also exist. They are often depicted on funerary urns to
the Latin equivalents Neptune and Silvanus. Other gods
indicate that the person shown alongside is going to die. In
with Latin equivalents include Satre, corresponding to Sat-
particular, the female demon Vanth is a winged woman,
urn; Velchans, corresponding to Vulcan (Volcanus); Vetis,
bare-breasted or even completely naked, brandishing a torch,
corresponding to Jupiter of the night and the underworld,
sometimes with snakes, at other times with a roll of parch-
Vediovis. On the other hand, Apulu, a Greek name, is the
ment on which the fate of the deceased was written.
god Apollo, whom the Etruscans adopted under this name
ETRUSCAN WOMEN AND RELIGION. It is true that the Etrus-
along with his myths. The Apollo of Veii statue from the end
cans were original in one aspect in which their civilization
of the sixth century BCE in the temple of Portonaccio shows
differed from those of Greece and Rome; that is, the accepted
him fighting with Hercules in the episode of the capture of
position of women in society. The Etruscan woman enjoyed
the Cerynian hind. Yet many other gods have local names.
much greater freedom than her Greek and Roman sisters.
Several are the equivalents of figures in the Greek pantheon,
She can be seen lying alongside her husband on the same
including Turms, portrayed as the messenger of the gods
banqueting couch. This would have been unthinkable in
Hermes; Sethlans as the blacksmith god Hephaistos; Usil as
Greece, where the banquet was an entirely male affair and
the sun god Helios, with rays coming from his head; and Fu-
only prostitutes were present, with lawful wives remaining
fluns as the god of the wine, Dionysos (and sometimes given
in the gynaeceum. One might therefore expect that Etruscan
the epithet Pachie, a transcription of the name Bacchus).
women would occupy a privileged religious position.
However, several gods had no Greek equivalents. This is the
case with Suris, who seems to have been an infernal and war
However, this is not apparent in the evidence. Women
god, like the mysterious Pater Soranus of Mount Soracte in
are more often found in classical roles without particularly
Capena, in the territory of the Sabines, to which the name
high status, such as mourners who, on the fifth-century BCE
seems related.
funerary reliefs at Chiusi, are seen weeping at the scene of
the laying out of the dead. Maybe there were female priest-
This list shows Greek religious influence. Certain gods,
esses, but the only definite instance involves a bacchante,
such as Apollo, were borrowed from the Greeks, whereas on
who is depicted lying on the lid of a fine marble sarcophagus
another level the success of the hero Hercules, whom they
at Tarquinia holding a thyrsus and a vase with handles with
called Hercle, is noteworthy. A large number of statues and
a doe beside her. This woman appears in a religious role on
statuettes, evidence of his cult, have been found in Etruria.
the fringes of the official religion of the city.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

However, the restricted role played by women in what
establish the founding myth of the national religious science.
the sources reveal concerning Etruscan religion need not be
This proves its importance to the Etruscans.
at variance with real life. Even if Etruscan women had more
rights than Greek or Roman women, one must be careful not
HE HARUSPICES. The revelation issued by Tages (or by Ve-
goia) gave rise to an entire sacred literature, the “Etruscan
to overrate their social role. One should not take at face value
books,” which set out the substance of the national religious
what Greek and Latin writers say about Etruscan women. As
science that Latin writers frequently describe. This means
peoples who had been the Etruscans’ enemies, they were in-
that, for once, scholars are relatively well informed. These
clined to be critical of them. Thus, the liberty, at least in a
books were the mark of the specialists of the Etruscan disci-
relative sense, that the Etruscans allowed their women might
pline, the haruspices. These haruspices—whose name origi-
be taken by these writers as loose living. They also tended
nally applied to one of their specialities, the inspection of the
to exaggerate everything they said about them, stating that
liver of sacrificial victims, but then took on a more general
they gave themselves shamelessly to lovemaking with anyone
meaning—could be recognized by their distinctive dress.
at all during banquets. The same exaggeration occurred in
They wore a tapering, pointed hat. Sometimes this hat is seen
the religious sphere. Whereas Roman tradition holds that
on sarcophagi on top of a kind of folded sheet, which is in
Tanaquil, the wife of L. Tarquinius Priscus, was an expert
fact a linen book (like the one from the Zagreb mummy).
in divination and interpreted the omens from which her hus-
This was the particular mark of the haruspex of the dead,
band and the young Servius Tullius benefited, this is more
who carried out his duties wearing this headgear while con-
a matter of Roman imagination than Etruscan reality. The
sulting his books.
haruspices known from the epigraphic or literary sources are
exclusively men.
These haruspices, at least in Etruria, were high-ranking
individuals. Thus Cicero tells that one of his Etruscan
friends, Caecina, was an expert in the national religious sci-
ISCIPLINA. Even so, there is one sphere in which the Etrus-
cans developed their own myths, and these reveal what is
ence and belonged to one of the most important Tuscan aris-
truly original about Etruscan religion and why the Romans
tocratic families. Haruspices considered the Etruscan disci-
considered them the most religious of peoples. They had cre-
pline as their exclusive possession and handed down the
ated what the Romans called Etrusca disciplina, using the
books from one generation to the next, fathers taking care
Latin word disciplina to mean a “science.” In their case it is
to instruct their sons in their use. This instruction was deadly
a religious science centered around divination and rituals.
serious, conveying the scientific aspect, at least to ancient
The Etruscans did not view this Etrusca disciplina as the work
eyes, of the Etruscan discipline. Etruscan haruspicy, con-
of human beings. It was the result of a revelation given by
cerned with ritual or even with divination, did not allow it-
gods to human beings at the beginning of their national his-
self to be guided by what the Greeks called mania, the god
tory. This revelation, committed to writing, was the basis for
entering the body and soul of the person acting as the inter-
the Etruscan religious sacred books.
mediary between the gods and human beings. Etruscan
haruspicy studied the phenomena set before it with the help
Several competing traditions existed. The most famous
of the classifications laid down in its books. This required
was from Tarquinia. According to this version, the Etrusca
seriousness, the exact opposite of the trances of soothsayers
disciplina was owed to a divine child called Tages. As a new-
possessed by divine inspiration. A famous fifth-century BCE
born, he was discovered by a plowman on the outskirts of
mirror from Vulci shows Calchas, the soothsayer of the
the town. He had obviously been born from the earth, and
Greek army at Troy, as an Etruscan haruspex examining the
no sooner had he been born than he began to speak and issue
liver of a victim. He is bent over the organ, which he is study-
a revelation. He set out the basic principles of religious sci-
ing carefully, looking at the slightest variations in shape, tex-
ence, which those present eagerly committed to writing.
ture, and color. It is quite correct to talk of a science, the
Then he disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared.
term for the rigorous deductive method based upon detailed
observation by which the haruspex formed his opinions. The
The story seems ridiculous, and Cicero, who relates it
Etruscan discipline even involved experimental science. Far
in his treatise On Divination, is openly contemptuous. As a
from becoming a closed corpus, fixed once and for all by the
good Roman he did not believe the gods could intervene di-
initial revelation of Tages, Etruscan sacred literature was en-
rectly in human affairs and rejected mythology as puerile sto-
hanced by observations of haruspices of later times. Cicero
ries. But the legend may be analyzed in terms of standard
says they noted in their books new phenomena they observed
motifs. There is the autochthonous myth, in which a being
and thus managed to enlarge upon the basic principles con-
is described as earthborn, produced like a plant. This is how
tained in the religious literature handed down to them.
the Athenians described their origins. This motif is coupled
with the combination of old man and infant, fusing in one
person the physical characteristics of infancy and the wisdom
ing to Cicero, Etruscan religious literature was divided into
of old age. These are standard legendary motifs; what is inter-
three kinds of books: the books of thunderbolts, the books
esting is that, in the Etruscan case, they are not used for the
of haruspicy, and the books of rituals. The extensive role of
tale of a hero or the story of the origin of a people but to
divination is clear, since the first two categories were dedicat-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ed to it. The libri fulgurales dealt with divination by thunder-
The Liver of Piacenza allows still further understanding
bolt and lightning, or brontoscopy; and the libri haruspicini
of the Etruscan religious system. The apparently unsystemat-
with divination by inspecting the livers of sacrificial animals,
ic arrangement of boxes on the surface of the liver is in fact
or hepatoscopy; whereas in the libri rituales certain other
amenable to a certain organization. The two halves of the
kinds of divination are also considered, such as omens.
organ are separated by the anatomical division, the incisura
. The right side, which literary sources call the pars
The books of thunderbolts. The Etruscans were not
familiaris, with neatly arranged square boxes, contains the
the first to be interested in thunderbolts; the phenomenon
heavenly gods, such as Tinia, who are relatively benign. In
has always seemed to be of divine origin. In observing them,
contrast, the left side, which sources describe as pars hostilis,
the haruspices demonstrated their analytical abilities. Seneca,
arranged in a circle, has the names of infernal gods, such as
in his Natural Questions, and Pliny the Elder, in his Natural
Vetis, or unsettling gods, such as Satre or Selvans. Above all,
History, drawing on Etruscan sources, show the fine distinc-
the circumference of the organ has a series of sixteen boxes
tions the Etruscans made, establishing minute, generally
in a band around the object. This ties in with a detail known
complex classifications, distinguishing thunderbolts by their
from elsewhere: Etruscan haruspices divided the vault of
color, their shape, and the effect they had when they hit the
heaven into sixteen sectors according to the cardinal points,
ground. This theory of thunderbolts gave rise to a vision of
beginning from the quadrant going from north to west.
the way the world worked. The Etruscans maintained that
the principal god Tinia had three kinds of thunderbolts. The
This allows an understanding of the theoretical basis of
first, the most benevolent, was used to issue warnings; he
Etruscan hepatoscopy. By reproducing the sky with the
used this on his own authority. The effects of the second
abodes of the gods who live there, the liver is a microcosm
were more serious; it brought only misfortune. However, the
reflecting the macrocosm of the universe, whose workings
the gods oversee. It logically follows that the gods imprint
god could only hurl this on the advice of a council of twelve
in the microcosm signs that correspond to their actions in
deities, six gods and six goddesses. The third left nothing un-
the macrocosm. And it is not a matter of indifference that
touched and changed the way the world was organized. Tinia
these signs are passed down to the human race using the liver
only used this on the instructions of mysterious divinities—
of a sacrificial animal.
masters of destiny—gods said to be hidden or superior,
whose names, numbers, and gender remained unknown.
According to a thorough analysis of the portion given
to the human beings and the portion given to the gods in
The Etruscans did not consider the workings of the
Greece by Jean-Pierre Vernant and Marcel Detienne and a
world the result of the whims of a god, however, even the
group of their pupils, published in La cuisine du sacrifice in
chief god Tinia. Even he was subject to a destiny more pow-
Paris in 1979, the liver reverts to the gods, to whom it is con-
erful than he. This idea was developed in certain libri rituales,
veyed, when burned upon the altar. Considered by the an-
the books called fatales, concerning fatum (destiny). For the
cients as the life center of the animal, it reverts by right to
Etruscans the history of the world did not unfold by chance
the immortal gods, masters of the life of every living creature.
but was divided into a certain number of saecula (a period
Yet if, as this work has emphasized, the Greek sacrifice in this
of varying length, calculated according to the lifespan of the
way stresses the difference between the gods and human be-
longest living individual of a particular generation, so saecula
ings, in the Etruscan sacrifice it was their association, the ex-
could consist of 123 or 119 years). Each nation was entitled
change effected between them, that was considered crucial.
to a given number of saecula, ten in the case of the Etruscans,
The Etruscan sacrifice was defined by ancient authors as con-
after which it would disappear, its destiny fulfilled.
sultative: the consultation, involving the examination of the
liver by the haruspex, was considered a fundamental part of
The Books of Haruspicy. The libri haruspicini dealt
the ceremony. What mattered to the Etruscans above all was
with another classical kind of divination, hepatoscopy, which
the examination performed on the liver by the haruspex. The
was particularly well known among the ancient peoples of
organ became the place of exchange between human beings
the Middle East and based upon the study of the livers of
and the gods, and the divinatory signs the gods placed there
animals offered to the gods in the central cult ceremony, the
were their responses to the offering made.
bloody sacrifice. Scholars are relatively well informed on
Etruscan hepatoscopy. In 1877, in a field near Piacenza in
The books of rituals. The third category of books, the
Emilia, a bronze model liver was discovered. Subsequently
books of rituals, is not a single whole. These books discuss
known as the Liver of Piacenza, it had a box diagram on its
divination as regards omens and destiny, the subject of the
surface, each section marked with the name of a god. This
subcategory libri fatales. Nevertheless, rituals are also a signif-
model liver was used to teach young haruspices. Thus they
icant subject for a religion that regarded the exact perfor-
learned a particular interpretative grid, which they then used
mance of ceremonies of vital importance, the slightest error
as a gauge for the actual livers they examined. If they found
potentially provoking the anger of the gods and leading to
a particular feature in one of the boxes in the diagnostic dia-
disaster. Many Etruscan rituals were brought to Rome. The
gram, they knew the god named in that box had sent this
foundation rite that Romulus is said to have followed when
sign and needed to be placated.
he founded Rome in 753 BCE is universally considered of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Etruscan origin. Romulus invited specialists from Etruria,
their own haruspex in their retinue: Spurinna, Caesar’s ha-
who explained to him how to draw the sacred boundary of
ruspex, unsuccessfully warned him of the danger on the Ides
the city, the pomerium, by digging the sulcus primigenius, the
of March. Many generals were accompanied by a haruspex,
first furrow, with the help of a plow pulled by a white bull
and subsequent emperors had their own specialized staff for
and a white cow.
Etruscan divination.
These books also describe other rituals. The subcategory
These were important figures. Spurinna belonged to
called the Books of Acheron describes certain sacrifices of-
one of the most important Etruscan aristocratic families, and
fered for the dead, who it was believed were thus able to be-
an imperial haruspex like Umbricius Melior, who in turn
come actual gods, called dei animales, where animales means
served Galba, Otho, and Vespasian, was important enough
“created from a soul” (anima means “soul” in Latin). The
for the town of Tarentum to be honored by his patronage.
process was simply ritual: it was sufficient to sacrifice certain
Yet not all haruspices were such highfliers. Many were poor
animals and offer their blood to certain deities. This may
scoundrels trading on public gullibility. Cato, in his treatise
seem childish; however, compared to the specifically Roman
on agriculture, warned the steward of the ideal farm he de-
religion, which said nothing concerning human prospects
scribed to be wary of the haruspices who roamed the coun-
after death, the Etruscan religion had an infinitely richer
tryside. A number of Latin authors, including Cicero, the
view of the future of human beings in the afterlife.
comic playwright Plautus, and the philosopher-poet Lucre-
ROME AND ETRUSCAN HARUSPICY. Far from disappearing
tius, denounced low-grade haruspices as nothing more than
after the Roman conquest between 396 BCE, the date of the
charlatans. This did not prevent them from flourishing; in-
fall of the first Etruscan city, Veii, and 264 BCE, when the
scriptions indicate their presence throughout the Roman
last remaining independent city, Volsinii, fell, this aspect of
Etruscan religion continued to exist in a world that had now
become a Roman one. The Romans were impressed by the
RELIGION. Henceforth the Etruscan religious tradition no
practical benefits of the Etruscan discipline.
longer seemed like a foreign body differing from the national
An ancient state could not be secular. One of its most
Roman tradition, the mos maiorum, as the Romans called
important tasks was to ensure good relations between the city
their ancestral traditions. Etruscan religion was fully integrat-
and the gods. If human beings were to blame for some mis-
ed into the heart of Roman religion and had an officially rec-
deed or some oversight on their part, what was called the pax
ognized place. It even seemed to be a key element. For Em-
deorum (peace of the gods)—that is, the harmonious state of
peror Claudius, who reorganized the ancient collegium of
relations between the gods and the city—was broken. The
sixty haruspices in 47 CE, it represented the the most distin-
gods showed their anger, which risked turning into the worst
guished part of traditional Roman religion.
of disasters, visible in terms of events that indicated a break
Claudius justified his actions by the need to combat
in the natural order of things, omens, and the outbreak of
“foreign superstitions,” namely all those religious systems not
the supernatural in the normal course of existence. Faced
part of traditional Greco-Roman paganism, including the
with such signs, it was vital that the city understand what it
developing Christian religion. The old Etruscan tradition
had done wrong and what action should be taken. Confront-
was called upon to play its part in the defense of the mos mai-
ed by such divine signs, Roman religion, in terms of its na-
orum, and the place held by haruspicy in the religious func-
tional heritage, was powerless. Faced with disasters, such as
tions of the Roman res publica meant that at times harus-
earthquakes or epidemics, heavenly signs, such as comets or
pices were effectively in the forefront of the struggle against
hailstorms, or even mere curious happenings, such as the
the Christians. Thus, the Great Persecution of Diocletian,
birth of a hermaphrodite child or a sheep with two heads,
decreed in 303 CE, the gravest crisis the young religion had
it was necessary to consult the Etruscan haruspices, who
faced, was embarked upon following an incident, reported
would discover in their books what needed to be done.
by the Christian writer Lactantius, in which haruspices
Rome was not slow to employ the skills of Etruscan spe-
played a key part. Lactantius stated that Christian slaves pres-
cialists in matters of rituals and divination. Probably from
ent at the celebration of an imperial sacrifice disrupted it,
the time they had completed the conquest, the Senate orga-
causing the anger of the gods. Consequently Diocletian de-
nized the Order of Sixty Haruspices, drawn from young no-
cided to persecute the Christians.
bles of various Etruscan cities, who could be consulted as
soon as some event seemed to require the use of the Etruscan
UNDER THE EMPIRE. It would be misleading, however, to see
in the attitude of the haruspices toward new religions, and
particularly in their hostility to Christianity, nothing more
these circumstances the integration of Etruria into the
than narrow-minded conservatism. On the contrary, it is no-
Roman sphere, far from signaling the disappearance of the
table that the knowledge of the development of Etruscan be-
Etruscan discipline, enabled new expansion. Individuals also
liefs during this period demonstrates the haruspices’ adapt-
took advantage of the knowledge of the Etruscan soothsayers
ability to contemporary expectations—including, if need be,
for their own personal needs. Some important people had
features borrowed from their rivals. An amazing text, pre-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

served in the Byzantine lexicon the Suda, presents a suppos-
Etruscan tradition, which was too directly bound up with the
edly Etruscan account of creation, which is simply a copy of
official cult, was doomed to die out. Whereas one can hear
the biblical story in Genesis. As noted, the Etruscan discipline
echoes in Proclos, the “last pagan” who ran the school of phi-
was not closed and inward-looking. The scant evidence of
losophy at Athens between 430 and 485 CE, and even later
its later condition shows that it evolved and adopted ideas
in the work of John the Lydian, who in the time of Justinian
that would have originally been totally alien in the early days,
was interested in the ancient religious customs of Etruria in
such as the idea of the world being created by God. The
that last outpost of Rome, Byzantium, they were nothing
Etruscan tradition contained within it an ability to adapt,
more than nostalgia for a past long gone.
which other forms of Greco-Roman religion did not possess.
SEE ALSO Divination; Portents and Prodigies.
The main explanation of the genuine revival en-
joyed by the Etruscan religious tradition in the late days of
General Works on Etruscan Religion
the Roman Empire is that, compared to other religions, it
Dumézil, Georges. “La religion des Étrusques.” In La religion ro-
appeared firmly rooted in the most authentic Roman tradi-
maine archaïque, pp. 593–600. Paris, 1966. Mainly based
tion. In an age when, as that great defender of traditional
upon literary sources.
Roman religion in fourth-century Rome, the senator Sym-
Gaultier, Françoise, and Dominique Briquel, eds. Les Étrusques,
machus, remarked, all religions were considered of equal
les plus religieux des hommes: Actes du colloque international
value in approaching the ineffable mystery of God, the Etrus-
Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 17–18–19 November
can tradition retained an enormous advantage over the oth-
1992. XXes rencontres de l’École du Louve. Paris, 1997.
ers. It seemed to be from Italy and thus something with
Completely in French with contributions by the leading Et-
which the Romans should urgently reconnect. This is stated
ruscologists, the proceedings of a conference dealing with re-
in a letter from a pagan priest, Longinianus, to Augustine,
search on the Etruscan religion. Extensive bibliography.
who had asked him about his beliefs. This has been preserved
Grenier, Albert. Les religions étrusque et romaine. Series Mana, vol.
in the letters of the bishop of Hippo. In the letter, Longini-
3. Paris, 1948. Good description of Greek and Latin sources.
anus outlined a theory of revelation, explaining that every
Jannot, Jean-René. Devins, dieux, et démons: Regards sur la religion
part of the world has its own particular prophet and that for
de l’Étrurie antique. Paris, 1998. Well-informed survey with
Italy this prophet had been Tages, the child-prophet of Tar-
extensive iconography.
quinia, to whom the Romans should turn back as a matter
Maggiani, Adriano, and Erika Simon. “Il pensiero scientifico e re-
of urgency. Here is the trump card of the Etruscan religious
ligioso.” In Gli Etruschi: Una nuova immagine, edited by
tradition: it could put forward prophetic figures, like those
Mauro Cristofani et al., pp. 139–168. Florence, 1984. Brief
discussion but well informed, with a good iconography.
required in Judeo-Christian traditions, and it was based
upon sacred books setting out the teachings of these proph-
Pfiffig, Ambros Josef. Religio Etrusca. Graz, Austria, 1975. In Ger-
ets. With Tages and the sacred Etruscan books as part of
man, a complete work with an analysis of archaeological and
iconographical data.
their national heritage, the Romans had no need of the Bible
or of a prophet born in a remote corner of Judaea.
Capua Tile and Linen Book of Zagreb
Cristofani, Mauro. Tabula Capuana, un calendario festivo di età ar-
These aspects of Etruscan religious tradition ensured
caica. Florence, 1995. Work by one of the greatest Etrus-
that it played a part in the task of defending ancient religion,
cologists, dealing with the meaning of the Capua Tile.
which occupied philosophers at the end of paganism. A
Pallottino, Massimo. “Il contenuto della mummia di Zagabria.”
Roman writer of the second half of the third century, Corne-
Studi Etruschi 11 (1937): 203–237. Reprinted in Saggi di an-
lius Labeo, put it forward in his writings, notably in a treatise
tichità, vol. 2, Documenti per la storia della civiltà etrusca,
in which he described the doctrine of the transformation of
pp. 547–588. Rome, 1979. An old article but one of the best
the souls of the dead into gods, as mentioned in the Books
introductions to the contents of the Linen Book of Zagreb.
of Acheron. His works have not survived, but they had some
Etruscan Temples
influence because this Etruscan doctrine is one of the pagan
Banti, Luisa. “Il culto del cosidetto ‘tempio di Apollo’ a Veii e il
doctrines concerning the afterlife that Christian writers felt
problema delle triadi etrusco-italiche.” Studi Etruschi 17
it necessary to attack.
(1943): 187–201. An old article but helpful on the subject
of triads.
Nonetheless this intellectual volte-face was unable to
Colonna, Giovanni. “Tarquinio Prisco e il tempio di Giove Capi-
prevent the imminent disappearance of the last vestiges of the
tolino.” Parola del Passato 36 (1981): 41–59. On the excep-
Etruscan religion. These vestiges were closely bound to tradi-
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Colonna, Giovanni, ed. Santuari d’Etruria. Milan, 1985. Catalog
place given to haruspicy in the official religion, bound up
of an exhibition in Arezzo in 1985 with a survey of the main
with the position of the ancestral religion in the workings of
Etruscan temple excavations and the corpus of archaeological
the res publica. As soon as the Empire abandoned these reli-
gious practices and, with the edicts of Theodosius in 391 and
Prayon, Friedhelm. “Deorum sedes: Sull’orientamento dei templi
392 CE, banned public celebration of the pagan cult, the old
etrusco-italici.” In Miscellanea etrusca e italica in onore di
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Massimo Pallottino, pp. 1285–1295. Archeologia Classica 43.
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Suppléments à Caesarodunum, vol. 4, Les auteurs du Siècle
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, part I, Suppl. 61. Tours,
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Iconographicon Mythologiae Classicae. 8 vols. Zurich, 1981–
Guittard, Charles. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique. In
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Two index volumes were published in 1999.
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disciplina de Claude à Trajan, Suppl. 64. Tours, 1995.
paratistes sur les origines du culte de Vulcain, pp. 289–409.
Guittard, Charles. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique. In
Rome, 1995. In the context of a study of the Roman god
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Vulcan, introduction of data on the Etruscan Velchans that
et l’Etrusca disciplina, Suppl. 65. Tours, 1996.
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Guittard, Charles. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique. In
Rallo, Antonia. Lasa, iconografia e esegesi. Florence, 1974. Study
Suppléments à Caesarodunum, vol. 8, Les écrivains du troisième
on the Etruscan Lasa, regarded as the equivalent of Greek
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Etruscan Demonology
of Greek and Latin authors to Etruscan divination, with arti-
Krauskopf, Ingrid. Todesdämonen und Totengötter im vorhellenis-
cles by different contributors.
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The Liver of Piacenza
Study of the different Etruscan demons and their origins
Maggiani, Adriano. “Qualche osservazione sul fegato di Piacenza.”
(predates the discovery of the Tomb of the Blue Demons in
Studi Etruschi 50 (1982): 53–88. Fundamental study with
new readings of inscriptions.
Roncalli, Francesco. “Iconographie funéraire et topographie de
Meer, L. Bouke van der. The Bronze Liver of Piacenza: Analysis of
l’au-delà en Étrurie.” In Les Étrusques, les plus religieux des
a Polytheistic Structure. Amsterdam, 1987. Analysis of the ev-
hommes, pp. 37–54. Paris, 1997. Study of the Tomb of the
idence according to principles different from those adopted
Blue Demons.
by Maggiani.
Ruyt, Franz de. Charun, démon étrusque de la mort. Rome, 1934.
Omens and Gods Formed from a Soul
Complete iconographical study of the Etruscan Charun.
Bloch, Raymond. Les prodiges dans l’Antiquité classique: Grèce, Ét-
Etruscan Women
rurie, et Rome. Paris, 1963.
Amann, Petra. Die Etruskerin, Geschlechterverhältnis und Stellung
Briquel, Dominique. “Regards étrusques sur l’au-delà.” In La
der Frau im frühen Etrurien (9.–5. Jh. v. Chr.). Vienna, 2000.
mort, les morts, et l’au-delà dans le monde romain, edited by
Comprehensive study, well documented archaeologically, on
François Hinard, pp. 263–277. Caen, France, 1985.
the position of women in Etruscan society in the archaic
Haruspices in Republican Rome
MacBain, Bruce. Prodigy and Expiation: A Study in Religion and
Rallo, Antonia, ed. Le donne in Etruria. Rome, 1989. Collection
Politics in Republican Rome. Brussels, 1982. Fundamental
devoted to the place of women in Etruscan society.
work on the official haruspicy in Rome during the Republic.
Etruscan Discipline
Rawson, Elizabeth. “Caesar and the Etrusca Disciplina.” Journal
Bouché-Leclercq, Auguste. Histoire de la divination dans
of Roman Studies 68 (1978): 132–152.
l’antiquité. 4 vols. New York, 1975; reprint, Grenoble,
France, 2003. Survey of divination practices in the world of
Position of Haruspicy in Imperial Rome
classical antiquity. Good analysis of types of divination.
Briquel, Dominique. Chrétiens et haruspices: La religion étrusque,
Thulin, Carl Olof. Die etruskische Disciplin. 2 vols. Göteborg,
dernier rempart du paganisme romain. Paris, 1997. Relations
Sweden, 1906–1909. Old but fundamental work.
between those ancient Romans representing traditional
Etruscan religion and Christians.
Weinstock, Stefan. “Libri fulgurales.” In Papers of the British School
at Rome, vol. 19, pp. 122–153. London, 1951.
Mastandrea, Paolo. Un neoplatonico latino, Cornelio Labeone. Lei-
den, 1979. Role of Cornelius Labeo in the revival of Etruscan
Attitude of Greek and Latin Authors to Etruscan
Guillaumont, François. Philosophe et augure: Recherches sur la théo-
Montero, Santiago. Politica y adivinación en el Bajo Imperio Roma-
rie cicéronienne de la divination. Brussels, 1984. Attitude of
no: Emperadores y harúspices. Brussels, 1991. Systematic ex-
Cicero to Etruscan divination.
amination of evidence regarding late haruspicy.
Guittard, Charles. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique. In
Suppléments à Caesarodunum, vol. 1, Suppl. 52. Tours, 1985.
Translated from French by Paul Ellis
Guittard, Charles. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique. In
Suppléments à Caesarodunum, vol. 2, Suppl. 54. Tours, 1986.
Guittard, Charles. La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique. In
EUCHARIST. The Eucharist, also known as the Mass,
Suppléments à Caesarodunum, vol. 3, Suppl. 56. Tours, 1986.
Communion service, Lord’s Supper, and Divine Liturgy,
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among other names, is the central act of Christian worship,
The Orthodox and other Eastern churches retained this
practiced by almost all denominations of Christians. Though
general format with some variations. The liturgy of the West-
varying in form from the very austere to the very elaborate,
ern churches, however, went through a long period of accre-
the Eucharist has as its essential elements the breaking and
tion and elaboration of secondary symbolism which ob-
sharing of bread and the pouring and sharing of wine (in
scured the meaning of the action and tended to leave the
some Protestant churches, unfermented grape juice) among
congregation passive spectators of what the clergy were
the worshipers in commemoration of the actions of Jesus
doing. During the Middle Ages there also emerged the pri-
Christ on the eve of his death.
vate Mass, a Eucharist celebrated by a priest without a con-
gregation of worshipers present.
The word eucharist is taken from the Greek eucharistia,
which means “thanksgiving” or “gratitude” and which was
The sixteenth-century reformers took action to strip
used by the early Christians for the Hebrew berakhah, mean-
away all accretions and elements that did not seem to be in
ing “a blessing” such as a table grace. When Christians
accord with the text of the Bible. Zwingli and Calvin were
adopted the word from the Greek into other languages, the
more radical in this than Luther. The Roman Catholic
meaning was narrowed to the specific designation of the ritu-
church also instituted extensive reforms of the rite in the six-
al of the bread and wine.
teenth century, leaving a uniform pattern later known as the
Tridentine Mass. This, however, was very substantially re-
HISTORY. The ritual attributed to Jesus by the writers of the
vised after the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), allow-
New Testament is portrayed as a Jewish Passover seder meal
ing more spontaneity and congregational participation as
in which Jesus reinterprets the symbolism of the traditional
well as offering more variety.
celebration (Paul in 1 Cor. 11:23–26, Mk. 14:22–25, Mt.
26:26–29, and Lk. 22:14–20). Passover commemorates the
THEOLOGY. Eucharist is understood by all Christians to
liberation of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, which was
commemorate the saving death and resurrection of Jesus,
the first step in their becoming a people in covenant with
and to mediate communion with God and community
God. It is celebrated to this day by a lengthy ceremonial meal
among the worshipers. Beyond this basic concept, the theol-
with prescribed foods, in which the story of the deliverance
ogy of the Eucharist varies very widely among the Christian
is symbolically reenacted (see Ex. 12:1–28). Selecting from
denominations and has often been a cause of bitter dispute
the many symbolic foods customary in his time, Jesus takes
between them.
only the unleavened bread (the bread of emergency or afflic-
Both Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians under-
tion) and the wine. The tradition of the early witnesses is that
stand the presence of Christ very concretely, taking seriously
Jesus asks the traditional questions about the meaning of the
the so-called words of institution, “This is my body . . . this
ritual and answers, first about the bread he is breaking, “This
is my blood.” However, the Orthodox insist that while there
is my body, broken for you,” and then about the wine, “This
is an actual change in the bread and wine that justifies these
is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured
words, the manner of the change is a mystery not to be ana-
out for many.” It is clear that Jesus refers to his death and
lyzed or explained rationally. Since medieval times Catholic
is interpreting the significance of that death in terms of the
Christians have attempted to give an intellectually satisfying
symbolism of the Exodus story and the Passover ritual. He
explanation, focusing on the notion of a transubstantiation
invites the disciples to repeat the action frequently and thus
of bread and wine. While the eucharistic theology of the vari-
enter into his death and the outcome of that death. By plac-
ous Protestant churches varies widely, they are united in
ing his death in the context of Passover, Jesus interprets it
finding a theology of transubstantiation not in harmony with
as a liberation bringing his followers into community as one
their interpretation of scripture.
people in covenant with God (see 1 Cor. 11:17–34).
The meaning and effect of the Eucharist have also been
In the earliest Christian times, Eucharist was celebrated
discussed in Catholic theology under the term real presence.
rather spontaneously as part of an ordinary meal for which
This emphasizes that the presence of Christ mediated by the
the local followers of Jesus were gathered in his name in a
bread and wine is prior to the faith of the congregation. Prot-
private home. By the second century it is clear that there were
estant theology has generally rejected the term real presence
strong efforts to regulate it under the authority and supervi-
as one liable to superstitious interpretation.
sion of the local church leaders known as bishops. By the
fourth century, Eucharist was celebrated with great pomp
Orthodox and Catholic Christians also agree on an in-
and ceremony in public buildings, and the meal was no lon-
terpretation of the Eucharist in terms of sacrifice; that is, a
ger in evidence. At that time, solemn processions emphasized
renewed offering by Christ himself of his immolation in
the role of a clergy arrayed in special vestments. The form
death. Again, there have been determined efforts in the
of the celebration included several readings from the Bible,
Catholic theological tradition to give intellectually satisfying
prayers, chants, a homily, and the great prayer of thanksgiv-
explanations of this, while Orthodox theology tends to toler-
ing, in the course of which the words and actions of Jesus
ate a variety of explanations at the same time as it insists on
at his farewell supper were recited, followed by the distribu-
fidelity to the words of the liturgy itself. Protestants believe
tion of the consecrated bread and wine to the participants.
the theology of sacrifice lacks biblical foundation and doctri-
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nal validity, and prefer to emphasize the role of the Eucharist
ric algebra. His procedure epitomized the axiomatic-
as a memorial.
deductive method and became a paradigm for philosophical
It is paradoxical that the Eucharist is the sacrament of
and scientific reasoning. The greatest works in the history of
unity for Christians yet is a sign and cause of disunity among
astronomy imitate the Elements: Ptolemy’s Almagest (c. 150
denominations. In general denominations exclude others
CE), Copernicus’s De revolutionibus (1543), and Newton’s
from their eucharistic table, usually on account of theological
Principia (1686). There is no greater example of Euclid’s in-
differences. Contemporary initiatives reflect attempts to rec-
fluence in philosophy than Spinoza’s Ethics (1675), which
oncile some of these differences and to experiment cautiously
scrupulously reproduced Euclid’s method of definitions, axi-
with “intercommunion” among the churches. Such initia-
oms, and propositions.
tives appear to be far more extensive among laity than in the
The Elements became the elementary introduction to
official legislation of the churches.
mathematics in Hellenistic civilization. Translated into Ara-
bic in the ninth century and into Latin in the thirteenth, it
SEE ALSO Beverages; Bread; Food; Leaven; Passover.
became the foundation of Islamic, medieval, and Renais-
sance mathematics. It standardized the body of mathematical
knowledge well into the twentieth century. The Elements was
The texts of the eucharistic celebrations of the various Western
not translated into Sanskrit until the 1720s, though there is
churches are given in Liturgies of the Western Church, selected
evidence of some prior knowledge. The Chinese may have
and introduced by Bard Thompson (1961; reprint, Philadel-
known Euclid in the thirteenth century, but it did not affect
phia, 1980). An account of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy and
the development of their mathematics until 1607, when the
its theology is given in Alexander Schmemann’s Introduction
Jesuit Matteo Ricci produced a highly praised translation of
to Liturgical Theology (London, 1966). A description of the
the first six books of the Elements as part of the Jesuit mis-
early Christians’ Eucharist and eucharistic theology, with
identification of sources, is presented in The Eucharist of the
sionary strategy in China. The use of the Elements as the text-
Early Christians, by Willy Rordorf and others (New York,
book of mathematics over millennia is the source of the often
1978). More specifically concerned with the theology of the
repeated claim that, second only to the Bible, the Elements
Eucharist are Joseph M. Powers’s Eucharistic Theology (New
is the most widely circulated book in human history.
York, 1967), from a Catholic perspective, and Geoffrey
Wainwright’s Eucharist and Eschatology (1971; reprint, New
Euclid’s religious significance can be seen in two ways.
York, 1981), from a Protestant, particularly a Methodist,
First, Euclid fulfilled the value Plato saw in mathematics. Eu-
perspective. A discussion of the social implications of eucha-
clid’s masterpiece remains the enduring testament of the
ristic celebration can be found in my book, The Eucharist and
human capacity to construct a transparently intelligible sys-
the Hunger of the World (New York, 1976).
tem of relations grounded in logic and capable of extension
to the physical world, though not derived from it. He dem-
onstrates with lucid brevity how reason can successfully oper-
ate with purely intelligible objects such as points, lines, and
triangles, and discover new and unforeseen truths with them.
EUCLID (c. 300 BCE) was a Greek mathematician. Plato
Such exercise frees the mind from the appearances of the
described mathematics as a discipline that turns one’s gaze
senses and initiates it into an intellectual realm that Plato re-
from the Becoming of the sensible world to the Being of the
ferred to as the realm of Being. In Neoplatonism such exer-
intelligible. The great value of mathematics is to prepare the
cise had a paramount spiritual value. Augustine of Hippo,
mind for the apprehension of pure ideas. After Plato’s death,
in his Soliloquies (386), written the year before his baptism,
geometry flourished among his students. One of the few de-
esteemed mathematics as a preparation for the soul’s ascent
tails known about Euclid’s life is that he studied under
to God. The mind perceives necessary truths first in mathe-
Plato’s followers. Subsequently he founded the great school
matics and is then prepared to pursue eternal, divine truth.
of mathematics at Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote on mathe-
Having tasted the sweetness and splendor of truth in mathe-
matics, optics, and astronomy.
matics and the liberal arts, the mind actively seeks the divine.
A millennium later, the Christian mystic Nicholas of Cusa
Euclid’s Elements is the most influential work in all of
wrote in his Of Learned Ignorance (1440) that the most fit-
mathematics. Though other “Elements” were produced be-
ting approach to knowledge of divine things is through sym-
fore Euclid, his work organized and completed that of his
bols. Therefore he uses mathematical images because of their
predecessors, who are now known chiefly by reference. As the
“indestructible certitude” (bk. 1, chap. 11).
letters (Gr., stoikheia; “elements”) of the alphabet are to lan-
guage, so are the Elements to mathematics, wrote the Neopla-
Second, Euclid’s geometry implicitly defined the nature
tonist Proclus in the fifth century CE. The analogy is apt. In
of space for Western civilizations up to the nineteenth centu-
thirteen books Euclid goes from the most elementary defini-
ry. That “a straight line is drawn between two points,” Eu-
tions and assumptions about points, lines, and angles all the
clid’s first postulate, is also a statement about the space that
way to the geometry of solids, and he includes a theory of
makes it possible. Conceptions of space have religious reper-
the proportions of magnitudes, number theory, and geomet-
cussions because they involve matters of orientation. Isaac
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Newton (1642–1727) reified Euclidean space in his physics.
sirable” members of society (positive eugenics) and by dis-
He identified absolute space and absolute time, which to-
couraging reproduction among the “undesirable” (negative
gether constitute the ultimate frame of reference for cosmic
phenomena, with God’s ubiquity and eternity. Euclid’s fifth
postulate stipulated the conditions under which straight lines
HE ORIGINS OF EUGENICS. Influenced by his cousin
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection,
intersect, and, by implication, when they are parallel. To his
Galton researched the ancestry of eminent men in Great
continuing credit, Euclid presented the conditions as as-
Britain and believed that the characteristics that led to their
sumptions. For millennia mathematicians tried unsuccessful-
success—especially disposition and cognitive ability—were
ly to prove them. But, because Euclid’s postulates were only
inherited. Environment might have had some influence, but
assumptions, other conditions were possible. Thus in the
for Galton heredity was central to an individual’s traits and
nineteenth century Nikolai Lobachevskii, Farkas Bolyai, and
G. F. B. Riemann were inspired to develop non-Euclidean
geometries. These were crucial to Einstein’s theories of spe-
In addition to believing that talent and character could
cial and general relativity (1905, 1913) and, hence, to the
be inherited, Galton recognized that society was interfering
present cosmology, wherein a straight line cannot be drawn
with natural selection. Though evolution by Darwinian nat-
between two points. The conclusion that space and time are
ural selection had produced humanity, developed society was
inseparable in the mathematical and physical theories of the
drastically altering its course. In nature, natural selection
nineteenth and twentieth centuries owes its existence to the
eliminated the weak and the sick, allowing only the swift and
force of the Euclidean tradition.
strong to survive. In civilized societies, however, weak and
“feebleminded” persons were cared for and provided for
through charities, government programs, and religious
The classic English translation of the Elements is Thomas L.
groups, so that natural selection was no longer operating on
Heath’s The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements, 2d ed. (New
humanity. Galton believed that if nothing were done, society
York, 1956). It includes an introduction to Euclid’s place in
would suffer the deleterious effects of having “fit” traits dilut-
the history of mathematics and a thorough commentary on
ed by “unfit” traits.
the text. A more recent account of Euclid and his achieve-
ment, as well as the history of the Elements, with comprehen-
Consequently, Galton believed that civilized human so-
sive bibliographies, is found in Ivor Bulmer-Thomas’s “Eu-
ciety ought to take control of its own breeding practices by
clid” and John Murdoch’s “Euclid: Transmission of the
encouraging eugenic behavior that promoted the future
Elements,” in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New
health of society. He suggested that, much as farmers breed
York, 1970–1980). A discussion of the historical and philo-
only the best livestock, humans should promote reproduc-
sophical antecedents to Euclid and how his methods incor-
porate Platonic and Aristotelian developments in the philos-
tion among only the best of the human stock. Only then
ophy of mathematics is provided in Edward A. Maziarz and
would the human race be able to maintain its level of civiliza-
Thomas Greenwood’s Greek Mathematical Philosophy (New
tion and prevent the regression of humanity toward greater
York, 1968). The importance of mathematics in the educa-
feeblemindedness and greater physical weakness. Galton’s
tion of the philosopher is addressed in Werner Jaeger’s
solution to the problem was to encourage individuals in the
Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, 3 vols., translated by
upper classes—whose success Galton attributed to inherited
Gilbert Highet (Oxford, 1939–1944).
traits—to have more children.
New Sources
After 1900, when the work of the Austrian monk Gre-
Gray, Jeremy. Ideas of Space: Euclidean, Non-Euclidean, and Rela-
gor Mendel (1822–1884) was rediscovered, the true impact
tivistic. New York, 1989.
of heredity permeated both the scientific community and so-
Lloyd, G.E.R.. The Ambitions of Curiosity: Understanding the
ciety, and eugenics seemed to gain momentum. In his experi-
World in Ancient Greece and China. New York, 2002.
ments with pea plants, Mendel had shown how individual
Mlodinow, Leonard. Euclid’s Window: The Story of Geometry from
characteristics such as pea color and plant height were inher-
Parallel Lines to Hyperspace. New York, 2001.
ited according to a regular pattern. Eugenicists applied Men-
del’s results to human trait inheritance, assuming that intelli-
Revised Bibliography
gence, attitude, and other complex human behaviors were
the result of a clear-cut pattern of inheritance. Examining an
individual’s pedigree, then, could yield powerful clues about
what traits that individual’s offspring might inherit.
The term eugenics, from the Greek meaning
“good birth,” was coined by British scientist Francis Galton
Building on this apparently solid scientific foundation,
(1822–1911). As Galton defined it in Essays in Eugenics
eugenic scientists in both the United Kingdom and the Unit-
(1909), eugenics is “the study of agencies under social con-
ed States attempted to persuade governments and society to
trol which may improve or impair the racial qualities of fu-
embrace eugenic measures. Established in 1910 by Charles
ture generations” (p. 81). Eugenics seeks to improve the
Davenport (1866–1944), the Eugenics Records Office in
human gene pool by encouraging reproduction among “de-
Cold Spring Harbor, New York, served as the central clear-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

inghouse for family pedigree information and eugenic re-
of the institution ordered her sterilization under a new Vir-
search in the United States. Davenport and his colleague
ginia law. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, who,
Harry H. Laughlin (1880–1943), superintendent of the Eu-
having heard testimony in favor of sterilization from eugenic
genics Records Office, developed pedigree surveys and
experts including Laughlin, ruled that the state of Virginia
trained fieldworkers to gather family pedigree information
did indeed have the constitutional right to involuntarily ster-
for hundreds of individuals. Based on their examination of
ilize Carrie Buck. In the majority opinion (Buck v. Bell 274
such pedigrees, Davenport and Laughlin became convinced
U.S. 200, 1927), Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that
that the nation’s gene pool faced threats on two fronts. Inter-
the public good demanded that action be taken to sterilize
nally, “feebleminded” individuals were outbreeding the grad-
Carrie Buck, because “three generations of imbeciles are
uates of Ivy League universities, lowering the overall intelli-
gence of the gene pool. Externally, waves of new immigrants
The Supreme Court ruling in Buck v. Bell allowed states
from eastern and southern Europe threatened to overtake the
to continue forcibly sterilizing and institutionalizing those
Anglo-Saxon stock in the United States. Both problems were
deemed unfit for reproduction. California had involuntarily
“dysgenic” because they caused a decline in the quality
sterilized nearly twenty thousand individuals by the time its
breeding population, so urgent action was required to pre-
sterilization law was overturned in 1951, more than had been
vent the further deterioration of society.
sterilized in any other state. All told, over sixty thousand peo-
In dealing with the dysgenic effects of immigration, the
ple in thirty-three states were sterilized for a variety of inher-
Eugenics Records Office was influential in convincing the
ited “defects.”
U.S. Congress to pass restrictive new laws. Psychologist
In Germany, the eugenics movement (Rassenhygiene)
Henry H. Goddard (1886–1957) had performed intelligence
gained momentum as the Nazis rose to power and passed
tests on immigrants at Ellis Island that seemed to support the
forced sterilization laws beginning in 1933. Nazi scientists
eugenic argument that immigrants were of lower intelligence
and politicians approvingly cited the American experiment
than native stock. Using Goddard’s research as well as his
with eugenics, particularly in California, in their arguments
own, Laughlin testified before Congress that the waves of im-
for broader powers in determining who should be sterilized.
migrants from southern and eastern Europe were diluting the
When the horrors of the Nazi regime’s racial hygiene pro-
“purity” of older American immigrant populations from
gram were fully revealed, eugenics programs in the United
northern Europe, as well as costing taxpayers millions of dol-
States and elsewhere were largely discredited. Some have ar-
lars in social services. Heavily influenced by the eugenicists’
gued, however, that though state-sponsored eugenics is now
arguments, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924,
roundly condemned, eugenic attitudes persist in less overt
which set immigration quotas based on the 1890 census.
Consequently, immigrants of “eugenic” stock from northern
and western Europe were admitted in larger numbers than
RELIGION AND EUGENICS. Galton recognized the potential
the “dysgenic” stock from southern and eastern Europe.
power of eugenic ideals and the necessary conditions for their
acceptance. He wrote in 1909 in his Memories of My Life, “I
In addition to its work with the U.S. Congress, the Eu-
take Eugenics very seriously, feeling that its principles ought
genics Records Office provided model sterilization laws for
to become one of the dominant motives in a civilized nation,
states trying to implement “negative” eugenic measures. Sci-
much as if they were one of its religious tenets” (p. 322). The
entists and fieldworkers from the Eugenics Records Office
success of eugenics lay not only in its ability to present perti-
offered expert testimony in sterilization and institutionaliza-
nent information in support of eugenics, but also in its abili-
tion cases for those who had been diagnosed with a range of
ty to influence one’s entire way of living. Thus, the eugeni-
inherited “defects,” such as alcoholism, pauperism, criminal-
cists appealed not only to the science behind their efforts but
ity, feeblemindedness, and insanity. Yet even before the coor-
also to religious sensibilities by providing an ultimate expla-
dinated efforts by the Eugenics Records Office, states began
nation for an individual’s existence: responsibility to the fu-
passing eugenic sterilization laws, beginning with Indiana in
ture of the gene pool. Eugenics required an attitude of indi-
1907. Other states soon followed, including California in
vidual submission, an ethical orientation toward the greater
1909. In 1913 and 1917, amendments to the California law
good. To many scientists who argued for eugenic measures,
expanded the state’s power to involuntarily sterilize the “fee-
religion motivated ethical behavior better than any other so-
bleminded,” certain prisoners, and criminals with more than
cial phenomenon. Hence, eugenicists went to great lengths
three convictions.
in analyzing and appropriating religion for eugenic ends.
In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court heard an appeal by
Davenport grounded religious belief on the apparent
a seventeen-year-old woman from Virginia named Carrie
science of eugenics in a lecture he delivered in 1916, “Eugen-
Buck. Buck, along with her mother Emma, had been labeled
ics as a Religion.” Noting that every proper religion has its
“feebleminded” and placed under the care of the Virginia
own statement of belief, Davenport proceeded to annunciate
Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. After the unmar-
a twelve-point creed to serve as the basis for the new religion
ried Carrie Buck gave birth to a baby girl who was diagnosed
of eugenics. For Davenport, believing in eugenics meant be-
as “feebleminded” at eight months of age, the superintendent
lieving that one is the “trustee” of one’s genetic material; that
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one believes in the power of pedigree over environment; that
stead, religion should reexamine its ethical groundings. Dog-
one should have four to six offspring; that immigration
matic moral injunctions are no longer tenable in a eugenic
should be limited to weed out the “socially unfit”; and that
world. Popenoe and Johnson conclude that the success of eu-
one is responsible ultimately to the race. Davenport’s eugenic
genics depends on the individual placing the present and fu-
religion required that one be responsible both to one’s genet-
ture good of humanity above the good of the individual.
ic past and to society’s genetic future. Along with Daven-
Though many societal organizations foster selfless giving, the
port’s creed, the American Eugenics Society provided A Eu-
church is the most effective at encouraging altruism. Religion
genics Catechism (1926) in question-and-answer form. The
and the church can be a driving force behind eugenic change
catechism assured readers that eugenics was not antagonistic
if they will but base their ethical systems on a science.
to the Bible, for eugenics was concerned with the well-being
of the totality of humanity. The catechism also promised im-
The “Report and Program of the Eugenics Society of the
mortality through one’s genetic inheritance, passed on from
United States of America” (1925) pointed to the central role
generation to generation.
that religion had played in fostering both dysgenic and eu-
genic attitudes. Still, the society wondered whether the social
Likewise, Paul Popenoe and Roswell Johnson’s Applied
value of religion could be used to further eugenic ends. No
Eugenics (1933) gave immortality a firm grounding in scien-
doubt, religion influenced dysgenic behavior by encouraging
tific knowledge. In a passage describing the long line of
charity and providing social services. But like Popenoe and
human descent, Popenoe and Johnson argue that one’s ge-
Johnson, both of whom sat on the Eugenics Society’s adviso-
netic makeup is immortal because genes, as the factors that
ry council, the society recognized religion’s potential to in-
determine who one is, can be passed on to innumerable gen-
fluence individual behavior toward eugenic ends. The Eu-
erations. The authors argue that immortality is no longer
genics Society concluded that if further research showed that
merely hope but a real possibility. Even as the body dies, the
religion were in fact primarily dysgenic, then eugenics had
genes that contain the information to produce the body live
to devise a means of using religion’s moral authority while
on in one’s offspring. Popenoe and Johnson conclude, “To
altering its message.
the eugenist, life everlasting is something more than a figure
of speech or a theological concept—it is as much a reality as
One way in which the Eugenics Society encouraged reli-
the beat of a heart, the growth of muscles, or the activity of
gious engagement with eugenic principles was by sponsoring
the mind” (p. 41). Popenoe and Johnson go so far as to argue
a sermon contest for clergy. Submissions were judged accord-
that one passes on one’s soul from generation to generation
ing to their ability to present eugenic ideals in clear and co-
by the propagation of the genetic material; religion has but
herent fashion. Most did so by interpreting religious teach-
speculated about the nature of the soul and its immortality,
ings in light of eugenic ideals. One sermon claimed that the
but eugenic science has proven their relationship. According
Bible was a book of eugenics because it chronicled the lin-
to eugenics, then, an individual passes on his or her very soul
eages of important leaders and prophets. Jesus was seen as
to his or her offspring. As Davenport had argued in his creed,
the product of the highest religious and moral stock of priest-
the proper attitude is one of submission to the greater good
ly and prophetic individuals. Another sermon claimed it a
of society and to the precious inheritance of genetic material.
sin to bring feebleminded and diseased children into the
world. Finally, one sermon argued that Jesus endorsed eu-
Popenoe and Johnson devote an entire chapter to the
genics in saying that it would have been better if Judas had
subject of eugenics and its relationship to religion. Interest-
never been born (Mt. 26:24; Mk. 14:21). In this view, eugen-
ingly, Popenoe and Johnson begin by asserting that “natural
ics could be a crucial tool in bringing about the ordered soci-
selection favors the altruistic and ethical individual because
ety of which Jesus seemingly spoke.
he is more likely to leave children to carry on his endowment
and his attitude” than the merely selfish, shortsighted indi-
Because marriage was an important focus of eugenic
vidual. As Galton had first observed, modern society has in-
measures, some clergy took the initiative to aid the eugenic
terfered with the operation of Darwinian natural selection.
movement by enforcing a version of “negative” eugenics. In
But unlike Galton, Popenoe and Johnson see the problem
1912, W. T. Sumner, the dean of the Episcopal Cathedral
not only in society’s failure to eliminate the weak and unin-
of Chicago, announced that he would not marry couples
telligent, but also in its failure to rid itself of selfish and short-
who failed to produce a physician’s certificate of good health,
sighted individuals. They argue that selfishness creates prob-
a move endorsed by two hundred clergy. The hope was that
lems for eugenicists since eugenics is based on placing the
the clergy would aid eugenicists by preventing unprofitable
good of the race ahead of the good of the individual. Thus,
unions that would pass on undesirable traits.
the eugenics movement requires a structure for encouraging
altruism and selflessness, a structure provided by religion.
Eugenic scientists embraced religious language even as
they critiqued the dysgenic impact of various religions. Still,
For Popenoe and Johnson, science can offer religion a
they recognized religion’s unequalled social power in influ-
solid basis for ethics, one amenable to eugenic ideals, as well
encing individual behavior and in urging action. Even as they
as present a rational explanation for the immortality of the
criticized the dysgenic effects of unconditional religious char-
soul. Religion need not retreat from the field of ethics; in-
ity and threatened to take over the entire field of ethics, eu-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

genicists urged religion to incorporate scientific analyses into
Davenport, Charles. Heredity in Relation to Eugenics. New York,
its ethical systems and embrace eugenic ideals.
1911. Contains Davenport’s research on trait inheritance
and proposes a number of eugenic measures that were suc-
UGENICS IN RECENT HISTORY. Interest in the history of the
cessfully implemented with Davenport’s aid.
eugenics movement has increased markedly since the 1980s
as new genetic technologies have been developed and as the
Duster, Troy. Backdoor to Eugenics. 2d ed. New York, 2003. A so-
Human Genome Project has completed the map of human
ciologist’s exploration of the potential for eugenics in social
and economic policies.
DNA. Prenatal screening for genetic disorders, along with
the legalization of abortion in the United States and the
Galton, Francis. Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Develop-
United Kingdom, has increased the debate over the social
ment. London, 1883. Chronicles Galton’s proposals for eu-
genic measures.
consequences of genetic knowledge. Debates have swirled
around the proper use of such new technologies and the so-
Galton, Francis. Memories of My Life. 3d ed. London, 1909.
cial consequences of their availability. Key concerns include
Galton, Francis. Essays in Eugenics. New York, 1909.
the difference between notions of treatment versus notions
Herrnstein, Richard J., and Charles Murray. The Bell Curve: Intel-
of improvement. For example, if it becomes possible, should
ligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York, 1994.
the genes for Tay-Sachs disease or cystic fibrosis be removed
Kevles, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses
from the gene pool? Would such action constitute eugenic
of Human Heredity. Cambridge, Mass., 1995. The most
improvement or disease prevention?
comprehensive history of eugenics in the United States and
The history of eugenics has also been invoked in debates
the United Kingdom, connecting the early twentieth-century
surrounding the connection between intelligence and race.
eugenics movement with subsequent developments in genet-
ics and with debates over the role of genetics in human be-
Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve
havior and intelligence.
(1994) worries about the dysgenic effects of variable breeding
rates because, the authors argue, racial groups with lower in-
Larson, Edward J. Sex, Race, and Science: Eugenics in the Deep
South. Baltimore, Md., 1995.
telligence levels are reproducing at a higher rate than races
with higher IQs. Critics of The Bell Curve assert a more envi-
Paul, Diane B. Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present.
ronmental explanation for variations in intelligence and
Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1995. Provides a good introduc-
argue that genetics are not decisive in determining an indi-
tion to eugenics, examining its appeal to scientists and intel-
vidual’s intelligence.
Popenoe, Paul, and Roswell Johnson. Applied Eugenics. 2d ed.
Other scholars have maintained that the use of new ge-
New York, 1933. Two leading American eugenicists explore
netic technologies tends to support existing social hierarchies
the wide-ranging implications of eugenics for society.
and vested economic interests. They worry that economic in-
terests will determine for whom and for what purpose genet-
ic technologies will be used, which will in turn reinforce so-
cial stratification as those unable to afford genetic
enhancements are left behind. If the means for enhancement
are available, some argue, parents will demand that such
hemerus, a Greek (c. 340–260 BCE), achieved fame as the re-
technology be used. In this case, consumer demand, not gov-
sult of an imaginative story he wrote that speaks, in a certain
ernment control, will drive a new eugenics based on the de-
fashion, about the origins of divinities. After his death, Eu-
sire for “designer babies.” Though they recognize the eugenic
hemerus’s name became identified with a special, widely dis-
dangers, a number of theologians and ethicists have endorsed
cussed and disputed way of interpreting religion. Euhemer-
certain forms of genetic research because of their potential
ism had an impact for many centuries. Even today, no one
to relieve human suffering. For them, the promise of healing
dealing with the history of scholarship of religion will leave
offered by genetic therapies outweighs the concerns over the
Euhemerus unmentioned. Very little is known about Eu-
misuse of new technologies and new therapies.
hemerus himself. What is known is precisely what tradition
has made him: the originator of euhemerism, an elucidation
of religion that explains the gods as elevated images of histor-
Allen, Garland E. “The Eugenics Records Office at Cold Spring
ical individuals whose acts were beneficial to those around
Harbor, 1910–1940: An Essay in Institutional History.” Osi-
ris 2 (1986): 225–264.
American Eugenics Society. A Eugenics Catechism. New Haven,
The term euhemerism came to refer to a method of em-
Conn., 1926.
pirical explanation applied to the accounts of gods found in
sacred traditions. Indeed, Aristotle, the first great Greek
Carlson, Elof Axel. The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea. Cold Spring
Harbor, N.Y., 2001. Traces the broad history of the idea of
thinker with an empirical sense of inquiry, was part of the
certain people as “undesirable” in connecting previous eu-
generation that preceded Euhemerus. There is no reason to
genic impulses with the eugenics movement in the twentieth
believe that Euhemerus was an empiricist or that he shared
century and the emerging issues raised by the genetic tech-
Aristotle’s analytical views concerning traditional religion.
nologies of the twenty-first century.
Euhemerus’s turn of mind went elsewhere. In Euhemerus’s
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

day, well before Strabo (c. 63 BCE–c. 24 CE), geography was
thology and fables explained by history). From the age of the
far from the accurate discipline it would become. Traveling,
Enlightenment onward, scholars, among them many a classi-
however, was a most attractive topic, and travel stories were
cist, looked upon Euhemerus as a debunker whose work rep-
told everywhere, from China to the shores of the Mediterra-
resented a rational critique of religion. This element of “de-
nean. Euhemerus achieved renown in his own time as the
sacralization” was admired by some and regretted by oth-
teller of a travel story.
ers—but both sides of that argument were missing the boat.
Few of Euhemerus’s contemporaries were likely to have felt
The title of a novelette Euhemerus wrote has come
Euhemerus as a critical force. Greek religion was imparted
down to us as Hiera Anagraph¯e, a title that is usually rendered
primarily in storytelling.
as “Treatise on Sacred Matters.” It is not known whether this
title was given by Euhemerus himself or by someone later,
The classical historian Truesdell S. Brown quite rightly
nor is it known whether this title renders Euhemerus’s own
stressed a simple fact many of his peers had overlooked: the
intentions. In fact, a real impediment to modern access to
Greek gods were unlike the God of the Bible (and of the
Euhemerus is the fact that no version of the text he wrote
QurDa¯n, the holy book of the third Abrahamic tradition).
exists. (The understanding of hiera as “sacred” might be mis-
Brown emphasized that the entire known Greek religious
leading; one might just as well translate the title as “treatise
heritage consists in stories (that is, myths), whereas the vast
on religious matters.”) All that exists are summaries of much
majority of biblical writings, apart from notable exceptions
later date. The two most extensive writings about Euhemerus
like the Psalms, present themselves neither as unmythical, or
come from the Christian apologist Lactantius (c. 260–340
as history. Moreover, the Greeks did not have “holy scrip-
CE) and, earlier, Diodorus Siculus (died after 21 BCE), who
ture” or “church dogma.”
wrote a world history and is one of our best sources for the
The Germanist and historian of religions Jan de Vries
history of antiquity.
was more in keeping with certain of his colleagues when he
Hiera Anagraph¯e tells of a voyage to an island in the east
called Euhemerus “a clear example of the triviality to which
called Panchaia, from which—according to the story—on
the fourth century sank in explaining the gods.” Joseph Fon-
clear days India could be seen. On this island stood a golden
tenrose, a classicist, by contrast, lauded Euhemerus for his
pillar with a golden engraving on it. The pillar recounted the
“rationalism” and for the position that mere people are at the
life of Zeus, and also of the rulers of Panchaia before him:
root of divinity. These positions of De Vries and Fontenrose
his father, Kronos, and his grandfather, Ouranos. Zeus, ac-
nicely exemplify those disagreements regarding Euhemerus
cording to this story, traveled through the world, and wher-
wherein both sides miss the point that matters by missing the
ever he went the worship of the gods became established. But
storytelling structure of the religion of the Greeks.
Zeus and the kings before him were rulers who bestowed
Augustine of Hippo (354–430) accomplished a fateful
benefits on the inhabitants of Panchaia. The people came to
reunderstanding of Euhemerus (as did many of the early
worship them as gods. In other words, Zeus, his father, and
Christian thinkers). Augustine was familiar with Eu-
his grandfather were royal rulers who were made gods be-
hemerus’s ideas, and for him they only indicate that the “pa-
cause of their acts on behalf of human beings.
gans” themselves were of the opinion that their gods were
What Euhemerus wrote differs considerably from older,
mere people. Moreover, Augustine was convinced that those
didactic traditions, such as that of Xenophanes of Colophon
individuals who were elevated to divinity gained that status
(sixth century BCE), who is known for his emphasis on the
as a result of their stupendous evil—and this inversion, we
difference between gods and men: “But the mortals think
can see, is precisely the opposite of what Euhemerus said.
that the gods are born and dress, speak and look just like they
This Euhemerismus inversus of the early Christians had great
themselves do,” (Diels and Kranz, 1934, fragment 14), and
persistence. Since the nineteenth century (when most mis-
“there is only one single God, the supreme among gods and
sionary societies were established), many a missionary has
people, unlike the people both in appearance and in
held the opinion that “pagan” gods are demons. This opin-
thought,” (Diels and Kranz, 1934, fragment 23).
ion is an offshoot of those early Christian theologies.
Euhemerus wrote as a storyteller. Storytelling can be a
Among more “secular” scholars, it is remarkable that a
way of conveying the sacred, of speaking about the sacred,
number have taken Euhemerus very seriously as a rationalist,
which we find in virtually all places and all times. Yet Eu-
and some have even developed theories that resemble his
hemerus’s narrative came to be viewed as an early attempt
supposed rational reductionism. The theory of “animism”
to find some rational basis of religion, and its author came
proposed by E. B. Tylor (1832–1917) lingers to this day—
to be seen as a sort of rationalist explainer. From the time
for example, in the writings of journalists who need a short-
of the early church fathers on, certain trends in Western
hand label (“animist”) to identify the religions of peoples in
thought caused theologians and other scholars to approach
remote parts of the world, peoples who once would have
Euhemerus as if he were a critic or debunker of the gods.
been called “savage,” “pagan,” or “primitive.” Tylor’s theory
Nevertheless, euhemerism lost little of its prestige. The
concerns the origin of religion and displays a mechanical
French scholar Abbé Banier (1673–1741) used it eagerly in
cause-and-effect rationalism, which many thought they saw
his work La mythologie et les fables expliqués par l’histoire (My-
(and liked) in Euhemerus.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Turning away from rationalizing and theorizing about
(History of the church) at Caesarea during the persecution,
the origins of religion, one can confront the fact of the ex-
possibly though not certainly after composing at a slightly
traordinary importance of storytelling. The medieval world,
earlier date a first draft of it as well as a first draft of his
Christianized as it was, told stories and performed plays in
Chronicon (Chronicle). At the end of the persecution, in spite
which Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, and of course the devil, spoke
of occasional slanders concerning apostasy spread by his ene-
with one another. And, of course, there were songs. And in-
mies, he became bishop of Caesarea. During this time he
stitutions or authorities did not condemn storytelling and
continued to update his Historia and composed other signifi-
cant works, such as the Demonstratio evangelica and Prae-
paratio evangelica.
He gradually became involved in the
It remains true that most of the time in most of the
Arian controversy; his defense of a traditional subordination-
world the myths of each religious tradition have been stories.
ist Christology partly resembling Origen’s was criticized by
Certainly in Greece and in antiquity in general, doctrines of
many fellow bishops. Indeed, a synod held at Antioch in 324
“faith” were inconceivable. The sloppy habit of equating reli-
or 325 condemned him and a few others, though he was
gion with faith is a modern deviation, a by-product of Chris-
given the right of later appeal. At the synod held at Nicaea
tian church history; faith cannot be translated, for example,
Eusebius set forth the local creed of Caesarea but accepted
into the languages of classical India or China.
the Alexandrian term homoousios (“of the same substance”),
SEE ALSO Animism and Animatism; Apotheosis; Atheism;
which transformed the creed’s meaning. Thereafter he
Deity; Fetishism; Hellenistic Religions; Manism; Utopia.
helped drive the pro-Nicene bishop Eustathius out of Anti-
och, acted as a judge when Athanasius was brought before
several synods, and attacked Marcellus of Ancyra as a Sabelli-
Bolle, Kees W. “In Defense of Euhemerus.” In Myth and Law
an. At the celebration of Constantine’s thirtieth anniversary
among the Indo-Europeans: Studies in Indo-European Compar-
Eusebius delivered a panegyric on the emperor and his di-
ative Mythology, edited by Jaan Puhvel, pp. 19–38. Berkeley,
vinely inspired deeds. Similar themes appear in his Life of
Constantine, written after 337. Eusebius died before the
Brown, Truesdell S. “Euhemerus and the Historians.” Harvard
synod of Antioch in 341.
Theological Review 39 (1946): 259–274.
Eusebius is known less for his deeds than for his multi-
Diels, Hermann, and Walther Kranz, eds. Die Fragmente der Vor-
tudinous writings, some of which are lost. Constant revision
sokratiker. 6th ed. Berlin, 1952.
and the transfer of materials from one work to another make
Ferguson, John. Utopias of the Classical World. London and Ithaca,
his development as a writer difficult to assess. He was an exe-
N.Y., 1975.
gete, an apologist, a historian, and a panegyrist, but his vari-
ous roles cannot be completely separated.
Fontenrose, Joseph. Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Ori-
gins. Berkeley, 1959.
As exegete he followed the example of Origen in his tex-
Manuel, Frank A. The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods.
tual criticism and made some use of the latter’s works in his
Cambridge, Mass., 1959.
commentaries on Isaiah and Psalms. In addition, he pro-
Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore, 1987.
duced “canons” for finding gospel parallels and wrote an in-
troduction to theology (General Elementary Introduction, of
Vallauri, Giovanna. Origine e diffusione dell’evemerismo nel pensiero
which parts survive in his Eclogae propheticae). Biblical exege-
classico. Torino, Italy, 1960.
sis recurs throughout the Demonstratio, primarily in regard
Vries, Jan de. Perspectives in the History of Religions. Translated by
to Old Testament prophecies of Christ and the church.
Kees W. Bolle. Berkeley, 1967.
Eusebius’s apologetic is implicit throughout the Historia
Winiarczyk, Marek, ed. Euhemeri Messenii reliquiae. Leipzig and
and explicit in the Praeparatio (sages and seers anticipated
Stuttgart, Germany, 1991. Contains the fragments, testimo-
Christianity, although inadequately), the treatise Against
nies, and a full bibliography on Euhemerus.
Hierocles (Christ superior to Apollonius of Tyana, a first-
KEES W. BOLLE (2005)
century wonder-worker), and the twenty-five lost books
against the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry, who had
written against Christians and criticized Origen. A treatise
that survived only in a Syriac version is titled On the Theoph-
(c. 260/70–c. 339), a Christian bishop of
any; it combines materials from other books.
Caesarea in Palestine from 314, was a leading early Christian
historian, exegete, and apologist. A disciple of Pamphilus at
As historian, Eusebius is best known for his ten books
Caesarea, Eusebius wrote a life of his master and called him-
on the history of the church from its divine origin to Con-
self “of Pamphilus.” He traced his intellectual descent to Ori-
stantine’s defeat of the pagan emperor Licinius in 324. The
gen, and with Pamphilus wrote a defense of Origen against
work does not discuss the later conflicts over Arianism, Meli-
the theological and personal criticisms current during the
tianism, and Donatism, or the synods of 324 and 325. A late
persecution of 303–313. Little is known of Eusebius’s early
edition deletes Eusebius’s expectation that Constantine’s son
life, but it seems clear that he wrote his Historia ecclesiastica
Crispus would be the emperor’s heir; the deletion must have
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

been made after Crispus’s execution in 326. The main
of history, not philosophical theology, as the key to exegesis
sources of the Historia lay in the church archives and libraries
and apologetics.
at Caesarea and Jerusalem, where there was no documenta-
tion for the churches of the West or for many churches of
the East. Eusebius seems to have known little about the
Most of Eusebius’s works have been critically edited by Ivar A.
church of Antioch and had the good sense to refuse transla-
Heikel and others in Eusebius Werke: Die griechischen chris-
tion there in about 330. His strong emphasis on Alexandrian
tlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Berlin,
Christianity results from his love for the school of Origen.
1902–1975). Most important in this collection is the three-
volume Kirchengeschichte, edited by Eduard Schwartz (Leip-
Eusebius’s panegyrics usually start from his own experi-
zig, 1908). Other texts can be located through Johannes
ences. Thus his work The Martyrs of Palestine (two editions)
Quasten’s Patrology, vol. 3 (Utrecht and Westminster, Md.,
was based largely on his own acquaintance with the persecu-
1960), pp. 309–345. Quasten also takes note of the modern
tion in 303–313; he visited Egypt perhaps in 312, where he
literature. Important secondary sources include Glenn F.
witnessed mass executions of Christians. He praised also
Chesnut’s The First Christian Histories (Paris, 1977), Pierre
other martyrs (especially of Gaul), the benefactors who re-
Nautin’s Origène: Sa vie et son œuvre (Paris, 1977), Robert
M. Grant’s Eusebius as Church Historian (Oxford, 1980), and
built the ruined church at Tyre, and above all the emperor
Timothy D. Barnes’s Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge,
Constantine as the divinely appointed champion of Chris-
Mass., and London, 1981).
It may be that Eusebius’s major contribution was as li-
brarian or bibliographer. To him is owed the collections of
Origen’s letters and the stories of “ancient martyrdoms.” The
Chronicon, Historia, Praeparatio, and Demonstratio are essen-
EUTYCHES (c. 378–454), was the archimandrite and
tially collections of collections or even source books without
founder of the monophysite heresy. Eutyches was born in
very full annotation. In other words, his materials may be
Constantinople and was archimandrite of a monastery near
more important than what he did with them. Although one
there. As sponsor of the eunuch Chrysaphius, Eutyches
has to watch for deletions, misconceptions, and other errors,
was very influential in the imperial court. Chrysaphius was
Eusebius does not usually falsify his materials, but his chang-
one of the more powerful counselors of the emperor Theodo-
ing attitudes have left strange juxtapositions in the text of the
sius II.
Eutyches was the originator of an extreme form of mo-
He was conciliatory toward pagan philosophy and poli-
nophysitism that came to be called Eutychianism. In reaction
tics but hostile toward pagan religion, in which he could see
to the separationist Christology of Nestorius (who accepted
a main cause of the Great Persecution. In this regard he was
two distinct natures in Christ), Eutyches concluded that
aligned with Origen, but he underestimated the ultimate
there was in Christ a single nature. When Theodoret of Cyr-
force of the newer Alexandrian theology and its preference
rhus wrote the Eranistes against Eutyches’ opinions, Flavian,
for orthodoxy over the harmony that Eusebius, like Constan-
the patriarch of Constantinople (446–449), sent Eutyches to
tine, had supported. During his lifetime he enjoyed good for-
the Council of Constantinople (448) for judgment.
tune. He was in imperial favor at least during his last decade,
Eutyches appeared at the council but refused to accept
and by 340 his opponent Eustathius was dead, Athanasius
the existence of two natures in Christ and was on that ac-
in exile, and Marcellus about to be deposed. The question
count condemned and deposed. Flavian’s successor on the
of his supposed Arianism has agitated historians of doctrine
throne of Constantinople, Cyril, was, however, sympathetic
for centuries, but it cannot be answered without greater
to Eutyches’ teaching, which corresponded to the general
knowledge of the theology of the early fourth century.
framework of the teaching of the Alexandrian school, rather
His place in the history of Christian learning and litera-
than that of the Antiochene school. Because Cyril assumed
ture was high during his lifetime and continued so for centu-
that Flavian was a representative of the Antiochene school,
ries. Those who wrote the history of the Eastern church in
he opposed the measures taken against Eutyches. Cyril pro-
the fifth and sixth centuries invariably refered to his work as
moted the convocation of a synod that later became known
basic and irrefutable. Less innovative or skilled in philosophy
as the Robber Synod (449), which restored Eutyches and
than Origen, he was more concerned with tradition, and this
condemned and deposed Eusebius of Dorylaeum—who also
concern led him to an exegesis often more sober and literal.
opposed the heresy of Nestorius—as well as Flavian. Despite
It was this concern, also, that led to his search for early Chris-
this, and on account of the loss of imperial favor because of
tian documents. Perhaps he succeeded to the headship of Or-
the death of Theodosius II (450), Eutyches was expelled
igen’s school at Caesarea. It is possible that the lost life of
from his monastery. The new emperors, Pulcheria and her
Eusebius by his successor Acacius resembled the panegyric
consort Marcian, convoked an ecumenical council at Chalce-
that a disciple, probably Gregory Thaumaturgus, addressed
don in 451, which denounced the Robber Synod, excommu-
to Origen. If so, there must have been significant differences.
nicated Dioscorus (patriarch of Alexandria who had presided
A disciple of Eusebius would have insisted on the importance
over the synod), restored the expelled bishops, and con-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

