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Transcendental Meditation

(819 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a spiritual, neo-Hindu movement (Hinduism). 1. Founder The founder of TM was Mahesh Prasad Warma (b. 1911 or 1918). He was initiated into the traditions of meditation by Himalayan and South Indian masters. The last of these, and the most influential, was Shankara (700?–750?). When Mahesh had developed his own method, Transcendental Meditation (TM), he put “Maharisha” (great seer) before his name and “Yogi” (one who practices yoga) after it. In Madras on January 1, 1958, Mahesh founded the Spiritual Regeneratio…

Fire

(503 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
Fire has played a role in human history at least since Peking man (dated perhaps as early as 500,000 b.c.). In its use by the human race, fire can be both positive (providing light, warmth, and a means of cooking) and negative (bringing burning and destruction). It has been regarded as of heavenly origin, especially when kindled by lightning. When kindled by rubbing, it is a manifestation of human culture. When it came to be viewed as a symbol can be decided only in connection with the de…

Quaternity

(423 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
The number four ranks high among the symbolically significant numbers (Symbol). In translations of Monophysite arguments both for and against Apollinarius of Laodicea (d. ca. 390), theological Latin refers to quaternitas along with trinitas. “Two natures,” it was argued, means “two sons,” and hence we have a tetrad instead of a triad (Trinity). In religious history the term “quaternity” denotes a fourfold structure. On the basis, for example, of the four points of heaven, the four ages, the four sides of a square,…

Animism

(630 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten

Polytheism

(616 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. Term From Thales, the Greeks believed that “all things are full of gods” (Aristotle, De anima 1.5, 411a8–9; Aristotelianism). Only in concrete cases, however, did they call this idea polytheism (e.g., Aeschylus Supp.  424 mentions polytheos hedra, “seat of many gods,” for an altar; Greek Religion). Neither they nor other peoples made of polytheism an abstract concept. The Jews did so when, distancing themselves from polytheism, they criticized the lovers of polytheïa (Philo De mut. nom.  205). So too did Christians, for whom Orph…

Visions

(864 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. Cultures that have loanwords from Lat. visio (a seeing, view) often use them for visionary hallucinations. Such a vision, which takes place when the person is awake, is not a dream. Psychokinetic phenomena may accompany it, and it may include paranormal information. If the visionary is religiously inclined, it might seem to contain a revelation. The vision itself is not a revelation and must be interpreted. The visionary might be the interpreter, or some other person might be. Interpretation imparts mystical knowledge, falling between the rational and the occult (Occultism). 2. A …

Llullian Method

(359 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
“Llullian method” denotes the overall approach of Ramón Llull (ca. 1233-ca. 1315)—Catalan writer, Scholastic, polymath, adviser of popes and princes, ¶ Islamic and Jewish scholar and missionary—whose basic goal in his writings was to see Jews and Muslims converted. Of his 263 writings, 36 contain the word ars (method, way, art) in the title. Llull called this literary work, and especially the summary of it, Ars generalis ultima (1305–8), or Ars magna. This title, similar to the Ars maior and Ars minor of Roman grammarian Aelius Donatus (4th cent. a.d.), whose influence extended …

Theogony

(378 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
¶ “Theogony” (Gk. theogonia, “birth of the gods”), the title of an epic poem by Hesiod (ca. 700 b.c.), refers to the origin of the gods. Many of the almost 300 gods whose names and qualities Hesiod gives in this work make up the world, so that a theogony is also a cosmogony. When the world is constituted, it is ruled by the great gods (Uranus, Cronus, Zeus). Hesiod makes use here of the concept that northern Syria and Asia Minor employed: a succession of gods instead of a genealogical list or an anthropomorphizin…

Ānanda Mārga

(297 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
Meaning “way of blessedness” in Sanskrit, Ānanda Mārga is the name of a Hindu reforming movement that was started in 1955 at Jamalpur, in Bihar, India. Its originator was Prabhata Ranjana Sarkar (b. 1921), who called himself Shree Ānanda-murti, and to whom his followers attached a further title “shree.” With the Ānanda he thought of himself as a member of the classical Vedanta triad sat (being), chit (thought), and nanda (bliss), which, as attributes of Atman or Brahman, compose the true nature of humanity and the univers…

Divine Light Mission

(470 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
The Divine Light Mission originated as a humanitarian organization seeking to propagate a method of meditation for the achievement of “perfect knowledge.” It was founded in 1960 at Patna (Bihar, India) by Shree Hans (Skt. haṇsá, “goose,” symbol of the white color of the soul and the migratory bird), who died in 1965. At the funeral of Shree Hans, his son, Prem Pal Singh Rawat, who was born on December 10 or 16, 1957, in Hardwar (Uttar Pradesh, India), comforted those who mourned his father’s death with the thought that they still had perfect kn…

