The following text is from Irivng Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.
To order contact REGENT BOOKSTORE Copyright © Irving Hexham 1994, 1998. For further information about the AUTHOR. To return to the INDEX PAGE For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE. For a Religious Studies READING LIST. To to go NURELWEB
Cross-references are indicated by the use of CAPITAL LETTERS.
A PRIORI: known by reason alone prior to sense experience. Knowledge which depends on reasoning and intuition that is not dependent on empirical observation or fact.
AARON: the brother of MOSES in the HEBREW BIBLE (Old Testament) and high PRIEST of the ancient ISRAELITES.
ABBÉ: originally an ABBOT. This French term has come to refer to any PRIEST.
ABBOT: the chief officer or PRIEST in charge of a monastery.
ABD al-BAHA, 'Abbas Effendi (1844-1821): the successor to BAHA'U'LLAH as leader of the worldwide BAHA'I FAITH.
ABEL: son of ADAM and EVE who was murdered by his brother CAIN according to the HEBREW BIBLE.
ABELARD, Peter (1079-1142): medieval philosopher and theologian best known for his tragic love of Héloise. His philosophy, CONCEPTUALISM, rejected both REALISM and NOMINALISM by suggesting that UNIVERSALS require real things for their existence. His views generated strong opposition and loyal support but were often condemned by the CHURCH as heretical.
ABHAYA-HASTA: a gesture of encouragement and BLESSING in HINDUISM and BUDDHISM.
ABLUTION: cleansing. In ISLAM, and many other religious TRADITIONS, ritual cleansing is essential before the worshiper can pray or perform religious duties.
ABORTION: the termination of a pregnancy. Although not encouraged, abortion is generally allowed in most YOGIC RELIGIONS. In JUDAISM and ISLAM it was allowed for strong social or medical reasons. Traditionally, ROMAN CATHOLICS, ANGLICANS and other TRADITIONAL PROTESTANTS, have allowed abortion under special circumstances. Many FUNDAMENTALIST Christians totally reject abortion. Much of the debate focuses on whether the fetus is a human being.
ABRAMIC RELIGIONS: those religious TRADITIONS which trace their ancestry to the patriarch ABRAHAM. The major religions in this grouping are CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM and JUDAISM. Generally ABRAMIC RELIGIONS stress the importance of a CREATOR GOD who is separate from the world and the duty of humans is to obey God who is their creator and LORD.
ABSOLUTE: a concept popularized by HEGEL and used by many philosophers in the nineteenth century signifying self-subsistence, unconditionedness, the ultimate, the first cause, or GOD. It is a term for DEITY which has been revived in the twentieth century by various thinkers promoting Eastern, or YOGIC, religious ideas.
ABSOLUTE IDEALISM: a philosophical tradition usually associated with HEGEL which stresses that all REALITY is an idea of GOD or the ABSOLUTE.
ABSTINENCE: ritual self-denial. Voluntarily withdrawing from eating certain foods or enjoying physical pleasures.
ABSTRACT: (1) a quality or attribute considered in isolation from the subject in which it inheres; e.g. "blueness;" (2) a theory considered apart from any concrete application; e.g. "abstract" truth.
ABSTRACTION: the process by which abstract ideas are created by the mind from concrete sense impressions. Such things as "FORMS," "ARCHETYPES," etc., are abstractions.
ABSURD: logically contradictory; e.g. a triangle with two sides. This term is used in EXISTENTIALISM to speak about the human condition.
ABU BAKR, (d. 634): strong friend and supporter of MUHAMMAD he became the CALIPH, or spiritual leader, of ISLAM after Muhammad's death. Through his activities and success in warfare, Islam developed from a local, tribal, RELIGION of the Arabs to a world FAITH.
ABU DAWUD, Al Sijistani (817-889): the author of the Kitab al-sunan, a collection of MUSLIM TRADITIONS which are recognized as canonical by SUNNIS.
ABU HANIFA (699-767): is regarded by MUSLIMS as the founder of the anaf School of Muslim Law. He was a theologian and religious lawyer who insisted on the use of REASON and employed ANALOGY and personal judgment to great effect. Although he did not write any books, his opinions were preserved by students and discussed by later Islamic thinkers.