demned Nestorianism, as well as Eutyches along with his
tian monks he encountered their hostility. They did not like
“the cultured Greek living in their midst.” Still the Desert
Eutyches believed that after the union of the divine and
Fathers exerted a significant influence on Evagrios’s spiritual-
the human in Christ, there were no longer two natures but
ity. He was to live among these monks until his death.
one, and this one nature was a mingling of the two. After
Evagrios was a prolific author of theological and ascetic
this blending, only the divine nature remained, because the
essays, biblical commentaries, and letters. Some of his writ-
human nature was absorbed by the divine. The Council of
ings survive in the original Greek but most have survived
Chalcedon, by contrast, affirmed that within Christ there are
only in Syriac, Armenian, or Latin translations. His writings
united, without confusion or division, two natures that are
reveal his indebtedness to Origen, the Desert and the Cappa-
wholly God and wholly human.
docian fathers (Gregory of Nyssa in particular), and his con-
cern with mystical and ascetic theology.
Among some fourteen authentic works by Evagrios is
The texts of Eutyches’ Confessions of Faith and several of his letters
a trilogy: the Praktikos, the Gnostikos, and the Kefalaia gnos-
can be found, along with notes and commentary, in Eduard
tika. The first is a comprehensive exposition of his ascetic
Schwartz’s Der Prozess des Eutyches (Munich, 1929). See also
W. H. C. Frend’s The Rise of the Monophysite Movement
philosophy in short chapters intended for simple monks; the
(Cambridge, U.K., 1979), which includes sources and a bib-
second is a continuation of the Praktikos for educated monks;
and the third, the most important, known also as the Proble-
mata gnostika,
develops his cosmological, anthropological,
Translated from Greek by Philip M. McGhee
and philosophical thought. It is here that Origen’s influence
on Evagrios is most apparent. This work was used for Eva-
grios’s condemnation by the Second Council of Constanti-
nople (553). Evagrios’s most important essay, known as
EVAGRIOS OF PONTUS (345–399), also known
“Chapters on Prayer,” is preserved in its original Greek under
as Evagrios Pontikos; Greek theologian and mystic. Evagrios
the name of Nilus of Ancyra.
was surnamed Pontikos because he was a native of Pontus,
Evagrios is acknowledged as an important spiritual in-
in Asia Minor. He was born to a prosperous, educated fami-
fluence on Christian spirituality and Islamic Sufism. He in-
ly. His father was a chorepiskopos, a bishop, of an area adja-
fluenced Maximos the Confessor, Dionysius the Areopagite,
cent to the family estates of Basil of Caesarea. Evagrios stud-
and John of Klimakos (John Climacus) and became the fore-
ied under Basil, who ordained him a reader. When Basil died
runner of the hesychasts of later Byzantium. Through Ru-
in 379, Evagrios became a disciple of Gregory of Nazianzus,
finus and John Cassian, Evagrios’s ascetic and mystical theol-
who ordained him deacon and took him under his aegis.
ogy influenced John Scottus Eriugena as well as Bernard of
Under the Cappadocian fathers, Evagrios became a skilled
Clairvaux and other Cistercian mystics.
theologian. Directly or indirectly influenced by the thought
of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, he viewed Hellenism as an
enrichment rather than as a corruption of Christianity.
Primary Sources
When Gregory of Nazianzus moved to Constantinople
Evagrios’s works (including fragments) in their original Greek can
as patriarch, Evagrios was invited along. There he participat-
be found in Patrologia Graeca, edited by J.-P. Migne, vols.
ed in the deliberations of the Council of Constantinople
40 and 79 (Paris, 1858–1860)—in volume 79, s.v. Nilus An-
(381), which brought the Arian controversy to an end and
cyranus—and in Nonnenspiegel und Mönchsspiegel des Eua-
established the Nicene Creed in its final form. The young
grios Pontikos, edited by Hugo Gressmann (Leipzig, 1913).
deacon impressed many in the council with his brilliant
Sources in other languages include The Praktikos: Chapters
mind and skillful debating.
on Prayer, translated and edited by John Eudes Bamberger
(Spencer, Mass., 1970); The Ecclesiastical History by Socrates
When Evagrios fell in love with a married woman, he
Scholasticus (London, 1884), bk. 4, pt. 23; Evagriana Syria-
decided to leave the capital and seek peace and salvation in
ca: Textes inédits du British Museum et de la Vatican, edited
the monastic life. He traveled to centers of monasticism in
and translated by Joseph Muyldermans (Louvain, 1952); and
Egypt and Palestine, where he was the guest of Melania, the
The Lausiac History by Palladios, edited and translated by
Roman aristocrat who ran a hospice on the Mount of Olives
Robert T. Meyer (Westminster, Md., 1965).
for Christian pilgrims. He also became acquainted with Ru-
Secondary Sources
finus, who had founded a monastery near the Mount of Ol-
Works about Evagrios and the milieu in which he flourished in-
ives. Later he moved to Egypt, where he spent two years in
clude Ioustinou I. Mouseskou’s Euagrios ho Pontikos (Athens,
the mountains of Nitria and fourteen in the nearby Desert
1937); Hrothrd Glotobdky’s “Euagrios ho Pontikos,” in
of the Cells (a settlement where six hundred anchorites
Ethik¯e kai threskeutik¯e enkyklopaideia, vol. 5 (Athens, 1964);
lived). In Egypt, he came under the influence of the Macarii
and Derwas J. Chitty’s The Desert a City (Crestwood, N.Y.,
monks, known as the Makroi Adelphoi (Long Brothers),
champions of Origenism. Early in his life among the Egyp-
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advances in technology and technique in an evangelistic
CHRISTIANITY. The term evangelicalism usually re-
struggle for human hearts. In an attempt to nurture their
fers to a largely Protestant movement that emphasizes:
constituents, especially their children, within their own sub-
culture, fundamentalists withdraw from Western culture
(1) the Bible as authoritative and reliable;
into communities and institutions of their own creation that
(2) eternal salvation as possible only by regeneration (being
often parallel the communities and institutions of secular
“born again”), involving personal trust in Christ and in
culture. Both evangelicalism and fundamentalism are com-
his atoning work;
plex coalitions reflecting the convergences of a number of
(3) a spiritually transformed life marked by moral conduct
and personal devotion, such as Bible reading and prayer;
EMERGENCE OF EVANGELICALISM. Although evangelicalism
is largely an Anglo-American phenomenon, its origins give
(4) zeal for evangelism and missions.
it ties with European Protestantism. The central evangelical
doctrines, especially the sole authority of the Bible and the
Among Lutherans the term evangelical has long had a more
necessity of personal trust in Christ, reflect Reformation
general usage, roughly equivalent to Protestant, and some
teachings. Seventeenth-century Puritanism solidly implanted
neo-orthodox theologians have used the term in its broad
these emphases in a part of the British Protestant psyche, es-
sense of “gospel believer.” In the Spanish-speaking world, the
pecially in the North American colonies. In the eighteenth
term evangélico roughly parallels the Lutheran usage, refer-
century this heritage merged with parallel trends in continen-
ring in general to non-Catholic Christian groups of any
tal pietism. The influence of the Moravians on John Wesley
stripe, although historically most evangélicos have in fact been
(1703–1791) best exemplifies this convergence. Wesley’s
evangelicals as more narrowly defined above. In the English-
speaking world, evangelical designates a distinct movement
Methodist movement in the mid-eighteenth century was
that emerged from the religious awakenings of the eighteenth
part of a wider series of awakenings and Pietist renewal
century and that by the early nineteenth century had taken
movements appearing in Protestant countries from the late
clear shape in the United States, in England and the British
seventeenth century through much of the nineteenth centu-
Empire, and in many mission fields.
ry. In England the awakenings were manifested in Method-
ism, in evangelical renewals among nonconformists, and in
Fundamentalism is a subspecies of evangelicalism. The
the rise of a notable evangelical party in the Church of En-
term originated in the United States in 1920 and referred to
gland. By the mid-nineteenth century, evangelicalism was
evangelicals who considered it a chief Christian duty to com-
the most typical form of Protestantism in Great Britain.
bat uncompromisingly “modernist” theology and certain
secularizing cultural trends. Organized militancy was the fea-
In the United States, evangelicalism was even more in-
ture that most clearly distinguished fundamentalists from
fluential. Evangelical religion had fewer well-established
other evangelicals. Fundamentalism originated as primarily
competitors than in the Old World. The rise of the United
an American phenomenon, although it has British and Brit-
States as a new nation and the rise of evangelicalism coincid-
ish Empire counterparts, is paralleled by some militant
ed, so the religion often assumed a quasi-official status. Evan-
groups in other traditions, and has been exported worldwide
gelical emphasis on voluntary acceptance of Christianity also
through missions.
was well matched to American ideas of individual freedom.
Whereas fundamentalism and fundamentalist continue
The character of American evangelicalism began to take
to be useful terms for historians, they are less useful as terms
shape during the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century.
descriptive of any particular group, in part because the term
This movement, really a series of revivals throughout the
has become so pejorative in Western culture that only the
middle decades of the century, brought together several
extreme right wing of evangelicalism would welcome being
movements. These included New England Puritanism, con-
labeled as such. In addition, the distinction between funda-
tinental Pietism, revivalist Presbyterianism, Baptist anti-
mentalist and evangelical is not always an easy one to make,
establishment democratic impulses, the Calvinist revivalism
and what can be said of fundamentalists can often be said,
of the Englishman George Whitefield (1714–1770), and
at least in part, of some (even most) evangelicals. Neverthe-
Methodism (which surpassed all the others after the Revolu-
less, the term is applied with some usefulness to the more
tionary era). During the first half of the nineteenth century,
theologically and culturally conservative wing of evangelical-
evangelicalism developed a strong populist base and became
ism, although the precise parameters of that wing are open
by far the most common form of Protestantism in the United
to conjecture.
States. Evangelicalism had many denominational varieties
The two characteristics by which fundamentalists are
but tended to blend Calvinist and Methodist theologies, to
most easily recognized represent both an engagement with
emphasize conversion experiences evidenced by lives freed
Western culture and a rejection of it. Fundamentalists chal-
from barroom vices, to vigorously promote revivals and mis-
lenge Western culture in an organized, militant battle over
sions, and to view the church as a voluntary association of
secularizing cultural trends even as they appropriate the latest
believers founded on the authority of the Bible alone.
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By the early nineteenth century evangelicals in Great
of premillennialism among most of the newer evangelical
Britain and the United States had established a formidable
movements of the day. Premillennialists looked to the second
network of nonsectarian “voluntary societies” to promote
coming of Christ as the only cure for the world’s social and
their causes. Of these the various missionary societies,
political woes. New emphasis on personal holiness, notably
founded around the beginning of the century, were the most
exemplified in the rise of the Keswick holiness movement in
prominent, providing, together with denominational agen-
Britain after 1875, reflected similar tendencies. Keswick
cies, the home support for the most massive worldwide mis-
teaching, which spread widely among American evangelical
sionary effort ever seen. Home missionary endeavors were
and later fundamentalist followers of Moody, stressed per-
comparably vigorous, supported by a host of agencies for
sonal victory over sin, personal witnessing about the gospel,
promoting evangelism, founding Sunday schools, distribut-
and support of missions as chief among Christian duties.
ing Bibles and religious tracts, establishing schools and col-
Keswick was only one of several new holiness movements
leges, and bringing the gospel to various needy groups. Re-
that flourished among evangelicals in the mid- and late nine-
vivalism spearheaded such efforts, exemplified best in the
teenth century. Most of these movements had generic ties
extensive campaigns of Charles Finney (1792–1875) both in
with Methodism and Wesley’s teachings concerning Chris-
the United States and in England. These mission and evan-
tian perfection. Some holiness groups, most notably the Sal-
gelistic efforts were accompanied by campaigns, organized by
vation Army, founded in England in 1865, combined their
voluntary societies, for charity and social reform. On both
evangelism with extensive charitable work among the needy.
sides of the Atlantic evangelicals played leading roles in com-
Others among an emerging number of holiness denomina-
bating slavery; in Great Britain, especially under the leader-
tions emphasized more the personal experience of being
ship of William Wilberforce (1759–1833), they were influ-
filled by the Holy Spirit. Such emphasis in heightened forms
ential in bringing about its abolition throughout the empire.
was apparent in the rise in the United States after 1900 of
Evangelicals promoted other reforms, including Sabbatarian
Pentecostalism, which also brought separate denominations
and temperance legislation, prison reform, and the establish-
and almost exclusive emphasis on intense personal spiritual
ment of private charities. Such reforming spirit was usually
experience. By the early twentieth century, evangelicalism
part of a postmillennial vision of steady spiritual and moral
was thus subdivided into a variety of camps on questions of
progress leading to a millennial age of the triumph of the gos-
personal holiness and the nature of spiritual experience.
pel throughout the world, after which Christ himself would
return. When linked in the popular mind with notions of
Equally important during this same era, from the later
the progress achievable through science, the focus brought
decades of the nineteenth century to World War I, was that
by romanticism to the possibilities inherent in individuals,
evangelicals found themselves in a new world intellectually.
and the manifest destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race on the
Darwinism became the focal symbol of a many-faceted revo-
North American continent, this evangelical vision lent itself
lution in assumptions dominating the culture. Some of the
to a triumphalist view of what could be achieved by Ameri-
early debates over Darwinism left an impression, damaging
cans in the New World. The downside of this heady brew
to evangelicalism, that modern science and biblical Chris-
of evangelicalism and patriotism was at times a nativist im-
tianity were inherently opposed. A deeper issue, however,
pulse that fed both racism and anti-Catholicism.
was a broader revolution in conceptions of reality and truth.
Rather than seeing truth as fixed and absolute, Western peo-
ple were more and more viewing it as a changing function
the nineteenth century, the vigorous evangelicalism that had
of human cultural evolution. Religion, in such a view, was
grown so successfully in the early industrial era found itself
not absolute truth revealed by the deity but the record of de-
in a new world. The concentrated new industrialism and the
veloping human conceptions about God and morality. Such
massively crowded cities tended to overwhelm the individu-
conceptions were devastating when applied to the Bible,
alistic and voluntaristic evangelical programs. Conceptions
which in the higher criticism of the late nineteenth century
of dominating the culture became more difficult to maintain.
often was regarded as simply the record of Hebrew religious
Evangelicals accordingly increasingly stressed those aspects of
their message that involved personal commitment to Christ
and personal holiness rather than social programs, although
The widespread evangelical consensus was shaken to its
aspirations to be a major moral influence on the culture
foundations. The absolute authority of the Bible as the
never entirely disappeared. The evangelicalism of Dwight L.
source of the doctrine of salvation was widely questioned,
Moody (1837–1899) exemplified this trend. Moody, like
even within the churches. Moral absolutes based on Scrip-
Finney before him, had great successes in both the United
ture were also questioned; again the questioning was often
States and Great Britain. He omitted entirely, however, Fin-
from within the churches. The result was a profound split
ney’s postmillennial emphasis on social reform, stressing in-
in most of the denominations that had been at the center of
stead the importance of rescuing the perishing from the sink-
the mid-nineteenth-century evangelical alliance. Liberals,
ing ship that was the condemned world. This increasing
sometimes called “modernists” in the early twentieth centu-
sense of evangelical alienation from Anglo-American culture
ry, adjusted Christian doctrine to fit the temper of the times.
was reflected in Moody’s premillennialism and in the growth
God’s revelation of his kingdom was not so much in startling
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

supernatural interventions as in working through the best in
pensationalists in battles against liberal theology and higher
the natural processes of the growth of civilization and morali-
criticism of the Bible.
ty. Essentially, Christianity was not so much a doctrine of
The other major innovation widely accepted by funda-
eternal salvation for another world as a divine revelation of
mentalists was the Keswick holiness teaching. The same
a humane way of life for this world. Sometimes liberals advo-
groups of Bible teachers who taught dispensationalism wide-
cated a “social gospel,” based on the progressive politics of
ly promoted Keswick doctrine as well. These leaders estab-
the early twentieth century, to replace the individualism of
lished regular summer Bible conferences and, more impor-
older evangelicalism’s conceptions of salvation. Many tradi-
tant, founded a network of Bible institutes for training lay
tionalist evangelicals, on the other hand, resisted these trends
workers in evangelism. These institutes, together with local
toward more naturalistic, relativistic, and modern concep-
churches and agencies directly promoting revivalism, such as
tions of the heart of the gospel, continuing rather to preach
those of Billy Sunday (1862–1935), provided the principal
traditional evangelical doctrine of a miraculous Bible whose
institutional base for fundamentalism.
revelation centered on describing the means of divine rescue
from sin, death, and hell.
Fundamentalism was also a mood as much as a set of
doctrines and institutions. It was a mood of militancy in op-
THE RISE OF FUNDAMENTALISM. Fundamentalism arose in
position to modernist theology and to some of the relativistic
this context. It combined an organized militant defense of
cultural changes that modernism embraced. This militancy
most traditional evangelical doctrines with some of the reviv-
provided the basis for a wider antimodernist coalition that
alist evangelical innovations of the nineteenth century. The
emerged as a distinct movement in the United States during
most important of these innovations, eventually accepted by
the 1920s. The immediate occasion for the appearance of
most fundamentalists, was the elaborate system of biblical in-
fundamentalism was the sense of cultural crisis that gripped
terpretation known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism
the United States after World War I. Reflecting this mood,
was a version of the premillennialism popularized among re-
fundamentalism gave focus to the anxieties of Protestant tra-
vivalists in the late nineteenth century. Originated in En-
ditionalists. This focus was directed first of all against the
gland especially by the Plymouth Brethren leader John Nel-
modernists in major denominations, most notably the major
son Darby (1800–1882), dispensationalism was developed
Baptist and Presbyterian churches in the northern United
and promoted in the United States principally by Bible
States. Especially in the years from 1920 to 1925, fundamen-
teacher associates of Moody, such as Reuben A. Torrey
talists led major efforts to expel such liberals from their de-
(1856–1928), James M. Gray (1851–1935), and C. I. Sco-
nominations, but these efforts met with little success. The
field (1843–1921), editor of the famous dispensationalist
other focus was American culture itself. The United States
Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909.
seemed to many evangelicals to have lost its Christian and
Dispensationalism is a systematic scheme for interpret-
biblical moorings. World War I precipitated this sense of
ing all of history on the basis of the Bible, following the prin-
alarm, for the war sped up a revolution in morals that, de-
ciple of “literal where possible”; biblical prophecies, especial-
spite the rearguard action of Prohibition legislation, replaced
ly, are taken to refer to real historical events. This approach
Victorian evangelical standards with the public morals of the
yields a rather detailed account of all human history, which
Jazz Age. The international crisis also generated fears of social
is divided into seven dispensations, or eras, of differing rela-
upheaval at home, particularly alarm about the rise of bolshe-
vism and atheism in the United States during the “red scare”
tionships between God and humanity (such as the Dispensa-
of 1919 and 1920. Many Protestants also remained con-
tion of Innocence in Eden or the Dispensation of Law, from
cerned about the social and moral impact of the immense
Moses to Christ). The last of these eras is the millennium,
immigration of the preceding half century and were antago-
which will be preceded by the personal return of Jesus, the
nistic to the spread of Roman Catholic influences.
secret “rapture” of believers who are to “meet him in the air,”
a seven-year period of wars among those who remain on
Fundamentalists saw all these factors as signs of the end
earth (resulting in the victory of Christ), the conversion of
of a Bible-based civilization in the United States. Their chief
the Jews, and the establishment of a kingdom in Jerusalem,
social anxieties, however, centered on the question of evolu-
where Jesus will reign for exactly one thousand years before
tion. During the war, extreme propaganda had convinced
the Last Judgment. Such exact interpretations of prophecy
most Americans that Germany, the homeland of the Refor-
committed dispensationalists firmly to a view of the Bible as
mation, had lapsed into barbarism. The same thing might
divinely inspired and without error in any detail. The “iner-
happen in the United States. The “will to power” philosophy
rancy” of Scripture in scientific and historical detail accord-
of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), said the propagandists,
ingly became the key test of faith for fundamentalists. This
had destroyed German morals. Fundamentalists contended
doctrine, while not entirely novel in the history of the
that this was an evolutionary philosophy and that evolution-
church, was also given a new and especially forceful articula-
ary and relativistic ideas had long been incorporated into
tion by nondispensationalist Presbyterian traditionalists at
German theology, now taught by liberals in America’s
Princeton Theological Seminary, especially Benjamin B.
churches. Under the leadership of William Jennings Bryan
Warfield (1851–1921), who for a time was allied with dis-
(1860–1925), fundamentalists campaigned to bring the
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United States back to the Bible by banning the teaching of
Another element in the generation that had been raised
biological evolution in public schools. This crusade brought
on the fundamentalist controversies of the 1920s sought to
organized fundamentalism into the American South, where
bring the movement back toward a broader evangelicalism.
homegrown Protestant antimodernist tendencies had been
Without rejecting entirely their fundamentalist heritage,
strong since the Civil War. The fundamentalist antievolu-
they nonetheless softened the militancy and often moved
tion campaign reached its peak in the 1925 trial of John
away from dispensationalism. Repudiating separatism as a
Scopes (1900–1970) in Dayton, Tennessee, for teaching bio-
test of the faith, they especially emphasized positive evange-
logical evolution in a high school. At the highly publicized
lism. By the early 1940s a distinct movement with these em-
proceedings, Bryan debated the lawyer Clarence Darrow
phases was apparent, signaled by the founding of the Nation-
(1857–1938) concerning the authenticity of biblical mira-
al Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942. In contrast to
cles. Bryan was ridiculed in the world press, and his death
the smaller, militantly separatist American Council of Chris-
shortly after the trial signaled the beginning of a decline of
tian Churches, founded in 1941 by the fundamentalist Carl
early fundamentalist efforts to control American culture.
McIntire (1906–2002), the NAE included Pentecostal and
During the late 1920s the strength of fundamentalist efforts
holiness denominations as well as individual members who
to purge major northern denominations also declined dra-
remained in major American denominations.
matically. During this era organized fundamentalism had
Following World War II, some younger leaders, notably
some branches in Canada and some relatively small counter-
Harold John Ockenga (1905–1985), Carl F. H. Henry
parts in Great Britain.
(1913–2003), and Edward J. Carnell (1919–1967), orga-
In the United States, fundamentalism was only the
nized a “neoevangelical” movement with the explicit purpose
prominent fighting edge of the larger evangelical movement.
of moderating and broadening fundamentalist evangelical-
During the decades from 1925 to 1945 the public press paid
ism. Joined by Fuller, they organized the Fuller Theological
less attention to fundamentalist complaints, but the move-
Seminary in Pasadena, California, in 1947. Their efforts
ment itself was regrouping rather than retreating. During
were vastly aided by the emergence of Billy Graham as Amer-
this time fundamentalism developed a firmer institutional
ica’s leading evangelist after 1949. This group in 1956 also
base, especially in independent local churches and in some
founded Christianity Today to provide a solid periodical base
smaller denominations, although considerable numbers of
for the movement.
fundamentalists remained in major denominations. The re-
The final break in the fundamentalist-evangelical move-
vivalist heritage of the movement was especially apparent in
ment came with Graham’s New York crusade in 1957. Gra-
this era, as it turned its strongest efforts toward winning the
ham accepted the cooperation of some prominent liberal
United States through evangelization. In addition to tradi-
church leaders. Separatist fundamentalists such as Bob Jones
tional means for evangelization, fundamentalists developed
Sr. (1883–1968), founder of Bob Jones University; John R.
effective radio ministries. Particularly prominent was Charles
Rice (1895–1980), editor of the influential Sword of the Lord;
E. Fuller’s (1887–1968) Old-Fashioned Revival Hour, which
and McIntire anathematized Graham and the neoevangeli-
by 1942 had a larger audience than any other radio program
cals as traitors from within. Neoevangelicals in turn soon
in the United States.
ceased altogether to call themselves fundamentalists, prefer-
Fundamentalist evangelicals also founded new sorts of
ring the designation “evangelical.”
ministries, such as Youth for Christ, begun in 1942, which
In the meantime, Graham’s crusade in Great Britain in
soon had hundreds of chapters across the country. Bible in-
1954 set off a small flurry of ecclesiastical debate known as
stitutes, such as Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and the
the “fundamentalist controversy” in England. This designa-
Bible Institute of Los Angeles, remained important centers
tion confused the terminological issue, since in England the
for the movement, training and sending out evangelists and
friends of Graham, rather than just his more conservative en-
missionaries, conducting Bible conferences, establishing ef-
emies, were called fundamentalists. (British parlance of the
fective radio ministries, and publishing many books and pe-
era often lacked the distinction between fundamentalist and
evangelical that developed in the United States after the late
THE NEW EVANGELICALS. A sharp tension was developing
1950s.) In any case conservative evangelicalism remained a
in the fundamentalist-evangelical movement that survived
factor in British church life, especially in the evangelical party
the controversies of the 1920s. This tension led eventually
in the Church of England. Influenced considerably by the
to a deep split between “fundamentalists” and “evangelicals.”
long-standing university ministry of the Inter-Varsity Fel-
The fundamentalists kept in the forefront the militancy that
lowship, and less a product of the sensational promotional
had characterized the movement in the 1920s. Furthermore,
competitions that characterized American revivalism, British
they followed the logic of their military metaphors by adding
evangelicalism was often more sophisticated and less militant
ecclesiastical separatism as a test of true commitment. This
than its American counterparts and played an important role
separatist stance sometimes also reflected the influence of dis-
in the intellectual leadership of the international movement.
pensationalism, which taught that the Bible prophesied the
Throughout the English-speaking world there are also coun-
decline and apostasy of the major churches during the pres-
terparts to the more strictly fundamentalist, holiness, and
ent era.
Pentecostal groups found in the United States.
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nominations and evangelical Methodists were only tangen-
EYE. Evangelicalism was indeed a widespread international
tially related to the organized fundamentalist evangelical
phenomenon, even if its Anglo-American manifestations
movement. So also were most Pentecostals and charismatics,
provided its most focused identity as a distinct movement.
who sponsored some of the largest television ministries and
The Pietist varieties of worldwide Protestantism were scarce-
set the tone for much of the evangelical resurgence. Peace
ly distinguishable from Anglo-American evangelicalism.
churches were generally evangelical in doctrine but preserved
Moreover, nearly two centuries of massive missionary efforts
a heritage distinct from fundamentalist evangelicalism. Con-
had planted evangelical communities in most of the nations
fessional denominations, such as the Missouri Synod Luther-
of the world. The sense of identity of an international evan-
an and the Christian Reformed Church, were close allies of
gelicalism was evidenced in world conferences, notably the
evangelicals but always kept enough distance to preserve dis-
1966 World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin and the 1974
tinct doctrinal heritages.
International Congress on World Evangelization in Lau-
Many evangelicals were in major American denomina-
sanne, Switzerland. Such gatherings were initially organized
tions, such as Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Disciples of
primarily by Anglo-American friends of Graham, but they
Christ, or Episcopal, but might be as much shaped by the
also marked the emergence among evangelicals of significant
distinctiveness of their denomination’s history as by a con-
voices and leadership from developing nations. The Lau-
scious evangelical identity. Others in such denominations
sanne congress, for instance, included over two thousand
might identify closely with the doctrines and emphases of a
participants from 150 countries. Traditional evangelical em-
parachurch evangelistic agency, such as Campus Crusade,
phases on the reliability and authority of Scripture and on
founded by Bill Bright in 1951. Such variety within evangeli-
the urgency for world evangelization were apparent, but so
calism, compounded by many denominational and regional
was emphasis on the necessity of social and political concern
differences, suggests that generalization about the movement
for aiding the poor and victims of injustice.
is hazardous.
In the United States, in the meantime, evangelicalism
Such hazards are especially great concerning evangeli-
reemerged on the public scene with renewed vigor. During
cals’ political stances. Whereas one important strand of nine-
the 1970s the American media suddenly discovered that
teenth-century American evangelicalism was politically pro-
evangelicalism was a major force in American life. Evangeli-
gressive and reformist, in the twentieth century most
calism had in fact been growing steadily for many years, so
fundamentalist evangelicals and other white evangelicals
the numbers of evangelicals had grown to at least forty or
were politically conservative. After the 1960s, however, more
fifty million, whereas other Protestants and Roman Catho-
variety reappeared, especially among spokespersons of the
lics were declining in numbers. Once evangelicals were dis-
sort who hold conferences and issue declarations. Evangelical
covered, they became conspicuous in the media, boasting
voices have been heard across the spectrum of political op-
many sports and entertainment stars. Being “born again”
tions, although most of the evangelical constituency is at
suddenly became a political asset, evidenced in 1976 by the
least moderately conservative.
victorious presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter, and evan-
gelicalism was reckoned as a powerful if mysterious political
ICALS. Most hard-line fundamentalists went their separate
ways after about 1950, reorganizing themselves loosely in a
The discovery of evangelicalism reflected not only real
number of fellowships or smaller denominations. The largest
growth and change in the movement but also the power of
fellowship was the Baptist Bible Fellowship, founded by fun-
a concept. Numerous strands in American religious life were
damentalists who split with the volatile Texas fundamentalist
now viewed as part of a more or less unified “evangelicalism.”
F. Frank Norris. By the early 1980s this fellowship claimed
Such a perception was at once helpful and deceptive. It was
to represent two to three million members. During this era
helpful in pointing to a large phenomenon: Christians who
some local fundamentalist pastors built huge churches,
shared fundamental evangelical beliefs. It was deceptive,
claiming both membership and Sunday school attendance of
however, in its implication that their movement was more
over ten thousand each by the 1970s. Prominent among
unified than it actually was. Certainly evangelicalism as a
these were Jack Hyles’s First Baptist Church of Hammond,
movement that could claim forty or fifty million adherents
Indiana, Lee Roberson’s Highland Park Baptist Church in
was much larger than the consciously organized evangelical
Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road
movement that had grown out of fundamentalist evangeli-
Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Typically, such min-
calism and that was led by associates of Graham. For in-
istries were structured as small, individually run empires, in-
stance, black evangelicals, including most of black Protes-
cluding branch chapels, a college, publications, radio and
tantism, had little to do with that fundamentalist
television broadcasts, missionary work, and specialized min-
evangelicalism, even though most of their beliefs and empha-
istries. The total number of members of strictly separatist
ses were closely parallel. The same was true, but to a lesser
fundamentalist churches in the United States by 1980 was
degree, of much of the Southern Baptist Convention, the
perhaps around five million, although the number of evan-
largest of American evangelical groups. Most holiness de-
gelicals leaning toward fundamentalism was probably much
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

greater. Moreover, such militant fundamentalism spread
television ministry. Some strict fundamentalists condemned
throughout the English-speaking world, and active missions
such efforts because they involved cooperation with Roman
carried its doctrines to every nation where Christian missions
Catholics, Orthodox Jews, neoevangelicals, and other alleged
were permitted.
Soul winning and church growth are the fundamental-
Nonetheless, the Moral Majority brought together sev-
ist’s first concerns, as they are for most evangelicals. In addi-
eral long-standing fundamentalist concerns with political is-
tion, extreme militancy against theological liberalism led
sues of the time. Most evangelicals and almost all fundamen-
many fundamentalists to emphasize separation even from
talists, for instance, had long held conservative views on the
other evangelicals, especially neoevangelicals, charismatics,
role of women, on the family, and on questions related to
and members of large groups, such as the Southern Baptist
sexuality. Sparked by the legalization of abortion in 1973,
Convention. The question of separation also divided funda-
the women’s movement and the proposed Equal Rights
mentalists among themselves. Some fundamentalist leaders,
Amendment, legislation proposing increased rights for ho-
especially those associated with Bob Jones University, advo-
mosexuals, and general permissiveness, many fundamentalist
cated “second-degree separation”—that is, separation even
and conservative evangelicals expressed alarm. The Moral
from fellow fundamentalists who are not strict fundamental-
Majority focused such sentiments and organized them politi-
ists. In the 1970s, for instance, Bob Jones III attacked the
cally. Reaching a constituency well beyond fundamentalists
noted fundamentalist evangelist Rice for publishing materi-
and fundamentalist evangelicals, its program included en-
als by Southern Baptists in his widely read paper the Sword
dorsement of American conservative political ideals: smaller
of the Lord.
government, larger military, patriotism, and freedom for
businesses. Fundamentalists, supported by the Moral Major-
Most fundamentalists are militant dispensationalists,
ity, also successfully revived the antievolution crusade, intro-
usually claiming that the signs of the times indicate that
ducing legislation into a number of states that would require
within a few years the dramatic events surrounding the re-
the teaching of fundamentalist “creation science” (arguments
turn of Christ will bring the present era to a violent end. The
that the earth is no more than ten thousand years old) when-
dispensationalist heritage has made most fundamentalist
ever biological evolution is taught in public schools.
evangelicals sympathetic to the state of Israel, whose exis-
tence as a nation is viewed as the fulfillment of prophecy and
Perhaps the closest parallel to such late-twentieth-
a key trigger of end-time events. Dispensationalists also take
century American political fundamentalism was the militant
literally the biblical promises of blessing to countries that
Protestantism in Northern Ireland led by Ian Paisley. Paisley,
support Israel. This sympathy by large numbers of evangeli-
an avowed fundamentalist with connections to American
cals has had a considerable impact on American foreign poli-
leaders such as Jones and McIntire, mixed conservative Prot-
cy. During the 1970s, dispensationalist prophetic views at-
estantism with aggressive political anti-Catholicism. The
tracted wide interest, as indicated by the popularity of Hal
long history of the Irish conflict, however, has given Irish
Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), of which
fundamentalism a character more violent than its American
some ten million copies were printed during the decade. The
counterparts. A far more genteel political action movement
graphic dispensationalist vision for the end times continued
with some evangelical leadership was England’s Festival of
to attract interest far beyond the fundamentalist or even
Light, an organization prominent in the 1970s and 1980s in
evangelical communities. The pastor and author Tim
its efforts to maintain public decency, particularly in matters
LaHaye’s Left Behind series of novels, essentially a fictional-
concerning sexuality. In general, evangelicalism in Great
ization of the events described earlier by Lindsey and any
Britain was less political and less confrontational than in the
number of dispensational prophecy teachers, became phe-
United States, put relatively more emphasis on evangelism
nomenal best-sellers in the 1990s and early 2000s. The
and missions, operated more through traditional denomina-
books regularly debuted at number one on the New York
tions, and was a much less influential force in the culture at
Times best-seller list, and over forty million copies (fifty mil-
lion counting the graphic novels and children’s versions) had
been sold by 2003.
In the United States the organized political coalitions
of the Christian Right had their greatest influence in the pe-
Until the later 1970s most separatist fundamentalists
riod from 1980 to 1994. Contributors to the Republican
were not active politically. Some prominent fundamentalist
electoral victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980, they were none-
leaders, such as McIntire and Billy James Hargis, were in the
theless frustrated by the mainstream positions of Reagan on
forefront of anticommunist crusades during the decades fol-
cultural issues. In 1988 the television evangelist Pat Robert-
lowing World War II, but such activists probably did not
son entered the Republican presidential primaries and gained
represent the majority of the movement. Fundamentalists
considerable early attention by mobilizing approximately 10
emerged as a considerable force in American political life
percent of the Republican vote in the states where he ran.
with the formation of the Moral Majority in 1979. This po-
Robertson’s Christian Coalition reached its greatest strength
litical coalition of fundamentalists and some other political
in the 1990s, when conservative Christians were instrumen-
conservatives was led by Falwell and benefited from his large
tal in electing a strongly Republican House of Representa-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tives led by the outspoken Speaker of the House, Newt Gin-
remains high. Polls conducted in the late 1990s reveal that,
grich. Despite these advances, conservative Christians
whereas 13 percent of the U.S. population self-identify as ei-
continued to find most of their political goals frustrated. Per-
ther fundamentalist or evangelical, 33 percent of the U.S.
haps most important, the Christian Coalition marked the
population are members of or attend conservative Protestant
consolidation of a culturally conservative wing of evangelical-
denominations that theologically, at least, fall within the
ism solidly entrenched in the Republican Party. By the
evangelical camp.
1990s, conservative politics were taken for granted in many
In addition, evangelicalism in all its forms became one
of the largest evangelical and fundamentalist churches and
of the West’s leading cultural exports as North American
organizations, although there were always exceptions.
missions came to dominate the world missionary movement.
By the end of the twentieth century, as liberal Christians ei-
A high-water mark for fundamentalist-leaning evangeli-
ther lost the missionary impulse or transferred it to social
cals in church life was the 1990s, when they completed a
welfare agencies, such as the Peace Corps, evangelicals took
long campaign to take over control of the central agencies
over the missionary enterprise. Fundamentalists and evangel-
and theological seminaries of the Southern Baptist Conven-
icals founded “faith missions” by the score in the late nine-
tion, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, essential-
teenth century and early twentieth century. These agencies,
ly winning the kind of denominational battle they had been
modeled on J. Hudson Taylor’s (1832–1905) influential
losing since the early twentieth century. Although some
China Inland Mission (1865), refused to pay salaries or to
Southern Baptist leaders resisted following the lead of what
raise funds in any overt fashion. Influenced by Keswick piety,
they considered “Yankee-based evangelicalism,” they now
which promoted slogans such as “Let go and let God,” the
found themselves fighting over issues such as inerrancy, bat-
new missions professed to rely solely on God to supply re-
tles that had been fought among fundamentalists and evan-
cruits and the necessary funds. After enduring some difficult
gelicals in the North and the West several decades previous.
times, they learned to supplement faith in God with aggres-
In response to losing control of key institutions, Southern
sive publicity within the evangelical community. By midcen-
Baptist moderates took advantage of the decentralized Bap-
tury many of these agencies had high profiles in the evangeli-
tist polity to form their own organizations.
cal community and routinely attracted some of the most
The influence of Pentecostal and charismatic models of
committed evangelical young people. By the end of the
church life is another key development within Western evan-
twentieth century, roughly 90 percent of American foreign
gelicalism after 1970. If fundamentalist militancy set the
missionaries were evangelical. American missionary efforts
tone for much of evangelicalism in the era from the 1920s
helped spark the huge growth of evangelical Protestantism
through the 1960s, the charismatic and Pentecostal churches
in Latin America and Africa. Aided largely by the massive
set the tone after that. This is especially true in styles of wor-
growth of Pentecostal and charismatic churches, whose ad-
ship and methods of ministry. The 1960s created an atmo-
herents number in the hundreds of millions worldwide, most
sphere in which visionary evangelical pastors began experi-
of worldwide Protestantism developed a distinctly evangeli-
menting with new ways of reaching out to the broader
cal character.
culture. Many churches initially developed during this peri-
SEE ALSO Christian Social Movements; Millenarianism,
od became megachurches, pulling in thousands every Sunday
overview article; Modernism, article on Christian Modern-
and spawning virtual denominations of like-minded church-
ism; Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity; Protestant-
es around the country and the world. Churches such as Cal-
vary Chapel and the Vineyard in southern California or Wil-
low Creek in the suburbs of Chicago, whereas conservative
theologically, managed to engage the mainstream of Ameri-
Ammerman, Nancy Tatom. Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the
can culture and influenced countless other evangelical
Modern World. New Brunswick, N.J., 1987.
churches in the process. By 2003, for example, there were
Ariel, Yaakov. On Behalf of Israel: American Fundamentalist Atti-
over 825 Calvary Chapels in the United States with another
tudes toward Jews, Judaism, and Zionism, 1865–1945. Brook-
210 around the world. Over 7,200 churches around the
lyn, N.Y., 1991.
world were at least loosely affiliated with Willow Creek. Typ-
Bays, Daniel H., and Grant Wacker, eds. The Foreign Missionary
ically, these churches use contemporary or Pentecostal styles
Enterprise at Home: Explorations in North American Cultural
of worship, highly value lay leadership and small group min-
History. Tuscaloosa, Ala., 2003.
istries, and are led by low-key but charismatic and visionary
Beale, David O. In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism
individuals who often have little to no advanced training.
since 1850. Greenville, S.C., 1986.
Willow Creek has pioneered “seeker” oriented services that
Bebbington, David W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A Histo-
use drama, contemporary music, video, and sermons focused
ry from the 1730s to the 1980s. London and Boston, 1989.
on common life problems to attract people who might be
Bendroth, Margaret Lamberts. Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875
alienated by more traditional service styles. With churches
to the Present. New Haven, Conn., 1993.
like these leading the way, the number of evangelicals in the
Blumhofer, Edith L. Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody’s Sister.
United States, although difficult to pinpoint with accuracy,
Grand Rapids, Mich., 1993.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Blumhofer, Edith L. Restoring the Faith: The Assemblies of God,
Martin, William C. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious
Pentecostalism, and American Culture. Urbana, Ill., 1993.
Right in America. New York, 1996.
Boyer, Paul S. When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in
Marty, Martin E., and R. Scott Appleby, eds. Fundamentalisms
Modern American Culture. Cambridge, Mass., 1992.
Comprehended. Chicago, 1995.
Brekus, Catherine A. Strangers and Pilgrims: Female Preaching in
Miller, Donald E. Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity
America, 1740–1845. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1998.
in the New Millennium. Berkeley, Calif., 1997.
Brereton, Virginia Lieson. Training God’s Army: The American
Noll, Mark A. A History of Christianity in the United States and
Bible School, 1880–1940. Bloomington, Ind., 1990.
Canada. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1992.
Carpenter, Joel A. Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American
Noll, Mark A. America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham
Fundamentalism. New York, 1997.
Lincoln. New York, 2002.
Carwardine, Richard J. Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum
Noll, Mark A., ed. Religion and American Politics: From the Colo-
America. New Haven, Conn., 1993.
nial Period to the 1980s. New York, 1990.
Dayton, Donald W., and Robert K. Johnston, eds. The Variety of
Numbers, Ronald L. The Creationists. New York, 1992.
American Evangelicalism. Knoxville, Tenn., 1991.
Sandeen, Ernest R. The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and
DeBerg, Betty A. Ungodly Women: Gender and the First Wave of
American Millenarianism, 1800–1930. Chicago, 1970.
American Fundamentalism. Minneapolis, Minn., 1990.
Smith, Christian. American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriv-
Dieter, Melvin Easterday. The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth
ing. Chicago, 1998.
Century. Lanham, Md., 1996.
Smith, Christian. Christian America? What Evangelicals Really
Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. Divided by Faith:
Want. Berkeley, Calif., 2000.
Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. New
York, 2000.
Stout, Harry S. The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the
Rise of Modern Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1991.
Griffith, R. Marie. God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the
Power of Submission. Berkeley, Calif., 1997.
Sweet, Leonard I. “The Evangelical Tradition in America.” In The
Evangelical Tradition in America, edited by Leonard I. Sweet,
Hankins, Barry. Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservatives
pp. 1–86. Macon, Ga., 1984. Provides a thorough bibliogra-
and American Culture. Tuscaloosa, Ala., 2002.
phy of sources through the early 1980s.
Harrell, David Edwin, Jr. Oral Roberts: An American Life. San
Wacker, Grant. Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American
Francisco, 1987.
Culture. Cambridge, Mass., 2001.
Hart, D. G. Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis
Walls, Andrew F. The Missionary Movement in Christian History:
of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America. Baltimore,
Studies in the Transmission of Faith. Maryknoll, N.Y., 1996.
Md., 1994.
Wigger, John H. Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise
Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity.
of Popular Christianity in America. New York, 1998.
New Haven, Conn., 1989.
Heyrman, Christine Leigh. Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the
Bible Belt. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1997.
Hill, Patricia R. The World Their Household: The American
Woman’s Foreign Mission Movement and Cultural Transfor-
mation, 1870–1920.
Ann Arbor, Mich., 1984.
Hughes, Richard T., ed. The Primitive Church in the Modern
World. Urbana, Ill., 1995.
Hutchison, William R. Errand to the World: American Protestant
Thought and Foreign Missions. Chicago, 1987.
EVANS, ARTHUR (1851–1941) was an English ar-
Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and
chaeologist who excavated the ruins of Knossos in Crete,
America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. New
center of an early civilization he called Minoan. Son of Sir
York, 1997.
John Evans, a wealthy Victorian polymath and active ama-
Long, Kathryn Teresa. The Revival of 1857–58: Interpreting an
teur archaeologist, Arthur Evans began his work in 1899 at
American Religious Awakening. New York, 1998.
Knossos, which established his fame and for which he was
Loveland, Anne C. American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military:
knighted in 1911. Seeking evidence for an early system of
1942–1993. Baton Rouge, La., 1996.
writing, Evans uncovered an inscribed clay tablet in his first
Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The
week of excavation and soon amassed a large archive written
Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism 1870–1925.
in two syllabic scripts now known as Linear A and Linear B.
New York, 1980.
(The latter was deciphered as an early form of Greek by Mi-
Marsden, George M. Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary
chael Ventris and John Chadwick in 1952.) The treasures of
and the New Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1987.
the palace at Knossos, which Evans named for the legendary
Marsden, George M. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. New Haven,
King Minos, included many objects that he interpreted as
Conn., 2003.
possessing religious significance. In the palace, a building of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

great size and complex plan, images of bulls’ horns, the motif
World War II he worked at intervals, when free from mili-
of the double ax, and depictions of young men and women
tary service, among the bedouin of Cyrenaica. In 1944 he
performing acrobatic feats with bulls furnished attractive
joined the Roman Catholic church. He taught at the Univer-
parallels with Greek legend: labrus means “ax,” so that
sity of London, Fuad I University in Cairo, Cambridge Uni-
labyrinthos suggests “the place of the ax,” to which, according
versity, and finally Oxford, where in 1946 he succeeded
to legend, seven young men and seven young women were
A. R. Radcliffe-Brown as professor of social anthropology.
sent from Athens each year to encounter the Minotaur.
He retired in 1970, was knighted in 1971, and died in Ox-
Evans interpreted the double ax as symbolizing, or marking
ford in September 1973.
the presence of, the Cretan Zeus, a deity of quite different
type from the Indo-European sky god of the same name with
Evans-Pritchard’s work in religion is unique. It is based
whom he became identified. The Cretan Zeus died and was
on brilliant, sensitive, and meticulous field research, on his
reborn in an annual cycle. Also important in Minoan religion
mastery of languages (he was fluent in Arabic, Zande, and
was the association of trees and pillars as cult objects, a theme
Nuer), and on his deep knowledge and understanding of the
Evans discussed in works published in 1900, in the earliest
work of his predecessors, in particular those sociologists
days of the excavation, and in 1931.
(Durkheim et al.) associated with L’année sociologique. Most
of his writings on religion fall into one of four main catego-
Evans faced the usual difficulties of interpreting reli-
ries: works on the Azande, the Nuer, the Sanusi, and com-
gious objects in the absence of verbal evidence. (The Linear
parative and theoretical topics.
B tablets, which proved to be records of tribute paid and
other stocktaking records, have added very little.) In the
Each piece of Evans-Pritchard’s research and writing is
manner of his day, Evans was an evolutionist and comparat-
based on certain central problems in anthropology, although
ist, and he drew heavily on the folklore and practice of other
never limited to them in a narrow sense. His work among
cultures. Evaluations of his interpretations vary, but in the
the Azande, a cluster of kingdoms of the southwestern
field of Greek religion, as in other branches of classical
Sudan, led to the publication of Witchcraft, Oracles, and
studies, his importance rests on the abundance of material
Magic among the Azande (1937), perhaps the outstanding
he excavated and assiduously published.
work of anthropology published in this century. It is con-
cerned essentially with questions asked, although hardly an-
swered in any convincing manner, by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl in
Evans’s views on Minoan-Mycenaean religion are to be found in
his writings on “primitive” and “scientific” modes of
The Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult and Its Mediterranean
thought. The questions as to whether there are differences
Relations (London, 1901) and The Earlier Religion of Greece
between these two modes of thought and, if so, what they
in the Light of Cretan Discoveries (London, 1931); the latter
are and how they might function in social contexts are basic
was Evans’s Frazer Lecture for 1931 at the University of
to anthropology, and Evans-Pritchard’s discussion of them
Cambridge. The full account of the Knossos excavation is
has changed the nature of anthropological inquiry. He writes
contained in The Palace of Minos, 4 vols. in 6 (London,
about Zande notions of magic, witchcraft, and divination,
that is, their notions of natural and supernatural causation
New Sources
and interference in people’s everyday lives. He shows that
Harrington, Spencer P M. “Saving Knossos: The Struggle to Pre-
Zande ideas are rational and systematic; given certain prem-
serve a Landmark of Europe’s First Great Civilization.” Ar-
ises of knowledge they are closed and self-perpetuating, and
chaeology 52, no. 1 (January-February 1999): 30–40.
they are not held in isolation but are consistent with forms
MacGillivray, J. A. Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology
of authority and power found in Zande society. This is essen-
of the Minoan Myth. New York, 2000.
tially a study of rationality and corrects all earlier views about
A. W. H. ADKINS (1987)
the “irrationality” of so-called primitive peoples. Later
Revised Bibliography
Evans-Pritchard published an immense number of Zande
texts, in both Zande and English, with commentaries. This
work is probably the greatest single corpus of the myths and
tales of an African culture that has yet been published and
EVANS-PRITCHARD, E. E. (1902–1973), was an
confirms one of his strongest beliefs: that “primitive” texts
English anthropologist. Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard was
are not quaint “folkloristic” stories but are as worthy of care-
the son of a clergyman of the Church of England. He took
ful analysis as those of literate cultures.
a degree in history at the University of Oxford and in 1927
a doctorate in anthropology at the University of London,
Evans-Pritchard’s Nuer Religion (1956) is the final vol-
where he was supervised by C. G. Seligman. His thesis was
ume of a trilogy on the Nuer of the southern Sudan (the oth-
based on field research undertaken from 1926 to 1930
ers are The Nuer, 1940, and Kinship and Marriage among the
among the Azande of the Sudan. He carried out research
Nuer, 1951). In this book he presents Nuer religious thought
among the Nuer, another Sudanese people, intermittently
and ritual as a system of theology that has a subtlety and pro-
between 1930 and 1935 and also for brief periods among the
fundity comparable to those of literate cultures. Here he
Anuak, the Luo, and other East African peoples. During
takes up another basic problem raised by Lévy-Bruhl, that
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of “mystical participation” between human beings and what
EVE, or, in Hebrew, H:avvah; the first woman in the cre-
in ethnocentric terms are called the supernatural and the nat-
ation narratives of the Hebrew Bible, according to which she
ural. This problem is examined within the context of a series
was formed from one of the ribs of Adam, the first man (Gn.
of related aspects of Nuer religion: conceptions of God, spir-
2:21–23). In this account the creator god wished for Adam
its, the soul, and ghosts; symbolism; sin and sacrifice; and
to have a mate and so brought all the beasts of the fold and
priesthood and prophecy. Because of Evans-Pritchard’s great
birds of the sky before him to see what he would call each
skill in unfolding the complexity of Nuer religious thought,
one (Gn. 2:19). However, among these creatures the man
never since has it been possible for scholars of comparative
found no one to be his companion (Gn. 2:20). Accordingly,
religion to dismiss a nonliterate religion as “primitive” or as
this episode is not solely an etiology of the primal naming
a form of “animism.” Throughout this work, as in that on
of all creatures by the male ancestor of the human race but
the Azande, Evans-Pritchard stresses what he considered to
an account of how this man (ish) found no helpmeet until
be the central problem of anthropology, that of translation—
a woman was formed from one of his ribs, whom he named
not the simple problem of translation of words and phrases
“woman” (ishshah; Gn. 2:23). This account is juxtaposed
in a narrow linguistic sense, but the far more complex ques-
with a comment that serves etiologically to establish the so-
tion of translation of one culture’s experience into the terms
cial institution of marriage wherein a male leaves his father
of another’s.
and mother and cleaves to his wife so that they become “one
Evans-Pritchard’s other “ethnographic” work on reli-
flesh” together (Gn. 2:24). The matrimonial union is thus
gion is rather different, taking as its basic problem the rela-
a reunion of a primordial situation when the woman was, lit-
tionship between prophets (a topic raised earlier in his work
erally and figuratively, flesh of man’s flesh.
on the Nuer) and forms of religious and political authority
Such a version of the origin of the woman, as a special
as exemplified in the history of the Muslim Sanusi order in
creation from Adam’s body, stands in marked contrast to the
Cyrenaica (The Sanusi of Cyrenaica, 1951). Here he was able
creation tradition found in Genesis 1:27b, where there is a
to use written records as well as his own field research, and
hint that the primordial person (adam) was in fact an an-
he produces a model account of religious history and change.
drogyne. Alternatively, this latter half-verse may have been
Evans-Pritchard’s last achievement in the study of reli-
concerned with correcting a tradition of an originally lone
gion is his many critical writings on the history of the anthro-
male by the statement that both male and female were simul-
pology of religion, of which the best known is Theories of
taneously created as the first “Adam.”
Primitive Religion (1965). It is a superb and sophisticated
This mythic image of a male as the source of all human
study of the relations between thought, ideology, and
life (Gn. 2:21–22) reflects a male fantasy of self-sufficiency.
The subsequent narrative introduces a more realistic perspec-
The influence of E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s writings in the
tive. Thus, after the woman has succumbed to the wiles of
anthropological study of religion has been immense. There
the snake, eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and
has been little later analysis made of modes of thought, sys-
evil, and shared it with her husband, she is acknowledged as
tems of causation, witch beliefs, sacrifice, notions of sin, and
a source of new life—albeit with negative overtones, since the
ritual symbolism that has not been influenced by, if not
narrative stresses the punishment of pain that must be borne
based upon, his work. In addition, much recent research on
by Adam’s mate and all her female descendants during preg-
the philosophy of knowledge has leaned heavily on his book
nancy and childbirth. In token of her role as human genetrix,
on the Azande. Evans-Pritchard’s influence upon younger
the man gave to the woman a new name: she was thenceforth
anthropologists has been great. The anthropological, histori-
called Eve—“for she was the mother of all life” (Gn. 2:19).
cal, and comparative study of religions owes more to him
This new name, Eve (Heb., H:avvah), is in fact a pun
than to any other anthropologist.
on the noun for “life” (Heb., h:ay), since both h:avvah and
h:ay allude to old Semitic words (in Aramaic, Phoenician, and
Arabic) for “serpent,” as the ancient rabbis noted. Another
The main works of Evans-Pritchard are cited in the article. The
intriguing cross-cultural pun should be recalled, insofar as it
most insightful view of his work, in the form of an obituary,
may also underlie the key motifs of the biblical narrative.
is by T. O. Beidelman, “Sir Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard,
1902–1973: An Appreciation,” Anthropos 69 (1974): 553–
Thus, in a Sumerian myth it is told that when Enki had a
567. Beidelman is also the editor of A Bibliography of the
pain in his rib, Ninhursaga caused Nin-ti (“woman of the
Writings of E. E. Evans-Pritchard (London, 1974). Mary
rib”) to be created from him. Strikingly, the Sumerian logo-
Douglas’s Edward Evans-Pritchard (New York, 1980) is a
gram ti (in the goddess’s name) stands for both “rib” and
fuller but rather uneven account.
New Sources
According to one rabbinic midrash, Eve was taken from
Burton, John W. An Introduction to Evans-Pritchard. Fribourg,
the thirteenth rib of Adam’s right side after Lilith, his first
Switzerland, 1992.
wife, had left him (Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli Eezer 20). Other leg-
ends emphasize Eve’s susceptibility to guile and persuasion.
Revised Bibliography
Christian traditions use the episode of Eve to encourage the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

submission of women to their husbands (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3, 1
Moreover, the sort of fate that seems to lead the sick and
Tm. 2:22–25). Several church fathers typologically com-
aging to the threshold of death tends to make mortality the
pared Eve with Mary, the “new Eve” and mother of Jesus:
very emblem of the human condition. From this, it is easy
the sinfulness and disobedience of the former were specifical-
to take the next step and consider suffering and death as pun-
ly contrasted with the latter. The temptation motif and the
ishments. Do not guilt and mortality constitute the same
banishment of Eve and Adam are frequently found in medi-
eval Jewish and Christian illuminated manuscripts and in
The persistence of mythical representations of evil can
Persian iconography. The theme is also found in medieval
be explained by a third phenomenon, namely the extraordi-
morality plays and in the apocalyptic tract Life of Adam
nary way in which guilt and suffering remain intertwined
and Eve.
with a stage of development in which the human mind be-
SEE ALSO Adam; Lilith.
lieves it has freed itself from the realm of mythical representa-
tions. To declare someone guilty is to declare that person de-
serving of punishment. And punishment is, in its turn, a
Ginzberg, Louis. The Legends of the Jews (1909–1938). 7 vols.
suffering, both physical and moral, inflicted by someone
Translated by Henrietta Szold et al. Reprint, Philadelphia,
other than the guilty party. Punishment, as suffering, there-
1937–1966. See the index, s.v. Eve.
fore bridges the gap between the evil committed and the evil
Mangenot, Eugène. “Eve.” In Dictionnaire de théologie catholique,
suffered. This same boundary is crossed in the other direc-
vol. 5, cols. 1640–1655. Paris, 1913.
tion by the fact that a major cause of suffering lies in the vio-
Speiser, E. A. “Genesis.” Anchor Bible, vol. 1. Garden City, N.Y.,
lence that human beings exercise on one another. In fact, to
do evil is always, directly or indirectly, to make someone else
suffer. This mutual overlapping of evil done and evil suffered
prevents the two major forms of evil from ever being entirely
separate and, in particular, from ever being entirely stripped
of their enigmatic character. An essential opaqueness in the
human condition is therefore bound up with the experience
If there is one human experience ruled by myth, it
of evil, which is continually carried back to its darkness, its
is certainly that of evil. One can understand why: the two
obscurity, by the exercise of violence, always unjust, and of
major forms of this experience—moral evil and physical
punishment, even when it is held to be just.
evil—both contain an enigmatic element in whose shadows
the difference between them tends to vanish.
This invincible connection of moral evil and physical
On the one hand, it is only at the conclusion of a thor-
evil is expressed on the level of language in the specific “lan-
oughgoing critique of mythical representations that moral
guage game” designated by the general term lamentation.
evil could be conceived of as the product of a free act involv-
Lamentation, indeed, is not confined to the moanings rising
ing human responsibility alone. Social blame, interiorized as
up from the abyss of suffering, announcing the coming of
guilt, is in fact a response to an existential quality that was
death. It encompasses the guilty and the victims, for the
initially represented as a stain infecting the human heart as
guilty suffer twice over, first by blame, which states their un-
if from outside. And even when this quasi-magical represen-
worthiness, and then by punishment, which holds them
tation of a contamination by an external or superior power
under the reign of violence. With lamentation, the experi-
is replaced by the feeling of a sin of which we are the authors,
ence of evil becomes heard. The cry becomes a voice, the
we can feel that we have been seduced by overwhelming
voice of the undivided enigma of evil. Lamentation forms a
powers. Moreover, each of us finds evil already present in the
bridge between the evil committed or suffered and the myth.
world; no one initiates evil but everyone has the feeling of
And indeed it connects suffering to language only by joining
belonging to a history of evil more ancient than any individ-
a question to its moaning. “Why evil?” “Why do children
ual evil act. This strange experience of passivity, which is at
die?” “Why me?” In turning itself into a question, lamenta-
the very heart of evildoing, makes us feel ourselves to be the
tion itself appeals to myth.
victims in the very act that makes us guilty.
MYTHS OF EVIL. How does myth reply to the enigma of evil?
It provides the first explanatory schema available to humani-
On the other hand, it is also only at the conclusion of
ty. Myth replies to “why?” with “because”—which claims to
a comparable critique of mythical representations that physi-
fulfill the request for sense that is the mediation of lamenta-
cal evil is recognized as the effect of natural causes of a physi-
tion. We shall discuss, in conclusion, why this claim is
cal, biological, and even social nature: sickness, which often
doomed to fail. But first we must discuss the power of myth.
takes the form of great epidemics ravaging entire popula-
tions, simultaneously attacks each person in the very depths
Before stressing the fantastic, legendary, and even deliri-
of his existence by making him suffer and is spontaneously
ous side of myths, three features must be noted that define
experienced as an aggression, at once external and internal,
myth, at least provisionally, as an appropriate response to the
coming from maleficent powers that are easily confused with
“why?” that rises up from lamentation. The first characteris-
those that seduce the human heart and persuade it to do evil.
tic of myth is to state an order indivisibly uniting ethos and
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cosmos. By encompassing in a single configuration celestial
of evil. It is precisely here that the myth forms the great ma-
and terrestial phenomena, inanimate and animate nature,
trix in which are rooted the sapiential, Gnostic, and properly
seasons and festivals, labors and days, myth offers a privileged
speculative modes of the great discourse proffered by human-
framework of thought within which to link together moral
kind in the space opened up by lamentation between the cry
evil and physical evil, guilt and mortality, violence and pun-
and utter silence. In this sense, myth remains the schema for
ishment: in short, a framework that preserves, in its answer,
all subsequent speculation. The question then arises whether,
the unity of the enigma of evil as a question.
outside any hierarchical order of discourses, this great phan-
tasmagoria of evil lends itself to some typology that will not
Next, the ambivalence of the sacred, as Rudolf Otto de-
do violence to its proliferating diversity.
scribes it, confers upon myth the power of taking on both
the dark and the luminous sides of human existence. Many
A prudent reply is needed to this methodological ques-
myths point to a primordial sphere of existence that can be
tion: on the one hand, myths of evil lend themselves to classi-
said to be beyond good and evil. Finally, myth incorporates
fication by virtue of their narrative character, mentioned
our fragmentary experience of evil within great narratives of
above as the third general feature of the mythical universe.
origin, as Mircea Eliade has stressed in his many works on
Narratives of origin are presented as dramas recounting how
this topic. By recounting how the world began, myth re-
evil began; it is therefore possible to apply a structural analy-
counts how the human condition reached the wretched and
sis to them that reduces them to a relatively limited number
miserable form that we know it to take. Theogony, cosmogo-
of ideal types, in Max Weber’s sense—that is, of paradigms
ny, and anthropogenesis therefore form a single narrative
constructed by comparative science midway between the
chain that scans the “great time” of origin. Order, ambiva-
clearly transcendental a priori and empirical proliferation.
lence, and omnitemporality are thus the major features of
The ideal types are those of an exemplary story, organizing
myth, owing to which the mythical explanation can claim
segments of action, characters, fortunate and unfortunate
to provide an all-encompassing framework for evil.
events, as in the great epics that take place in our time, after
the beginning.
This is all we can say about myth in general, however,
without running the risk of applying to one precise category
The proliferation of myths can thus be mastered to a rel-
of myth characters belonging solely to another. This is not
ative degree by a typology of dramatic paradigms. On the
to imply that we must cease to speak of myth in general: the
other hand, individual myths contain so many inconsistent
case of myths of evil is exemplary in this respect. It appears,
elements, which convey a desperate attempt to explain the
in fact, that myth, considered as a type of discourse, draws
unexplainable in order to give an account of what is inscruta-
a certain unity from the place it assumes in a hierarchy of
ble, that they prove to be in large part hostile to all classifica-
levels of discourse that can be organized according to stages
tion. At the most they present “family resemblances” that
of increasing rationality. Myth constitutes in this regard the
cause a number of overlaps between types of myth. There is
lowest level, coming before wisdom and gnosis, which leads
no myth that, in some way or other, does not coincide with
to the threshold of the rationalizing theodicies of philosophy
another myth. In this way we are prevented from working
and theology. One must be aware, however, that the order-
out a table of the strict play of differences and combinations
ing principle thus alleged is the offshoot of a certain idea of
among myths. In The Symbolism of Evil, I proposed a typolo-
reason that was, in the West, born with philosophy itself. A
gy limited to the ancient Near East and to archaic Greece,
purely comparativist approach could never assume unreserv-
that is, to the cultural memory of the European. (I shall dis-
edly this “prejudice of reason.” On the other hand, if we
cuss below a vaster typology that will take into account Indi-
bracket it completely—and doubtless this must be the case
an and Buddhist mythology.)
in a purely descriptive history of religions—then we expose
The ancient Near East and Archaic Greece. The re-
ourselves to the inverse danger, which is that the universe of
stricted typology of The Symbolism of Evil verifies the two op-
myths will splinter into an infinite number of parts.
posing characteristics mentioned above. On the one hand,
It is precisely this feature that prevails in the case of
the attempt to classify myths in terms of a limited number
myths of evil when we bracket, at least for a while, the ques-
of paradigms is relatively successful; on the other, the over-
tion of the place of myth in an ordered series of levels of dis-
lapping that occurs shows that every paradigm implies in
course. Order, ambivalence, and omnitemporality then ap-
some aspect or another a very different paradigm.
pear only as inconsequential abstract and formal elements in
For a static analysis of the myths of evil, the myths of
relation to the explanatory schemas that mythical thought
the cultural sphere considered can be divided fairly easily
has produced throughout space and time. Nowhere else as
into four great paradigms.
much as in the area of the explanation of evil does myth re-
veal itself to be this vast field of experimentation, which is
1. In the myths of chaos, illustrated most strikingly by
unfolded in the literature of the ancient Near East, India,
the Sumerian-Akkadian theogonic myths but also by the Ho-
and the Far East. In this immense laboratory everything oc-
meric and Hesiodic theogonies, the origin of evil that strikes
curs as if there were no conceivable solution that had not
humans is included within the larger narrative of the final
been tried at one point or another as a reply to the enigma
victory of order over chaos in the common genesis of the
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gods, the cosmos, and humanity. The great creation epic,
extended by that of the repetition of reincarnations, is further
Enuma elish, makes the appearance of man the final act in
darkened by the model of infernal punishment, as if life in
a drama that begins with the generation of the gods. One can
the body were the image of hell. Life is then a death, which
truly speak in this connection of an epical ontogenesis to de-
calls for a death that will be true life. Only through purifica-
scribe this sort of total narrative. As regards evil in particular,
tion, at once ethical, ritual, and meditative, can the soul be
it is noteworthy that chaos precedes order and that the prin-
delivered from this quagmire of bodily existence, which itself
ciple of evil is coextensive here with the generation of the di-
mirrors hell. In a sense, this myth alone can properly be
vine. The poem does not hesitate to characterize as evil the
termed a myth of the fall, for the incarnation itself marks the
hates, the plotting, and the murders that mark not only the
loss of an infinitely superior condition and so a loss of height,
primitive struggles among the most ancient gods but also
of altitude, which is precisely what the word fall signifies.
the victory of the younger gods—Marduk, for example, in
the Babylonian version of the myth.
4. Compared with these three paradigms, the biblical
myth of paradise lost differs in three ways. First, the Adamic
Evil therefore precedes humankind, who finds it already
myth is purely anthropological, excluding any drama of cre-
present and merely continues it. Evil, in other words, belongs
ation in which evil would originally be included: creation is
to the very origin of all things; it is what has been overcome
good, very good; humankind alone initiates evil, although
in setting up the world as it now is, but it, too, contributed
tempted, to be sure, by the serpent (an important feature dis-
to this state of affairs. This is why order is precarious and its
cussed below); but the serpent too is a creature. Next, evil
genesis must continually be reenacted by cultic rites. If, in
is clearly ethical, in the sense that it results from an act of
this family of myths, the fall is mentioned, it is never in the
disobedience. It therefore cannot be a matter of hubris,
sense of the unprecedented emergence of an evil that would
which like disobedience would represent a blindness sent
be simply “human, all too human,” but as an episode in the
down by jealous gods, although “Second Isaiah” does not
drama of creation. In the same way, the failure of the quest
hesitate, after the difficulties of exile, to make his confession
for immortality, recounted in the famous Epic of Gilgamesh,
in the form of God’s own self-presentation, as in prophesy:
is tied up with the jealousy of the gods, who trace out the
“I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create war,
boundary between the sphere of mortals and that of immor-
I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Is. 45:7). Finally,
tals by an act of violence placed beyond good and evil.
evil is not the result of the fall of the soul into a body; it con-
sists of a gap, a deviation of humankind as a whole, of the
2. An evil god and a tragic vision of existence are depict-
flesh, which is unaware of the body-soul dualism.
ed in the second paradigm of evil in European culture. Here,
evil is in a way shared by humankind and gods. It calls, on
The Adamic myth is therefore anthropological in the
the one hand, for a figure with the stature of a hero, possess-
strongest sense of the term, to the extent that Adam is Man,
ing higher qualities than ordinary men but who commits a
neither a Titan nor a captive soul but the ancestor of all hu-
grave error, which can be said to be neither the effect of mere
mankind, of the same nature as all the generations springing
ignorance, in the Socratic sense, nor the result of a deliberate-
from him. If the Adamic myth nevertheless deserves the title
ly bad choice, in the Hebraic sense. Moreover, the over-
of myth, this is inasmuch as the narrative in which it consists
whelming error that precipitates his fall is deplored by the
is incommensurate to the historical time in which the exem-
tragic chorus and by the hero himself as a blindness that has
plary adventure of the people of Israel takes place. The myth
crept over him as a result of the jealousy of the gods; thus
elevates to the level of exemplary and universal history the
the hubris of the tragic hero is at once the cause and the effect
penitential experience of one particular people, the Jewish
of the wickedness belonging to the plane of the divinities.
people. All the later speculations about the supernatural per-
Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound is the frightening document
fection of Adam before the Fall are adventitious interpreta-
of this tragic theology and this tragic anthropology in which
tions that profoundly alter the original meaning; they tend
the hero in a sense cooperates in a loss, the origin of which
to make Adam a superior being and so foreign to our own
is superhuman. It is important to note that the tragic myth
condition. Hence the confusion over the idea of the Fall.
produced a spectacle, rather than a speculation, a spectacle
that makes the spectators participate in the tragic drama
The intention of the Adamic myth is to separate the ori-
through the catharsis of the emotions of terror and pity.
gin of evil from that of good, in other words, to posit a radi-
cal origin of evil distinct from the more primordial origin of
3. The third type is illustrated by Archaic Orphic myths,
the goodness of all created things; humanity commences evil
which are continued in Platonism and Neoplatonism. This
but does not commence creation. However, it is in the form
can be termed the myth of the exiled soul, imprisoned in a
of a story that the myth accounts for this catastrophe at the
foreign body. It assumes a radical distinction between a soul,
heart of the goodness of creation; the passage from innocence
akin to the gods, and a body, perceived as a prison or a tomb.
to sin is narrated as something that took place. That is why
Life itself appears as a punishment, possibly for some fault
the explanation given here of the origin of evil is not yet ele-
committed in a previous life. Evil is therefore identified with
vated to the plane of speculation, as will later happen with
incarnation itself and even, in certain Far Eastern mytholo-
the dogma of original sin, but remains an etiological myth
gies, with reincarnation. The model of the body-as-prison,
involving legendary characters and fabulous events.
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With respect to its structure, the myth takes on the form
The danger of the structural approach we have followed up
of a twofold conflict: on the one hand, that between the cen-
to now lies in giving an exaggerated cohesiveness to narra-
tral figure, Adam, and the Adversary, represented by the ser-
tives of origin that also possess a composite, paradoxical, even
pent, who will later become the Devil, and on the other
extravagant character, well suited to the heuristic function of
hand, that between the two halves of a split figure, Adam and
myth, when myth is considered as a thought experiment that
Eve. From this complex configuration the Adamic myth re-
unfolds in the region of the collective imagination. This is
ceives an enigmatic depth, the second pair adding a subtle
why the static analysis of myths, governed by the search for
psychological dimension and an internal density that would
and the description of ideal types, must be completed by the
not have been attained by the confrontation between Man
addition of a dynamic approach to myths, attentive to the
and his Other alone. In this way the myth universalizes the
internal discordances that make them overlap in places and
penitential experience of the Jewish people, but the concrete
in this way outline a vast narrative and symbolic cycle.
universal that it forges remains caught up in the gangue of
the narrative and the symbolic.
If we take the Adamic myth as a point of reference, we
find in it the muted echo of all the others and vice versa. We
The protohistorical myth is the only vehicle for a specu-
can therefore speak of a tragic aspect in the Adamic myth,
lation akin to sapiential literature. In order to state the dis-
expressed in the deep and shadowy psychology of tempta-
cordance between a creation that is fundamentally good and
tion. There is a sort of fatalistic side of the ethical confession
a historical condition that is already bad, the myth has no
of sins. But there is also an irreducible remainder of the theo-
other resources than to concentrate the origin of evil in a sin-
gonic combat, which can be seen in the figure of the serpent
gle instant, in a leap, even if it stretches out this instant in
and in other biblical figures related to the primordial chaos.
a drama that takes time, introduces a series of events, and in-
What is more, the essentially ethical affirmation of God’s
volves several characters. In this way the myth reflects in its
saintliness can never entirely rid us of the suspicion that God
very structure, in which the concentrated instant and the ex-
is somehow beyond good and evil and that for this very rea-
tended drama confront one another, the structure of the phe-
son he sends evil as well as good.
nomenon of evil as such, which at one and the same time
commences with each evil act and continues an immemorial
This is why later speculation will continually return to
what is at once an unthinkable and an invincible possibility,
namely that the deity has a dark and terrible side, in which
The etiological character of the myth is further rein-
something of the tragic vision and also something of the
forced by the narrative of the maledictions that ensue, fol-
myth of chaos is preserved and even reaffirmed. If this admis-
lowing the initial act of disobedience: every human dimen-
sion shows itself to be so persistent it is precisely because the
sion—language, work, institutions, sexuality—is stamped
human experience of evil itself contains the admission that,
with the twofold mark of being destined for the good and
in positing the existence of evil, humankind discovers the
inclined toward evil. The power of naming all beings is so
other side of evil, namely that it has always existed, in a para-
deeply perverted that we no longer recognize it except in ref-
doxical exteriority that, as stated above, relates sin to suffer-
erence to the division of speech into different tongues. Work
ing within the undivided mystery of iniquity. The acknowl-
ceases to be a sort of peaceful gardening and becomes hard
edgment of a nonhuman source of evil is what continually
labor that places man in a hostile relation to nature. The na-
gives new life to theogony and to tragedy alongside an ethical
kedness of innocence is replaced by the shame that casts the
vision of the world.
shadow of concealment over all aspects of communication.
The pain of childbirth tarnishes the joy of procreation; death
The same thing should be said with respect to the typo-
itself is afflicted by the malediction of the awareness of its
logical distance between the Adamic myth and the myth of
immanence. In short, what the myth recounts is how it hap-
the exiled soul. It is not by sheer chance that, under the influ-
pened that human beings are obliged to suffer the rule of
ence of Platonism and of Neoplatonism, the Adamic myth
hardship as we know it in our present condition. The myth’s
has almost fused with the myth of the Fall. There was most
“method” is always the same: stretching out in the time of
likely in the original myth a tendency that led it to confuse
a narrated drama the paradoxical—because simultaneous—
the quasi-external character of evil as already present with the
aspects of the present human condition.
body, understood as the sole root of evil. In the same way,
the Babylonian exile provided the model of banishment,
This is the restricted typology that we can construct in
which continues with that of the expulsion from the garden
the limited sphere of the archaic state of the European. Be-
of paradise. The symbols of captivity and of exodus that un-
fore attempting to move into other cultural spheres, it is im-
derlie the Adamic myth thus lend themselves to contamina-
portant to do justice to the contrary aspect stressed above
tion by the symbolism, coming from another source, of a
concerning the level of the typology of myths of evil: the par-
fallen “soul.” Elevating the figure of Adam above the condi-
adigms, we said, are not simply distinct from one another in
tion of ordinary mortals doubtless facilitated the reinterpre-
the sense of Weberian ideal types but they overlap with one
tation of the myth of disobedience in terms of a myth of the
another to such an extent that we can discover in each one
Fall: when Adam is represented as a sort of superman en-
some aspect that lends it a family resemblance to the others.
dowed with all knowledge, beatitude, and immortality, his
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degradation could be represented in no other way than as a
fering and ignorance, is not the same as all systems placed
under the vast heading of Hinduism, we can, following
Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty in The Origins of Evil in Hindu
This play of overlappings could be considered from the
Mythology (Berkeley, 1976), class the expression of theodicies
perspective of each of the four myths that structure the sym-
on the clearly mythological level as Puranic Hinduism. These
bolic imagination in the Western world: there is no myth of
figurative and narrative theodicies lend themselves to a cer-
chaos that, at one moment or another, does not include the
tain classification of different conceptual attitudes toward
confession of sins by a repentant sinner; there is no tragic
evil, a classification that struggles with the proliferation of
myth that does not admit the deep fault tied to a hubris for
myths to the point of succumbing under their weight.
which humankind recognizes itself to be guilty. And would
the fall of the soul be such a misfortune if humankind did
O’Flaherty, our guide through this labyrinth, observes
not contribute to it at least through consent?
that four characters can assume the role of the villain in the
drama: mortals, fate, demons, and gods. The first type of
Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. The division into
myth, which recalls the Adamic myth, seems surprising if
four great paradigms that we apply to the vast—although re-
one considers the doctrine of karman, according to which
stricted—domain of Semitic archaism and Hellenic archa-
our present experience is the direct result of the good or bad
ism, which, together, structure the cultural memory of the
actions of previous existences to be the Indian solution to the
West, itself constitutes only a restricted typology. What hap-
problem of evil. Neither gods nor demons are then to blame,
pens when Westerners attempt to extend their vision to a
and even blame itself is obliterated by the recognition of an
wider field? Does the typology offer the same features of rela-
eternal cycle in which everything is justified and finds its rec-
tive order and of multiple overlappings when we try to pass
ompense. The paradox lies in the fact that the feeling gener-
from the restricted form to a generalized form? For anyone
ated by rumination on past faults opens the way for all sorts
who undertakes the perilous task of incorporating into his
of speculation on the moral responsibility of humankind for
or her own vision the universes of thought that entertain
the origin of evil, nuanced by the attitude that human beings
complex relations of distance and proximity with one’s own
are always as much victim as guilty party (as we see in the
cultural memory, two warnings should be taken into consid-
myths of the loss of a golden age).
eration: first, it is senseless to seek to be exhaustive; there is
no Archimedes point from which one could attempt to raise
After all, the very doctrine of karman posits that the
the totality of mythical universes. We must always confine
links in the endless chain of evil are our desires and our sins;
ourselves to limited incursions into the regions that we intu-
Buddhism takes this as its starting point. The paradox, how-
itively suspect will contain treasures likely to enrich our cul-
ever, is reversed when a primordial fall is evoked; then it is
tural memory, and from this results the unavoidably selective
fate rather than humankind that is to blame. This forms a
nature of the itinerary of these incursions.
second cycle of myths, where we see God or a god create evil
as a positive element in the universe, whether he acts as a
Second, we must give up the hope of any simple taxono-
willing or unwilling instrument of fate or whether he himself
my, such as a distribution into monisms, dualisms, and
decides that evil must come to be. Logical thought tends to
mixed forms of these. These distinctions are practically use-
see a contradiction here between being constrained or decid-
less on the mythical level itself, assuming they have a less de-
ing freely to create an ambivalent universe; Hindu thought,
batable validity on the level of more speculative discourse.
however, moves effortlessly between what ultimately appears
The two examples we have chosen, Hindu mythology and
to be two variants of a dharma that abolishes the distinction
Buddhist mythology, taking into account the first warning,
between what is and what ought to be.
also raise issues related to the second warning: Hindu my-
The opposite is no less true: it is because a doctrine like
thology perhaps more than Buddhist mythology confronts
that of karman proves to be emotionally unsatisfactory in
us with a profusion of explanatory frameworks requiring a
certain ways while remaining valid in the eyes of the wise that
taxonomical refinement that challenges any classificatory
mythology continually reworks the variants, producing new
principle. Buddhist mythology, perhaps more than Hindu
divergences. It is then not surprising that mythical specula-
mythology, shows us how the same “solution” can oscillate
tion turns toward gods and demons. Myths placing guilt on
among several planes of expression, from the level of legend
the shoulders of gods or demons proliferate, all the more so
and folklore to that of a metaphysical speculation. This pro-
as ethical and cosmic dualism, illustrated in its purest and
fusion and this variation of levels constitute fearsome chal-
most coherent form by Manichaeism, was never victorious
lenges for any attempt at typology.
in India: the ambiguous nature of the demons, and even of
If we admit that theodicy is not restricted to monothe-
the gods, served to thwart this clear and radical distinction.
ism but forms the touchstone of all religions, when the exis-
India prefered to struggle with the paradox of superhuman
tential need to explain suffering and moral evil is brought to
entities, which are almost all of the same nature and which
the level of language, then we can seek and find theodicies
are distinguished and opposed to another only by their com-
in all of them. If, moreover, we admit that Vedantic Hindu-
bat. Those who always win are gods, but because their adver-
ism, in which the problem of evil is dismissed rather than
saries are never really eliminated, the kinship of the gods and
resolved by a refined speculation on the relation between suf-
the demons always resurfaces.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Here the guide we have chosen to follow remarks with
verses previously shaped by Hinduism. What is more, Bud-
irony that as a consequence of these reversals the gods reput-
dhism has generated within its own midst, if not a new de-
ed to be good are more wicked than we might expect and
monology, at least a mythical figure of evil, Ma¯ra, somewhat
that the demons reputed to be evil prove to be good demons.
comparable to Satan in late Judaism and in early Christiani-
This gives rise to a reflection on the demonic as such, in
ty. Buddhism reinforces in this respect the hypothesis ac-
which power overrides benevolence, thus verifying the extent
cording to which one can speak of the origin of evil only by
to which myths operate as depth probes sounding the ambiv-
way of myths. At the same time it appears to constitute a
alence of the human condition itself, while on the surface
counterexample to this hypothesis, because mythology seems
they seem to operate as explanations. By recounting our ori-
at first to be so incompatible with the purified form of spiri-
gins, where we come from, myths describe in a symbolic way
tuality characteristic of Buddhism. It is, to be sure, in the Pali
what we are: the paradox of the good demon and that of the
canon and not in the Maha¯ya¯na documents that T. O. Ling,
evil god are not merely playful fantasies but the privileged
in his Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil (London, 1962),
means of unraveling the tangled skein of passions belonging
finds the most striking illustration of this phenomenon,
to the human heart. When the myth tells, for example, how
which at first sight seems paradoxical.
the gods corrupted the demons, something is said about the
hidden perversity of the “higher” part of ourselves. When the
To begin with, one must admit that a wide gap exists
myth recounts the birth of death, it touches the secret thread
between pure Buddhist doctrine and popular mythologies
of our fright in the face of death, a fright that in fact closely
concerning the origin of evil. The latter are characterized ba-
links together evil and death and confronts death as a person-
sically by the radically external nature they attribute to de-
ified demon.
monic powers, represented as threatening, terrifying, devour-
ing creatures. In addition, as is not the case in Iranian
The fact that myths are indifferent to logical coherence
dualism, these demons form a swarm in which it is difficult
is attested to by another cycle of myths, characteristic of
to distinguish the forces of evil from the forces of good. Fi-
bhakti spirituality, where we see a god create evil (for exam-
nally, the principal resource of humans in defending them-
ple, a fallacious heresy) for the good of humanity, a lesser
selves against these external forces is an action itself turned
malediction freeing a graver one. The cycle is then complete:
toward the outside, whether this is a propitiatory sacrifice,
submitted to this stringent economy, humankind is carried
an invocation addressed to higher powers or the manipula-
back to the problem of its own evil, as in the theory of kar-
tion of hostile forces through magical actions, or even the
man. This cycle, however, is considerably vaster than that of
constraint that is supposed to be exerted on the gods by self-
the restricted typology with which we began. It is also more
loosely knit. And it is truly in the mythic theodicies of India
that we see verified the notion suggested at the beginning of
On the other hand, if, following T. R. V. Murti in The
this article, namely that the mythical world is an immense
Central Philosophy of Buddhism (London, 1955), we take as
laboratory in which all imaginable solutions are tried.
our criterion for Buddhism the “philosophical” section of the
canon, that is the Abhidhamma Pitaka and, more precisely,
This acceptance of multiplicity by the same culture con-
Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification), which
firms one of the conclusions arrived at by our restricted ty-
in the Therava¯da school is at once its conclusion and com-
pology (restricted to the archaic Semitic and Greek
pendium, then we are correct in speaking of a Buddhism
worlds)—namely, that in every myth, owing to its own inco-
without mythology, as Ling does. The thinking behind this
herence, we discover a sketch in miniature that another myth
radical position is easy to understand. In the first place, the
will develop on a much larger scale. The feature that has not
doctrine is entirely directed toward the purely mental condi-
received sufficient attention, however, has to do with the dif-
tions of the evils of existence. These conditions are analyzed,
ference in level that allows us to go beyond a lower truth (for
catalogued, and hierarchized with the most extraordinary
example, the struggle between gods and demons or the cor-
care; they are also submitted to an exploration of the “depen-
ruption of demons and mortals by the gods) by means of a
dent origination” of the lines of interdependence, which al-
higher truth (for example, karman), which, far from elimi-
lows the sources of evil to be tracked down in their deepest
nating the prior truth, confirms it in its subordinate place.
hiding places. What the analysis exposes are not external
This is what Buddhism forcefully demonstrates.
forces but, basically, ignorance, which itself results from false
views of the world, generated in their turn by an overestima-
Buddhism poses a singular problem for any careful in-
tion of the self. Popular demonologies are precisely the crud-
vestigation, not only with respect to the multitude of mythi-
est sort of expression of these false points of view.
cal figures of evil, but also to the oscillation between different
levels of discourse. On the one hand, indeed, no religion has
The second reason for incompatibility with mythology
gone so far toward a speculation stripped of any narrative or
is that the analysis itself, in certain schools, is confined to
figurative element on behalf of a doctrine of inner illumina-
scholasticism, due to the subtlety of its distinctions and deri-
tion. On the other hand, Buddhism seldom appears in a
vations, and is placed in the service of a wisdom aimed at es-
form completely cut off from popular beliefs and from their
tablishing a state of emptiness, a void. This state is entirely
characteristic demonology, especially in the cultural uni-
separate from the familiar realities of everyday existence and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

