A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion in the Postmodern Age

A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion in the Postmodern Age

Language: English

Pages: 254

ISBN: 0520221052

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The first thorough assessment of the field of comparative religion in forty years, this groundbreaking volume surmounts the seemingly intractable division between postmodern scholars who reject the comparative endeavor and those who affirm it. The contributors demonstrate that a broader vision of religion, involving different scales of comparison for different purposes, is both justifiable and necessary.

A Magic Still Dwells brings together leading historians of religions from a wide range of backgrounds and vantage points, and draws from traditions as diverse as Indo-European mythology, ancient Greek religion, Judaism, Buddhism, Ndembu ritual, and the spectrum of religions practiced in America. The contributors take seriously the postmodern critique, explain its impact on their work, uphold or reject various premises, and in several cases demonstrate new comparative approaches. Together, the essays represent a state-of-the-art assessment of current issues in the comparative study of religion.

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mythology was rich in symbol and image, it was ironic that they did not want their ideas to be described as symbolic or in any way metaphorical. KCP: They saw no separation between the designating language and what was designated. LES: No. They emphasized that they were talking about the "real thing." They were irritated with several people (I think I was one of them) who suggested as a friendly notion that theirs was a rich symbolic discourse that might stimulate creativity in other

at the center, is not only a question in religious studies; it is a problem in the brain sciences also, for example. You can talk about it at so many levelswhat is the center of attention in the retina, and how is it determined? The role of centeredness in maintaining constancy of focushow do you keep someone at the center of your attention as they walk away from you? The perceiver carries on all manner of adjustments and differential calculations in reference to a center, calculations which some

just as our world has changed since that time. And so it is that I would maintain that the postmodernist critique of modernist metanarratives is pretty much a dead horse as the millennium draws to a close.4 If we are talking about contemporary Western scholarshipon art, architecture, law, literature, economics, politics, society, and yes, even religionthe postmodern message has been received and acted upon. Educating politicians, technocrats, the media, and land developers is another

17. See Wilfred Cantwell Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1962). 18. See Robert M. Gimello, "Mysticism in Its Contexts," in Mysticism and Religious Traditions, ed. Katz, p. 84. 19. Gimello, "Remarks on the Future of the Study of Mysticism," pp. 1718. 20. Personal correspondence from Steven Katz, 17 November 1991. Page 101 Discourse about Difference: Understanding African Ritual Language Benjamin Caleb Ray "How am I to apply what

proved. We must be very careful when we pretend to "unmask" religious entities as not what they purport to be, not "real." To discount as politically coded "pretexts" the theological, cultic, or philosophical motivations offered by participants themselves in religious phenomena, movements, or controversies, is arrogantly to disenfranchise those we purport to understand. I used to believe that by trafficking in the study of religion we are playing a game that is purely intellectual, one that

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