ABU HURAIRA (d. 678): the major source of recorded MUSLIM TRADITION about MUHAMMAD. Although he was actually only a believer for four years before his death, Hurayra recorded a number of traditions which clearly come from many sources.
ACADEMY: a school. Originally it signified the park and gymnasium established as a School of Philosophy by PLATO in 385 B.C. Plato's Academy was dissolved by JUSTINIAN in 529 A.D.
ACARYA: a honorific term for a HINDU teacher or theologian.
ACCIDENT: a philosophical term derived from ARISTOTLE which distinguishes between what is essential to an entity, (substantia) or ESSENCE, and its accidents, or unessential ATTRIBUTES. The idea enters CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY with the ROMAN CATHOLIC doctrine of TRANSUBSTANTIATION where the essence of the bread and wine become the body and blood of CHRIST although outwardly remaining bread and wine.
ACQUISITION: an Islamic doctrine intended to reconcile the idea of man's responsibility and the BELIEF that GOD is the prime Agent in all things.
ACTON, Lord (Dalberg-Acton, John 1834-1902): famous British historian and ROMAN CATHOLIC LAY-MAN noted for his saying "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." He opposed the SYLLABUS OF ERRORS, published by the Pope in 1864, the doctrine of Papal INEFFABILITY, and ULTRAMONTANISM.
ACUPUNCTURE: an ancient Chinese medical technique which involves placing needles into specific areas of the body. Some doctors believe that the procedure stimulates natural processes and releases body chemicals which speed recovery. In the East and in HOLISTIC MEDICINE, however, its effects are often given an OCCULT explanation.
AD HOC HYPOTHESIS: pertains to one case alone and cannot be tested by being placed in new situations. Disconnected hypothesis which are unrelated to the other hypotheses in the system. Ad hoc hypothesis are considered a mark of weakness in a worldview.
AD HOMINEM: to the man. An appeal to passions or prejudices rather than the intellect. Using a premise which your opponent is responsible for to aid in refuting the opponent himself; e.g. Smith says apples are good to eat. Don't believe him, he owns an orchard.
AD INFINITUM: without limit or end. Something which will go on forever.
ADAM: the first human being according to the HEBREW BIBLE, NEW TESTAMENT and QUR'N. In CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Adam acts as the representative of the human race before GOD and through the FALL allows SIN and EVIL to enter the world. In the NEW TESTAMENT, JESUS is called the "Second Adam" because he also represented the human race and through his DEATH and RESURRECTION restored the relationship between humans and God.
ADAMSKI, George (1891-1965): American OCCULTIST and promoter of PSEUDO-SCIENCE who popularized the idea of UFO'S, or Flying Saucers, through his claim to have been contacted by "space brothers." The author of one science fiction novel, Pioneers in Space, he became famous through his book Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953) which he wrote with Desmond Leslie. This book draws on THEOSOPHICAL sources and propagates the basic ancient astronautics theory found in later writers such as Eric von Daniken and Shirley MACLAINE. Adamski's work is important in understanding the NEW AGE MOVEMENT.
ADHAN: call to PRAYER in ISLAM.
ADHARMA: what is opposed to DHARMA; EVIL in HINDUISM.
ADI-BUDDHA: a term used in MAHYNA BUDDHISM, especially in Nepal and Tibet, to designate the primordial BUDDHA. The idea distinguishes secondary FORMS of the Buddha's manifestations on earth from the essential CONCEPT of Buddhahood itself.
ADLER, Alfred (1870-1937): Austrian psychiatrist whose passionate concern with social problems led him to embrace socialism. Many of his ideas like the "inferiority complex" have been incorporated into popular speech. His books include: Understanding Human Nature (1928), and What Life Should Mean To You (1932).
ADONAI: a divine name used as a substitute for the name of GOD in the HEBREW BIBLE.