wholly unrelated to the fantastic creatures produced by desire
a defect: an excess resulting from a proliferation that staggers
and, even more so, by fear. Demons vanish along with all ex-
the imagination (the mythical world, Lévi-Strauss observes,
ternal reality as a result of the purifying meditation that de-
is a world that is too full); its defect is due to the mutual in-
serves the name of enlightenment.
compatibility of myths, to their internal contradictions, and,
finally, to their narrative form itself: to tell a story is not to
And yet, it is not simply a matter of making concessions
explain. Rationalization has taken a number of different
to popular beliefs if the Pali canon assigns a place in its teach-
forms: in India, this involves the grand speculations on kar-
ings to the Evil One and gives him the name of Ma¯ra. This
man, on the degrees of being, on the order of things placed
entity can be termed mythical due to his resemblance to the
beyond good and evil. In Buddhism, this concerns specula-
demons of popular belief and, more precisely, due to his per-
tion on the tie between ignorance and suffering and, above
sonification of original evil. Ling confirms here the earlier
all, on the tie between wisdom, which I shall discuss below,
analysis of Ernst W. Windisch in Ma¯ra und Buddha (Leipzig,
and suffering. In Greece, myth was surpassed by philosophy,
1895). According to both of them, this figure is finally not
which essentially separates the question of origin in the sense
foreign to the central core of Buddhism to the extent that
of foundation from the question of the beginning in the
it is part of the very experience of the Buddha’s enlighten-
sense of theogonies and genealogies. By virtue of this funda-
ment, as a force that threatens, attacks, and seeks to distract
mental clarification, Plato prefers to say that God is the cause
the individual from contemplation—a force that the wise
of good alone rather than to say, along with myth, that the
person must address, confront, and finally conquer.
gods are bad or that they are beyond good and evil.
Specialists in this field argue whether this confrontation
In the Christian sphere, rationalization takes place with-
with the threat of distraction is characteristic only of the first
in theology, mainly at the time of the confrontation with
stage in the spiritual adventure or whether it is present up
gnosis, which is still no more than a rationalized myth, and
to the end; they argue whether the proliferation of legends
in connection with an overall hellenization of speculation.
that attribute to this figure of evil the status of a demon result
In this regard, the doctrine of original sin in Augustine offers
from subsequent contamination by the surrounding demon-
at once the features of an antignosis as a result of what its
ologies or whether they develop a mythical core inherent in
conceptual framework borrows from Neoplatonism (being,
the pure doctrine. The essential point is that the figure of
nothingness, substance, etc.) and the features of a quasi gno-
Ma¯ra in its barest signification is the product of Buddhism.
sis, and hence of a rationalized myth, due to the way it mixes
Ignorance driven out by knowledge; shadows dissipated by
together the legal model of individual guilt and a biological
that enlightenment, are experienced as an inner adversity
model of contamination at birth and of hereditary transmis-
that is spontaneously personified in the figure of an adver-
sion. This is why such rationalization was continued beyond
sary. As is not the case in popular demonology, however,
this quasi gnosis in onto-theologies to which we owe the the-
Ma¯ra is personified by a single figure, symbolizing the inter-
odicies as such, in Leibniz and, finally, in Hegel. To these
nal enemy, namely the adversary of meditation.
theodicies we owe, if not a solution to the enigma of evil,
If Buddhism seems to confirm in such a paradoxical
at least the transformation of the enigma into a problem,
fashion the thesis that one can speak only in mythical terms
namely whether or not we can maintain the following three
of the origin of evil, this is because the source of evil, however
propositions at once: God is all-powerful. God is absolutely
much it may be interiorized, retains a certain hostile nature
good. Evil exists. This is not the place, however, to weigh the
that calls for a figurative approximation in terms of externali-
success or failure of rational theodicies.
ty. Expressed in external terms, the myth gives a symbolic
The path of Wisdom. Assuming that a coherent reply
expression to the interior experience of evil.
could be given to the enigma that has been raised in this way
BEYOND MYTH? Myth, however, is not alone in using lan-
to the level of a rational problem, there could still be no ex-
guage to deal with the enigma of evil. I mentioned above that
clusive means for explaining it. The question of evil, indeed,
there exists a hierarchy of different levels of discourse within
is not simply “Why does evil exist?” but also “Why is evil
which myth takes its place. We can go beyond myth in two
greater than humans can bear?” and, along with this, “Why
directions, that of theodicy and that of wisdom. These two
this particular evil? Why must my child die? Why me?” The
paths often intersect but they conform to two distinct series
question is also posed, then, to wisdom.
of requirements.
It is Wisdom’s task first to develop an argument on the
The path of theodicy. Theodicy replies to a demand
basis of this personal and intimate question that myth does
for rational coherence. This requirement stems from lamen-
not treat, since it invokes an order that does not concern in-
tation itself, inasmuch as it carries within it an interrogation:
dividual suffering. Wisdom thus forces myth to shift levels.
“Why? Why must my child die? Why must there be suffering
It must not simply tell of the origin in such a way as to ex-
and death? How long, O Lord?” But it also stems from myth
plain how the human condition reached its present miserable
itself, inasmuch as it brings the reply of a vaster and more
state; it must also justify the distribution of good and evil to
ancient order than the miserable condition of humankind.
every individual. Myth recounts a story, Wisdom argues. It
This reply, however, suffers at once from an excess and from
is in this sense that we see the Book of Job question explana-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tion in terms of retribution in the name of the just man who
Geddis, Jennifer. Evil after Postmodernism: Histories, Narratives,
suffers. If the Book of Job occupies a primary place in world
and Ethics. New York, 2001.
literature, it does so first because it is a classic of Wisdom’s
Lara, Maria Pia. Rethinking Evil: Contemporary Perspectives. Berke-
argumentative mode. But it is so because of the enigmatic
ley, 2001.
and even perhaps deliberately ambiguous character of its
Matthewes, Charles T. Evil and the Augustinian Tradition. New
conclusion. The final theophany gives no direct reply to Job’s
York, 2001.
personal suffering, and speculation must be made in more
Morrow, Lance. Evil: An Investigation. New York, 2003.
than one direction. The vision of a creator whose designs are
unfathomable may suggest either consolation that has to be
Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg. The Many Faces of Evil: Historical Per-
deferred until the eschaton, or that Job’s complaint is dis-
spectives. New York, 2001.
placed, even set aside, in the eyes of God, the master of good
Swinburne, Ricjard. Providence and the Problem of Evil. New
and evil, or that perhaps the complaint has to stand one of
York, 1998.
the purificatory tests to which Wisdom, itself grafted on a
certain docta ignorantia, must submit so that Job can love
Revised Bibliography
God “for nought” in response to Satan’s wager at the begin-
ning of the tale.
This final suggestion reveals the second function of Wis-
EVOLA, JULIUS. Giulio Cesare Andrea Evola (Julius;
dom, which is no longer to develop arguments or even to ac-
1898–1974) was a cultural, religious-historical, philosophi-
cuse God but to transform, practically and emotionally, the
cal, esoteric, and political author. Evola was born in Rome,
nature of the desire that is at the base of the request for expla-
most likely to Sicilian aristocracy, and was raised Catholic.
nation. To transform desire practically means to leave behind
He came under the early spiritual influence of Arthur Rim-
the question of origins, toward which myth stubbornly car-
baud (1854–1891), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Carlo
ries speculative thought, and to substitute for it the question
Michelstaedter (1887–1910), and Otto Weininger (1880–
of the future and the end of evil. For practice, evil is simply
1903). After returning from service in Word War I, Evola
what should not but does exist, hence what must be combat-
experienced an existential crisis, which almost ended in sui-
ed. This practical attitude concerns principally that immense
cide. According to his own statement, he was rescued by a
share of suffering resulting from violence, that is, from the
sentence from the Buddhist Pali canon. Psychological experi-
evil that humans inflict on their fellows. To transform desire
ments under the influence of ether led Evola to a transcen-
emotionally is to give up any consolation, at least for oneself,
dental experience of his self (Ego), which transformed him
by giving up the complaint itself. It is perhaps at this point
completely. He experienced his self as all-comprising and
that Job’s wisdom coincides with that of Buddhism. Whatev-
identical with the highest spiritual power in the universe.
er can be said of this meeting of two such remote traditions
During this time he became friends with the futurist Giovan-
of wisdom, it is only at this point that myth can be surpassed.
ni Papini (1881–1956), who interested Evola in the Eastern
But it is not easy to give up the question “why?” to which
wisdom teachings and the mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260–
myth attempts—and fails—to reply.
1328), whose extreme clarity always remained a model for
SEE ALSO Chaos; Devils; Fall, The; Myth; Sin and Guilt;
Evola. Evola was also well acquainted with the futurist theo-
Suffering; Theodicy; Wisdom.
rist and author Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944),
who might even have introduced him to Benito Mussolini.
Soon, however, Evola turned towards Dadaism and be-
Davis, Stephen T., ed. Encountering Evil; Live Options in Theodicy.
came friends with its main proponent, Tristan Tzara (1896–
Edinburgh, 1981.
1963). Due to the quality of his paintings, poetry, and writ-
Ling, T. O. Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil. London, 1962.
ings on the theory of modern art, Evola is considered the
Murti, T. R. V. The Central Philosophy of Buddhism. 2d ed. Lon-
main representative of Italian Dadaism. He saw art as flow-
don, 1955.
ing from a “higher consciousness.” All of Evola’s work is inci-
O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythol-
dentally characterized by his effort to elevate mere human ex-
ogy. Berkeley, 1976.
istence to a supramundane level and to concentrate on
Ricoeur, Paul. The Symbolism of Evil. Boston, 1967.
transcendental principles. This concentration is marked,
Windisch, Ernst W. Ma¯ra und Buddha. Leipzig, 1895.
however, by a militantly active aspect, which drove the con-
New Sources
templative into the background.
Adams, Marilyn McCord. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of
In 1922 Evola abandoned his artistic activities, and in
God. Ithaca, N. Y., 1999.
the same year, when he was just twenty-four, he completed
Adams, Marilyn McCord, and Robert Merrihew Adams, ed. The
a translation of the Dao de jing, influenced by idealist philos-
Problem of Evil. New York, 1990.
ophy; he completely revised this translation in 1959. Evola
Card, Claudia. The Atrocity Paradigm. New York, 2002.
dedicated himself subsequently to the construction of his
Copjec, Joan, ed. Radical Evil. New York, 1996.
own philosophical system, which he called “magical ideal-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ism,” after Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772–1801).
ciclopedia Italiana. In the 1930s Evola busied himself
Based upon German idealism (mainly Friedrich Schelling,
intensely with alchemy, a critical analysis of the then prevail-
J. G. Fichte, and Novalis) and complemented by his own
ing esoteric groups, and the myth of the Holy Grail. His un-
transcendent “ego experiences,” as well as teachings from the
derlying traditional philosophy did not see historical-cultural
Far East, Evola eventually formulated the notion of an “abso-
development as advancement, but rather as decay, a view that
lute self,” related to the idea of the Hindu a¯tman. He postu-
reflected Indian and ancient teachings on the cosmic cycles,
lated the “absolute self” as being free from all spiritual or ma-
at the “gloomy” end of which, known as the kaliyuga, people
terial constraints, wherein freedom, power, and realization
live today.
form a unity.
At the same time, Evola traveled throughout Europe to
In 1926 Evola abandoned his extensive philosophical
meet with representatives of political views that correspond-
studies because he was searching for an actual breakthrough
ed to his own sacral-holistic, antiliberalist, and antidemocra-
to transcendent “initiatic” levels. He had already formed
tic ideas, including the revolutionary conservative Edgar Ju-
close contacts with Ultra, an independent theosophical
lius Jung (1894–1934), who was later murdered by the
group in Rome, through which he got to know the most im-
Nazis, the Catholic monarchist Karl Anton Prinz Rohan
portant Italian scholar of Asian religions, Giuseppe Tucci
(1898–1975), and the founder of Romania’s Iron Guard,
(1894–1984). He also came into contact with Tantrism,
Corneliu Codreanu (1899–1938). During his visit to Roma-
which he studied intensively, drawn by its practical emphasis
nia in 1937, Evola met Mircea Eliade (1907–1986), who be-
and promise of direct transcendental experiences. Evola soon
longed to the Iron Guard. Evola and Eliade had correspond-
entered into correspondence with John Woodroffe (Arthur
ed since the second half of the 1920s, but only several of
Avalon; 1865–1936), who had brought Kun:d:alin¯ı Yoga and
Evola’s and none of Eliade’s letters have survived because
Tantrism to the West. Evola’s L’Uomo come Potenza (Man
Evola destroyed letters he received after answering them.
as power, 1925) followed. Although still having a strong
Evola wrote five contributions for the German cultural jour-
Western philosophical tendency, this work was based on
nal Antaios, published by Ernst Jünger (1895–1998) and
Woodroffe’s research and translations from Sanskrit sources,
Eliade between 1960 and 1970. Evola’s influence on Eliade
and it thus became the first work to make Tantrism known
is undeniable, even if Eliade cannot be regarded as belonging
in Italy.
to the Integral Tradition school of thought. The parallels to
Evola are particularly evident in Eliade’s early alchemic
At that time, through René Guénon (1886–1951),
works. After World War II, Evola introduced Eliade to Ital-
Evola received his first exposure to Integral Tradition, ac-
ian publishers and translated some of his works. Evola was
cording to which all fundamental religions and cultures are
also acquainted with Angelo Brelich (1913–1977), who pub-
said to arise out of a primordial tradition of transcendent ori-
lished two articles (one about Jupiter and the Roman idea
gin. From 1927 to 1929, he led the magical-initiatory Group
of state) in 1937 and 1940 in Diorama Filosofico, Evola’s cul-
of Ur, in which both esotericists and representatives of gener-
tural supplement to the Regime Fascista magazine. The article
al Italian spiritual life, including Emilio Servadio (1904–
on Jupiter and Rome testifies to Evola’s great interest in
1995), the “father of Italian psychoanalysis,” participated
Roman religion, which formed the spiritual foundation of
anonymously. The goal was complete human self-
the Imperium Romanum, which Evola hoped to see reestab-
transformation and integration into transcendental regions
lished. Letters from Evola preserved in the archives of the
by way of an experimental path, which Evola called initia-
great historian of religion Raffaele Pettazzoni (1883–1959)
tion; the Daoist wei wu wei (nonintentional doing) was a pre-
and the mythologist Karl Kerényi (1897–1973) show that he
condition for effective magical actions. The group’s maga-
was also in contact with them.
zine published, besides its own reports, first Italian
translations of the ancient Mithraic Apathanathismos, as well
Before and during World War II, Evola concentrated
as excerpts from Avalon’s texts, the Buddhist Pali canon, the
intensely on Buddhism, which he described as a path to spiri-
biography of the Tibetan Mi la ras pa, the Chinese Tract of
tual freedom that maintained its validity even in modern
the Golden Flower, and an article by the French Orientalist
times. Evola almost exclusively referred to the Pali canon,
Paul Masson-Oursel (1882–1956). After the Group of Ur
and he pointed out that the historical Buddha was a member
disbanded, Evola founded the political and literary journal
of the warrior caste. Evola rejected the widespread teaching
La Torre, which published, among others, an article by Paul
of modern Maha¯ya¯na Buddhism, which sets peacefulness
Tillich (1886–1965) about the demonic and several excerpts
and universal love in the foreground, instead of clear initiato-
from writings by Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815–1887).
ry knowledge through asceticism and exercise. Nevertheless,
However, because of its uncompromising positions, La Torre
Anagarika Govinda (1898–1985), who was the first West-
had to cease publication at the behest of Mussolini after only
erner to receive the title of lama, praised Evola’s work.
ten issues.
In 1940 Evola wrote an article for the magazine Asiatica,
Evola’s acquaintance with the then most important Ital-
published by Tucci. This work was later continued in the
ian philosophers, Benedetto Croce (1866–1952) and Gio-
subsequent renowned journal East and West, which Tucci
vanni Gentile (1875–1944), led to a collaboration on the En-
also managed. Another well-known Orientalist with whom
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Evola had been closely connected since his youth was Pio
same is true for Islam. Despite this intentional one-sidedness,
Filippani-Ronconi (b. 1920) who taught at the University
his books are still appreciated in Orientalist circles, and such
of Naples. A close friendship on the basis of common esoteric
experts as Jean Varenne, Filippani-Ronconi, or Silvio Vietta
interests connected Evola with the Egyptologist Boris de
have written forewords to new editions of his works. Aca-
Rachewiltz (1926–1997). He was also well acquainted with
demic circles have become increasingly interested in Evola,
the historian and researcher of ancient Roman religion,
as evidenced by the numerous books, essays, conference pro-
Franz Altheim (1898–1976).
ceedings, and dissertations written about him, and the many
translations of his writings.
Evola’s ambivalent attitude towards fascism, which he
hoped would lead Italy back to a heathen-sacral Imperium
Although he was never a party member, Evola’s involve-
Romanum, but which lacked any transcendent basis, led him
ment with fascism, National Socialism, and racism continues
closer to National Socialism, and in particular to the
to make him an extremely controversial figure. Controversy
Schutzstaffeln (SS), which he considered a fighting spiritual
has also resulted from the numerous anti-Semitic comments
order, at least in the beginning. However, by 1938 he was
that he made, mainly in the fascist daily press, and from the
denounced as a “reactionary Roman and visionary” in an SS
introduction he wrote in 1937 for the Italian version of the
document, which led to an order that Evola’s behavior was
forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Evola saw in Judaism
to be observed. Starting in the mid-1930s, Evola was heavily
the modern materialist and economic dominance that he
involved with questions of race, and he hoped that official
fought against, although he highly valued Orthodox and
recognition and influence would result from this work. After
qabbalistic Judaism.
all, Mussolini had expressed positive thoughts about Evola’s
Evola passed away in 1974. He had expressly refused a
theses of “spiritual” racism, with which he wanted to oppose
Catholic burial, and his ashes were scattered in a crevasse of
the “material-biologic” racism of Hitler’s Germany. When
Monte Rosa.
American troops marched into Rome in 1944, Evola fled to
Vienna, where he suffered a severe spinal injury in a bomb
attack in 1945. He was confined to a wheelchair for the rest
Evola’s writings comprise more than twenty books, approximately
of his life.
one hundred important essays, and some one thousand
newspaper and journal articles, of which practically all have
After spending three years in hospitals and sanatoriums,
been published in various volumes and collected works.
Evola returned to Rome in 1948. In 1951 he was accused
Evola was also an extraordinarily industrious translator. The
of being a “spiritual instigator” of secret neo-fascist terror
most readily available bibliography, although not the most
groups and arrested. Following six months of investigative
recent, is Renato del Ponte, “Julius Evola: Una bibliografia
lockup, he was acquitted. Evola’s political tendencies
1920–1994,” in Futuro Presente 6 (1995): 28–70. The defin-
changed thereafter more and more into what he called
itive editions of Evola’s books are published by Gianfranco
“apolitia,” by which he meant a firm spiritual-political posi-
de Turris, the head of the Fondazione Julius Evola in Rome,
tion far above daily politics. He also became more heavily in-
in the Opere di Julius Evola series with Edizioni Mediter-
volved with Zen Buddhism, which he made widely known
ranee in Rome. His religious-historical works include La
in Italy, especially after he began publishing other Zen Bud-
Tradizione Ermetica: Nei suoi Simboli, nella sua Dottrina e
nella sua “Arte Regia”
(Bari, Italy, 1931), which describes al-
dhist authors. In his last years of life he translated the first
chemy as a spiritual discipline on the basis of numerous origi-
volume of Essays in Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki, for which
nal sources; this book was used and valued by C. G. Jung,
he also wrote the introduction. The other two volumes of
and it was translated by E. E. Rehmus as The Hermetic Tradi-
these Essays appeared later on in the book series Orizzonti
tion: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art (Rochester, Vt.,
dello spirito, which Evola had founded and for which he se-
1995). Rivolta contro il mondo moderno (Milan, 1934), which
lected works from Avalon, Eliade, Tucci, Scholem, and Lu
is considered Evola’s main work, gives an overview of his
K’uan Yu, among others.
general weltanschauung, which is based on Guénon’s Inte-
gral Tradition. This work was positively evaluated by both
Evola’s efforts in popularizing Asian religions helped
Mircea Eliade and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, the latter
improve the European image of Asia at a time when a posi-
publishing a chapter in 1940 in English. This entire work
tive view of Asia was not customary. However, his quest was
was translated by Guido Stucco as Revolt against the Modern
not scientific, although he remained as true to original
World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order of the Kali Yuga
sources as was possible at the time. For him, as in the case
(Rochester, Vt., 1995). Evola’s La Dottrina del Risveglio
of his esoteric writings, his work in comparative religion was
(Bari, Italy, 1943), translated by H. E. Musson as The Doc-
more about revealing paths that could extract modern hu-
trine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery according
to the Earliest Buddhist Texts
(London, 1951; reprint, Roch-
mans from rampant materialism and lead them to spiritual
ester, Vt., 1996), describes ancient Buddhism as an initiatory
freedom. Therefore, Evola’s religious-historical works exam-
path. Lo Yoga della Potenza (Milan, 1949), translated by
ine only selected aspects corresponding to this quest, and
Guido Stucco as The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the
they are unsuitable as surveys. This can be seen most clearly
Secret Way (Rochester, Vt., 1992), is a complete revision of
in Evola’s handling of Hinduism, where he highlighted only
Evola’s first Tantra book, L’uomo come potenza, and is much
the warrior and ascetic aspects of the Bhagavadg¯ıta¯. The
more based on Avalon’s writings than the original L’uomo
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

come potenza, which had a strong Western philosophical
tionalist by Julius Evola, pp. 1–104. Rochester, Vt., 2001.
bent. Metafisica del Sesso (Rome, 1958), translated as The
Currently the most comprehensive English-language work
Metaphysics of Sex (New York, 1983), describes the connec-
on Evola; it strives to uncover Evola’s most important intel-
tions between religion, esotericism, and sexuality, whereby
lectual sources.
Evola sees sex as the only remaining force that lets modern
Rossi, Marco. “Julius Evola and the Independent Theosophical
humans perceive transcendental planes. Evola’s autobiogra-
Association of Rome.” Theosophical History 6, no. 3 (1996–
phy, Il Cammino del Cinabro (Milan, 1963), largely ignores
1997): 107–114.
his private life and is useful mostly as an annotated auto-
Sheehan, Thomas. “Diventare Dio: Julius Evola and the Meta-
physics of Fascism.” Stanford Italian Review 6, nos. 1–2
Periodicals that published Evola’s works include Ur (Rome,
(1986): 279–292. A critical survey of Evola’s political ideas.
1927–1928) and Krur (Rome, 1929), both of which were re-
printed in Rome in heavily revised three-volume editions in
Spineto, Natale. “Mircea Eliade and Traditionalism.” ARIES 1,
1955 and 1971 under the title Introduzione alla Magia quale
no. 1 (2001): 62–87. A well-documented study about Eliade,
Scienza dell’Io. An English edition of the first 1927 volume
which mainly shows how he integrated the influences of tra-
is available as Introduction into Magic (Rochester, Vt., 2000).
ditionalist authors, Evola included, without being a tradi-
tionalist himself.
Studi Evoliani, published by Gianfranco de Turris, was inaugurat-
ed in 1998; though an erratic sequence, it contains extensive
essays on Evola. Despite the many books, articles, and disser-
Translated from German by Marvin C. Sterling
tations written about Evola, many aspects of his life and
work remain unexplored due to the great variety of special
fields involved, and there is still no comprehensive biography
about him. The following are recommended.
Bonvecchio, Claudio, Richard Drake, Joscelyn Godwin, et al. Ju-
This entry consists of the following articles:
lius Evola: un pensiero per la fine del millennio. Rome, 2001.
A volume of lectures held in Milan in 1998 on the occasion
of Evola’s 100th birthday.
Boutin, Christophe. Politique et tradition: Julius Evola dans le siècle
(1898–1974). Paris, 1992. The most comprehensive work
on Evola to date, it mainly discusses his political influence.
Consolato, Sandro. Julius Evola e il Buddhismo. Borzano, Italy,
Perhaps no topic evokes a greater visceral reaction among
1995. A sympathetic work explaining Evola’s approach to
both scientific and religious communities than that of the
treatment of Darwinian evolution in Western society. On
del Ponte, Renato. Evola e il magico “Gruppo di Ur.” Borzano,
the one hand, scientists realize that this model of how the
Italy, 1994. A work that tries to shed light on the historical
observed complexity of the living world likely arose seems,
and personal background of the Group of Ur.
at this point in its history, almost self-evident. On the other
de Turris, Gianfranco, ed. Testimonianze su Evola. Rome, 1973;
hand, the media attention engendered by the vocal elements
rev. ed., 1985. Various authors’ personal memories of Evola
in opposition, whether motivated by creationism or intelli-
written in honour of his seventy-fifth birthday.
gent design, pushes the churchgoing public to think that
di Dario, Beniamino M. La via romana al Divino: Julius Evola e
evolution (and by extension all of science) and religion are
la religione romana. Padua, Italy, 2001. Discusses Evola’s
“at war.” This caricature of the relationship is not only mis-
perceptions of Roman religion, with heathen sacrality and
leading but also mistaken. Ian Barbour, in his seminal work
the imperial idea as central themes.
“Religion and Science” (1997) has shown convincingly that
di Vona, Piero. Evola, Guénon, di Giorgio. Borzano, Italy, 1993.
the warfare or conflict mode is one of four archetypes for the
The author, a Spinoza specialist at the University of Naples,
relationship between science and religion. In fact, the con-
describes the complex relationships between René Guénon
flict mode represents the reaction of the extremes in both
and his two Italian disciples, Evola and di Giorgio.
fields. In order to understand the true nature of this conver-
Fraquelli, Marco. Il filosofo proibito: Tradizione e reazione
sation as well as the specific positions taken by Darwinists
nell’opera di Julius Evola. Milan, 1994. Discusses Evola’s
and creationists, it is necessary to review both the science and
danger for democracy and the value of enlightenment.
the history of biological evolution.
Germinario, Francesco. Razza del Sangue, razza dello Spirito: Ju-
lius Evola, l’antisemitismo, e il nazionalsocialismo, 1930–
DARWIN AND HIS TIMES. It is important to place Charles
1943. Turin, Italy, 2001. A critical but well-documented
Darwin within the framework of both the English society of
work on Evola’s racist and anti-Semitic writings.
the nineteenth century and the scientific culture of western
Guyot-Jeannin, Arnaud, ed. Julius Evola. Lausanne, Switzerland,
Europe and the United States during that time. Darwin was
1997. A collection exploring various aspects of Evola; in-
a product of the British intellectual class in every sense of the
cludes an interesting appendix with various documentary
word. His father and his grandfather were both physicians.
opinions on Evola.
In addition, Erasmus Darwin, his paternal grandfather, was
Hansen, H. T. “Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors.” Preface to
among those naturalists (now called biologists) who, at the
Men among the Ruins: Post-War Reflections of a Radical Tradi-
end of the eighteenth century, challenged the notion that
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

species were “fixed,” that they existed in the same form in
4. The entities come to possess traits that increase their fit-
which they were originally created. Thus the concept of spe-
ness. (Smith, 1991, p. 27)
cies changing over time was a part of Charles Darwin’s per-
sonal history.
It is important to note the emphasis on reproductive fitness
in this model. When Darwin used the term fitness in Origin
Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836
of Species, he meant it in this sense. That is, those traits that
became the means by which the Cambridge-educated stu-
increase the likelihood of the organism reproducing are de-
dent cemented his interest in biology and severed his path
fined as making the organism more fit. In trying to clarify
toward the theological training to which he seemed destined.
his meaning about this in subsequent editions, Darwin even-
He returned to England with his notebooks full of observa-
tually came to rely on a phrase penned by Herbert Spencer,
tions but with the ideas that would become his major work
his contemporary and one of the great figures of Victorian
still unformed. By 1838 his interaction with the London so-
England. In chapter three of the sixth edition of Origin of
ciety of naturalists resulted in the first formulations of his
Species, Darwin wrote: “I have called this principle, by which
each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Nat-
After the voyage, Darwin did not leave England again.
ural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man’s power
His marriage to Emma Wedgewood in 1839 and their life
of selection. But the expression often used by Mr. Herbert
together at Down House in Kent were the stage for the re-
Spencer, of the Survival of the Fittest, is more accurate, and
mainder of his life. From that place, in the setting of a coun-
is sometimes equally convenient” (1872, p. 32).
try squire and consummate Victorian intellectual, Darwin
published the works through which he is known.
The image of “nature red in tooth and claw,” to use Al-
At Down House, perhaps taking one of his famous
fred, Lord Tennyson’s oft-quoted line (In Memoriam, 1850,
meditative strolls along the Sandwalk, Darwin decided to
verse LVI), comes from a misreading of this epithet from
publish his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural
Spencer. Nonetheless, it is true that Darwin’s model does
Selection. His work on this had been ongoing since his return
propose that some individuals are less reproductively fit than
to England on the Beagle. The final stimulus to publication
others and that this will inevitably entail the die-off of spe-
was a paper by Alfred Wallace, a young naturalist working
cies. It is from this consequence of his model that the theodi-
in the Far East. The similarity of their conclusions led Dar-
cy problem arises. Darwin was keenly aware of the theologi-
win to finally complete his book for release in November
cal impact of his own physical interpretations. He wrote in
1859. Origin of Species was released in a total of six editions,
an 1860 letter to the American naturalist Asa Gray that he
all overseen by Darwin. The sixth, published in 1872, was
had trouble reconciling a loving God with some of what he
his last. Darwin died in 1882.
observed in nature. In particular, referencing a species of
wasp who lays her eggs in the living body of a caterpillar,
THE DARWINIAN MODEL. Darwin’s great contribution was
whose flesh is then used as nourishment for the wasp’s off-
to provide a physical explanation for the observed complexity
spring, Darwin wrote, “I cannot persuade myself that a be-
of the living world. Rather than assume that all things were
neficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created
created in the form in which they now occur (preformation-
the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding
ism), he posited that everything arose by descent with modi-
within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should
fication from a common ancestor. The driving force of this,
play with mice” (Darwin, 1860).
he proposed, was natural selection. His choice of terms for
this force was not accidental. In fact, he was referring by
This theological challenge became a part of the catalyst
comparison to the commonly understood agricultural prac-
that led to the reaction against the Darwinian model in a mi-
tices of his day, by which desired traits of plants or animals
nority of Christian communities in the United States. The
were selected artificially by breeding. He argued that, in a
larger issue, as discussed below, is that of the completely ma-
similar fashion, favorable traits are selected in the natural
terialistic interpretation of nature that scientific descendants
world and that this selection results in the complexity of
of Darwin make, especially in the modern era.
John Maynard Smith put forward a convenient state-
ment of the Darwinian model in 1991:
ETH-CENTURY BIOLOGY. The decade from 1859 to 1869
saw three scientific achievements that, nearly one hundred
1. Population of entities (units of evolution) exist with
years later, were intimately related in the modern paradigms
three properties: (a) multiplication (one can give rise to
of biology. The first was the publication of Darwin’s master-
two), (b) variation (not all entities are alike), and (c) he-
work in November 1859. During this time Gregor Mendel,
redity (like usually begets like during multiplication).
an Augustinian monk working in Brün (now Brno), Austria,
2. Differences between entities influence the likelihood of
developed a quantitative understanding of inheritance. He
surviving and reproducing. That is, the differences in-
presented his work to the Brün Academy of Sciences in 1868
fluence their fitness.
and published it in the academy’s journal a year later. In
3. The population changes over time (evolves) in the pres-
1869 Johann Fredriech Miescher, a Swiss chemist working
ence of selective forces.
at the time in Tübingen, isolated a substance from white
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

blood cells found on used bandages. He named this material
a theological reaction within the Abrahamic religions, mainly
nuclein. It is now known as DNA.
the Protestant Christian denominations. At first glance it
In the nineteenth century, no one had any idea that
would seem that the problem was with the challenge to the
these three events were related in any way. Certainly both
Genesis account of creation. However, it must be understood
Mendel and Miescher, as active scientists, were aware of Dar-
that the fixity of species had also been assumed by science
win’s work and the implications of his model. However, vir-
as well. After all, the eighteenth-century Swedish naturalist
tually no scientist of the day even read Mendel’s paper or ap-
Carl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus), whose taxonomic classi-
preciated the shift it signaled. In addition, no one could
fication system is still used in the early twenty-first century,
foresee that the genes whose behavior Mendel described and
assumed that the species he was describing in his work had
whose variants were the selectable traits Darwin’s model re-
existed in their present forms since the beginning. Even in
lied upon would be found to be sequences of nitrogenous
Darwin’s day this was the predominant model for many biol-
bases making up the structure of Miescher’s nuclein.
ogists, although challenges had already been mounted before
1859. Therefore, while this issue was a problem for theology,
In 1942 Julian Huxley, the grandson of Thomas Hux-
it was also a problem for many scientists as well.
ley, Darwin’s champion, published Evolution: The Modern
. Huxley proposed that the Darwinian model, which
A larger theological issue concerned the explanation it-
had been relatively neglected by biologists (although popular
self. Darwin consciously wrote his book with earlier models
with social scientists), could now be “rescued” by linking it
in mind, especially the natural theology of William Paley. In
with Mendelian genetics. Mendel of course had been redis-
1802 the Reverend Paley published his view of the origin of
covered at the beginning of the twentieth century, when his
life’s complexity in a volume called Natural Theology; or, Evi-
experiments were repeated and shown to coincide with the
dences for the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected
behavior of cells as observed by more powerful microscopes
from the Appearances of Nature. In this book Paley presented
than were available in the 1860s. The power of genetics was
his famous watch and watchmaker metaphor. This theistic
evident in the impressive data produced with model organ-
use of nature ultimately led the modern evolutionary biolo-
isms such as the fruit fly. In addition, the field of biochemis-
gist Richard Dawkins to title his challenge to theism The
try added to this new formulation with a search for what the
Blind Watchmaker (1986).
chemical nature of the gene might be.
Darwin, in response to Paley’s model of an interven-
The search culminated in 1942 with the discovery by
tionist God creating all things at the beginning, offered in-
Oswald Avery and his colleagues that DNA was indeed the
stead a naturalistic and materialistic explanation: descent
genetic material. Although it took another ten years for this
with modification from a common ancestor through the
idea to be accepted completely, the stage was now set for a
nonsupernatural force of natural selection. While this model
full statement of what has come to be called the neo-
does not assume the absence of a God, it certainly does not
Darwinian synthesis. This formulation includes the follow-
invoke God’s action in any direct way in its presentation.
ing features:
Darwin was not unaware of the effect his model had among
• Genes: information in the form of the linear array of
theologians and religious communities. In fact, in the second
bases that make up the DNA molecules of chromo-
edition of Origin of Species he added the following statement,
somewhat in his own defense:
• The traits of an organism (phenotype): direct expression
I see no reason why the views given in this volume
of the information found in the genes (genotype).
should shock the religious feelings of any one. It is satis-
factory, as showing how transient such impressions are,
• Variations: result of subtle differences in this informa-
to remember that the greatest discovery ever made by
tion (changes in base pairs).
man, namely, the law of the attraction of gravity, was
• Changes in genes: mutational events that occur in a
also attacked by Leibnitz, “as subversive of natural, and
“random” way. Random here means that it is not possi-
inferentially of revealed, religion.” (p. 239)
ble to predict which nitrogenous base changes within
Darwin’s view of the transience of the problem is certainly
the DNA. However, the nature of the change is predict-
touching in light of the debate that still seems to rage in some
able, given the mutagenic stimulus.
circles over his “volume.” Nonetheless, in this short and
• A population of entities: will have variations in traits
somewhat disingenuous statement he was attempting to
that are the result of mutational events (genetic drift).
make the case for two ideas: the need for science to be seen
In this new world of biology, the variant genes are acted
as not in contradistinction to religion, and the need for the-
upon by natural selection. Variants with a greater likelihood
ology-religion to take into account the latest scientific ad-
of allowing the organism to reproduce and pass these traits
on to the next generation have a positive selective advantage
In spite of Darwin’s position that there was no threat
and are said to be more fit.
to religion, the interpreters of his model had other ideas.
Thomas Huxley, one of Darwin’s chief defenders, saw the
mediately after the publication of Darwin’s book there was
evolutionary model as something that went beyond the biol-
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ogy it described. He called for the development of a social
of the teaching against internal disagreement within the
philosophy, akin to and as a substitute for religion, based on
Christian community, as opposed to direct challenges from
the Darwinian principles. For Huxley, the highest goals and
values of humanity could be seen as the continuing evolution
The move from this position to one that espouses the
of the human species. Herbert Spencer also used Darwinian
literal meaning of Genesis as a description of how creation
principals to develop a philosophical and political framework
actually took place is a matter of only a few steps. In the face
but wanted to apply the survival of the fittest model to the
of the growing social movement of secular humanism, itself
evolution of social systems. Finally, Francis Galton, Darwin’s
a spin-off of the scientific enterprise, it is not surprising that
first cousin, used the model to advocate for the purposeful
some elements of the fundamentalist community began to
direction of the evolution of humans, a process he called eu-
react against the Darwinian model itself. What developed
from this reaction is the theological stance called biblical
Among theologians of the time there were some who
creationism, which rejects the scientific models completely
tried to cling to the strict interpretative view of creation as
and relies upon Scripture as the sole source for understand-
described in Genesis, which was not at odds with the model
ing how the natural world arose.
of many naturalists of the day. Others took the new model
SCIENTIFIC CREATIONISM. A visit to the Institute for Cre-
to heart and attempted to make theological sense out of this
ation Research (ICR) in the foothills east of San Diego, Cali-
new view of the living world. Those theologians who em-
fornia, is quite instructive. It is clear that this is a facility that
braced the new idea were already, in some sense, committed
celebrates rather than rejects science. The founding mem-
to a new kind of biblical criticism that was beginning to sup-
bers, such as Duane Guish (biochemistry) and Henry Morris
plant literalism among some of the more liberal Christian
(geology) are trained in science, not theology. One is sur-
thinkers. This movement, rather than Darwinian evolution
rounded by evidence that scientific instruments and tech-
per se, gave rise to the fundamentalists.
niques are employed in their work. And yet their interpreta-
THE FUNDAMENTALISTS. It is commonly assumed that an-
tion of their investigations is given one and only one
tievolutionism is synonymous with Christian fundamental-
direction: scientific support of the creation story as given in
ism. While many Christians who identify with fundamental-
the Book of Genesis.
ism are antievolutionist, the origins of this strain of Christian
The ICR founder and president, John Morris, posted
thought did not include this tenet. When the General As-
the following introduction to their mission on the institute’s
sembly of the Presbyterian Church met in 1910 to approve
those beliefs that would be considered fundamental to being
a Christian, the following five were adopted:
Our world, our church, our schools, our society, need
the truth of creation more than ever. We see the wrong
1. the inerrancy of the Scriptures in their original docu-
thinking of evolution having produced devastating re-
sults in every realm. Our passion at the Institute for
2. the deity of Jesus Christ, including the virgin birth;
Creation Research is to see science return to its rightful
God-glorifying position, and see creation recognized as
3. substitutionary atonement;
a strength by the body of Christ; supporting Scripture,
answering questions, satisfying doubts and removing
4. the physical resurrection of Christ;
road blocks to the Gospel. The Institute for Creation
5. the miracle-working power of Jesus Christ.
Research Graduate School exists to train students in sci-
entific research and teaching skills, preparing effective
Nowhere in this list is there any reference to Darwinian evo-
warriors for the faith.
lution. In fact some of the theologians involved in the formu-
lation of these basic tenets accepted evolution although they
Morris and others see themselves as scientists whose duty is
were still believing Christians. Thus, at its very foundations,
to correct the errors of the recent past and allow science to
fundamentalism was not antievolution.
resume its “correct” relationship with religion as support for
the truths revealed in Scripture. They are not theologians,
How is it then that the modern understanding of a fun-
nor do they pretend to any theological insights whatsoever.
damentalist includes this anti-Darwinian posture? Certainly
Their focus is on the instruments and methods of science and
over the years since the establishment of these basic tenets
how these can be brought to bear on the questions related
of belief as essential some things have changed. The first fun-
to the natural world as seen through the words of Genesis.
damental is the inerrancy of Scripture. As originally argued,
They apply the term young earth creationism to their view of
this tenet was directed against the liberal Protestant theolo-
the world, and they support six principles:
gians who were coming to rely more and more on historical
methods of criticism in biblical hermeneutics. The reaction
1. Creatio ex nihilo by divine action, without any subse-
was not against the scientific enterprise itself. The first fun-
quent development. Everything was created as it exists
damental deals with the divine authority of Scripture, juxta-
posed against the view that these writings were but the his-
2. Mutation and natural selection cannot explain the sub-
torical works of humans. The intent was to defend the purity
sequent development of all living things. This is a rejec-
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tion of the idea that gradual change (variations) can con-
lution becomes suspect as soon as such deliberations are
fer selective advantages that lead to new species.
opened. The antiscientific and, perhaps, anti-intellectual po-
3. Speciation does not occur. That is, changes happen
sition of biblical literalism can usually be set aside as not ap-
within a species (within a “kind” in their usage), but
propriate to be taught in the same course of study as the
new species do not develop from preexisting species.
methods of science. Even scientific creationism, with its ap-
peal to those very methods, cannot make the cut as “science”
4. There is no descent from a common ancestor. With re-
in most school board meetings or courtrooms. However, the
spect to human origins in particular, this rejects the no-
new contender for attention is neither of these, but rather
tion that humans and other primates have an ancestral
the intelligent design movement. Intelligent design is best
understood as the contention that the living world has fea-
5. The geology of the earth is a result of catastrophism
tures that can only be explained by the action of an intelli-
rather than evolution. In particular, much of what is
gent designer. For instance, Michael Behe, in Darwin’s Black
seen can be explained by positing a great flood, as de-
Box (1996), argues that there are examples of cellular func-
scribed in Genesis.
tion that could not have arisen as the result of gradual muta-
tional change under the pressure of natural selection. He calls
6. The earth is less than ten thousand years old.
such features “irreducibly complex” and gives a list of six ex-
All of these principles—especially the last one, with its rejec-
amples from his understanding of the biochemistry of living
tion of all modern dating techniques as inherently flawed—
systems. Of course, his position eventually devolves into a
put the scientific creationists in complete disagreement with
“god of the gaps” argument. In this sense, as soon as an expla-
any natural scientists and with most mainstream theologians.
nation for what appears to be irreducibly complex is pres-
This then raises one of the principle ironies of scientific crea-
ented with a naturalistic basis, his designer disappears from
tionism. Its proponents embrace the methodology of science
the scene. However, this is not the only issue at stake in this
but reject the standard interpretation of those results. To say
discussion. William Dembski, in Intelligent Design (1999)
that their science is influenced by their religious belief is per-
and No Free Lunch (2002), takes aim at the philosophical un-
haps self-evident from the conclusions they draw. However,
derpinnings of the modern scientific method. He proposes
a careful reading of their literature reveals that they take
the concept of “specified complexity” to describe features of
themselves to be scientists and that their argument is with
living systems that infer design. At issue for Dembski is not
what they view as the incorrect interpretations of the data.
so much the god of the gaps problem, but rather what he be-
This of course leads them into dangerous waters, both scien-
lieves to be an insufficiency within the scientific enterprise
tifically and theologically. For instance, the young earth crea-
itself. He argues that science by definition is opaque to the
tionists cannot deny the geological data that leads to the 4.5-
idea of purpose or design. This goes back to the original Aris-
billion-year age of the earth. Rather, they argue that God cre-
totelian-Thomistic uses of teleology as the fourth or final
ated the earth to have the “appearance” of age, when in
cause of a thing. The problem here is that the philosophical
reality it is only ten thousand years old. In Finding Darwin’s
assumptions of modern science derive from those post-
God (1999) Kenneth Miller, a Brown University cellular bi-
Cartesian thinkers who rejected teleological explanations as
ologist, argues that this is incorrect from the standpoints of
a part of their methodology. On the one hand, this allowed
both science and theology. He writes that their rejection of
for a more objective approach to understanding nature,
evolution leads them to characterize God as a “schemer,
opening the way for the experimentalists. On the other hand,
trickster, even a charlatan” (Miller, 1999, p. 80).
the philosophical analogy imbedded in Aquinas’s fifth way
In the end, the controversy is not really between science
of understanding God, the so-called argument from design,
and faith but between one kind of science and another. True,
seemed no longer valid. Dembski and the intelligent design
creation science assumes that the Genesis story is the literal
movement push for a fundamental shift in the philosophy
description of the origin of the natural world. However, it
of science. In this way they are distinct from the scientific
contends that science would also agree with this if only it
creationists. They are modern scientists in every sense of the
sharpened its interpretive powers and admitted the errors of
word. However, they would argue that a model of origin and
the Darwinian model.
complexification for the living world must include a recogni-
INTELLIGENT DESIGN. The controversy between creationism
tion of purpose, and through this a sense that some features
and evolution has spilled over into society, mainly in the
require the action of a designer. Therefore these features
form of debates about what should or should not be included
would be characterized as specified or irreducible complexity.
in the educational curriculum taught in elementary and sec-
There is no challenge to current science from the notion of
ondary schools. The classic case of the so-called Scopes mon-
irreducible complexity in itself, in the sense that the proper-
key trial in 1925 was just the beginning of these questions.
ties of complex systems are not explainable as the sum of the
Even into the twenty-first century, school boards are con-
parts. This is, in fact, the hallmark of the move to networks
stantly beset with requests to include “both sides” of the story
and complexity analysis in biology. However, when this
in any curriculum discussing the origins and subsequent de-
complexity is seen to be “specified” by a designer with intent,
velopment of the natural world. As such, even the word evo-
the issue is joined. The need for a designer then leads to the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

question of who this designer might be and necessarily be-
encountered, Haught proposes, with a full acceptance of the
comes a theological problem, not a scientific one. Most com-
evolutionary history of the world.
mentators prefer to see intelligent design as just another form
CONCLUSION. Modern biology relies upon the neo-
of scientific creationism. However, a closer reading of advo-
Darwinian model as a central paradigm of the discipline.
cates such as Behe and Dembski reveals some distinct differ-
While modifications are proposed to the structure of the
ences. Those most closely associated with the scientific argu-
model, nothing appears in the early twenty-first century to
ments for intelligent design are not in any sense rejecting
be a rejection of the model in the sense that the scientific
evidence for the age of the earth or other features of the geo-
creationists wish to see. As a result, the so-called controversy
logical record. The scientific creationists accept the method-
between science and theology that this represents must be
ology of science as given, with its reductionism in place, but
thought of as a conversation waiting to be explored.
have a different interpretation of the data based of course on
their view of the Genesis description. Nonetheless, both
movements fall within the same anti-Darwinian camp. As
Behe, Michael J. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge
such, the conversations that concern curriculum focus on the
to Evolution. New York, 1996. Behe is a biochemist who
inclusion of intelligent design rather than scientific creation-
takes the position that certain features of living systems are
ism in the science classroom.
“irreducibly complex” and require the intervention of an in-
telligent designer.
THEISTIC EVOLUTION. Given the fireworks surrounding the
media reporting of creationism-evolution discussions, it is no
Darwin, Charles. Letter to Asa Gray, 1860. Quoted by Stephen Jay
Gould in “Nonmoral Nature,” available from http://
wonder that the general public, and indeed a fair portion of
the scientific community, believe it is one or the other; one
Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selec-
is either a Darwinian or a Christian. However, for the major-
tion. 1859 (first edition). References here are to the Encyclo-
ity of both theologians and scientists, the truth lies in be-
pedia Britannica re-publication of the sixth and final edition.
tween these two artificial extremes.
Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker. New York, 1986.
To see this middle position clearly, it is necessary to un-
Dawkins, Richard. Climbing Mount Improbable. New York, 1996.
derstand the nature of the scientific enterprise and its self-
Written for lay audiences by an evolutionary biologist and
imposed limits. Science restricts its investigations to the col-
champion of the Darwinian model.
lection of data and the building of physical models of expla-
Dembski, William A. Intelligent Design. Downer’s Grove, Ill.,
nation for natural phenomena. It is never the function of
science to say that certain data prove or disprove the exis-
Dembski, William A. No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity
tence of God. However, it is natural for a scientist, once hav-
Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence. Lanham, Md.,
ing derived a model such as Darwin’s, to speculate on its
2002. Dembski is a mathematician and philosopher. Some
meaning beyond the data itself. While this is normal, the sci-
of the material in these two books is not easily approachable,
entist is at that point engaging in philosophy or even theolo-
but the overviews presented represent the gist of the intelli-
gent design movement.
gy. The confusion arises when a particular scientist or scien-
tific commentator attempts to make the data apply directly
Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. New York, 1995.
to the philosophical point. Thus Daniel Dennett, in Dar-
Haught, John F. God after Darwin: A Theology of Evolution. Boul-
win’s Dangerous Idea (1995), argued that Darwinian evolu-
der, Colo., 2000. Haught is a Georgetown University theolo-
gian who defends the theistic evolution stance.
tion “proves” that God does not exist.
Huxley, Julian. Evolution: The Modern Synthesis. London, 1942.
The result of this confusion has been the polarized view
Institute for Creation Science. “Introduction to ICR.” Available
that many have of these issues. A more reasonable under-
from http://www.icr.org/abouticr/intro.htm.
standing of the possible positions is in John Haught’s God
Miller, Kenneth R. Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for
after Darwin (2000) and Michael Ruse’s Can a Darwinian
Common Ground between God and Evolution. New York,
Be a Christian? (2001). Theistic evolution is not one position
1999. An explanation of the evolutionary model and a cri-
but rather a group of related positions. Theistic evolution ac-
tique of various antievolutionist views. Written by a scientist
cepts the facts leading up to and supporting the Darwinian
for a lay audience.
model and concludes that this model is the most likely expla-
Morris, Henry M. A History of Modern Creationism. San Diego,
nation for those facts. However, theistic evolution also ac-
Calif., 1984. A discussion of scientific creationism by the
cepts the idea of divine action in all of creation and sees the
founder and president of the Institution for Creation Re-
Darwinian model as one way in which divine action might
have operated.
Paley, William. Natural Theology; or, Evidences for the Existence
and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of
For the theistic evolutionist there is no inconsistency in
Nature. London, 1802.
this stance. It is a combination of scientific understanding
Peters, Ted, and Martinez Hewlett. Evolution from Creation to
and faith. Haught, as a theologian, argues that theology must
New Creation. Nashville, Tenn., 2003. A survey and critique
respond to the facts of evolution with introspection. The the-
of all of the positions by a theologian and a biological scien-
odicy issue that Darwin saw as a part of his model must be
tist, this work in the end supports theistic evolution.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Ruse, Michael. Taking Darwin Seriously. Amherst, N.Y., 1998.
among those who considered themselves the first truly scien-
Ruse, Michael. Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship
tific investigators of the phenomenon of humans.
between Science and Religion. Cambridge, U.K., 2001. Two
In his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), Hegel launched
important books by one of the most important commenta-
tors on evolution and the debate with theology. Accessible
a revolution in thinking about the human past. Put simply,
to the lay person.
the Hegelian system declares that history (by which Hegel
and his followers mean the history of the world as a whole)
Smith, John Maynard. In Symbiosis as a Source of Evolutionary In-
novation: Speciation and Morphogenesis, edited by L. Margulis
reveals the progressive manifestation of Geist (spirit) in the
and R. Fester. Cambridge, Mass., 1991.
world: a process that leads eventually to spirit’s self-
actualization and to human self-understanding. History, ac-
cording to Hegel, propels itself forward through a dynamic
process, within which each successive age “resolves and syn-
thesizes” the antagonisms of earlier eras. Each historical peri-
od therefore not only results from what has gone before, but
also in some sense contains within itself the self-
Evolutionism is a term commonly employed to designate a
understanding of earlier eras. Locating anthropological evo-
number of similar, usually nineteenth-century anthropologi-
lutionism’s foundation in Hegelian philosophy may there-
cal theories that attempt to account for the genesis and devel-
fore help one comprehend what amounts to a “genetic obses-
opment of religion. Although the term evolutionism could be
sion” on the parts of the participants in the debates that raged
used to describe a collection of theologians such as Pierre
during the late nineteenth century, debates that had as their
Teilhard De Chardin (1881–1955) and others belonging to
crux a question concerning what constitutes the essential—
the school of theistic evolution, this article will focus strictly
that is, the originary—form of religious consciousness. To
on the uses of the term within the development of anthropo-
identify this originary form would be to uncover an essential
logical science.
element of human beings, for it was generally held among
Evolutionist theories of religion’s origin hold in com-
evolutionist theorists that religious belief was the distinguish-
mon a presupposed “psychic unity of mankind”; that is, they
ing characteristic setting the human apart from the animal.
assume that all human groups are possessed of a more or less
This endeavor may seem odd given much of the later history
common developmental pattern (though the shape of this
of scientific anthropology, but it makes sense when placed
pattern differs from theorist to theorist) and that therefore
within the context of a fledgling scientific discipline that had
significant clues as to how religion originated—and in turn
not yet weaned itself of philosophical anthropology.
as to what religion essentially is—can be detected through
a study of the religious lives of the world’s “primitive” peo-
More directly influential than Hegelian philosophy
ples. If evolutionist assumptions are correct, it should follow
upon the development of scientific anthropological evolu-
that commonalities displayed among groups at each level of
tionism, however, is the work of Herbert Spencer (1820–
development will reveal, when set in diachronic order, a nec-
1903), the English polymath and, with the Frenchman
essary “psychic history” of the human race.
Auguste Comte (1798–1957), cofounder of the discipline of
sociology. Even before Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of
Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) revolutionized
thropological theories represent one manifestation of the
biological science, Spencer had landed on evolution as the
nineteenth century’s enthusiasm for developmental schemata
principle that accounts for all change, whether inorganic, or-
that find their bases in what might loosely be called a philos-
ganic, or mental (if one may so characterize the quality that
ophy of history. This philosophy of history declares that
separates the development of human societies and individu-
human development is rectilinear and progressive and that
als from mere organic growth). In his essay “Progress: Its Law
the mind tends necessarily toward greater and greater ratio-
and Cause” (1857), Spencer first gave voice to what may be
nality and complexity. The idea of progress, especially in its
called the essential element of anthropological evolutionist
component notion that history is unidirectional and pro-
ceeds by way of identifiable stages, is older certainly than the
beginning of the nineteenth century. Indeed, one may specu-
The advance from the simple to the complex, through
late that there is a nascent “evolutionism” at work already in
a process of successive differentiations, is seen . . . in
the Pauline formulation that, with the appearance of Christ,
the evolution of Humanity, whether contemplated in
an age of grace supplanted and rendered obsolete an earlier
the civilized individual, or in the aggregate of races; it
age of law. (To trace “scientific” evolutionism’s origins to the
is seen in the evolution of Society in respect alike of its
beginnings of Christian historiography provides some insight
political, its religious, and its economical organization;
regarding the apologetic purposes that evolutionist thinking
and it is seen in the evolution of all those endless con-
crete and abstract products of human activity. (Spencer,
seems always to serve.) But for convenience one may point
1914, p. 35)
to the philosophical work of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831)
as having planted the seed that led, by the nineteenth centu-
Having thus laid the theoretical groundwork for his never-
ry’s close, to the full flowering of the evolutionist creed
to-be-completed “natural history of society,” Spencer never-
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theless managed to construct the first systematic sociology of
the first, that is, to accord to “savages” human minds.
religion in English, one of the tasks undertaken in his three-
Though they were termed “primitive,” the religions of “low
volume Principles of Sociology (1876–1896). In this work he
races” were recognized as religions. (It is clearly a part of
identifies the origin of religion (which, Spencer says, sup-
Tylor’s purpose to put the lie to what he considered the slan-
planted an aboriginal atheism) in what he perceives to be the
derous reports of missionaries and adventurers concerning
universal practice among primitive peoples of worshipping
the godlessness of the tribal peoples they encountered.)
the ghosts of their ancestors. He then goes on to trace the
Moreover, in so doing, the evolutionists—who, through
further evolution of religious consciousness through polythe-
their examinations of “primitive” people, hoped to uncover
ism and monotheism. According to Spencer, religion culmi-
keys to human nature per se—helped overturn the privileged
nates in agnosticism—a metaphysical position girded by the
position of the European scientific observer, no matter how
“positivist” epistemological principles that are the earmarks
far such an outcome may have been from their intention.
of the scientific age and of the scientific historiography, epit-
Certainly the work of Tylor and others, especially James G.
omized in Spencerian sociology—that helps to inaugurate
Frazer (1854–1941), was instrumental in revolutionizing
this new era of human development. That Spencer consid-
classical studies and thus in altering forever the picture of an-
ered agnosticism a genuinely religious position bears noting
tiquity, and hence of the West’s own intellectual heritage.
insofar as one may be tempted to see the work of Spencer
and other evolutionists as antagonistic toward religion. It is
Tylor’s name has come to be identified with the term
nearer the case to say that at least some of these thinkers
animism or, as he also called it, “the doctrine of souls.” He
sought, among other agendas, to defend what they found to
first proposed this as the most rudimentary stage of religious
be the “spiritual maturity” of the age of science to which they
belief in a paper titled “The Religion of Savages,” published
in the Fortnightly Review in 1866. Tylor’s monumental influ-
ence upon succeeding generations of students of religion can
TYLOR AND HIS CRITICS. Among theorists of religion, E. B.
be measured by the fact that, although Tylor’s theory of reli-
Tylor (1832–1917) perhaps best deserves to be called an
gion’s origin has long since been discredited, the term ani-
“evolutionist.” Tylor’s work, more than that of any other
mism is still widely used to describe the religious beliefs of
scholar, invites one to identify evolutionism with British
those peoples who have as yet resisted conversion to one or
“armchair” anthropology of the late nineteenth century. In-
another of the “great” missionary religions. In articulating
fluences on Tylor include Spencer (whose “ghost theory” of
the concept and the conceptual basis of animism, however,
the origin of religion closely resembles the animistic hypoth-
Tylor did not mean to describe an obsolescent form of reli-
esis forwarded by Tylor) and F. Max Müller (1823–1900),
gious consciousness but rather to identify the constant center
the German-English philologist whose etymological investi-
or core of religious belief. The following passage, extracted
gations helped inspire Tylor’s researches into the Urgrund
from Tylor’s masterwork Primitive Culture (1871), both
(primeval ground of being) of religious consciousness.
points up the universality of animistic belief and identifies
the conceptual maneuver responsible for engendering the an-
Before proceeding to a description of the theory of reli-
imistic hypothesis:
gion’s origin advanced by Tylor, one should note what is per-
haps the most significant characteristic of Tylor’s (and in-
At the lowest levels of culture of which we have clear
deed of other evolutionist theorists’) manner of thinking
knowledge, the notion of a ghost-soul animating man
about religion. It goes without saying that “religion” is, for
while in the body, and appearing in dream and vision
these writers, at root one thing. But beyond this it is worth
out of the body, is found deeply ingrained. . . .
emphasizing that in this framework religion is essentially of
Among races within the limits of savagery, the general
an intellectual or cognitive kind. Evolutionist theories of reli-
doctrine of souls is found worked out with remarkable
gious development proffer histories of religions within which
breadth and consistency. The souls of animals are rec-
ognized by a natural extension from the theory of
religion is single-mindedly construed as belief; the affective
human souls; the souls of trees and plants follow in
dimensions of religious experience are simply elided or are
some vague partial way; and the souls of inanimate ob-
written off as so much superstructure.
jects expand the general category to its extremest
This intellectualist approach to anthropological research
boundary. . . . Far on into civilization, men still act
as though in some half-meant way they believed in souls
is clearly seen in Tylor’s famous “minimum definition of Re-
or ghosts of objects. (Quoted in Waardenburg, 1973,
ligion” as “belief in Spiritual Beings.” Tylor’s intellectual-
pp. 216–217)
ism—and that of his contemporaries—has been harshly de-
rided and largely superseded by twentieth-century
Tylor’s doctrine of “survivals”—that is, his claim that, al-
anthropologists. And yet this at least ought to be said in its
though they may over the course of time lose much or even
favor: for all their concern to distinguish between modern,
most of their original meanings, elements of the primitive
Western rationality and the “primitive” mentality of “savage”
worldview perdure within and continue to exercise influence
or “low” races, it is yet the case that the nineteenth-century
upon the mindsets of more advanced cultures—is also hinted
initiators of anthropological discourse were the first Europe-
at in the foregoing passage. For Tylor, as for perhaps the lat-
ans to conceive of the human race as a single entity; they were
est of his heritors, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the child
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is truly father to the man. Both of these thinkers depended,
duct detailed, long-term studies of tribal peoples within the
whether consciously or not, upon the Hegelian principle that
contexts of these peoples’ actual habitats. One effect of this
ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. For Tylor, as well as dec-
focus on field research was the production, especially during
ades later for Freud, the investigation of the mental life of
the middle decades of the twentieth century and within the
primitive races provided insight into the psychic infancy of
Anglo-American anthropological tradition, of great numbers
humankind and so to the inevitable hurdles that must be
of immensely detailed monographs on the day-to-day lives
overcome in order for the human species to achieve psychic
of primitive societies. The quest for a comprehensive and sys-
tematic natural history of humankind was gradually aban-
Within British anthropological circles, criticism of
Tylor’s animistic hypothesis came from two corners. The
This abandonment undoubtedly found one of its
first of Tylor’s critics was the Scottish folklorist Andrew Lang
sources in an awakening to the theoretical inadequacies of
(1844–1912). Though Lang’s constructive contributions to
the evolutionist approach to human culture. It began to be-
anthropological science were minimal, he dealt a devastating
come clear to anthropological researchers that the systematic
blow to the notion that animism represented the earliest
theoreticians of humankind’s development employed, in
stage of religious consciousness. In his book Myth, Ritual,
their search for the unvarying laws underlying what they per-
and Religion (1887), he pointed to the overwhelming evi-
ceived to be the relentless progress of human societies toward
dence of what he termed “high gods” among many of those
ever more complex and rational forms, a logic that was whol-
peoples who until then had been characterized by anthropol-
ly circular. In the mere designation of some societies as
ogists as being too primitive to be able to conceptualize so
“primitive” and others as “advanced” a host of culturally en-
abstractly as to arrive at any notion resembling that of an om-
gendered presuppositions were employed, and a host of sig-
nipotent, creative deity. Though Lang turned his attention
nificant theoretical questions were begged. Another inade-
toward other interests during the remainder of his career, his
quacy of evolutionist thinking that began forcibly to strike
critique of Tylor laid the foundation for the massive re-
the notice of scholars of religion was the fact that this mode
searches into the topic of “primitive monotheism” that were
of explanation ignores the trading of cultural elements,
later conducted by Wilhelm Schmidt (1868–1954).
which so evidently has always figured importantly in the
change, and especially the complexification, of human socie-
The second blow to the animistic hypothesis was struck
ties. (It should be noted that few evolutionists adhered strict-
by R. R. Marett (1866–1943), Tylor’s disciple, biographer,
ly to a doctrine of absolute rectilinear evolution. Spencer ad-
and successor to the position of reader in social anthropology
mitted the possibility that racial differences accounted for the
at Oxford University. In an essay titled “Preanimistic Reli-
multiple and apparently irreconcilable directions taken by
gion” published in the journal Folklore in 1900, Marett,
different cultures, and even the archevolutionist Tylor, in his
drawing on the ethnographic data compiled in Melanesia by
early work, proposed “diffusionist” explanations for the puz-
the Anglican missionary R. H. Codrington, advanced the
zling appearance of “high” cultures among the Indians of
claim that animism had been preceded by a pre-animistic
Mesoamerica.) This insight alone was responsible for the in-
stage of religious consciousness characterized by belief in an
stigation of what one may loosely term a school of thought
impersonal force or power that invests persons and objects,
regarding the origins and development of religious phenom-
rendering them sacred. Marett, borrowing from the Melane-
ena: that of the so-called diffusionists.
sian vocabulary supplied by Codrington, termed this “elec-
tric” force mana. In accord with the evolutionist principles
Twentieth-century anthropological science also saw the
outlined earlier, belief in mana possesses, for Marett, both
interest in religion as an (or the) essential element in the life
diachronic and ontological priority. One hears an echo of
of human societies fall out of fashion. From the 1920s
Tylor in Marett’s proposition, in the article “Mana” that he
through the 1960s, many anthropologists, especially those
contributed to James Hastings’s Encyclopaedia of Religion and
who received training in England or the United States, fo-
Ethics, that mana and taboo (which Marett conceives of as
cused their attention on kinship relations, economic arrange-
mana’s “negative” complement) together constitute “a mini-
ments, and the like—aspects of society, that is, that they con-
mum definition of the magico-religious”
sidered more tractable to the “hard,” objective studies they
were intent upon pursuing. (There were of course exceptions
While neither Lang nor Marett disavowed evolutionist
to this trend—E. E. Evans-Pritchard [1902–1973] and Ray-
principles, it is worth noting that the criticisms leveled
mond Firth [1901–2002] stand as two of the more impor-
against Tylor by these writers eventually had the effect of
tant—but even these scientists concentrated their efforts on
helping to undermine the cogency of evolutionist explana-
conducting meticulous examinations of the religious lives of
tions of the origin and development of religion, insofar as the
particular societies.) It may not be too inaccurate to general-
work of each served to invite anthropologists to a closer ex-
ize to the effect that the nineteenth-century obsession with
amination of actual ethnographic data.
origins (as a concomitant of the grandiose quest to discover
the foundational design of human progress) was replaced in
twentieth century saw the demise of “armchair” approaches
the twentieth century, at least among Anglophone anthro-
to anthropological research as anthropologists began to con-
pologists, by an obsession with “objectivity.”
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But to generalize in this manner is dangerous insofar as
onstrate the logical coincidence of the behavior of neurotics
it ignores, first, the continuing influence of evolutionist an-
with the “obsessional” practices of primitive peoples, Freud
thropological theory on continental anthropological science,
aimed to map a theory of culture whose purposes are both
and second, the powerful, hardly diminishing influence of
descriptive and prophylactic, insofar as (in the manner of
evolutionist theory upon Western culture generally. Though
clinical psychoanalytic method) to understand past conflicts
there is too little space in this brief treatment to do more than
that live on within an unconscious realm—whence they con-
mention them, one may list Émile Durkheim (1858–1917)
tinue to exert control over human destiny—is to take a sure
and Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (1857–1939) as among the conti-
step toward resolving these conflicts and thereby achieving
nental heritors of evolutionist theory. The debate concerning
psychic health or emotional (and by implication political)
the nature of “primitive” as opposed to “civilized” (or ratio-
maturity. It may need no pointing out that Freud identifies
nal) forms of mentation that was refueled by Lévy-Bruhl
the coming of the race’s adulthood with the waning of reli-
continues, though in different, structuralist guise, even in the
gious belief.
early twenty-first century.
Freud’s influence on anthropological science during the
middle decades of the twentieth century was minimal, but
Though his work represents what many consider a dead
Freudian-based anthropological theory seemed to experience
end in terms of a continuing influence on anthropological
a rejuvenescence in the late twentieth century, as Melford E.
thought, James G. Frazer (1854–1941) produced what must
Spiro’s Oedipus in the Trobriands (1982) demonstrates. As
count as the single most imposing monument of evolutionist
for the medical import of Freud’s program for human desti-
theory, The Golden Bough (1890), which in its third edition
ny, it again is instructive to observe that evolutionist theory
(1911–1915) ran to twelve volumes. Not only the most pro-
has consistently coupled a descriptive aim with an apologetic
lix of evolutionist theorists, Frazer was also the most doctri-
and heuristic intention. This has remained true of evolution-
naire, convinced that human culture’s development is gov-
ism from its modern origins in the thought of Hegel and
erned by unvarying natural laws and that the human race has
Spencer down through its modern embodiments both in
evolved, mentally and physically, in uniform fashion. Fra-
Marxist historiography and political practice and in Freudian
zer’s temper was utterly intellectualist; his evolutionary
theory and psychoanalytic technique.
scheme, which posits the successive replacement of an ab-
original magical mode of thought by first a religious and then
a scientific mode, finds its basis in Frazer’s conviction that
ARY PSYCHOLOGY. The application of the neo-Darwinian
model prevalent in modern biology to the evolution of
human culture’s development is effected as later generations
human behaviors and social structures was brought to the
of human beings awaken to the errors and the resultant prac-
fore with the publication of Sociobiology by Edward O. Wil-
tical inefficacy of their predecessors’ worldviews. (A reading
son of Harvard in 1975. Wilson’s observations of behavior
of The Golden Bough prompted Ludwig Wittgenstein’s
among the social insects became the focal point of his theo-
[1889–1951] trenchant remark to the effect that, when Fra-
retical approach to understanding the origin and evolution
zer reports on a primitive European peasant woman pulling
of human institutions. At the heart of this theory is the as-
a doll from beneath her skirt during a fertility rite, he seems
sumption that human behaviors at both the individual and
to think that she is making some sort of mistake and actually
group levels must confer a reproductive advantage if they are
believes the puppet to be a child.)
to be preserved over evolutionary time. Furthermore, it is as-
The influence of Frazer’s work on later anthropological
sumed that, in order for selection to take place (in the Dar-
theory has been negligible, aside perhaps from the significant
winian sense), such behaviors must in fact be genetically de-
impact it had on classical studies. Yet Frazer’s Golden Bough
termined. It is only fair to say that Wilson, contrary to his
rates as one of the century’s most celebrated books because
most vocal critics, is not as strict a reductionist or genetic de-
of its profound effect on the literary and artistic dimensions
terminist as this sounds. Nevertheless the use of Darwinian
of Western culture, and because of its formative influence on
principles for understanding the origins and continued exis-
psychoanalytic theory, which with Marxism (itself utterly de-
tence of human behaviors flows naturally out of Wilson’s
pendent upon evolutionist assumptions regarding history)
stands as a ruling ideology of the twentieth century. Though
Religion was not discussed per se in Wilson’s 1975
the axioms of the psychoanalytic model for understanding
book. However, in his later book Consilience (1998) he de-
the human mind and its cultural products probably owe
votes an entire chapter to the origins of ethics and religion.
more to evolutionist biology and its philosophical anteced-
He subscribes to the same kind of primitive-origin hypothe-
ents than they do to British anthropological theory, it is nev-
sis as did Tylor and Frazer. Wilson argues that the develop-
ertheless the case that the work of Freud (especially his late
ment of religious instincts is encoded in the genes and that
work) drew heavily upon that of Frazer. Frazer’s Totemism
such genetic material conferred a reproductive survival ad-
and Exogamy (1910) was a direct influence upon Freud’s
vantage on those groups who exhibited it. He suggests that
Totem and Taboo (1918). The latter, The Future of an Illusion
tribal religious systems served to unify those groups that em-
(1928), and Civilization and Its Discontents (1930) constitute
ployed them, and that such systems spring from the inevita-
Freud’s contribution to evolutionist theory. Seeking to dem-
ble result of the human brain’s genetic evolution.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

The Darwinian approach taken by Wilson and others
gion, among which he includes the evolutionist mode, is in
to understanding the origins of human behavior finds even
his Theories of Primitive Religion (Oxford, 1965). Edward O.
greater application in the emerging field of evolutionary psy-
Wilson’s Consilience (New York, 1998) is easily accessible for
chology. Led by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby at the Uni-
most readers; see also his Sociobiology (Cambridge, Mass.,
versity of California, Santa Barbara, this field attempts to de-
1975). A collection of essays critical of evolutionary psychol-
rive Darwinian models for the origins of all human
ogy is contained in Hilary Rose and Stephen Rose, Alas, Poor
(New York, 2000), including Stephen Jay Gould’s
“More Things in Heaven and Earth,” cited above. See also
One of the principle tenets of evolutionary psychology
G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (New York, 1977);
is that the current form of the human brain took shape dur-
Herbert Spencer, Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative
ing a period called the environment of evolutionary adapta-
(New York, 1914) and Principles of Sociology (Westport,
tion, or EEA. While most place this era in the late Pleisto-
Conn., 1975); E. B. Tylor, “The Religion of Savages,” Fort-
cene, the EEA is really thought of as a composite of selective
nightly Review (1866) and Primitive Culture (London, 1871);
Jacques Waardenburg, Classical Approaches to the Study of Re-
pressures that served the adaptation of humans’ present brain
ligion, vol. 1, Introduction and Anthology (The Hague, 1973);
structure. It is thought that during this period of evolution-
R. R. Marett, “Preanimistic Religion,” Folklore (1900) and
ary history those physical components of human brains that
“Mana,” in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by
resulted in specific behaviors conferring reproductive advan-
James Hastings; Andrew Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion
tage or fitness were under selective pressure. In this view, the
(London, 1887); James G. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy
origins of religious impulse would also be accounted for as
(London, 1910) and The Golden Bough, 3d ed. (1911–1915);
a product of the EEA.
Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (New York, 1918), The
Future of an Illusion
(New York, 1928), and Civilization and
The physical nature of the religious experience has been
Its Discontents (New York, 1930); and Melford E. Spiro, Oe-
investigated by neuroscience. A number of investigators have
dipus in the Trobriands (Chicago, 1982).
reported that the religious impulse could be located to the
temporal lobe of the brain. In these studies the link to reli-
gious feelings and brain structure go hand in hand with the
idea that the adaptation of the brain includes the origin of
religion per se.
The work of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology
has been critiqued by several evolutionary biologists, includ-
Evolutionary ethics attempts to use the biological theory of
ing Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002). Their argument is that
evolution as a foundation for ethics. As such, its history is
the research agenda of both fields is entirely too reductionis-
closely linked with the development and popularization of
tic and deterministic. Gould in particular took issue with the
evolutionary theories starting in the nineteenth century. To
conclusions of evolutionary psychology, writing that “the
a large extent, the history of evolutionary ethics is associated
chief strategy proposed for identifying adaptation is untest-
with efforts to find alternatives to religion as a foundation
able and therefore unscientific” (quoted in Rose and Rose,
for moral law. The growth of industrialism, the establish-
2000, p. 120).
ment of German biblical criticism, and the rise of science all
Nonetheless in this modern version of evolutionism one
contributed to growing secularism during the middle of the
sees the same process as that which motivated Spencer,
nineteenth century. Like other attempts to extend an under-
Tylor, and Frazer in the nineteenth century and the early
standing of biological evolution to the human situation, evo-
twentieth century. The motivation to give an anthropologi-
lutionary ethics has been highly controversial. Although vari-
cal and even materialist explanation for the occurrence of re-
ous evolutionary ethics were proposed throughout Western
ligions persists in the early twenty-first century.
countries, its greatest popularity was in the Anglo-American
world. The history of evolutionary ethics is divided into
SEE ALSO Animism and Animatism; Durkheim, Émile; Dy-
three phases, the initial Darwin and Spencer period, an early-
namism; Freud, Sigmund; Kulturkreiselehre; Lévy-Bruhl,
twentieth-century period, and a contemporary period.
Lucien; Müller, F. Max; Power; Schmidt, Wilhelm; Struc-
turalism; Supreme Beings; Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre.
Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, he avoided
discussion of human evolution as well as the implications of
his theory for an understanding of human society. He was
A good introduction for the layperson to the impact on Western
fully aware, however, that others would immediately extend
thought of various ideas of history is R. G. Collingwood’s
his theory to cover human evolution and that the implica-
The Idea of History (Oxford, 1946). Good surveys of the evo-
lutionist movement in anthropology (and its decline) are
tions of his work would be discussed. In his Descent of Man
Eric J. Sharpe’s Comparative Religion: A History (London,
(1871) Darwin tackled these issues directly. Of central con-
1975) and Jan de Vries’s The Study of Religion: A Historical
cern to him was the “moral faculty,” the possession of which
Approach (New York, 1967). E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s insight-
he considered the most important difference between hu-
ful and amusing critique of “intellectualist” theories of reli-
mans and all other “lower animals.”
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Darwin’s theory of evolution attempted to understand
Contemporaries did not always carefully distinguish be-
the origin of contemporary animal and plant life in naturalis-
tween Darwin’s ideas and those of Spencer. And numerous
tic terms, that is, without reference to any supernatural
supporters of evolutionary ethics combined ideas in new and
causes. Since humans, according to his theory, were consid-
novel combinations. Consequently, evolutionary ethics var-
ered to have had a natural origin, Darwin approached the
ied considerably. In the United States, John Fiske emerged
problem of the origin of the moral faculty as he did other
as the most energetic supporter of evolutionary ethics. Fiske
physical and mental traits. His general approach in trying to
was an admirer of Spencer, but he believed that evolutionary
understand the origin of complex traits, such as the human
ideas opened up the path to a new, reborn Christianity.
eye, was to depict them as part of a continuum—instead of
Fiske’s religious orientation was somewhat unusual in the
focusing on their unique or unusual aspects, he depicted
evolutionary ethics tradition. Leslie Stephen in England was
them as part of a series. In the case of the eye, for example,
more Darwinian, and he believed that evolution provided
he constructed a series of traits starting with simple, light-
the foundation for an agnostic, liberal morality. Other im-
sensitive cells on the skin of a primitive organism and ended
portant supporters of evolutionary ethics were Woods
with the highly complex vertebrate eye. This allowed him to
Hutchinson in the United States and Benjamin Kidd in
illustrate how, over time, a trait could change by small incre-
ments from one end of a spectrum to the other, from simple
to complex. He used this approach with the moral faculty
Evolutionary ethics had support, but also a number of
and claimed that it was the natural development of the intel-
critics. Two of the period’s major evolutionists, Thomas
lectual capacity of social animals.
Henry Huxley and Alfred Russel Wallace, were strongly op-
posed to the position and wrote critical works arguing against
Any social animal, according to Darwin, that attained
it. Huxley, citing David Hume, argued that describing what
an intelligence that was close to human intelligence would
“is” does not give one the authority to proscribe what
develop a moral faculty. He explained the moral faculty in
“ought” to be (the famous IS/OUGHT distinction). Wallace
the following manner: With increased intelligence, early hu-
took a quite different approach in his critique and was drawn
mans attained the capacity for various sentiments (e.g., cour-
to a spiritualist view of moral thought. He rejected both Dar-
age, sympathy), and these gave advantages to the group.
win’s and Spencer’s positions on ethics and contended that
Groups with these sentiments survived better than those
evolutionary biology could not provide a foundation for
without them. Over time, one of these sentiments evolved
into a moral sense that helped consolidate the group and gave
it increased survival value. Darwin was aware of the ethno-
Of greater importance, the philosophic community was
graphic literature of his day, which suggested that all human
nearly unanimous in its rejection of evolutionary ethics. The
groups had sets of ethical beliefs, and he felt that in time peo-
leading figure at the time in ethics, Henry Sidgwick of Cam-
ple would understand the adaptive value of these beliefs.
bridge University, dismissed evolutionary ethics in his major
Darwin did not attempt to justify moral beliefs by reference
work, Methods of Ethics (1874). He wrote that the justifica-
to their origin. He was primarily concerned with how they
tion of evolutionary ethics depended upon one of two argu-
came about.
ments. The first, going from a description of a moral belief
In contrast, Darwin’s contemporary Herbert Spencer
to a belief in its validity, he rejected because he contended
sought justification for ethical positions. Spencer elaborated
that such an argument merely tells about a custom and is of
an ethical theory that he believed had evolved from nature,
no value to ethics. The second specifies a hypothetical “natu-
and he argued that his system was natural and prescriptive.
ral state” of humans and society and goes on to use that state
In his Social Statics (1851) Spencer derived a basic principle
as a foundation for ethics. He rejected it because he felt it
for ethics: “Every man has freedom to do all that he wills,
was a confused position; any impulse, desire, or tendency can
provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other
be considered “natural.” How can one deem a particular one
man” (p. 121). This principle allowed individuals to seek
significantly natural without some prior justification? Ac-
what gave them pleasure, and in his later Principles of Ethics
cording to Sidgwick, ethics is a systematic examination of be-
(1879–1893) he elaborated an evolutionary philosophy to
liefs about what is right or wrong, with the goal of construct-
explain how seeking pleasure (and avoiding pain) drove the
ing a rational system of moral ideas. From his perspective,
evolutionary process in biology and psychology and was
evolutionary ethics was not an ethical system but merely a
therefore a natural principle on which to base ethics.
discussion of how ethical systems may have come into being
or a discussion of various held beliefs. It was not to be taken
Spencer’s evolutionary ethics was more Lamarckian
seriously as constructive ethics.
than Darwinian. That is, he did not stress the adaptive value
of the moral sentiment but rather emphasized the inheri-
In the early part of the twentieth century, Sidgwick’s
tance of acquired characteristics and thought of nature as
condemnation of evolutionary ethics was repeated and ex-
moving to a predetermined goal. For Spencer, a natural pro-
tended by the Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore. His ar-
cess was moving human evolution toward a state where duty
guments are the ones most often cited in criticism of evolu-
became pleasure, mutual aid replaced competition, and the
tionary ethics. In his Principia Ethica (1903), Moore rejected
greatest possible individual freedom existed.
evolutionary ethics along with other forms of naturalistic
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ethics, all of which he claimed were based on the “naturalistic
ory of evolution, but the old criticisms raised by Sidgwick
fallacy.” He meant by this that attempts to explain the
and Moore remained. Moreover the philosophy community
“good” by reference to some property were not valid. The
by this time had moved onto other approaches to ethics.
“good” is a simple notion that cannot be defined as pleasure
Some, like Charles Stevenson, stressed language; others fol-
or an evolutionary adaptation. Moore’s critique was aimed
lowed A. J. Ayer and his logical positivism, which tended to
at more than just evolutionary ethics, and his writings served
dismiss ethics as merely expressions of feeling and not having
to redirect ethical writing. American philosophers were no
any truth value. None of these newer approaches to ethics
more accepting of evolutionary ethics than the English. Wil-
accepted evolutionary ethics, and by the 1970s the position
liam James and John Dewey, both sympathetic to and influ-
had few supporters.
enced by evolutionary ideas, rejected evolutionary ethics.
1975. With the appearance of Edward O. Wilson’s Socio-
entered a new phase in the early twentieth century due to
biology in 1975, a new chapter in the history of evolutionary
changes in evolutionary science itself and the extension of
ethics began. Wilson’s text synthesized research on the Mod-
evolutionary ideas into a broad worldview. The most outspo-
ern Synthesis with population biology and animal behavior.
ken supporter was Julian Huxley, grandson of Thomas
The central argument of the book is that behavior should be
Henry Huxley (who had been so critical of the position in
regarded as adaptive and can be understand best from an evo-
the previous century). Julian Huxley is famous for being one
lutionary perspective, not just animal behavior but human
of the architects of the Modern Synthesis, the neo-
behavior as well. Sociobiology had a short section on ethics,
Darwinian theory that stressed Darwin’s original insight that
and in it Wilson claimed that the time had come for ethics
natural selection of small random variations were the central
to be removed temporarily from the domain of philosophy
driving force in evolution. The new theory built on the dra-
and moved into biology. The study of the biological basis of
matic new genetic understanding of variation as well as care-
social behavior promised, according to Wilson, to provide a
ful work in natural history on geographic variation. Huxley
new Darwinian foundation for ethics and for an understand-
played a key role in synthesizing this knowledge and in popu-
ing of social sciences and humanities.
larizing it. Equally important, Huxley believed that the new
evolutionary theory provided a foundation for a new human-
Wilson followed up his suggestion with his Pulitzer
ist philosophy that had important implications for social pol-
Prize–winning book On Human Nature (1978), in which he
icy and ethical thought. He elaborated on his version of evo-
elaborated on his evolutionary understanding of ethics. Un-
lutionary ethics in his Romanes Lecture in 1943.
like Darwin, who had relied on a view of group selection to
explain the origin of the moral sentiment, Wilson built on
At the heart of Huxley’s argument was his contention
the work of William Hamilton, who argued for understand-
that evolution was a progressive process with three different
ing “altruistic behavior” as an activity that can promote pas-
stages: cosmic, biological, and psychosocial. The process of
sage of a greater number of an individual’s genes to the next
evolution had led to the emergence of humans, the highest
generation. Hamilton, in a set of classic papers in 1964,
and most advanced species, one capable of cultural evolution
showed that an “altruistic act” can have selective value if it
and ultimately of a sense of moral obligation. To explain the
leads to the survival and reproduction of near relatives with
origin of moral obligation, Huxley made reference to psy-
whom one shares common genes. Because a person shares
chology, in particular Sigmund Freud’s concept of the super-
half of his or her genes with a sibling and an eighth with a
ego, an internalized authority that allows one’s sense of guilt
cousin, if a person acts in a manner that sacrifices his or her
to repress aggression and that is the source of one’s senses of
life but that more than doubles the reproductive rate of a sib-
“wrong” and of “duty.” Moral obligation evolved over time,
ling, then copies of that person’s genes will increase in the
as did human ethical standards, the ethics accepted by social
next generation. From an evolutionary perspective, an indi-
groups. Huxley argued that the direction of moral progress
vidual passing on his or her genes is of central value. The in-
was toward greater human fulfillment and the realization of
dividual who passes on genes has a greater impact on the next
values that had “intrinsic worth” (rather than adaptive
generation than one who does not. Hamilton’s ideas were
worth). Only a society that respected individual rights,
popularized by Richard Dawkins in his The Selfish Gene
stressed education, encouraged responsibility, and promoted
(1976), which argues that all supposed selfish acts are ulti-
the arts could realize those goals.
mately selfish in a genetic sense.
Huxley’s scientific humanism enjoyed a limited popu-
Wilson used Hamilton to explain how an action that
larity with the general public in the decades after World War
“appears” altruistic, that helps another at one’s expense, in
II, as did the writings of C. H. Waddington, who argued
the long run can work for its carrier’s “benefit” and therefore
along similar lines in his 1960 book The Ethical Animal.
have a selective value. But what actions “ought” one take?
Waddington departed from Huxley, however, in emphasiz-
Here Wilson also utilized the central, modern evolutionary
ing that the “good” in evolutionary ethics had to be viewed
principle, the survival and reproduction of genes. He argued
in terms of what furthers human evolution. Their version of
that what promotes survival and reproduction of the gene
evolutionary ethics rested on a new and widely accepted the-
pool is “good” and what negatively affects it is “bad.” Atomic
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

