Between Concept and Experience : Transmitting Knowledge in Religious Studies
The religious anthropology of Mircea Eliade was based, at its outset, on metaphysical hypotheses concerning hierophanies; Rudolph Otto, for his part, cautioned his reader from the outset of his classic book The Sacred, that the latter could not really be explained – but only « awoken » in his reader. Contemporary religoius anthropology has since then evacuated these basic hypotheses in an attempt to conform with certain intellectual criteria as well as respond to its detractors. However, teaching these concepts in university classes produces some disturbing observations. Are students expected to intellectually work with the idea of the sacred if they have never experienced it ? Do these metaphysical hypotheses operate at some repressed level while teaching them ? Reflection on these questions could lead, in the long term, to a different approach not only in religious anthropology but in its teaching as well.
Believing What We Know or Knowing What We Believe? Critique of an Inoperant Distinction
The concept of belief is often seen as a characteristic of religion, and this use is rarely questioned. The current definitions generally oppose belief to knowledge as a non rational certainty contrasted with a methodical use of rational doubt. This article questions this distinction by showing that the two criteria invoked to separate belief and knowledge, certainty and demonstration, are not valid. The use of the concept of belief as it is applied to religion is criticized. It appears, when examining some common types of opposition between belief and knowledge, that this opposition implies a value laden judgement of difference. If belief and knowledge can only be distinguished at the price of a judgement inappropriate in research, it seems more appropriate to use a different concept, like representation, which accounts for similar assertions often rendered by the concept of belief, but without the epistemological flaws of the former.
I will present an overview of the belief-knowledge phenomenon based on my personal experience in Myanmar. In South-East Asia, the Theravadan Budhists make a distinction between belief and knowledge. In the Theravadan thinking, a natural system rules the universe, where karma (volitional actions) determine the destiny of beings ; there is no creator and therefore no creation. Consequently, the idea of God represents a belief, whereas the teaching of the Budha represents facts about the universe, i.e., a knowledge. The Abhidamma, « the high teaching of the Pali canon », describes the smallest components of matter and energy. Moreover, it explains the composition and functioning of a thought, essential information to attain nibbana (nirvana). The Theravadan Budhists hold these sacred texts to be as authoratative as modern science. In fact, they surpass science with their comprehension of the spirit and thought. Since he is the one who discovered these facts, the Budha is the greatest scientist in the world.
Sects and Science Today. Towards a Typology of the Relationship Between Science and Religion
The scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries have created a veritable halo over science and technology almost granting them a sacred status while placing many of the stories of traditional religions in question. It is in this context that the first religious « scientific » movements have appeared. They’ve grown rapidly around a clientèle that disliked the christian religions and yet were dismayed by the inability of modern science to understand man as a whole and to explain suffering, death, life, etc. With the New Age, these shortcomings of science have become insufferable for a large segment of american and european youth. A number of « scientific » movements either came into being, or finally took off to become organizations on a world scale. Among these, two are of particular interest: the Raëlian Movement and the Church of Scientology. This paper briefly presents these two groups and then interprets them using Roland Barthes’s theorizing of myth in order to better understand how science and religion can interrelate to make meaning coherent. From this analysis two concepts, of especial utility for other groups, are elaborated – scientisation and religiofication – which take into consideration the time and the motives that can characterize the different forms of mystification in the spheres of religion and science.
Feminist Witchcraft is a religion which is continually developing and changing through the spiritual creativity of women. All across North America women are getting together in groups to forge new rituals, beliefs and practices which fit into their everyday lives as women. My paper explores the importance of speculative fiction and speculative ritualizing in the construction of feminist Witchcraft identity. Speculative fiction (that is, fiction, such as fantasy or utopia, which moves beyond strict realism), as a tool for imaginative thinking, generates possible directions this creative spirituality might take. As such I will look at speculative as a genre and a mindset and make suggestions about why it is important to take speculation and imagination seriously for understanding feminist Witchcraft as a movement.
Maffesoli : Epistemology, Ontology and Postmodernism
We live in a time of a great transformation. The contemporary West is witnessing the collapse of the modern épistemè. This collapse is equivalent to an end of ideas of transcendance and brings us back to a concrete immanence. This kind of immanantisation of thought is a liberating fall insofar as the end of the political project, at the heart of the thinking of modernity, gives way to a re-enchantement of the world. Our postmodern moment is characterized above all by a paradox : the end of the emancipatory promise of modernity is the necessary condition for the liberation of the irrepressable vitality at the root of living-together. In other words, a realization of our existential concreteness – the real as it is instead of what is ought to be – gives rise to this passionate community that modernity wished to escape. By not incorporating analyses of a concrete day-to-day sociality, the humanities have a difficult time dealing with the return of this passional community. It is this vision of the contemporary West that I propose to question by focussing on the ontological and epistemological presuppositions on which Maffesoli builds his comprehensive sociology of the day-to-day.
No research can exist without a stance. But what is a stance? I propose a definition, relying on three conceptual tools, which correspond to the different aspects of a stance : fondement (Jacques Pierre), transvaluation (James Jakób Liska), and finally, effects of power (Michel Foucault). In the study of religion, there exist two primary stances. One sees secular society as distinct from religion. The other suggests secular society produces religious-like behavior. Both are analyzed with the concepts developed in the first section. The analysis shows that the expressions « religion » and « secular society » stem from, are informed by, and maintain these two stances. Epistemological problems and ethical issues raised by these two stances are explored showing that, as long as secularism, the home of science, defines other systems of belief as religion, it maintains its interpretive hegemony.
scansion and measure
Despite being insoluble, obsolete and devoid of any meaning by the way the sciences have gradually unfolded its intelligibility, the question of origin remains intact. Considered by mythology as the moment of the eruption of Being and the wellspring for all identities, the origin guarantees all material standards and social norms. Thus, the narrative account of its memory becomes the catalogue of all these norms. Now, other discourses have supplanted the tale of the origin in this role — especially science — and have gradually deprived the question of origin of its theoretical relevance. However, the substitution of the formal and abstract metrics of science to a standard born out of the mythology transpires at the expense of what can be called the « event » and its scansion of the origin. Religious language has, therefore, as its prime function, the scansion of the event, which bears the interrogation of origin – and its grounding of all possible measures – rendering it irreducible to scientific language.
The Weight of Things. Tradition and Modernity in Trente Arpents of Ringuet
The author analyse how the representation of the other in Ringuet’s Trente arpents involve a deconstruction of the «clérico-nationaliste» ideology.