ADOPTION: in Roman law adoption meant that the adopted person was regarded as completely and utterly the son or daughter of their adopted parents. This idea is taken over by the APOSTLE PAUL in the NEW TESTAMENT to refer to the CHRISTIAN'S relationship with GOD.
ADOPTIONISM: a CHRISTIAN HERESY which argued that the man JESUS became God by divine adoption when at the BAPTISM of JESUS, GOD declared "Thou art my beloved Son," Mark 1:11. Although the view originated in the EARLY CHURCH, it took on particular importance in the seventh and eight centuries where it seems to have been advocated by Spanish theologians as a theological view acceptable to MUSLIMS.
ADVENT: a period prior to the celebration of the birth of CHRIST, or CHRISTMAS, when traditionally CHRISTIANS fast and pray.
ADVENTISM: the BELIEF that CHRIST'S return is imminent and will inaugurate a MILLENNIAL KINGDOM. Throughout Christian history various Adventist groups have arisen in the nineteenth century, however, they flourished in America as the result of the teachings of a BAPTIST Minister William MILLER (1781-1849). Out of his "PROPHETIC conferences" various Adventist movements developed, the most famous being the SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS.
AELFRIC (955-1020): English Benedictine PRIEST who sought to revive CHRISTIANITY by promoting the translation of texts into English for use by the Clergy. His work also had an important SECULAR impact in promoting the English language.
AESTHETICS: the philosophy or SCIENCE of the beautiful which attempts to give reasons for judging one thing more beautiful than another. In THEOLOGY an argument for beauty is sometimes used as a means of proving the EXISTENCE of GOD.
AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCH: since the late nineteenth century thousands of NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS have developed in Africa all of which claim to be CHRISTIAN yet they reject traditional MISSIONARY Churches and attempt to incorporate many TRADITIONAL African BELIEFS and practices into their WORSHIP and THEOLOGY. Most of these Churches are thoroughly Christian although some are clearly closer to AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS than to CHRISTIANITY.
AFRICAN RELIGIONS: although some books speak about "African religion" it is clear that there are many religions in Africa. The main ones are AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS, CHRISTIANITY and ISLAM. The study of African religions is greatly neglected in religious studies where a tendency exists to GROUP many diverse TRADITIONS together as "African religion." No serious scholar suggests that the religions of India--BUDDHISM, the HINDU TRADITION, JAINISM, etc.,--can be treated as essentially one religion, even though they share many similar concepts; e.g. KARMA, MEDITATION or YOGA. Yet African religions are frequently treated as fundamentally "the same" perhaps because of a subconscious belief that while Indian religions represent profound philosophical traditions, African religions are judged "primitive." In fact African traditions are highly complex and deserve much better treatment than they have received from Western scholars in the past.
AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS: the RELIGIONS of African peoples have developed within various African CULTURES without being influenced by major world religions such as CHRISTIANITY, HINDUISM or ISLAM. Although there is an infinite variety of traditional religions in Africa, beliefs such as WITCHCRAFT and the role of the ancestors seem to be common themes in many societies. African traditional religions stress healing and the spiritual well-being of people and are usually expressed through dance and music. Healers, PROPHETS and other RITUAL specialists play an important role in these religions although not all have people easily identified as PRIESTS. The main religious divisions in Africa follow geographic lines and are North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and South Africa. In many ways East and Southern African Traditional Religions, which lack professional Priests, share common elements which make them quite distinct from West and North African religions, where professional Priests play an important role in traditional religious practices.
AGA KHAN: this is the title of the IMMS of Nizaris, first given to Hasan 'Ali Shah (d. 1881) in 1834 A.D. by the Shah of Persia. His decedents have assumed the title and are the spiritual leaders of the ISMALI SECT of ISLAM.
AGAMA: one of the three collections of MAHYNA BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES found in the TRIPIAKA.
AGAPÉ: Greek term for LOVE and friendship used in the NEW TESTAMENT to distinguish CHRISTIAN love, from lust.
AGE OF AQUARIUS: astrological theory of "star ages" during which the earth and its inhabitants are subject to astral influences. Each star age lasts approximately 2,200 years. The last star age began shortly before the birth of CHRIST and is now believed to be coming to an end as the new OCCULT Age of Aquarius dawns. The term became popular in the 1960s through the musical stage play Hair.