warfare, from this perspective, is bad. Wilson in fact derived
Kitcher, Philip. Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for
an entire set of “good” actions and “bad” actions based on
Human Nature. Cambridge, Mass., 1985. An extensive cri-
their effects on the gene pool. Ultimately, Wilson concluded,
tique of the attempt to understand human nature through
science will provide a more powerful mythology than reli-
gion, and humans will be able to construct meaningful and
Midgley, Mary. Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger
moral lives from a totally secular perspective.
Fears. London, 1985. A perceptive discussion of the attempt
to understand ethical issues from a biological perspective.
Although a few biologists and other intellectuals, partic-
ularly evolutionary psychologists, have embraced this new
Moore, G. E. Principia Ethica. Cambridge, U.K., 1903.
evolutionary ethics, the position has drawn considerable crit-
Murphy, Jeffrie G.. Evolution, Morality, and the Meaning of Life.
icism. Philosophers and historians have noted that the new
Totowa, N.J., 1982. A good general discussion of the issues.
ethics, which draws on evolutionary theory, although up-to-
Quillian, William F., Jr. The Moral Theory of Evolutionary Natu-
date in its biology, suffers from the same flaws that were first
ralism. New Haven, Conn., 1945. A careful philosophical
raised by Sidgwick and other early critics. The emphasis on
analysis of the central argument.
genes and their survival has also raised the question of how
Quinton, Anthony. “Ethics and the Theory of Evolution.” In Bi-
deterministic the view is. After all, if people do not have any
ology and Personality: Frontier Problems in Science, Philosophy,
free will to make decisions, if people are hardwired to act in
and Religion, edited by Ian T. Ramsey. Oxford, 1965, pp,
certain ways, how can one claim that actions are “good?”
107–131. A discussion of the philosophical problems with
Wilson has grappled with the issue and argued that genes and
evolutionary ethics.
culture interact, but that individuals have “tendencies” that
Richards, Robert J. Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary The-
predispose them in certain ways. Others see culture as more
ories of Mind and Behavior. Chicago, 1987. A good back-
independent. Richard Alexander, an animal behaviorist, ar-
ground work for the subject, and a spirited defense.
gued that evolutionary analysis can reveal quite a lot about
Rottschaefer, William A. The Biology and Psychology of Moral
the origin and development of laws and ethical opinions but
Agency. New York, 1998. An interesting attempt to solve
cannot reveal which ones are “right.” Such views undercut
some of the philosophical issues that surround evolutionary
the value of evolutionary ethics, because they underscore its
inadequacy of providing a guide for action.
Ruse, Michael. Taking Darwin Seriously: A Naturalistic Approach
As with the earlier versions of evolutionary ethics, sup-
to Philosophy. New York, 1986. A modified version of evolu-
tionary ethics.
porters of modern theories of evolutionary ethics have made
little headway toward gaining acceptance. Evolutionary eth-
Schilcher, Florian von, and Neil Tennant. Philosophy, Evolution,
ics has long had an attraction for some. It serves as an essen-
and Human Nature. London, 1984. A careful analysis of the
central issues.
tial subject for worldviews based on evolution and has pro-
vided a secular foundation for moral beliefs. Unfortunately,
Sidgwick, Henry. The Methods of Ethics. London, 1901. An ex-
it has suffered from a set of serious philosophical flaws, and
tended discussion and critique of evolutionary ethics.
it has failed to meet the challenges posed by philosophers.
Spencer, Herbert. Social Statics. London, 1851.
Spencer, Herbert. Principles of Ethics. 1879–1893. 2 volumes.
SEE ALSO Ethology of Religion; Sociobiology and Evolu-
tionary Psychology, article on Sociobiology of Religion;
Waddington, C. H. The Ethical Animal. London, 1960.
Spencer, Herbert.
Williams, Cora M. A Review of the Systems of Ethics Founded on
the Theory of Evolution. London, 1893. A discussion of the
early major statements of evolutionary ethics.
Breuer, Georg. Sociobiology and the Human Dimension. Cam-
Wilson, Edward O. Sociobiology. Cambridge, Mass., 1975.
bridge, U.K., 1982. A perceptive discussion of the debate
Wilson, Edward O. On Human Nature. Cambridge, Mass., 1978.
over sociobiology.
Wilson’s major work on evolutionary ethics.
Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man. London, 1871.
Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. New York, 1976.
Degler, Carl N. In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Re-
vival of Darwinism in American Social Thought. New York,
1991. A review of the impact of Darwinism on theories of
EXCOMMUNICATION. To excommunicate means
human nature.
“to cut off from communion” or “to exclude from fellowship
Farber, Paul Lawrence. The Temptations of Evolutionary Ethics.
in a community.” In a Christian setting, the term excommu-
Berkeley, Calif., 1994. A history from Darwin to Edward O.
nication also applies to exclusion from Holy Communion,
or the Eucharist.
Flew, Anthony. Evolutionary Ethics. London, 1967. A philosophi-
cal critique of the position.
Historically, religious practice admitted some form of
Huxley, Thomas, and Julian Huxley. Touchstone for Ethics, 1893–
putting a person outside the community. Any community
1943. New York, 1947. Contains Thomas Huxley’s critique
claims the right to protect itself against nonconforming
of evolutionary ethics and Julian Huxley’s defense.
members who may threaten the common welfare. In a reli-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

gious setting this right has often been reinforced by the belief
whom contact must be completely avoided. Under the 1917
that the sanction affects one’s standing before God, inas-
code all others were tolerati, and contact with them could be
much as it entails being cut off from the community of the
saved. In religious traditions in which nonconformity was
punishable by death, excommunication was introduced as a
An excommunicated person loses basic rights in the
mitigation of the death penalty. In medieval Christendom
church, but not the effects of baptism, which can never be
and during the early years of the Reformation, excommuni-
lost. In the revision of the code carried out after Vatican II
cated persons were turned over to civil authorities, who could
the effects of excommunication were clarified, and the dis-
inflict the death penalty upon them.
tinction of vitandi and tolerati was dropped. Instead, all are
treated as tolerati so far as the effects are concerned. These
With the shift in modern times to considering religious
depend on whether the excommunication was imposed by
affiliation a matter of free choice, doubts have been expressed
a public declaration or sentence of condemnation, or was in-
about the meaning and value of excommunication. Although
curred automatically but without much public notice.
practiced less frequently today, some current examples in-
clude the h:erem in Orthodox Judaism, “shunning” among
Generally, a person who is excommunicated is denied
some traditional Christian bodies, withdrawal of member-
any role in administering the sacraments, especially the Eu-
ship by congregation-based communities, and “excommuni-
charist. He or she may not receive any of the sacraments or
cation” as practiced by Mormons, Roman Catholics, and
administer sacramentals, such as burials, and is forbidden to
some other mainline Christian churches.
exercise any church offices or functions. If the penalty has
In the Western Christian tradition, excommunication
been declared or imposed by a sentence, any liturgical actions
is seen as based on practice reflected in scripture, especially
the excommunicate attempts are to be suspended until he or
Paul (see, for example, 1 Cor. 5:1–13, 2 Cor. 2:5–11, 2 Thes.
she leaves; the excommunicate loses any offices or other func-
3:14–15). Theoretical justification is taken from the com-
tions in the church; and may make no claim for income or
mand to bind and loose (Mt. 18:15–18). This same passage
other benefits from the church.
supplies key elements of procedure, including advance warn-
ing and attempts to lead the delinquent to conversion.
Under the reform of the law, automatic excommunica-
tion can be incurred in only six instances, including abor-
Early Christian practice mixed liturgical excommunica-
tion. It may be imposed for a limited number of other crimes
tions, which were part of the nonrepeatable public peniten-
against faith, the Eucharist, or the seal of the confessional in
tial practices, with disciplinary ones that could culminate in
the sacrament of penance. If imposed by a sentence or public
a person being declared anathema. In the thirteenth century
declaration, excommunication can be lifted only by a public
Innocent III specified excommunication as a disciplinary
authority in the church, usually the local diocesan bishop.
penalty distinct from other punishments, characterizing it as
Otherwise, it can be lifted by a priest during the sacrament
specifically medicinal, intended to heal the delinquent. The
of penance, but unlike the 1917 code the revised rules re-
number of crimes for which excommunication could be in-
curred increased steadily through the eighteenth century, but
quire that in all cases the bishop be contacted afterward for
a marked reduction in their number began with the reforms
the reconciliation to remain in effect.
of Pius IX in 1869 and continued with the promulgation of
the Code of Canon Law in 1917.
As a medicinal, or healing, penalty, excommunication
Recommended studies of early Christian practice are Kenneth
under Roman Catholic law may be incurred only if a serious
Helm’s Eucharist and Excommunication: A Study in Early
sin has been committed, or if the person is obstinate in a po-
Christian Doctrine and Discipline (Frankfurt, 1973) and John
sition after being given formal warnings and time to repent.
E. Lynch’s “The Limits of Communio in the Pre-
Constantinian Church,” Jurist 36 (1976): 159–190. For his-
Reflecting medieval and later developments, some excom-
torical background and detailed commentary on Roman
munications are automatic (latae sententiae), incurred by
Catholic canon law through the 1917 Code of Canon Law,
committing a specified act, such as abortion or physically
see Francis Edward Hyland’s Excommunication: Its Nature,
striking the pope. Other excommunications are imposed
Historical Development and Effects (Washington, D. C.,
(ferendae sententiae) after an administrative or judicial inves-
1928), and for an overview of efforts to reform Roman Cath-
tigation. Excommunication must always be lifted as soon as
olic law on this subject, see Thomas J. Green’s “Future of
the delinquent repents and seeks peace with the church.
Penal Law in the Church,” Jurist 35 (1975): 212–275, which
includes a bibliography. Both the Dictionnaire de droit
A distinction used to be drawn between major excom-
canonique (Paris, 1953) and the Lexikon für Theologie und
munications, which cut a person off from all participation
Kirche, 2d ed. (Freiburg, 1957–1968), offer extensive arti-
in community life, and minor ones, which prohibited partic-
cles, under the terms Excommunication and Bann, respec-
ipation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Current
canon law has dropped this distinction, although the 1917
code did characterize some excommunicates as vitandi, with
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to be God’s people. Obeying the divine commandments
given to them was therefore a way out of exile both historical-
ly and spiritually. On a historical level, the Jewish people
would be led back to the Land of Israel, with the Temple re-
built and political independence restored, while on a spiritu-
EXILE. Often prompted by historical conditions, the con-
al level, as Isaiah writes (51:6), the righteous would attain
cept of exile appears in various religious traditions as a sym-
eternal salvation.
bol of separation, alienation, and that which is unredeemed.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the concept of exile gave
IN JUDAISM. With the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the
theological significance to the continued political, social, and
subsequent destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587/6
economic oppression of the Jewish people. The tenth-
BCE, the concept of exile (Heb., golah or galut) came to reflect
century philosopher SaDadyah Gaon, in his Book of Beliefs and
both a historical reality and a communal perception. Forced
Opinions, emphasized the importance of exile as a trial and
into exile in Babylonia, members of the upper classes found
as a means of purification, while according to an anonymous
themselves uprooted from their national and spiritual home-
contemporary, exile, as a divine gift and a “blessing of Abra-
land. Literally, then, the term exile came to describe the
ham,” served as a mark of Israel’s election. According to this
forced dispersion of the Jewish people and their subjugation
view, exile was not a punishment for sin but an opportunity
under alien rule. Although according to Jewish tradition (Jer
given by God to bring God’s teachings to all of humanity.
29:10) the Babylonian exile was only seventy years in dura-
After fifteen hundred years of Jewish settlement in Spain,
tion, the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the
characterized by a social, economic, and political integration
triumph of Rome caused a national uprootedness that lasted
unknown elsewhere in the medieval world, King Ferdinand
for almost two thousand years. Historically, one can thus
and Queen Isabella’s edict of expulsion in 1492, left genera-
maintain that the exile of the Jewish people from the land
tions of Spanish Jewry feeling doubly exiled. As Jane Gerber
of Israel began in the sixth century BCE and came to an end
notes, the exiles and their descendents viewed Spain as a sec-
in 1948 with the establishment of the state of Israel and the
ond Jerusalem. Their expulsion, therefore, “was as keenly la-
restoration of Jewish political independence.
mented as was exile from the Holy Land,” leading to “both
Metaphorically, however, the term exile was and is still
a new dynamism and a heightened sense of despair.”
used as a symbol of alienation, reflecting the Jews’ separation
To many medieval Jewish mystics, exile took on addi-
from the land of Israel, from the Torah by which God com-
tional significance as a metaphor describing on the divine
manded them to live, from God, and from the non-Jew and
level what historically had befallen the Jewish people. One
the non-Jewish world in general.
finds in the thirteenth-century Zohar, for example, the claim
To the biblical prophets, exile was a symbol of divine
that with the destruction of the Second Temple both the
retribution. As Isaiah makes clear (44:9–20), in worshiping
Jewish people and the tenth emanation of God, identified
other deities, the people of Israel revealed a lack of fidelity
as shekhinah (God’s visible presence in the world), went into
to their God and to the covenant that God had established
exile. Thus, the separation of the Jewish people from the
with them. Their punishment, then, was the destruction of
Land of Israel became mirrored in the alienation of God
their spiritual center, Jerusalem, as well as of the Temple in
from a part of Godself. This idea is reiterated and broadened
which sacrifices were offered, and the forced removal of
in the writings of the sixteenth-century mystic Isaac Luria
many from the land that had been promised to them. At the
(1534–1572), in which the exile of the shekhinah is said to
same time, however, exile became a symbol of judgment.
reflect the exile or “fall” of humanity as a whole into the
Those who remained religiously faithful, becoming, in Isa-
domination of demonic powers.
iah’s words, God’s “suffering servants” (43:10), would reap
Finally, on a psychological level, the concept of exile
the rewards of righteousness and ultimately be redeemed.
served to reinforce the national self-consciousness among a
According to the prophet Ezekiel (14:3ff., 21:31ff.),
people who no longer shared a common culture, language,
exile was a trial through which God tested Israel’s faithful-
or land. Exclusion from non-Jewish society, coupled with a
ness to God and God’s teachings. It was also a symbol of Isra-
Jewish liturgy and calendar that reinforced the notion of the
el’s election, with the Babylonians, and later the Romans and
Land of Israel as home, underscored the alien nature of the
all those under whose rule the Jewish people were subjugat-
Jew in the non-Jewish world. After the seventeenth century,
ed, acting as instruments of a divine schema through which,
however, as European emancipation came to afford growing
as Isaiah writes, God’s “faithful remnant” (27:31ff.) would
numbers of Jews the opportunity to participate more fully
be redeemed. Exile thus became a metaphor of separation
in non-Jewish society, many began to feel that the Diaspora
not only from God but also from righteousness. As such, it
did not necessarily have to be equated with exile. One sees
was associated with a pre-messianic, pre-redemptive era. In
this most clearly in the writings of nineteenth-century reli-
exile, as John Bright maintains, one was to purge oneself of
gious reformers who, insisting that Jews were members of a
sin in order to prepare for the future, to “return,” that is, to
religious community but not of a specific nation, maintained
remember that God, the Creator of the world, chose Israel
that it was possible for Jews to view any country as home.
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Since 1948, it is debatable whether Jews choosing to live
the soul can be set free only through this insight, or gno¯sis.
outside the state of Israel historically are still in exile. Yet one
To be in exile is to be unredeemed, ignorant of one’s origins
can argue, as does Arthur Hertzberg in Being Jewish in Ameri-
and of the nature of the human soul. In these and other texts,
ca, that on a psychological level the concept of exile remains
knowledge thus becomes the necessary key to salvation.
a compelling symbol. Hertzberg maintains that even in the
United States, where Jews have gained great acceptance and
Yet having attained this knowledge, the Gnostic cannot
freedom, the Jew continues to be an alien. As an externally
help but experience life in this world as “alien.” Hans Jonas
and internally imposed sense of self-identification, exile thus
maintains that this experience serves as the primary symbol
reflects the conviction of many Jews that the Diaspora can
not just of Christian Gnosticism but of other forms of gnos-
never truly be seen as “home.”
ticism as well. Life in this world is depicted as a descent into
darkness and captivity, a life of exile for which, as the Man-
IN CHRISTIANITY. The metaphor of exile appears in Chris-
daeans claimed, the only “day of escape” is death. As a meta-
tianity in two separate ways: first, as that reflecting the histor-
phor, then, exile takes on personal rather than communal
ical and spiritual conditions under which the Jewish people
significance, reflecting the experience of the Gnostic who,
have lived since the fall of the Second Temple, and second,
alienated from and in revolt against the cosmos, longs to re-
as descriptive of life in this world as opposed to life in the
turn home.
kingdom of heaven.
Like their Jewish contemporaries, the Fathers of the
Among the IsmaDiliyah, an Islamic movement of radical
early church attached theological significance to the destruc-
ShiDah founded in the late third century AH (ninth century
tion of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. They maintained,
CE), one again finds the concept of exile serving as a central
however, that its destruction was not caused by sinfulness in
symbol of alienation. Here, it is the imam who leads the
general but by one particular sin, namely the rejection by
gnostic away from the world of darkness. Possessing the eso-
most of the Jewish community in Palestine of Jesus as the
teric knowledge of the soul’s true spiritual birth, the imam
Messiah for whom they had been waiting. Thus, the histori-
offers this knowledge to his disciple as a “salvatory revela-
cal exile of the Jewish people was seen to mirror the spiritual
tion.” Having attained this revelation, the disciple is freed
exile—or alienation—of the Jews from God. To “return” in
from exile and reborn as a “being of light.”
the Christian sense came to imply not only repentance but
THE ISHRA¯Q¯IYAH. Revealing the influences of Zoroastrian-
also acknowledgement of Jesus as savior.
ism, Gnosticism, Persian mysticism, and Neoplatonism, the
In the New Testament Gospel of John, one sees that
illuminative philosophy of the twelfth-century thinker
which is usually identified as a more Gnostic understanding
Shiha¯b al-D¯ın Yah:yá Suhraward¯ı (Shiha¯b al-D¯ın Yah:yá ibn
of exile. Jesus here identifies himself as one who is “not of
H:abash ibn Am¯ırak Abu¯ al-Futu¯h: Suhraward¯ı; AH 549–
the world.” Those who are “of the world,” he says (Jn.
587/1170–1208 CE) uses exile as a symbol of ignorance of
17:16), are those who have not acknowledged that he is the
one’s true spiritual nature and of reality in general. “Home,”
Christ (Messiah), sent by his father, the one true God, in
in the Ishra¯q¯ı school, is metaphorically identified with the
order to redeem his people. To be “not of the world,” he con-
world of light, while exile is described as entrapment within
tinues, is to be with God in the Divine spiritual kingdom,
the realm of darkness. In order to journey homeward, the
possible even before death. Exile thus functions here as an
Ishra¯q¯ıyun need to move beyond rational inquiry to the
individual rather than a collective metaphor of alienation or
imaginal world and illumination (ishra¯q). Only then can
separation from God. Not surprisingly, John’s understand-
the souls of the Ishra¯q¯ıyah attain mystical union with the
ing of “return,” rooted in an individual declaration of faith,
inner divine presence, experiencing an ecstatic separation
is also personal in nature.
from the physical body and an anticipation of death. Thus
IN GNOSTICISM. The concept of exile comes to play a central
to journey out of exile is to overcome the separation of the
role in a number of early Gnostic texts. Set within a dualistic
soul from the divine and to become inflamed by what Henry
framework of spirit versus matter, light versus darkness,
Corbin labels the “divine fire.”
goodness versus evil, exile again functions as a symbol of
Suhraward¯ı’s understanding of exile is developed most
alienation. Here, however, it is not a particular people that
fully in his Recital of the Western Exile, a spiritual autobiogra-
are said to be in exile or the nonbeliever per se but the human
phy that describes the struggles of the “man of light” to free
soul. Belonging to the spiritual realm of light but trapped in
himself from darkness. Associating ignorance with the West
the world of matter or darkness, it depends upon the “saving
and illumination with the East, Suhraward¯ı begins his tale
knowledge” of the Gnostic to begin its journey home.
with the exile of the soul to the western city of Kairouan.
The Apocryphon of John, written probably in the late sec-
Forgetting his origins and eventually taken captive, the man
ond century CE, the third-century Gospel of Thomas, and the
of light slowly comes to an awareness of his true identity and
fourth-century Pistis Sophia are among several Gnostic
sets out on the long journey home. Thought at first he is
Christian texts that depict Jesus as having been sent down
forced to return to the West, he is finally set free. Stripped
to earth to impart this saving knowledge to others. Remind-
of the “fetters of matter,” his soul becomes possessed by an
ing his listeners of their heavenly origin, he tells them that
angel who helps it return to its celestial condition. Thus
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beginning its heavenly ascent, it leaves the world of exile
tiate Tibetan Buddhism from other forms of Buddhist belief
and practice. So have the efforts by hundreds of resident
scholars and monks at the Tibetan Library in Dharamsala to
preserve and help translate original Tibetan manuscripts, in-
exile since 1959, the XIV Dalai Lama, religious and secular
cluding rare ones smuggled out of Tibet over the past forty
head of Tibet, along with well over 100,000 Tibetan refu-
gees, have sought refuge in India, in the Himalayan town of
Dharamsala. With the Chinese military annexation of Tibet,
SEE ALSO Buddhism, article on Buddhism in Tibet; Bud-
the systematic attempt to destroy Tibet’s religion, and the
dhism, Schools of, article on Tibetan and Mongolian Bud-
massive influx of ethnic Chinese, Tibetan Buddhists have
dhism; Dalai Lama; Gnosticism; Ishraqiyah; Shekhinah;
lost their land, temples, monasteries, and most of their reli-
gious leaders. Consequently, they also risk losing their iden-
Excellent summaries of the early historical development of the
Recognizing the difficulty of returning to Tibet as a free
concept of exile in Judaism can be found in John Bright’s A
people, the Dalai Lama has created in Dharamsala a Tibetan
History of Israel, 3d ed., (Philadelphia, 1981), and William
Government in Exile. In an effort to rebuild the refugees’
F. Albright’s essay on “The Biblical Period” in The Jews, vol.
shattered lives, it features new governmental departments of
1, edited by Louis Finkelstein (Philadelphia, 1949),
Education, Rehabilitation, Information, and Security, as
pp. 3–69. For insight into why Spanish Jewry came to feel
well as new Offices of Religious and Economic Affairs. It also
a sense of being doubly exiled, see Jane Gerber’s The Jews of
features a monastery built in 1968 and a temple built in
Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience (New York,
1992). For a discussion of the significance of exile in medi-
1970, leading to what the Dalai Lama has described as a
eval Jewish mysticism, see Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends
“thriving monastic community of over six thousand strong.”
in Jewish Mysticism (1941; New York, 1961), especially lec-
The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives opened in
tures two, six, and seven. Michael A. Meyer’s The Origins of
Dharamsala in the late 1960s. Housing over forty thousand
the Modern Jew (Detroit, 1967), provides insight into the re-
original Tibetan volumes and involved in published English
lationship between European emancipation and the later
language and Tibetan books, it has become a world-wide
Jewish reevaluation of exile as a meaningful theological sym-
center of Buddhist research and study.
bol. Finally, Arthur Hertzberg reflects at length on the con-
cept of exile in the American Jewish imagination in his Being
In an effort to preserve the religion and culture of the
Jewish in America: The Modern Experience (New York, 1979),
six million Tibetan Buddhists that he represents, while pro-
and more recently, in his autobiographical A Jew in America:
moting world peace through nonviolence, the Dalai Lama
My Life and a People’s Struggle for Identity (San Francisco,
has devoted himself to building a strong Tibetan community
in exile. He also has engaged in dialogue with political and
The best study of exile as metaphor in Christian and Hellenistic
religious leaders throughout the world.
Gnosticism remains Hans Jonas’s second revised edition of
The Gnostic Religion (Boston, 1963). For a comparison be-
Among them has been a group of rabbis and Jewish
tween these ideas and those found in the New Testament
scholars first invited to meet with the Dalai Lama in 1989,
Gospel of John, see James M. Robinson’s “Gnosticism and the
the same year that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
New Testament,” in Gnosis: Festschrift fur Hans Jonas, edited
According to Rodger Kamenetz, “in the Dalai Lama’s eyes,
by Barbara Aland (Göttingen, West Germany, 1978),
and to many of the Tibetans, Jews are survival experts. The
pp. 125–157. Bernard Lewis’s The Origins of Ismailism
idea that Jewish history, with all its traumas, is relevant to
(1940; New York, 1975) provides a good overview of this
another exiled people was inspiring.” So was the Jewish ob-
concept among the IsmaDiliyah, while Henry Corbin’s En
servance of home rituals; the preservation and renewal of reli-
Islam iranien: Aspects spirituals et philosophiques, vol. 2, (Paris,
1971) and Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth (Princeton,
gious culture and tradition; and most importantly, the Jew-
1977) offer cogent accounts of exile as metaphor in
ish emphasis on remembrance, including the memory of
Suhraward¯ı’s theosophy of light.
For a lengthy discussion of exile as symbol and reality in contem-
For over four decades, Tibetan Buddhists have experi-
porary Tibetan Buddhism, see Bstan dzin rgya mtsho, Dalai
enced exile as a political and geographical reality. Yet despite
Lama XIV, Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai
the longing of exiled Tibetan Buddhists to return to their
Lama (New York, 1990). Detailed descriptions of meetings
home, holy spaces are primarily symbolic in the Buddhist
between the Dalai Lama and Jewish leaders can be found in
Rodger Kamenetz’s The Jew in the Lotus: A Poet’s Rediscovery
imagination. Since ultimately, they come from an individu-
of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India (San Francisco, 1994).
al’s inner spiritual power, they can be transported. Thus
Tibet in-and-of-itself is not as central to Tibetan Buddhism
ELLEN M. UMANSKY (1987 AND 2005)
as Jerusalem is to Judaism. Nor, for that matter, is the con-
cept of physical exile. Nonetheless, ongoing attempts by the
Dalai Lama to free Tibet from Chinese control and to keep
EXISTENTIALISM is a type of philosophy difficult to
Tibetan Buddhism alive, even in exile, have helped differen-
define because it does not have any agreed body of doctrine;
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it is rather a way of doing philosophy in which life and
popular usage, become so widely applied and covered so
thought are closely related to each other. Thus, while some
many differences that most of the philosophers mentioned
existentialists have been theists and others atheists, they have
were unwilling to accept it. The Jewish thinker Martin Buber
arrived at their different results by rather similar processes of
(1878–1965) had existentialist affinities but criticized the in-
thought. The existentialist who believes in God does so not
dividualism of the typical existentialist. Nevertheless, all the
as a result of intellectual demonstration—he or she is more
philosophers mentioned above share a number of “family re-
likely to say that the attempts to prove God’s existence are
semblances” that make them existentialists in a broad sense.
a waste of time, or even harmful—but on the grounds of pas-
It is sometimes suggested that existentialism is a thing
sionate inward conviction; likewise the atheistic existentialist
of the past, that it was a phenomenon called into being by
rejects God not because of being persuaded by argument but
the specific events of the times in which these thinkers lived
because the very idea of God poses a threat to the freedom
but that humanity has now moved into new times with new
and autonomy of the human being, and so to the integrity
problems. Up to a point, this may be true. The very fact that
of humanity. But if such nonrational factors are allowed their
the existentialist is an existing thinker means that he or she
say, is it not a departure from philosophy altogether? Perhaps
has a concrete relation to the events of his or her own time.
not, if one thinks that reason has become so ambitious that
Yet there are some characteristics of the human condition
it ceases to perceive its own limitations and so becomes mis-
that seem to belong to all times or to recur at different times,
leading. The all-embracing rational system of Hegel pro-
and some of the insights of the existential philosophers into
voked not only Kierkegaard’s existentialism but also the
what it means to be human have a permanent value and are
skepticism of the left-wing Hegelians and neo-Kantian posi-
likely to provoke new thought and new investigations in the
tivism. The existentialists of the twentieth century emerged
about the same time as the logical positivists, and both
groups shared doubts about the omnicompetence of reason.
The existentialist would still claim to be a philosopher, in the
plies, existentialism is a philosophy of existence. It should be
sense of a thinker, but, in Kierkegaard’s expression, an “exist-
noted, however, that the word existence is used in a restricted
ing thinker,” that is, a thinker who is always involved in the
sense. In ordinary speech, one says that stars exist, trees exist,
reality being thought about, so that the thinker cannot take
cows exist, men and women exist, and so on of everything
up the purely objective attitude of a spectator; also, the
that has a place in the spatiotemporal world. The existential-
thinker is always on the way from one matter to another, so
ist restricts the term to the human existent. By doing this,
that as long as the thinker exists he or she never has a com-
there is no intention to suggest that stars, trees, cows and the
plete picture. So existentialism stands opposed to all those
like are unreal. The existentialist only wants to draw atten-
grand metaphysical systems that profess to give a compre-
tion to the fact that their being is quite different from the
hensive and objective account of all that is. Significantly,
being of a human person. When an existentialist speaks of
Kierkegaard titles two of his most important writings Philo-
a human being as “existing,” he or she is taking the word in
sophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript, and
what may be supposed to be the original etymological sense
these titles implicitly contrast his work with that of philoso-
of “standing out.” Stars and the like have their being simply
phers who aim at a comprehensive system.
by lying around, so to speak. Their nature or essence is al-
ready given to them. The human being exists actively, by
Though some earlier writers, such as Blaise Pascal
standing out or emerging through the decisions and acts that
(1623–1662), who criticized the theistic proofs and contrast-
make this person the unique being that he or she is. In
ed the God of the philosophers with the living God of Abra-
Sartre’s famous definition, existence means that the human
ham, Isaac, and Jacob, have been seen in retrospect as fore-
person begins as nothing, and only afterward does that being
runners of existentialism, the movement belongs essentially
become something and form its essence through its chosen
to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. So⁄ren Kierkegaard
policies of action.
(1813–1855) is usually regarded as its founder. His philoso-
phy is inextricably entangled with his struggle over what it
Although existentialists use the word existence in the
means to become a Christian. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–
sense just explained, it retains something of its traditional
1900) is in many ways at the opposite extreme from Kierke-
meaning. In the history of philosophy, existence (referring
gaard, but his proclamation of the death of God was just as
to the fact that something is) has usually been contrasted
passionate as Kierkegaard’s fascination with the God-man
with essence (referring to what something is or the basic
paradox. Some Russian thinkers of the same period showed
properties of that thing). Philosophies of essence (Platonism
similar existentialist tendencies, notably Fyodor Dostoevsky
is the great example) concentrate attention on the universal
(1821–1881) and Vladimir SolovDev (1853–1900). All of
properties of things, properties which remain the same in all
these profoundly influenced the existentialists of the twenti-
circumstances and at all times. These universals are amenable
eth century, among whom may be counted Miguel de Una-
to the operations of thinking, so that the essentialist tends
muno (1864–1936), Karl Jaspers (1883–1969), Martin Hei-
to end up as an idealist, holding that thought and reality co-
degger (1889–1976), and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980),
incide. The philosopher of existence, on the other hand, con-
though it should be noted that the term existentialist had, in
centrates attention on the concrete, individually existing real-
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ity, but this has a particularity and contingency that make
is, of course, never absolute. The human being is finite, in-
it much more resistant to the systematizing tendencies of
serted at a given position in space and time and therefore
thought, so that, for such a thinker, reality does not conform
subject to all the constraints and influences that operate at
to thought, and there are always loose ends that refuse to be
that point. Thus one’s freedom is always threatened. One
accommodated in some tidy intellectual construction.
may simply reflect the values of one’s culture, without ever
deciding one’s relation to those values, or one may be caught
It should be noticed too that the existentialist finds
up in the race for money or pleasure, though these may be
room for dimensions of human existence other than think-
inimical to the development of one’s finest potentialities.
ing. For several centuries, Western philosophy has been
deeply influenced by Descartes’s famous pronouncement, “I
Thus all human existence is lived in the tension between
think, therefore I am.” The existentialist would claim that
finitude and freedom. This tension can also be expressed as
this accords too much preeminence to thinking. Humans are
that between freedom (the areas that are still open for choice)
also beings who experience emotion, and these emotions are
and facticity (those elements in existence which are simply
not just transient inner moods but rather ways of relating to
given and reduce the area of free decision). It is because of
the world and becoming aware of some of its properties that
this tension that freedom is always accompanied by anxiety.
do not reveal themselves to rational observation. Equally im-
Existentialists, from Kierkegaard on, have laid great stress on
portant is the will. One learns about the world not just by
anxiety as a basic emotion or state of mind which illuminates
beholding it and reflecting upon it but rather by acting in
the human condition. In the case of Kierkegaard and other
it and encountering its resistances.
Christian existentialists, the experience of anxiety may pre-
dispose toward the life of faith by awakening the need for
It follows from this that existentialism is also a philoso-
salvation; but among atheistic existentialists, anxiety points
phy of the subject. Kierkegaard declared that truth is subjec-
rather to despair, for the inner contradiction in the human
tivity. At first sight, this seems a subversive statement, one
being is taken to be incapable of resolution, so that human
which might even imply the abolition of truth. But what
existence is always on the verge of absurdity. Part of human
Kierkegaard meant was that the most important truths of life
finitude is the fact that existence will in any case come to an
are not to be achieved by observation and cannot be set down
end in death. But here too there are differences in interpreta-
in textbooks to be looked up when required. They are the
tion. Heidegger believes that the fact of death, by closing off
kind of truths that can be won only through inward and per-
the future of existence, makes it possible to achieve a unifying
haps painful appropriation. The truths of religion are the
and meaningful pattern in that existence. Sartre, on the other
most obvious case—they cannot be learned from books of
hand, thinks that death, by canceling out all achievement,
theology but only by following the way of faith that is one
is the ultimate indication of the absurdity of existence.
with the truth and the life (John 14:6).
IMPLICATIONS FOR RELIGION. The existentialist recognition
The criticism is sometimes made that there is something
of the distinctiveness of human existence as over against the
morbid in the existentialists’ preoccupation with anxiety and
world of nature, together with the claim that the truth of
death, and this criticism also impinges on those Christian
human existence is to be reached by the way of subjectivity,
theologians who have used these ideas to urge the need for
is significant for the philosophy of religion. The tendency in
faith and dependence on God. But it should be noted that
modern times has been to treat the human person as one
there is another and more affirmative side to existentialism.
more natural phenomenon, to be understood objectively
Many writers of the school speak also of “transcendence,”
through human sciences which model their methods on that
and by this they do not mean the transcendence of God, as
of the natural sciences. Existentialists, however, believe that
commonly understood in theology, but the transcendence of
human nature can be understood only from the inside, as it
the human existent moving constantly beyond itself into new
were, through one’s own participation in it. The phenome-
situations. Those who stress transcendence believe that the
nological analysis of consciousness, developed by Husserl,
goal of human life is to realize more and more one’s authen-
has been adopted by existentialist philosophers, but long be-
tic possibilities. Whereas the early Heidegger believed that
fore Husserl similar methods were being used, for instance,
this is to be achieved by human effort, by a steady “resolute-
by Kierkegaard in The Concept of Anxiety.
ness” in the face of facticity and death, Christian writers such
as Gabriel Marcel have thought of human transcendence as
One obvious result of the application of such methods
a transcendence toward God, and have taught that this is to
of inquiry to the human person is the claim that freedom is
be achieved not just through human effort but through the
essential to being human. Decision, conscience, and respon-
assistance of divine grace.
sibility are major themes in existentialist writers, in opposi-
tion to the determinism or near-determinism characteristic
Most existentialists have had a bias toward individual-
of supposedly scientific views of humanity. Perhaps it would
ism. This was true of Kierkegaard, who was alarmed by the
not be going too far to say that freedom is the supreme value
tendencies toward collectivism in Hegel’s philosophy. It is
among the existentialists. Human existence is said to be “au-
also true of Sartre, who depicts interpersonal relations as es-
thentic” when the individual freely chooses who and what
sentially frustrating. On the other hand, Marcel claims that
he or she will become. The freedom to choose and decide
a relation to others is essential to an authentic human exis-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tence, while Heidegger sees “being-with-others” as an ines-
gent being (the en soi) of the physical world; there are mysti-
capable dimension of the human being. Critics of existential-
cal elements both in Heidegger’s talk of “being” and Jaspers’s
ism have reckoned its individualism as a defect, on the
of “transcendence.” Existentialist theologians have also
ground that it prevents the development of a political philos-
found that the reconstruction of Christian theology in terms
ophy, but others have praised the stress on the individual as
of human possibilities is inadequate and needs the supple-
a defense of human freedom in face of the totalitarian preten-
mentation of a theistic philosophy.
sions of the modern state. Nietzsche and Heidegger have
both sought to go beyond the biography of the individual
to the outlines of a philosophy of history. In this, they op-
An introduction to existentialism is provided in my book Existen-
pose the so-called scientific history that seeks to establish ob-
tialism (Baltimore, 1973). Major existentialist texts include
jective facts. Nietzsche speaks scornfully of the “antiquarian”
So⁄ren Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments, translated by
type of historian who seeks to reconstruct the past. He pre-
David F. Swenson (Princeton, N. J., 1936); Martin Heideg-
fers the “monumental” historian who goes to some great cre-
ger’s Being and Time, translated by me and Edward Robin-
son (New York, 1962); Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothing-
ative event of the past in order to discover its power and to
ness, translated by Hazel E. Barnes (New York, 1956); and
learn its lessons for the present and future. Heidegger like-
Fritz Buri’s Theology of Existence, translated by Harold H.
wise is uninterested in the history that confines itself to the
Oliver and Gerhard Onder (Greenwood, S.C., 1965).
analysis of past events. History, he claims, is oriented to the
future. The historian goes to the past only in order to learn
New Sources
Cotkin, George. Existential America. Baltimore, 2003.
about such authentic possibilities of human existence as may
be repeatable in the present. This view of history was very
Fulton, Ann. Apostles of Sartre: Existentialists in America, 1945–
1963. Evanston, Ill., 1999.
influential for Rudolf Bultmann’s existential interpretation
of the “saving events” of the New Testament, an interpreta-
Hardwick, Charley. Events of Grace: Naturalism, Existentialism,
tion succinctly expressed as “making Christ’s cross one’s
and Theology. New York, 1996.
Low, Douglas Beck. The Existential Dialogue of Marx and Merleau
Ponty. New York, 1987.
The stress on human freedom together with the bias to-
Murdoch, Iris, and Peter Conradi, eds. Existentialists and Mystics:
ward individualism raises the question of the significance of
Writings on Philosophy and Literature. London, 1998.
existentialism for ethics. The existentialist has no use for an
Pattison, George. Anxious Angels: A Retrospective View of Religious
ethic of law, for the requirement of a universal law ignores
Existentialism. New York, 1999.
the unique individual and conforms everyone to the same
pattern. So one finds Kierkegaard defending Abraham’s deci-
Solomon, Robert. From Rationalism to Existentialism: The Existen-
tialists and Their Nineteenth-Century Backgrounds. Lanham,
sion to sacrifice Isaac, for although this meant the “suspen-
Md., 1992.
sion” of ethics, only so could Abraham be true to his own
self and be “authentic.” Similary Nietzsche is found claiming
that the “superman” must create his own values to supersede
Revised Bibliography
traditional values, while Heidegger claims that what is ordi-
narily called “conscience” is only the voice of the mediocre
values of society and that the true conscience is the deep in-
EXORCISM. The English word exorcism derives from
ward summons of the authentic self. In each case, the value
the Greek exorkizein, a compound of ex (out) plus horkizein
of an action is judged not by its content but by the intensity
(to cause to swear, or to bind by an oath). Whereas in Greek
and freedom with which it is done. Such an ethic is too form-
the word sometimes is used simply as a more intensive form
less for human society and represents an overreaction against
of the root, meaning “to adjure,” English derivatives usually
the cramping restraints of legalism. Nevertheless, this ex-
designate a “swearing out” of invasive spiritual forces from
tremely permissive ethic has seemed to some Christian think-
the body in a formal rite of expulsion. Thus exorcism cannot
ers to be compatible with Jesus’ teaching that love rather
fully be understood without reference to the concept of spirit
than law must guide one’s conduct, and it is reflected in the
possession, the state that it redresses.
various types of “situation ethics” that flourished for a short
The spirits to be exorcised most commonly are con-
ceived either as demons or as restless ghosts. These evil spirits
Finally, although existentialism turns away from the at-
penetrate into the bodies of their victims and completely
tempt to formulate any detailed and inclusive metaphysic,
control, or at least strongly influence, their actions. Possess-
its adherents seem to find it impossible to avoid assenting to
ing spirits may also cause physical illness by interfering with
some ontology or theory of being. Kierkegaard and other
the body’s normal physiological processes or mental illness
Christian existentialists assume (but do not seek to prove) a
by affecting the will, intellect, and emotions. Yet in many
theistic view of the world as the setting of human existence;
cultures, spirit possession is diagnosed only retrospectively.
Sartre is frankly dualistic in opposing the free but fragile
That is, the victim often must display abnormal behavior for
being of humankind (the pour soi) to the massive unintelli-
some time before friends and family diagnose her as pos-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

sessed by a spirit. Both cross-culturally and transhistorically,
In the earliest gospel, Mark, an exorcism is Jesus’ first
spirit possession afflicts women more often than men. This
pattern has been the subject of much discussion among spe-
cialists who study the phenomenon.
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man
with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, “What have
The forms and prevalence of exorcism within a given
you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come
culture are intimately related to the question of how the in-
to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of
God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and
vading spirits are conceived. In certain contexts, possession
come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing
by neutral or beneficent spirits is highly valued, and in these
him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
settings exorcisms are unlikely to be an important constitu-
(Mk. 1:23–26)
ent of the local culture. Within other religious contexts,
however, spirit possession is understood as the work of evil
Mark subsequently presents Jesus as famed for his exorcism
spirits or demons dedicated to the downfall of humanity, and
ability, pairing this miracle with Jesus’ eloquence in preach-
exorcism thus is viewed as a vitally important form of heal-
ing as his two main sources of appeal throughout his travels
ing. Lastly, many cultures, both historically and worldwide,
in Galilee (Mk. 1:39). Mark’s gospel thus uses exorcism as
consider possessing spirits to be the ghosts of the dead. Re-
a way of demonstrating Jesus’ uncanny power as a comple-
sponses to possession in these cases may involve ambivalent
ment to his teaching: Jesus is shown as battling against ma-
attitudes toward the invading spirit. Communities invariably
lign spiritual forces both physically and pedagogically.
wish to heal the victim through exorcism but also may feel
The most complete account of exorcism is that of the
compassion toward the dead spirit that has invaded the liv-
Gerasene demoniac, recounted in all three synoptic gospels
ing. Moreover witnesses to exorcisms of ghosts frequently use
(Mk. 5:1–20; Mt. 8:28–34; Lk. 8:26–39). The tale concerns
the occasion to interrogate the spirit about the details of the
Jesus’ encounter with a man possessed by a multitude of evil
spirits. The man was living in the cemetery on the edge of
Exorcisms vary widely. Whereas some rites are purely
a city—among the tombs of the dead—because his disor-
verbal formulae, many employ objects, gestures, and actions
dered state of mind and superhuman strength rendered him
thought to be of particular power against invasive spirits. In
unfit for the society of the living. Jesus interviews the spirits
some contexts, exorcism may be accomplished simply
inside the man, which speak through his mouth, and elicits
through the charismatic power of a particularly powerful or
their collective name, Legion. Jesus then commands the spir-
righteous individual. Many cultures use dance and music as
its to depart from the man but gives them permission to
essential elements of exorcism rituals. In this article, the word
enter into a herd of pigs foraging nearby. The possessed pigs
exorcism may refer either to the procedure itself or to its end
then plunge themselves into the sea and drown, prompting
result, the liberation from spirits that it accomplishes.
the local herdsmen to flee and tell the story throughout the
city. A group of people then come out to Jesus and ask him
CHRISTIAN EXORCISM. From its origins, Christianity has in-
to leave. The passage reveals much about conceptions of pos-
cluded a strong belief in spirit possession by demons, under-
session and exorcism in this time period, including the dis-
stood as primordial forces of evil and followers of the devil.
ruption of identity and of bodily control characteristic of de-
Thus exorcism has a long history within Christianity, partic-
moniacs; the importance of learning the demons’ names in
ularly (though not exclusively) among Catholics. These tra-
order to gain power over them; and Jesus’ charismatic use
ditions continue to the modern day.
of a simple verbal command to accomplish the expulsion.
However, the conclusion of the tale suggests that Jesus’ ac-
In the New Testament. The Greek verb exorkizein ap-
tion is regarded with considerable fear and ambivalence by
pears only once in the New Testament, in Matthew 26:63,
the local community.
where the high priest “adjures” Jesus to reveal whether he is
the Christ. Yet the action of expelling demons frequently
The Synoptic Gospels report that during his lifetime
does appear in the New Testament canon. Exorcism is
Jesus empowered his disciples to cast out demons as well. Yet
among Jesus’ favorite miracles in the Synoptic tradition,
upon occasion this power failed them, as in the case of a
comprised of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, yet
dumb and deaf spirit that had entered a child, tormenting
no exorcisms appear in the latest gospel, John. The Acts of
him with convulsions. After the disciples proved unable to
the Apostles, by the same author as the Gospel of Luke, also
heal the boy, Jesus successfully completed the task through
recounts exorcisms by Jesus’ followers after his death and em-
prayer and fasting (Mt. 9:17; Mt. 16; Lk. 9:40). Jesus’ follow-
ploys the noun exorkistes to refer to some Jews who attempt
ers continued to perform exorcisms after his death. The Acts
to cast out demons using Jesus’ name (Lk. 19:13). Indeed in
of the Apostles describes several cases accomplished through
respect to exorcism, the emerging Jesus Movement was much
a noteworthy diversity of means. Paul exorcises a slave girl
in accord with developments in other Jewish sects of the peri-
through a verbal rebuke similar to those used by Jesus (Acts
od, many of which had begun to place a greater emphasis
16:18), but Peter heals the possessed simply by having them
upon exorcisms and charismatic forms of healing than had
gather in his shadow (Acts 5:16). Paul also exorcises spirits
been the case in earlier Jewish tradition.
through handkerchiefs impregnated with his power of super-
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natural healing (Acts 19:11–12). Simply invoking the name
CE) provided detailed advice on how to exorcise a possessed
of Jesus was considered a powerful method of exorcism, one
woman in one of her letters. Some of the best surviving ac-
even employed by non-Christians, according to Acts. Chap-
counts of exorcisms during this time period are set at saints’
ter nineteen describes some Jews in Ephesus who attempt to
tombs, and certain shrines became known as centers of exor-
cast out demons in Jesus’ name, though without success.
cistic healing. The arm relic of John Gualbert of Florence
(999–1073 CE), for example, was famed for its exorcistic
Late antiquity and the Middle Ages. As in Jesus’ own
properties, and the miracle accounts recorded at his shrine
early career, exorcism was an important element in winning
in the later Middle Ages include a number of healings of the
new converts for the early generations of the Jesus Move-
possessed. In some cases, families traveled considerable dis-
ment. The second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr
tances for an exorcism of a relative, vowing particular devo-
characterized exorcism as a particularly impressive gift
tion to the saint if he or she provided aid to the possessed
among Christians, noting that any demon, no matter how
at the end of the pilgrimage.
powerful, became submissive when conjured in Jesus’ name.
Indeed exorcism became a competitive arena in which
Exorcisms by living saints or their relics were not the
Roman Christians claimed triumph over Jewish and pagan
only means of casting out demons, however. Medieval peo-
rivals, suggesting that their conjurations of demons were
ple also employed a number of other techniques, often in a
more efficacious than any other form of healing. Peter Brown
somewhat improvisational manner. Friends, family, and reli-
has shown in “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in
gious professionals might try to cast out the demon through
Late Antiquity” (1982) that the essential mark of the early
prayer and fasting; by showing the demoniac religious paint-
Christian holy person was his or her charismatic ability to
ings; by placing relics or books of Scripture on the victim’s
exorcise, and Christian saints became closely associated with
head or body; through anointing with holy water, holy oil,
this activity. Thus when a little girl in fourth-century Syria
or blessed salt; or by giving the demoniac a consecrated Eu-
wished to parody a monk in order to entertain her compan-
charistic wafer.
ions, she did so by pretending to exorcise them with all due
Medieval popular culture included its own notions of
spirit possession and of appropriate remedies as well. Many
With the Christian community growing in numbers,
contemporary texts attest to the northern European belief
the church began to require the exorcism both of adult con-
that demons could invade dead bodies, animate them, and
verts and of infants at baptism. The earliest Catholic baptis-
use them for nefarious purposes. In such cases, the preferred
mal liturgy incorporated exorcisms; one function of godpar-
solution to the problem was to destroy the corpse as fully as
ents, in cases of infant baptism, was to answer for the child
possible. In Mediterranean regions, the spirits that possessed
when the exorcist asked, “Do you renounce the devil and all
the living were often identified as ghosts rather than as de-
his works?” In consequence of this development, by the third
mons. As for cures, the possessed sometimes were immersed
century a designated exorcist was required in every Christian
in a running body of water as a form of cure. In some areas
community. Documents from this time period make note of
local men made names for themselves as secular exorcists and
a formal order of exorcists that constituted a lowly step on
healers, each with his own unique formula, rhyming jingles,
the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Fourth Council of Carthage
and other procedures. Thus medieval cultures held diverse
in 398
notions of spirit possession and exorcism in addition to pure-
CE is the first surviving text to prescribe the rite of
ordination for an exorcist: “When an Exorcist is Ordained:
ly ecclesiastical definitions.
Let him accept from the hand of the priest the little book
The emergence of a liturgical rite in the fifteenth cen-
in which the exorcisms are written, and let the priest say to
tury. The fifteenth century marked an important turning
him, ‘Take this and memorize it, and may you have the
point in the history of exorcism within the Catholic Church.
power of laying on hands upon an energumen, whether bap-
At this time, as Caciola (2003) has shown, the church began
tized or a catechumen’” (Caciola, 2003, p. 229).
to use formal scripted, liturgical exorcisms, numerous exam-
ples of which are preserved in manuscripts. The change likely
As Christianity spread into northern Europe and be-
stemmed from a desire on the part of the Catholic hierarchy
came a dominant institution in the medieval west, exorcism
to standardize practices of exorcism at a time when the num-
practices continued to evolve. Whereas the order of exorcists
ber of reported possessions remained high. In so doing the
slowly declined in importance and eventually disappeared
church also arrogated control over the process of exorcism
from view, descriptions of exorcisms performed by saints
to the ecclesiastical hierarchy rather than allowing decentral-
vastly increased. Medieval hagiographies frequently mention
ized and improvised practices of exorcism to persist.
exorcisms performed during their subjects’ lifetimes as well
as postmortem exorcisms accomplished by the saints’ relics
Liturgical exorcisms are a species of clamor, a family of
or tombs. This development accelerated after the twelfth
ritual forms that cry out to God for aid against oppressors.
century, when accounts of demonic possession saw an expo-
Other examples of this kind of ritual include excommunica-
nential increase in hagiographical texts. Bernard of Clairvaux
tions, humiliations, and maledictions. These exorcisms also
(1090–1153 CE), for example, was credited with many per-
are intimately related to the baptismal liturgy, repeating ver-
sonal exorcisms, whereas Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179
bal formulations from the baptismal rite as well as other ele-
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ments, such as the blessing of salt and water. A third textual
estant texts satirized the splashing of holy water and frequent
precedent for these rites is Jewish conjurations, particularly
crossing of demoniacs performed by Catholic exorcists, de-
the inclusion of exhaustive compendia of the names of God.
riding them alternately as “superstition,” “empty rituals,” or
Indeed liturgical exorcisms are rife with lists of all kinds:
“magic.” Yet beneath this general atmosphere of rejection lay
those that recount events from the life of Jesus; that call upon
a diversity of attitudes toward exorcism. Some reformers, like
the aid of all the saints and the hierarchy of angels; that cast
John Calvin (1509–1564) and Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531),
the demon forth from each body part; and that imagine vivid
rejected all ritual exorcism; others, however, were less radical
apocalyptic scenarios of demonic defeat and eternal torment.
in their approaches. Martin Luther (1483–1546), for exam-
Several manuscripts of exorcism suggest the use of demonic
ple, defended the use of traditional rites of exorcism during
language in order to gain control over the possessing spirit,
infant baptisms, deeming them a kind of prayer on behalf
incorporating brief spells composed of unintelligible words
of the infant for divine protection. Most Protestant groups
that are said to have been personally composed by the devil.
eschewed liturgies of exorcism for adults but did not reject
After conjuring the demon in its own language, the exorcist
simpler forms of exorcism through prayer and fasting, view-
may then proceed to inquire into its precise status, its reason
ing them as acceptable pleas for divine aid against possessing
for invading the victim, and its requirements for a successful
expulsion. The following quotation from a manuscript held
in Munich gives a sense of how a typical liturgical exorcism
Among Catholics, belief in the benefits of ritual exor-
cism continued to flourish unabated. Many elements of the
liturgy that was formulated in the fifteenth century were cod-
Take the head of the possessed person in your left hand
ified in 1614 in the official Roman Ritual. Also during this
and place your right thumb in the possessed person’s
time period, plural possessions and group exorcisms became
mouth, saying the following words in both ears: ABRE
a common Catholic form of the phenomenon, usually in a
convent setting. The most famous case is the 1634 account
of possessed nuns of Loudon studied by Michel de Certeau
CENT ALAPHIE. Then hold him firmly and say these
in The Possession at Loudon (1996), but plural possessions
conjurations: I conjure you, evil spirits, by the terrible
name of God Agla. . . . I also conjure you by the great
also occurred in Spain, Italy, the Low Countries, and France
name Pneumaton and by the name Ysiton, that you as-
from the mid–sixteenth century through the early seven-
cend to the tongue and give me a laugh. If they do not
teenth century.
respond, then know that they are mute spirits. The ex-
Some possession cases became closely bound up with
orcist should diligently discover and require whether it
is incubi, or succubi, or even dragons that possesses the
the witchcraft persecutions; demonological literature taught
obsessed person; whether they are attendants of Pluto,
that witches could send demons to possess their enemies.
or servants of Satan, or disciples of Astaroth; if they are
The priest of Loudon, Urbain Grandier (1590?–1634), ulti-
from the east or the west; from noonday or evening;
mately was convicted of having bewitched the nuns. For this
from the air, earth, water, fire, or whatever kind of
crime, he paid with his life. Likewise the eighteenth-century
spirit. (Caciola, pp. 248–249)
Puritan witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts, originated
with charges that the witches had caused their young accusers
It was believed that once the demon was made to answer
to be possessed.
questions about itself (either through use of the demonic lan-
guage or through some other constraint) it would be easier
A significant aspect of exorcism in this time period is
to exorcise.
the degree to which spectacular cases of possession and exor-
cism entered into public discourse and became causes célè-
The liturgy continues with insults to the demon, com-
bres. Due to the spread of print technology, for the first time
mands for it to depart, and prayers for divine aid, as well as
such events could be widely known about and discussed. The
Bible readings interspersed with lists of body parts, saints, an-
publicity provided by pamphlets and broadsides, combined
gels, and the names of God. Throughout the rite, the exorcist
with the fractious confessional politics of the day, made exor-
is frequently directed to make the sign of the cross over the
cism a vehicle of Catholic polemic against Protestants and
victim or to sprinkle him or her with holy water. The rite
Jews. This dynamic was first noted by Daniel Pickering
usually concludes with a prayer of thanksgiving and a plea
Walker in Unclean Spirits (1981). Thus Nicole Obry, a
for future protection against similar attacks. This basic tem-
young Catholic woman who became possessed in 1565 and
plate was to persist as the basis for the liturgy of exorcism
was publicly exorcised in the city of Laon, regaled the vast
for centuries.
crowds attending the event in the voice of her possessing
The Reformation and beyond. The Reformation peri-
demon, which confessed that it was close friends with the
od saw a notable increase in demonological phenomena,
Huguenots (preferring them even to the Jews) and that it sus-
most notably the witch hunts that came to a peak in this time
tained the greatest torment when young Nicole was given the
period. Whereas the reformers accepted the possibility of de-
Eucharist. Here insults to other religious traditions were
monic possession, they nevertheless opened a vigorous de-
combined with an endorsement of the Catholic doctrine of
bate over the efficacy of liturgical exorcism as a remedy. Prot-
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Nicole’s case was widely copied, most notably in the
Some modern American Protestant groups have become
subsequent generation by the famous demoniac Marthe
interested in possession and exorcism as well. The beginnings
Brossier (1573–16??). Protestant groups were unable to en-
of modern Pentecostalism in the early twentieth century fos-
gage in widespread counterpropaganda, however, because
tered a broad, interdenominational movement of Christian
they rejected exorcism for the most part. In England, the
charismatics who placed direct spiritual interventions at the
Protestant minister John Darrell became famed in the 1590s
center of their theology. Some modern charismatics practice
for exorcisms achieved through prayer and fasting, but the
exorcism or “deliverance,” as documented by Michael Cuneo
accounts of these cases lack the explicitly propagandistic ele-
in American Exorcism. Although deliverances can take many
ments of the Catholic cases. In a slightly different polemical
different forms according to the individual practitioner, the
vein, a sixteenth-century Catholic exorcist conjured the de-
majority are simple prayer sessions for the victim’s relief. The
mons afflicting a group of young Roman girls who had been
most extensive deliverances include a clairvoyant discern-
converted from Judaism. These demons explained their pres-
ment of spirits, in which a specialist intuits what type of
ence as the result of a curse laid upon the girls by their fathers
demon is afflicting the individual: a demon of lust, stubborn-
who, angry at the loss of their children, summoned forth de-
ness, greed, or other sin. In rare cases, the demon may be
mons to possess them.
identified as an entity of “intergenerational evil,” an inherit-
Exorcism declined in Europe during the eighteenth cen-
ed demon dedicated to afflicting a particular bloodline; such
tury, though it never entirely disappeared. Indeed profes-
a diagnosis is particularly likely when the individual request-
sional exorcists like German Johann Joseph Gassner (1727–
ing deliverance has a family history involving violence or
1779) continued to appear. Among the educated classes,
mental illness. More formal rites of deliverance often begin
however, symptoms that traditionally had led to a diagnosis
with a binding of the devil, in which the indwelling demon
of demonic possession increasingly came to be regarded as
is adjured, in the name of Jesus, to remain calm and desist
indicators of natural pathologies like hysteria, epilepsy, or
from thrashing about inside the victim. Next is the prayer
melancholia. Although naturalistic diagnoses for “possessed
phase, which may be accompanied by fasting and a laying
behaviors” had been available since the twelfth century, the
on of hands. As with Catholic traditionalists who practice ex-
eighteenth century saw a more definitive shift in favor of
orcism, Protestant charismatics interested in deliverance tend
medical epistemologies. In consequence exorcism was less
to be social conservatives opposed to the increasing theologi-
frequently indicated as a cure.
cal liberalism of the mainline churches.
The contemporary Christian Churches. Perhaps the
JUDAISM. Judaism does not have a strongly attested focus on
best-known modern image of the rite of exorcism derives
spirit possession and exorcism before the middle of the six-
from the 1973 film The Exorcist, based on the 1971 novel
teenth century. At that time belief in possession by reincar-
of the same title by William Peter Blatty (b. 1928). Though
nate spirits of the dead began to emerge in the Sephardic
the account is fictionalized, Blatty’s story of a demonically
Jewish community of Safed in the Galilee. These ideas even-
possessed little girl was based upon a 1949 case of prolonged
tually were disseminated to eastern European Jewish com-
exorcism of a young Lutheran boy by a Catholic priest. The
munities, becoming particularly vigorous among eighteenth-
film spurred a revival of interest in exorcism in the United
and nineteenth-century Hasidic groups. The most familiar
States, and Catholic bishops began receiving more and more
term for the possessing spirit, dybbuk, came into use only in
requests for the procedure. Only a small proportion of such
the late seventeenth century, but it is employed by scholars
requests were granted because twentieth-century Catholic of-
of Judaism to refer to possession by a ghost even in earlier
ficials regard genuine demonic possession as an extremely
rare phenomenon that is easily confounded with natural
mental disturbances. In recognition of this stance, the Vati-
Early history. The earliest account of an exorcism in
can in 1999 updated the ritual of exorcism for the first time
Jewish tradition is 1 Samuel 16:14–23. The text recounts
since 1614, advising consultation with doctors and psycholo-
how after the spirit of YHWH departed from King Saul, an
gists in order to rule out organic pathologies; however, the
evil spirit began to torment him. Saul’s counselors suggest
twenty-seven-page exorcism ritual was left largely intact.
that music may be able to soothe his affliction, and David
is brought to him to play the lyre. The sweet strains of the
Whereas the Catholic hierarchy preaches restraint in re-
music succeed in exorcising the spirit from Saul whenever he
gard to exorcism, certain Catholic communities reject this
feels invaded by its presence.
stance along with many other features of the modern church.
The most active Catholic exorcists of the late twentieth cen-
This is the sole account of spirit possession and exorcism
tury belonged to conservative groups that rejected the re-
in the Hebrew Bible. By the Second Temple period, howev-
forms of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), especial-
er, the invasions of demons and forms of spiritual healing
ly the abandonment of the Latin Tridentine Mass. These
had become more prominent within Judaism. These phe-
exorcists contended that the new Mass left the faithful un-
nomena were central features of the career of Jesus, for in-
protected against demonic attack and believed that as a result
stance, as he traveled through the Jewish communities of
of Vatican II, the number of possessions had increased expo-
first-century Palestine. The Qumran texts likewise place sig-
nificant emphasis upon demonic attacks and human coun-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

terattacks, often in the form of protective spells, whereas
Already in the late fourteenth century, Spanish qabbalis-
scattered tales in rabbinic literature recount exorcisms by
tic literature had begun to explore the notion of Eibbur,
particularly righteous Jewish teachers.
“pregnancy,” as a form of spirit possession. The term was
used to designate the invasion of a living human being by
Surviving bits of material culture testify to the contem-
the transmigrating spirit of a deceased person, thus suggest-
porary interest in exorcism as well, particularly a number of
ing the coexistence of two souls within a single body. The
bowls inscribed with Aramaic exorcisms that utilize a legalis-
sixteenth-century Safedian qabbalists expanded upon this
tic language of divorcing the spirit. Josephus (37–c. 100 CE)
tradition significantly. Although Eibbur could involve either
provides a story about contemporary Jewish exorcism tech-
benign or maleficent dead spirits, the concern here is with
niques that he ascribes to traditions originating with King
the latter.
Solomon. According to this author, an exorcist named Elea-
zar gained fame for the efficacy of his cures and even was
The qabbalists explained that the soul of a sinful person
called upon to demonstrate his prowess before the emperor
might not be permitted to enter into Gehenna directly upon
Vespasian (9–79 CE) along with all his court and army. Elea-
death but instead would wander, disembodied and subject
zar’s secret was to draw the demons out from the possessed
to beatings from angels of destruction. Seeking refuge from
person’s body by employing a certain root, discovered by
the angels, such a spirit would seek to enter into a physical
Solomon, which was encased in a ring. By holding the ring
body—either animal or human—for shelter; human bodies
to a demoniac’s nose, he allowed that person to inhale the
could be made vulnerable to such invasion through certain
scent of the root, then he extracted the demon from the vic-
sins. Exorcism of the spirit should ideally be conducted in
tim’s body through the nostrils.
the presence of witnesses, a minyan of ten men. Because the
ritual did not follow an invariant form, elements such as ex-
Accounts of exorcism are rare in medieval Jewish
tensive suffumigation of the victim with strong incense, the
sources, although—as attested in the articles collected by
blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) into the possessed’s ear,
Matt Goldish in Spirit Possession in Judaism (2003)—many
and invocation of the names of God were used to force the
scholars believe that the practice itself persisted. Medieval
dybbuk to reveal its own name and background. Once the
Catholic exorcisms include elements drawn from Jewish tra-
identity of the spirit was established, the exorcist might con-
dition, such as the use of lists of the names of God and the
verse with it, asking questions about its own former life and
acronym AGLA (for Atah Gibbor Le- Eolam Adonai, “You are
sins as well as seeking information about the afterlife. The
mighty forever, my Lord”). This interreligious borrowing
dybbuk was often adjured to exit the victim by the big toe,
may suggest that Jewish exorcism traditions remained in
lest the victim choke if it left via the throat. After the depar-
common use. An early-sixteenth-century compilation of
ture, the victim was to be given a protective amulet to wear
Jewish magical and exorcism texts, the Shoshan Yesod
to fend off further spiritual infestations. Texts recounting fa-
ha- EOlam, testifies to a vigorous tradition of spiritual heal-
mous exorcisms served hagiographic functions, glorifying the
ing; the book likely incorporates many older traditions that
rabbi who performed a successful expulsion. This is true not
are not attested in surviving earlier literature. The exorcisms
only of sixteenth-century Safed but of the later history of the
here are liturgical in character, involving verbal conjurations
dybbuk phenomenon as well.
of demons and commands to depart. One formula adjures
the demon, by the seventy-two names of God, to reveal its
It is notable that, in cases of dybbuk possession, the com-
own name and parentage, then requires it to depart from the
passion of rabbinic exorcists was directed not only toward the
human body and enter into a flask that the exorcist is direct-
possessed victim but also toward the possessing spirit. Be-
ed to have handy.
cause the latter was conceived as human, it too merited a de-
gree of concern and healing. Thus even as the exorcist cast
The emergence of dybbuk possession in the sixteenth
the demon out from the body it possessed, he often sought
century. In the sixteenth century spirit possession under-
to discover how to help the dybbuk achieve tikkun, or rectifi-
went a significant resurgence and evolution within Jewish
cation. If the spirit were permitted to enter Gehenna, it could
thought. Beginning with the case of a young boy in the
then find rest and cease tormenting other living beings. This
1540s, the Galilean village of Safed became the epicenter of
sympathetic feature of Jewish dybbuk exorcism could not
a new series of sensational possessions and exorcisms, several
find a counterpart in earlier Jewish traditions or in Christian
of which were associated with the circle of the qabbalist
traditions, which conceive of the possessing spirits as un-
Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534–1572). Not only was possession
redeemable and demonic.
suddenly a renewed topic of reportage, but the terms in
which it was envisioned seem to have shifted. Whereas earlier
Later developments. The Eibbur form of possession ap-
Jewish attestations of exorcism usually refer to the possessing
peared in 1575 in Ferrara, Italy, where the spirit possessing
spirit as a demon, the cases in Safed (which in the early twen-
a Jewish woman claimed it was the ghost of a recently execut-
ty-first century have received sustained treatment from Jef-
ed Christian. Scholars are divided as to whether this and sub-
frey H. Chajes in Between Worlds [2003]) constitute the first
sequent Italian cases resulted from a dissemination of Luri-
detailed descriptions of possessing spirits conceived as trans-
anic notions of possession and exorcism or arose from other
migratory souls of the dead.
contingencies. In the seventeenth century the Italian rabbi
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Moses Zacuto (1625–1697) became well known as an exor-
Participants in the za¯r dance not with one another but
cist, engaging the topic repeatedly in his correspondence.
with their individual za¯r masters. Thus the action, while col-
lective, is not truly communal. After the private za¯r ceremo-
By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries dybbuk pos-
ny—sponsored by the family of the new initiate—the initiate
session had become common in eastern European Hasidic
will likely join a regular public za¯r group or hadrah. The ha-
communities; the term dybbuk is first attested in a Yiddish
drah meets regularly, usually on a weekly basis, and each par-
pamphlet published around 1680 in Volhynia. Sholom
ticipant contributes funds to pay for the drummers and to
Anski’s (1863–1920) 1910s play The Dybbuk; or, Between
support the kudra. The repetition of the dance ritual each
Two Worlds, which is set in a Hasidic context, popularized
week keeps the za¯r master quiet within the victim, allowing
and romanticized the notion of ghostly possession. Like Blat-
her to pursue her normal life in all other ways.
ty’s The Exorcist, the story ultimately may have influenced
the course of the religious phenomenon on the ground.
QurDanic healing. QurDanic healing is a true exorcism
Cases of dybbuk possession reminiscent of Anski’s narrative
that definitively drives out the invasive spirits, which in this
have been reported in modern Israel and have begun to be
case are often jinn or shayatin, though they can be za¯r masters
studied by modern folklorists and anthropologists.
as well. The healing usually is conducted by a sheik who spe-
cializes in QurDanic exorcism on the grounds of a mosque,
perhaps in an upstairs room or other chamber; as with za¯r
ic Egypt, spirit possession may be managed by one of two
ceremonies, these usually are group meetings with several
means: through QurDanic healing or participation in a za¯r
possessed persons in attendance at once. Paticipants are seg-
cult. Islamic demonology is extensive, and the choice of
regated by sex, either by some form of barrier or by designat-
which form of healing to pursue is in part a reflection of how
ing different days of the week for gatherings of men and of
the inhabiting spirit is identified.
women. Nevertheless in Egypt—as in other parts of the
world—spirit possession tends to afflict women more often
Za¯r. Za¯r, a relatively recent invention dating only to the
than men. QurDanic healers consider themselves as a more or-
1870s, is a form of participatory ritual group healing found
thodox alternative to the za¯r cult, which they tend to deride
in several East African countries. Dominated by women, za¯r
as superstitious, corrupt, and anti-Islamic.
cults involve regular meetings at which participants dance to
drumming with the goal of entering into individual trance
The rite begins with a rapid sequence of prayers, recited
states. Islamic authorities in Egypt often denounce za¯r as a
either by the sheik himself, one of his assistants, or the whole
vulgar superstition held by women too ignorant to realize
group. As the prayers go on, some of the possessed are likely
that their actions are un-Islamic. Participants, however, re-
to become excited and to begin writhing and crying out. At
gard the meetings as fully compatible with Islamic tradition.
this point the assistants direct their prayers more loudly and
forcefully at that individual; they may strike her with a stick
Strictly speaking, the za¯r cult is not a complete form of
while repeatedly shouting at the jinn to get out immediately.
exorcism but rather a recurrent form of pacification. The
Eventually the exorcist or his assistant conjures the demon,
goal of the ceremony is to learn to coexist with the spirit, or
asking its name, other details of its identity, and its reasons
za¯r master, by temporarily lessening the intensity of the spir-
for possessing the victim. One may be possessed by a jinn
it’s hold upon the individual. As documented by Gerda
for a variety of offenses, including such sins as hitting a cat.
Sengers in Women and Demons (2003), the beginning of in-
If the demon turns out not to be Muslim, it is given the
volvement with za¯r is customarily a private initiation cere-
chance to convert. The spirit is then required to enter into
mony paid for by the possessed victim and attended by
the possessed person’s finger and to indicate its presence
friends, family, and other women who are possessed. After
there by lifting that digit. The exorcist then pricks that finger
an opening prayer drawn from the QurDa¯n, several different
with a needle, drawing a drop of blood and forcing the spirit
drum bands perform in sequence; their purpose is to get the
out with it. After the rite, the victim is often counseled to
participants dancing and help spur the onset of a trance. The
adopt a higher level of piety in everyday life by, for example,
new “za¯r bride,” dressed in a long white tunic, is led by the
dressing more modestly or praying more often.
kudya, a za¯r specialist who has assisted in the diagnosis of
the victim’s illness and identification of her invading spirit,
or za¯r master. These may be of several kinds, including
tic and cultural diversity of the Indian subcontinent is paral-
(among others) Gado, master of the toilet; the atheist za¯r
leled by a wide degree of variance in exorcism practices. Cer-
master known as the Red Sultan; the Sultan of the Sea, who
tain spirit possession beliefs are widespread in India, such as
affects the brains; and even Christian za¯r masters. (The latter
the frequency with which ghosts as well as demons possess
are easily identified because they make their victims desire
the living; the predominance of women among the pos-
alcohol, which normally is forbidden to Muslims but allowed
sessed; the belief that possession may sometimes be caused
to those possessed by Christian za¯r masters at za¯r ceremo-
by another person’s act of sorcery; and the retrospective diag-
nies.) Za¯r masters often have negative qualities and cause dis-
nosis of the onset of possession as occurring at a moment
tress or illness, but they are distinct from the more purely evil
when the victim was alone and felt a sudden fear. Regional
Islamic demons and devils known as jinn and shayatin.
variations in possession beliefs—and especially in exorcism
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

techniques—however, are legion. Indeed even within a sin-
of supernatural threats and material sacrifices. The negotia-
gle locale there may be several different exorcism techniques
tion between the two possessed individuals may consume
in play.
many hours, with the goddess-exorcist demanding that the
pey leave and hurling insults at it and the ghost attempting
North India: The Balaji temple. The North Indian
to retain hold of the possessed woman and requiring various
town of Mehndipur, Rajasthan, is home to the Balaji temple,
gifts or sacrifices before agreeing to exit. The exorcists who
dedicated to the monkey god Hanuma¯n. The latter deity is
“dance the goddess” may resort to physical violence against
an apt choice for a divine exorcist, for he is a heroic figure
the pey, beating the possessed or pulling her hair in order to
drawn from the epic Ra¯ma¯yan:a, which recounts his devoted
convince the spirit inside that it must acquiesce and depart.
service to Ra¯ma during a protracted battle with the Sri Lan-
This form of exorcism conceives of the struggle for healing
kan demon Ra¯van:a. The Balaji temple is famed throughout
as properly a battle between supernatural beings—the ghost
Rajasthan and neighboring states for its successful exorcisms,
versus the goddess—who nonetheless act through and on
attracting the possessed from as far away as Delhi. Indeed the
human bodies. The long hours of music, the dance, the con-
Balaji temple has long been a popular pilgrimage destination:
frontation between the two possessing personalities, and the
it invariably is filled with supplicants come to ask the mon-
ultimate triumph of the goddess-exorcist provides healing for
key god for release from possessing spirits of the dead, from
the possessed victim as well as entertainment for the local
demons of the Hindu pantheon, and even sometimes from
Muslim jinn.
This counterpossession model of exorcism is supple-
Exorcisms performed at the temple are collective in
mented by local practices with a more restricted geographic
character. Together caregivers and temple priests intone
range. In the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu, for in-
prayers to Hanuma¯n, with the goal of initiating the victims
stance, exorcisms sometimes are conducted by troupes of
into an altered state of consciousness or trance (peshi).
musicians known as pampaikkarar. The exorcism in this in-
Though the latter often involves convulsions, loud shrieking,
stance begins with a singer attempting to lure the possessed
and other extreme behaviors, peshi is held to be a prerequisite
woman into a state of trance, after which the ghost who is
for healing. Victims may return to the temple for several suc-
possessing her may be interviewed. The details of its biogra-
cessive days before achieving peshi, but once the catharsis of
phy, death story, and the circumstances surrounding its pos-
trance is achieved and then exited, the victim is likely to be
session of the victim are elicited; indeed the ghost is encour-
considered on the road to complete healing. The process may
aged to explain its restlessness and its desires. As the music
be swift or slow, depending on the number and nature of the
continues into the night, it is not uncommon for bystanders
possessing spirits. After the exorcism, the newly healed indi-
to dance the goddess, thus combining the better-known ritu-
vidual may report having received from Hanuma¯n a protec-
al with the more localized practice.
tive spirit, or dut, to help guard against future attacks.
After the possessing spirit and its grievances have been
South India. In South India, possession most frequent-
identified, the musicians negotiate with it, promising a sacri-
ly afflicts new, young brides; the spirit usually (though not
fice in return for its pledge to depart. The spirit is asked to
invariably) is described as the ghost of a young man. Thus
identify the specific lock of the victim’s hair in which it re-
the possession state frequently has a sexual aspect that is ex-
sides; this tress is then tied into a knot over the protestations
plicitly articulated within the local understanding of these
of the pey, which may complain that the action is painful.
events. The ghosts or peys that afflict the victims often died
Afterward the sacrifice, a chicken, is offered, with its severed
unmarried; indeed a common reason for becoming this type
head being placed in the victim’s mouth. This action shocks
of restless, possessing spirit is suicide because of unfulfilled
and frightens the pey and represents the beginnings of the ac-
love. These lonely ghosts of the untimely dead may become
tual expulsion. The possessed is then handed a large stone,
attracted to a lovely young bride with a still-fresh scent of
said to represent “the weight of the pey’s desire,” and is herd-
sexual initiation about her and try to “catch” or possess her,
ed toward the nearest tamarind tree. After the possessed per-
often gaining entry through the woman’s hair. Afterward the
son reaches the tree, the rock is laid at its roots, and the knot-
spirit becomes jealous and impels the woman to reject the
ted lock of hair that contains the spirit is cut from the
sexual advances of her husband: this act often is the initiating
possessed woman’s head and nailed to the trunk. Following
event in a diagnosis of possession.
this the exorcism is complete and the victim is considered
The exorcism ritual used to cure such afflictions usually
healed. The culminating actions of the exorcism have been
involves a controlled, benign counterpossession. Here exor-
interpreted by Isabelle Nabokov in her article “Expel the
cists are specialists in dance techniques that enable them to
Lover, Recover the Wife” (1997) as representing the final
enter into a state of trance, during which they incarnate a fe-
“divorce” of the lonely ghost from its victim and its “remar-
male deity like Ka¯l¯ı or Ankalaparamecuvari. The rite is
riage” to the tamarind tree, understood as a female entity in
known as “dancing the goddess.” Because these deities are
Tamil culture. When the pey’s desire is given to the tamarind
of superior power to the possessing ghost or demon, once the
and the pey is severed from the woman and united with the
medium has become voluntarily possessed, the incarnate
tree, the affections of the lonely ghost are thereby redirected
goddess is able to drive out the pey through a combination
to a nonhuman object.
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(1997), have vigorously disputed the notion that exorcism
long attracted attention from academics, thus becoming a
acts to advance the interests of marginal groups, interpreting
category of scholarly analysis as well as of religious practice.
its symbolism as, rather, a means of asserting the hegemony
The comments below identify some major strands in the in-
of dominant cultural values. Nevertheless Lewis’s “social de-
terpretation of exorcism emanating from within the disci-
privation analysis” remains a dominant influence in anthro-
plines of anthropology, psychology, and history. Many of
pological studies of exorcism. Lewis renewed his analysis in
these analyses have tried to address the question of why
a follow-up study published in 1986, Religion in Context; this
women predominate in reports of possession and exorcism.
work in turn was reissued in an expanded edition in 1996.
Anthropology. In the late nineteenth century and early
Psychology. The interest of psychologists in possession
twentieth century, the foundational literature of cultural an-
and exorcism originates with Sigmund Freud, who in the
thropology gave prominent place to divergent cultural con-
1920s wrote about the seventeenth-century case of the paint-
ceptualizations of spirits, their capabilities, and human re-
er Christopher Haizmann. (A translation of this work is in
sponses to them. This focus was characteristic of the early
Brian Levack, Possession and Exorcism [1992].) Regarding ac-
anthropological approach to so-called “folk” religions,
counts of Haizmann’s possession as descriptions of a “de-
viewed as largely indistinguishable from culture, in contra-
monological neurosis,” Freud presented an elaborate inter-
distinction to “historical” religions, based on scriptural can-
pretation centered on Haizmann’s depression due to the
ons and textual precedents. Thus the anthropological litera-
death of a close relative, whom Freud assumes to be Haiz-
ture on spirit possession and exorcism has a long and
mann’s father. The devil, Freud writes, entered into a con-
complex history within the discipline.
tract with Haizmann in which he agreed to serve as the paint-
er’s father figure for a term of nine years. Freud argues that
A well-known modern anthropological analysis of spirit
the use of the number nine in relation to a span of time re-
possession and exorcism is I. M. Lewis’s important 1971
veals Haizmann’s adhesion to a feminine aspect in relation
work, Ecstatic Religion. Lewis was struck by the frequency
to his father, indeed “a long-repressed phantasy of pregnan-
with which socially marginal groups, particularly young
cy” (nine being the number of months of gestation), com-
women, were involuntarily overtaken by spirits, a phenome-
bined with a strong castration anxiety (Levack, 1992, p. 90).
non he termed “peripheral possession.” He further noted
Haizmann’s eventual release through exorcisms and a pil-
that, while in a state of possession, the women often gained
grimage to a shrine to the Virgin Mary signal Haizmann’s
prestige and were able to act in more assertive ways than was
salutary turn toward another substitute parent, the mother.
the case in their regular daily lives. Thus they might openly
Through maternal intervention, Haizmann is sufficiently
critique their husbands or relatives, shirk household duties,
healed to enter into a religious order, thus finding a more
or act in ways deemed immodest or inappropriate for their
appropriate father substitute in these “fathers of the church.”
cultural settings. Lewis suggested that the reason for
women’s predominance among the spirit possessed in nearly
Nevertheless Freud’s interest in these phenomena set
all cultures is related to a covert desire for status enhance-
the stage for further psychohistorical and ethnopsychological
ment. Women’s possessing spirits allowed them to articulate
investigations into possession and exorcism. Understandings
resentments and desires that they normally would have had
of spirit possession as a culturally constructed idiom for ex-
to suppress while simultaneously permitting them to disavow
pressing repressed or illicit desires, as forms of wish fulfill-
personal responsibility for their transgressive actions. This
ment, as involving supernatural parent or lover substitutes,
dynamic only reached its fullest expression, however, in the
or as representative of sexual anxieties and identity distur-
process of exorcism, which in many cultures takes the form
bances are now a significant component of the scholarly liter-
of bargaining with the spirits to depart. The spirit may de-
ature. Once again the predominance of young women
mand a series of concessions before agreeing to leave, often
among the possessed has proven particularly provocative to
in the form of material gifts of direct benefit to the possessed
scholars because the notion of physical penetration by a spir-
woman: a feast, new clothes, or some other special treat.
it, often conceived as male, lends itself both to a psychosexual
analysis and also potentially to a diagnosis of disturbed gen-
Many scholars have suggested alternatives to Lewis’s
der identity.
analysis or raised critiques to his approach. Bruce Kapferer,
in his 1983 study of exorcism in Sri Lanka, A Celebration of
Exorcisms have been regarded as having therapeutic
Demons, argued that Lewis overvalued individual motiva-
value in part because they are couched in the same idiom as
tions and self-determination and undervalued broader cul-
the patient’s own expression of neurosis while nonetheless
tural forces that symbolically align women with the sphere
orchestrating the same kind of emotional buildup and ca-
of the demonic and the unclean. Other scholars, including
tharsis that underlay Freud’s early psychoanalyses. The em-
Janice Boddy in her review article “Spirit Possession Revisit-
phasis upon social reintegration that is central to many exor-
ed” (1994), have called for a reframing of the question that
cism rites has been seen as a cipher for the reintegration of
moves “beyond instrumentality” to discuss broader notions
the individual sufferer’s psychic or sexual self: “the expulsion
of gender, body, and social organization that mitigate a nar-
of the masculine and the resumption of an unfragmented
rowly functionalist view. Others, like Isabelle Nabokov
conventional sexual identity,” according to Lyndal Roper in
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Oedipus and the Devil (Roper, 1994, p. 191). Conversely, the
through her mouth: her lips and tongue pronounced the
psychological commonplace of “exorcising inner demons”
spirit’s sentiments and experiences. Thus for Certeau, the
forces a convergence between religious and psychoanalytic
speech of the possessed woman was a logical paradox that ex-
idioms. Exorcism and therapy are thereby defined as differ-
isted outside normally comprehensible speech patterns. The
ent terms for the same healing process.
speaking entity was both male and female, mortal and im-
mortal, powerless and powerful, the victim and the Other.
History. Historians have turned their attention to spirit
possession and exorcism relatively recently as part of the
The processes of exorcism and conjuration of the spirit,
movement toward cultural history (sometimes called history
Certeau suggests, were a means of resolving this logical para-
of mentalities). Whereas the dominant anthropological and
dox by identifying the indwelling spirit. Thus the first goal
psychological interpretations of exorcism focus upon the vic-
of an exorcism always was to categorize the speech of the vic-
tim’s experiences and desires, the leading historians working
tim as the discourse of a specific, indwelling demon known
on this problem emphasize the societal power relations de-
in advance from exorcistic and demonological literature:
ployed in the performance of exorcism. (Indeed Freud’s psy-
Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Leviathan. Through this process, the
choanalysis of Haizmann has been sharply criticized by Eric
exorcism transformed the garbled speech of the possessed
Midelfort in his article “Catholic and Lutheran Reactions to
woman into the recognizable voice of a well-known demon.
Demon Possession in the Late Seventeenth Century”
Naming the demon in turn gave the exorcist power over it:
[Levack, 1992] as anachronistic and individually overdeter-
the conjuration could then proceed as a series of conversa-
mined, with too little consideration given to the structure of
tions between the exorcist and the indwelling demon. Hence
the contextual society.) Thus the focus of historians has been
the exorcist only can gain mastery by identifying the speech
less on the person who is the object of the exorcism and more
of the victim with a specific demonic name, but in the pro-
on the ways practices of exorcism fuel larger social processes.
cess the possessed woman’s identity is occluded. Exorcism is
It has been seen then as either a dynamic or a static social
an assertion of power, Certeau suggests, insofar as it superim-
force, depending on the context.
poses traditional categorizations over the creative potential
of a paradox. It thus acts as a potent tool of social control.
An example of exorcism’s potential to propel change is
provided by the many scholars who have elucidated its value
SEE ALSO Biblical Literature, article on New Testament;
as a catalyst for conversion. These historians have pointed
Christianity, overview article; Christianity and Judaism;
out how successful public exorcisms can be instrumental in
Dybbuk; Egyptian Religion, overview article; Jesus Move-
recruiting new believers to the religion of the exorcising
ment; Judaism, overview article; QurDa¯n, overview article.
group. The rite often seems to have functioned in this way
when practiced within a context of intense competition
Boddy, Janice. Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men, and the Zar
among rival religious systems. As a visible, materially enacted
Cult in Northern Sudan. Madison, Wis., 1989. An explora-
battle with supernatural referents, exorcism easily can be-
tion of the role of fertility and gender roles in Sudanese spirit
come a testing ground for the power of one deity, doctrine,
possession and the za¯r cult.
or practice over another. In other cases, however, exorcism
Boddy, Janice. “Spirit Possession Revisited: Beyond Instrumental-
may be used to reaffirm a potentially threatened continuity
ity.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23 (1994): 407–434. An
with the past. Thus as noted above the fifteenth-century rise
excellent review essay of the major anthropological literature
of liturgical exorcism has been shown to be linked to a broad-
and interpretations.
er struggle on the part of the Catholic hierarchy to reaffirm
Bourgignon, Erika, ed. Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and
its traditional authority at a moment of significant instability
Social Change. Columbus, Ohio, 1973. A classic collection
and stress. Here innovation in the performance of exorcism
of articles with an interdisciplinary perspective.
acted to reinforce the institutional prerogatives of the Catho-
Brown, Peter. “Sorcery, Demons, and the Rise of Christianity.”
lic Church.
In Witchcraft Confessions and Accusations, edited by Mary
Douglas, pp. 17–45. London, 1970. The relationship be-
Perhaps the most elegant historical study of exorcism
tween exorcism and the expansion of the early Christian
has been penned by the French social theorist Michel de
Certeau. The author’s article “Language Altered: The Sorcer-
Brown, Peter. “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late
or’s Speech” in The Writing of History (1988) focuses on the
Antiquity.” In Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity,
ways in which early modern exorcists reasserted the hegemo-
pp. 103–152. Berkeley, Calif., and Los Angeles, 1982. How
ny of written traditions by turning to them for neat categori-
successful exorcisms functioned to cement the saintly reputa-
zations of the untidy, real-life possession cases unfolding be-
tions of holy men in late antiquity.
fore them. Certeau begins by noting that a diagnosis of
Brown, Peter. “Town Village and Holy Man: The Case of Syria.”
possession was usually applied to a woman soon after she
In Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity, pp. 153–165.
manifested a “disturbance of discourse.” No longer an indi-
Berkeley, Calif., and Los Angeles, 1982. Expands upon the
vidual, well-bounded subject, the possessed woman was
previous article with a more specific geographical focus.
viewed as displaced from herself. The invading spirit disrupt-
Caciola, Nancy. “Wraiths, Revenants, and Ritual in Medieval
ed the continuity of the victim’s selfhood by speaking
Culture.” Past and Present 152 (1996): 3–45. A study of the
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