Ecstasy

(940 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. Scope of the Term The broadest usage of “ecstasy” encompasses several semantic domains. Ethologically, the moment when the earliest hunter and his prey first met was probably one of united concentration on the encounter, of holding of breath and silence, of tense quiet along with the ability to spring very quickly into action. 1.1. On the human side the continuation and development of this basic attitude is a history of self-interpretation, with new social contexts and anthropologies as inalterable presuppositions. This was first the case probabl…

Marranos

(373 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
A Marrano is a Christianized Jew or Moor of medieval Spain, especially one who converted only to escape persecution (Conversion 1). From the 11th century Spanish Jews (Judaism), showing that they too had to avoid things, borrowed from the Arabs the term maḥram (something prohibited), which, in its Castillian form marrano, they used to refer to pigs. The reconquistadores then took over the word and applied it to the Jews themselves. When baptism was forced on the Jews, it became a common term of contempt for those thus baptized (they called themselves ʾănûsı̄m, “coerced ones”), who w…

Kurds

(1,033 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. Names Kurdistan, originally a term for “steppe country” and later for the land of the Kurds, was the term given by the Seljuk government of Iran (1092–1194) to a region that must have stretched from between Lakes Van (in present-day western Turkey) and Urmia (in eastern Iran) south to the Zagros Mountains (extending along the Iran-Iraq border). The basic word came to be used, as in Arabic, as a collective and denoted “tiller of the field” or “shepherd.” Today some scholars identify the Kurds as the Karduchoi of Xenophon’s Anabasis (3.5.15–4.1.11), a group living east of the Upper T…

Krishna Consciousness, International Society for

(1,285 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. Founder Abhay Charan De (1896–1977), founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), was born in Calcutta, where he received university training in philosophy, English, and economics. In 1922 he came in contact with the Vishnu Gaudiya Mission (Hinduism 3.3), whose founder, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (d. 1937), had prepared the way for the worldwide work of the 32d guru in a succession that had begun with the prehistorical avatars, or “descents,” of the gods (see 3). In 1933 De became a formal disciple of B…

Monotheism

(1,465 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. Term Monotheism is a religious, theological, or philosophical position whose normative feature is recognition of only one God. Those who use the term “monotheism” in either confession or research are differentiating between different views of God. Like other isms, this term also tends to denote a movement, sphere, or epoch in which, whether the respective inhabitants or contemporaries use the term or not, a specific outlook or opinion prevails. Whether those who define their own position claim the validity of t…

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

(404 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
“Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh” is the guru name of Rajneesh Chandra Mohan (1931–81). It combines with the given name “Rajneesh” the appellative “Bhagwan,” commonly used in India for gods, demigods, and holy men (from Skt. bhag(a)van, meaning “reverend” or “divine”), and the title “Shree.” Rajneesh was born in Kuchwada (Madhya Pradesh), India, on December 11, 1931. On March 21, 1953, he experienced the “other reality,” which his philosophy enabled him to interpret as God, truth, dharma, tao, and so forth. He deepened the experience by techniqu…

History of Religion

(1,016 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
1. According to the view one takes of religious studies, the history of religion is either one department of such studies or it is the main discipline itself. In about 1694 G. W. Leibniz (1646–1716) became the first to differentiate the histoire des religions from church history. In his Natural History of Religion (1757), D. Hume (1711–76) became probably the first to juxtapose critically religion’s “natural history” (terminology adopted by the whole Enlightenment) with the salvation history represented by the church. In French and Italian, for ex…

Cao Dai

(755 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
Cao Dai is the religion of the Vietnamese god Cao Dai, whose name means “great palace.” The full self-designation is (Dai-Dao) Tam-Ky Pho-Do, or “(Great Way of) the Third Forgiveness of God.” Along this way, the unity of all religions is to be recovered, a unity that had already been divided in a “first forgiveness” under the forerunners of Confucius, Lao-tzu, and Buddha Sakyamuni, and then in a “second forgiveness” under these founders themselves plus Jesus Christ. Around this focus, many in th…

Nature Religion

(661 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
The term “nature religion” has been used in a great variety of senses, of which seven are distinguished here. Philosophical. In the second and first centuries b.c. (later, the Stoics), and also in the 18th century (D. Hume), early doctrines of human nature came to completion with the observation or postulation of a disposition that in the modern period would be called religious. Theological. In the light of the revelation of the true knowledge of God, such a religious disposition became a problem for the second-century Christian apologists. Various terms wer…

Cyprus

(1,081 words)

Author(s): Colpe, Carsten
Cyprus (Heb. Kittim, after the harbor Citium, mentioned often by the Phoenicians and the site of present-day Larnaca), from the Greek “Kypros” (etymology unknown), is a Mediterranean island 100 km. (60 mi.) west of the Syrian coast and 65 km. (40 mi.) south of the coast of Turkey. 1. Late Paleolithic and Neolithic settlement of Cyprus before the fourth millennium b.c. points to close relations with the Near East. During the third and second millennia the Copper and Bronze Age of Egypt, Crete, Mycenae, Syria, and Anatolia made Cyprus, with its rich m…
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