AGNI: the fire god in HINDUISM and the most important DEITY after INDRA in the RG VEDA, which contains over two hundred hymns in his praise.
AGNOSTICISM: the doctrine that all knowledge of such entities as a divine BEING, IMMORTALITY, and a supernatural world is impossible. The word is attributed to the nineteenth century SKEPTIC, T. H. HUXLEY and is used by people who wish to avoid professing dogmatic ATHEISM.
AHISA: non-violence in HINDUISM.
AHMED, Al-Badawi (1199-1200): the most popular of MUSLIM SAINTS in Egypt whose tomb is a major source of PILGRIMAGE. His work is the basis of a major Egyptian SUFI Order.
AHMED, ibn Hanbal, (780-855): Islamic theologian and traditionalist who taught that the QUR'N is eternal and uncreated. His collection of TRADITIONS is the basis of the anbal School of Islamic Law which influenced the FUNDAMENTALIST Wahhbs of Arabia who are best represented by the rulers of Saudi Arabia today.
AHMADYA: an Islamic SECT considered HERETICAL by the ORTHODOX established in nineteenth century India by MIRZA GHULAM AHMAD. It began as a revitalization movement within ISLAM but in 1889 Ahmad claimed to have received a REVELATION giving him the right to receive homage and claimed to be the MAHDI or world teacher expected by ZOROASTRIANS, HINDUS and BUDDHISTS. He said he was an AVATAR of KRISHNA, who had come in the SPIRIT of MUHAMMAD. Defending his BELIEFS against the ORTHODOX, he held that Sura LXI, in the QURA'N speaks of him. He claimed his personality had been merged with that of MUHAMMAD, so to call him a PROPHET did not contradict ISLAMIC BELIEF. He is believed to have performed SIGNS and MIRACLES as proof of his AUTHORITY. After his death, his son, BASHIR AL-DIN MAHMUD AHMAD, was appointed his successor. The movement's MISSIONS have spread to many parts of the world and its teachings can be found in The Teachings of Islam (Ahmad, 1963). Regarding CHRISTIANITY, Ghulam Ahmad taught that JESUS was crucified, but taken from the cross alive. Resuscitated Jesus went to Kashmir where he preached, married and died at the age of 120.
AHMED, Khan (1817-1898): Indian MUSLIM REFORMER who sought to modernize ISLAMIC BELIEF and practices in terms of Western ideas which greatly impressed him. He founded two universities and various educational and REFORM movements intended to bring ISLAM into line with modern thought.
AHMED, Mirz Ghulam (1855-1908): born in the Punjab he claimed the dignity of a MAHDI and founded the AMADYA SECT of ISLAM. His teachings are set out in The Arguments of the Amadya, the first volume of which appeared in 1880. ORTHODOX MUSLIMS regard him and his writings as HERETICAL.
AHRIMAN: principle of EVIL in ZOROASTRIANISM.
AHURA MAZDAH: the wise principle or GOD creator, God of ZOROASTRIANISM.
AKHENATEN, [Amenhotep IV] 1372-1354 B.C.): Egyptian King and earliest religious REFORMER known to HISTORY. He sought to weaken the power of the PRIESTHOOD and impose a FORM of MONOTHEISM on his people. After his death the priests regained power and almost completely destroyed his work.
AKIVA, (AQIBA) ben Joseph (50-135): JEWISH RABBI who played a crucial role in preserving JUDAISM after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. He is credited with creating the TALMUD and laying the foundation for later rabbinic scholarship. He was executed for supporting a revolt against the Romans.
AL-GHAZALI, (1058-1111): the most original thinker that ISLAM has produced and its greatest THEOLOGIAN. During his youth, SUFI exercises made no impression on him and he tended towards RATIONALISM eventually becoming an absolute SKEPTIC. Finally, although he never overcame his PHILOSOPHICAL skepticism, he returned to Sufism. Intellectualism failed so he returned to a BELIEF in GOD, PROPHECY and the LAST JUDGMENT based on religious experience.