medieval popular-culture belief that demons can possess and
Kapferer, Bruce. A Celebration of Demons: Exorcism and the Aes-
move dead bodies.
thetics of Healing in Sri Lanka. Bloomington, Ind., 1983. De-
Caciola, Nancy. “Spirits Seeking Bodies: Death, Possession, and
tailed exposition of exorcism ceremonies in Sri Lanka with
Communal Memory in the Middle Ages.” In The Place of the
attention to notions of gender and impurity in Sinhalese
Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early
ideas about possession.
Modern Europe, edited by Bruce Gordon and Peter Marshall,
Levack, Brian, ed. Possession and Exorcism. New York, 1992. A
pp. 66–86. Cambridge, U.K., 2000. An exploration of sto-
wonderful sampling that includes Freud’s study of Haiz-
ries of possession by ghosts in medieval popular culture.
mann and a number of other foundational articles.
Caciola, Nancy. Discerning Spirits: Divine and Demonic Possession
Levi, Giovanni. Inheriting Power: The Story of an Exorcist. Trans-
in the Middle Ages. Ithaca, N.Y., 2003. A study of medieval
lated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Chicago, 1988. The story of an
spirit possession, both benign and malign; chapter five ex-
unlicensed, popular exorcist in early modern Italy.
plores the history of exorcism and gives detailed descriptions
of the rite.
Lewis, I. M. Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropoloigical Study of Spirit
Possession and Shamanism. Harmondsworth, U.K., 1971. A
Certeau, Michel de. “Language Altered: The Sorcerer’s Speech.”
classic in the anthropological study of possession with partic-
In The Writing of History, translated by Tom Conley,
ular attention to gender issues and “social deprivation” analy-
pp. 244–268. New York, 1988. A close study of the process
of categorizing spirit possession through the qualification of
the possessed woman’s speech as demonic.
Lewis, I. M. Religion in Context: Cults and Charisma. 2d ed. Cam-
Certeau, Michel de. “What Freud Makes of History: ‘A Seven-
bridge, U.K., 1996. An extension of the positions advanced
teenth-Century Demonological Neurosis.’” In The Writing
in the previous work with more range.
of History, translated by Tom Conley, pp. 287–307. New
Mageo, Jeannette, and Alan Howard. Spirits in Culture, History,
York, 1988. A historian meditates on Freud’s discussion of
and Mind. New York and London, 1996. Focuses on posses-
sion in the cultures of various Pacific islands.
Certeau, Michel de. The Possession at Loudon. Translated by Mi-
Midelfort, Eric. A History of Madness in Sixteenth-Century Germa-
chael Smith. Chicago, 1996. Closely examines the famous
ny. Palo Alto, Calif., 1999. Discusses early modern European
case of plural possession among the nuns of Loudon in the
concepts of madness, spirit possession, and folly.
seventeenth century.
Chajes, Jeffrey H. “Judgements Sweetened: Possession and Exor-
Nabokov, Isabelle. “Expel the Lover, Recover the Wife: Symbolic
cism in Early Modern Jewish Culture.” Journal of Early Mod-
Analysis of a South Indian Exorcism.” Journal of the Royal
ern History 1– 2 (1997): 124–169. A general discussion of
Anthropological Institute 3, no. 2 (1997): 297–316. A fasci-
early modern Jewish belief in possession by ghosts.
nating case study of a local exorcism ritual.
Chajes, Jeffrey H. Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early
Obeyesekere, Gananath. “The Idiom of Demonic Possession: A
Modern Judaism. Philadelphia, 2003. A detailed study of the
Case Study.” Social Science and Medicine 4, no. 1 (1970):
history of Jewish possession and exorcism with emphasis on
97–111. A psychoanalytic approach to Indian spirit
the shift toward dybbuk possession in the sixteenth century;
chapter three presents Jewish technologies of exorcism.
Patai, Raphael. “Exorcism and Xenoglossia among the Safed Kab-
Crapanzano, Vincent, and Vivian Garrison. Case Studies in Spirit
balists.” Journal of American Folklore 91, no. 361 (1978):
Possession. New York, 1977. A classic collection of anthropo-
823–833. Close reading of a case studies in early modern
logical articles.
Jewish exorcism with particular focus on the process of veri-
Csordas, Thomas. The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of
fying the possessing ghost’s identity.
Charismatic Healing. Berkeley, Calif., and Los Angeles,
Roper, Lyndal. Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality, and
1994. Discussion of Catholic Pentecostal faith healing.
Religion in Early Modern Europe. London, 1994. Covers a
Cuneo, Michael. American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land
broad array of topics, including exorcism.
of Plenty. New York, 2001. Investigation into the relation-
Sengers, Gerda. Women and Demons: Cult Healing in Islamic
ship between contemporary American popular culture
Egypt. Leiden, Netherlands, 2003. A detailed study of the za¯r
images of exorcism and the rising demand for real-life
cult and QurDanic healing based on fieldwork in Cairo,
Dyer, Graham. The Divine and the Demonic: Supernatural Afflic-
tion and Its Treatment in North India. London, 2003. A gen-
Sluhovsky, Moshe. “The Devil in the Convent.” American Histori-
eral study of supernatural illness and healing in India with
cal Review 107, no. 5 (2002): 1379–1411. A close study of
focus on the psychology of the emotions involved in these
plural possessions in early modern Europe.
processes; discussion of the Balaji temple.
Tambiah, Stanley. “The Magical Power of Words.” In Culture,
Goldish, Matt, ed. Spirit Possession in Judaism: Cases and Contexts
Thought, and Social Action: An Anthropological Perspective.
from the Middle Ages to the Present. Detroit, Mich., 2003.
Cambridge, Mass., 1985. An important discussion of man-
This excellent collection brings together contributions from
tras and “demonic language” in Sri Lankan exorcisms.
most of the modern scholars working on this topic.
Walker, Daniel Pickering. Unclean Spirits: Possession and Exorcism
Kakar, Sudhir. Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors. Delhi, India, 1981.
in France and England in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seven-
A psychoanalytic approach to Indian religion with discussion
teenth Centuries. Philadelphia 1981. Focuses on the uses of
of the Balaji temple.
public exorcisms for purposes of interreligious propaganda.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Wooley, Reginald. Exorcism and the Healing of the Sick. London,
ing communism. In Solzhenitsyn’s case the demise of the
1932. How possession relates to illness in the Christian
communist regime in the early 1990s enabled him to return
to his beloved country freed from the dictatorial power that
had expelled him.
EXILE. A person can be excommunicated from a community
for denying beliefs held to be central to that community or
for actions judged unacceptable by the community. In such
instances a prescribed path is sometimes offered to enable the
excommunicant to return to the community. Instances of
such banishment and subsequent restoration are in the histo-
ries of such groups as the Amish, the Mennonites, and the
Hutterites. Expulsion from such groups is often the penalty
for some member becoming too “modernistic” in belief or
action. A return is sometimes achieved by the person’s re-
nouncing or recanting her or his offending beliefs or prac-
EXPULSION. Expulsion can be harmful but also benefi-
tices. In such instances the power and authority of the com-
cial, depending on the purposes toward which it is directed.
munity and its traditions is affirmed first by the expulsion
Associated concepts are alienation, banishment, excommuni-
and then by its allowing the offender to return on terms the
cation, exile, exorcism, expurgation, purification, repen-
community establishes. Temporary expulsion is a form of os-
tance, scapegoating, defilement, and cleansing. Greeks, Ro-
tracizing a person or group for a time of chastisement.
mans, and Indians practiced expulsion as a means of exerting
Thus a person can either voluntarily enter into exile to
social control over individuals or groups over millennia.
protest a turn of events within a community, often a nation
Against that cultural background, religious communities
in which a person has held a position of leadership, or one
adopted and adapted expulsion to their own purposes and
can be banished and thereby become an exile. In the instance
provided some of the most dramatic instances of one or an-
of voluntary exile a person makes a principled move aimed
other form of expulsion.
at calling attention to, and seeking allies to oppose, whatever
The story in the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible
is objectionable. In either case, if the situation changes in the
of Yahweh sending Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden
community or nation, the person in exile sometimes returns,
as punishment for their disobedience of his commands is an
even triumphantly. A prominent historical instance of this
archetypal story of expulsion that is widely known, particu-
is the case of Martin Luther (1483–1546), who was declared
larly in the West. One widespread and persistent interpreta-
a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church after the Diet of
tion of the story asserts that ever since that momentous ex-
Worms in 1521 and simultaneously was declared an outlaw
pulsion humans have been estranged and alienated from
by the Holy Roman Empire. However, Luther was protected
their proper relationship with the divine. Religious commu-
by Prince Frederick the Wise against any move Emperor
nities often seek to provide means to restore the relationship,
Charles might have made to enforce the death penalty pro-
sometimes through rituals, sometimes through recommend-
nounced against him.
ed ethical behaviors, sometimes through doctrines said to ar-
After two years in hiding, Luther returned to Witten-
ticulate the proper understanding of the divine-human rela-
berg, the university city in which he had written his critique
tionship to which intellectual assent by believers is required.
of many of the central beliefs and practices of papal Roman
Further narratives abound in the literature of many
Catholicism. That Luther made this return and lived there
other religions indicating that similar experiences occur
until his death in 1546 demonstrates that the power and con-
within their residual memories of the realm of human rela-
trol of both the pope and the Holy Roman emperor were in-
tions as individuals are estranged from and by other individ-
sufficient to make Luther’s expulsion effective. He freely
uals. Humans also experience alienation from themselves and
moved about in those Germanic territories in which he lived.
from their feelings and thoughts, sometimes referred to as
His banishment by and from Catholicism had no practical
“self-alienation.” This underscores the necessity to attend to
consequences for him in that Luther defied both church and
spiritual and psychological dimensions to provide a rounded
Empire and lived to tell the story. In addition, his actions
account of expulsion.
and thoughts led to the emergence of a new interpretation
Being alienated from family, friends, communities, or-
of Christianity called Protestantism.
ganizations, and nations happens as a result of beliefs, ac-
BANISHMENT. Expulsion is neither voluntary, as exile some-
tions, and even attitudes that run counter to prevailing
times is, nor is there usually any possibility of return, as ex-
norms. Although sometimes voluntary, when for principled
communication sometimes offers. Expulsion is a decision
reasons a person goes into exile, more often it is a punish-
made by people holding power to enforce the judgment
ment imposed by others. Think of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn,
against a person or group based on a claim that the larger
banished by Soviet Union in the 1970s for his books criticiz-
community will be improved or enhanced by ridding itself
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

of those objectionable or corrupting people. Such a draconi-
PURIFICATION. There are, however, other considerations
an judgment leaves those expelled without the support of a
pertaining to expulsion. The eminent twentieth-century his-
society or institution. Thus expulsion is synonymous with ir-
torian of religions Mircea Eliade notes that expulsion is not
reversible banishment. It is one of the cruelest acts that can
always a negative or reactive matter, at least in connotation.
be perpetrated against humans, for it is a deliberate cutting
Rather, he convincingly demonstrates that in many cultures
off of individuals or groups from the social, economic, spiri-
and religious traditions expulsion is a rite of purification in-
tual, and other resources of the expelling community. It is
corporated into rituals of regeneration. He observes that “de-
a sentence of “social death.”
mons, diseases, and sins” are all subject to expulsion by ritual
actions and that they are regarded as evils that must be ex-
The ideology of expulsion rests upon two bases. First,
pelled in order for the cleansing to be complete (Eliade,
those who hold sufficient power to impose expulsion typical-
1959). If one recognizes these “expulsions” as having con-
ly regard themselves as the sole authentic power center of the
temporary analogues, this positive connotation takes on a
institutions over which they rule or within which they hold
deeper resonance. For example, in the practice of scientific
authority. Any opponents who are perceived to hold views
medicine, prescriptions of certain medicines are precisely
antithetical to those held by the rulers are regarded as threats
meant to expel symptoms and the disease they manifest. Fur-
to the established status quo, and thus as dangerous. This
ther, certain surgical interventions are designed to remove
justifies the decisions to rid the institution, the community,
diseased organs or intrusive growths that are compromising
or the nation of the purported threat. “Away with them,” is
the health of a person’s body.
the response. Second, those who impose the expulsion re-
Confession of sins is a prominent dimension of certain
duce those who are victims in some way or another to either
modern religious practices. Confession leads to repentance
a real or virtual subhuman characterization. This attitude de-
and, in some traditions, to the requirement that the penitent
humanizes those who thereby become “others” and both al-
person engage in certain actions designed to purge the sins
lows and legitimizes cruelty and banishment of those “here-
that have been confessed. This is a kind of expulsion that is
tics” or infidels. Sometimes such practices are forms of
accomplished in the combination of confession and penance.
creating a scapegoat, which is the practice of identifying an
innocent person, group, or even animal to bear the guilt and
The idea of demons still awakens deep anxiety and even
blame that rightly belongs to others (cf. Lv. 16 in the Hebrew
fear in large numbers of people. “Demon possession” is a di-
Bible). Scapegoating is the false accusation of an offense that
agnosis not confined to persons but also applied to physical
results in the persecution or even murder of those so accused.
places, such as buildings and homes. The depth of this sensi-
tivity gives rise in some traditions to the practice of exorcism.
One of the most widely known instances of a collective
Two definitions of exorcise are to expel (an evil spirit) by, or
expulsion is that of Jews being driven from Spain in 1492,
as if by, incantation, command, or prayer; and to free from
ironically the date that also marks the voyage of exploration
evil spirits or malign influences. Popular culture bears wit-
of Christopher Columbus. The notorious Tomás de Torque-
ness to the power of the ideas of demon possession and exor-
mada (1420–1498) persuaded King Ferdinand and Queen
cism through both the novel and the movie from the 1970s
Isabella to expel the Jews. He argued that the Catholic faith
entitled The Exorcist. The extraordinary longevity of both
was in peril due to the corrupting presence and influence of
book and movie and the remarkable breadth of their popu-
the false converts from Judaism (and from Islam as well) who
larity demonstrate that demons still occupy a lively place in
were called conversos or, even more insultingly, marranos, the
the contemporary human imagination.
Hebrew word for pig. This dogmatic and literalistic perspec-
Thus, if diseases, sins, and demons are regarded as reali-
tive insisted on one and only one interpretation of Christian-
ties in the lives of humans from antiquity until the twenty-
ity. It overruled any vestige of Christian charity and forced
first century, then means for expelling them—and thereby
a major eastward movement of Jews. In the twentieth centu-
purifying and regenerating their hosts—will also predictably
ry the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany focused its
be of widespread interest and concern. Such instances of ex-
horrendous persecution and extermination upon the Jews in
pulsion are valued and sought after.
many European countries. The goal was the annihilation of
all Jews everywhere. This is quantitatively one of the most
Finally, another form of expulsion is manifest in the act
radical instances of expulsion and destruction in history.
of expurgation that aims to remove or expel objectionable
material from a book or magazine or some other word-based
The powerful residual memory of this expulsion con-
medium before it can be published. This, like exorcism, aims
tributed significantly to the idea of Jewish immigration to
to cleanse or purify a text of some kind or other as targeted
the “promised land” of Zion. In the nineteenth century some
material. In text-based religious traditions great care is ex-
Jewish thinkers, such as Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), devel-
pended by designated guardians who comb earlier editions
oped the ideology of Zionism. The combination of the
to identify any items that need expurgation to ensure that
Holocaust and Zionism propelled the migration of Jews
new editions of the sacred writings are as accurate and error-
from many nations to Palestine and the creation of the State
free as possible. This practice demonstrates another instance
of Israel in the twentieth century.
of expelling what is objectionable and unwanted by partici-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

pants in a community who are committed to living in con-
is likened to the sun. Like the luminous star, it sees all,
formity with the pure words of their texts.
shines, and sparkles. Its glances are rays that pierce like ar-
In the contemporary world, formal religious expulsion,
rows. Among the Semang, the Boshiman, and the Fuegians,
or even expurgation, is comparatively rare, in large measure
the sun is the eye of the supreme god. This isomorphism of
owing to the heterogeneity of modern societies. People are
the eye and the sun reveals moral and religious values accord-
less confined to participation in only one social, or even reli-
ing to which all vision introduces clairvoyance, justice, and
gious, grouping. Thus the power of expulsion is reduced to
righteousness. Just as the sun illuminates by projecting its
a degree. But informal and powerful instances of ostracizing
light everywhere, the eye seeks to discover and see everything,
or banning people still persist in some communities. To the
even faults and crimes. It thus becomes the emblem of a su-
extent that such practices are employed under any circum-
perior being who punishes and takes vengeance. To be all-
stances, they serve to demonstrate that expulsion resonates,
seeing is to become omnipotent. Such valorization of the eye
even in the contemporary world, as a tool of imposing con-
sometimes leads to its sacrificial oblation, which results in a
formity of beliefs, attitudes, and actions.
supernatural second sight that replaces and sublimates sim-
ple, corporeal vision. This second sight is like the inner eye,
SEE ALSO Excommunication; Fall, The; Scapegoat.
or the “eye of the heart,” so common among mystics who
perceive the divine light.
THE EYE AS DIVINE ATTRIBUTE. In Egypt, as in the most
Dumont, Louis. Homo Hierarchicus: An Essay on the Caste System.
ancient cultures of the eastern Mediterranean Basin, the
Rev. ed. Translated by Mark Sainsbury. Chicago, 1980.
presence of a symbolic eye signifies the power of the supreme
Eliade, Mircea. Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Re-
divinity to see and know everything. Thus “the eye of
turn. Translated from French by Willard R. Trask. New
Horus” appears on the stelae of Memphis, and eyes are en-
York, 1959. Rev. ed. published as The Myth of the Eternal Re-
graved on a Cretan ring in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford
turn; or, Cosmos and History. Princeton, N.J., 1971.
University), the symbol of an anonymous divinity who looks
Frazer, James George. The Scapegoat. Part 6 of The Golden Bough:
at and listens to men. The sacerdotal myths and traditions
A Study in Magic and Religion, 3d ed., rev. and enl. London,
of ancient Egypt testify that the eye has a solar nature and
is the fiery source of light and knowledge. Re, the sun god,
Girard, René. Violence and the Sacred. Translated by Patrick Greg-
is endowed with a burning eye and appears in the form of
ory. Baltimore, 1977.
a rearing cobra with dilated eyes. In the cult of Harmerti, Re
and Thoth are the two eyes of Horus, the god of the sky. One
Harmerti story relates the struggle between Horus and Seth;
Seth pokes out the eye of Horus, who is later cured by
Thoth. The healed, healthy eye is the oudjat eye that shines
EYE. The eye is one of the most widespread symbols in all
in the dark and vanquishes death. The Book of Going Forth
religious representation. As the active organ of visual percep-
by Day (17.29ff.) recapitulates that mythical episode in a for-
tion, it is closely linked with light. Without light, the eye
mula that is said to the dead person by the one playing the
could neither see nor discern clearly. It is therefore only natu-
role of Thoth: “I restore to the eye the fullness it possessed
ral that in most cultures the eye is the symbol of intellectual
on the day of the fight between the two adversaries.” This
perception and the discovery of truth. The eye knows be-
means that light and darkness, life and death, are reconciled
cause it sees. As early as the fifth century BCE, Democrites
in the beyond. This oudjat eye was painted on the inner sides
thought that certain images exist already in the body and that
of the coffin, on each side of the head, and an inscription
they emerge from the gaze of certain persons. Pliny the Elder
affirmed that they were hereafter the eyes by which the dead
explained that the small image inscribed in the pupil is a sort
person would see in the afterlife and which would permit
of miniature soul (Natural History 21.12.51). Similarly, the
him to follow the spectacle of the exterior world while re-
Bambara of West Africa say that the image perceived by the
maining in his tomb. The oudjat eye was provided for the
eye is, in fact, the double of the object or being that is seen:
dead person “in order that he be animated by it” (Pyramid
“Man’s world is his eye.” Thus the eye is often considered
Texts 578). This is why Horus’s eye made an excellent
the mirror of the soul, the body’s window, which reveals each
person’s deep thoughts by means of his gaze. As the mirror
At Tell Brak in eastern Syria, the excavation of a sanctu-
of the interior, the eye is the place where the mysterious life
ary going back to 2500 BCE has revealed the worship of a di-
of the soul is glimpsed. In seeking to discover the reality be-
vinity with a thousand eyes. In this temple consecrated to In-
hind the physical appearances it perceives, the eye becomes
anna (Ishtar), hundreds of statuettes with multiple eyes have
the locus of inner revelation. The expression “His eyes were
been found, votive offerings or apotropaic images attesting
opened” means that a rational or religious truth has been un-
that the eye was the emblem of that all-seeing and omnipres-
ent feminine divinity. Analogous finds have been made at
According to the symbolic conception of man as micro-
Ur, Lagash, and Mari. Inanna’s brother Shamash is the sun
cosm, which is found in the most ancient cultures, the eye
god, whose eye sees everything and who knows the most se-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

cret thoughts. He can reward or punish deliberately. In Bab-
joy of sensitive contemplation is the climax of the initiation
ylon, Shamash was invoked before every divination, for he
into the great mysteries of Eleusis, the epopteia, and the very
was the one who wrote the signs in the entrails of sacrificial
source of all philosophy, repeats Plato (Timaeus 47a). For the
victims. Without his help, the diviner could not see them.
knowledge of truth rests on a vision that moves upward from
tangible realities to timeless and eternal things: “Holy is the
The Indo-European world attached the same value to
man who has the gods before his eyes” (scholium on Pindar,
the eye as to the sun and to the gods, that is, the quality of
Pythian Odes 4.151b).
being able to see everything. In the R:gveda, the god Su¯rya,
son of Dyaus, is called “the eye of the sky” (10.37.2) and “the
The Germanic and Celtic worlds also valued the magi-
eye of Mithra and of Varuna” (1.115.1, 7.61.1, 10.37.1). He
cal power of the eye. Óðinn (Odin), god of war and magic,
sees from afar and everywhere, and spies on the whole world.
is a one-eyed god, for he voluntarily gave an eye in payment
Varun:a, the celestial god, is described as sahasra¯ta, god of a
to the sorcerer-giant Mímir, or Memory. In return, Óðinn
thousand eyes, for he sees everything. According to the hymn
was permitted to drink every day at the spring of knowledge
of Purus:a (R:gveda 10.90), the sun was born from the eye of
and thus to learn the science of the runes. The loss of an eye
the cosmic giant Purus:a so that at death, when a man’s soul
is therefore the means of acquiring superior vision and the
and body return to the cosmic primordial man, his eye will
supernatural powers that flow from it. After the Vanir killed
go back to the sun. It is understandable why, in the
Mímir, Óðinn practiced divination by interrogating the
Bhagavadg¯ıta¯ as well as in certain Upanis:ads, eyes are identi-
head, which he succeeded in preserving (Ynglingasaga 4, 7).
fied with the two celestial lights, the sun and moon, which
This theme of knowledge acquired as a result of blindness—
are the eyes of Vi´svakarman, the divine architect with multi-
even ocular mutilation—is found elsewhere in other Indo-
ple eyes who ordained everything. The Tamil caste of the
European traditions. Thus, the Greek diviner Tiresias attains
Kammalans, who claim to descend from him, have as their
the ability to see the future by becoming blind; Oedipus
main task painting the eyes of divine statues according to a
learns the will of the gods by blinding himself; and the blind
ritual as sacred as that of the oudjat eye, the eye of Horus,
king Dhr:tara¯s:t:ra in the Maha¯bha¯rata has special powers.
in Egypt. In Iranian tradition, the sun is also the eye of Ahura
Blindness, or voluntary mutilation of the eyes, becomes the
Mazda¯ (Yasna 1.11), whereas in the tenth Yasht of the Aves-
sign of the superior sight possessed by the druids and the di-
ta, Mithra is called the “master of vast plains who has a thou-
viners. Indeed, this quasi-magical power of the eye is found
sand ears and ten thousand eyes,” thus assimilating him to
again in Celtic myths. The god Lugh keeps only one eye
the sun.
open. He makes a tour of the enemies’ camp, hopping and
singing in an act similar to Óðinn’s during the battle be-
For the Greeks, the gods “with piercing gaze” saw every-
tween the Æsir and the Vanir. The same attitude is found
thing belonging to the past, present, and future in a single,
in the Celtic hero Cú Chulainn, who, when seized by furor,
unified vision. This panopteia is the very mark of their divini-
closes one eye and enlarges the other, or sometimes swallows
ty. Thus there is Kronos, who has four eyes, two in front and
one eye and places the other on his cheek to frighten his ad-
two in back; Zeus, whose “vast gaze” pierces through to the
versary. Many Gallic coins show a hero’s head with an eye
most secret things (Hesiod, Works and Days 240, 265); Apol-
disproportionately enlarged.
lo, the solar god, who sees everything (Iliad 3.277, Odyssey
11.109); and Dionysos, whose Bacchic hymn repeats that he
Other myths also valorize the magical power of the one-
“shines like a star with his eye of fire that darts its rays over
eyed person, as if the reduction of vision to a single eye in-
the whole earth” (Diodorus of Sicily, 1.11.3). All the Greek
creased the intensity of the gaze. Thus a glance from Medu-
gods cast a sovereign and pure gaze on man. The gaze of
sa’s single eye petrifies anyone who crosses its path, for it is
Athena Glaukopis shines and fascinates; the eye she fixes on
the glance of death that leads to Hades. To overcome it, Per-
her enemies is “a sharp one, an eye of bronze.” When Achil-
seus must first escape the other two Gorgons and hide the
les, driven by rage, tries to kill Agamemnon, Athena seizes
one eye they share between them. He conquers Medusa only
by making use of Athena’s mirror, which allows him to see
him by his hair and forces him to look at her. The hero cries
the monster without being seen by her.
out, “It is terrifying to see the light of your eyes” (Iliad
1.200), for the light in her eyes is the light of reason. In
THE EVIL EYE AND MAGIC. The belief in the unlucky influ-
Greek poetry, the image of the eye or the pupil is used to
ence of the evil eye is universal. It rests on a valorization of
mark the quality of a person and the affection one feels for
the gaze reputed to be harmful because the eye is abnormal
him: “Where is the eye of my beloved Amphiaraos, this hero
(eyes of different colors, double pupils, squinting); such a
who was both a seer and a valiant warrior?” (Pindar, Olympi-
gaze magically reveals the malevolent intention of the soul
an Odes 6.16.7). The Greek religious experience consisted
whose window the eye is. The evil eye, cast for vengeance or
primarily of a vision. Since Homeric times, an indissoluble
out of envy, is an invisible threat against which one must
relationship has existed between knowing and seeing: knowl-
protect oneself with countermagic, as, for example, in this
edge is based on sight, on an optical intuition. In his Meta-
Babylonian incantation: “Take the eye, attach its feet to a
physics, Aristotle speaks of that joy of seeing, which makes
bush in the desert, then take the eye and break it like a pot-
a better basis for knowing than any other perception. The
tery vase!” In Egypt it was common practice to bear apotro-
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paic names, wear amulets, and recite formulas. In the Roman
“a single stone decorated with seven eyes,” symbol of God’s
world, fear of the fascinum was constant. Many mosaics have
vigilant presence in his temple. They are the seven planets,
as a central motif a dangerous eye pierced by an arrow, sur-
or seven divine eyes that sweep over the earth without rest-
rounded by animals, and defended by an owl (the bird of evil
ing. Likewise Ezekiel, in his vision of the chariot evoking
omen) perched on its eyelid. Against this danger, people re-
Yahveh’s throne, sees wheels whose rims are decorated with
sorted to amulets picturing an eye or a phallus. Eyes were
open eyes (Ez. 1:18), signs of Yahveh’s omniscience.
even painted on the prows of boats.
Although, as the apostle John says, “No one has ever
Ever since the time of the apostle Paul (Gal. 3:1), Chris-
seen God” (1 Jn. 4:12), Jesus promised the pure in heart that
tian preachers never ceased to raise their voices, in vain,
they shall see God (Mt. 5:8). This beatitude makes of the eye
against the belief in the evil eye. Some rituals of the Greek
a symbol of inner purity (Mt. 6:22–23); otherwise the eye,
Orthodox church as found in the Mikron Euchologion con-
as the opportunity for scandal, ought to be plucked out and
tain a formula for exorcism against baskania (“witchcraft”)
thrown far away. Early Christian preaching insists on the op-
similar to that found in certain Babylonian curses. The same
position between the eyes of flesh and those of the spirit; in
belief is found in pre-Islamic Arabia and in the Muslim
Paul’s case, physical blinding symbolically preceded the
world. Muh:ammad himself recited incantations to preserve
opening of the eyes of the heart (Acts 9:18). Furthermore, the
his grandson from the evil eye, reviving the formulas that
function of the Son is to render visible his Father: “Whoever
Abraham made use of in order to protect Ishmael and Isaac,
sees me has seen the Father,” says Jesus to Philip (Jn. 14:9).
the legend says. One Arabic proverb states that “the evil eye
But at the end of time, full vision will be given to everyone
empties houses and fills tombs.” The eye frequently occurs
and “man’s eyes will contemplate the glory of God just as
in the magical preparations of certain African ethnic groups
he is” (1 Jn. 3:2). Gnosticism especially retains the Pauline
as well as in the Eastern Orthodox world, where the eyes of
theme of “the eye of the heart,” an image already frequent
the figures in icons were poked out and crushed and then
in the writings of the Greek philosophers and the Hebrew
made into a magical powder.
rabbis. For the gnostic, “the eye is the inner light to the man
of light” (Gospel of Thomas, logion 24), and the prototype
eye recurs 675 times in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testa-
of the man of light is “the eye of light” (Sophia of Jesus
ment) and 137 times in the New Testament; this indicates
the richness of its symbolic meanings. It designates, first, the
organ of vision fashioned by the creator for the good of man
In numerous philosophical and religious traditions, the
(Ps. 94:9, Prv. 20:12), for “it is a joy for the eye to see the
inner eye allows access to wisdom. Plotinus explains that the
sun” (Eccl. 11:7). But the eye is also a privileged organ of
eye of the soul dazzled by the light of understanding is fixed
knowledge that scripture always associates with the charac-
on pure transparency; the soul therefore sees the light found
teristics of the wise and learned: for example, Balaam, the di-
at the interior of his own gaze, and the eye of understanding
viner whose eye is closed to the terrestrial realities that sur-
contemplates the light of nous by participating in the very
round him but is open to the hidden and the invisible once
light of this sun-spirit (Enneads 5.3[17].28). Recalling that
he meets the All-Powerful (Nm. 23–24). The Targum Yeru-
the wise man is he who sees and that the fool is blind, Philo
shalmi makes Balaam a one-eyed seer, thus taking up again
Judaeus explained that formerly the prophets were called
the theme of a second sight superior to normal corporeal vi-
“seers” (1 Sm. 9:8). For him, wisdom is not only what is ob-
sion. Symbolically, the eye designates the consciousness of
tained by the vision of the inner eye, just as light is perceived
man that Yahveh opens to the knowledge of his law and
by the carnal eye; but wisdom also sees itself, and this is the
therefore of good and evil (Dt. 29:3, Is. 6:10). For Yahveh
splendor of God, who, in opening the soul’s eye to wisdom,
sees all (Ps. 14:2); he is the witnessing God from whom noth-
shows himself to man (De migratione Abraham 38).
ing escapes (Ps. 139:7–8). This ability to see all is an essential
In Hinduism, the god S´iva is endowed with a third eye,
characteristic of his transcendent sovereignty, and the divine
the frontal eye that gives him a unifying vision. His look of
eye is the administrator of justice: before it the just man can
fire expresses the pureness of the present without any other
find grace (Dt. 31:29, Jb. 11:4). But it is also the paternal
temporal dimension, as well as the simultaneity of beings and
eye of Providence, “who turns toward those who fear him”
events, which he reduces to ashes in revelation of the all.
(Ps. 33;18), like Nehemiah praying night and day for the
Likewise Buddha, the “awakened one,” received inner en-
people of Israel (Neh. 1:6, Lv. 16:2, Nm. 4:20).
lightenment through the celestial eye, which permitted him
But however great his desire, man may not see God face
to see the life of all beings simultaneously and gave him the
to face (Ps. 42:3), for no one can see Yahveh without dying
knowledge of the chain of the fundamental forces of exis-
(Ex. 19:21, Lv. 16:2, Nm. 4:20). Even Moses saw only the
tence as well as its previous forms. This eye of wisdom,
back of the glory of God (Ex. 33:20–23). If some prophets
prajña¯caks:us, is found at the limit of unity and multiplicity,
have had a vision of divine glory, it is in a fugitive and sym-
of emptiness and creation; it permits the wise man to grasp
bolic fashion, through a cloud or in human shape. Thus
them simultaneously. The organ of inner vision, it is the very
Zachariah (c. 520 BCE) saw Yahveh put before the high priest
sign of Buddhist wisdom.
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But the inner eye is the organ of wisdom only because
him. For example, the opening verse of Ezekiel reads: “In the
it is capable of actually experiencing the divine. Every revela-
thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth of the
tion presents itself as a veil that has been pulled back before
month, when I was among the exiles on the Chebar canal
the gaze of religious man, for whom the beatific vision and
[in the vicinity of the Babylonian city of Nippur], the heav-
the contemplation of God are the very essence of eternal life.
ens opened and I saw a divine vision” (a description of God’s
The eye of the heart is thus a frequent theme in spiritual and
majesty borne on the divine “chariot” follows). The time of
mystical literature. Just as the eye can neither see nor discern
his prophesying is fixed by some fifteen dates scattered
its object without light, so the soul cannot contemplate God
through the book, which, apart from the obscure first one
without the light of faith, which alone opens the eyes of the
cited above, belong to the era of “our exile”—that is, the exile
heart. “Man must therefore become entirely eye”; such is the
of King Jehoiachin of Judah, his courtiers, and his adminis-
teaching of the Desert Fathers reiterated by Symeon the New
trative staff, in 597 BCE); it may be inferred that Ezekiel was
Theologian (Hymns of the Divine Loves 45), for the soul’s eye,
among those deported to Babylon with the king. The dates
relieved of carnal passions, can perceive the divine light that
fall between 593 and 571, all within the reign of the Babylo-
opens up on the heavens. Following Origen and his theory
nian king Nebuchadrezzar II (605–562), who is mentioned
of spiritual senses, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Bernard of
several times in the book as a world conqueror. No references
Clairvaux, and all the Fathers state that it is God who, by
to events subsequent to the reign of that king are made, nor
opening the heart’s eye, makes one see. Meister Eckhart
does the editorial work on the book necessitate assumption
again picks up this teaching (Sermons), and Teresa of Ávila
of later hands, so that its contents—internally consistent
specifies that what we know otherwise than by faith, the soul
though literarily varied—may be considered the record of a
recognizes at sight, although not by eyesight. Leon Bloy
single author’s career. The only personal details given of Eze-
writes in his Journal (June 6, 1894) that “we must turn our
kiel’s life are his priestly descent and the death of his wife in
eyes inward” in order to speak our desire for a vision of truth,
exile. That the enigmatic “thirtieth year” of the opening verse
for the carnal eye only allows us to see “in enigma and as in
(cited above) alludes to the prophet’s age at the start of his
a mirror.” The eye of the heart is therefore man seeing God
vocation is an unsupported guess that goes back at least as
and, at the same time, God looking at man; it is the instru-
far as Origen.
ment of enlightenment and inner unification: “We shall find
Two determinants of the prophet’s outlook stand out
the pearl of the kingdom of heaven inside our hearts if we
in his prophecies: his priesthood and his exile. The former
first purify the eye of our spirit” (Philotheus of Sinai, Forty
is reflected in his schooling in the full range of Israel’s literary
Chapters on Spiritual Sobriety 23).
traditions (legal, prophetic, historiographic), his manner of
expression (echoing the Priestly writings of the Pentateuch),
SEE ALSO Sun; Visions.
and his preoccupations (the Temple, God’s holiness, offenses
against his worship). The response to exile is reflected in Eze-
kiel’s anguish and rage at what he perceives as God’s rejection
Bleeker, C. Jouco. The Sacred Bridge. Leiden, 1963.
of his apostate people. Ezekiel’s prophecy is characterized by
Boyer, Régis. La religion des anciens scandinaves. Paris, 1981.
a leaning toward systematization; he propounds doctrines
Crawford, O. G. S. The Eye Goddess. London, 1957.
permeated by a severe logic that centers on the injury Israel
inflicted on the majesty of God and its reparation rather than
Durand, Gilbert. Les structures anthropologiques de l’imaginaire. 3d
ed. Paris, 1969.
on the piteous situation of the people. The Book of Ezekiel
may be divided into three sections:
Hocart, Arthur M. “The Mechanism of the Evil Eye.” Folk-Lore
49 (June 1938): 156–157.
• Chapters 1–24 are composed mostly of dooms against
Jerusalem that date before its fall in 587/6 BCE. (Chapter
Pettazzoni, Raffaele. The All-Knowing God. Translated by H. J.
33 is an appendix related to this section.)
Rose. London, 1956.
• Chapters 34–48 contain prophecies of the restoration
Seligman, Siegfried. Der böse Blick. Berlin, 1910.
of Israel, composed, presumably, after the city’s fall. The
Vries, Jan de. Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte. 2d ed. 2 vols. Ber-
first six of these chapters are rhapsodic, the latter nine
lin, 1956–1957.
Vries, Jan de. Keltische Religion. Stuttgart, 1961.
• Chapters 25–32 link the two main divisions in the form
of prophecies against Israel’s neighbors, settling ac-
Translated from French by Kristine Anderson
counts with them for their exploitation of, or participa-
tion in the collapse of Judah.
No other prophetic book shows so thorough a working
EZEKIEL (sixth century BCE), or, in Hebrew, Yeh:ezqeDl,
through of principles in its arrangement, pointing to the
was a Hebrew prophet. A hereditary priest, Ezekiel is known
hand of this prophet.
primarily from the biblical book of prophecy named after
him that contains first-person reports of revelations made to
of Ezekiel’s pre-586 prophecies (chaps. 2–24) was that Jeru-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

salem was inevitably doomed to destruction by Nebucha-
To the exiles he addressed calls for repentance. For their
drezzar. This contradicted the mood both of the exiles and
conversion he propounded the doctrine of the eternal avail-
of the homelanders, among whom prophets of good tidings
ability of divine forgiveness, thus countering the despair that
were at work (chap. 13). Patriotism, faith in the security of-
was bound to follow on acceptance of his interpretation of
fered by God’s presence in the Jerusalem Temple, and the
events. For if Israel indeed lay under a generations-long accu-
encouragement by Egypt of anti-Babylonian forces in Judah
mulation of guilt—Ezekiel once went so far as to describe
combined to rouse the people’s hopes, indeed their expecta-
Jerusalem as congenitally depraved (Ez. 16:3–45)—so over-
tion that subjection to Babylonia was ephemeral; that the ex-
whelming it caused God to forsake his Temple and his land,
iles would shortly return home; and that resistance to the
what future had they to look forward to? Ezekiel met despair
overlord, supported by Egypt, would be successful. Like Jere-
with the twin doctrines of the moral autonomy of each gen-
miah, his contemporary in Jerusalem, Ezekiel regarded such
eration—that is, the nonbequeathal of guilt from fathers to
hopes as illusory; worse, they revealed spiritual obtuseness in
sons and God’s ever-readiness to accept the penitent wicked.
their blindness to the divine purpose realizing itself in
God judges each according to his own ways, not those of his
Judah’s plight. As Jeremiah and Ezekiel saw it, the people’s
ancestors, and he judges him as he is now, not as he was yes-
idolatrous infidelity to their covenant with God, reaching
terday. Hence each generation may hope for reconciliation
back to the beginnings of their history and peaking during
with God, and anyone can unburden himself of a guilty past
the reign of King Manasseh of Judah (2 Kgs. 21), had finally
by renouncing it and turning a new leaf. God does not desire
outrun God’s patience. And alongside apostasy was the cor-
the death of the wicked person but his or her repentance, so
ruption of the social order (idolatry and immorality were
that they may live (chaps. 18, 33).
bound together in the minds of biblical authors): the oppres-
sion of the governed by their rulers, the trampling of the
As Jerusalem suffered under the protracted siege that
poor, the unfortunate, and the aliens by the people at large,
was to end in its fall (in 587/6), Ezekiel began to deliver his
until not one righteous person could be found in Jerusalem
oracles against foreign nations; the first is dated in 587, the
to stem the onset of God’s retributive fury (Ez. 22). Another
last in 585 (except for an appendix dated to 571, in chap.
form of infidelity to God that Ezekiel denounced with par-
29). Judah’s small neighbors, formerly co-rebels with it,
ticular vehemence was the resort of Judah’s kings to Egypt
abandoned it in the crisis. Some gloated over its fall; Edom
for help against Mesopotamian powers (Assyria, Babylonia),
seized the occasion to appropriate some of Judah’s territory.
instead of trusting in divine protection. These offenses are
These countries are denounced for their hubris and their
set out in bills of indictment ending in sentences of doom:
show of contempt toward their downfallen neighbor, and
God had resolved to abandon his Temple (desecrated by the
their own ruin is predicted (chaps. 25–28). On the other
people) and to deliver his city and land to be ravaged by the
hand, Egypt, which had encouraged Judah to revolt, is con-
Babylonians (chaps. 8–11, 16, 23). In listing the evidences
demned to temporary exile and permanent degradation for
of Jerusalem’s guilt and stressing the unavoidability of its fall,
having proven to be a “reedy staff” in the hour of need, col-
Ezekiel sought to disabuse his fellow exiles of their misplaced
lapsing when Judah leaned on it (chaps. 29–32). When God
hopes, turn their minds to consider their evil ways, and lead
punishes his own so ruthlessly, the perfidy and contemptu-
them to repentance. (Because his dooms are addressed rhe-
ousness of their neighbors will not be ignored. Some of the
torically to Jerusalem, it has been thought that they were in-
most vivid passages in the book occur in these prophecies:
tended to dissuade the Judahite court from pursuing its re-
a unique list of the Phoenecian trade (Tyre’s imports and ex-
bellious policy against Babylonia, but their emphatic
ports and the nations with which it traded); a mythical depic-
unconditionality could hardly serve that end.)
tion of the king of Tyre as the denizen of Paradise, expelled
from it for his sin; and a picture of the underworld realm of
Ezekiel conveyed his messages in deeds as well as words,
the dead receiving Pharaoh and his defeated army.
making much use of dramatic and symbolic acts. He arrayed
toy siege works against a representation of Jerusalem drawn
The fall of Jerusalem gave rise to a new concern: the
on a brick; he lay on his side eating scant siege rations for
only nation on earth that acknowledged the one true God
many days; carrying an exile’s pack on his shoulder, he acted
(however imperfectly) had suffered a crushing defeat on the
out the clandestine flight of the king from the fallen city; he
field and the cream of its population had, for a second time,
repressed his sighs of mourning for his dead wife to presage
been deported. However justified these punishments were in
the stupefaction of those who would live through the coming
terms of Israel’s covenant with God, to the world they could
carnage (chaps. 4–5, 12, 24)—all these and more. No proph-
only signify the humiliation of Israel’s God—or so at least
et went to such lengths to impress his audience because none
Ezekiel portrayed it in chapter 36. The extreme measures
was so convinced of their imperviousness to his message
taken to punish Israel for flouting God (in Ezekiel’s words,
(chaps. 2–3). Still, although at his commissioning he was
for “profaning God’s name”) resulted in a still greater “profa-
forewarned of his audience’s adamant hostility, in actuality
nation”: the nations pointed to the exiles and jeered, “These
he became the cynosure of exiles in his hometown, Tel Abib:
are the Lord’s people and from his land they have come
indeed, he complains that they flock to him as to an enter-
forth!” It followed as an ironbound consequence that God
tainment but fail to act on his admonitions (chap. 33).
must now vindicate his authority by restoring Israel to its
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homeland and so redeem his reputation. This key idea of
fane by cordons of sacred personnel surrounding it. God will
chapter 36 is the motive of the rhapsodic restoration prophe-
dwell forever in his holy city, renamed accordingly YHVH
cies of chapters 34–39. All is done for the greater glory of
Shammah, “The Lord is there” (replacing Yerushalayim, “Je-
God: Israel’s “dry bones” are vivified and the miraculously
re-created people are gathered into their land; the former two
LATER INFLUENCES. In later times, Ezekiel’s justification of
kingdoms (Israel and Judah) are united under the rule of a
the collapse of Israel influenced the revision of the old history
new David; the land is blessed with peace and unprecedented
of the monarchy (the Book of Kings) undertaken under Per-
fertility. The crowning transformation is in the very nature
sian rule embodied in the Book of Chronicles. The Chroni-
of the Israelites: their “heart of stone” will be replaced with
cler’s story of the conduct of the last Judahite kings (from
a “heart of flesh.” God’s spirit will animate them to observe
Manasseh on) shows the effect of Ezekiel’s doctrines with
his laws effortlessly, thus averting forever the recurrence of
particular clarity. On the other hand, Ezekiel’s rhapsodic de-
the terrible cycle of sin, punishment, exile, and profanation
scriptions of restoration were far removed from the modest
of God’s name among humans. Moreover, because the resto-
dimensions and achievements of returned exiles. And their
ration of Israel will not be for their sake, but for the sake of
mood of repentance (surely owing at least in part to Ezekiel’s
God’s name (reputation), it will not depend on Israel’s tak-
teachings) kindled in them a resolve to adhere scrupulously
ing the initiative to reform itself but will happen at God’s
to the ancient covenant laws of Moses rather than to Eze-
initiative. Israel’s self-recrimination and remorse over its evil
kiel’s newfangled revisions (which anyway supposed a very
past will follow, not precede, its salvation (chap. 36). To im-
different geodemographic reality from that of the postexilic
press his sovereignty finally on the minds of all, God will,
community). Ezekiel had to give way before Moses, and his
after restoring Israel, engineer an attack on them by the bar-
program was relegated to messianic utopia. His vision of the
barian Gog of Magog. Attracted by the prospect of plunder-
divine “chariot” (chaps. 7, 10) was to play a decisive role in
ing the prospering, undefended cities of Israel, Gog and the
Jewish mystical experience from Second Temple times
armies mustered from the far north under his banner will de-
scend on them, only to be miraculously routed and massa-
cred. Then all will realize that the misfortune that befell Isra-
el was punishment for their sins (not a sign of God’s
A number of commentaries on Ezekiel may be consulted, among
weakness!), and their restoration, a “sanctification of God’s
which the following, listed chronologically, are recom-
name” in the sight of all humankind (chaps. 38–39).
Herrmann, Johannes. Ezechiel, übersetzt und erklärt. Kommentar
The last major section of the book is legislative and pre-
zum Alten Testament. Leipzig, 1924.
scriptive: a unique series of revisions of certain Israelite insti-
tutions designed to maintain the sanctity of the Temple pre-
Cooke, G. A. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book
cinct. The section consists of a vision of the future Temple
of Ezekiel. 2 vols. New York, 1937.
climaxed by God’s return to it (chaps. 41–43:12), and in-
Fohrer, Georg. Ezechiel. Handbuch zum Alten Testament, vol.
structions for righting past misconduct in relation to it so
13. Tübingen, 1955.
that it would never again be abandoned (chaps. 43:13–48).
Eichrodt, Walther. Der Prophet Hesekiel. Das Alte Testament
Deutsch. Göttingen, 1965–1966. Translated into English as
The future Temple is envisaged as laid out with a well-
Ezekiel: A Commentary, “Old Testament Library” (Philadel-
defined gradation of sacred areas, access to which is rigorous-
phia, 1970).
ly controlled in accordance with grades of personal holiness.
Wevers, John W. Ezekiel. Century Bible, n.s., pt. 1, vol. 26. Lon-
The corps of Temple servants is restructured, with a sharp
don, 1969.
division between priests and nonpriests, the latter being
strictly excluded from access to the highest grades of holy
Zimmerli, Walther. Ezechiel (1–48). 2 vols. Biblischer Kommen-
space. The role that the future king (archaically entitled
tar Alter Testament, vol. 13, nos. 1–2. Neunkirchen, 1969.
Translated into English in two parts: Ezekiel 1, by R. E.
“chief”) is to play in worship is so defined as to prevent him,
Clements (Philadelphia, 1979), and Ezekiel 2, by James D.
a layman, from trespassing on the areas of highest sanctity
Martin (Philadelphia, 1983).
(as preexilic kings were accustomed to do), while at the same
time making allowances for his superior dignity. New peri-
Greenberg, Moshe. Ezekiel 1–20. Anchor Bible, vol. 22. Garden
City, N.Y., 1983.
odic sacrifices of purgation are instituted to keep the inevita-
ble contamination of the sanctuary by the natural impurities
For general surveys, consult Walther Zimmerli’s “The Message of
and inadvertencies of the people from accumulating danger-
the Prophet Ezekiel,” Interpretation 23 (1969): 131–157,
ously. Finally, the land is redistributed among the ingathered
and my own article “Ezekiel” in the Encyclopaedia Judaica
(Jerusalem, 1971). Bernhard Lang’s Ezechiel: Der Prophet
population, archaically defined as the twelve tribes, with
und das Buch, “Erträge der Forschung,” no. 153 (Darmstadt,
boundaries derived from the ancient idea of the promised
1981), is a good review of modern scholarship on Ezekiel.
“land of Canaan” rather than from the actual boundaries of
The influence of Ezekiel on Jewish mysticism is treated in
the land under the monarchy. The disposition of the tribes
David J. Halperin’s The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature,
is such as to isolate the Temple from contact with the pro-
“American Oriental Series,” no. 62 (New Haven, 1980).
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

New Sources
Syria-Palestine. He also received considerable monetary sup-
Biggs, Charles R. The Book of Ezekiel. Epworth Commentaries.
port for the cult in Jerusalem. Ezra set out from Babylon with
London, 1996.
five thousand companions and great treasure and arrived in
Block, Daniel Isaac. The Book of Ezekiel. New International Com-
Jerusalem safely five months later. Shortly after he returned
mentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1997.
to Jerusalem he discovered that many Jews had intermarried
Eynde, Sabine M. L. van den. “Interpreting ‘Can These Bones
with non-Jews, and after much soul-searching he set about
Come Back to Life?’ in Ezekiel 37:3: The Technique of Hid-
to dissolve all the mixed marriages. In the second year after
ing Knowledge.” Old Testament Essays 14 (2001): 153–165.
his arrival, in the seventh month, at Sukkot, Ezra brought
Vawter, Bruce, and Leslie J. Hoppe. A New Heart: A Commentary
forth the Law and read it to the people in a great public cere-
on the Book of Ezekiel. International Theological Commen-
mony (Neh. 8). This is now followed (in Neh. 9) by a fast
tary. Grand Rapids, Mich., and Edinburgh, 1991.
on the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month, in which
Wright, Christopher J. H. The Message of Ezekiel: A New Heart
Ezra leads the people in a great confession of sins and a cove-
and a New Spirit. Bible Speaks Today. Leicester and Dow-
nant renewal (Neh. 10) by which the people commit them-
ners Grove, Ill, 2001.
selves to the support of the sanctuary, the observance of the
Sabbath, and other laws of the Torah.
Revised Bibliography
There are various layers in the biblical tradition con-
cerning Ezra. The one that identifies Ezra as the scribe who
brought the Law to the restored community in Jerusalem is
EZRA (late fifth and early fourth centuries
clearly the oldest tradition. Many scholars believe that this
BCE) was known
for his restoration of the Law of Moses in the postexilic peri-
tradition reflects the introduction of the Pentateuch into,
od and is generally regarded as the founder of Judaism.
and its formal acceptance by, the Jewish community in Jeru-
salem. For this reason the figure of Ezra represents a new era
LITERARY SOURCES. The account of Ezra’s activity is con-
in which the community stands under the Law and its inter-
tained in Ezra and in Nehemiah 8–9. The history covered by
preters and becomes, in this view, a religion “of the book,”
Ezra is a continuation from 2 Chronicles and is probably by
so that it is often regarded as the beginning of Judaism. How-
the same author. It begins with the edict of Cyrus (538 BCE),
ever, any notion of a radical discontinuity with the religion
which permitted the return of exiles from Babylonia to their
of the Jews in the late monarchy or exilic periods is quite un-
homeland and the chance to rebuild the Temple. Using some
warranted, because the Pentateuch itself embodies much
independent sources whose chronology is not clearly under-
from these periods.
stood, the author attempts to trace the history of the Jerusa-
lem community down to the time of Ezra (Heb., EEzraD),
Nevertheless, the mission of Ezra is now seen in the
which begins only in chapter 7. Within chapters 7 to 9 there
Bible through the eyes of the Chronicler, who considered his
is a first-person narration by Ezra, often considered to be a
presentation of the Law as the climax of his history, and later
separate source, “the memoirs of Ezra,” although it cannot
Judaism did much to further enhance the significance of this
easily be separated from its context in 7:1–26 and chapter
event. Already within the biblical account the later levels of
10, where Ezra is referred to in the third person. It appears
the Ezra tradition that portray him as a judge and reformer
to have been composed after the style of the so-called Nehe-
(Ezr. 9–10), or as an intercessor and covenant mediator
miah memoirs.
(Neh. 9–10), cast him more and more in the image of a sec-
On the basis of the Greek version (1 Esd.) it appears that
ond Moses.
Nehemiah 8 originally followed and was a part of Ezra, so
HISTORICAL PROBLEMS. The exact dating of Ezra’s activity
that the climax of the history was Ezra’s reading of the law
within the Persian period and especially his relationship to
book to the Jerusalem community. A later editor who want-
his near contemporary Nehemiah have long been matters of
ed to make the activity of Ezra and Nehemiah appear con-
disagreement among scholars. The Book of Ezra dates the be-
temporary transposed this part of the history to its present
ginning of Ezra’s activity to the seventh year, and Nehemiah
position. Nehemiah 9, the prayer of confession of Ezra, also
to the twentieth year, of Artaxerxes. If these dates refer to the
fits badly as a continuation of chapter 8 and is a later addi-
same king, then Ezra would be prior to Nehemiah, as the
tion. At any rate the biblical portrait of Ezra is not a contem-
present biblical tradition suggests. But there is reason to be-
porary record but, in my view, is Hellenistic in date and must
lieve that Ezra should be dated to the reign of Artaxerxes II
be used with caution in any historical reconstruction of the
(404–359 BCE) which would put him about 397 BCE, well
after Nehemiah. Ezra’s return seems to presuppose a revital-
BIBLICAL TRADITION. Ezra’s introduction, in Ezra 7:1–5,
ized Jerusalem community with protective walls (Ezr. 9:9),
identifies him as a priest and gives him a pedigree back to
while Nehemiah seems to know nothing of the large band
Aaron. But he is especially known as “the scribe of the law
of exiles that returned with Ezra. It also seems most unlikely
of God.” The account indicates that he was given a special
that Ezra waited thirteen years after his arrival before pro-
commission by the Persian king, Artaxerxes, to promulgate
mulgating his law if this was his primary commission. An-
the Law of Moses not only in Judah but in the whole of
other possibility is to view Ezra as coming during Nehemi-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ah’s second term of office, in the thirty-seventh year of
such as Enoch are also attributed to his prophetic recollec-
Artaxerxes I, but this involves a textual emendation for which
tion. Whether there were two Ezras, the prophet and the
there is little justification.
priest-scribe, or just one was a matter of debate.
Another area of debate is how to understand the law
The QurDa¯n contains only one curious remark about
book that Ezra brought to Jerusalem from the Babylonian
Ezra, that the Jews believed him to be the son of God (su¯rah
exile. Was it a particular part of the Pentateuch, such as the
9:30). The basis for this statement is not clear and not re-
so-called Priestly code, or was it a more complete form of
flected in any extant Jewish source.
the Torah, much as it is today? And just exactly what was
the nature of Ezra’s commission from the Persian court and
The many literary and historical problems associated with Ezra
the scope of his authority? The way in which one answers
make the literature on this subject enormous and controver-
these questions greatly affects one’s understanding of the his-
sial. For the historical reconstructions of the times of Ezra
tory of the restoration and the development and interpreta-
and Nehemiah one should compare the histories of John
tion of the Pentateuch.
Bright, A History of Israel, 3d ed. (Philadelphia, 1981); Sieg-
THE APOCALYPSE OF EZRA. Also known as 4 Ezra, the Apoc-
fried Herrmann, Geschichte Israels in alttestamentlicher Zeit,
alypse of Ezra is a Jewish work of about 100
2d ed. (Munich, 1973), translated by John Bowden as A His-
CE that presents
Ezra (also called Salathiel) as a prophet who experiences
tory of Israel in Old Testament Times, 2d ed. (Philadelphia,
1981); and Peter R. Ackroyd, Israel under Babylon and Persia
dreams and visions of an apocalyptic nature in the thirtieth
(London, 1970).
year after the destruction of Jerusalem. In addition, just like
For a treatment of Ezra’s place in the religion of Israel and espe-
Moses he hears the voice of God speaking from a thornbush
cially his relationship to the Law, compare the very influen-
and then withdraws from the people for forty days to receive
tial but somewhat controversial treatment by Yeh:ezkel Kauf-
a revelation from God. This revelation includes not only the
mann, Toledot ha-emunah ha-Yisre Delit, vol. 4 (Tel Aviv,
Law of Moses that had been lost in the destruction of Jerusa-
1956), translated by Clarence W. Efroymson as History of the
lem but also the complete twenty-four books of the Hebrew
Religion of Israel, vol. 4, From the Babylonian Captivity to the
scriptures and seventy secret books for the “wise.” Like
End of Prophecy (New York, 1977), with the work of J. G.
Moses, Ezra also experienced an assumption to heaven.
Vink et al., The Priestly Code and Seven Other Studies, “Oud-
testamentische Studien,” vol. 15 (Leiden, 1969).
How this earlier Ezra the prophet was thought to relate
Very helpful on matters of literary composition, text, and versions
to the later Ezra the scribe is problematic. The common ele-
is the commentary by Jacob M. Myers in Ezra, Nehemiah,
ment is Ezra’s association with the Law of Moses and his por-
vol. 14 of the Anchor Bible (Garden City, N.Y., 1965).
trayal as a second Moses. This seems to have been carried to
For a review of recent scholarship and a comprehensive bibliogra-
the point where in one form of the tradition, Ezra, like
phy, see the article “Esra/Esraschriften” by Magne Saebo, in
Moses, never got back to the land of Palestine. This extraca-
Theologische Realenzyklopädie, vol. 10 (New York, 1982).
nonical form of the tradition received great elaboration in the
New Sources
medieval period.
Bedford, Peter Ross. “Diaspora: Homeland Relations in Ezra-
Nehemiah.” Vetus Testamentum 52 (2002): 147–165.
aggadah regarded Ezra with great honor. He was not just a
Esler, Philip F. “Ezra-Nehemiah as a Narrative of (Re-invented)
priest but the high priest and a second Moses. He was espe-
Israelite Identity.” Biblical Interpretation 11 (2003): 413–
cially revered for restoring the Law of Moses, which had been
forgotten, and for establishing the regular public reading of
Janzen, David. “The ‘Mission’ of Ezra and the Persian-Period
the Law. He is also credited with setting up schools for the
Temple Community.” Journal of Biblical Literature 119
study of the Law. The law that Ezra brought to the people
(2000): 619–643.
was not only the written Law of Moses but included the un-
Japhet, Sara. “Composition and Chronology in the Book of Ezra-
written law as well. In addition, he is also credited with writ-
Nehemiah.” In Second Temple Studies: Community in the Per-
ing parts of Chronicles and the Book of Psalms and is identi-
sian Period, edited by Tamara C. Eskenazi and Kent H. Rich-
ards, vol. 2, pp. 189–216. Sheffield, 1994.
fied by some as the prophet Malachi.
Pfann, Stephen J. “The Aramaic Text and Language of Daniel and
Following 4 Ezra early Christian authors regarded Ezra
Ezra in the Light of Some Manuscripts from Qumran.” Tex-
as a prophet who under inspiration recovered all the ancient
tus 16 (1991): 127–137.
scriptures that had been destroyed by the Babylonian inva-
sion—not just the Law of Moses. Some extracanonical works
Revised Bibliography
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

FACKENHEIM, EMIL (1916–2003) is best known for his sustained commitment
to refashion Judaism in the shadow of the Nazi holocaust. He was born in Halle, Germa-
ny, on June 22, 1916. In 1935 he moved to Berlin where he entered the rabbinical pro-
gram at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums; he also began a degree in philos-
ophy at the University of Halle. Fackenheim’s academic career in Germany was
interrupted by Kristallnacht and internment for several months in Sachsenhausen. In the
spring of 1940 he fled to Aberdeen, Scotland, and matriculated in a degree program in
philosophy at the university. A year later Fackenheim and other refugees were interred
in camps and then dispersed throughout the British Empire.
Fackenheim traveled by ship to Canada, spent months in a camp in Sherbrooke, On-
tario, and was eventually released, whereupon he went directly to the University of Toron-
to and was accepted into the doctoral program in philosophy. Fackenheim received his
degree in 1945 with a dissertation on medieval Arabic philosophy and its classical anteced-
ents. From 1943 to 1948 he served as rabbi for congregation Anshe Shalom in Hamilton,
Ontario. Invited to teach philosophy at the University of Toronto in 1948, he remained
there until 1983, when he retired as University Professor. He and his family then immi-
grated to Israel in 1983. He taught at the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem for several years. Fackenheim died in Jerusalem on September
19, 2003.
FACKENHEIM’S 614TH COMMANDMENT. In the postwar period Fackenheim pursued two
intellectual interests. First, he began a philosophical examination of faith and reason from
Kant (1724–1804) to Kierkegaard (1813–1855), with special attention to Hegel (1770–
1831). Second, he explored the role of revelation in modern culture, in particular dealing
with Jewish faith, autonomy, the challenge of naturalism and secularism, and the defense
of revelation in the thought of Martin Buber (1878–1965) and Franz Rosenzweig (1886–
Until 1966 Fackenheim largely avoided dealing with the Nazi assault on Jews and
Judaism and the atrocities of the death camps. On March 26, 1967, at a symposium titled
C LOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT CORNER. Stone relief of the Buddha’s footprints on a pillar at the Great
Stupa in Sa¯ñc¯ı, India. [©Adam Woolfit/Corbis]; Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds by Giotto
di Bondone (c. 1267–1337). S. Francesco, Assisi, Italy. [©Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.]; The hand
of Fa¯t:ima, an Islamic good luck symbol. [©Bernard and Catherine Desjeux/Corbis]; Fifteenth- to
sixteenth-century bronze of Atropos, Greek goddess of fate. Kunsthistorisches Museum,
Vienna. [©Erich Lessing/Art Resource, N.Y.]; Thirteenth-century French painting of God
creating the universe. [©Bettmann/Corbis] .

“Jewish Values in the Post–Holocaust Future,” convened by
against all attempts to diminish human dignity and the value
the American Jewish Committee and organized by the editor
of human life (see essays collected in his The Jewish Return
of its journal Judaism, Steven Schwarzschild, Fackenheim
Into History and selections in Morgan [ed.], The Jewish
first formulated and presented his imperative for authentic
Thought of Emil Fackenheim). On the other hand, he turned
Jewish response to the Holocaust, what he called the 614th
to important philosophical problems with his existential and
commandment: “The authentic Jew of today is forbidden to
hermeneutical argument. The crucial one had to do with the
hand Hitler yet another, posthumous victory.” He elaborat-
possibility of performing the imperative of resistance or, as
ed the reasoning that led to this imperative and its herme-
one might put it, the possibility of confronting the radical
neutical content in “Jewish Faith and the Holocaust,” which
threat of rupture and not giving way to total despair. This
appeared in Commentary and, in a slightly different form, in
was to become the central problem of the book he always
the introduction to his collection of essays, Quest for Past and
took to be his magnum opus, To Mend the World, first pub-
Future (1968). His argument appeared in its most developed
lished in 1982. In the earlier period, culminating in 1970,
form in the third chapter of God’s Presence in History, pub-
Fackenheim had argued from the necessity of the command-
lished in 1970 and based on his 1968 Deems Lectures at
ment or imperative to its possibility, either on Kantian
New York University.
grounds, that duty entails the freedom to perform it, or on
In these central writings, Fackenheim argues that al-
Rosenzweigian grounds, that along with the commandments
though no intellectual response—historical, political, theo-
that God grants in an act of grace, he also gives humankind
logical, or psychological—to the evil of Auschwitz is satisfac-
out of the same love the freedom to perform them. By the
tory, an existential response is necessary. But neither
late 1970s Fackenheim had come to see how both responses
philosophy nor theology is capable of framing what a genu-
failed to respect the victims of the Nazi horrors. In the crucial
ine response should be. One can and must turn to actual
chapter of To Mend the World, he systematically and dialecti-
lived experience, during and after the event, to grasp how
cally explores the agency of evil and its victims, in order to
Jews have responded and hence how one ought to respond.
arrive at a moment of lucid understanding that grasps the
Such ongoing Jewish life, Fackenheim claims, can be inter-
whole of horror and reacts in opposition to it with surprise,
preted as a response to a sense of necessity, and this necessity
and he confirms this intellectual grasp with an emblematic
takes the shape of a duty to oppose all that Nazism sought
case of a victim of the atrocities who both sees clearly what
to accomplish in its hatred of Jews and Judaism and in its
she is being subjected to, what the evil is, and senses a duty
rejection of human dignity. Although for secular Jews, such
to oppose it in her life. This episode constitutes an ontologi-
a duty has no ground but is accepted as forceful without one,
cal ground of resistance. Judaism, through the idea of a cos-
for believing Jews, the only ground that is possible is the
mic rupture and a human act that respects and yet opposes
voice of a commanding God. Hence for them, it has the sta-
it, what is called in the Jewish mystical tradition (Qabbalah)
tus of a divine command, alongside but not superseding the
tikkun olam, provides philosophy with a concept essential to
other, traditional 613 biblical commandments. It is, in his
grasp this moment of horrified surprise and recovery from
famous formulation, a 614th commandment.
it, the possibility of genuine post-Holocaust life. To Mend
the World
proceeds to apply these lessons in three domains—
Fackenheim’s route to this imperative of resistance to
philosophy, Christianity, and Jewish existence—in each case
Nazi purposes capitalized on several crucial insights. One was
locating an emblematic case of tikkun (mending or repair)
that after Auschwitz, as he put it, even Hegel would not be
that respects the evil of Auschwitz as a total and unqualified
a Hegelian, that is, that Auschwitz was a case of evil for evil’s
rupture and yet finds a route to hope and recovery.
sake and was therefore inassimilable into any prior conceptu-
al system. Even the most systematic philosophic thought was
In the last two decades of his life, Fackenheim once
historically situated and was ruptured by the horrors of the
more extended the lines of this argument: with a book on
death camps. The second was his commitment to existen-
the Bible and how it ought to be read by Jews and Christians,
tial–dialectical thinking about the human condition and to
together, in a post–Holocaust world (The Jewish Bible after
its hermeneutical character. The third was the recognition
the Holocaust, 1990); with a survey of Jewish belief and prac-
that although Auschwitz threatened all prior systems, ways
tice of Jews in the 1980s (What Is Judaism?, 1987); and with
of life, and beliefs, Judaism must and could survive exposure
a number of essays on the State of Israel as a paradigmatically
to it. The work of Elie Wiesel (b. 1928) and Wiesel himself,
genuine response to the Nazi assault, that is, as a unique
a survivor and a novelist, confirmed this hope and this real-
blending of religious purposes and secular self-reliance, com-
bining a commitment to a homeland for Jews against the
most extreme assault and to its defense.
TO MEND THE WORLD. In the 1970s Fackenheim’s thought
extended the lines of thinking summarized above. On the
Fackenheim’s philosophical commitments were deeply
one hand, he applied this framework to a variety of themes—
immersed in existential and concrete realities, most notably
most notably to the State of Israel, its reestablishment and
the historicity of philosophical and religious thought, the
defense, but also to the belief in God, the relationship be-
hermeneutical and situated character of human existence,
tween Jews and Christians, and the necessity of struggling
and the unprecedented evil of Nazis and the death camps.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Auschwitz led him to expose philosophy, culture, and reli-
zation reflects the world of humans. In Irish Fairy and Folk
gion unconditionally to historical refutation; yet his deepest
Tales (1893) the poet William Butler Yeats distinguished be-
yearnings were to find continued hope and to avoid despair,
tween trooping fairies and solitary fairies. The trooping
to appreciate the necessity of Jewish life and the defense of
fairies appear in medieval Arthurian legend and romance and
human value and dignity. These dispositions, however, were
are most popular in the literature of Elizabethan England;
what one might call “rationally defended yearnings” and
since that time stories about them have ceased to be written.
hence necessities (duties and obligations) only in a deeply
They are handsome, aristocratic, and beautifully dressed, and
contextual sense. In this respect, Fackenheim bears some
they take part in the Fairy Ride. Like their human counter-
similarity to the contemporary Anglo-American philoso-
parts, they hunt and hawk, trotting in procession behind
phers such as Charles Taylor, Hilary Putnam, Richard Rorty,
their king and queen, who ride white horses decorated with
and even the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1906–
silver bells. Their fairy realm, which is centered on their royal
1955), although except for Levinas, the motivation for Fack-
court, is noted for the excellence of its music, dancing, and
enheim’s philosophical and theological work was the experi-
feasting as well as for the beauty of its women. The Irish
ence of Auschwitz and not theoretical considerations. In this
Tuatha Dé Danann (“people of the goddess Danu”) are
respect, in the twentieth century, his thought is distinctive
trooping fairies; they are immortal and live in Tír na nDOg,
and significant and in Jewish life and thought virtually
the Land of Youth.
The nonaristocratic, solitary fairies are described as ugly
and often ominous and ill-natured. Some are engaged in
trade, like the Irish leprechaun shoemaker, who is quite
Fackenheim, Emil L. “Jewish Faith and the Holocaust.” Commen-
harmless. A third category of fairy comprises those who live
tary 46 (1968): 30-36.
in family groups. They work the land, hold their own mar-
Fackenheim, Emil L. God’s Presence in History. New York, 1970.
kets, and visit human fairs.
Fackenheim, Emil L. Quest for Past and Future (1968). Boston,
Nature fairies are spirits of streams, lakes, and trees. The
Fackenheim, Emil L. What Is Judaism? New York, 1987.
Russian rusalki are water nymphs, who take the form of
young maidens. Dryads are tree spirits. So are oak men;
Fackenheim, Emil L. To Mend the World (1982). 3d ed. Bloom-
hence there is a saying, “Fairy folks are in old oaks.” In En-
ington, Ind., 1994.
gland, hawthorn is haunted by the fairies, especially if it
Fackenheim, Emil L. The Jewish Bible after the Holocaust. Bloom-
grows near fairy hills, and the Gooseberry Wife, in the form
ington, Ind., 1990.
of a great hairy caterpillar, stands guard over the fruit bushes.
Greenspan, Louis, and Graeme Nicholson, eds. Fackenheim: Ger-
man Philosophy & Jewish Thought. Toronto, Canada, 1992.
Tutelary fairies, the family guardians and domestic spir-
Morgan, Michael L., ed. The Jewish Thought of Emil Fackenheim.
its, look after the fortunes of a particular household. The
Detroit, Mich., 1987.
Scottish MacLeods on the island of Skye were given a fairy
Morgan, Michael L., ed. Emil Fackenheim: Jewish Philosophers and
flag by their supernatural guardian. Germans call their house
Jewish Philosophy. Bloomington, Ind., 1996.
spirit der Kobold (“gnome”), an unreliable creature whose
name survives in the modern cobalt. (German miners called
Morgan, Michael L. Beyond Auschwitz: Post–Holocaust Jewish
Thought in America. New York, 2001.
this slightly magnetic element after the famous sprite because
they found it tiresome and difficult to use.) Danes have their
nis; the French their esprit follet; the Spaniards their duende;
and the Faeroese Islanders, in the North Atlantic, their nia-

Russians call their domestic spirits domovois, after dom
(“house”). Legend says that these creatures were rebellious
spirits who opposed God and so were thrown down from
heaven, falling on people’s roofs and into their yards. They
FAIRIES. Fay, the old word for “fairy,” is thought to
are amiable and live in the warmth near the hearth. Because
come from the Latin fata, which signifies the Fates, supernat-
it is considered important to please the domovoi, peasants
ural women who appear beside the cradle of a newborn in-
leave egg pancakes for him on the threshing floor. When a
fant to decide its future. The fairies invited to Sleeping Beau-
peasant family moves, they put a piece of bread beside the
ty’s christening are an echo of this belief. During the Middle
stove in hopes that the domovoi will come with them. In his
Ages fairy meant the state of enchantment and the land of
autobiography Childhood (1913), the Russian writer Maxim
enchanted beings as well as those who live in it.
Gorky describes how his family moved from their house: His
Fairies are found under various names in many coun-
grandmother took an old shoe, held it under the stove, and
tries, but they are more typical of Europe and Asia than of
called to the household spirit, asking him to ride in the shoe
the Americas and Africa. To some extent their social organi-
and bring the family good luck in their new home.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

English brownies are also associated with the hearth.
the Jews in the thirteenth century. But Jewish merchants had
They are active at night and do work that the servants have
very little connection with the tin trade, and no evidence
neglected: cleaning and drawing water for the house, tending
supports these improbable suggestions.
farm animals, reaping, mowing, threshing, and churning
Pixies are another group of fairies belonging to English
butter. Families can leave food, such as a bowl of cream or
west-country tradition. They are found in Somerset, Devon-
little cakes spread with honey for the brownies, but direct
shire, and Cornwall. Anna Eliza Bray first brought them to
gifts, such as money or clothes, will drive the spirit away.
the attention of the public in a series of letters to the poet
Domestic spirits can be very tiresome. A folktale well
Robert Southey that were published under the title The Bor-
known all over Europe tells of a farmer so bothered by the
ders of the Tavy and the Tamar (1836). The chief characteris-
pranks of a boggart (or mischievous brownie) that he decides
tic of pixies is that they mislead travelers; as recently as 1961,
to move. The family packs their household belongings and
a woman claimed to have been misled by pixies in a wood
loads the cart. As they are leaving, a voice from inside the
near Budleigh Salterton. Local tradition says that pixies are
milk churn says, “Yes, we’re moving!” It is the boggart. The
the souls of those who died before Christ was born or of un-
family gives up and decides to stay, for what would be the
baptized children.
point of moving if the creature was coming too? In other ver-
Closely related to the pixie and its habit of leading trav-
sions of the story the boggart immigrates with the family to
elers astray is the will-o’-the-wisp (Fr., le feu follet; Ger., das
the United States.
Irrlicht), also called jack-o’-lantern or ignis fatuus (“foolish
The most tragic tutelary fairy is the banshee, an Irish
fire”). This sprite appears in the folklore of many countries
and Highland Scottish spirit of death. The word means a
and is often an omen of death. In England the will-o’-the-
woman (ban) of the fairy folk (sídh, pronounced “shee”).
wisp is also identified with the mischievous sprite Puck, or
This apparition materializes when someone is about to die.
Robin Goodfellow. Traditional legends about this spirit who
In Scotland the banshee is seen washing the doomed person’s
lures folks to their death in the bog may be an attempt to
graveclothes or bloodstained garmets and can be heard wail-
account for marsh gas, which emanates from rotting organic
ing and lamenting, her eyes red with tears. Mélusine, daugh-
matter and is ghostly in appearance.
ter of the fairy Pressina, became the banshee of the house of
Other malevolent spirits are also linked with the envi-
Lusignan in France. When the family was wiped out and its
ronment. The malicious yarthkins of Lincolnshire, England,
castle fell to the crown, she appeared, foretelling the deaths
another damp area, disappeared when the fens were drained.
of the kings of France.
The English goblin, or hobgoblin, is a generic term for
Some supernatural creatures are closely associated with
evil spirits. It is difficult to distinguish between goblins and
a particular historical era or geographic area. The gnomes of
imps, however. Originally imp referred to an offshoot or a
Europe, for example, were a product of the ancient Hermetic
cutting, but in its sense as a supernatural creature it means
and Neoplatonic doctrine from which medieval medicine
a small demon, an offshoot of Satan. In England the Puritans
and science derived. According to medieval thought, all mor-
thought all fairy creatures were devils, and thus the preacher
tal creatures are a blend of earth, air, fire, and water, and the
John Bunyan, in his famous book Pilgrim’s Progress (1678),
four elemental beings are gnomes (who inhabit the earth),
numbers the hobgoblin and the “foul fiend” among the
sylphs (who inhabit the air), salamanders (who inhabit fire),
forces of evil to be resisted.
and nereids (who inhabit water). The Oxford English Dictio-
Elves reached England from Norse mythology, where
nary suggests that the word gnome is an elision of the Latin
they were known as huldre folk, closely resembling fairies.
genomus (“earth dweller”). Paracelsus (1493–1541), the
The girl elves are very beautiful but they are hollow behind
Swiss physician and alchemist, provides in his De nymphus
and have long cow’s tails. Trolls are another Norse group of
the first description of gnomes as elemental beings of the
supernatural beings. Originally they were thought of as giant
earth. According to tradition, gnomes live underground and
ogres, but in later Swedish and Danish tradition they become
are treasure guardians. Also known as dwarfs, they are skilled
dwarfs who live in hills and caverns. Like the German dwarfs,
metalworkers, supplying medieval knights with armor and
they are fine craftsmen and treasure guardians, noted for
weapons that they themselves forge. They are also often asso-
their stupidity. In the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland,
ciated with mines.
where Scandinavian influence is strong, these beings are
called trows.
The knockers are said to live in the tin mines of En-
gland’s Cornwall. They are friendly creatures and will knock
Not all mischievous, supernatural creatures are of an-
on the mine walls to indicate veins of ore. An anti-Semitic
cient origin. The gremlin, a supernatural being who causes
legend claims that they were the ghosts of Jews who had been
trouble for pilots and aircrews, dates from World War I. An
sent to work the mines as a punishment for taking part in
explanation for human error, flight fatigue, and high-altitude
the Crucifixion. Richard, earl of Cornwall (1200–1272), is
pressures, the gremlin may originate from the Old English
said to have put the Jews to work in the Cornish tin mines,
word gremian (“to vex”).
and Robert Hunt, in his Popular Romances of the West of En-
The relationships that fairies enjoy with human beings
gland (1865), claims that the tin mines were farmed out to
has varied considerably. Some can be very helpful; such help-
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fulness is said to be how the MacCrimmons, the most distin-
other obvious example. The ancient Pictish areas of Scotland
guished Scottish pipers, learned their skill. As mentioned,
contain the remains of brochs, round, hill-shaped farm-
guardian spirits look after the families in their care, and
houses with stone walls and a turf covering. These structures
brownies do household chores. But they become malevolent
are often referred to as fairy knowes. Burial mounds have also
if badly treated—or simply disappear. Anybody who spies on
been linked with fairyland. Sudden, disabling illness, such as
them is severely punished.
that caused by a stroke, was traditionally considered to be the
result of an elf shot, a wound from one of the flint arrows
In folk tradition human beings are sometimes abducted
that are found in low-lying areas, and many Anglo-Saxon
by the fairies. Thomas the Rhymer (Thomas of Erceldoune),
charms meant to protect against such attacks have been pre-
the poet and prophet, lived in thirteenth-century England.
served. Various other illnesses whose origin seemed puzzling
His tale is told in The Ballad of True Thomas and by Sir Wal-
centuries ago, such as a slipped disk, rheumatism, and any-
ter Scott in Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). Legend
thing that deforms the body, were attributed to invisible
says that Thomas received the gift of prophecy from the
blows from the little creatures. Paralysis, skin disease, wasting
Queen of Elfland, who loved him and took him away to live
illnesses such as tuberculosis, and animal disorders such as
with her for seven years.
swine fever and brucellosis have all been blamed on the
Stories of fairy brides are common and usually end in
tragedy. The lovely creature marries a mortal and imposes
some taboo on him. When it is broken, the fairy bride re-
Unusual topographical features are also sometimes attri-
turns to fairyland, deserting her husband and children. Seal-
buted to fairies. Those curious, dark green circles that appear
maidens and swan-maidens are usually captured against their
on grassy lawns and meadows, often surrounded by a circle
will by the theft of their skin or feathers. As soon as they can
of mushrooms, are known as fairy rings, and it is considered
retrieve the stolen item, they escape.
very unlucky to damage them in any way. They are in fact
caused by Marasmius oreades, a type of fungus, but people
When a mortal visits fairyland, the result is often equally
believe that they are spots where the fairies dance.
tragic. The visitor cannot escape and becomes the victim of
the supernatural passage of time, whereby one day represents
Sometimes supernatural origins are attributed to excep-
hundreds of years. King Herla was able to return home with
tionally large or beautiful objects. There are various stories
his knights, but when they dismounted they crumbled into
of a cup stolen from the fairies. The “Luck of Eden Hall”
dust because they had been away for three hundred years.
in Cumberland, England, is a lovely green glass goblet, a tal-
isman that was supposed to preserve the Eden family’s for-
Although fairies lead independent lives, there are many
tunes. Legend says that the goblet was snatched from the
examples of their dependence on mortals. Narratives tell of
fairies by a servant; if it broke, the family would be destroyed.
midwives summoned to help a fairy in labor and of fairies
Eden Hall was pulled down in 1934, but the “Luck” is pre-
anxious to possess human children. Stories of the theft of ba-
served in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
bies continue from the Middle Ages to the present time.
Typically the fairies steal an unbaptized child and leave an
In the thirteenth-century Church of Saint Mary at Fren-
ugly fairy baby in its place. If the changeling is surprised, it
sham in Surrey, England, stands a huge caldron, measuring
will speak, revealing its true identity; then it can be driven
one yard across. Local tradition says that it was borrowed
away. Various methods may be used to trick the spirit, such
from the fairies who lived on nearby Borough Hill and was
as serving him beer brewed in eggshells. In German tradition
never returned. Probably it was employed in parish feasts and
the creature would exclaim, “I am as old as the forests of
celebrations and then this early usage was forgotten.
Bohemia, and I’ve never seen beer brewed in an eggshell
Sightings and eyewitness accounts of fairies are com-
mon. A striking example was provided by Robert Kirk
These legends conceal much human suffering and cruel-
(1644–1692), a folklorist who became the subject of a fairy
ty to children. Malformed babies were put over a fire in order
tale. Kirk was a Gaelic scholar and a minister of the Scottish
to pressure the fairies into returning the supposedly stolen
church. Evidently his parishioners disapproved of his re-
child. Such cases have been recorded as late as the early twen-
searches in the supernatural, for when he died and his body
tieth century in Ireland. Until recently it was thought that
was found lying beside a fairy knowe, rumor said that he was
a defect in a child resulted from a defect in the parents. Basi-
living with the fairies inside it. This legend is recorded by
cally, changelings were sickly, backward, or deformed chil-
Scott in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830).
dren. Simple people, unwilling to accept that such a child
Kirk’s own account of fairy beliefs in the Scottish Highlands,
could be theirs, maintained that the fairies had stolen the real
The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, was not
baby and left this wretched thing in its place.
published until 1815, long after his death. The brilliant and
Belief in fairies thus has an aetiologic function: It pro-
eccentric English painter and poet William Blake (1757–
vides an explanation for mysterious objects and events that
1827) claimed to have seen a fairy funeral. The body, he said,
are otherwise not understood. The remains of earlier civiliza-
was laid out on a rose leaf and carried in procession by crea-
tions, which puzzled the uneducated in days gone by, are an-
tures the size and color of grasshoppers.
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In Ireland, places once associated with fairies are point-
enthusiastically received by the public of its day. Jacob and
ed out and treated with great respect. To interfere with them
Wilhelm Grimm translated it into German, and Sir Walter
is thought to bring bad luck. More than once new roads have
Scott corresponded with the author. It remains a valuable
been rerouted for such a reason. Recently a fairy bush was
contribution to the development of folklore studies.
cut down in front of a Dutch-owned factory in Limerick.
Gardner, Edward L. Fairies. London, 1945. A book that claims
Dutch workmen performed the task because local workers
to present photographs of real fairies.
refused. When the works closed not long after and well over
Hunt, Robert. Popular Romances of the West of England. 2 vols.
a thousand jobs were lost, the disaster was blamed on the re-
London, 1865. The fruits of a ten-month walking tour in
moval of the fairy bush.
Cornwall during 1829, when the author collected, as he put
it, “every existing tale of its ancient people.”
Traditionally, the fairies dress in green. Green is their
color, and even today, many people regard it as unlucky and
Keightley, Thomas. The Fairy Mythology (1828). 2 vols. in 1. New
will not wear it, although they no longer remember the
York, 1968. An early study of comparative folklore by an
Irish writer with an interest in oral tradition.
Sikes, Wirt. British Goblins. London, 1880. A collection of Welsh
Various theories have been put forward to explain the
material assembled by the U.S. consul for Wales.
origins of the fairies. A British tradition suggests that fairies
represent memories of an ancient Stone Age race. When the
New Sources
Brasey, Edouard. Fées et elfs: l’universe féerique. Paris, 1999.
Celts arrived in England from central Europe in about 500
Doulet, Jean-Michel. Quand les démons enlaivent les enfants: les
BCE, the earlier inhabitants were driven back into the hills
and hid in caves. They lived underground and were so adept
changelins: étude d’une figure mythique. Paris, 2002.
at hiding in the woods that they seemed to be invisible. The
Letcher, Andy. “The Scouring of the Shire: Fairies, Trolls and Pix-
popular belief that iron provides protection from the fairies
ies in Eco-Protest Culture.” Folklore 112 (October 2001):
is in line with this view, for the Celts possessed iron weapons,
whereas the earlier inhabitants used objects of bronze or
Mack, Carol K., and Dinah Mack. A Field Guide to Demons,
stone. The many stories of fairies’ borrowings and thefts also
Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. New York,
lend weight to this theory, for it was thought that these earli-
er inhabitants borrowed grain and implements, and one can
Purkiss, Diane. Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy
easily imagine a conquered people in hiding, creeping anx-
Stories. London, 2000.
iously about to see what they could steal or borrow from their
Silver, Carole G. Strange and Secret Peoples: Faeries and Victorian
Consciousness. New York, 1999.
Another view suggests that fairies originated as memo-
Wilby, Emma. “The Witch’s Familiar and the Fairy in Early
ries of ancient pagan gods and heroes. They are small in stat-
Modern England and Scotland.” Folklore 111 (October
ure because their significance has been reduced. Still another
2000): 283–305.
theory sees fairies as personified spirits of nature. Modern
supporters of this argument believe that spirits fertilize plants
Revised Bibliography
and care for flowers. But this explanation excludes other
types of fairy, such as the family guardians and the fairy com-
munities with their elaborate social organization. A fourth
FAITH, in probably the best-known definition of it, is
suggestion is that the fairies are ghosts. Certainly there are
“the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things
many connections between fairies and the realm of the dead:
not seen.” Although this definition itself comes from the
They live in burial mounds, and many are obviously ghosts
Christian scriptures, specifically from the anonymous epistle
and are described as such. None of these theories is entirely
to the Hebrews in the New Testament, it can, mutatis mu-
adequate, and the answer may well lie in a blend of them all,
tandis, be applied across a broad spectrum of religions and
coupled with the natural desire to find an explanation for
religious traditions. Whether or not the term faith appears
puzzling phenomena throughout the world.
in those traditions is, at least in part, a matter of how various
SEE ALSO Celtic Religion; Demons; Germanic Religion.
terms are translated into modern Western languages. More
importantly, however, faith is used, even in Judaism and
Christianity (where it has been the most successfully domes-
Briggs, K. M. The Anatomy of Puck. London, 1959. An examina-
ticated), to cover an entire cluster of concepts that are related
tion of fairy beliefs among Shakespeare’s contemporaries and
to one another but are by no means identical. If there is truth
in the contention that faith is the abstract term with which
Briggs, K. M. The Fairies in Tradition and Literature. London,
to describe that attitude of the human mind and spirit of
1967. Provides an account of fairy traditions, traffic between
which prayer is the concrete expression, then one or more
humans and fairies, and the literary use of these beliefs.
of these concepts may probably be said to play some part in
Croker, Thomas Crofton. Fairy Legends and Traditions of the
every religious tradition, and in that sense at least, “faith”
South of Ireland. 3 vols. London, 1825–1828. This work was
may likewise be said to appear there. Hence an enumeration
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of these discrete concepts, each of them in some way a syn-
learning the specific methods of such ritual observance, with
onym for faith, may serve to provide, if not a logical defini-
rites of passage frequently serving as the occasion for such
tion, then at any rate a cumulative description, of it.
learning. Where the divine will was conceived of as having
laid down rules not only for ritual actions but for ethics, the
AITH-AS-FAITHFULNESS. In its most fundamental meaning,
faith has been defined as faithfulness, and as such, it has been
obedience of faith meant moral behavior in conformity with
taken as an attribute both of the divine and of believers in
divine commands; thus in Hinduism, dharma as moral law
the divine. The Latin adjective pius, for example, was used
required righteous conduct. Ordinarily there was no explicit
in Vergil’s Aeneid to describe pius Aeneas or pius Achates, but
antithesis between ethics and ritual action, which together
it also appeared there in such a phrase as pia numina to char-
were the content of authentic obedience, often enjoined in
acterize the reciprocal fidelity that the gods manifested in
the same gnomic saying or story. But the declaration of the
their dealings with human beings; something of both senses,
prophet Samuel in the Hebrew scriptures, “Has the Lord as
presumably, attached to the word when it became a standard
great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying
part of the official title of the Roman emperor, most familiar-
the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
ly in the case of Antoninus Pius (r. 138–161 CE). Pius went
and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sm. 15:22), articulat-
on having both meanings also in postclassical Latin, as the
ed the awareness, which other religions have shared with Ju-
usage of the “Dies Irae” attests. The reciprocity implied in
daism, that faith-as-obedience was above all a compliance
the concept of faith when predicated of human social rela-
with the moral imperative. Presupposed in those words was
tions, where (as in the notion of “keeping faith” with some-
the belief, central to Judaism, that the moral imperative had
one) “faith” has become almost synonymous with “loyalty,”
been made known in the historical revelation of the word of
has carried over likewise into its use for the divine-human
God to Moses, and through him to the people of Israel. But
relation. Wherever the gods were said to promise something
they have been no less applicable in those religious and philo-
in that relation, faith would seem to be an appropriate term
sophical traditions that have emphasized the inner impera-
for their keeping or fulfilling the promise. Conversely—and
tive of conscience rather than the outer imperative of law as
much more customarily—it was the appropriate term for the
the norm of ethical action: Here, too, faith has been above
loyalty or “fealty” (that English word is indeed derived, via
all obedience, in Immanuel Kant’s formula, “the recognition
medieval French, from the Latin fidelitas) that the gods in
of all our duties as divine commands.” Even where faith has
turn rightly expected of mortals. In those religions in which
been defined primarily as trust or as worship or as creed
the initiates received a mark on their body as a sign of their
(see below), obedience was inevitably a constitutive element
special bond with the divine, these marks have often been
of it.
seen as a pledge and a reminder to those who wore them that
FAITH AND WORKS. The definition of faith as obedience,
they were expected to remain faithful to the terms of that
and yet as somehow not reducible to obedience, points to the
special bond. The consequences of a breach of faith-as-
perennial and unavoidable problem of the relation between
faithfulness formed the basis for practices of discipline, pun-
faith and works. On the one hand, even the most theocentric
ishment, and in most traditions possible reinstatement,
versions of faith have found themselves obliged to assert,
though only after a period of purgation and testing (see “The
often in self-defense against the charge that they were sever-
Community of Faith,” below). Even where the other conno-
ing the moral nerve, that they were in fact reinforcing ethics
tations of “faith” discussed below have appeared to predomi-
precisely by their emphasis on its vertical dimension: It has
nate, this emphasis on faith-as-faithfulness, both divine and
been a universal conviction of believers, across religious
human, has never been absent, pertaining as it does to the
boundaries, that “faith without works is dead.” On the other
very concept of adhering to the practices, structures, obliga-
hand, those religious systems that have appeared to outsiders,
tions, or beliefs of any particular way of having faith. When
whether critical or friendly, to equate faith and works and
it has been divorced from some or all of those other connota-
to be indifferent to any considerations except the “purely”
tions, however, faith-as-faithfulness could all too easily be re-
moral ones prove, upon closer examination, to have been no
duced to the formalism and external propriety that the
less sensitive to the dialectic between works and faith. Espe-
prophets and critics in many religious traditions have at-
cially since the Enlightenment, Western critics of traditional
supernaturalism have taken Confucianism as the ideal of a
FAITH-AS-OBEDIENCE. Faith as faithfulness has expressed it-
religion that eschewed metaphysical subtleties to concentrate
self not only in loyalty but in obedience, yet obedience has
on the one thing needful, and they have either criticized tra-
meant even more than faithfulness. The precise content of
ditional Western religions for not conforming to that ideal
such obedience has varied enormously with the content of
or reinterpreted them in accordance with it. For in the Ana-
what was perceived to have been the divine will or law. Obe-
lects Confucius repeatedly professed ignorance about the
dience, therefore, carried both liturgical and moral connota-
mysteries of “Heaven” and avoided discussing the miracu-
tions. An imperative to reenact, periodically or once in a life-
lous phenomena in which conventional faith had sought
time, the acts of the divine model required the obedient and
manifestations of supernatural power; even the question of
meticulous observance of the demands that those acts had
personal immortality did not admit of a clear and definite
placed upon the believer. Initiation into the faith involved
answer. Rather, he concentrated his attention on works of
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piety and of service to others, preferring generosity to greed
flections of the Muslim mystics or in the discourses of Job,
and virtue to success. All of this Confucius (like many other
the ambiguities and difficulties of such confidence in the face
religious teachers) called “the way,” but it is an unwarranted
of concrete reality have served to deepen the understanding
modern reductionism to see in this attitude a moralistic pre-
of trust and to transform Pollyanna-like optimism into ma-
occupation with works alone, at the expense of “faith.” For
ture faith-as-trust.
“Heaven,” which he said had “infused the virtue that is in
FAITH-AS-DEPENDENCE. This combination of mystery and
me,” was the authentic source of the works themselves, as
reliability in the divine will, even after that will has made it-
well as the ultimate foundation for the serenity that made the
self known, has introduced into the definition of faith the
works possible. The faith of Confucius may have been less
element of dependence and submission. For if obedience to
detailed than that of some teachers in its information about
the divine will was the completion of the circle of faith in
the ontological status of “Heaven” and similar speculative
the moral realm, dependence on the divine will was the way
questions, but he knew and expressed a confidence in its
faith-as-trust affirmed the relation of human weakness to di-
providential care as the basis for the works with which he and
vine power. In those traditions in which the divine has been
his disciples were to serve the will of “Heaven.”
seen as creator and/or preserver, faith-as-dependence has
FAITH-AS-TRUST. Such a confidence in the providential care
been, in the first instance, an affirmation of the origin and
of “Heaven” underlies the definition of faith-as-trust. In the
derivation of humanity and of its world; in those traditions
classic formulation of Martin Luther, “to ‘have a god’ is
that have tended not to distinguish as sharply between
nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole
“being” as applied to the divine and as applied to human be-
heart,” because “it is the trust and faith of the heart alone
ings, dependence has been the basis for identifying the loca-
that makes both God and an idol” (Large Catechism). Many
tions of both the divine and the human within the “great
of the conventional metaphors for the divine in various tradi-
chain of Being”; in those traditions that have emphasized the
tions, from “rock” and “mountain” to “mother” or “father,”
recurrence of patterns known to be embedded within the
have served as representations of the conviction that “the
very structure of the cosmos, dependence has made it possi-
trust and faith of the heart” could appropriately be vested in
ble for the community and its individual members to partici-
such an object, and that the divine object would prove wor-
pate, through myth and ritual, in such patterns; and in those
thy of human trust. Conventional practices like divination
traditions that have interpreted human history as the arena
and prayer may likewise be read as expressions of the belief
in which the will and way of the divine could above all be
that the divine will—if it could once be known, or perhaps
discerned, dependence has employed the recitation of the de-
even if it was mysterious and ultimately unknowable—
cisive events in that history to reinforce the sovereignty of
deserved trust. The historic triad of faith, hope, and love
God as the one who was active and knowable within, but al-
(best known from the New Testament, but paralleled else-
ways transcendent over, such saving and revelatory events.
where) has made it necessary for expositors to clarify the dis-
Thus in Islam (a term that is commonly translated into En-
tinction between faith and hope as they were both applied
glish as “submission,” but that might perhaps as well be
to the expectation of future blessings. However, the defini-
translated as “dependence”), the saying of the QurDa¯n, “God
tion of faith-as-trust has been a way of focusing such expecta-
causes whom he wills to err, and whom he wills he guides;
tion on the reliability of divine providence in both prosperity
and you shall assuredly be called to account for your doings,”
and failure: For good or ill, the ways of the divine will could
gave voice to the Prophet’s conviction that the believer must
be counted on, even though the details of their specific intent
depend on the divine will regardless of circumstances, but
might not be discernible at any given moment. Such faith-as-
that such dependence did not preclude human accountabili-
trust even in the inscrutable goodness of the divine order pre-
ty. In Islam, the Five Pillars of Faith were the specific moral
supposed a pattern of divine guidance in the past, which
and cultic duties for which every Muslim believer would be
made it safe to conclude that there would be a continuity of
held accountable, yet the first two Pillars (the recitation of
such guidance into the future. Historically as well as psycho-
faith in the oneness of God and the daily prayers) were decla-
logically, therefore, it is difficult to conceive of faith-as-trust
rations of the paradoxical affirmation that God was not de-
in the absence of such a pattern, be it the outcome of the in-
pendent on creatures or their performance of these duties but
dividual’s own cumulative autobiography or of the history
would be sovereign regardless. That paradox has been central
of the community to which the individual has come to be-
to the definition of faith-as-dependence in many religious
long (or of both). Once established on the basis of this pat-
traditions, with theories ranging all the way from thorough-
tern of divine guidance, faith-as-trust has implied that the
going determinism to apparent moralism (for example, to
vicissitudes of the moment could not, or at any rate should
use the terms familiar to the Western tradition, all the way
not, undermine the confidence that ultimately the object of
from Calvinism to Pelagianism) as efforts to come to terms
that trust would be vindicated. As Johann Wolfgang von
with both poles of a dialectical truth.
Goethe said in his autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit,
FAITH-AS-EXPERIENCE. In one way or another, each of these
“Faith is a profound sense of security in regard to both the
definitions of faith has been derived from faith-as-
present and the future; and this assurance springs from confi-
experience. For even the most transcendent notions of the
dence.” In the choruses of the Greek tragedians or in the re-
mystery of the divine will have, by their very act of affirming
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the mysteriousness of that mystery, laid claim to an experi-
that the individualized experience of faith has repeatedly
ence in which the individual believer or the community tra-
taken place during or after corporate worship: The setting
dition has caught a glimpse of just how mysterious the divine
of the private vision has often been the temple itself; or when
could be. Although mystics and prophets—and, following
the vision has come in the solitude of the desert or in the pri-
their lead, historians and philosophers of religion—have
vacy of the soul, it has come as a consequence of participation
often spoken of such experiences in isolation from the con-
in the ritual of the temple or as a response to instruction in
tinuum of human consciousness, that is not, of course, how
the lore of the community’s tradition. Just as the distinction
they have actually occurred. From the biographies of seers
between the experience of faith and general human experi-
and saints it is obvious that these experiences often came in
ence has engaged the interest of psychologists of religion, so
response and in reaction to specific moments of exaltation
sociologists of religion have probed the connection (in the
or depression, in feverish intensity or in the excitement and
formulas of Joachim Wach) between “religion and natural
release of love and death. That inseparability of faith-as-
groups,” as well as then the “specifically religious organiza-
experience from all the other experiences of life has persuad-
tion of society.” The community of faith, as coextensive with
ed some observers of the phenomenon to see it as in fact the
the family or tribe, has conferred its authority on that social
sublimation and “supernatural” reinterpretation of an essen-
organization in marriage, war, and commerce, and has de-
tially “natural” event. Ludwig Feuerbach, both as historian
rived its sanctions from it in turn. Then exclusion from the
and as philosopher, penetrated deeply into this aspect of
believing community was identical with ostracism from the
faith-as-experience; and Freudian psychology has been espe-
natural community. But with the more sophisticated identi-
cially successful in explaining religious experience in its rela-
fication of the specific nature of faith has come a distinction
tion to the totality and complexity of how the human mind
between the two, often through the emergence of an ecclesiola
has attempted to cope with all the data of its experience. But
in ecclesia as a more precisely delineated community of faith
in opposition to the reductionism that has frequently been
or (using a pejorative word in a nonpejorative sense) a “sect.”
represented as the only acceptable conclusion from this qual-
FAITH AND WORSHIP. The community of faith has always
ity of faith-as-experience, the philosophical interpretation of
been a community of worship; in fact, worship has been far
religion, systematized perhaps most effectively by Rudolf
more explicitly a part of its definition than has faith. Western
Otto, has sought to identify what was distinct about this ex-
observers of “primitive” societies have sometimes been pre-
perience even if it was not separate from other experience.
vented from recognizing this, either (as in the case of some
Otto’s formulation, which has since become all but canoni-
Christian missionaries) by too particularistic an understand-
cal, is “the experience of the Holy.” He called it “a category
ing of worship or (as in the case of some modern anthropolo-
of interpretation and valuation peculiar to the sphere of reli-
gists) by too reductionistic an understanding of ritual. One
gion,” and declared that “there is no religion in which it does
of the most important scholarly sources for the new and
not live as the real innermost core, and without it no religion
deeper recognition of faith-as-worship has been the investi-
would be worthy of the name.” Yet precisely because faith’s
gation of the interrelation between myth and ritual: Myth
experience of the holy has upon further reflection come to
came to be read as the validation, in the deeds of the ancients
include the recognition of its inherent ineffability, the lan-
or of the gods, of what the ritual now enjoined upon believ-
guage of faith has drawn upon other experience—aesthetic,
ers; and ritual acquired a new dimension by being under-
moral, intellectual—to be able to speak about the unspeak-
stood as not merely outward ceremonial performed ex opere
able at all.
operato but as the repetition in the believers’ actions of what
THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH. In the sacred literatures of reli-
the myth recited in words about the divine actions that had
gious faith, faith-as-experience has often been described in
made the world and founded the community. Amid an infi-
highly individualistic terms: How the poet or prophet has
nite variety of ritual forms and liturgical prescriptions, there-
come to know the holy in personal experience has dominated
fore, worship has defined “faith.” For example, the fourth
how he or she has described that experience for others, so
and last of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism as formulat-
that they in turn, one at a time, might also come to share
ed by Gautama Buddha himself was the recognition of the
in such an experience and duplicate it for themselves. Indi-
methods by which the believer could overcome the inner
vidualism of that kind underlay, for example, the recurring
yearning for pleasure out of which the misery of dukkha
definition of religion as “what one does with one’s solitari-
sprang. Similarly, the eighth and last part of the Eightfold
ness.” Except for passing moments of intense mystical rap-
Path of Buddhism consisted in proper meditation, which was
ture, however, such individualism has been shown to be illu-
inseparable from the first seven. Methodologically, the task
sory. And except for occasional glossolalia, the very language
of discovering the specifics of the faith expressing itself in a
in which the individual has spoken about faith-as-experience
particular worship ritual continues to challenge the ingenuity
has been derived from the history of the community, even
of historians of religion, as is manifested by their disputes
when that language has been aimed against the present cor-
over the meaning of (to cite an example present in several
ruption of the community or when it has been directed to-
traditions) the ritual of circumcision. Even the widely shared
ward the founding of a new and purer community. When
assumption that the ritual antedated the myth, which in turn
examined in its total context, moreover, it becomes apparent
antedated the theological explanation of both, must be mod-
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ified by the repeatedly attested rise of new rituals out of the
faith-as-trust over the Roman Catholic faith-as-credo, still
composition of the myth or after the adoption of the theo-
retained, and in some ways even intensified, the insistence
logical doctrine. Yet in the absence of any verifiable statistical
on right doctrine, a knowledge of which and an assent to
data it does seem a safe generalization to suggest that, even
which were the necessary presupposition for a correct faith-
more than faith-as-obedience to a moral imperative or com-
mandment, faith-as-worship has defined faith for most of the
FAITH AND TRADITION. Acceptance of a “deposit of faith”
human race through most of its history. Even the term ortho-
has implied some notion of tradition as that which has been
doxy, which has acquired the meaning “right doctrine” in
traditum, first “handed down” and then “handed on.” Al-
most of the languages where it appears and which carries that
though the thinkers of the eighteenth-century Enlighten-
meaning also when it is used in a secular sense for political
ment drew a sharp distinction between “traditionary reli-
or literary theories, really means “right worship,” as the Rus-
gion” and “natural religion,” vastly preferring the latter to
sian translation of the word, pravoslavie (“the right way to
the former, it was in fact only the former that was to be
celebrate”), demonstrates.
found in the history of religion; eventually even the “natural
FAITH-AS-CREDO. Yet orthodoxy does mean primarily “right
religion” of the Enlightenment acquired a certain traditional
doctrine” now, and one of the definitions of “faith” is
content and was transmitted from one generation to the next
“credo” (which is the Latin for “I believe”). Because so much
by way of an intellectual tradition. “Traditionary religion,”
of the history and interpretation of world religions has been
therefore, has defined itself and its faith on the basis of re-
the work of Christian thinkers trained in the doctrinal theol-
ceived tradition. The myth of how holy things have hap-
ogy of the several Christian churches, early scholarship in
pened; the ritual of how holy acts were to be performed; the
“comparative religion” regularly consisted of a review, doc-
rules of conduct by which the faithful were expected to guide
trine by doctrine, of what the various religions were per-
their lives; the structure through which the holy community
ceived as having taught. As often as not, such reviews were
was founded and governed; the doctrine by which the com-
organized according to the schema of categories devised by
munity gave an account of the myth and ritual—all these ex-
Thomistic or orthodox Lutheran and Reformed systematic
pressions of faith have been the subject and the content of
theologians, even, for example, in so sensitive a treatment as
the holy tradition. In all those religions that have ascribed
Karl Friedrich Nägelsbach’s Homeric Theology (1840) and
normative status to a holy book, the question of faith-as-
Post-Homeric Theology (1857). The artificiality and arbitrari-
tradition has taken a special form, as they have sought to deal
ness of imposing these categories from the outside on literary
with the question of the relation between the revelation in
and religious traditions having an integrity of their own led
the book, as given once and for all, and the continuing reve-
later generations of scholars to employ greater caution in
lation in the tradition. Reformers in each of those groups
claiming to have discovered “doctrinal” meanings (in the
have drawn an antithesis between the purity of the original
sense in which Christian theology spoke of “doctrines”) in
scripture and the accretions of later tradition, which needed
non-Christian religions, even sometimes in postbiblical Ju-
to be expunged, while defenders of tradition have posited a
daism. Significantly, however, one outcome of the tensions
continuity between the scripture and the tradition, some-
that have arisen between various of those religions and mod-
times by characterizing them as “two sources of revelation”
ern thought (see “Faith and Knowledge” below) has been the
but sometimes by describing the ongoing tradition as the
development, within the traditions themselves and at the
process through which the properly validated authorities had
hands of their own faithful devotees, of something very like
gradually made explicit the content of the faith already im-
systematic doctrinal theology, which has included compara-
plicit in scripture. Thus a twentieth-century Russian Ortho-
tive judgments about their relation to other traditions and
dox thinker, Vladimir Lossky, defined tradition as “the life
their “doctrines.” As already suggested, nevertheless, the defi-
of the Holy Spirit in the Church, communicating to each
nition of faith-as-credo has been especially prominent in
member of the Body of Christ the faculty of hearing, of re-
Western and Christian thought.
ceiving, of knowing the Truth in the Light which belongs
In medieval usage, for example, the Latin word fides
to it, and not according to the natural light of human rea-
must commonly be translated as “the faith” rather than sim-
son.” By setting faith into the framework of such a theory
ply as “faith,” because it referred in the first instance to the
of tradition, Lossky and his counterparts in other faiths (who
content of what was believed (fides quae creditur) rather than
could have used much of the same language, substituting
to the act of believing (fides qua creditur), and specifically to
other proper names) have sought to combine the static view
one of the orthodox creeds of the church, generally the Apos-
of tradition as a “deposit of the faith” in the past with a dy-
tles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed; once defined, orthodox doc-
namic view of tradition as “living faith” in the present and
trines were binding de fide, by the authority of the faith. To
“have faith,” then, meant first of all to “hold the faith” as this
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE. Whether it has been interpreted
had been laid down in the apostolic “deposit of faith” and
as a second channel of revelation for faith or as the develop-
legislated by church fathers, councils, and popes. And even
ment of a truth already implicitly present in the original de-
the repudiation of the medieval system by the Protestant Ref-
posit of faith, tradition has been a way of knowing the truth.
ormation, a major plank of which was Luther’s elevation of
Faith, therefore, has been taken to be a species of knowledge,
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

differing from ordinary knowledge by its superior claims: An
Otto, Rudolf. The Idea of the Holy. New York, 1928.
arcane character, a transcendent content, privileged channels
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Faith and Belief. Princeton, N.J, 1979.
of communication, or divine certainty (or all of the above).
Söderblom, Nathan. The Living God: Basal Forms of Personal Reli-
So long as such claims remained publicly uncontested, faith
gion. Oxford, 1933.
could stand as objectively sure, even when subjectively the
Wach, Joachim. Sociology of Religion. Chicago, 1944.
individual believer might question or doubt it. There is no
reason to suppose that such existential questioning and
doubting have ever been absent from the experience of faith,
and plenty of reason to find evidence of their presence in the
artifacts and literary remains of various religious faiths from
the past. What has made the situation of religious faith in
the present unique, however, is the gravity and the universal-
ity of the tension between faith and knowledge. One by one,
each of the world faiths has been obliged to confront the
competing truth claims not only of other faiths, as it had per-
FALL, THE. The concept of the fall appears in myths,
haps done before, but of other forms of knowledge that
traditions, and religions of a great many peoples and presents
seemed to render any faith-as-knowledge, regardless of which
a number of interrelated themes of primary importance in
faith was involved, superfluous or absurd. The identification
the history of religious thought. In general, the fall is to be
of faith with accounts of miracles and similar wondrous
thought of as an accident that arose after the creation or gen-
events that a later generation has found to be, quite literally,
esis of the world bearing consequences for the present human
incredible has undermined the authority of the faith itself.
condition; this accident explains a new situation in the world
Orthodox methods of harmonizing away contradictions in
that is recognized as a decline or degradation when contrast-
the authoritative tradition through allegory or a theory of
ed to the original state of humankind and the cosmos. This
multiple meanings have not been able to withstand the pres-
fundamental conception of the fall takes different forms in
sures of the historical method of dealing with the tradition.
different cultures and religions.
The discovery or invention of alternate means of dealing
with those crises of life and needs of society for which faith
fall may be considered from the perspective of (1) historical
had served as the divinely prescribed cure relegated it to a sec-
time and its unfolding; (2) theogony; (3) cosmogony; and
ondary status as a superstitious nostrum still needed only by
(4) anthropogony, which encompasses the creation of hu-
those who did not know any better. When Immanuel Kant
manity and its present condition.
said in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) that he had “found
Historical time. Considered temporally, the fall takes
it necessary to deny knowledge of God, freedom, and immor-
place between Urzeit and Endzeit, between the beginning
tality in order to find a place for faith,” he was speaking for
and the end of creation. Within historical time, it is very
believers in many traditions who have salvaged faith by mak-
close to the beginnings of time conceived as a golden age in
ing it invulnerable to the claims and counterclaims of knowl-
contrast to which the fall and its consequences represent a
edge; but in so doing, they have also brought into question
break or degradation. This temporal and historical concep-
most of the other functions of faith. At the same time, the
tion of the fall can be found in various popular traditions as
very challenge of knowledge to faith has produced a clearer
well as myths of the golden age and paradise lost.
understanding both of faith’s relation to other aspects of
human experience and of its distinctive meaning and power.
Theogony. The theogonic aspect of the fall deals with
the degradation of the divine and is found in the numerous
SEE ALSO Doubt and Belief; Knowledge and Ignorance;
myths concerning the origin of the gods, of their victory over
Obedience; Orthopraxy; Physics and Religion; Tradition.
chaos, or of the victory of the more recent forces of divinity
over older ones. Coextensive with the creation, the fall as
presented in theogony implies the identification of evil and
Eliade, Mircea. Patterns in Comparative Religion. New York, 1958.
chaos on the one hand and of salvation and creation on the
Feuerbach, Ludwig. The Essence of Christianity. Translated by
other. This conception of the fall is found especially in
George Eliot. London, 1854.
Sumero-Akkadian theogonic myths that recount the victory
Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. London, 1928.
of order over preexisting chaos; it is found also in the Egyp-
Heiler, Friedrich. Prayer: A Study in the History and Psychology of
tian myth of the battle between Seth and Horus. Strictly
Religion. Oxford, 1932.
speaking, these theogonic myths are not true myths of the
Hügel, Friedrich von. The Mystical Element of Religion. 2 vols.
fall, but two of their recurrent themes justify their inclusion
London, 1961.
in a typology of myths of the fall. First, they emphasize the
James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York,
ritual celebration of the maintenance of the creation and cos-
mic order, as in the festival of Akitu in Babylon. Second, they
Lossky, Vladimir. In the Image and Likeness of God. Scarsdale,
present, through a variety of mythologies, the theme of the
N.Y., 1974.
degradation of divinity that results from the fall of some por-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

tion of the divine substance into matter, body, or darkness.
The Jorai cosmogony of the autochthonous peoples of
This theme is central to the three most important forms of
Indochina gives an idyllic description of original humanity.
religious dualism: Orphism, Gnosticism, and Manichaeism.
Living with the god Oi Adei, humankind enjoyed a deathless
Cosmogony. From the perspective of cosmogony, the
existence in a paradise where one could fly like a bird and
fall is seen as an accident occurring after the genesis of the
talk with plants and animals, where bundles of wicker grew
world that affects cosmic forces and explains the present con-
on trees and shovels turned over the earth by themselves.
dition of earth or the universe. Myths that tell of the progres-
Man had only to feed his tools; but he got drunk and did
sive degradation of the universe and its destruction and recre-
not do so, and the tools revolted. In the Sre cosmogony of
ation in successive cosmic cycles exemplify this cosmogonic
Indochina, humans had no need to work in the earthly para-
view of the fall. The flood is an important example of this
dise, because the god Ong Ndu had made them immortal;
type of fall, and numerous myths of the flood are found
but when the primordial couple refused the god’s command
among religious traditions of the world.
to dive into a well, they were punished for their disobedience
by suffering, old age, and death.
Anthropogony. Anthropogony, however, offers the
most important perspective on the fall. From this perspec-
The cosmogonies of Bantu speakers from the Mayombe
tive, the contemporary human condition—a condition of
region north of the Kongo River, the cradle of the old Kongo
degradation in contrast to that of the golden age of humani-
civilization, contain significant stories of the fall. In the
ty—is explained as the consequence of a fall, a tragic event
Yombe tradition, humankind’s golden age was brought to an
that bursts into human history. Around this event are clus-
end by Nzondo, a spirit whose magic also created the Zaire
tered those myths and symbols that seek to explain the ori-
River after a flood. Nzondo drove people from their original
gins of illness and death and the tragic nature of the human
home, dispersing them over the earth and setting in motion
condition after the fall.
the chain of disasters that have since befallen the race.
From these four perspectives, it is possible to develop
In a Dogon myth from Mali, heaven and earth were
a typology through which the myriad myths of the fall in cul-
originally very close to each other. But God separated them
tures throughout the world become comprehensible. Fur-
and made men mortal, after being disturbed by the noise of
thermore, these perspectives illuminate the fundamental as-
the women crushing millet. Similarly, in a myth from Cam-
pect of the concept of the fall and the inherent meaning that
eroon and Burkina Faso (Upper Volta), the vault of heaven
emerges from these myths: The present human condition is
was originally within humanity’s reach, but when a woman
explained by the accident that occurred after creation and
who touched the vault with a load of wood she was carrying
ended the golden age.
on her head asked God to move it out of her way, he moved
Myths of the fall clearly show three essential elements:
it so far that he abandoned humankind to death. These
(1) the concept of a golden age in the beginning, (2) the acci-
myths tell of a paradise lost; but they also stress the theme
dent that is a break or degradation of original harmony, (3)
of God’s rejection of a disobedient humankind, of his con-
the explanation of the present human condition. From these
signing humanity to death as punishment for a variety of
three elements, it is possible to trace a historico-
sins, that is, for violating a divine prohibition, for lying or
phenomenological picture of the traditions dealing with the
theft, for domestic rivalries, for lack of charity. Death is ex-
fall. One final remark needs to be added, however, before
plained as divine punishment prompted by human disobedi-
proceeding to an analysis of this picture. An understanding
ence. Similar myths are found among the Diola in Senegal,
of the complexity of the problems related to the concept of
the Nupe in Nigeria, the Bena Kanioka in Zaire, and the
the fall must not lose sight of the intimate relationship of this
Anyi in the Ivory Coast.
concept with the problem of evil; any conception of the fall
Myths of the fall as fate, though less frequently encoun-
has implications concerning the origins of evil, as well as inti-
tered than those of the fall as punishment, are also significant
mations of a possible overcoming of evil through a recovery
in sub-Saharan Africa. These myths involve an archetypal
of the state that existed previous to the fall. Thus a philo-
badly delivered message—a divine message of immortality
sophical and ethical dimension is grafted onto, and is coex-
that reaches humanity either too late or in abridged or altered
tensive with, the idea of the fall and forms an important part
form. Here, the original separation of heaven and earth re-
of a hermeneutical approach that tries to come to terms with
places the earthly paradise where God and humans live to-
its relationship to guilt or fault. The scope of this article,
gether; from heaven, God sends messages to people on earth.
however, does not permit an envisage of these other aspects
In a Tsonga myth, a chameleon carries the message of eternal
of the fall.
life, while the giant lizard Galagala carries the message of
death. The lizard, moving faster, arrives first, and humanity
an earthly paradise, where humans are immortal, is an inte-
so becomes mortal. In a Bete version of the same myth, from
gral part of cosmogony and descriptions of the world’s begin-
the Ivory Coast, the lizard advises the chameleon to walk
ning in many cultures. That primordial person enjoys a bliss
slowly. Animals are always the messengers in these myths,
and freedom that it lost as the result of a fall is the dominant
and the message of mortality always arrives first. Other
theme of this myth, a theme offering many variations.
myths emphasize the change and deterioration of the mes-
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sage in the course of its transmission; myths of this sort are
those that stress lack of charity, or the race’s capacity for do-
found among the Mossi in Burkina Faso, the Ashanti in
mestic violence, as in a Chiga myth from Uganda. The curi-
Ghana, the Kabiye in Togo, and the Kikuyu in Kenya.
osity of the primordial couple who aspire to the secrets of the
gods is a frequent mythical theme in Africa, where myths of
In Australia, the Aranda regard their totem ancestors as
the fall also emphasize the cohesiveness of individual and
the heroic forgers of civilizations who gave form to the coun-
group (Thomas, 1982, pp. 32–48).
tryside, who allotted individual lives to humans by creating
separate embryos, who lived in a mythical golden age where
ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS. Important approaches to the
they were untouched by the woes of contemporary human-
theme of the fall are found in the great civilizations of antiq-
kind. These totem ancestors were immortal, and those
uity. This section examines those myths and traditions found
among them who apparently died in battle in fact went to
in the civilizations of Egypt, Sumer and Babylonia, ancient
heaven, where they became tjurungas, sacred beings who
India, ancient Iran, and ancient Greece.
were powerful and creative, traveling to and fro above or
below the earth.
Egypt. Egyptian religious thought also shows an aware-
ness of a golden age existing at the beginning. The study of
Exhausted when they completed their creative work,
archaic texts has prompted the hypothesis that this age was
and seized by an overwhelming lassitude, these mythical an-
thought to have had two stages, the first of which was Urzeit,
cestors sank into the earth. But before they disappeared they
primordial time before the creation. The idea of a primordial
laid down, by some of their actions, the rudiments of death;
time is expressed by such formulas as “that did not yet exist”
thus, the first people knew both death and the pains of the
(nhprt) or, in the wording of Pyramid Texts 1040 and 1043,
human condition. The myth of the magpie Urbura explains
“When the heavens did not yet exist . . . there existed nei-
the permanence of death. When the first mortal tried to leave
ther death nor disorder.” In contrast to this mythic primordi-
his tomb, Urbura struck at him with her claws, thrust a spear
al time is the time that follows it, the time of creation and
through his neck, and nailed him to the ground, establishing
of creator gods such as Re and Osiris (Otto, 1969,
forever humanity’s mortal condition.
pp. 96–99).
Common to myths of the fall and to nostalgia for a lost
Whatever the validity of this hypothesis, the time of cre-
golden age is the view that the original human condition was
ation, the Schöpfungszeit, was definitely considered a golden
a condition of paradise. Heaven lay close to the earth, and
age. A variety of texts make it possible to assert this interpre-
people could go there merely by climbing a mountain, a tree,
tation with certainty. “Law was established in their time. Jus-
a ladder, or a vine (Eliade, 1960). Enjoying the friendship
tice (Maat) came down from heaven to earth in their age and
of both the gods and the animals—and speaking their lan-
united herself with those on the earth. There was an abun-
guage—man enjoyed a life that was immortal, free, sponta-
dance on the earth; stomachs were full, and there was no lean
neous, and perfectly happy.
year in the Two Lands. Wall did not collapse, thorn did not
That this paradise was lost as the result of the fall is a
prick in the time of the primeval Gods” (Kákosy, 1964,
second commonly held view. Often, the fall is an accident,
p. 206). An inscription from the temple of Idfu speaks in the
as in Australia, where myths of the Aranda tribe merely re-
same way: “There was no sin on the earth. The crocodile did
cord it. In various African traditions the accident is equated
not seize prey, the serpent did not bite in the age of the pri-
with sleep: The god had asked humans to remain awake
meval Gods.” This golden age is depicted in other temple in-
through the night to await a message from him, but when
scriptions and is found again in the Coffin Texts; it is, in fact,
it arrived they were asleep. If sleep is understood as a symbol
a very ancient doctrine in which myths of a golden age and
for death, the accident of sleep explains both the precarious
fall are tied to the problem of death.
human condition and the establishment of death.
Three great Egyptian cosmogonies explain the creation
The fall may also result from human failings. Once
of the world. In the Memphis theology, the word of the god
again, the most important documentation is found in sub-
Ptah created all things; at Heliopolis, the creation takes place
Saharan Africa. A Maasai myth known in both Africa and
with Re-Atum’s separation of heaven and earth; at Hermop-
Madagascar tells of a package that humans were given by
olis Magna, the creator is the god Thoth, who fashions an
God but forbidden to open; driven by curiosity, they opened
egg from which the sun, organizer of the cosmos, emerges.
it and let loose sickness and death. The divine prohibition
The Memphis theology makes it clear that, by putting the
takes other forms in other traditions. In a Pygmy story of
cosmos, the gods, and the gods’ images and cults in place,
central Africa, it is against looking at something; in a story
Ptah established a definitive cosmic order in which Maat, the
of the Luba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it for-
principle of order, replaced disorder (Pyramid Text
bids the eating of certain fruits; in a Lozi myth found in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo and Malawi, it prohibits
The myth of the celestial cow, a myth of archaic origin,
the taking of wild game.
although known from a text of the New Kingdom, is the
Sometimes humanity’s fault is best understood an-
most important witness to the Egyptian doctrine of the fall.
thropologically, as in myths describing theft or lying, or
It tells of insults hurled by humans at the god Re (variously
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called “silver-boned Re,” “golden-limbed Re,” “Re of the
Sumer and Babylonia. The numerous Mesopotamian
lapis lazuli hair”) and of Re’s attempt to determine their pun-
traditions dealing with the origins of the gods, the cosmos,
ishment in a secret council of the gods held in the Nun, or
and humanity go back to the Sumerian period, well before
primordial chaos. From his throne, Re glared fixedly at the
the third millennium BCE, and become completely inter-
rebellious humans, as the gods had advised; immediately, his
mixed over time with Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian
eye became the goddess Hathor, henceforth called Sekhmet,
myths. Thus, it is possible to present these traditions coher-
the Powerful; she organized a massacre of the rebels as they
ently by selecting characteristic examples from these three
fled into the desert. Re, however, preferred to save remaining
groups of myths.
humankind; ordering that pomegranates be brought to him,
Samuel Noah Kramer (1981) finds the first document
he extracted their juice, and at dawn carried the juice to the
of the Golden Age in the Sumerian story called Emmer-kai
flooded area of humanity’s impending extermination. There
and the Lord of Aratta. The story speaks of “an earlier time,”
he determined to spare the human race; but he also withdrew
before the fall, when humankind lived in peace and harmo-
to the highest place in heaven, and sat on the back of Nut,
ny, without fear and without rival. During that time, before
the vault of heaven transformed into a cow, assigning to
the creation of snake or scorpion, hyena or lion, wolf or wild
Thoth the role of scribe and the task of civilizing humanity.
dog, all peoples of the universe worshiped the same god,
Enlil. But the gods brought about humankind’s fall when
The Book of Going Forth by Day is another witness to
Enki cast an evil spell and stole Enlil’s empire.
the Egyptian doctrine of the fall. Chapter 17, alluding to
Re’s enemies, declares: “I was All when I was in the Nun,
The creation poem Enuma elish, which dates from 1100
and I am Re. . . . When Re first appeared as king of all that
BCE but actually goes back to the first Babylonian dynasty
he had created, when the uprisings of Shu did not yet exist,
at the beginning of the second millennium, relates the gene-
he was on the hill that is at Hermopolis and at that time the
sis of the gods before it describes the genesis of the world or
children of the fall at Hermopolis were delivered over to
humanity, and shows that strife and murder existed among
him.” To this passage, which tells of the revolt against Re,
the gods from the moment of their creation. The younger
correspond the lines at the beginning of chapter 175, which
gods banded together against their mother, Tiamat; they be-
speak of the disorder created by the children of Nut: “O
haved riotously and spread fear throughout the dwelling
Thoth, what is to be done with the children of Nut? They
places on high. The goddess Ea caused the god Apsu—who
have fomented war, they have provoked quarrels, they have
would himself have murdered the other gods, had his scheme
not been betrayed—to fall into a deep sleep, then undressed
caused disorder, they have massacred. . . . They have
him to take away his strength, and finally put him to death.
brought low that which was great in all that I created. Show
The Atrahasis myth, dating from the reign of the Babylonian
strength, Thoth, says Atum. . . . Shorten their years, cut off
king Ammisadaqa (1646–1626 BCE), gives another version
their months. For they have secretly destroyed all that you
of these events, in which the gods declared war on Enlil and
gathered in arms before his temple for the decisive battle.
From such texts, it is clear that pharaonic Egypt was ac-
In these two myths, evil is coextensive with the first gen-
quainted very early with a doctrine of a golden age, an age
eration of the gods, and disorder begins in the divine world
followed by the fall that explains the Jetztzeit, the present
itself when the younger gods kill their mother, Tiamat (who
human condition of death and degradation. Nevertheless,
in any case had planned to murder them). From this perspec-
the Egyptian theology that viewed royalty as a divine contin-
tive, the gods are responsible for evil, and order appears
uation of Maat, the cosmic and moral order, had a para-
among them only with the advent of the god Marduk, the
mount influence on three thousand years of Egyptian history
principle of an ordered divine world. Hence, humans simply
under the pharaohs and the Ptolemies, and although each
find evil in the world; they are not the cause of it.
great historic era ended in a period of disorder, the disorder
Both the Atrahasis myth and the poem Enuma elish
itself gave rise to the reestablishment of Egyptian society
show that the gods created humans with the intention of im-
under renewed pharaonic rule. Life and survival were insepa-
posing burdensome tasks upon them: food gathering, the
rable in Egypt, and the optimism running throughout Egyp-
building of waterways, dikes, canals, and so forth. In the
tian culture is made obvious by the absence of traditions
Atrahasis text, the god Weilu is killed by the other gods, who
dealing with great cosmic disasters such as the flood.
then mix his flesh and blood with clay to make humankind,
There was also, however, a darker side to Egyptian
upon whom they immediately impose the gods’ “basket”
thought, one that does relate that evil, incarnate in the god
(i.e., workload); in a story dating from the seventeenth cen-
Seth, existed before the creation of humans. Hence some
tury BCE and found in a bilingual text from the reign of King
Egyptologists interpret the verses quoted above from chapter
Tiglath-pileser I (1114–1076 BCE), An, Enlil, and Enki kill
175 of the Book of Going Forth by Day, referring to the chil-
the Alla gods and from their blood create humankind, which
dren of Nut, as an allusion to a quarrel among the gods and
they also charge with tasks previously borne by the gods.
evidence of a primordial sin that stood at the origin of the
In these texts, and in many others that echo them, it is
clear that Mesopotamian thought saw the human condition
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

as one of total subordination to the gods, who were absolute
dusk), all creatures lived in a state of spiritual perfection,
masters of the world. This dualistic thought presents a hu-
doing as they pleased, free from heat and cold, fatigue and
manity fashioned both from the blood of a murdered god
suffering, ignorant alike of justice and injustice. Possessing
and from mere clay, a humanity knowing no primordial fall
similar forms, their pleasures, their life span, and their ever-
but only a destiny of submission to the gods and subordina-
youthful bodies ensured a life of abundant happiness, joy,
tion to divine power. The gods reserve a deathless, happy life
and light, knowing neither classes nor different ways of
for themselves, imposing on humanity a precarious existence
being. Whatever was sought after by the spirit sprang from
that ends in death, itself a divine decision. The dead lead
the earth, and all enjoyed truth, forbearance, satisfaction, and
only a shadowy existence in the realm of the god Nergal.
Two ancient texts provide Akkadian and Babylonian
The Va¯yu Pura¯n:a does not describe a fall, but simply
versions of the Mesopotamian flood. The earlier, dating from
a decline, from this golden age. The second age, treta¯yuga,
the beginning of the third millennium, was found on a Su-
was still, at its beginning, part of the golden age; beings still
merian tablet unearthed in the ruins of Nippur; the other is
lived without suffering, joyous and satisfied. With time,
found in tablet 11 of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
however, they became greedy; they laid waste the fruit trees
and the honey that had fed them in ease. Afflicted now by
The Sumerian tablet describes the creation of the world
wind, heat, and cold, people built houses, then villages and
and humans and the building of the first cities, including
cities. Now too rains came, bringing streams, rivers, and rank
Eridu and Shuruppak. The rather fragmentary story of the
vegetation. Humans were divided into four classes:
flood tells of how the gods decided upon a deluge, from
bra¯hman:a, ks:atriya, vai´sya, and ´su¯dra; and, because humans
which only the pious king Ziusudra was spared. After the di-
no longer fulfilled their duties, the bra¯hman:as assigned spe-
saster, Ziusudra sacrificed an ox and a sheep to the sun god
cific functions to each class. The bra¯hman:as were to make
Utu and thereby reconciled the gods and humankind.
sacrifices on behalf of others, to read the Veda, to receive of-
In the Babylonian version, from the Epic of Gilgamesh,
ferings; the ks:atriyas were to exercise power, make war, and
the man saved from the flood was Utanapishtim, to whom
dispense justice; the vai´syas were to raise livestock or practice
the gods gave immortality. After the flood, the quarrel that
agriculture or commerce; the ´su¯dras were to practice the vari-
had divided the gods started up again, and Enlil, the lord of
ous trades. The bra¯hman:as likewise introduced and named
earth and sky who had been the cause of the flood, wanted
the four stages of life: first, the quest for knowledge, followed
to destroy its sole survivor; but Ea and Ishtar, protectors of
by domestic life, the retreat into the forest, and, finally, re-
humankind, intervened and Utanapishtim was saved.
In neither version of the flood does the question of
It is clear from the Va¯yu Pura¯n:a that by the end of the
human responsibility for the cosmic disaster arise; as in Mes-
second yuga the conditions of humanity and the cosmos were
opotamian stories of humanity’s creation, the stories of the
such that the golden age had been lost, the victim not of a
flood deal only with theogony and with quarrels of the gods.
fall in the usual sense but of a progressive decline, and of the
The Atrahasis myth does indicate the gods’ motive for the
negative effects of time. As differences appeared among
flood—the noise and disturbance produced by the ever-
them, humans lost their original vitality, turning to passion,
increasing number of humans—but this motive is analogous
vice, and greed, and ceasing to carry out their duties faithful-
to that behind the gods’ first quarrel. Thus, whatever the rea-
ly. The Va¯yu Pura¯n:a emphasizes the role of human responsi-
son for the gods’ displeasure with humanity, the human fail-
bility in this cosmic and social decline.
ings that appear at the time of the fall are simply part of a
From the sixth century BCE on, the idea of karman, spe-
divinely ordained chaos. In the final analysis, myths of the
cific to Hindu religious thought, was used to explain the de-
fall in Sumero-Babylonian thought are intimately tied to
cline of the human condition. Linked to the idea of sa¯m:sara,
theogonic and cosmogonic myths in which the fall, like ev-
the incessant whirlpool of rebirths, the ethical idea of kar-
erything else that happens, results from the will of the gods.
man, gradually replacing older Vedic ritual notions, placed
Ancient India. In India, which has experienced its past
the human soul under the necessity of being reborn in ani-
far more through myths than through historical interpreta-
mal, human, or divine forms. Thus humanity by its actions
tion of actual past events, the most important documents of
was made responsible for its decline and for the repercussions
mythic history are the Pura¯n:as, or “ancient tales.” One part
of that decline in the cosmos. Holding humankind account-
of the speculations of the Va¯yu Pura¯n:a treats the four yugas,
able for his position in the universe, the law of the karman
or ages, of the world. The present age, the fourth yuga, is
became a law of just retribution for actions.
called the kaliyuga. The first age, named kr:tayuga or satyayu-
The Indian idea of the flood, of “cosmic disaster,” ap-
ga, is described in the Va¯yu Pura¯n:a as a golden age when Pra-
pears within a cyclical conception of time—a conception
japati created all things from a superabundance of light and
analogous to the idea of the karman involving the periodic
destruction and rebirth of the cosmos. The oldest of numer-
During this yuga, a perfect age that lasted four thousand
ous Indian versions of a cosmic fall in the form of a flood
years (plus an additional four hundred for its dawn and
is that of the S´atapatha Bra¯hman:a 1.8.1; it presents the story
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

of Manu, the first man and the survivor of the flood, in a
Describing Yima’s meeting with Ahura Mazda¯, Vendi-
typically Vedic context. Warned of the flood by a fish, Manu
dad 2.21–22 mentions hard winters of bitter cold and heavy
takes the fish under his protection and then is saved by it as
snow; in Bundahishn 7, there is a story of what appears to
the waters rise and carry away all other creatures. Left alone,
be a flood; and al-MasEu¯d¯ı (d. 957) relates how, according
Manu offers the pa¯ka sacrifice, and, after a year, a woman—
to one tradition, the flood came during Yima’s time. In the
his daughter, called Id:a¯, the offering—is born; through her
nineteenth century, scholars such as C. P. Tiele, François
Manu will create his posterity, the renewed humanity.
Lenormant, and A. V. Rydberg saw an allusion to the flood
in this evidence; but early in the twentieth century, Nathan
Ancient Iran. The Avesta preserves ancient Iran’s mem-
Söderblom, in a lengthy discussion of the question, showed
ories of the golden age that existed in the beginning, during
that it is impossible to know whether the devastating winters
the reign of the first king, Yima (Vendidad 2.1–20, Yasna
mentioned in these passages were considered part of a real
9.4–5, Yashts 9.9, 13.130, 15.15, 17.29, 19.32). According
past before they came to symbolize the end of the world later
to Yasna 9.4, Yima, the good shepherd, the most glorious of
incorporated into Mazdean eschatology. Söderblom leaned
mortals ever born, looked benevolently on all creatures; his
toward a strictly eschatological meaning of the myth of the
reign was one with neither drought nor heat nor cold, when
vara of Yima and the winter of Mahrkuska; more recently,
food was always plentiful, and when people and animals lived
Geo Widengren has observed that in the few traces of a flood
without want or old age or death. The Vendidad (2.7) says
linked to the myth of Yima two different themes have been
that Ahura Mazda¯ brought Yima the two implements sym-
combined: one of the golden age of Yima, the other of a peri-
bolizing a prosperous reign, a golden seal and a sword en-
od when the more fortunate of humankind took refuge in
crusted with gold. Yima also asked for a thousand-year reign
the vara because winters threatened their existence (Widen-
of immortality in the world created by the Lord. For three
gren, 1968, pp. 70–71). Going over the evidence once again,
hundred years after the creation, the world filled up with hu-
Mary Boyce still finds the narrative of the vara of Yima puz-
mans and animals; then Yima, advancing in the path of the
zling; but she argues that, because the editing of the Vendi-
sun, smote the earth with his seal and pierced it with his
dad in the Parthian period is comparatively recent, the Aves-
sword, and the earth increased in size by a third; he did this
tan story very probably was contaminated by the
again after six hundred winters, and again the earth became
Mesopotamian and biblical stories of the cosmic flood
a third larger; when he had repeated this act yet again, the
(Boyce, 1975, pp. 92–96).
earth was enlarged to three times its original surface (Vendi-
2.7, 2.8–9, 2.10–11, 2.17–19). Thus ends the story of
Ancient Greece. The term golden age (Gr., chruseon
the paradise of Yima, a paradise that in a Pahlavi text, the
genos) comes from the ancient Greek world. In Works and
D¯enkard 8.1.24, is compared to the highest heaven.
Days, Hesiod provided the myth of the Golden Age to which
later Greek and Latin poets would return again and again,
The Avestan text Yashts 19.34–38 describes the fall that
a myth of five races of humans to which correspond five ages
marked the end of this felicity. When Yima began to take
of the world: ages of gold, silver, and bronze, of heroes, and,
pleasure in false and deceitful speech, the khvarenah—the ce-
finally, of iron. Created when Kronos reigned in the heavens,
lestial light, the mark of divinity, the sign of the elect and
the race of gold lived as gods on the earth, perfectly happy
of power—at once abandoned him. He thus lost the three
and secure, sheltered from all woe, fatigue, pain, or illness.
marks of glory associated with the khvarenah, the marks of
The earth gave forth abundantly all things that people de-
the priest, the warrior, and the agriculturalist-herdsman.
sired, and although this first race of humans was not immor-
Seen in the context of Indo-Iranian thought, the loss of these
tal, its death was a mere going to sleep. This age of paradise,
marks represents the loss of the three great Aryan functions
when humans enjoyed the blessing and friendship of the
of sovereignty, power, and fecundity. Confounded and dis-
gods, ended with the fall of Kronos; then Zeus made benevo-
traught, Yima fell to earth and became mortal.
lent gods of these first humans.
The cause of the fall, the “lie against the truth,” is
Plato elaborated on the conditions of this golden age in
stressed in Yashts 19.34; this lie deprived Yima of his aura
the Politics (271c,d–272a); in that age, he says, the gods were
of light and delivered him over defenseless to the Evil Spirit,
responsible for different parts of the cosmos, and demons
who hounded him with demons and forced him to flee. Yima
served as shepherds for the various species and groups of ani-
actually made two mistakes: The first was “the lie and the
mals; the earth’s climate was always temperate, and every-
error,” or druj, condemned by the entire Mazdean tradition
thing was designed to serve men, who lived on fruit picked
and still decried in Manichaeism, for Mani taught that lying
from trees. There were neither cities nor even women or chil-
and deceit constitute the evil that resides in matter and dark-
dren, because they were reborn from the earth without any
ness; the second mistake was the offense to God caused by
memory of earlier lives.
pride (Widengren, 1968, p. 72). Because, in this very ancient
myth, Yima is the archetype of the cosmic king who holds
Horace, Vergil, and Ovid later take up this theme,
sovereignty over the gods and humans, the king of the three
adapting it to the legendary history of Rome; thus Kronos
functions that correspond to the three classes of society, his
will become Saturn and Latium will have the name Ansonia
fall will mark both the cosmos and the human condition.
during the golden age—a time when, according to the Latin
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

poets, springtime was perpetual, and, because lying and theft
upon which Zeus has at last imposed himself to an earlier,
did not yet exist, houses had no doors.
primordial chaos; Orphic theogony, on the other hand, pres-
ents a primordial Eros, or Protogonos (“firstborn”), or
Four races will follow that of the golden age. Extremely
Phanes (“light”), that itself creates night, Ouranos, Kronos,
slow in coming to maturity, the silver race will lose the quali-
Zeus, and, finally, Dionysos.
ties of life that characterized the previous age. Although cre-
ated by the Olympian gods, the people of this race could not
Orphic anthropogony, in sources that date from later
refrain from foolish excesses, even refusing to sacrifice to the
antiquity, recounts the myth of a Dionysos torn apart and
gods, and Zeus buried them, transforming them into the
cut to pieces by the Titans, who then divided the dead god
spirits of the underworld. He then created the fearless and
among themselves and ate him. Zeus hurled lightning bolts
warlike race of bronze, a race so given to violence that it de-
at them as a punishment and killed them; he then created
stroyed itself and was followed in its turn by the race of he-
the present race of humans from their ashes. Thus, humans
roes, heroes who founded famous cities, fought beneath the
possess both the evil nature of the Titans and the divine na-
walls of Troy and Thebes, and ended their days in the Isles
ture of Dionysos whom the Titans had assimilated by eating
of the Blessed. At last came the present race of humans, the
him. The Neoplatonist Proclus talks of three races of hu-
race of iron, whose ephemeral and vulnerable existence is
mans: the race of gold ruled by Phanes, the god of the begin-
plagued by illness and want.
ning of things; the silver race over which Kronos was lord;
and the Titanic race, created by Zeus from limbs of Titans
The myth of the races of humans, which recalls the Indi-
whom he had punished for their crime. Plato himself had al-
an myth of the four yugas, is, like it, a myth of decline rather
ready referred to this race, Titanic in origin, who likewise re-
than fall; like the text of the Va¯yu Pura¯n:a, the Hesiodic text
fused to obey both laws and parents, refused to abide by
emphasizes progressive degeneration. Gradually humanity
oaths, and despised the gods. Both Diodorus Siculus and Fir-
loses the virtues and qualities of the primordial period; its
micus Maternus repeat these basic elements of the Orphic
strength and endurance diminish, and finally it loses the lon-
myth; and the dualism of Orphic anthropogony, in which
gevity of the first age. Recent analyses of this myth have also
the story of the Titans is presented as an etiological myth ac-
laid stress on the evil pointed out by Hesiod: human pride,
counting for the present human condition, has been further
the hubris that makes humans refuse to sacrifice to the gods
confirmed by the discovery, in 1962, of the fourth-century
and to defy dike (“justice”).
Dervani Papyrus.
In his Theogony, Hesiod describes the triumph of an or-
Orphism explains the human condition through the du-
dered world over chaos and proclaims the sovereign power
alistic myth of the exiled soul. Humankind is composed of
of Zeus, who imposes himself upon both the universe and
a divine soul, daughter of heaven, and of an evil, Titanic na-
the other Olympian gods, to whom he distributes functions
ture; the tragedy of his condition comes from this mixture,
and privileges. In Works and Days, before recounting the
itself the outcome of an earlier, prehuman crime. Evil is the
myth of the races of humankind, he tells the story of Pando-
legacy of an event that stands at the origin of the mixed
ra, the first woman, created by Zeus’s command to bring
human nature; it originates in the murder of Dionysos, but
punishment upon the human race. All the Olympians joined
that murder signifies both the death of the god and the par-
in making this special gift to humans. Zeus sent her to the
ticipation of his slayers in his divine nature. The original sin,
naive Epimetheus, who was seduced by her beauty and mar-
the sin of the fall, is murder, and with the murder of Diony-
ried her.
sos the soul experiences a brutal descent into a body that be-
At pains to stress how humans had originally enjoyed
comes its prison (see Ricoeur, 1960, pp. 264–279).
the earth free from troubles, weariness, or illness, Hesiod
The myth of Deukalion and Pyrrha presents the Greek
now relates that Pandora had barely arrived on earth when
version of the flood, but the fragmentary Greek texts do not
she was devoured by curiosity to learn the contents of the
give Zeus’s reasons for suppressing humankind. However, as
vase she had brought with her and lifted its lid, thus sending
Roman mythology disappeared, it absorbed Greek mytholo-
throughout the world all the present and future afflictions
gy (a phenomenon discussed by Georges Dumézil, La reli-
and woes of humankind, leaving only hope at the bottom
gion romaine archaïque, 2d ed., Paris, 1974, pp. 63–75), and
of the vase when she replaced the lid. Henceforth, innumera-
it is therefore legitimate to seek Zeus’s reasons in Roman my-
ble miseries will plague humanity, and thus, Hesiod con-
thology, especially in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which provides
cludes, none can escape the plan of Zeus (Works and Days
a fuller account of the Greek version of the flood (Metamor-
90–102, 105). In the myth of Pandora, the themes of hubris
phoses 1.230, 7.352–356). Taking up the Hesiodic theme of
and fate come together, and the description of the fall shows
the ages of the world, Ovid emphasizes that humans were
the fundamental link between divine will and human fate.
progressively perverted by crime and lust. Zeus, before hu-
Orpheus seems to be a figure of the archaic religious
manity’s destruction, visited Lycaon, king of Arcadia, who
type that, in certain traditions, is thrown back to the earliest
served him a feast of human flesh; outraged and at the end
time; he stands in sharp contrast to the Olympian gods. He-
of his patience, Zeus swept away all creatures, cities, almost
siod’s theogony and cosmogony oppose an ordered world
the whole of earth itself, in the flood. Only one couple, De-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ukalion and his wife, Pyrrha, were saved, and from them
Pleroma is the union of the Aeons that emanate from the All
Zeus re-created the race.
and constitute, with the First Father, the harmonious uni-
verse of peace and light.
WORLD RELIGIONS. Each of the world religions discussed
in this section—Gnosticism and Manichaeism, and the three
The symbol of the fall is omnipresent in gnostic texts;
great monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—lend
indeed, the precosmic fall of a portion of the divine principle
great richness to the concept of the fall.
is the underlying reason for the genesis of the cosmos and
humanity (Jonas, 1963). In the different metaphysical specu-
Gnosticism and Manichaeism. From the second cen-
lations that explain this fall, it is generally held that the divine
tury CE onward, Gnosticism, a religious movement com-
principle descended voluntarily, and that guilt came into
posed of a number of different sects, came to maturity
being as the Aeons turned toward the lower world. Turning
throughout the Mediterranean world and in the Near East.
toward matter by a burning desire to know it, the soul then
The central element of Gnostic metaphysical speculation is
sank into it and was swallowed up. Hence, the fall that gave
a dualistic doctrine according to which humanity possesses
birth to the cosmos also imprisoned the soul in matter.
a divine spark that, although originating from on high, has
fallen into matter, into body, which holds it prisoner in the
In Gnostic writings, important groups of symbols sug-
lower world. The myth of the fall, therefore, is an integral
gesting captivity describe the tragic fate of this dualistic, im-
part of Gnostic teaching. Each Gnostic sect offered salvation
prisoned soul. One group of symbols suggests pain or dan-
through its specific creed and rites of initiation into these du-
ger: violence, fear, and the wounds and bites of animals;
alistic mysteries. These constituted its particular gnosis. Un-
another suggests the soul’s forgetfulness: torpor, sleep, death,
derstood only by adherents who were gradually initiated into
darkness, drunkenness, lack of conscience, ignorance. As a
it, the gnosis brought about an identity of the initiate with
snake’s bite causes an infection that debilitates the body, so
the means of his salvation and with divine substance.
the poison of darkness causes an infection of the soul that
makes it lose awareness of its divine origin. In a frequently
Because it claims to possess the most perfect gnosis,
used image, the soul falls asleep in matter, and the gnostic
Manichaeism holds a special place in the spectrum of gnostic
message strives to awaken it; hence, gnosticism attaches great
thought. Its founder, Mani (216–276), taught that, as the
importance to its call. Also characteristic of gnostic writings
transmitter of the gnosis, he was the greatest of the prophets
are the images used by Valentinus when describing the be-
and the ultimate revelation, sent by the Holy Spirit, after the
havior of Sophia (“wisdom”) after she had fallen into error.
trials and failures of his predecessors—most notably
The youngest Aeon of the Pleroma, Sophia was the cause of
Zarathushtra, the Buddha, and Jesus—to establish the
her own fall, through the passion that carried her away—the
church of the end of time, the church of light, and to provide
origin of a fall that brought about the lower world of the
the definitive revelation that would enlighten all people. Ac-
Demiurge, who created the material world.
cording to Mani, the soul, a spark detached from divine light
and held prisoner by matter, must tear itself away from the
A true religious genius endowed with uncommon imag-
darkness of the body in order to return to the realm of light
ination, Mani brought together a number of Eastern cosmo-
where it had originated.
gonic myths and from them produced a synthesis in which
the entire range of dualistic cosmogony, soteriology, and es-
The Manichaean gnosis offers the clearest conception of
chatology is included.
the beginning, the middle, and the end, the three divisions
In the beginning, Mani taught, the Prince of Darkness,
of time. In the beginning, there existed two radically opposed
jealous and envious of the Father, hurled a war cry against
natures, darkness and light, eternal and unborn principles.
the realm of light, signaling the beginning of a gigantic cos-
These two natures created two earths, two different realms.
mic conflict. Primordial Man, the first emanation of the Fa-
The realm of light is located on high, in a city of incompara-
ther, marched against the forces of darkness, but he was
ble beauty, in the house of the Father of Greatness; the
wounded and defeated and fell among the archons (cosmic
breath of the spirit breathes life and light throughout this
rulers). This was the fall, the moment when the living soul,
realm, where all things exude blessing and peace. But be-
the divine portion of Primordial Man, was engulfed by dark-
neath this realm, and separated from it by an impregnable
ness; it was also the beginning of the second division of time,
border, lies the realm of darkness, the domain of matter and
the middle, when divinity fell into matter and humanity’s
of demons, a realm governed by the Prince of Lies. Obvious-
mixed nature became fixed. Henceforth, salvation became an
ly, the Manichaean gnosis presents the golden age within a
imperious necessity. The liberation of Primordial Man from
context of radical gnostic dualism.
this fallen state is the prototype of the salvation of each soul;
In other forms of gnosis, dualism appears against a mo-
and the second emanation of the Father, the Living Spirit
nistic background, because the world on high—everlasting,
(also called the Friend of Light or the Great Architect), ex-
immutable, and incorruptible—is held to have existed before
tends his right hand to Primordial Man and leads him back
the lower world. Indeed, many gnostic writings speak of the
to the realm of light. But the fall has permanent conse-
Pleroma, of the world on high in all its plenitude, emanating
quences, because a part of the light remains captive in the
from a being that is the source of all things. The gnostic
lower realm.
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The first moment of middle time, the moment of the
although the creation of the world and of animal and vegeta-
fall, is followed by the moment of the creation and the free-
ble life are all deemed “good,” the crowning work in the be-
ing of another part of light, as part of the punishment of the
ginning is the creation of humankind.
archons. The Living Spirit chained down the archons and cut
The second, so-called Yahvistic, creation story (Gn. 2:4–
them to pieces; from their skins he made the vault of heaven,
25) does not talk of the creation of the earth and sky but
from their bones the mountains, from their flesh and excre-
rather of a desert made fertile by Yahveh; it stresses God’s
ment the earth, and from the light taken from them he creat-
action, his fashioning the first man from clay and breathing
ed the sun, moon, and stars. When a Third Messenger de-
the breath of life into his nostrils. It is in the Yahvistic story
scended from on high in the form of a luminous virgin, the
that God plants a garden in Eden, where humans are the
semen of the archons excited by this apparition fell on the
creatures of unequaled importance, the rest of creation being
earth and produced trees and vegetation. Animals were next
made in relation to them. Together, the two stories of cre-
created, and finally the first couple was born, the work of de-
ation provide genetic explanations of important aspects of
mons. This couple was Adam and Eve, creatures of mixed
the human condition; in both, huamity occupies a privileged
nature whose posterity nonetheless carried with it the greater
position in creation. The biblical stories stress that humanity
part of light.
is free and not controlled by fate.
The third moment of middle time is the moment of the
In Hebrew, the word gan—paradeisos in Greek (related
messengers of the gnosis, the moment of true and divine hy-
to the Iranian paridaida)—designates the place where, ac-
postasis brought about by the fourth emanation of the Fa-
cording to Genesis 2:8, God placed humanity. The Yahvistic
ther, Jesus the Splendid, a transcendent, cosmic being, fifth
creation story speaks of an arid land on which Yahveh caused
Greatness of the Realm, the life and salvation of humanity.
rain to fall, after which he took man and placed him in the
Messengers of the gnosis have followed one after another
garden of Eden, created especially for him. This paradise ap-
from Sethel, the son of Adam, to Jesus (here considered as
pears as an oasis in the Oriental desert, although its name
a historical figure), who both announced and sent the final
is linked by some scholars to the Sumerian word edin, for
messenger, Mani. Hence, everything was made ready for the
which several Assyrologists read “plain” or “countryside.”
third division of time, the end, when all things will become
The word paradeisos adopted by the Greek Bible denotes the
as they had been at the beginning, and the total separation
pleasure gardens and royal hunting lands of Iran and Asia
of the realms of darkness and light will be reestablished.
Minor. For the Greek reader the word suggests a garden of
The Eastern myths of the fall brought together by Mani
fruits and fruit trees. Certainly the biblical garden is the ar-
constitute one great myth of the fall and redemption of the
chetype of all regions of luxuriant vegetation (Gn. 13:10, Is.
divine soul. Each human soul is part of the divine soul that
51:3, Ez. 31:8).
is partly imprisoned in bodies, partly in plants, trees, and
The text of Genesis 2:10–14, which mentions the four
earth; in all its imprisoned parts, that divine soul is the soul
rivers flowing out of Eden, is clearly intended to locate the
of the world and the third representation of Jesus, Jesus pati-
garden symbolically at the center of the cosmos; a story in
bilis. In the great Manichaean myth of the fall is found the
Mesopotamian mythology also places a divine residence at
gnostic myth of the exiled soul; but, in contrast to most gnos-
the source of rivers. The biblical text seeks to establish a rela-
tic creeds, in Manichaeism the soul is not responsible for its
tionship between a divine garden and a human earth, thereby
fall and exile in the body, because that exile is a part of a
emphasizing the marvelous fertility of humanity’s first home.
greater, cosmic fall of light. To this cosmic myth of the fall
The garden of Eden is also characterized by the presence of
corresponds the cosmic salvation by a gnosis accessible to in-
two special trees—the tree of life and the tree of the knowl-
dividual souls in a church that is both the location and the
edge of good and evil (Gn. 2:16–17). The tree of life is part
means of individual salvation, a church charged with pro-
of a larger Mesopotamian group of symbols, known through
claiming the message of the fall and issuing the call to salva-
a number of texts. The tree of the knowledge of good and
tion, as well as awakening human souls and initiating them
evil, however, has no parallel in any other ancient text; it is
into the dualistic mysteries.
specific to the Yahvistic story of creation and stresses the rela-
Judaism. Central to the biblical message is the view that
tionship between life and obedience to God.
the creation of humankind and the cosmos is the work of a
Adam and Eve enjoy a life of paradise in the garden, liv-
unique and transcendent God who freely willed and effected
ing together in harmony and at peace with the animals, as
a creation that also marks the beginning of time.
in Mesopotamian myths of the golden age. Both the Yahvis-
Two different stories of the creation are given in Genesis.
tic and the sacerdotal text stress the privileged situation of
The Bible opens with the so-called sacerdotal account of the
humans in Eden—their intimacy with God, their hope of
creation, “the work of six days” (Gn. 1:1–31, 2:1–3). In this
immortality, suggested by the tree of life—and evoke the
cosmogony, primordial chaos is replaced by order through
harmony that exists there, seen in humanity’s relations with
the creative power of God’s word. The sacerdotal account
the rest of creation and its life of ease. The presence in Eden
emphasizes the transcendence of the creator God and pres-
of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil shows that obe-
ents his creative activity in an order of ascending importance;
dience to God is essential to maintaining this privileged situ-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ation. The biblical text emphasizes considerations that are
vistic and its sacerdotal forms, the biblical story is very differ-
absent in all other myths of the golden age—considerations
ent from the Mesopotamian one. The latter sees in the flood
of freedom, of moral choice in the face of good and evil.
simply the decree of gods annoyed with a despised humanity.
Through a choice of its own, humanity decides its standing
In the Bible, the memory of the flood serves as the prototype
before God and at the same time the direction of its destiny.
of God’s judgment against a sinful humankind; the human
situation as a responsible being is stressed, and humanity is
The testing of humanity in Eden is related to the prob-
not abandoned to the blows of blind destiny. In this myth
lem of human freedom. In mythical language, Genesis 2–3
of the universal fall, a new alliance is foreseen, in which
describes the situation of humans in the world and in the face
Urzeit leads to Endzeit.
of God. The garden of Eden is the place where humanity
lives in easy familiarity with God, but it is also the symbolic
Genesis 6:1–4 contains the story of the benei Elohim who
microcosm where its has been given mastery, and where it
take the daughters of humans as wives. This unusual text pre-
enjoys the free use of all other created things; thus the con-
supposes an oral tradition and possibly other written texts.
quest and humanization of the world will become the condi-
It appears as a preface to the flood and may be interpreted
tion of its vocation. The prohibition against eating from the
as further evidence of the sins that will provoke the flood,
tree of knowledge belongs to another order, for it deals with
but it is also the starting point for numerous speculations
the basic human appreciation of the value of earthly things
about the fall of the angels. The rabbinical interpretation has
and of the human situation before God (Gn. 3:5–6). It will
seen in the benei Elohim, “the sons of God,” angels who
bring about humankind’s fall from paradise.
sinned with the daughters of humans and were for that rea-
The story of Eden stresses the primordial couple’s dis-
son shut up in the depths of the earth; at the last judgment,
obedience to God and their expulsion from the garden, and
they will be thrown into the fire.
it emphasizes that they lost the privileged status of Eden for
Christianity. Allusions to humanity’s fall appear
themselves and for their descendants. Thus, their sin is pres-
throughout the New Testament, although the Gospels speak
ented as the prototype of that part of human sin that is uni-
of it only in Matthew 19:4–6, Mark 10:6–8, and John 3:5
versal. The essence of hubris is the desire to be like God;
and 8:41–44. It was Paul who was especially interested in the
when this desire becomes action, the fall takes place and ush-
relationship between the fall and sin. In chapters 1–3 of Ro-
ers in the woes of humankind. The Yahvistic document as-
mans, he asserts that no one can escape the domination of
serts both directly and symbolically that human experience
sin, and in chapter 7 he gives a lengthy description of the
of evil had an absolute beginning, a beginning that coincides
human condition in the earthly paradise, where as yet hu-
with the beginning of human history, the history of freedom.
mans knew neither covetousness nor death, and contrasts
Although the first exercise of that freedom resulted in disas-
this with the actual condition to which they have been re-
ter, through it humanity inaugurated the drama of choice
duced by sin and death. He asserts that the actual human
that gives particular significance to human life and its rela-
condition comes from the first sin, the sin of Adam and Eve
tionship to God. Subsequent biblical books and apocryphal
in the earthly paradise (Rom. 7:13–15); and in 1 Corinthians
texts repeatedly return to these lessons of the fall (Ez. 28; Dt.
15:21–22, he opposes the first Adam, the author of death,
30:15–20; Prv. 3:2, 3:22, 6:15, 10:25; Sir. 37:3; Wis. 1:13–
to Christ, the second Adam, the author of life. In general,
14, 10:1–2).
Paul sees in the story of Eden not only humanity’s hereditary
The editors of chapters 4–11 of Genesis saw in the fall
punishment of suffering and death but also its hereditary fall-
of humanity in Eden not only the loss of paradise and the
en state, a state of sin transmitted to all humankind.
transformation of the human condition but also the source
of a whole series of evils that subsequently beset humankind.
Islam. The QurDa¯n demonstrates the importance Islam
Thus, at each stage in the rise of civilization and the institu-
attaches to the idea of God the creator, the all-powerful. God
tionalization of the social developments that formed human
is the creator (al-kha¯liq), the creator par excellence
lives in antiquity, the biblical text notes humanity’s corrup-
(al-khalla¯q); all things are created by virtue of the divine reso-
tion, variously described as fratricidal war, polygamy, desert
lution that precedes their appearance. The QurDa¯n describes
warfare, or the division of nations and tongues (Gn. 4:8,
a God who creates through his word, a word that is creative,
4:19, 4:23–24, 11:5–9). Since the fall, evil is born in the
eternal, and ever present (su¯rahs 11:9 and 41:8–11).
hearts of humans and always remains at the heart of history,
God created humankind and called it khal¯ıfah, vicar or
an inevitable force in human affairs.
viceroy (2:28). Adam, khal¯ıfat Alla¯h, vicar of a God who had
The most important biblical event having the character-
placed him at the center of the world, is the preeminent crea-
istics of a universal fall is the flood (Gn. 6:5–8:14). The story
ture, although, made of mud and clay, it owes everything to
of Noah in the Bible reinforces elements of the Epic of Gil-
God (15:26). Many verses of the QurDa¯n stress the preemi-
gamesh, but its editors have taken over and reinterpreted
nent dignity of humanity; even the angels must bow down
Mesopotamian themes in order to transform them into an
before humankind (2:32), and when the evil angel Ibl¯ıs re-
episode in sacred history and to show the progressive degen-
fuses to do so, God damns him and Ibl¯ıs falls, followed by
eration of humanity that justifies the flood. In both its Yah-
other angels (15:26–35, 17:63–67). The continuing work of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