ALBERTUS, Magnus (1200-1280): Dominican theologian who expounded the teachings of ARISTOTLE in terms of CHRISTIAN thought. He is best remembered as the teacher of Thomas AQUINAS who continued his work in creating a SYNTHESIS between ARISTOTELIAN and Christian thought.
ALBIGENSES: CHRISTIAN HERETICAL SECT named after the City of Albi in the South of France. It arose in the eleventh century, flourishing in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries before being brutally suppressed by the INQUISITION. It professed a FORM of MANICHAEAN DUALISM which regarded CHRIST as an ANGEL with a phantom body, proclaimed that the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH was corrupt, and taught a form of ESOTERIC and OCCULT knowledge as the means of SALVATION.
ALCHEMY: originally a FORM of early chemistry developed in Egypt. It led to attempts to transmute metals, i.e. turn lead into gold, and by the Graeco-Roman period had acquired a MYSTICAL dimension. Alchemy flourished as a bogus SCIENCE in medieval CHRISTIAN and ISLAMIC cultures. It fell out of favor with the REFORMATION and rise of modern science.
ALCUIN, (735-804): English MONK who directed the REVIVAL of learning during the reign of CHARLEMAGNE. He established schools where dialogue was the mode of instruction and knowledge of classical WISDOM was kept alive.
ALDURA, THE CHURCH OF THE LORD, also known as the Cherubim and Seraphim Churches. Growing out of several PROPHETIC movemetns in the Niger Delta in the 1890's, and strongly affected by the 1918 influenza epidemic, a number of AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCHES came into existence which have since spread trhougout West Africa with branches in Europe and North America. These churches combine an emphasi on prayer and HEALING with African custom and the acceptance of what is at times a somewhat confused , African, yet in its intent, an essentially ORTHODOX Christian theology.
ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: a method of developing good body posture and correct breathing which has had spectacular results with certain FORMS of illness and among the physically disabled. Although essentially a SECULAR therapy, it has sometimes been incorporated into some forms of HOLISTIC MEDICINE and given OCCULT significance.
ALEXANDRIAN THEOLOGY: distinctive CHRISTIAN teachings which developed in the Egyptian city of Alexandria from the late second to fifth century A.D. Its most famous representatives are ATHANASIUS, CLEMENT of ALEXANDRIA, and ORIGEN. Alexandrian theology sought to interpret Christian FAITH in terms of PLATONIC PHILOSOPHY and laid great emphasis on the idea of the LOGOS or eternal WORD of GOD.
ALI 'Abd al-Rziq (1888-1935): Egyptian religious REFORMER and author of Islam and the Principles of Government. He argued that MUHAMMAD'S teachings were purely religious and could find expression in a SECULAR State. His work was condemned by other MUSLIMS as heretical for its separation of CHURCH and State.
ALIENATION: an English word originating in the fourteen century to describe an action of estranging or state of estrangement. In modern usage it means: (1) a cutting-off or being cut off from GOD; (2) a breakdown of relations between a person or a GROUP; (3) the action of transferring the ownership of anything to another; (4) loss of connection with one's own deepest feelings and needs. HEGEL and MARX argued that what is alienated is an essential part of human nature and that the process of alienation must be seen historically. FEUERBACH described God as the product of human alienation in the sense of His being a projection of the highest human ATTRIBUTES from people to a divine BEING. Marx said man creates himself by creating his world, but in class-society is alienated from his essential NATURE.
ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION: a means of interpreting the BIBLE by means of ALLEGORIES which are said to reveal the SPIRITUAL meaning of the text. It was very popular in the EARLY CHURCH and survives today in EVANGELICAL and FUNDAMENTALIST circles. The method reads a text presupposing that its apparent meaning conceals another "deeper" meaning or "true" meaning; e.g. instead of treating the story DAVID in HISTORICAL terms, allegorical interpretation sees his life story in terms of the PILGRIMAGE of the SOUL towards final SALVATION.
ALLEGORY: a sustained or prolonged metaphor. The use of language to convey a deeper and different MEANING from that which appears on the surface.
ALTAR: an elevated surface used for RITUAL SACRIFICE.
ALTRUISM: disinterested interest in the welfare of others. A SECULAR term coined by Auguste COMTE which approximates the CHRISTIAN VIRTUE of AGAPÉ.
AMA-NAZARETHA: known as NAZARITES. The largest Zulu AFRICAN INDEPENDENT CHURCH movement. The THEOLOGY of the Nazarites is a blend of CHRISTIAN and Zulu BELIEFS. Their founder, ISAIA SHEMBE, was a BAPTIST but his followers have tended to deify him and to see him as a Black MESSIAH. The group was founded in 1911 and split into two rival camps following the death of Isaia Shembe's son, JOHANNES GALILEE SHEMBE, in 1976.
AMALEKITES: one of the peoples mentioned in the HEBREW BIBLE who were bitter enemies of the ISRAELITES.
AMBROSE (339-397 A.D.): popular BISHOP of Milan. He was a humane theologian and teacher of ETHICS who opposed the execution of HERETICS and brutality by the State. He is best remembered for the role he played in the CONVERSION of SAINT AUGUSTINE.
AMISH: ANABAPTIST SECT originating in the late seventeenth century and named after Jacob Ammann a Swiss MENNONITE. The Amish are best known today for their rejection of modern technology and simple lifestyle in a SOCIETY separate from the surrounding North American technological CULTURE.
AMORC: the Ancient and Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis which was founded in 1915 by the folklore specialist and OCCULT writer H. Spencer Lewis is now based in California and has scattered groups throughout the world. It has tremendous influence in promoting NEW AGE type ideas in places like Africa through its correspondence courses and other propaganda. Essentially the ideas of the movement are a soft OCCULTISM that emphasizes spiritual EVOLUTION, REINCARNATION, health, wealth and happiness.
AMULETS: magical objects used to give protection against EVIL forces. Amulets are often worn on clothing, or as jewelry. Larger amulets may be used to protect buildings or special places.
ANABAPTISTS: a collective name for a number of sectarian PROTESTANT GROUPS originating in Germany in the early years of the sixteenth century. Their doctrines varied, but the name stems from their common denial of the validity of INFANT BAPTISM and emphasis on the purity of the visible CHURCH. Generally, and with some justification, they were viewed as fanatics who disturbed civil order often resorting to violent means to attain their ends. Out of this movement the more moderate and pacifist MENNONITES and HUTTERITES emerged.
ANALOGY: similarity of two things in relation to each other; e.g. an ocean liner is like a floating city; or, GOD is like a loving father.
ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY: characterizes a widespread conviction concerning the aims of PHILOSOPHY and method to be used to attain those aims. It is currently the dominant philosophy in England and America. Traditionally, the aim of philosophy was to construct a comprehensive account of human experience and REALITY: a WORLDVIEW or WELTANSCHAUUNG. The aim of analytic philosophy is to clarify the logical status of various kinds of utterances and to eliminate PARADOXES and confusions arising when the limits and function of language are not observed; e.g. what does it mean to say that "GOD is merciful?" Is this the same kind of statement as "the Judge is merciful?"
ANALYTIC-SYNTHETIC DISTINCTION: a distinction made by KANT between propositions; e.g. "All unmarried women are spinsters" which is true by definition and "My car is red" which depends on factual information. The first proposition is said to be ANALYTIC, the second SYNTHETIC. Many modern logicians, such as QUINE, and philosophers like DOOYEWEERD, deny that the distinction holds true.
ANANDA, (?): perhaps the best known of the BUDDHA'S DISCIPLES and a cousin of the Buddha. His name means "Joy." He lived with the Buddha for twenty-five years as his personal attendant and was entrusted by the Buddha with the task of teaching doctrine. He is remembered as a champion of women and the man responsible for persuading the Buddha to allow women to enter the MONASTIC Order. After the Buddha's death, a dispute broke out between Ananda and the other MONKS who resented his support for women and charged him with not obtaining sufficient information from the Buddha to distinguish between minor precepts which could be changed and major ones which were unchangeable. He was also accused of not requesting the Buddha to live longer among his followers. Ananda denied any wrongdoing but confessed his faults to pacify his fellow monks.