creation is also stressed by the QurDa¯n; because every person
where sought to explain their present condition through the
is made by God, the activity of God the creator is permanent.
contrast it provides to their supposed primordial condition;
in light of that contrast, they have also classified and inter-
God put Adam and his wife in the midst of a garden
preted their mythical, historical, and symbolic heritage and
where they could take fruit from the trees, but he forbade
related these to sacred history.
them to approach one tree, under pain of falling among sin-
ners (2:33). But the demon made Adam and his wife sin by
SEE ALSO Ages of the World; Death; Evil; Flood, The; Gar-
eating fruit from that tree and thereby caused their expulsion
dens; Golden Age; Paradise.
from the place where God had placed them. God said to
them, “Leave the garden. You are now enemies one of anoth-
er, and on earth you will have only brief enjoyment, and brief
Baumann, Hermann. Schöpfung und Urzeit des Menschen im My-
lives” (2:34). The episodes in the QurDa¯n concerning Adam
thos der afrikanischen Völker. Berlin, 1936.
are reminiscent of Genesis: his creation out of earth, his title
Boyce, Mary. A History of Zoroastrianism, vol. 1. Leiden, 1975.
of vicar, his temptation, fall, and expulsion from paradise.
Dexinger, Ferdinand. Sturz der Göttersöhne oder Engel vor der Sint-
Only the episode of Ibl¯ıs is not found in the Bible.
flut. Vienna, 1966.
Su¯rah 7 mentions the story of the fall and punishment
Eliade, Mircea. Patterns in Comparative Religion. New York, 1958.
(7:21–24). Here it is the demon who suggests that humans
Eliade, Mircea. “Nostalgia for Paradise in the Primitive Tradi-
break the divine prohibition in order to obtain immortality.
tions.” In his Myths, Dreams and Mysteries. New York, 1960.
After Adam has sinned, God declares that henceforth men
Feldmann, Joseph. Paradies und Sündenfall. Münster, 1913.
born of the first couple will be enemies one of another (2:34,
Frazer, James G. Folklore in the Old Testament. 3 vols. London,
7:23, 20:21), and the QurDa¯n relates the first fratricidal strug-
gle, between two unnamed sons of Adam whom later Mus-
Jonas, Hans. The Gnostic Religion. 2d rev. ed. Boston, 1963.
lim authors call Qa¯b¯ıl and Ha¯b¯ıl.
Kákosy, L. “Ideas about the Fallen State of the World in Egyptian
Noah appears in the QurDa¯n as a great prophet who op-
Religion: Decline of the Golden Age.” Acta Orientalia (Bu-
poses unbelievers (11:27–36, 23:23–26). He receives from
dapest) 17 (1964): 205–216.
God the command to build an ark in order to survive the
Kramer, Samuel Noah. History Begins at Sumer (1957). 3d ed.
flood; but, contrary to Genesis, which stresses the universal
Philadelphia, 1981.
character of the flood, the QurDa¯n appears to restrict divine
Lambert, W. G., and A. R. Millard. Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian
punishment to Noah’s own people, who had become impi-
Story of the Flood. Oxford, 1968.
ous. The QurDa¯n treats their punishment as both a warning
Otto, Eberhard. “Das goldene Zeitalter in einem aegyptischen
and a sign.
Text.” In his Religions en Egypte hellénistique et romaine.
Paris, 1969.
CONCLUSION. Reflection on the fall is a constant preoccupa-
Ricoeur, Paul. La symbolique du mal. 2 vols. Paris, 1960. Translat-
tion of homo religiosus. In his “nostalgia for beginnings,” he
ed as The Symbolism of Evil (Boston, 1967).
turns instinctively toward a primordial, sacred history, where
he finds a golden age that corresponds to what humankind
Söderblom, Nathan. La vie future d’apres le mazdéisme à la lumière
des croyances parallèles dans les autres religions. Paris, 1901.
must have been in the beginning. He sees that humanity’s
present situation no longer corresponds to that of the golden
Thomas, Louis-Vincent. La mort africaine. Paris, 1982.
age, and he strives to explain the accident that has taken place
Widengren, Geo. Les religions de l’Iran. Paris, 1968.
and the consequences of that accident, of that break with pri-
New Sources
mordial harmony.
Blocher, Henri. Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle. New Studies
in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, Ill., 2001.
This article has sought to present the theme of the fall
Clatworthy, Jonathan. “Let the Fall Down: The Environmental
as it appears in the religious thought of the greater part of
Implications of the Doctrine of the Fall.” Ecotheology 4 (Jan-
humankind, although it has been necessary to limit the dis-
uary 1998): 27–35.
cussion of myths of the fall to those that describe the fall in
Korsmeyer, Jerry. Evolution and Eden: Balancing Original Sin and
relation to a supposed golden age—an age that has haunted
Contemporary Science. New York, 1998.
human memory—and that locates humanity’s fall and its
present condition between Urzeit and Endzeit. Most of this
Linzey, Andrew. “Unfinished Creation: The Moral and Theologi-
cal Significance of the Fall.” Ecotheology 4 (January 1998):
article’s attention was given to myths of the human fall; but,
when pertinent, myths of a cosmic fall, or of the fall of lesser
Minois, Georges. Les origines du mal: une histroie du péché originel.
deities, have also been considered.
Paris, 2002.
Nostalgia for the beginning of things is clearly a perma-
Norman, Andrew. “Regress and the Doctrine of Epistemic Origi-
nent feature of humankind’s collective memory, and repre-
nal Sin.” Philosophy Quarterly 47 (October 1997): 477–495.
sentation of a golden age provides the archetype through
Rees, G. “The Anxiety of Inheritance: Reinhold Niebuhr and the
which that nostalgia is repeatedly expressed. As can be seen
Literal Truth of Original Sin.” Journal of Religious Ethics 31
by the study of various peoples and cultures, peoples every-
(spring 2003): 75–100.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Suchocki, Marjorie. The Fall to Violence: Original Sin in Relational
ic theologians, particularly those who followed the school of
Theology. New York, 1994.
kala¯m of al-AshEar¯ı (d. 935). At issue between falsafah and
Wetzel, James. “Moral Personality, Perversity, and Original Sin.”
kala¯m was not the question of God’s existence; rather, the
Journal of Religious Ethics 23 (spring 1995): 3–26.
question was the nature of God.
Williams, Patricia. Doing without Adam and Eve: Sociobiology and
Another difference between them was historical. Kala¯m
Original Sin. Minneapolis, 2001.
antedated falsafah; its beginnings are traceable to the period
of the Umayyad caliphate (AH 41–132/661–750 CE) and
Translated from French by Jeffrey Haight and Annie S. Mahler
more definitely, to the second half of the eighth century.
Revised Bibliography
Moreover, it arose out of religious and political conflicts
within Islam. Although subject to foreign influences, partic-
ularly Greek thought, kala¯m’s modes of argument and per-
spectives remained to a great extent indigenous. Falsafah, on
The term falsafah is the Arabized loan word
the other hand, was the direct result of a concerted effort to
from the Greek philosophia, “love of wisdom,” and hence in
translate Greek science and philosophy into Arabic begin-
its general sense simply means “philosophy.” It is, however,
ning early in the ninth century. The first Islamic philoso-
also used (as it will be in this account) in a more specific sense
pher, al-Kind¯ı, it should be noted, died around 870.
as an abbreviation of the expression al-falsafah al-isla¯m¯ıyah,
“Islamic philosophy.” Similarly, the general Arabic word for
Falsafah was thus rooted in Greek philosophy, or more
“philosophers,” fala¯sifah (sg., faylasu¯f), is used more specifi-
accurately, Greek philosophy in its translated form. The
cally as an abbreviation for the expression al-fala¯sifah
fala¯sifah regarded themselves not only as guardians of the
al-isla¯m¯ıyu¯n, “the Islamic philosophers.”
truths arrived at by the ancient Greek philosophers but also
Because for many Muslims, past and present, falsafah re-
as participants in a continuous quest after truth: As al-Kind¯ı
mains at best doctrinally suspect, the sense in which it will
expressed it, the attainment of truth is difficult and requires
be referred to here as “Islamic” requires clarification. This
the cooperative efforts of generations past and present. Thus,
term, as applied to falsafah and fala¯sifah, will first of all be
the fala¯sifah did not simply accept ideas they received
used in a broad cultural sense, for falsafah was developed
through the translations. They criticized, selected, and reject-
within an Islamic cultural milieu by men whose culture was
ed; they made distinctions, refined and remolded concepts
Islamic. This cultural use of the term Islamic is implicit in
to formulate their own philosophies. But the conceptual
medieval Arabic usage. Thus, for example, one famous intel-
building blocks, so to speak, of these philosophies remained
lectual who condemned some of the fala¯sifah as “infidels”
nonetheless referred to them as “Islamic,” while another in-
THE TRANSLATION MOVEMENT. Although there are indica-
cluded among the Islamic philosophers the Christians of
tions that some translations of Greek scientific works were
Baghdad who wrote in Arabic. This latter example calls for
made in the period of the Umayyad caliphate, the translation
a narrowing of the sense in which Islamic will be used, how-
movement properly speaking took place during the caliphate
ever, for in addition to being “Islamic” in the cultural sense,
of the Abbasids, who came to power in 750. Translations
the fala¯sifah were “Islamic” in that they regarded themselves
were undertaken sporadically just after the establishment of
as Muslims, claiming that their conceptions of God and the
Abbasid rule but flourished in the ninth and tenth centuries.
world were consistent with the QurDanic view. Most of them
The ruler who gave this movement its real impetus was the
attempted to demonstrate the harmony between their respec-
caliph al-MaDmu¯n, who ruled from 813 to 833, and his active
tive philosophies and Islamic revelation, and whether such
sponsorship of the translation of Greek philosophy and sci-
attempts proved convincing or not, they represent a charac-
ence into Arabic was continued by his successors and by fam-
teristic feature of falsafah.
ilies attached to the caliphal court. The Bayt al-H:ikmah
(House of Wisdom), a center for scientific activity and trans-
It should be stressed that while the fala¯sifah were theists,
lations that al-MaDmu¯n built in Baghdad, symbolized this
they were not theologians. For a proper understanding of fal-
Abbasid sponsorship of the translation movement.
safah, it must be distinguished from kala¯m, Islamic specula-
tive theology. Both disciplines used reason in formulating
The motives for this concern with translations were var-
their respective conceptions of God and his creation, but
ied. There were practical considerations, such as the need for
they differed in approach and motivation. The starting point
medical and astronomical knowledge. There was also the
of kala¯m was revelation. Reason was used in defending the
probable motive of prestige: The Byzantines could boast of
revealed word and in interpreting the natural order in con-
the Greek philosophical and scientific tradition, and the Ab-
formity with a QurDanic view of creation. With falsafah, the
basids likewise wanted to avail themselves of the intellectual
starting point was reason; the motivation, the quest after “the
treasures of the ancients. This was also a period of intellectual
true nature of things.” The fala¯sifah maintained that this
ferment and genuine interest in learning, and scholars were
quest led them to a demonstrative proof of the existence of
available to undertake the task of translation. In particular,
a first cause of the universe, which they claimed was identical
within the Abbasid realm and close to the heart of their em-
with the God of the QurDa¯n—a claim contested by the Islam-
pire were the Syriac-speaking people, a culture within a cul-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ture who were themselves partly Hellenized. The utilization
the Neoplatonic Theology of Aristotle, a paraphrase of books
of this rich intellectual resource by the intelligent leaders of
4, 5, and 6 of the Enneads, and the work based on Proclus
the Islamic state seemed natural.
known in Arabic as F¯ı mah:d: al-khayr (On the pure good),
which was translated into medieval Latin as the Liber de
Apart from the Syriac-speaking scholars, who were
mostly Nestorian and Jacobite Christians, there were schol-
ars in the north Syrian city of Harran who also undertook
A substantial body of commentary, particularly on Aris-
translations. The Harranians adhered to the Sabian sect, a
totle, was also translated. Thus such commentators as
religion that included star worship but also had a Greek
Themistius, Simplicius, and Alexander of Aphrodisias were
philosophical base. Among the Christian scholars, there were
influential in the development of falsafah. There was knowl-
two traditions of scholarship. One was the tradition of the
edge of pre-Socratic philosophy and late Stoic philosophy
medical and philosophical school of Alexandria; members of
and logic, and the translations also included a body of medi-
this school seem to have moved in the Umayyad period to
cal works, particularly those of Galen, and mathematical and
Antioch and then in the Abbasid period to Harran and final-
scientific works such as Euclid’s Elements and Ptolemy’s Al-
ly to Baghdad. The other tradition was that of the medical
school and hospital of the Nestorians of Jund¯ısha¯pu¯r in Per-
AL-KIND¯I AND AL-RA¯Z¯I. The philosophical venture in medi-
sia. Originally a camp for Roman captives built in the third
eval Islam was pioneered in different ways by two remarkable
century CE by the Sasanid emperor Sha¯pu¯r I, Jund¯ısha¯pu¯r
thinkers, Abu¯ Yu¯suf YaEqu¯b al-Kind¯ı and the physician-
became a refuge for Nestorians after the deposition of their
philosopher Abu¯ Bakr al-Ra¯z¯ı (d. 926). Their philosophies,
patriarch, Nestorius, at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The
particularly in their doctrines on the world’s creation and the
school flourished in Sasanid times, and although little is
nature of the Creator, differed radically from the thought of
known about it in the Umayyad period, it became promi-
the major philosophers who succeeded them. As fala¯sifah,
nent under the Abbasids as well; from 765 to 870, its
they were atypical; moreover, they differed radically from
Bakht¯ıshu¯E family provided court physicians for the caliphs.
each other.
Among the early translators, mention must be made of
Ironically, al-Kind¯ı was atypical because his philosophy
Yah:ya¯ ibn al-Bit:r¯ıq (d. 830?); Astat (Eustathius), about
conformed with fundamental, generally accepted Muslim
whom very little is known, but who made a translation of
beliefs. Thus he argued vigorously and at great length to
Aristotle’s Metaphysics, a work known to al-Kind¯ı; and Ibn
prove that the world was created ex nihilo and at a finite mo-
NaE¯ımah al-H:ims:¯ı (d. 835), who translated the very influen-
ment of time in the past relative to the present. He also up-
tial if apocryphal Theology of Aristotle. The best-known and
held the doctrine of bodily resurrection. At the same time,
most influential of the translators was the Nestorian physi-
his writings were thoroughly philosophical in approach and
cian and scholar H:unayn ibn Ish:a¯q (d. 873), who was known
spirit. “We must not,” he insisted, “be ashamed of deeming
for his translations of medical works but who was responsible
truth good and of acquiring truth from wherever it comes,
for translating logical and philosophical treatises as well. Un-
even if it comes from races remote from us and nations dif-
like earlier and some later scholars, H:unayn knew Greek; he
ferent from us” (Ra¯sa Dil al-Kind¯ı al-falsaf¯ıyah, ed. M. A. A.
followed a system of collating Greek manuscripts before
Abu¯ R¯ıdah, Cairo, 1950, p. 103). Al-Kind¯ı was born around
translating and undertook revision of earlier translations
the year 800 in Kufa. Little is known about his education
from the Syriac. He worked with a team of other translators,
except that he was associated with Christian translators and
who included his son Ish:a¯q, his nephew H:ubaysh, and EIsa¯
the caliphs who sponsored the translation movement. He
ibn Yah:ya¯. Among the Harranians the most important trans-
alights on the philosophical scene quite unexpectedly, yet
lator was Tha¯bit ibn Qurrah (d. 901), who also wrote a com-
with full confidence, betraying none of the hesitancy of the
mentary on Aristotle’s Physics. Later translators included
novice. Like the Islamic philosophers who succeeded him,
Qust:a¯ ibn Lu¯qa¯ (d. 912?), also noted for his treatise The Dif-
he was also a physician and a scientist, and the range of his
ference between Soul and Spirit, Abu¯ EUthma¯n SaE¯ıd
learning was encyclopedic.
al-Dimashq¯ı (d. 900), the logician Abu¯ Bishr Matta¯
Of his numerous writings, only a few treatises, philo-
(d. 940), Yah:ya¯ ibn EAd¯ı (d. 974), Ibn ZurEah (d. 1008), and
sophical and scientific, have survived. Fortunately, these in-
Ibn al-Khamma¯r (d. 1020).
clude the very important work On First Philosophy, a relative-
The three ancient philosophers who conditioned the
ly long treatise consisting of four chapters. In the first,
rise and development of falsafah were Plato, Aristotle, and
al-Kind¯ı offers an introduction to philosophy, which he de-
Plotinus. As with medieval western Europe, Aristotle was the
fines as “knowledge of things in their true nature, to the ex-
most authoritative figure; his influence lay in the realms of
tent of man’s capability.” The chapter is also a justification
logic, physics, and metaphysics. Plato, whose thought was
and promotion of its pursuit: Philosophy’s ultimate concern,
known largely through the expositions of others, particularly
he argues, is the quest after “the True One,” the supreme
the translated works of the physician Galen, had his greatest
good, the cause of all things.
influence on the political philosophy of the fala¯sifah. Ploti-
The chapters that follow constitute a remarkable piece
nus was likewise known indirectly, through two main works,
of vigorous, sustained argument. Most of the second chapter
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

is devoted to proving the creation of the world ex nihilo at
times, was born in 865 in the Persian town of Rayy, and he
a distant but finite past. The argument rests on a basic prem-
practiced medicine there as well as in Baghdad. Very few of
ise, the impossibility of an infinite magnitude. Al-Kind¯ı be-
his philosophical works have survived, and consequently,
gins by arguing that an infinite body is impossible. If one
much of his philosophical thought has to be reconstructed
supposes the existence of such a body, he maintains, then
from medieval Islamic accounts that are, for the most part,
theoretically it is possible to remove from it a finite part.
highly critical of his ideas.
What remains would also be infinite, but less than the origi-
In his cosmogony, al-Ra¯z¯ı was greatly influenced by
nal infinite by the amount of the finite body removed. The
Plato’s Timaeus. The world, he holds, was created at a finite
consequence would then be the existence of two unequal in-
moment in time, but not out of nothing. As with Plato, cre-
finities, amounting, for al-Kind¯ı, to a contradiction. But if
ation for al-Ra¯z¯ı means the imposing of order on disorder.
a body must be finite, he then tries to show, time and motion
He subscribes to the doctrine of the five eternal principles:
must also be finite. The temporal existence of the world
atomic matter, space, time, the world soul, and the Creator.
could not then go back to infinity; it must have a temporal
The atoms, flitting about in disorder, are given order by God
beginning. Moreover, he argues, creation in time cannot
at a moment in time. The now-organized atoms allow the
simply mean that a static world (and hence a world outside
world soul to join matter and to become individuated by it,
time) was put into motion at some past finite moment rela-
forming individual living beings. Just as this ordering of the
tive to the present. A body by definition, he argues, must be
atoms, that is, creation, came about at a finite moment of
in motion; a static world is a contradiction in terms. Hence
time in the past, the order will cease at a finite moment of
not only did the world begin at a finite moment in the past,
time in the future when the five eternal principles revert to
but it came into being out of nothing.
their original state. Al-Ra¯z¯ı offers discussions of atomic mat-
Having proved the doctrine of creation ex nihilo to his
ter, absolute space, and absolute time that are scientific in
own satisfaction, al-Kind¯ı then offers a proof for the exis-
spirit and approach. But when it comes to explaining ulti-
tence of God, “the True One,” and an investigation of the
mates, namely, the reason for the world’s creation, he resorts
nature of this oneness. The Neoplatonic influences on this
to myth, and his philosophy is noted for its myth of creation.
part of the treatise are very manifest, particularly in
For al-Ra¯z¯ı, creation poses two related questions: Why
al-Kind¯ı’s exposition of the nature of divine oneness. The
is it that the world was created at one particular moment of
proof for God’s existence is a causal one, based, however, on
time and not at any other, and why was the world created
the phenomenon of plurality and unity in the world. The
at all? In answering the first, al-Ra¯z¯ı holds that it is precisely
proof, given in a short version and a lengthy one, is quite
because all the moments of time are similar that God’s choice
elaborate. The fundamental point al-Kind¯ı makes is that the
of one moment rather than another was utterly free. If the
unity that one experiences in things and that is the cause of
moments of time were not similar, then his choice of one
plurality does not belong essentially to things; it is a deriva-
moment rather than another would have been determined
tive, accidental unity. He then argues that it must derive ulti-
by “a giver of preponderance” (murajjih:) outside him. Hence
mately from a being who is essentially one and the only being
it is because the Creator’s will is utterly free that he arbitrarily
who is essentially one. This is the True One who bestows ac-
chooses one moment for his creation to take place. It is in
cidental unities on things. The giver of this unity is the giver
his answer to the second question that al-Ra¯z¯ı provides his
of existence.
famous myth.
In this and other treatises, al-Kind¯ı also makes state-
The world soul became infatuated with matter and
ments about prophecy and the nature of revelation. These
sought union with it. To achieve this union, the soul endeav-
are not detailed statements, but the ones concerning prophe-
ored to give disorganized matter form. Matter, however, re-
cy are suggestive of the kind of developed theories encoun-
sisted this forming activity of the soul, leaving the latter in
tered later on in the thought of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı and Ibn S¯ına¯ (Avi-
sorrow. God, being powerful and compassionate, then inter-
cenna). Thus, anticipating Ibn S¯ına¯, al-Kind¯ı argues that
vened to help the soul and introduced form, order to the ma-
prophetic knowledge is received “instantaneously,” requiring
terial atoms; in other words, he created the world. In creating
neither intellectual exertion on the part of the prophet nor
humankind, God endowed humans with reason, an emana-
the disciplines of mathematics and logic. In conformity with
tion of his very essence, so that the soul would awake from
generally accepted Islamic belief, al-Kind¯ı maintains that the
its bodily slumber and seek a return to its original eternal ex-
inimitability of the QurDa¯n lies in the excellence of its literary
istence. This, for al-Ra¯z¯ı, is salvation. At some finite moment
expression, in the way it conveys divine truths directly and
in the future, all people’s souls, awakened by philosophy, will
shun their bodies. The individual souls then will reunite with
the eternal world soul, and the atoms will resume their chaot-
Although al-Kind¯ı had followers, notably al-Sarakhs¯ı
ic state for eternity.
(d. 899), properly speaking it cannot be said that he founded
a school of philosophical thought. The same is true of the
Salvation, as defined by al-Ra¯z¯ı, is possible only through
major faylasu¯f to succeed him, al-Ra¯z¯ı. Abu¯ Bakr Zakar¯ıya¯D
philosophy. He thus maintains that there is no need for
al-Ra¯z¯ı (Rhazes), one of the foremost physicians of medieval
prophets. All people are capable of pursuing truth through
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

reason. The fact that many do not pursue this rational course
gence and the sphere of the fixed stars. Successive intelli-
is not due to inability, but to willful choice. He further ar-
gences repeat this cognitive process, causing the existence of
gues that it would also be unjust for the Creator to favor ei-
the spheres of the planets, the sun, the moon, and finally,
ther one individual or one nation with prophethood. The
from the last of the intelligences, the Active Intellect, which
mistaken belief that God has favored individuals and nations
is this world, the world of generation and corruption.
with prophets has caused nothing but strife, so that, al-Ra¯z¯ı
maintains, for the most part wars are caused by religion. If
This entire cosmic order is rational and harmonious,
to this is added that al-Ra¯z¯ı also subscribed to a theory of
with each sphere governed by an intelligence. Humanity in
the transmigration of souls, one can see why his ideas did not
the world of generation and corruption, endowed with rea-
find favor within Islam. Nonetheless, he helped the fermen-
son and free will, must actualize its potentialities and attain
tation of philosophical ideas, and the responses to his philos-
the highest good, happiness. This is achieved when in their
ophy constitute a body of intense argument, philosophical
way of life people emulate the rational cosmic order, but they
and theological.
can only do this in the society of others. Hence they must
strive to form a society that is itself in tune with the rational
Apart from the intrinsic interest of their philosophies,
cosmic order, a hierarchical society ruled by reason, where
both al-Kind¯ı and al-Ra¯z¯ı showed in their respective ways
the various ranks actualize their potentialities in harmony.
how philosophizing is possible within medieval Islam, and
thus they prepared the ground for the flowering of falsafah
In order to achieve this ideal political order, which
in medieval Islam.
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı refers to as “virtuous,” its first ruler must be both
a philosopher and a prophet, an individual who receives the
L-FA¯RA¯B¯I AND IBN S¯INA¯. In the tenth and early eleventh
centuries, Islamic philosophical thought was dominated by
revealed law. Because this law is received from the Active In-
two intellectual giants, al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı (d. 950) and Ibn S¯ına¯
tellect in the form of images that symbolize universal philo-
(d. 1037). Their philosophies have much in common, but
sophical knowledge or represent particular examples of it,
remain quite distinct. Al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, born shortly after 870 in
revelation is the “imitation” of philosophy, a copy of it in
Transoxania, studied and taught in Baghdad until 942. He
images and symbols that the nonphilosopher can under-
studied logic with the Nestorian logician Yuh:anna¯ ibn
stand. Revelation and philosophy are thus in total harmony.
Hayla¯n (d. 910) and was associated with Abu¯ Bishr Matta¯
Another necessary condition for achieving a virtuous politi-
ibn Yu¯nus, who was another renowned Nestorian logician.
cal regime, however, is that the philosopher-ruler must be
He also studied Arabic grammar with Ibn al-Sarra¯j (d. 929),
endowed with exceptional practical powers, for it is necessary
a leading grammarian of the period. In 942, for reasons not
to persuade, lead, and educate a majority of citizens incapa-
fully known, he left Baghdad for Syria, and he seems to have
ble of philosophical understanding. In fact, the philosopher-
lived the remaining years of his life in relative seclusion in
ruler must not address the nonphilosophical majority in
Damascus, where he died.
philosophical language.
The foremost logician of his time, al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı wrote com-
Al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s political philosophy is comprehensive, de-
mentaries on Aristotle’s Organon and on other works of Aris-
tailed, and subtle. It includes, for example, detailed discus-
totle and other Greek writers. He was medieval Islam’s great-
sion of the existence of nonvirtuous states, the majority of
est musical theorist and musicologist and is reputed to have
which he characterizes as “ignorant” because they are led by
been a skilled instrumentalist. He developed a Neoplatonic
people who are ignorant of the true nature of happiness.
emanative scheme that greatly influenced the development
While his view is certainly Platonic in its essentials, one
of emanative systems by his Islamic successors. But perhaps
meets in al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı a tendency toward universalism that is less
above all else, he was the founder of a Platonic theory of the
perceptible in Plato. Thus al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı does not speak only of
state that was adopted (with variations) by the major fala¯sifah
the virtuous “city” but also of a desirable nation consisting
who succeeded him. It should be noted, however, that his
of virtuous “cities” and of a desirable world consisting of vir-
philosophical writings pose problems of dating and raise the
tuous “nations.” He also maintains that inasmuch as people
question of whether they always reflect his real views.
in different parts of the world differ in language and in their
symbols, it is quite possible that the differences among reli-
For al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, the world is an eternal emanation from
gions are merely differences in symbols, not in what is being
God, forming a hierarchically ordered series of existents with
the closest to him being the highest in rank. This highest ex-
istent is a first intelligence, overflowing directly from God.
It was on the foundations laid by al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı in logic,
From it the emanative process continues in the form of
metaphysics, and political theory that his successor, the re-
dyads: The intelligence undergoes two acts of cognition, an
nowned Ibn S¯ına¯, built his imposing philosophical system.
act of knowing God and an act of self-knowledge, from
Born in 980 near Bukhara and largely self-taught, Ibn S¯ına¯
which in turn proceed two existents, a second intelligence
was one of medieval Islam’s leading physicians, an astrono-
and a body—the outermost body of the universe. The sec-
mer, and a scientist. He held positions as court physician,
ond intelligence undergoes a similar act of knowing God and
sometimes as vizier as well, in various Persian principalities
knowing itself, resulting in the emanation of a third intelli-
until his death in 1037.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Of his numerous writings, mostly in Arabic, but some
until from the last of the celestial intelligences, the Active In-
in Persian, two in particular were very influential in Europe,
tellect, the world of generation and corruption emanates.
namely, the encyclopedic Al-qa¯nu¯n f¯ı al-t:ibb (Canon of
The human rational soul, an emanation from the Active
medicine) and his major philosophical work, the voluminous
Intellect, is immaterial, becomes individuated when it joins
Al-shifa¯D(Healing). His writings include short mystical narra-
the body, and retains its individuality as an immortal soul
tives and treatises where the language of symbolism is used.
when it separates from the body after death. Good souls, un-
This mysticism, encountered in his writings, is not inconsis-
tarnished by having succumbed in their earthly existence to
tent with his “rationalism.” The mystic’s journey to God is
animal passions, live an eternal life of bliss contemplating the
the journey of the rational soul to the ultimate source of all
celestial intelligences and God; bad souls live an eternal life
reason. God, for Ibn S¯ına¯, is pure mind ( Eaql mah:d:).
of misery, being deprived from such contemplation yet for-
Ibn S¯ına¯’s philosophical system is “rationalist.” He
ever seeking it. All theoretical knowledge is received from the
maintains that in addition to the self-evident first principles
Active Intellect. This knowledge consists of primary intelligi-
of logic, not dependent on one’s sense perception of the ex-
bles, which are the self-evident logical truths and primitive
ternal world, there are self-evident intuitive concepts, also
concepts received by all people without the need of experi-
not dependent on sense experience. These intuitive concepts
ence and learning. It also consists of the secondary intelligi-
include the “existent,” the “thing,” and the “necessary,” the
bles (received only by those capable of abstract thought),
last with its correlates, the “possible” and the “impossible.”
namely, deductions from the primary intelligible as well as
A rational consideration of these concepts is sufficient to
more complex concepts. Normally the reception of these in-
yield a demonstration of God’s existence. In itself, an “exis-
telligibles from the Active Intellect requires preparatory ac-
tent” is either necessary or only possible. If it is necessary in
tivities of the soul such as sensation, memory, imagination,
itself, Ibn S¯ına¯ then tries to show, it must be the only such
and cogitation and the learning processes associated with
existent, devoid of multiplicity and uncaused. If it is only
them. Only the prophets do not require these preparatory ac-
possible in itself, he then argues, it must be necessitated by
tivities of the soul; they receive all or most of the secondary
another existent, the latter by yet another, and so on, form-
intelligibles directly and instantaneously, and this theoretical
ing a chain that must be finite, having as its beginning the
knowledge is then translated through the prophet’s imagina-
existent necessary in itself. Hence each alternative affirms the
tive faculty into symbols and images that the nonphilosopher
existent necessary in itself, which is God.
can understand. These constitute the revealed word, which
is in total harmony with philosophy, and here Ibn S¯ına¯ em-
But what does it mean to say that every existent other
braces al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s doctrine that religion is the “imitation” of
than God is in itself only possible? This is the distinction on
which Ibn S¯ına¯’s philosophy rests, the distinction between
the quiddity or essence of the possible and its existence. From
Ibn S¯ına¯ thus believes in the oneness of God, the pro-
what a thing is, one cannot infer that it exists, because exis-
phethood of Muh:ammad, and the individual immortality of
tence is not included in the definition of the possible exis-
the soul. His philosophical interpretations of these beliefs,
tent. The quiddity considered in itself excludes not only exis-
however, were found unacceptable by his chief critic,
tence, but unity and plurality, particularity and universality.
From this concept of the quiddity considered in itself, Ibn
S¯ına¯ develops a theory of universals (where universality is
represented by al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı and Ibn S¯ına¯, received its most se-
something added to the quiddity as such) that is of intrinsic
vere rational criticism at the hands of Islam’s great religious
philosophical interest and one that had great influence on
thinker, the lawyer, AshEar¯ı theologian, and mystic Abu¯
medieval Latin thought.
H:a¯mid al-Ghaza¯l¯ı (d. 1111). Tension between kala¯m and
falsafah had existed prior to al-Ghaza¯l¯ı’s critique of the
Although the existent, other than God, is in itself only
fala¯sifah, although it was expressed in reciprocal, but on the
possible, it is necessitated by another. Ibn S¯ına¯ uses this con-
whole, muted criticism. Underlying this tension were differ-
cept of the possible in itself but necessary through another
ences in starting point and ethos, which crystallized in irrec-
to transform al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s dyadic emanative scheme into a tri-
oncilable metaphysical outlooks.
adic system. God, the existent necessary in himself, under-
goes an eternal act of self-knowledge that necessitates the ex-
Kala¯m in its AshEar¯ı form was atomic in its theory of
istence of a first intelligence, an existent in itself only
matter and occasionalist in its interpretation of causal se-
possible, but necessary through another. This intelligence
quences. Accordingly, the temporal and transient conglom-
then undergoes three acts of cognition: knowledge of God,
erates of atoms forming the physical world were not seen to
knowledge of itself as a necessitated being, and knowledge
interact causally with each other in reality. Causal efficacy re-
of itself as a possible being. These three acts produce three
sided with God; what appear as natural causes and effects are
other existents respectively: another intelligence, a soul, and
in reality concomitant events created directly by God. The
a body, the outermost body of the universe. This process is
uniform order of nature has no intrinsic necessity but is arbi-
repeated by each successive intellect, giving existence to the
trarily decreed by the divine will; the divine act is not the
various heavenly spheres, each with its soul and intelligence,
outcome of any necessity within the divine nature. Causal
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

action proceeds only from a living, willing, powerful agent,
pronouncements that God knows all things. The denial of
not as the necessary consequence of an existent’s nature or
bodily resurrection is also a denial of divine power,
essence. By contrast, al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı and Ibn S¯ına¯ embraced the
al-Ghaza¯l¯ı argues; bodily resurrection is not logically impos-
Aristotelian theory of matter as potentially infinitely divisi-
sible, and what is logically possible is within God’s power.
ble. Moreover, Ibn S¯ına¯ maintains quite explicitly that the
In the Seventeenth Discussion of the Taha¯fut,
world proceeds from God as the necessitated effect of God,
al-Ghaza¯l¯ı argues for the possibility of certain kinds of mira-
the supreme cause of all other existents, and this doctrine
cles that are rejected as impossible by the fala¯sifah, who base
seems implicit in al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s emanative scheme as well. God,
their rejection on a theory of natural, necessary causal con-
in his essence an eternally active, changeless cause, necessarily
nection. Al-Ghaza¯l¯ı first tries to show that this theory is
produces an eternal effect—the world.
provable neither logically nor empirically—observation
It is the conflict between these two worldviews that
shows only concomitance, not necessary causal connection.
al-Ghaza¯l¯ı makes explicit in his attack on philosophy. Be-
In this he voices the AshEar¯ı position that all change is caused
tween 1091 and 1095, while teaching Islamic law in Bagh-
directly by God and then suggests another possible causal
dad, he made a systematic study of falsafah, particularly that
theory, modifying the philosophers’ theory to allow the pos-
of Ibn S¯ına¯. It should be emphasized that al-Ghaza¯l¯ı was
sibility of the miracles the philosophers reject. In the
greatly impressed by Ibn S¯ına¯’s logic and wrote a number
Taha¯fut, he declares that both these theories are possible, but
of works explaining this logic to his fellow theologians and
in his Iqtis:a¯d f¯ı al-i Etiqa¯d (Moderation in belief), the theolog-
lawyers, urging them to adopt it. He considered this disci-
ical work that complements the Taha¯fut, he reaffirms the
pline doctrinally neutral, a mere tool of knowledge, nothing
AshEar¯ı occasionalist position as the only true one.
more, a view that he expresses in one of the four introduc-
Al-Ghaza¯l¯ı’s attack on falsafah put it on the defensive,
tions to his incisive critique of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı and Ibn S¯ına¯,
more so than it had hitherto been. At the same time, his at-
Taha¯fut al-fala¯sifah (The incoherence of the philosophers).
tack made falsafah better known, because in order to refute
In these introductions he asserts that his concern is only with
the fala¯sifah, al-Ghaza¯l¯ı had to explain them to the non-
those philosophical theories that contravene religious princi-
philosophers. In the same way, he legitimized and popular-
ple and that he will show how, contrary to their own claims,
ized the study of Ibn S¯ına¯’s logic, and this had the effect of
the fala¯sifah have failed to demonstrate such theories. More-
making Greek modes of thinking accessible to the more tra-
over, he states that in this work he will not adopt any particu-
ditional Muslims. Finally, his criticism evoked replies, the
lar doctrinal position, his task being only to refute, and it is
most important of which came from Islamic Spain.
true that in the Taha¯fut, for the sake of arguing against the
fala¯sifah, al-Ghaza¯l¯ı sometimes adopts non-AshEar¯ı views. It
FALSAFAH IN ISLAMIC SPAIN. In the intellectual history of Is-
can be shown, however, that for the most part the premises
lamic Spain, or al-Andalus, as the Arabs called it, falsafah was
underlying his attack on falsafah remain AshEar¯ı.
a latecomer. A lone Andalusian faylasu¯f, Ibn Masarrah
(d. 931), appeared relatively early, but he was a shadowy fig-
Al-Ghaza¯l¯ı directs logical arguments against twenty
ure who made no real philosophical impact. The first major
philosophical theories, seventeen of which he regards as he-
Andalusian faylasu¯f was Ibn Ba¯jjah (Avempace, d. 1138), and
retical innovations and three as utter Islamic unbelief. His
he was followed by two major thinkers, Ibn T:ufayl
method is to present the opponents’ position clearly, object
(d. 1185) and Ibn Rushd (Averroës) (d. 1198), the greatest
to it, raise possible objections to his objection, answer these,
of the Andalusian fala¯sifah. The late flowering of falsafah in
and so on, until he is satisfied that the theory in question has
Spain was partly due to its geographic remoteness from the
been refuted. Thus, before condemning these theories, he
centers where the translation movement took place. Scientif-
strives to show on rational grounds either that they have been
ic and philosophical ideas, however, did travel from the Is-
unproven or that they are outright inconsistent. The three
lamic East to Spain, stimulating a very significant scientific
theories he condemns as utterly irreligious are those of the
and philosophical movement.
world’s pre-eternity, Ibn S¯ına¯’s theory that God knows the
particulars in the world of generation and corruption only
A number of Ibn Ba¯jjah’s philosophical treatises have
in a universal way (which means that he does not know every
survived, including his Tadb¯ır al-mutawah:h:id (Governance
individual in the terrestrial world), and the doctrine of the
of the solitary), a major work in the tradition of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s
soul’s individual immortality, which denies bodily resur-
metaphysical and political thought. It expands on a theme
that appears in al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı almost in passing, namely that of
the philosopher in a corrupt political state. Al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı had
The most detailed of his discussions is the first, in which
stated that such a philosopher should immigrate to a virtuous
he attacks the theory of the world’s pre-eternity. The main
city, but that if no such city existed at the time, the philoso-
thrust of his attack is that such a theory is based on the un-
pher would be “a stranger in the world, live poorly in it,
proven premise that God’s acts proceed by necessity, a prem-
death for him being better than life” (al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, Fus:u¯l mun-
ise that, in effect, denies the divine attribute of will. Further,
taza Eah, ed. F. M. Najja¯r, Beirut, 1971, p. 95). Ibn Ba¯jjah,
Ibn S¯ına¯’s theory that God knows terrestrial individuals only
however, argues that if no virtuous city exists at the time, the
in a universal way is unproven and contrary to the QurDanic
philosopher must be isolated from society, associating with
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

others only to ensure survival, and must be devoted to inner
return to Absa¯l’s island, where H:ayy endeavors to teach some
intellectual and moral growth. Ibn Ba¯jjah discusses psycholo-
of its religious citizens the inner meaning of their religion.
gy, epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics as he outlines the
In this he fails because they are incapable of understanding
path the solitary philosopher must pursue to attain the high-
him. He then adjures them to forget everything he has told
est good, the state of union with the Active Intellect. The
them and to continue to take their religion literally. He and
philosopher’s isolation, Ibn Ba¯jjah admits, is “essentially” an
Absa¯l leave for their deserted island to live their mystical exis-
evil, because one by nature is a social or political animal.
tence to the end of their days.
Under the circumstances of the philosopher’s having to live
This story, amenable to a variety of interpretations,
in a corrupt political regime, however, such isolation be-
gives dramatic illustration of two of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s principles:
comes “accidentally” a good.
that religion is the “imitation” of philosophy, and that the
Most of the writings of Ibn Ba¯jjah’s successor, Ibn
nonphilosopher ought not be addressed in philosophical lan-
T:ufayl, physician, astronomer, and administrator at the
court of the Almohad (al-Muwah:h:id) dynasty then ruling al-
It was Ibn T:ufayl who introduced Ibn Rushd to the Al-
Andalus, are lost. The notable exception is his masterly
mohad court. Born in 1126 in Cordova, Ibn Rushd was the
philosophical story, H:ayy ibn Yaqz:a¯n, written as an answer
son and grandson of noted Islamic judges. Trained in medi-
to a friend (real or fictitious) who asks Ibn T:ufayl to divulge
cine, philosophy, and Islamic law, this most Aristotelian of
to him the secrets of Ibn S¯ına¯’s mystical philosophy. In the
the fala¯sifah was a noted Islamic lawyer and, according to
introduction, which includes criticisms of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı,
medieval accounts, an authority on Arabic poetry. In 1169
al-Ghaza¯l¯ı, and Ibn Ba¯jjah, Ibn T:ufayl answers, in effect,
he was appointed judge in Seville and in 1171, chief judge
that because the mystical experience is ineffable, he can only
of Cordova. He then became attached to the Almohad court,
suggest to his friend the sort of thing its pursuit involves by
serving its philosophical ruler Abu¯ YaEqu¯b until the latter’s
narrating the story of H:ayy.
death in 1184, and then his son, al-Mans:u¯r, for another ten
H:ayy ibn Yaqz:a¯n (literally, “the living, son of the
years. Largely because of the opposition of conservative reli-
awake”) is the name of the story’s hero. In a lush equatorial
gious scholars, as it seems, al-Mans:u¯r exiled Ibn Rushd in
island, uninhabited by humans, a baby boy, H:ayy, comes on
1194 but reinstated him soon afterward. The philosopher
the scene. (The author gives two possible explanations for his
died in the service of this monarch in 1198.
being there.) A deer that had lost its young discovers the in-
Ibn Rushd is noted in the history of philosophy for his
fant, suckles him, and rears him. H:ayy then undergoes a pro-
substantial body of commentaries, largely on Aristotle but
cess of self-education, learning how to clothe himself and
also on other thinkers. These commentaries had great impact
fend for himself, but he continues to live with his mother,
on medieval Latin philosophy as well as the philosophy of
the deer. She eventually dies, and in his anguish, H:ayy tries
the Italian Renaissance. Although Ibn Rushd never set out
to bring her back to life by dissecting her, only to realize then
to formulate a philosophical system of his own, from his
that his real mother was spirit, not the material body that
commentaries, and perhaps more so from his philosophical
died. At this point his education takes a reflective turn:
reply to al-Ghaza¯l¯ı’s criticism of falsafah, an Aristotelian
Through observation and rational thought, he discovers that
philosophical view emerges, informed by Ibn Rushd’s indi-
every event must have a cause, that an actual infinity of
vidual insights and stamped by his personality. The view is
causes is impossible, and hence that there must be one cause
powerful and compelling.
of all existents, which is God. He now seeks knowledge of
God, and through contemplation, asceticism, and spiritual
Al-Ghaza¯l¯ı’s attack on falsafah in his Taha¯fut, although
exercises he achieves his goal: direct experiences of the divine
logically incisive, was theologically motivated. Moreover, his
condemnation of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı and Ibn S¯ına¯ as “infidels” was a
and of the emanative chain of being descending from him.
pronouncement in terms of Islamic law. Thus Ibn Rushd’s
Meanwhile, on a nearby island, a community ruled by the
reply to al-Ghaza¯l¯ı encompasses the legal, the theological,
revealed law, which is a replica of philosophical truth, there
and the philosophical. The legal and theological replies are
are two brothers named Sala¯ma¯n and Absa¯l (or A¯sa¯l) who
embodied in two main works that are relatively short, name-
have different attitudes toward scriptural language. Sala¯ma¯n
ly, the Fas:l al-maqa¯l (Decisive treatise) and the Kashf Ean
and the rest of the community accept it literally, being inca-
mana¯hij al-adillah (Expositions of the methods of proof); the
pable of comprehending its inner meaning. Absa¯l, on the
philosophical reply to al-Ghaza¯l¯ı’s Taha¯fut is the Taha¯fut
other hand, pursues its inner meaning. Finding no one on
al-Taha¯fut (Incoherence of The Incoherence), a much larger
the island who understands his quest, he seeks seclusion on
a deserted island, which turns out to be H:ayy’s abode. The
two meet. Absa¯l teaches H:ayy language and discovers that
In the Fas:l, Ibn Rushd raises the general question of
H:ayy is an unusual philosophical mystic who, unaided, has
whether Islamic law commands, allows, or prohibits the
attained the highest truth, of which Absa¯l’s own religion
study of philosophy. He answers that the law commands its
gives symbolic expression. For his part, H:ayy recognizes
study but that this command is incumbent only on the one
Absa¯l’s religion to be true and believes in its prophet. Both
class of scholars, the demonstrative class (i.e. scholars who
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

understand and use Aristotle’s demonstrative method in ac-
gions of Persia. He is also noted for criticizing the Aristote-
quiring knowledge), capable of understanding philosophy;
lians for their rejection of the Platonic doctrine of eternal
nonphilosophers must not pursue it. Ibn Rushd’s position
forms. From the thirteenth century onward, al-Suhraward¯ı
is essentially that of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, but it is now couched in Islam-
was succeeded by a series of Persian philosophers who either
ic legal language. The Fas:l also includes a theory of scriptural
adopted his doctrine of al-ishra¯q or, such as the philosopher-
interpretation and a defense of the fala¯sifah’s three doctrines
scientist Na¯s:ir al-D¯ın al-T:u¯s¯ı (d. 1274), were greatly influ-
against al-Ghaza¯l¯ı’s charge that they were irreligious. The
enced by it. Those who adopted it included such leading
Kashf complements the Fas:l but offers more specific criti-
thinkers as M¯ır Da¯ma¯d (d. 1631), Mulla¯ S:adra¯ (d. 1640),
cisms of AshEar¯ı theological principles.
and the latter’s commentator, Sabzawa¯r¯ı (d. 1866), to name
but a few.
In the Taha¯fut al-Taha¯fut, Ibn Rushd quotes almost all
of al-Ghaza¯l¯ı’s Taha¯fut, commenting on it paragraph by
Of al-Suhraward¯ı’s successors, Mulla¯ S:adra¯ is generally
paragraph. Although his main criticisms are directed against
recognized as the most important and most original. Al-
al-Ghaza¯l¯ı, at times he criticizes Ibn S¯ına¯, particularly for his
though he adopted al-Suhraward¯ı’s metaphysics of illumina-
Neoplatonism. Ibn Rushd’s Taha¯fut is a sober work of criti-
tion, he disagreed with him on a basic idea concerning the
cism that tracks down ambiguities, draws distinctions, refor-
relation of essence to existence. Al- Suhraward¯ı had argued
mulates positions, corrects misunderstandings, and offers
for the priority of essence over existence. Mulla¯ S:adra¯ main-
analyses. It reasserts and defends an Aristotelian causal view,
tained the reverse, arguing for the priority and “primacy of
arguing incessantly against the AshEar¯ı conception of divine
existence” (as:a¯lat al-wuju¯d). By “existence,” he meant real ex-
causality and against their denial of natural causes.
istence as distinct from the static concept of existence in the
Ibn Rushd’s writings on the hereafter, however, pose the
mind. Real existence is grasped intuitively, the act of intuit-
question of what he actually believes on this matter. His
ing it being itself part of the flow of existence. The key idea
“technical” discussions of the question of the soul’s immor-
governing his whole philosophy is that of existence as a dy-
tality—whether in his commentaries on Aristotle or in those
namic process. This manifests itself in his theories of motion
parts of the Taha¯fut where he is highly critical of Ibn S¯ına¯’s
and time. Motion is not simply the rotation of forms over
doctrine of the soul’s individual immortality—leave no room
a static substratum, but is inherent in the substratum itself.
for a theory of the soul’s individual immortality, to say noth-
Similarly, time is not merely the measure of motion: Physical
ing of a doctrine of bodily resurrection. In the Kashf, howev-
body has an inherent time dimension. There is an ever up-
er, he affirms a doctrine of individual immortality, whether
ward moving process of existence (imperceptible to humans)
this is confined to the soul or involves bodily resurrection.
that is irreversible, a manifestation of God’s ceaseless creative
Again, at the end of the Taha¯fut (where the discussion is not
technical) he seems to affirm a doctrine of bodily resurrec-
In Western Islam, philosophical mystical thought at-
tion. The indications are that in these conflicting statements
tained its heights with two thirteenth-century thinkers, both
he is practicing what he preaches as a follower of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s
from Murcia, Spain. The first was the great philosophical
political thinking. In other words, he is addressing the phi-
mystic Ibn al-EArab¯ı (d. 1240), noted for his doctrine of the
losophers philosophically and the nonphilosophers in lan-
unity of being (wah:dat al-wuju¯d), which exerted a very great
guage they can understand. He also seems to be protecting
influence on Persian mystical thought. The second was Ibn
himself against charges of unbelief.
SabE¯ın (d. 1270), a mystic-philosopher who expounded a
Falsafah did not end with Ibn Rushd. But the period
doctrine of the unity of being in terms of Aristotle’s concept
from al-Kind¯ı to Ibn Rushd witnessed some of its greatest
of form. A much more empirical approach is encountered in
practitioners and established a rich philosophical tradition
the thought of the Tunisian-born historian-philosopher Ibn
on which later Islamic thinkers, men of originality and ge-
Khaldu¯n, one of Islam’s most original minds. He served vari-
nius, were to build and enrich falsafah even more. The ma-
ous Islamic rulers as ambassador, envoy, and chief judge.
jority of these thinkers came from Persia and were in a real
Combining a thorough legal, theological, and philosophical
sense the spiritual descendants of Ibn S¯ına¯. But some came
education with firsthand experience in politics, he utilized
from other parts of the Islamic world—Spain and North Af-
this background to write his universal history, best noted for
rica, for example.
its muqaddimah (“prolegomena”). It is in this muqaddimah
that he sets forth his conception of history as a science con-
Persia became noted for its mystical philosophy of illu-
cerned with the causal explanation for the rise, decline, and
mination, al-ishra¯q. The founder of this tradition was
fall of civilizations and that he probed the rise and develop-
al-Suhraward¯ı (d. 1191), a contemporary of Ibn Rushd. The
ment of social institutions. In doing this, he realized, in ef-
basic idea of his philosophy is that reality consists of light of
fect, a philosophy of history.
varying degrees of intensity. Light, which for al-Suhraward¯ı
is neither material nor definable, proceeds from the Light of
Both Ibn Khaldu¯n and Mulla¯ S:adra¯ in their very differ-
lights (nu¯r al-anwa¯r), God. Its emanation and diffusion at
ent ways are examples of philosophers who broadened the
various levels constitute the created world. In this metaphys-
dimensions of falsafah. They certainly made advances over
ics of light and illumination, he harks back to the old reli-
the thought of their predecessors. But these were advances
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

within a rich philosophical tradition whose first foundation
Li Hongzhi (1951–). Although most Western scholars would
stone was laid in the ninth century by al-Kind¯ı.
classify it as a “new religious movement,” Li and his followers
understand Falun Gong not as a religion but as a “cultivation
SEE ALSO Ishra¯q¯ıyah; Kala¯m.
system,” based on principles of qigong that are widely accept-
ed in China. Falun Gong rapidly became very popular in
China, attracting millions of followers in the years immedi-
General Histories
Corbin, Henry. Histoire de la philosophie islamique. Paris, 1964.
ately after its founding. For complex reasons, Falun Gong
Fakhry, Majid. A History of Islamic Philosophy. Rev. ed. New York,
soon ran afoul of the Chinese state, and a massive protest in
Beijing by Falun Gong practitioners against media censure
Sharif, M. M., ed. A History of Muslim Philosophy, vol. 1. Wiesba-
at the end of April 1999 led to a harsh crackdown by the
den, 1963.
Chinese government on the grounds that Falun Gong was
Collections of Studies
a dangerous “heterodox sect.”
Anawati, Georges C. Études de philosophie musulmane. Paris, 1974.
QIGONG AND THE QIGONG BOOM. To understand the rise
Hourani, G. F., ed. Essays on Islamic Philosophy and Science. Alba-
and popularity of Falun Gong, it is essential to understand
ny, N.Y., 1975.
the rise and popularity of qigong. In Chinese, qi means “vital
Marmura, M. E., ed. Islamic Theology and Philosophy: Studies in
breath” or “energy” and refers to a force existing in nature
Honor of G. F. Hourani. Albany, N.Y., 1984.
that can be harnessed for a variety of purposes. Gong means
Morewedge, Parvis, ed. Islamic Philosophical Theology. Albany,
N.Y., 1979.
“skill” or “technique,” and the two characters together mean
Morewedge, Parvis, ed. Islamic Philosophy and Mysticism. Delmar,
“the cultivation of qi energy.” Qigong practice includes a vari-
N.Y., 1981.
ety of techniques, some stressing physical movement, some
Stern, S. M., Albert Hourani, and Vivian Brown, eds. Islamic Phi-
stressing meditation or visualization. The goal of practice is
losophy and the Classical Tradition. Columbia, S.C., 1972.
self-healing, stress reduction, and the cultivation of super-
Walzer, Richard. Greek into Arabic: Essays on Islamic Philosophy.
normal powers.
Cambridge, Mass., 1962.
The practices and principles of qigong are drawn from
traditional Chinese medicine, folk healing, martial arts, and
Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, al-. Alfarabi’s Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Translated
popular religion, many varieties of which have claimed magi-
by Muhsin Mahdi. New York, 1962.
cal healing powers. These practices did not, however, exist
Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, al-. Al-Farabi’s Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristot-
le’s De Interpretatione. Translated by F. W. Zimmerman.
as a coherent whole prior to the Communist revolution of
London, 1981.
1949, nor did the notion of qigong exist as such. Ironically,
Hyman, Alfred, and James J. Walsh, eds. Philosophy in the Middle
given the state’s later opposition, qigong was created and nur-
Ages: The Christian, Islamic and Jewish Traditions. New York,
tured by the Chinese government in the 1950s as part of an
1967. Includes translations of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, Avicenna,
effort to preserve traditional Chinese medical practices in the
al-Ghaza¯l¯ı, and Averroës (pp. 20–235).
face of a massive importation of Western medicine. The goal
Ibn Rushd (Averroës). Taha¯fut al-Taha¯fut. Translated by S. Van
of those who “invented” qigong in the 1950s was to separate
Den Bergh as The Incoherence of the Incoherence. London,
pure qigong technique from its traditional spiritual underpin-
nings so as to preserve the scientific benefits of qigong while
Ibn S¯ına¯ (Avicenna). Avicenna’s Philosophy. Translated by Fazlur
discarding its dangerous and “superstitious” wrappings. The
Rahman. London, 1952.
first “consumers” of qigong were high-level cadres of the Chi-
Ibn S¯ına¯. The Life of Ibn S¯ına¯. Edited and translated by William
nese government, who practiced qigong in sanatoria run by
E. Gohlman. New York, 1967.
the Chinese traditional medical establishment.
Kind¯ı, al-. Al-Kind¯ı’s Metaphysics. Translated by Alfred L. Ivry.
New York, 1963.
After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, qigong became
Lerner, Ralph, and Muhsin Madhi, eds. Medieval Political Philoso-
a mass phenomenon in the freer, less politically charged at-
phy: A Source Book. New York, 1963. Includes translations
mosphere of post-Mao China. One important element of
of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı, Avicenna, Ibn Ba¯jjah, Ibn T:ufayl, and Averroës
this transformation was the emergence of charismatic qigong
(pp. 21–190).
masters who in the late 1970s and early 1980s took qigong
out of the sanatoria and into the public parks of urban
China, where qigong was taught to any and all who were in-
terested. As the popularity of qigong grew, masters sought
larger venues, even renting sports stadiums at the height of
the boom and selling tickets to eager followers. The credibili-
ty of qigong was enhanced by the “discovery” by well-known
Chinese scientists that qi was a material substance and that
FALUN GONG. Falun Gong, also known as Falun
the development of supernormal powers based on the mas-
Dafa, is a Chinese spiritual movement founded in 1992 by
tery of qi had a scientific foundation.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Encouraged by the scientific endorsement of the reality
schools, there was something different about Li Hongzhi. Li
of qi and qigong, the Chinese government lent its support to
condemned other qigong schools for their crass materialism,
the qigong movement. From a practical point of view, mass
in effect accusing them of fraud. More fundamentally, he re-
practice of qigong promised to improve the health of the Chi-
proached the entire qigong establishment for an unhealthy
nese people and reduce demands on the health care system
obsession with healing and supernormal powers, which
at a time when the leadership hoped to economize by shrink-
came, in his view, at the expense of a deeper spiritual orienta-
ing its investment in public health. In addition, after the fail-
tion. To Li, Falun Gong was qigong taken to a higher plane.
ure of Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the post-
Falun Gong, he claimed, could heal illnesses and confer su-
Mao Chinese leadership sought legitimacy as much in Chi-
pernormal powers, but the more important objective was to
nese nationalism as in Marxism-Leninism, and the
arrive at a physical transformation of the body and a funda-
government was pleased that many Chinese people were be-
mental transformation of one’s understanding of the compo-
coming reacquainted with China’s traditional culture
sition of the universe and one’s role therein. These transfor-
through their practice of qigong, which qigong masters linked
mations were to be effected through Falun Gong practice,
to China’s rich cultural heritage. China’s leaders were equally
which, like other styles of qigong, included physical move-
proud to tout qigong to the world as China’s contribution
ments, but which also accorded an importance to scripture
to modern science—yet another manifestation of post-Mao
(i.e., Li Hongzhi’s writings). This emphasis on the master’s
Chinese nationalism. At the same time, China’s leaders
writings was unusual in the context of the qigong movement.
sought to regulate qigong, and to this end set up the Chinese
Unlike other qigong schools, Falun Gong also stressed the
Qigong Scientific Research Association in April 1986.
miraculous, godlike powers of Li Hongzhi (i.e., the ability
to assure the health and welfare of all of his followers at all
Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, China went
times) in a way that differed from other qigong schools.
wild for qigong in what was known as the “qigong boom.”
Hundreds of millions of people participated, and thousands
Li’s teachings are an eclectic mixture of Buddhism,
of articles on qigong appeared in official media, as well as in
Daoism, popular religion, and “scientism.” His theology
newly created journals and newspapers wholly devoted to qi-
draws largely on Buddhism, and he calls on followers to sever
gong. Hundreds of qigong masters competed for public atten-
all “attachments,” be they to meat, alcohol, medicines, mate-
tion. The most visible symbol of the qigong boom was the
rial possessions, or other human beings. Practitioners are to
appearance of nationwide networks of qigong practitioners,
be compassionate to all, but such compassion should not en-
all of whom were organized around charismatic qigong mas-
gender attachments that detract from salvation. Li frequently
ters, who gave lecture tours, appeared on television, and pub-
evokes the traditional Buddhist concept of karma—the no-
lished and sold books and cassettes. Chinese interest in qi-
tion, linked to reincarnation, that the merits and demerits
gong had become a mass movement, which began to take on
of one’s present life will be reflected in one’s status at the mo-
the character of a new religious movement. Masters, in their
ment of rebirth in a future life. The “scientistic” cast of Li
explanations of the workings of qigong, began to elaborate
Hongzhi’s message is reflected in its conception of karma,
theories that went beyond the technical aspects of qigong
which in Falun Gong literature has a material basis: karma
practice and the achievement of physical well-being; they
is a black substance present in the body, which can be trans-
linked qigong to morality, spirituality, the meaning of life,
formed by suffering and virtuous practice into a white sub-
and the meaning of the universe. In addition, qigong practi-
stance. The transformation, according to Li, occurs at the
tioners began to fall into trances, experience visions, and suf-
molecular level and accounts scientifically for the improved
fer “possession,” and a widespread enthusiasm for the pursuit
health of Falun Gong practitioners. Indeed, the promise of
of supernormal powers through qigong practice signaled the
improved health has been the primary attraction of Falun
embrace of qigong as a force capable of altering ordinary
Gong for many practitioners, who consider disease a form
of karma to be eliminated through suffering and cultivation.
Most Falun Gong practitioners avoid doctors, hospitals, and
Gong emerged as part of the qigong boom. Both were initial-
ly embraced as part of the movement, and Falun Gong was
Another aspect of Li’s teachings concerns world destruc-
welcomed into the Qigong Scientific Research Association,
tion and renewal. He argues that the world has been de-
which sponsored and helped to organize many of Li’s activi-
stroyed and re-created eighty-one times, and that signs indi-
ties between 1992 and 1994. Notable among those activities
cate that another cycle of world destruction and renewal is
were fifty-four major lectures given throughout China to a
imminent. Li drew these ideas from traditional strains of
total audience of some twenty thousand. Like other masters,
Chinese apocalyptic thinking, found especially in popular-
Li published books of his teachings, which achieved such
ized versions of Daoism and Buddhism. Interestingly, Li did
success that he was soon able to offer his lectures free of
not stress this teaching prior to the Chinese government’s
suppression of Falun Gong.
Still, if Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong owed their initial
Li argues furthermore that truth (zhen), benevolence
success to their kinship with other qigong masters and
(shan), and forbearance (ren), the three cardinal principles of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Falun Gong practice, are in fact the forces that make up the
in such a way as to avoid conflict with the authorities, Li
physical universe. Falun Gong practitioners achieve oneness
seems to have worried little about the response his writings
with cosmic reality in cultivating truth, benevolence, and
might evoke. Zhuan Falun, for example, teems with refer-
forbearance in their personal lives. Rather than present scien-
ences to spirit possession, the destruction and re-creation of
tific arguments to illustrate his contentions, Li claims to have
the word, extraterrestrial interference in the affairs of human-
transcended science and thus to understand all of reality
kind—in short, a host of references unlikely to please Com-
from another, higher level. His writings are full of scientific
munist authorities.
(or parascientific) references (his reflections on the proper
understanding of gravity, for example), which his followers
As a nationwide mass movement organized around a
take as seriously as the rest of his writings.
charismatic leader who largely ignored the Chinese Commu-
nist Party, Falun Gong represented a potential threat, but as
Falun Gong practice is simple, albeit time-consuming.
such it was not much different from other qigong schools.
The exercises, described in the book China Falun Gong
What distinguished Falun Gong as an organization was its
(1993), are to be performed on a daily basis if possible, alone
propensity to react quickly and vigorously to perceived
or with other practitioners. The more important aspect of
slights from the media, a practice that rapidly became “politi-
Falun Gong practice is the reading and rereading of Li
cal,” since most media outlets in China are little more than
Hongzhi’s most important work, Zhuan Falun (The revolv-
mouthpieces for the government. Sources hostile to Falun
ing wheel of the Buddhist law), first published in Chinese
Gong report more than three hundred such instances, begin-
in 1995. This work is held to be the source of all truth; many
ning in the summer of 1996, none of which were violent and
practitioners report having read it in a single sitting and hav-
all of which essentially demanded that “erroneous” informa-
ing experienced an immediate revelation. In China prior to
tion about Falun Gong be corrected. Falun Gong practition-
the suppression of Falun Gong, a nationwide network of
ers later likened their protests to those of Mahatma Gandhi
practice centers brought practitioners together on a regular
in India or Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States. But
basis, which allowed for the rapid diffusion of the Falun
China has little tradition of civil rights demonstrations, and
Gong message to interested parties. The centers offered no
actions such as surrounding the state-owned and state-run
worship services, however, and Li Hongzhi forbids anyone
Beijing television station, which Falun Gong practitioners
to speak in his place; all “teaching” is thus carried out via
books or video and audio recordings, or via other materials
did in May 1998, were perceived as audacious, if not sedi-
made available on the Falun Gong websites.
tious, in the Chinese setting.
This same basic structure has been copied on a smaller
Criticism of Falun Gong in the official media suggested
scale outside of China. Many followers exercise daily and
that the movement had detractors in high places. Indeed, of-
meet weekly with other practitioners to read Li Hongzhi’s
ficial opinion about Falun Gong, and about the qigong
works and to exchange experiences. Large “experience-
movement in general, was divided. At various points during
sharing conferences” are an important part of the North
the qigong boom, some critics expressed concern that qigong
American Falun Gong experience. These are regional events,
and Falun Gong were little more than a return to “feudal su-
held on a rotating basis in cities where there are significant
perstition” and that organizations built on such foundations
numbers of Falun Gong practitioners. Such events add wit-
were not to be trusted. It was probably due to such criticisms
ness statements to the Falun Gong repertoire of exercises and
that Li Hongzhi decided to leave China for the United States
reading of scripture; practitioners deliver prepared state-
in 1996, roughly the same time that Falun Gong “protests”
ments of their experience before and after coming to know
began in China. Subsequently, problems over Falun Gong’s
Falun Gong. Li Hongzhi frequently appears at such events,
continued recognition as an “official” qigong organization
the only occasions at which ordinary members can see the
signaled that the Chinese government was particularly wor-
ried about Falun Gong.
Chinese practitioners in North America are in general
The Falun Gong encirclement of Communist Party
highly educated and reasonably wealthy, in part because
headquarters in Beijing in 1999 was sparked by a media affair
American and Canadian immigration procedures attempt to
in the neighboring city of Tianjin, and should thus be under-
filter out the poorly educated and those who are likely to be-
stood as a continuation of previous protests. The huge dem-
come wards of the state. In China, Falun Gong, like qigong,
onstration on April 29, 1999, when some ten thousand prac-
appealed to a broad range of the population—rich and poor,
titioners surrounded party headquarters at Zhongnanhai,
educated and uneducated, powerful and powerless, urban
was surely designed to draw the attention of the authorities
and rural, women and men, as well as members of the Com-
to the ongoing criticism of Falun Gong in the media. The
munist Party.
demonstration may even have been intended to suggest the
power of Falun Gong (it was the largest protest China had
MENT. In his pre-1999 writings, Li Hongzhi appears to be
experienced since the student democracy movement of
nationalistic and patriotic, but largely apolitical. Neverthe-
1989), and it apparently came as a complete surprise to
less, while other qigong leaders took care to cast their message
China’s leadership.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