ANANDA COMMUNITY: founded in 1968 by an American, J. Donald Walters, who called himself SWAMI Kriyananda. This is one of the more successful NEW AGE type communities to have developed out of the 1960s COUNTER CULTURE. The community has around 300 members and finds its inspiration in the work of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda.
ANARCHISM: a political doctrine propounded by Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin which hold that all FORMS of AUTHORITY and civil government are bad. In its extreme form it supports violent REVOLUTION and terrorism to destroy all structures of authority.
ANATHEMA: a term used by the EARLY CHURCH in CHRISTIAN CREEDS to signify the cutting off of those who reject the FAITH.
ANAXAGORAS (499-422 B.C.): Greek philosopher who promoted a type of atomic theory about the NATURE of MATTER. He also taught that the sun and moon were not divine but rather made out of MATTER similar to the earth.
ANAXIMANDER (610-547 B.C.): the first Greek philosopher and mathematician whose work is still unknown in any detail. According to TRADITION he was a pupil of THALES of MILETUS. He is said to have produced the first map of the world. He believed that the Boundless was the starting point and origin of all things.
ANAXIMENES (588-524 B.C.): early Greek philosopher who taught that air is the divine principle and fundamental element in the UNIVERSE. He taught a CYCLIC view of HISTORY and believed that the world was flat.
ANDERSON, Rufus (1796-1880): American MISSIONARY, statesman and theorist who developed the CONCEPT of self-supporting Indigenous CHURCHES. From 1832 to 1866 he was the general secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the major American missionary organization in the nineteenth century. His major work is Foreign Missions: Their Relations and Claims (1869).
ANDROGYNY: a state where sexual differentiation has not arisen which was highly prized in some GNOSTIC systems as more perfect than male or female. Such systems disparage human sexuality by emphasizing an unworldly SPIRITUALITY.
ANGELS: originally messengers of GOD in CHRISTIANITY, JUDAISM and ISLAM. Angels are believed to be divided between those who are GOOD angels and continue to serve God, and those who have rebelled against Him and become EVIL. MUSLIMS believe that God dictated the QUR'N to MOHAMMED through the agency of an angel. AMA-NAZARITES believe that their HYMNS were first sung by the angels and then recited by ISAIA SHEMBE. Angels are also found in ZOROASTRIANISM, MANICHAEISM and some FORMS of Chinese RELIGION.
ANGLO-CATHOLICISM: or HIGH CHURCH ANGLICANISM sometimes known as the "OXFORD MOVEMENT." ANGLICANS who emphasize their CATHOLIC roots and adopt Roman Catholic practices and BELIEFS.
ANICCA: key BUDDHIST doctrine regarding the impermanence of all things which FORMS the first of the three characteristic marks of EXISTENCE. It is a feature of all existence which Buddhists claim can be observed empirically thus providing evidence for Buddhist claims about the NATURE of the UNIVERSE. Everything is in a state of FLUX but more importantly the mind, or consciousness, is essentially impermanent and consciousness arises or ceases from moment to moment. Recognition of the impermanence of physical things is easy, but to also see that consciousness is similar is much more difficult and one of the tasks of BUDDHISM. Only when this is done can the INDIVIDUAL go on to recognize that there is no permanent SELF or that there is no such thing as a SOUL. Everything, including individual consciousness, is impermanent. This doctrine separates Buddhism from all other RELIGIONS in that it denies the essential spiritual nature of the person and sees such BELIEFS as an illusion which binds sentient BEINGS to EXISTENCE.