If Li Hongzhi expected the Chinese authorities to back
hommage à Léon Vandermeersch, edited by Jacques Gernet
down, he must have been sorely disappointed, for the state
and Marc Kalinowski, pp. 267–281. Paris, 1997.
responded to the demonstration with a fierce campaign
Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong, rev. ed. (English version). Hong Kong,
against Falun Gong. Laws passed during the summer and fall
1998. Originally published as China Falun Gong in 1993.
of 1999 defined Falun Gong as a “heterodox sect” and au-
Available from http://www.falundafa.org/eng/books.htm.
thorized confiscation of Falun Gong books, recordings, and
Li Hongzhi. Zhuan Falun. 2d ed. Hong Kong, 1998. Original
other paraphernalia. Consistent with their tradition of pro-
Chinese edition published in 1995. Available from http://
test, Falun Gong practitioners—encouraged, one assumes,
by the Falun Gong leadership—sought out Chinese authori-
Madsen, Richard. “Understanding Falun Gong.” Current History
ties at all levels, insisting that Falun Gong was benevolent.
99 (2000): 243–247.
The most visible of these Falun Gong protesters were the
Nova Religio 6, no. 2 (2003). An entire issue devoted to Falun
practitioners who demonstrated in Beijing’s Tiananmen
Square, in essence demanding a confrontation with the au-
Ownby, David. “A History for Falun Gong: Popular Religion and
thorities in China’s central political space. Confrontation en-
the Chinese State since the Ming Dynasty.” Nova Religio 6,
sued, as the state arrested, imprisoned, and tortured tens of
no. 2 (2003): 223–243.
thousands of Falun Gong practitioners beginning in the fall
Palmer, David. “The Doctrine of Li Hongzhi.” China Perspectives
of 1999.
35 (2001): 14–23.
After the campaign against Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi’s
Penny, Benjamin. “Falun Gong, Prophesy, and Apocalypse.” East
Asian History 23 (2002): 149–168.
message began to change. Li largely disappeared from circu-
lation between the spring of 1999 and the fall of 2000. When
Tong, James. “An Organizational Analysis of the Falun Gong:
Structure, Communications, Financing.” China Quarterly
he reemerged, delivering impromptu addresses at experience-
171 (2002): 636–660.
sharing conferences in North America and Europe, he em-
Vermander, Benoît. “Looking at China Through the Mirror of
phasized the apocalyptic aspects of his discourse in ways he
Falun Gong.” China Perspectives 35 (2001): 4–13.
had not done prior to April 1999. He began, for example,
Wong, John. The Mystery of Falun Gong: Its Rise and Fall in China.
to depict the suppression of the Falun Gong movement in
EAI Background Brief, no. 39. Singapore, 1999.
China as a part of a “final trial,” and he seemed to promise
that those who martyred themselves to the cause would re-
Zhu Xiaoyang and Benjamin Penny, eds. “The Qigong Boom.”
Chinese Sociology and Anthropology 27, no. 1 (1994).
ceive instant “consummation” or enlightenment, the final
completion of their cultivation efforts.
Falun Gong practitioners outside of China began to or-
ganize during this period, both to ensure that the truth about
Falun Gong and about the suppression reach China, and to
FAMILY is vitally important to most religious traditions
bring pressure on Western governments to condemn the ac-
in two closely interconnected ways: Various ritual processes
tions of the Chinese state. These efforts, particularly those
enacted by, to, and for the family help to create and sustain
addressed to Western governments, achieved considerable
it as well as give it meaning, and it functions as an important
success. However, an important moment in this conflict was
symbol of deity. Historically and cross-culturally, family in
the alleged self-immolation of a number of Falun Gong prac-
various forms has (until the late twentieth century in pos-
titioners in Tiananmen Square in late January 2001. Al-
tindustrialized cultures) been so basic to human existence as
though doubts persist as to the identity of those who set
to be a universal symbol of ultimacy.
themselves on fire (Falun Gong practitioners insist that the
DEFINITION. Exactly what constitutes family is not always
event was staged by Chinese authorities), the incident
clear. Some scholars equate family with household, another
marked an important public relations victory for the Chinese
imprecise construct that variously includes all permanent
government within China. Many Chinese who had re-
members such as servants or else excludes unrelated house-
mained neutral to that point came to share the authorities’
holders. Further confusion results because most anthropolo-
view that Falun Gong was indeed a dangerous heterodox
gists posit two basic kinds of family: the nuclear family, con-
sect. The Chinese authorities succeeded in suppressing Falun
sisting of mother, father, and unmarried children, and the
Gong, as well as other qigong schools, within China, but at
extended family, typically including mother, father, all un-
great cost in terms of the regime’s international prestige and
married children, and one or more sons with their wives and
the loss of money and energy that could have been more use-
children. Numerous complicated variations exist, including
fully invested elsewhere.
different polygynous arrangements in which two or more co-
wives live under the same roof. A few domestic groupings,
SEE ALSO Chinese Religion; New Religious Movements,
such as those of the Nayar of India, whose men never live
overview article.
with their wives, defy all categories. Nonetheless, family, in
some variant, is considered universal.
Despeux, Catherine. “Le Qigong: Une expression de la modernité
Also confusing is the fact that all married people simul-
chinoise.” In En suivant la voie royale: Mélanges offerts en
taneously belong to two different families. Family as seat of
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

origination stresses ties of blood, whereas family as affiliation
believe that spirits of tribal ancestors return to earth to warn,
emphasizes bonds of marriage. To keep separate these two
protect, and instruct the living, although only specially
different kinds of family, some anthropologists designate the
trained shamans are capable of seeing them.
first as “kin” and the second as “family.” Kin are those who
Babylonian mythology and artifacts incorporate impor-
share common ancestors, as do mother and child (in contrast
tant motifs of ancestor veneration. The failed attempt of the
to mother and father, who do not). Strictly speaking, al-
hero Gilgamesh to escape mortality by visiting his ancestor
though family incorporates kin, the reverse is not true be-
Utanapishtim, the Babylonian Noah who did escape it, indi-
cause, excepting incestuous marriages, spouses usually are
cates the salvific role hoped for from ancestors. Between the
not blood relatives.
third millennium BCE or earlier, when sacrifices were offered
Consequently, family is basically a reconciliation of
to the departed kings Shulgi and Gudea, and about 2500
many different opposites: female and male, life and death,
BCE, when Grimalsin of the second dynasty of Ur appears to
ascendants and descendants, kin and affines (relatives by
have been deified while still living, two other important
marriage), biology and culture, freedom and servitude, cor-
themes emerge: Ancestor worship by actual descendants
poration and individuality. The differing ways in which fam-
tends to merge with homage paid by a whole people to de-
ily contains these opposites represent diverse systems of order
parted rulers or “fathers.” Thus, in many cultures ancestors
in which family roles are valued according to accepted local
function variously as objects of domestic and state devotion,
religiocultural belief and custom. Valuation of all members
a situation that became pronounced in the Roman Empire.
is almost never equal; therefore, family as a whole embodies
Attribution of divine ancestry has been common for kings,
and symbolizes order of a particular sort—hierarchy.
as notably in post-Meiji Restoration Japan, where the emper-
or was officially proclaimed a direct descendant of the sun
In its entirety this “natural” order of human relation-
goddess Amaterasu O
¯ mikami. Such ancestry has even been
ships, presumed to have evolved out of earlier hominid bands
assigned to whole peoples, as repeatedly shown in epic
of approximately thirty, has frequently been deified, with
members typically reflecting family as experienced in a par-
ticular culture. Thus Kwoiam, the warrior hero of Mabuiag,
So important are the honored ancestors in cultures such
an island off New Guinea, lives with his mother, her brother
as those in China, Japan after Chinese contact (seventh cen-
and sister, and his sister’s son in a matrilineal “family” (tech-
tury CE), and areas of Aryan influence, particularly India and
nically, a kin system) that omits the father. Very different is
Rome, that the traditional family often seems to exist more
the Homeric extended patriarchal family of Zeus and Hera,
for their sake than for that of the living. This point indicates
which includes variously begotten offspring. The smaller nu-
one theme present in the traditional family, its orientation
clear family is symbolized in various cultures, as for example
toward death. Furthermore, because typically in these cul-
the Egyptian Osiris, Isis, and Horus; the holy family of
tures ancestors collectively overpower and stifle the individu-
Christianity consisting of Joseph (or God the Father), Mary,
ality now common in the Western world, ancestor venera-
and Jesus; and the holy triad of the Yurak Samoyed: Nyebye-
tion also highlights a second important theme: Family as
haha, the mother deity; Wesako-haha, her spouse; and Nyu-
corporate entity strongly opposes the individuality of its
haha, their son. Curious variants appear in the enneads (tri-
ple triads) so characteristic of dynastic Egypt.
Emphasis on ancestors indicates that family is not only
In its smallest possible configuration (apart from the
the matrix within which an individual enters life but also the
single individual sometimes defined as family in the post-
means by which he (less commonly she) achieves a kind of
industrialized West)—as husband and wife—family appears
immortality. Paradoxically, this denial of death that leads to
in almost all mythologies. Universally, tales of the hieros
ancestor veneration makes the family a kind of perpetual cult
gamos tell of the sacred marriage of Heaven and Earth from
of the dead enacted by the living.
whom humanity springs, as illustrated by the Zuni Awitelin-
tsita, the fourfold-containing Mother Earth, and Apoyan Ta
CHILDREN. In contrast to dead family members, who are al-
DChu, the all-covering Father Sky. Often such etiological sto-
most universally venerated, children are often treated ambiv-
ries of how the world came to be tell how one or more of
alently. Though desired in the abstract for perpetuating the
the children produced by the union separate the pair, often
family, children may be abused or even denied life, as in the
forcibly, to form the realms of earth and sky. Such is the case
ancient classical world. Hippocrates illustrates this point
in the Vedic account of Dyaus and Prthivi.
when he asks, “Which children should be raised?” The essen-
tially universal theme of infanticide is clearly present in the
ANCESTORS. Probably no members so fully embody both the
biblical stories of Isaac and Moses, who were saved. To this
ritual and the symbolic significance of the traditional extend-
day the practice continues sporadically for girls in parts of
ed family as do ancestors. From the Paleolithic period to the
India and China, as historically had been the case almost
present, many cultures have venerated ancestors to varying
degrees, although Herbert Spencer’s theory that ancestor
worship stands behind all religious practice has been general-
The countertheme of life orientation surfaces most
ly discarded. For example, almost all Native American tribes
strongly in connection with those newborns elected to sur-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

vive. Yet even here the tension of opposites is strained, for
ens. One day a Haida woman was digging on the beach.
only some attain family membership. Commonly thought of
Hearing a cry from a cockle shell, she uncovered it and found
as “natural,” family construction is actually often highly arti-
the baby Shining Heavens. She took him home and soon dis-
covered his supernatural power, manifested in his ability to
grow up almost immediately. This common motif of the
Birth, mating, and death, the three natural methods of
wonder child who grows almost instantly from baby to
creating, maintaining, and pruning families, are simulta-
strong youth or man is also illustrated by the Siouan Young
neously both biological and socioreligious events. Successful
Rabbit and the Algonquian Blood-Clot Boy. Sometimes the
delivery of a live baby does not guarantee the existence of a
child-hero even makes plans in the womb, as do the Iroquoi-
new family member. In many cultures, once a child is born
an twins Good Mind and Evil Mind. Such “unnatural” capa-
(notably, in patriarchal Hellenic Greece or even contempo-
bilities illustrate the power of godhead to transcend nature.
rary China or India), the father must determine whether or
not to keep it. Then it must be incorporated into the family.
Such capability is even more apparent in the Vallabha
The contemporary Islamic Malays illustrate one variant of
and Caitanya sects of Hinduism, in which worship of the
this once nearly universal practice: First, the father whispers
cowherd Kr:s:n:a as the divine child has been popular from at
into the infant’s ear the Islamic call to prayer; next, a specially
least 900 CE. In the spontaneity of his laughter, pranks, danc-
selected person touches certain objects to the baby’s lips to
ing, disobedience, and play, the child Kr:s:n:a symbolizes the
guard against future lying and gossiping; then, forty-four
unconditional nature of divinity. In such activity, engaged
days later, the father buries the placenta beneath a coconut
in for no purpose beyond sheer joy, the play of the child met-
palm seedling. These and other birth rituals help place the
aphorically expresses an aspect of divinity less easily rendered
child in its familial and socioreligious context. Thus a new
by “adult” personifications.
family member is “created” only in the most superficial way
MOTHERS. So important is a woman’s role as mother in most
by its actual birth. Subsequent actions of family members,
societies that the biblical Hebrews, for example, insisted that
often other than the mother, bring the child fully into family
a wife who failed to bear children was obligated to provide
her husband with a concubine (Gn. 16:2). According to pop-
As a symbol of deity, the divine child appears in various
ular Islamic tradition, the main duty of a woman is to obey
traditions. Archaeological finds such as vase paintings and
and serve her husband respectfully; her second duty is to give
figurines depicting infancy themes and rituals place this con-
him male heirs. In traditional China with its strong Confu-
cept at least as far back as the Neolithic and Chalcolithic pe-
cian ethic, life was meaningless without sons. Without sons,
riods (c. 7000–3500 BCE) in Old Europe (roughly, south-
a wife could count on a second wife essentially replacing her.
eastern Europe from Czechoslovakia to the Aegean). Motifs
Theorists assume that the discovery of stockbreeding
of birth and maturing of the infant later took shape mythical-
and planting taught humans about male reproductive capa-
ly and cultically in many variations that recount the passion
bility. That means that for only about twelve thousand of the
of the young god of vegetation. Representative is the cult of
million years of hominid existence have humans understood
the infant Dionysos, originally Boeotian and Cretan but sub-
paternity and reckoned male as well as female lineage. Thus
sequently almost universal in Greece, in which the infant
was the ancient mother-child kin tie challenged by the famil-
Dionysos-Zagreus is dismembered. According to myth, the
ial tie. The nineteenth-century belief in mother right, es-
Titans lured the child with rattles, knucklebones, a top, a
poused by J. J. Bachofen, Robert Stephen Briffault, Henry
ball, and a mirror, then cut him to pieces, cooked him, and
Maine, and others, whereby women were thought to have
devoured him. In some versions he is resurrected by the earth
held social and political power during a prepatriarchal era,
mother, Rhea. This death and resurrection theme, common
has long been invalidated; but current scholarship makes in-
to the complex of images central to agrarian religion, finds
disputable the existence of a practice of prehistoric mother
in the child (or alternatively in the seed) an appropriate
worship in Europe and Asia Minor.
image of renewal.
Material evidence in the form of large numbers of “Ve-
Worship of the divine child was originally shared by or
nuses,” often with exaggerated secondary sex characteristics
even predominantly directed to the mother goddess, as in the
and pregnant bellies, as exemplified by the well-known
case of Ishtar, Astarte, and Cybele, whose son-consorts were
Venus of Willendorf, firmly roots the idea of divine mother-
of secondary importance. With time, however, the child,
hood in the Upper Paleolithic period in Eurasia (c. 22,000
originally of either sex as suggested by numerous Sumerian
BCE). By the time of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods
female Marduks, ceases to be merely the child or sacrificial
(c. 7000–3500 BCE) in Old Europe and the Near East, the
consort and becomes more and more an object of veneration
Great Mother, with her accumulated Paleolithic traits, is well
in its own right. Christianity epitomizes this process whereby
established in the variant forms that generally characterize
the divine child eclipses its mother.
her in agricultural societies around the world. (In patrilineal
In a very different form, images of the divine child as
totemic and patriarchal nomadic cultures she figures less
divine hero are also common in Native American mythology.
prominently, as an adjunct to the dominant sky god.) Under
This pattern is typified by the Haida story of Shining Heav-
various names she appears almost universally wherever agri-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

culture develops—as Ishtar (Babylon and Assyria); Astarte
DAtse.) With polarization come goddesses of the underearth
(Canaan); Isis (Egypt); Cybele (Phrygia); Rhea, Gaia (pre-
realm such as the Greek Persephone and the dread Sumero-
Hellenic Greece); Pr:thiv¯ı (Vedic India); Di (ancient China);
Akkadian Ereshkigal, who are separate from beneficent
Pachamama (Inca); and so on.
counterparts such as Demeter and Ishtar.
In cultures such as those of Old Europe, pre-Hellenistic
In a variant process the single goddess multiplies, usual-
Greece, and pre-Vedic India (Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro),
ly into a triad, as in the case of the Scandinavian Norns, the
which were not dominated by nomadic pastoral peoples,
Greek Fates, or the strange matres and matrones figures from
motherhood is typically aligned with a concept seemingly
the Celtic and Germanic provinces of the Roman Empire.
opposed to it—that of virginity. But this belief reflects the
Such trinitarian representations often involve different stages
archaic notion that birth results from parthenogenesis, an
of motherhood, as in various ubiquitous virgin-mother-
understandable belief for those unaware of the male role. Far
crone triads (the Hindu Pa¯rvat¯ı, Durga¯, and Uma¯ and the
from being a moralistic concept, as it subsequently became
Celtic Macha, Morríghan, and Badhbh, for example).
in patrilineal and patriarchal cultures, it originally reflected
an understanding of woman as creator and powerful figure
FATHERS. Next to ancestors and frequently amalgamated
in her own right.
with them conceptually, fathers hold the greatest power in
traditional patriarchal families, whether or not their father-
Earth and related vegetal phenomena such as grains are
hood is biological. This paradox is logical when fatherhood
not the only natural elements associated with motherhood.
is divided into three categories: The genetic father fertilizes
Water, the medium from which humans originally emerge
the ovum; the genitor contributes to the child’s growth in
onto land, also functions this way, as with the ancient Mexi-
the womb, as when the Holy Ghost causes Mary to conceive
can goddess of the waters, Chalchiuhtlicue, and the water
through her ear; and the social father, known as the pater,
mother common to the ancient Karelians and other Finno-
dominates family life. Whether as genetic father, adoptive fa-
Ugric peoples. Sometimes, as with the Japanese sun goddess
ther, or maternal uncle, the pater supplies the child’s social
Amaterasu, or the pre-Islamic mother of the heavens Allat,
or the Egyptian sky goddess Nut, the traditional association
of earth with motherhood and of sky with fatherhood are re-
In a patrifocal extended family the pater, as oldest living
versed; consequently, the predominant associations do not
father in a direct line of descent, firmly heads the family hier-
always hold, as when the concept “down,” normally affiliated
archy. This pattern was thoroughly worked out in the
with earth and motherhood, attaches to a male chthonic
Roman family, where patriarchal power was so complete
deity. The variant son-consorts of the mother goddess, such
that, until he died, the father retained limitless authority over
as Adonis and Tammuz, reflect this phenomenon.
unmarried daughters and grown sons and their children. A
Various interconnected processes particularly affect the
married daughter customarily joined the household of her
ways motherhood is represented in divinity and vice versa.
husband and so came under the authority of his father. Such
Specialization tends to separate qualities originally mixed to-
extreme paternal power distinguished the Roman father
gether in a single great goddess figure into different embody-
from fathers in other societies in degree, but not in kind.
ing images, as exemplified by the goddesses of the Homeric
In contrast to motherhood, which results from pregnan-
pantheon. Artemis and Aphrodite, for example, both lose
cy and childbirth, fatherhood is not immediately self-
their original fullness of personality to become mainly associ-
evident. Nor can fatherhood be as readily represented in im-
ated with the hunt and with erotic love, respectively. In this
ages. Development and evolution of the concept are conse-
way motherhood, especially in Western cultures dominated
quently less certain and less easy to follow. Almost
by monotheism, has typically been strictly separated from all
everywhere, the most archaic manifestation of divine father-
other potential and actual attributes of womanhood. Thus
hood is the “high god” located in the sky. Typically this “fa-
hunting, wisdom, sex, and war, all attributes of the undiffer-
ther” is originally a creator whose traits include goodness, age
entiated goddess, come to appear totally divorced from each
(eternity), and remoteness from the world of human affairs.
So transcendent is he that he often abdicates his role of cre-
A related process polarizes “good” and “bad” qualities
ator, handing it over to a successor-demiurge. Consequently,
into beneficient and terrible goddesses. Such terrible mothers
he is seldom reverenced in cult and may even disappear en-
of death and destruction as the Hindu Ka¯l¯ı, the Aztec Tla-
tirely. Representative examples are the Australian All-Father
matecuhtli, and the Greek Medusa typify this process. Such
deities Baiame, worshiped by the Kamilaroi, and Bunjil (of
splitting dichotomizes the originally unified cycle of birth
the Kulin tribes); the Andamanese Puluga; numerous African
and death, in which Mother Earth gives birth (often quite
father gods such as Nzambi of the Bantu-speaking peoples
literally, as in the Greek story of Erichthonius and in the
and Nyan Kupon of the Tshis. Existence of a sky god of this
many Native American myths that portray humanity emerg-
sort is evident from Neolithic times on and may well go back
ing from the womb of the Earth) and later takes back her
to Paleolithic times, but hard material evidence to prove it
dead for burial (as in the Pueblo belief that Shipapu, the un-
is currently insufficient. Aside from images suggesting the
derworld, is also the womb of the earth goddess, Natya Ha
bull-roarers universally associated with father gods, no im-
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

ages comparable to the Paleolithic Venuses have been dis-
In ritual, too, fathers often mimic the maternal role.
Particularly among various Australian Aboriginal groups, ini-
tiation rites for boys, frequently reveal the fathers of a tribe
The fatherhood of such archaic deities is often less spe-
functioning as male mothers, as they ritually mimic menstru-
cifically biological than creative, as reflected by the terms
ation and “giving birth” to the young male initiates. Such
Bawai and Apap, applied respectively by the African Chawai
sexual crossing over introduces into the concept of father-
and Teso, which convey the fatherhood of God relative to
hood several conflicting themes. Variously, fatherhood is as
creation. In this sense the supreme being is a “father” wheth-
self-contained as motherhood in its parthenogenetic form;
er or not he creates in the well-known hieros gamos of Mother
or it projects a “maternal” nurturing quality far different
Earth and Father Sky or through powers entirely his, as
from the remoteness of the archaic sky god; or sometimes it
Baiami does.
deemphasizes sexual differentiation by blurring, a theme ex-
By contrast, in many less archaic mythological and ritu-
plicit in fertility figures such as Marduk, whose sex changes.
alized conceptions, divine fatherhood is unmistakably bio-
These are just some of the ways in which concepts of father-
logical. Here the archaic mating of Mother Earth and Father
hood and divine fathers have developed their complexity
Sky, originally an abstract description of creation, becomes
far more concrete. The sovereign father is typically eclipsed
SIBLINGS. Symbolically, relationships between siblings are al-
by his son, as is the Greek Ouranos by Kronos, the Australian
most as central to religion and mythology as those between
Baiami by Grogoragally, the Tiv Awondo by the Sun. Thus,
parents and children. This is partly because brothers and sis-
one theme typically connected to divine fatherhood in most
ters are frequently also spouses, like Zeus and Hera, especial-
mythologies is the generational conflict of fathers and sons.
ly in creation myths, making the theme of incest a common
As the archaic father god recedes, the son who replaces him,
universal mythologem. Almost universally, cross twins (those
even as he himself achieves fatherhood, seldom attains the
of opposite sex) are believed to have been the first humans
stature of his own progenitor. This is indicated by his charac-
from whom all others descend.
teristic shift from sky god variously to solar or weather god
(as when the weather god Zeus replaces Kronos) or agricul-
The first couple of the ancient Egyptian ennead were
tural deity (as when the Babylonian Marduk, both a solar
the twins Shu and Tefnut; the second were the brother and
and a vegetation deity, eventually supplants the Sumerian
sister Geb and Nut, the father and mother of the Osirian
great triad of sky gods Anu, Enlil, and Ea), all of which lack
gods. The Vedic twins Yama and Yami and the Norse Askr
the majestic connotations universally ascribed to the sky.
and Embla functioned similarly.
Particularly in the Chalcolithic cultures of the Near East
Some idea of the possible meanings of sibling “mar-
(e.g., Sumer, Babylonia), where worship of the Paleolithic
riage,” whether of twins or not, is evident from the Japanese
goddess developed strongly into the historic period, this shift
myth of Amaterasu O
¯ mikami, the Heaven-Illuminating
is apparent. Here earth as mother, rather than sky as father,
Goddess, and her brother Susano-o no Mikoto, the Valiant-
typically symbolizes the supreme being, rendering father-
Swift-Impetuous Hero. The rule of the universe was divided
hood a less exalted concept. The god is father solely as fecun-
between these two: The realm of light, including heaven and
dator, being more often lover than spouse. Such vegetation
earth, was presided over wisely by the sun goddess, while the
gods as Adonis, Tammuz, and their myriad counterparts
ocean and the domain of hidden things was ruled widely by
function this way.
her stormy brother. In consequence of her brother’s evil be-
havior, Amaterasu hid in a cave, plunging the entire world
In marked contrast to this biological, often chthonic, fa-
into darkness. When she emerged, light triumphed over
therhood is the refinement of sky-oriented fatherhood appar-
dark, and her brother was banished to a remote region.
ent in the monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam—and in dualistic Zoroastrianism, all of which de-
Most variants of this rivalry show the siblings as two
veloped out of patriarchal nomadic herding societies that re-
brothers, often twins, as in the ancient Persian Zoroastrian
tained more of the archaic religion than did their matrilineal
myth of the twins O
¯ hrmazd (“light”) and Ahriman
agricultural counterparts. The biblical Yahveh, for example,
(“darkness”) or in the Iroquoian myth of Ioskeha, the creator
is thought to have emerged from the celestial West Semitic
and preserver, and Tawiskara, the deadly winter god. Unlike
deity known as Ya, Yami, or Yahu.
the Iroquoian pair, however, the Persian dyad, representing
the principles of good and evil, respectively, set the stage for
One of the attributes frequently credited to father-gods
a dualistic system of thought in which both principles are
in almost all patriarchal cultures is that of giving birth: The
biblical God creates life without aid from a female deity;
Zeus produces Athena from his brow and gestates Dionysos
Often sibling rivalry incorporates the theme of fratri-
in his thigh; the Scandinavian giant Ymir and the Aboriginal
cide, as in the case of the Egyptian Seth who kills Osiris or
Australian Great Father, Kakora, both give birth from their
the Greek brothers Ismenos and Kaanthos through whom
armpits; and the Egyptian Khepri variously spits and mastur-
fratricide was first introduced into the world. This common
bates to produce Shu and Tefnut, respectively.
theme dramatizes the invidious distinction most cultures
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

make between elder brothers and all other children. An Aus-
oped by most literate cultures. Representative is the Institutes
tralian creation myth about two brothers traveling together
of Hindu Law, or The Ordinances of Menu, according to the
at the beginning of time vividly dramatizes this distinction.
Gloss of Culluca; Comprising the Indian System of Duties, Reli-
When the elder brother desires a wife, he operates on his sib-
gious and Civil, translated from the original Sanskrit by Wil-
ling, making him into a woman. The younger brother-
liam Jones (1794; 2d ed., London, 1876); the ordinances
turned-wife simply continues in the subordinate position he
cover a wide range of family-related topics, including di-
vorce, remarriage, status of wives, and the like. An excellent
had occupied all along, making clear the equivalent impo-
compendium of various issues of concern to contemporary
tence of younger brothers and wives.
students of family is the Spring 1977 issue of Daedalus,
All these sibling tales ring changes on certain important
which ranges from articles on specific cultures to family poli-
familial themes. Battling twins represent identity altering
cy issues in the United States to the study of the history of
into difference; fighting sisters and brothers depict familial
the family.
opposition; cohabiting sisters and brothers embody familial
Of the hundreds of recent works on family studies, Household and
unity; and battling brothers symbolize the struggle between
Family in Past Time, edited by Peter Laslett with the assis-
equality and hierarchy, as brotherhood gives way to the rights
tance of Richard Wall (Cambridge, 1972), is most represen-
of the elder brother, the patriarch-to-be.
tative of the controversial demographic approach. In this
work Laslett presents his provocative, ground-breaking argu-
ERVANTS. Of all the traditional family members, none so
emphasizes the way family functions as both example and
ment that the nuclear family preceded the industrial revolu-
tion and hence was causative rather than resultant. Also rep-
symbol of a hierarchical order as does the servant, the hired
resentative of the new demographic scholarship on family is
or enslaved person contributing to family life and economics
Michael Mitterauer and Reinhard Seider’s The European
in both agrarian and commercial settings. Particularly in its
Family: Patriarchy to Partnership from the Middle Ages to the
most extreme form, as slavery, servitude emphasizes the hier-
Present (Chicago, 1977). For those who wish to pursue the
archical nature of the traditional family. In ancient Hawaiian
historical aspects of family in depth, particularly by looking
culture, for instance, one outcast social group, the kauwa,
at small numbers of people in very precisely documented
were designated to serve the chiefs and touch them directly.
areas, the Journal of Family History (Worcester, Mass.,
They alone were exempt from the kapu (“taboo”) that pro-
1796–) presents the most recent work.
hibited touching the chiefs on pain of death. Yet these kauwa
Among numerous excellent sources of information on the mother
were themselves untouchable: It was not proper to eat with
goddess, two stand out for their lucidity: E. O. James’s The
them or sleep close to them. At the death of their masters,
Cult of the Mother-Goddess: An Archaeological and Documen-
they were buried alive, often as sacrificial atonement for kapu
tary Study (New York, 1959) and Marija Gimbutas’s The
violations committed by others. While extreme, this exam-
Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, 6500–3500 B.C.: Myths
ple, like others involving Indian untouchable servants, Amer-
and Cult Images (Berkeley, Calif., 1982). Somewhat more
ican black slaves, and Middle Eastern eunuchs, clearly em-
difficult to trace for lack of early material evidence and fewer
bodies the themes of scapegoating, sacrifice, and hierarchy
books devoted exclusively to the subject is the concept of the
father god. Helpful sources include E. O. James’s The Wor-
common to families in general.
ship of the Sky-God: A Comparative Study in Semitic and Indo-
Certain religious traditions overtly take up the themes
European Religion (London, 1963); Wilhelm Schmidt’s The
implicit in servitude, stressing them as positive rather than
Origin and Growth of Religion: Facts and Theories (1931;
negative attributes, as in the cases of Hanuman, the perfect
New York, 1972), considered by many the locus classicus for
Hindu servant, and Christ, understood as fulfilling the
its topic; and Mircea Eliade’s Patterns in Comparative Reli-
promise of the servant poems of “Second Isaiah.” Others
gion (New York, 1958), in which see especially chapter 2,
simply portray servitude as an institution as natural to divini-
“The Sky and Sky Gods,” and chapter 3, “The Sun and Sun-
ty as to humanity: In Japanese mythology, for example, the
Worship.” A helpful discussion of Kr:s:n:a as divine child ap-
pears in David Kinsley’s The Sword and the Flute: Kali and
fox functions as the messenger of the god of harvests, Inari,
Kr:s:n:a, Dark Visions of the Terrible and the Sublime in Hindu
much as Hermes serves the Greek Olympians. Among the
Mythology (Berkeley, 1975). Much useful information on
Haida of the Northwest Coast, Old-Woman-under-the-Fire
siblings appears in Donald J. Ward’s The Divine Twins: An
serves as messenger of the supernaturals, going between this
Indo-European Myth in Germanic Tradition (Berkeley, Calif.,
world and that of the spirits. Servitude, exemplifying a hu-
mility appropriate to worshipers, characterizes many tradi-
tions; thus the Vedic Hindus feel like slaves in the presence
New Sources
of Varun:a (R:gveda 1.25.1).
The Histoire de la famille, edited by André Burguière, Christiane
Klapisch-Zuber, Marin Segalen and Françoise Zonabend
SEE ALSO Ancestors; Child; Deus Otiosus; Domestic Obser-
(Paris, 1986), is the basic work of reference. It contains his-
vances; Goddess Worship; Hieros Gamos; Home; Sky; Su-
torical chapters on Mediterranean antiquity, European Mid-
preme Beings; Twins; Virgin Goddess.
dle Ages and ancient Asia as well as anthropological surveys
on family in today’s Western and Eastern world. The three
prefaces by an historian such as Georges Duby and two an-
Besides canonical scriptures, the most useful primary texts for stu-
thropologists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jack Goody
dents of the family are the ancient religio-legal codes devel-
are very inspiring from the methodological point of view.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

The well-organized bibliographies and the ample indexes are
communicate on a regular basis with Jesus and with deceased
very helpful. Among the classics, N. D. Fustel de Coulanges,
La cité antique (Paris, 1872) and Edward Westermarck, A
Short History of Marriage
(London, 1926) are still worth
ORIGINS. David Brandt Berg, founder of the Family and var-
reading as well as various essays on society and religion by
iously called Moses David or Father David, was the grandson
Talcott Parsons. Philip Ariès, L’enfant et la vie familiale sous
of John Lincoln Brandt, a leader in the Disciples of Christ,
l’ancien régime (Paris, 1960); J. L. Flandrin, Familles. Parenté,
and the son of Virginia Brandt Berg, a radio evangelist and
maison, sexualité dans l’ancienne société (Paris, 1976); and
faith healer in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, part of
Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England
the Holiness movement. After serving as a minister of the
1500–1800 (London, 1977) have been innovating historical
Christian and Missionary Alliance in Arizona, Father David
studies. The Development of the Family and Marriage in Eu-
worked for a decade in the Soul Clinic, a Pentecostal move-
rope (Cambridge, U.K., 1983) and The Oriental, the Ancient
ment. A break with the Soul Clinic and a “Warning Prophe-
and the Primitive. Systems of Marriage and the Family in Pre-
cy” channeled by his mother at the end of 1967 delivered
industrial Societies of Eurasia (Cambridge, U.K., 1990) by
Berg and his family to Huntington Beach, near Los Angeles,
Jack Goody are provoking comparative surveys of pre-
modern family institutions throughout the world who chal-
where they encountered the hippie movement.
lenge many traditional assumptions.
A cultural historian might say the Family was an amal-
Günther Kehrer, “Familie” in Handbuch religionswissenschaftlicher
gam of the Holiness movement and the hippie movement,
Grundbegriffe, vol. 2, edited by H. Cancik, B. Gladigow and
both of which stressed intense, intimate spiritual experiences.
M. Laubscher (Stuttgart, Germany, 1990), pp. 404–414 is
However, this analysis may be too facile, because not all the
one of the very few accounts of the relationship between fam-
new recruits could be described as hippies and much of the
ily and religion, written from the perspective of social scien-
religious inspiration came from the personal experiences of
tific studies. Marzio Barbagli, “Famiglia. 1. Sociologia,” in
Father David rather than merely reflecting his denomina-
Enciclopedia delle scienze sociali, vol. 3 (Rome, 1993), is par-
ticularly useful for his ample bibliography.
tional background. For example, from its formative period
in California, the Family has always been profoundly mille-
For religions (especially religions of the Book) in the contempo-
narian, yet Father David had no connections to Adventism,
rary situations of American families, see the site of the “Reli-
and his Holiness tradition was not millenarian. Possibly in-
gion, Culture, and Family Project,” directed by Don Brow-
ning at the University of Chicago Divinity School (http://
spired by the quite different millenarian quality of the hippie
divinity.uchicago.edu/family/index.html), which addresses
movement and the revolutionary anarchism of the associated
marriage, sex, and family issues from a range of theological,
New Left, Father David studied the books of Daniel and Rev-
historical, legal, biblical, and cultural perspectives.
elation to develop his own perspective on the imminence of
the apocalypse.
Revised Bibliography
Soon Father David’s growing movement was staging
colorful public protests, marching in red robes while pound-
ing seven-foot staves on the ground in tempo with shouts of
FAMILY, THE. The religious movement that calls itself
“Woe!” or arguing with ministers of conventional churches
“the Family” (though it has also been called the Children of
during their sermons. A few horrified parents sought the aid
God since its inception) began in the 1960s as the ministry
of Ted Patrick and other deprogrammers to rescue their sons
of a particular family and the related musical evangelism
and daughters from the group, thereby giving birth to the
called Teens for Christ. Positioning itself in radical opposi-
American anticult movement. In 1970 Father David flew to
tion to the mainstream churches, which it scorned as worldly
Israel for a temporary visit (his subsequent whereabouts were
“churchianity,” it rapidly recruited young adults from the
usually secret, but outside the United States), and his follow-
1960s counterculture and spread beyond its origins in the
ers began moving first into Europe and then across Asia and
United States to establish communes around the world. Its
Latin America. The highly committed membership living in
visibility made it a target both for secularists aligned with the
communes and supporting themselves entirely through mis-
psychotherapy movement and for some conventional Chris-
sionary work and donations reached ten thousand in 1983
tians who assumed its unusually high levels of member com-
and remained at about that level through the remainder of
mitment were caused by brainwashing. Thus, members of
the twentieth century.
the Family were the first victims of forcible “deprogram-
THE LAW OF LOVE. After a celibate period during its forma-
ming,” and over a period of years fully six hundred of the
tion, the Family developed a theology that endorsed giving
group’s children were seized by authorities, inadvertently
erotic satisfaction to other people and sharing sexual experi-
traumatized by their captivity, then returned after the legal
ences beyond marriage with the consent of all parties. In
basis for holding them proved spurious. The Family remains
1969, in a tract called “Scriptural, Revolutionary Love-
an intriguing challenge for scholars and social scientists, be-
Making,” Father David argued that the biblical Song of Solo-
cause it claims to be authentically Christian yet rejects the
mon was sacred instruction for sexual intercourse. From
standard denominations’ limits on erotic and spiritual com-
other parts of the Bible (for example, Matt. 22:36–40; Gal.
munion, practicing a form of free love and professing to
5:14, 22–23; Titus 1:15) he derived the Law of Love: that
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

any harmless sexual act can be good if performed in God’s
sages from the spirit world, but prayer, experimentation, and
love and with the agreement of those people involved. In
patience eventually prevailed.
1974, while living in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Father
In general, established religious organizations discour-
David developed a new method of witnessing for Jesus,
age their membership from engaging in direct communica-
called “flirty-fishing” or “Ffing,” in which women of the
tion with the supernatural, reserving this function either for
group offered themselves sexually to selected nonmember
the priesthood or for ancient prophets of bygone days. The
men as samples of the Lord’s love.
Family, however, encouraged all members to receive prophe-
Over the next few years this practice spread to many,
cies. The 1997 survey of members found that 95 percent “re-
but by no means all, of the far-flung communes and became
ceived prophecy, visions, or messages from the spirit world”
a significant part of the group’s relationship with the sur-
(Bainbridge, 2002, p. 81). Interviews with members revealed
rounding world (in some geographic areas more than others)
that individuals mean a great variety of things by prophecy
before being abandoned in 1987. Some former members
all the way from literally seeing and hearing the voice of Jesus
claim they were sexually exploited during this period, but
or a deceased relative to a vague intuitive sense of commu-
their testimonies are somewhat lacking in detail, and the cen-
nion or guidance.
tral organization has generally had difficulty imposing poli-
Members frequently write up the prophetic messages
cies on the highly dispersed local groups except through ex-
they receive and send them to the central organization,
ample and exhortation. Interviews by social scientists with
which is called World Services. It publishes selected examples
women who had engaged in flirty-fishing reveal a variety of
within the group. Some of these messages ostensibly come
relationships with the men involved, and many of them seem
from recently deceased loved ones, who report they are ex-
to have been sincere supporters of the group. By one internal
tremely happy in the afterlife, which grieving believers find
estimate, 200,000 men received flirty-fishing, but only a
quite comforting. Remarkably, other messages have been en-
vanishingly small fraction became committed members after-
tire posthumous works of literature attributed to deceased
authors of the past, including William Shakespeare, C. S.
In the 1990s, strict rules were instituted to limit sexual
Lewis, and Sir Walter Scott.
contact outside the Family and, at times, even outside the
THE END-TIME. The Family believes that the world has en-
particular communal group. Perhaps in compensation for
tered the end-time, and members frequently compare bibli-
these limitations, insiders were encouraged to share erotically
cal passages with the latest news, identifying what may be
beyond the married dyad. A questionnaire was administered
signs and portents of the coming end. Although for a time
to 1,025 members of the Family in 1997, based on items
they speculated about whether the antichrist might possibly
from the General Social Survey that had earlier been admin-
establish his world government around 1985 or 1986, they
istrated to a random sample of American adults. One battery
have never confidently set a date, and they do not accept
of items inquired about various sexual relationships, includ-
early Adventist traditions that it is possible to deduce the date
ing, “What about a married person having sexual relations
through close analysis of the Bible. The group’s image of the
with someone other than his or her husband or wife?” (Bain-
millennium and the paradise to follow is quite detailed, as-
bridge, 2002, p. 125). Of American adults, 78 percent said
serting, for example, that the holy city, New Jerusalem, will
this would always be wrong, compared with only 1 percent
be a pyramid fifteen hundred miles along each edge. Accord-
of members of the Family.
ing to the beliefs of the group, all true members and others
Ritual, in the conventional sense of the term, is almost
who sincerely accepted Jesus as their savior will be resurrect-
completely absent in the Family, except for giving thanks at
ed in spiritual bodies, enjoying all the pleasures of the flesh
meals and occasional spontaneous communion experiences
but suffering no sin.
within a home (in spontaneous communion somebody will,
For the first quarter century of its existence, the Family
on impulse, suggest passing a cup of wine with prayers). Rit-
expected the consummation of the end-time at any moment.
ual’s function is taken by various forms of emotional sharing
When members first began having children, they did not
among members, including not only eroticism but also an
imagine the children would have the time to grow up. As the
extensive repertoire of member-created music, a vast internal
years passed, they began educating the children at home rath-
literature provided by the central organization, and (since the
er than enter schools operated by the detested “system.” Sec-
death of Father David in 1994) a remarkable flood of explicit
ond-generation adult respondents to the 1997 survey report-
communications that members believe they receive directly
ed, on average, a total of ten years of home schooling but
from the supernatural.
only one year of schooling outside the home, and 63 percent
SPIRITUAL COMMUNICATION. During the years he led the
said they had never attended a non-Family school. This sur-
Family, Father David claimed to be in constant communica-
vey also revealed that only 3 percent of members have full-
tion both with Jesus and with lesser spirit guides. The core
time jobs, other than their missionary work with the Family,
leadership who lived with him accepted these claims and
and thus the overwhelming majority look toward the future
fully expected to receive his gift of prophecy after his passing.
not in terms of a secular career but in terms of saving souls
To their surprise, at first they had difficulty receiving mes-
in preparation for the end-time.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Over the years the Family has been able to maintain
Van Zandt, David E. Living in the Children of God. Princeton,
what sociologists call high tension with the surrounding so-
N.J., 1991. An early descriptive account.
ciocultural environment, living apart from the institutions of
Wallis, Roy. Salvation and Protest. New York, 1979. This book
secular society and estranged from the conventional church-
contains a section on the early group.
es. It has done so by periodically launching revivals it calls
Williams, Miriam. Heaven’s Harlots: My Fifteen Years as a Sacred
revolutions and by refusing to compromise with the ambient
Prostitute in the Children of God Cult. New York, 1998. A
culture. By placing high demands on membership, it sustains
personal memoir, apparently packaged by the publisher to
commitment but makes it difficult for people to join. The
emphasize controversial aspects.
scholars and social scientists who have followed the Family
over its history agree that it entered the twenty-first century
facing some difficulty in keeping second-generation mem-
bers as they enter adulthood and in preventing local schisms.
The cultural milieu in which it was formed, California of the
FANGSHI. The fangshi (“specialists in occult prescrip-
late 1960s, is long past, but comparable recruitment episodes
tions”), also called “magicians” and “recipe masters,” and
may arise in one or more of the roughly ninety nations in
later known as daoshi (“specialists in the Way”) were impor-
which the Family’s missionaries are seeking to save souls.
tant contributors to the development of religious Daoism.
Thus it is impossible to predict how much longer the Family
They were experimental philosophers and occult technicians
will be able to sustain its revolutionary ministry.
who, in the course of their observations of nature and search
There is no evidence that members of the Family con-
for physical immortality, created a body of prescientific
sider that the continued existence of the sinful world contra-
knowledge that formed the basis of Chinese medicine, phar-
dicts their millenarian prophecies. Rather, the sin and misery
macology, chemistry, astrology, divination, and physiologi-
of life on earth prove to them that each person must urgently
cal alchemy. A major part of this knowledge was later incor-
accept Jesus. They note that the world does end for the thou-
porated into the Daoist religion.
sands of people who die every day, and they stress that each
The origin and precise meaning of the term fangshi are
person should not waste a single day further. In their world-
far from certain; but they may have developed from the wu,
wide ministry they tend to measure success in terms of the
shamans or sorcerers who were involved in mediating be-
many people who kneel in prayer with them to let Jesus into
tween the human and spiritual realms from the earliest times
their hearts, not in terms of recruits to Family membership.
in Chinese court and village life. By the second century BCE
Social scientists have found the Family to be a veritable trea-
the term was used to refer to a group of practitioners of vari-
sure trove of research challenges, and it will be interesting to
ous esoteric arts who were generally outside the literati main-
see whether historians and theologians also benefit by study-
stream. These practitioners apparently maintained their own
ing this radical movement over the coming decades.
texts and lore and transmitted their knowledge from master
to disciple, yet they have never been regarded as constituting
SEE ALSO Jesus Movement.
a distinct philosophical school. This is perhaps due to the
fact that, while early historians respected their arcane skills,
Bainbridge, William Sims. The Sociology of Religious Movements.
they did not hold them in very high regard and only recorded
New York, 1997. This general text on religious movements
events in which these abilities were used to strive for political
contains a chapter about the Family based on interviews and
power. The fangshi were most influential in China during a
period of roughly six hundred years beginning in the third
Bainbridge, William Sims. The Endtime Family: Children of God.
century BCE.
Albany, N.Y., 2002. A study of the contemporary group
While in later times they came from various areas on the
largely based on a questionnaire completed by 1,025
periphery of the empire, the fangshi were first associated with
the coastal states of Qi and Yan (now Shantung), and it is
Chancellor, James D. Life in the Family: An Oral History of the
here in about 330 BCE that we hear of them encouraging local
Children of God. Syracuse, N.Y., 2000. A scholarly study
rulers to set out to sea in search of the holy immortals (xian)
based on interviews and extensive observation.
who possessed the potions of immortality. Though their
Davis, Rex, and James T. Richardson. “The Organization and
exact relationship to the Naturalist school first systematized
Functioning of the Children of God.” Sociological Analysis 37
(1976): 321–339. An early examination of the group by so-
by Zou Yan (340–270 BCE) remains unclear, we know that
cial scientists.
they took the ideas of this school as the philosophical basis
Lewis, James R., and J. Gordon Melton, eds. Sex, Slander, and Sal-
for their observations of nature and their various experimen-
vation: Investigating the Family/Children of God. Stanford,
tal techniques. According to this Naturalist philosophy, all
Calif., 1994. A collection of essays by scholars from various
phenomena are infused by one of the Five Phases (wuxing)
academic disciplines.
of Energy (qi), namely, Earth, Fire, Water, Wood, and
Patrick, Ted, with Tom Dulak. Let Our Children Go! New York,
Metal. Phenomena infused with the same phase of energy in-
1976. A book by the professional deprogrammer who first
fluence and resonate with one another, and these phases
tried to deconvert members.
themselves spontaneously transform according to their own
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

inherent laws, and so influence all things from the succession
its and demons. Mantic practices were also an important as-
of seasons to the succession of dynasties.
pect of their tradition. Some of the large cache of medical
and divinatory texts excavated at Mawang dui in 1973 are
When the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuangdi,
likely representative of fangshi writings.
united the country in 221 BCE, fangshi from Qi and Yan
flocked to his court. Their influence there is clearly attested
Ultimately a large part of the knowledge and practices
to by the historical records. The emperor believed that he
of the fangshi found their way into the Daoist religion. Their
had come to power because the energetic phase of water had
occult practices and philosophies included breath cultivation
gained ascendancy in the world, and so he adopted water as
and a cosmology of the Dao that are also the hallmarks of
the symbol of his reign. He also sent expeditions to search
the famous foundational works of the Daoist religion, Laozi
for Penglai, the Isle of the Immortals, and was himself devot-
and Zhuang Zi, as well as some lesser known texts such as
ed to the quest for immortality.
“Inward Training” (Nei-yeh), a fourth century BCE poetic
work included in the Guan Zi that contains the oldest extant
In the succeeding century and a half, the cult of immor-
Chinese discussion of meditation and its results. The fangshi
tality flourished, and its principal proponents, the fangshi,
maintained their own independent learning centers through-
were influential among the ruling elite. Their power reached
out the Han dynasty and their lore and practices formed the
its zenith under Han Wudi (140–87 BCE), who appointed
foundations of the organized Daoist religion that coalesced
a number of them court officials when they promised to con-
around a few charismatic fangshi leaders between 140 and
tact the immortals and to provide him with their secrets of
184 CE. The oldest source of religious Daoism, the Taiping
avoiding death. On the advice of these specialists in occult
jing, is said to have been authored by fangshi and was pres-
prescriptions, the emperor undertook expeditions both to
ented to the imperial court by one in 140 CE. They also wrote
the eastern seacoast and to the sacred Kunlun mountains in
a collection of now lost subaltern commentaries on the Con-
the west in quest of these secrets. He also reinstated ancient
fucian classics, the Zhanwei (“Wei Apochrypha”) that were
sacrifices to the spirits, the most important of which were the
also transmitted outside government sanctioned circles. Be-
feng and shan sacrifices on Mount Tai. According to the fang-
cause the rise of Daoism as a religious and political force dur-
shi, the feng and shan sacrifices had last been performed by
ing the second century CE took place largely outside the pur-
their patron and ancestor, the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi),
view of the official historians who are our main sources, the
who thereupon had achieved immortality. The ultimate fail-
precise role of the fangshi in the beginnings of the Daoist reli-
ure of these endeavors was discouraging to Emperor Wu, and
gion is difficult to clarify. However scholars have been able
after his reign the influence of these esoteric masters declined
to identify textual influences between Han dynasty fangshi
considerably on a national scale.
works and the later Shang qing (“Highest Clarity”) and Ling-
On the local level, however, the fangshi were still power-
bao (“Numinous Treasure”) Schools of Religious Daoism.
ful at the courts of a number of vassal states. The most nota-
ble was the state of Huainan, whose ruler, Liu An, was spon-
EE ALSO Alchemy, article on Chinese Alchemy; Daoism,
overview article; Liu An; Xian; Yinyang Wuxing.
sor and editor of the important philosophical compendium
the Huainanzi. Liu An died in 122 BCE after his presumed
rebellion was discovered by imperial authorities, but accord-
There are three Western-language sources devoted exclusively to
ing to legend, the fangshi gave him and his family a potion
the fangshi. Ngo Van Xuyet’s Divination, magie et politique
of immortality and they all ascended to heaven to live forev-
dans la Chine ancienne (Paris, 1976) contains an accurate
er. It is interesting to note that rulers of several other vassal
translation of all the fangshi biographies in the History of the
states in which the specialists in occult prescriptions were in-
Latter Han (Hou Han shu) as well as excellent supporting ma-
fluential during the next two centuries also plotted (unsuc-
terial including a detailed discussion of the historical context
cessful) rebellions and that a number of them were associated
of the biographies and appendices on the various esoteric
with Wang Mang, who seized the reins of the empire for fif-
techniques of the fangshi. Kenneth J. DeWoskin has pub-
lished one article and one book on the fangshi. “A Source
teen years early in the first century CE.
Guide to the Lives and Techniques of Han and Six Dynasties
The surviving records show the fangshi to have been in-
Fangshi,” Society for the Study of Chinese Religion Bulletin 9
volved in a wide range of experiments aimed at lengthening
(1981): 79–105, is a valuable list of biographical sources and
life and avoiding death. Their experimentation with trans-
makes an important attempt to define the fangshi and delin-
muting cinnabar to mercury and gold in the search for the
eate their activities. Many of the biographies listed in this ar-
ticle, and all of those translated in Ngo’s work, are translated
potion of eternal life is regarded as the origin of Chinese al-
by DeWoskin in Doctors, Diviners, and Magicians of Ancient
chemy and chemistry. Their creation of various plant and an-
China: Biographies of Fangshi (New York, 1983), which also
imal compounds for health and longevity is the basis of the
contains a useful introduction. This work is the most com-
long Chinese pharmacological and medical traditions. Their
prehensive to date in the West but unfortunately fails to deal
respiratory and gymnastic techniques, methods of dietary hy-
with the very thorny problem of the role of the fangshi in the
giene, and various “bedroom arts” are among the earliest ex-
rise of the Daoist religion.
amples of physiological alchemy. The fangshi were also adept
Information on the fangshi can be found in a number of other
at shamanistic trance and at contacting and influencing spir-
works, the most valuable of which is Yu Yingshi’s “Life and
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

Immortality in the Mind of Han China,” Harvard Journal
While the details of his life are unclear, with the histori-
of Asiatic Studies 25 (1964–1965): 80–122. Anna K. Seidel’s
cal accuracy of many later biographical accounts suspect, the
superb study La divinisation de Lao-tseu dans le daoïsme des
following reconstruction has a reasonable degree of certainty.
Han (Paris, 1969) contains some useful information on the
Al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı was of Turkish origin, born in Fa¯ra¯b in Transoxi-
fangshi and their relationship to the Yellow Emperor and to
ana; he studied logic in Abbasid Baghdad under Nestorian
the Huang-Lao Daoists. The activities of the fangshi under
Christian scholars Yuh:anna¯ ibn H:ayla¯n (d. 910) and the
Qin Shihuangdi and Emperor Wu of the Han can be found
prominent translator of Aristotle into Arabic, Abu¯ Bishr
in Burton Watson’s translation of Ssu-ma Qien’s Shih chi,
Records of the Grand Historian of China, vol. 2 (New York,
Matta¯ (d. 940); his most famous student, too, was a Chris-
1963), pp. 13–69. There are also scattered references to the
tian, the Jacobite Yah:ya¯ ibn EAd¯ı (d. 974), another important
fangshi in Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization in
translator and logician. After having crossed the age of seven-
China (Cambridge, U.K., 1956–1976), especially volume 2,
ty, he left for Syria and attached himself to the court of the
which contains an excellent discussion of the school of Natu-
Sh¯ıE¯ı ruler, the Hamdanid Sayf al-Dawla; his writings do
ralists, and volume 5, part 3, which discusses alchemy. Final-
show some Sh¯ıE¯ı leanings. After having traveled to Aleppo
ly there is a detailed discussion of the practices and texts of
and Egypt, he finally returned to Damascus, where he died.
the fangshi along with a meticulous translation of medical
writings that likely derived from them in Donald Harper,
There seem to be good reasons why al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı enjoyed
Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical
the prestigious stature of the “Second Teacher” after Aristot-
Manuscripts (London, 1998).
le, for in the history of Hellenized philosophy in Islam, he
There are now several excellent sources for the relationship be-
is the first system-builder and one with a heightened sense
tween the fangshi and the organized Daoist religion. Solid
of curricular organization and rigor. Thus the various ele-
overviews can be found in two general histories of Daoism,
ments of his philosophical discourses constitute a coherent
Isabelle Robinet’s Daoism: Growth of a Religion (Stanford,
body of thought in which every identifiable proper part
1997) and Livia Kohn’s Daoism and Chinese Culture (Bos-
seems to be related to every other. This monumental synthe-
ton, 2001). Toshiaki Yamada’s “Longevity Techniques and
sis was carried out in an Aristotelian manner but supple-
the Compilation of the Lingbao wufuxu” in Kohn’s edited
mented, modified, and controlled by a peculiar brand of Pla-
collection Daoist Meditation and Longevity Techniques (Ann
tonism, Neoplatonism, and Islamism. One of his celebrated
Arbor, 1989), pp. 99–123, is a superb textual study of the
works, Ih:sa¯D al- EUlu¯m (Enumeration of the sciences), that
links between this religious Daoist work and the fangshi.
There are also a number of notable articles in the masterful
was also known to medieval Europe in its Latin translation,
Handbook of Daoism edited by Kohn (Leiden, 2000): Robi-
contains a comprehensive didactic account of the hierarchi-
net’s “Shangqing–Highest Clarity,” pp. 196–224, an over-
cal relationship he saw between different kinds of sciences—
view of this important Daoist school in which she traces its
rational, linguistic, theological, and juridical—and their sub-
roots back to the Han dynasty fangshi; Yamada’s “The Ling-
divisions, establishing the precise order in which they should
bao School,” pp. 225–255, which demonstrates the influence
be studied.
of the fangshi on the development of this second major
school of religious Daoism; Fabrizio Pregadio’s “Elixirs and
It is a testimony to the integrative power of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s
Alchemy,” pp. 165–195, which argues that the roots of inner
system that in his works different branches of philosophy
and outer alchemy can be found in fangshi practices and
begin to display inherent interconnections that are both un-
texts; and Mark Csikszentmihalyi’s “Han Cosmology and
expected and, to a good degree, original in their construc-
Mantic Practices,” pp. 53–73, an analysis of the divination
tion. For example, his theory of prophecy, revelation, and re-
practices and texts of the Han dynasty fangshi and how they
ligion is inextricably linked to and makes sense only in the
were transmitted. Finally, for a discussion of early Daoist
fuller context of his logic and philosophy of language on the
meditation and its origins, see Harold D. Roth, Original
one hand, and epistemology and metaphysics on the other,
Dao: Inward Training and the Foundations of Daoist Mysti-
(New York, 1999).
and all of this is related to his psychology and philosophy of
mind. But then, quite unexpectedly, his discourses on meta-
HAROLD D. ROTH (1987 AND 2005)
physics are largely to be found not in isolated treatises on this
subject, but in his political writings, in particular al-Mad¯ına
:ila (The virtuous city) and al-Siya¯sa al-Madaniyya
(Civil polity). Likewise, he hardly dedicates separated trea-
FA¯RA¯B¯I, AL-. Abu¯ Nas:r Muh:ammad ibn Muh:ammad
tises to psychology and philosophy of mind; his discussions
ibn Tarkha¯n ibn Awzalagh al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı (258–339? AH/870–
on these disciplines are again to be found in his political
950? CE) was a Hellenized Muslim-Arabic philosopher
works. Does it mean that political writings form the core of
(faylasu¯f), known in the Islamic tradition as the “Second
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s system? The answer to this question cannot be
Teacher” (second to Aristotle); in Latin, al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı was called
Avennasar or Alfarabius. His Arabic biographers called him
the first great logician; modern scholars have declared him
The complexity arises because al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s system has
the chief political philosopher of Islam and the founder of
multiple cores at once, each core having been worked with
Islamic Neoplatonism. More than one hundred works are at-
equally uncompromising forensic diligence. Logic forms one
tributed to him, not all of which have survived.
of these cores, where he surpassed Syriac logicians by going
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

beyond the traditionally limited number of Aristotle’s specif-
gaged fundamentally in addressing what happened to be a
ic logical works they read and commented upon, and pio-
historical contingency—namely, Islam’s encounter with
neering the study of the entire range of Aristotle’s logical
Hellenism. The phenomenon of Islamic religion had become
treatises, a corpus known as the Organon, as well as Rhetorics
too massive to be ignored by him; he took it seriously and
and Poetics. This is a major event in the history of philoso-
took it upon himself to give it an all-embracing philosophical
phy. Apart from his epitomes of and commentaries on Aris-
respectability, while at the same time creating a niche for
totle’s individual logical texts, al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı also wrote his own
Hellenistic rational philosophy in an Arabic-Islamic milieu.
Kita¯b al-H:uru¯f (Book of letters) and Kita¯b al-Alfaz: al-
Indeed, it is al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı who established the classical tradition
Musta Emala fiDl-Mant:iq (Book of utterances employed in
of Arabic philosophers’ attitude to revelation. It has been ob-
logic), both of which concern logic and its relationship with
served that his interest in types of rationality, modes of dis-
language. Given this, these two books can also be considered
course, hierarchy of intellects, imagination, poetics, and the
discourses in linguistic philosophy. Here it would seem that
relations between ordinary and philosophical language all re-
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı is trying to reduce all else in his philosophical uni-
flect that very core concern with revelation.
verse to logical-linguistic problems. And it is this reduction-
And yet it is possible to identify many other cores in
ism that makes logic one of the core components of his
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s philosophical world, and this only shows the rich-
ness, range, intricacy, and coherence of the system he built
But on both historical and philosophical grounds,
and the intellectual control that guided this grand task.
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s discourses on prophecy and religion can legiti-
mately be considered yet another core of his system. For if
all true philosophers bear the onus of communicating their
Though highly simplified, Majid Fakhry’s monograph, Al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı,
philosophy to the masses, as al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı believes, following
Founder of Islamic Neoplatonism (Oxford, 2002), is a good
Plato; and if attainment of happiness through the establish-
single-volume introduction to different aspects of the philos-
ment of a just civil society is the very aim of philosophy,
opher’s system. It also has a useful updated bibliography
and—speaking metaphysically and psychology as he does in
which lists all modern editions of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s texts as well as
his Tah:s¯ıl al-Sa Ea¯da (Attainment of happiness)—human
translations of his texts into modern European languages;
happiness ultimately consists in the soul’s assimilation with
also specified are Arabic sources and a selection of secondary
the “agent intellect” (al- Eaql al-fa E Eal), being the supreme
works. Ian Netton’s Al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı and His School (London,
1992) is a crisply written general work which clarifies many
and the last in the hierarchy of four intellects that he posits
hitherto obscure areas of al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s thought.
in a Neoplatonic vein; then by virtue of his own doctrine,
the ideal philosopher and the true prophet receiving revela-
For al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s contributions to the formal aspects of logic, F. W.
tion become practically identical. Indeed in the Tah:s¯ıl
Zimmerman’s introduction in his translations of Al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı does argue for the real and conceptual identity of
Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle’s De Interpreta-
(London, 1981) is still the most rigorous piece of work
the philosopher and the lawgiver (that is, the prophet), and
in this field, learned and reliable. Readers with specialized in-
so writing about philosophy and reason—which was
terests should also look at the studies of Charles Butterworth,
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s fundamental trade—was effectively writing about
D. M. Dunlop, and Muhsin Mahdi. But for the non-expert,
prophecy and religion.
Deborah Black’s chapter on al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı in Routledge History of
Islamic Philosophy
, edited by Seyyed H. Nasr and Oliver Lea-
While neither consistent nor neat on this issue,
man (London, 1996) is another readable, solid, brief but
al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı says repeatedly that true prophet is an ideal philos-
comprehensive survey.
opher—for true prophecy, like the religion that it generates,
is the symbolization and imitation of those very truths that
are known demonstratively and discursively to the philoso-
pher. This symbolization of philosophical truths is accom-
plished by the prophet through his supremely keen imagina-
tive faculty that has muh:a¯ka¯h (mimesis) as one of its
(1489–1565), was an early
functions. By means of muh:a¯ka¯h, the prophet is able to rep-
Protestant reformer of western Switzerland. Born in Gap in
resent objects with the images of other objects and to depict
the Alps of southeastern France of a poor but noble family,
even immaterial realities. In this way philosophical truths,
Farel studied in Paris and there came under the influence of
imaginatively symbolized, are communicated to the mem-
the Christian humanist Jacques Lefèvre. Through Lefèvre,
bers of the general public who thereby receive abstract intelli-
Farel was introduced to Paul’s epistles and to the doctrine
gibles from the prophet in a concrete form that they are able
of justification by faith alone. Lefèvre and his students left
to grasp non-philosophically.
Paris for Meaux, where they had the support of Bishop Bri-
çonnet, a mild reformer and also a student of Lefèvre, and
Historically too, al-Fa¯ra¯b¯ı’s concern with prophecy and
of Marguerite of Navarre. Farel and others were authorized
religion can be considered a core of his system, with every
to preach in the surrounding territory. Neither Briçonnet
other element of his thought appearing to be anchored in this
nor Lefèvre saw a need to renounce Catholicism, and Farel’s
concern and reduced to it. For it would seem that he was en-
ideas and preaching were soon forbidden as too radical.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

After leaving Meaux, Farel became acquainted with
Organizer of Reformed Calvinism, 1509–1564 (1906; reprint,
most of the leading reformers. In 1526 he settled in Aigle
New York, 1969).
under the control of Bern, taking part in that city’s religious
reformation, and in 1529 he introduced the Reformation to
JOHN H. LEITH (1987)
Neuchâtel. In 1532 he visited the Waldensians and was pres-
ent at the synod when they adopted the principles of the
Protestant Reformation and began their alignment with Re-
FASTI (from fasti dies, “the divinely authorized days”) were
formed Protestantism.
the calendars of the ancient Romans. They are the only
Farel’s most significant work for the future of Protes-
known form of a graphical representation of all days of the
tantism took place in Geneva, which he first visited in 1532.
year from the ancient Mediterranean world. By usually dis-
Opposition to the Reformation was strong, but Farel persist-
playing twelve columns of the days of the single months, the
ed under the protection of Bern. Geneva came to a full ac-
fasti offered the standard pattern for Christian calendars
ceptance of the Reformation on Sunday, May 21, 1536.
from late antiquity and ultimately for all representations of
the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The listing of the days
Expelled, along with Calvin, in 1538 from Geneva,
was organized by the recurring letters A to H (for a continu-
Farel returned to Neuchâtel and devoted the last twenty-
ous week of eight days) at the beginning of every entry. The
seven years of his life to building up this church. He contin-
main information concerned the juridical character of the
ued his preaching missions in neighboring territories almost
day, especially indicating whether it was fas (right) to open
to the time of his death in 1565. It remained for Calvin,
processes in front of the Roman praetor or not (nefas). The
whom Farel had compelled to serve the Reformation in
terminologically divine sanction had other consequences,
Geneva, to make that city the center of Reformed Protes-
too: The comitia, the Roman legislative body of the people,
could not meet on dies nefasti; and, probably at the beginning
of the third century BCE, a special class of dies comitiales that
Farel’s primary contribution was that of a preacher and
could not be used for the opening of legal cases but could
advocate of the Reformation. He was an intense man of pas-
be used for the holding of assemblies was established.
sionate conviction and a powerful preacher who commanded
the attention of audiences and elicited opposition as well as
The distribution of days in the known late republican
conviction. He is best known for his work in Geneva and the
calendars was obviously the outcome of different political
support he gave to Calvin until the latter’s death. As a writer,
and juridical practices; at least from the second century BCE
he left 350 to 400 letters that, together with those of other
onwards the regulation as a whole was attributed to the codi-
reformers, played an important part in the Reformation. He
fications of the mid-fifth century (Twelve tables). Religious
was also the author of various polemical and practical tracts.
traditions, too, were integrated: feriae, a special class of days
His liturgy, “The Manner Observed in Preaching When the
given to the gods as property (and hence free from every
People Are Assembled to Hear the Word of God,” was, ac-
mundane activity) were marked in a particular way; that is,
cording to Bard Thompson in his Liturgies of the Western
as dies nefasti whose violation made piacular sacrifices neces-
Church, the “first manual of evangelical worship in the
sary (marked by the letters NP and abbreviations of the festi-
French language.” Farel’s best and most important work was
val names). Obviously, the featuring of this type of religious
Sommaire: C’est une brieve declaration d’aucuns lieux fort
information helped to enhance the legitimacy of the rigid
nécessaires a un chacun chrestien pour mettre sa confiance en
systematization of temporal rules when published from with-
Dieu et a ayder son prochain, the first summary of the evangel-
in the college of the pontiffs (pontifices, priests), who formed
ical faith in the French language. It was published in six edi-
an important body for the development of legal ruling and
tions during Farel’s lifetime; the last was corrected and com-
procedural guidelines during the early and middle republic.
pleted in conformity with Calvinist theology.
An important tradition attributed the publication to Gnaeus
Flavius, probably aedile in 304 BCE and scribe of the pontifi-
cal college.
Guillaume Farel, 1489–1565: Biographie nouvelle écrite d’après les
Scholars of Roman religion took a particular interest in
documents originaux (Paris, 1930) is an outstanding volume
the list of the feriae as transmitted by early imperial fasti, and
published by a committee of Farel scholars with many collab-
they postulated a regal “calendar of Numa” as its ultimate
orators. Two English translations of lives of Farel by nine-
source (Theodor Mommsen, 1817–1903). Hence, the fasti
teenth-century biographers are available: Melchior Kirch-
gained the status of the single most important source for
hofer’s The Life of William Farel, the Swiss Reformer (London,
early Roman history (Georg Wissowa, 1859–1931). Yet,
1837) and Frances A. Bevan’s William Farel, 5th ed. (Lon-
don, 1880). An extended account of Farel’s work can be
even if the list contained some very old traditions, it is not
found in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vol.
possible to read it as a coherent archaic system. A large num-
7, Modern Christianity: The German Reformation and the
ber of festivals for Mars and the dedications of the former
Swiss Reformation (1910; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.,
festivals of the full moon, the (e)idus, point to a complex
1974) and in Williston Walker’s biography, John Calvin: The
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

The legal and political institutions regulated by the fasti
sophical originality is denied to his eclecticism, even his main
gradually fell into disuse under the Empire. Two develop-
antiquarian work, the Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divi-
ments, however, gave them high importance as a visual medi-
narum, is controlled by an academic-skeptical outlook.
um. Within the growing interest in a systematic reconstruc-
Human society (as the title indicates) precedes its religious
tion of Rome’s past during the third and second centuries
institutions, and festivals, like the notion of specific gods and
BCE, the fasti were discovered as a medium for a display of
their worship, arise under specific and partly reconstructable
historical achievements. When shortly after 179 BCE Marcus
historical circumstances. These premises are reflected in
Fulvius Nobilior, assisted by the poet Ennius, dedicated a
Varro’s etymological dealing with the calendar in his De lin-
painted calendar to the temple of Hercules and the Muses,
gua Latina 6.
the temporal pattern of the year was used to add the dates
It is noteworthy that the versified commentary of Publi-
of the dedications of other temples, usually events caused and
us Ovidius Naso (43 BCE –17 CE) explicitly declared the same
financed by successful warfare. Days of iterated disaster, too,
interest that could be detected in the temporal pattern of the
could be memorized, thereby rendering the year into a tem-
spread of inscriptional fasti. The emperor is shown as an in-
poral “mnemotope.” Additionally, a list of the highest
separable part of Roman history and religion; his (extra-
Roman magistrates, including the consuls used in dating
constitutional) power is naturalized by his integration into
(“eponyms”), was added. This practice was frequently imitat-
the cosmic scheme of the rising and setting of stars that is
ed, hence the term fasti was used for many lists of magis-
part of Ovid’s poetic project and easily linked to the tradi-
trates. Not infrequently, such lists could be enlarged to short
tional calendar by the Julian reform. At the same time, the
chronicles by the addition of important dated events (e.g.,
calendrical scheme offers a convenient pattern for a descrip-
the Fasti Ostienses). Whereas the text of the calendar—even
tion of Roman ritual, of those festivals and temples that form
if displayed in middle Italian townships—is cautiously re-
the visible part of Roman religion. From Varro’s Antiquitates
stricted to events in the city of Rome, the lists could present
rerum humanarum et divinarum and Verrius Flaccus’s lexi-
(or add) local magistrates and connect local history with the
con on the “meaning of words” down to Macrobius’s fifth-
history of the hegemonial city of Rome.
century Saturnalia dialogue, this pattern remained attractive
for the historical or nostalgic description of contemporary or
The dictatorship of Caesar, his divinization, and the re-
past religion. Ovid himself, who finally ended up in exile,
ligious restoration under Augustus witnessed a second devel-
stresses the contemporary commemorative and entertaining
opment. A new class of feriae was born: festivals celebrating
functioning of urban festivals. Augustus, to whom the first
imperial victories and dynastic events. Without clear assigna-
edition (in 4 CE or shortly before) was dedicated, gets his due
tion of a divine owner, these days were given the status of
share of attention and praise. Yet, Ovid deliberately stops his
feriae and meticulously documented in the fasti. Suddenly
poem by the end of June—that is, before dealing with the
the ordinary medium of temporal coordination, the calendar
dynastically named and festival-laden months of Iulius and
(recently reformed by C. Iulius Caesar), was an indicator of
Augustus. It is rather in the epic Metamorphoses (fifteen
recent political developments. Within a few years, the fash-
books), published a few years later, that Ovid gives a teleo-
ion of producing calendars in the form of large (and expen-
logical account of universal and Roman history leading down
sive) marble inscriptions spread over Rome and the center
to Caesar’s divinization.
of Italy, even reaching to Taormina (Sicily), an area practic-
ing an alternative form of lunar time-reckoning. The earliest
Even if the fashion of epigraphic fasti was restricted to
known (and fragmentarily transmitted) marble calendar
the early Principate, the graphical form of the fasti remained
stems from the grove of Dea Dia, the sanctuary of the priest-
attractive for wall paintings, as well as for luxury book calen-
hoods of the Arval Brethren, reorganized by Octavianus/
dars. The Chronograph of 354 CE forms an ensemble of lists
Augustus around 30
and chronicles around the kernel of contemporary fasti, still
BCE and in particular dedicated to the
cult and welfare of Roman emperors. Soon copies were to
featuring the pagan festivals and dynastic anniversaries of the
be found on public places or in the assembly halls of volun-
mid-fourth century. At the same time, processes that de facto
tary associations. Probably without larger practical usage (pa-
and de jure replaced traditional holidays by attributing the
pyrus calendars must have been widespread), such inscrip-
characteristics of feriae to Christian festivals continued and
tions demonstrated loyalty to the emperor and his political
renewed the fasti. The Jewish-Christian week of seven days,
as well as religious program.
already marked in a calendar of Augustan times as the astro-
logical week of the seven planets, replaced the Roman nundi-
The new interest in the calendar was not restricted to
nal week of eight days by the second half of the fourth centu-
stonemasons. Parallel to the spread of inscribed fasti, com-
ry. Even if it was difficult to graphically insert the complex
mentaries on the fasti were written. The antiquarian interest
determination of the festival of Easter into a calendar intend-
of late republican writers like Marcus Terentius Varro (116–
ed to be in use for a couple of years, the “birthdays” (dies na-
27 BCE) in the institution of the Roman year was intensified.
tales) of martyrs and other saints, commemorated on the
Varro, who pursued the initial stage of a political career, en-
fixed days of the Julian calendar by the Western church,
tertained vast historical interest, paying particular attention
could easily slip into the graphical (and mental) pattern of
to the history of language and literature. Although philo-
the Roman calendar.
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

SEE ALSO Calendars, overview article; Roman Religion, arti-
ceptibility to visions and dreams and hence give the practi-
cle on The Early Period.
tioner direct access to a spiritual world. As such it became
for some a discipline creating the proper state necessary for
some degree of participation in divinity. It gradually became
Barchiesi, Alessandro. Il poeta e il principe: Ovidio e il discorso
an integral part of a purity ritual with definite religious in-
Augusteo. Rome, 1994. Translated as The Poet and the Prince:
tent. In some of the more archaic religions fasting became
Ovid and Augustine Discourse (Berkeley, 1997).
part of the discipline ensuring both a defense against taboo
Degrassi, Attilio. Inscriptiones Italiae, vol. 13, fasc. 2. Rome, 1963.
powers and a means of obtaining mana, or sacred power.
Feeney, Denis. Literature and Religion at Rome: Cultures, Contexts,
Within certain Greco-Roman philosophical schools and
and Beliefs. Cambridge, U.K., 1998.
religious fellowships (e.g., the Pythagorean), fasting, as one
Frazer, James George, ed. and trans. Publii Ovidii Nasonis Fa-
aspect of asceticism, was closely aligned to the belief that hu-
storum libri sex: The Fasti of Ovid. 5 vols. London, 1929.
manity had originally experienced a primordial state of per-
Lehmann, Yves. Varron théologien et philosophe romain. Brussels,
fection that was forfeited by a transgression. Through various
ascetic practices such as fasting, poverty, and so forth, the in-
Michels, Agnes. The Calendar of the Roman Republic. Princeton,
dividual could be restored to a state where communication
and union with the divine was again made possible. Hence,
Pfaff-Reydellet. Maud. Le princeps dans les Fastes d’Ovide. Stutt-
in various religious traditions a return to a primordial state
gart, Germany, 2004.
of innocence or bliss triggered a number of ascetical practices
Porte, Danielle. L’Étiologie religieuse dans les Fastes d’Ovide. Paris,
deemed necessary or advantageous in bringing about such re-
turn. For such groups the basic underlying assumption was
Radke, Gerhard. Fasti Romani: Betrachtungen zur Frühgeschichte
that fasting was in some way conducive to initiating or main-
des römischen Kalenders. Münster, Germany, 1990.
taining contact with some divine power or powers. In some
Rüpke, Jörg. Kalender und Öffentlichkeit: Die Geschichte der Reprä-
religious groups (for example, Judaism, Christianity, and
sentation und religiösen Qualifikation von Zeit in Rom. Berlin,
Islam) fasting gradually became a standard way of expressing
devotion and worship to a specific divine being.
Salzman, Michele Renee. On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar
Although it is difficult to pinpoint a specific rationale
of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity.
or motivation for an individual’s or a group’s fasting, in most
Berkeley, 1990.
cultures that ascribe to it at least three motivations are easily
Scullard, H. H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic.
discernible: (1) preliminary to or preparatory for an impor-
London, 1981.
tant event or time in an individual’s or a people’s life; (2) as
Vidman, Ladislav. Fasti Ostienses. 2d ed. Prague, 1982.
an act of penitence or purification; or (3) as an act of suppli-
PREPARATORY FASTING. In addition to the basic underlying
Translated from French by Matthew J. O’Connell
assumption that fasting is an essential preparation for divine
revelation or for some type of communing with the spiritual
(what is above or beyond the natural for humans), many cul-
FASTING, that is, complete or partial abstinence from
tures believe that fasting is a prelude to important times in
nourishment, is an almost universal phenomenon within
a person’s life. It purifies or prepares the person (or group)
both Eastern and Western cultures. Although fasting has
for greater receptivity in communion with the spiritual. In
been and continues to be subscribed to for a variety of rea-
the Greco-Roman mystery religions, for example, fasting was
sons, the present article deals with it as a phenomenon
deemed an aid to enlightenment by a deity, and an initiate
evoked for religious reasons, that is, by ideals or beliefs that
into most of these religions had to abstain from all or certain
consider it a necessary or advantageous practice leading to
specified foods and drink in order to receive knowledge of
the initiation or maintenance of contact with divinity, or
the mysteries of the specific religion.
some supranatural or transcendent being.
Within some of the mystery cults, fasting was incorpo-
Although the origins of fasting as a moral or religious
rated as part of the ritual preparation for the incubation sleep
discipline are obscure, the custom or practice of fasting is at-
that, by means of dreams, was to provide answers to specific
tested in many ancient cultures. The fact that it was in some
questions and needs of the person. Dreams and visions were
cultures connected with rites of mourning has led some
viewed as media through which spiritual or divine revelations
scholars to equate its origins with the custom whereby
were made manifest. Philostratus (c. 170–c. 245 CE), for ex-
friends and relatives leave with the dead the food and drink
ample, presents the view that since the soul was influenced
that they (the living) would normally consume, so that the
by diet, only by frugal living and the avoidance of meat and
deceased might have nourishment in an afterlife.
drink could the soul receive unconfused dreams (Life of Apol-
Others consider fasting in earlier cultures to have arisen
lonius 2.37). Both Greek philosophers (e.g., Pythagoreans
as a result of the discovery that it could induce a state of sus-
and Neoplatonists) and Hebrew prophets believed that fast-
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ing could produce trancelike states through which revela-
Monday and Thursday, and the QurDa¯n recommends fasting
tions would occur. Plutarch narrates how the priests of an-
as a penance during a pilgrimage, three days going and seven
cient Egypt abstained from meat and wine in order to receive
returning (2:193). S:u¯f¯ıs recommend additional fasting for
and interpret divine revelations (Isis and Osiris 5–6), and
the purpose of communing with the divine, and the Sh¯ıE¯ı
Iamblichus tells how the prophetess fasted three days prior
Muslims require fasting as one of the ways of commemorat-
to giving an oracle (Egyptian Mysteries 3.7).
ing the martyrdom of EAl¯ı, the son-in-law of the Prophet,
and his two sons.
Among the Eastern traditions Hindu and Jain ascetics
fasted while on pilgrimage and in preparation for certain fes-
Basic to the beliefs of many Native American tribes was
tivals. Within classical Chinese religious practice, chai, or rit-
the view that fasting was efficacious for receiving guidance
ual fasting, preceded the time of sacrifices. By contrast, later
from the Great Spirit. Generally, a brave was sent off into
Chinese religious thought, particularly Daoism, taught that
the wilderness on a fast in quest of such guidance, which was
“fasting of the heart” (xinzhai), rather than bodily fasting,
usually revealed through a personal vision. The young man’s
was more beneficial to arriving at “the Way” (dao). Confu-
vision was often viewed as necessary for his future success in
cianism followed the practice of Confucius in approving fast-
life, indicating a personal relationship between himself and
ing as preparation for those times set aside for worship of an-
his guardian spirit. Lakota braves, for example, were advised
cestral spirits. Although the Buddha taught moderation
in their search for a vision of Wakantanka, the supreme
rather than excessive fasting, many Buddhist monks and
being, to “walk in remote places, crying to Wakantanka, and
nuns adhered to the custom of eating only one meal per day,
neither eat nor drink for four days.” Within many of the
in the forenoon, and they were obliged to fast on days of new
tribes there was a period of ritual fasting prior to a boy’s
and full moon. Among modern-day Buddhists it is more
reaching puberty and a girl’s first menstrual period, consid-
common to fast and confess one’s sins four times per month.
ered times of growth into adulthood. In New South Wales,
Within the Judaic tradition only one day of fasting was
Australia, boys had to fast for two days at their bora ceremo-
imposed by Mosaic law, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement
nies. In the Aztec culture the ritual training required of one
(Lv. 16:29–34), but four additional days were added after the
who aspired to become a sacrificing priest included fasting
Babylonian exile (Zec. 8:19) to commemorate days on which
as one form of abstinence. While fasting was often viewed
disasters had occurred. The Hebrew scriptures set fasting
as a disciplinary measure that would strengthen the body and
within the context of being vigilant in the service of Yahveh
character of the individual, prolonged fasting and other aus-
(e.g., Lv. 16:29ff.; Jgs. 20:26), and it was considered impor-
terities were also undergone so that the individual might see
tant as a preliminary to prophecy (e.g., Moses fasted forty
or hear the guardian spirit who would remain with him or
days on Sinai; Elijah fasted forty days as he journeyed to
her for life.
Horeb). Judaism allowed for individual voluntary fasts, and
there is evidence that Mondays and Thursdays were set aside
and Babylonian customs included ritualized fasting as a form
by some Jewish communities as special days of fasting. Ac-
of penance that accompanied other expressions of sorrow for
cording to Tacitus, fasting had become so characteristic of
wrongdoing. Like people of later times, these nations viewed
the Jews of the first century that Augustus could boast that
fasting as meritorious in atoning for faults and sins and thus
he fasted more seriously than a Jew (Histories 5.4).
turning away the wrath of the gods. In the Book of Jonah, for
Although formalized fasting was spoken against in the
example, the Assyrians are depicted as covered with sack-
New Testament (Mt. 6:16–6:18), it eventually became the
cloth, weeping, fasting, and praying to God for forgiveness
favorite ascetic practice of the desert dwellers and monastic
(Jon. 3:5ff.).
men and women who saw it as a necessary measure to free
For the Jews, fasting was an outward expression of inner
the soul from worldly attachments and desires. Within the
penitence, and on various occasions a general fast was pro-
Christian tradition there gradually developed seasonal fasts
claimed as a public recognition of the sin of the people (1
such as the Lenten one of forty days preparatory to Easter;
Sm. 14:24, 1 Kgs. 21:9, Jer. 36:9). Yom Kippur, the Day of
Rogation Days in spring in supplication for good crops; and
Atonement, is such a day of fasting and praying for forgive-
Ember Days, days of prayer and fasting during each of the
ness of sins. But fasting is also viewed as a means of orienting
four seasons of the year. There were also weekly fasts on
the human spirit to something or someone greater. Accord-
Wednesdays and Fridays and fasts prior to solemn occasions
ing to Philo Judaeus (25 BCE–50 CE), the Therapeutae, a
celebrating important moments in people’s lives (e.g., bap-
group of Jewish contemplatives living in community, fasted
tism, ordination to priesthood, admission to knighthood,
as a means of purifying the spirit so that it could turn itself
and reception of the Eucharist).
to more spiritual activities such as reading and study (On the
In the Islamic tradition Muslims continue to observe
Contemplative Life). The Essenes, a Jewish group who fol-
the ninth month, Ramad:a¯n, as one of rigorous fasting
lowed their “righteous teacher” into the wilderness at Qum-
(s:awm), during which days no liquid or food is allowed be-
ran (c. 135 BCE–70 CE), in their Manual of Discipline pre-
tween dawn and sunset, as stipulated in the QurDa¯n
scribed fasting as one of the ways of purification, of preparing
(2:180ff.). Some of the stricter Muslim groups fast each
for the coming of the “end of days.”
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Although fasting as a means of atonement and purifica-
tradition fasting is viewed as one of the “good works,” one
tion is evident in other traditions, it was among the Chris-
of the recognized duties of the devout Muslim, and is consid-
tians that fasting became a predominant feature. Already in
ered efficacious in pardoning an individual from all past sins
the first and second centuries it began to appear as one of
(Tibr¯ız¯ı, Mishka¯t al-mas:a¯b¯ıh 7.7.1).
the many ascetic practices that became widespread in the
Within some of the Native American tribes, the practice
Middle Ages. With the rapid growth of ascetic movements
of fasting was considered conducive to purifying the body
that incorporated Greek dualism into their thought patterns,
prior to some great feat or challenge. The Cherokee Indians
fasting became an important means of ridding the body of
believed that prior to slaying an eagle the individual had to
its attachment to material possessions and pleasures, thus
undergo a long period of prayer and fasting that purified the
freeing the person for attaining the higher good, the love for
body, strengthening it for the necessary combat. Siouan-
and imitation of Christ. The prevailing notion was that
speaking Indians believed that before both hunting and war
whereas food in moderation was a necessary good for main-
the body had to be purified through fasting for these noble
taining health, abstention from food was particularly effec-
tasks. Among the Incas, fasting from salt, chili peppers, meat,
tive in controlling the balance between body and spirit. Like
or chicha (beer made from maize) was one of the ways of pre-
the Pythagoreans with their elaborate taboos on food (sixth
paring the body for an important event and also for a public
to fourth century BCE), the early Christians saw such ascetic
form of penance.
practices as fasting, praying, and almsgiving as means of re-
FASTING AS SUPPLICATION. Although it is difficult in many
ducing or eliminating the tension between the earthbound
instances to distinguish clearly between fasting as a means of
body and the divine, spiritual soul. Although it is true that
penitence and fasting as a means of supplication, within cer-
for some individuals or groups fasting became an end in itself
tain traditions the latter has widespread usage. Within Juda-
rather than a means to an end, most monastic manuals or
ism, for example, fasting was one way of “bending the ear
rules warn the monastics to avoid excessive fasting, which
of Yahveh,” of asking God to turn to the Jews in mercy and
could bring harm to both body and soul. Though the prac-
grant them the favor requested. Ahab, for example, fasted to
tice of fasting varied in different countries, most Christian
avert the disaster predicted by Elijah (1 Kgs. 21:27–29, cf.
manuals of instruction and worship began to regulate more
Nm. 1:4, 2 Chr. 20:3, Jer. 36:9). Because penitence and sup-
strictly the times for obligatory fasts (cf. Didach¯e 7ff.; Justin
plication were often dual motivational forces for fasting
Martyr, 1 Apology 61). But it was with the growth of monas-
within Judaism, fasting emerged as both conciliatory and
tic communities in the fourth century that fasts began to be
supplicatory. As in the Christian and Islamic traditions, the
more universal.
Jewish notion of fasting reflected an attitude of interior sor-
Modern-day Christian denominations display a consid-
row and conversion of heart. Within the Christian ascetic
erable diversity of opinion and practice in regard to fasting.
circles, fasting was viewed as one of the more meritorious
For most Protestant denominations, except for some of the
acts, which exorcised demons and demonic temptation from
more evangelically oriented groups, fasting is left to the dis-
the individual’s consciousness. Therefore, fasting emerged
cretion of the individual. Although within the Roman Cath-
within Christianity as a potent force in calling down God’s
olic and Greek Orthodox churches prescriptions still govern
mercy and aid in ridding the individual of temptations
both individual and corporate practices, rigid fasting prac-
against “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” Fasting was a
tices have been abolished. Roman Catholics still practice par-
means of calling God to the struggling Christians’ side in
tial fasting and abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and
order to be both strength and encouragement in the battle
Good Friday. Within the Greek Orthodox church fasting is
against sin. In the QurDa¯n fasting as supplication to God is
usually one of the acts of purification preparing one for par-
considered of merit only if one also abandons false words and
ticipation in the liturgical mysteries.
deeds. Otherwise, God pays no heed to the supplication (see,
e.g., su¯rah 2:26).
Although Buddhists generally favor restraint in taking
food, and many consider fasting a non-Buddhist practice, it
Within other groups fasting was also viewed as meritori-
is listed as one of the thirteen Buddhist practices that can
ous in obtaining rewards from higher powers. In the Intichi-
serve as an aid to leading a happy life, a means of purification
uma ceremonies of the tribes in central Australia fasting was
practiced to assure an increase in the totem food supply.
(dhutanga). Therefore, many Buddhist monks have the cus-
Young Jain girls fasted as one means of requesting the higher
tom of eating only one meal a day, often eating only from
power to give them a good husband and a happy married life.
the alms bowl and declining a second helping. For other
Fasting frequently accompanied or preceded the dance ritu-
Buddhists enlightenment was considered more easily attain-
als of certain tribes who prayed for a renewal of fertility and
able by renunciation of wrong ideas and views rather than
a productive harvest from the earth (e.g., the Dakota Sun
by fasting. Within Jainism there is the belief that certain as-
Dance; the Cheyenne New Life Lodge; the Ponca Sacred
cetic practices, like fasting, are purificatory in that they can
Dance, or Mystery Dance).
remove the accumulation of karman that weighs down the
life-monad. Fasting could therefore carry people upward
In summary, from earliest records to contemporary soci-
along the path to liberation from karman. Within the Islamic
ety, fasting has been a common religious practice, serving as
E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F R E L I G I O N , S E C O N D E D I T I O N

both a prelude to and a means of deepening the experience
FATE. Derived from the Latin fatum (something spoken,
of transcendence of the material or bodily state. The volun-
a prophetic declaration, an oracle, a divine determination),
tary abstinence from nourishment has been for many an ideal
the term fate denotes the idea that everything in human lives,
means of expressing human dependence on a higher power,
in society, and in the world itself takes place according to a
or a liberation from those things that stifle aspirations toward
set, immutable pattern. Fatalism is the term for the submis-
a “higher” form of existence. Fasting has often served as a
sion by human beings to fate in resignation. Fate and fatal-
sign and symbol of the human conversion toward something
ism should not be confused with the idea of determinism
beyond the everyday, a turning toward the spiritual, the tran-
propagated by nineteenth-century philosophical positivism,
scendent, the Great Spirit, God, and so on. In modern times
which was convinced that science was on its way to uncover-
the therapeutic value of fasting has been adopted as a good
ing that law of all cause and effect relationships in the world.
health practice that has often taken on the aspect of religious
The assumption of determinism was that a complete set of
scientific laws was within reach of the human mind, and that
all these would reside in the public domain and be transpar-
SEE ALSO Asceticism; S:awm.
ent to inquiring reason. By contrast, the notion of fate, in
whatever variation, language, or shade of meaning it occurs,
always retains a basic element of mystery. Fate may be in the
Brandon, S. G. F., ed. A Dictionary of Comparative Religion. Lon-
hands of some powerful, superhuman being; it may be supe-
don, 1970.
rior to the gods; it may be accessible to some select individu-
MacCulloch, J. A., and A. J. Maclean. “Fasting.” In Encyclopaedia
als. But, in contrast with philosophical determinism, not
of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, vol. 5. Edin-
only is a certain knowledge possible vis-à-vis fate, but so is
burgh, 1912.
a certain “negotiation” with, or even a staving off of, fate’s
MacDermot, Violet. The Cult of the Seer in the Ancient Middle
East. London, 1971.
There are no religious traditions in which a notion of
Rogers, Eric N. Fasting: The Phenomenon of Self-Denial. Nashville,
fate is supreme, exclusive, and all-powerful. Furthermore, the
effort to define fate in a universally valid way cannot go
Ryan, Thomas. Fasting Rediscovered: A Guide to Health and Whole-
much further than the formal lines drawn above. Only in
ness for Your Body-Spirit. New York, 1981.
psychological terms can generalizations be added. The more
Underhill, Ruth M. Red Man’s America: A History of Indians in the
problematic, and at the same time more fascinating, issues
United States. Rev. ed. Chicago, 1971.
arise when one confronts the variety of notions about fate
Wakefield, Gordon S., ed. The Westminster Dictionary of Christian
in cultures and historical eras.
Spirituality. London, 1983.