ANIMISM: a very misleading term often used to characterize African and other non-literate religious systems. The term was first introduced by Sir Edward B. TYLOR as a "minimum definition" of RELIGION. He argued that from sleep experiences, such as dreams etc., "primitive man" developed the idea of "anima" or the spiritual principle which animates material objects. Thus rivers, trees, stones, the sun, moon, and SACRED objects such as masks, were said to possess spiritual power caused by the indwelling of SPIRIT BEINGS. These ideas, Tylor argued, produced fear which led to WORSHIP and the development of religion. Today the term animism has fallen into disuse among serious scholars of religion although it is still retained by some MISSIOLOGISTS. The reason most academics have rejected this term is because it fails to recognize the highly complex NATURE of many non-literate religions which do not rely on simplistic notions of the spiritual world. The idea behind animism is in fact a racist one which assumes that non-literate peoples lack the INTELLECTUAL ability to develop complex religions and PHILOSOPHIES. It is therefore best abandoned to allow for the recognition of the complexity of religious systems. The British anthropologist E. E. EVANS-PRITCHARD did more than anyone else to dispel simplistic notions about "primitive religion" in books such as Witchcraft Oracles and Magic Among the Azande (1936) and Nuer Religion (1956).
ANKH: the Egyptian religious SYMBOL of life formed by a cross with two loops at the top. Today it is often seen in so-called NEW AGE religious GROUPS and is a popular FORM of jewelry.
ANSELM, (1033-1109): ARCHBISHOP of CANTERBURY and an important figure in medieval CHURCH-State disputes. He is best remembered for his PHILOSOPHICAL works including his ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT for the EXISTENCE of GOD and with work on the ATONEMENT Cur Deus Homo? where he argued that CHRIST died as a satisfaction due to the outraged majesty of God created by human SIN.
ANTECEDENT: going before, prior, preceding; e.g. the egg to the chicken.
ANTHONY, SAINT (251?-356): Egyptian HERMIT and mystical theologian whose reputation for HOLINESS greatly influenced the development of MONASTICISM.
ANTHROPOCENTRISM: traditional HUMANISM has followed PROTAGORAS in proclaiming "man is the measure of all things." Recently the trendy view that such an outlook is wrong because it is anthropocentric has been expressed by some people in the ecology movement.
ANTHROPOLOGY: the SCIENCE of humanity, human biological origins, social and cultural behavior. In THEOLOGY, it denotes that section of systematic theology dealing with man as a creature of GOD. As an academic discipline, anthropology is generally divided between physical, social, and cultural anthropology.
ANTHROPOMORPHISM: the attribution of human characteristics, activities, or emotions to GOD; e.g. "God the Father" attributes the qualities of a human Father to God.
ANTI-CHRIST: is the word used by the author of the JOHANNINE EPISTLES for those who deny CHRIST (I John 2:18-22; II John 7). The NEW TESTAMENT implies that at the end of human HISTORY the anti-Christ will appear to wage war on the CHURCH. This BELIEF has fueled many MILLENARIAN MOVEMENTS.
ANTI-CULT MOVEMENT: an North American movement involving parents, friends and ex-members of NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS. The movement has spread worldwide and invokes the notion of BRAINWASHING to explain CONVERSION to new RELIGIONS. Through the skillful use of media, especially television, it has become a powerful social force and is seen by many social scientists as an essentially anti-religious movement with profound implications for all religious GROUPS and a threat to religious FREEDOM. The Anti-Cult movement bases its theories about brainwashing ultimately on the work of British psychiatrist William SARGENT whose book The Battle for the Mind (1957), was a violent attack of EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY provoked by the success of the BILLY GRAHAM CRUSADES in England.
ANTI-SEMITISM: an attitude of hostility towards JEWISH people and JUDAISM. Religiously it has been linked to the BELIEF that "the Jews" as a race were responsible for the death of JESUS. This belief has been repudiated by most CHRISTIAN theologians and was rejected by the SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL (1965-1966).
ANTINOMIANISM: the claim that the CHRISTIAN is free from all moral obligations or principles.
ANTINOMY: the conflict of two contradictory conclusions. In KANT the term is used to designate such a situation where the conclusions are deducted from apparently VALID premises.
ANTIOCH THEOLOGY: a TRADITION in the THEOLOGY of the EARLY CHURCH which developed in Antioch using ARISTOTLE which placed an emphasis on HISTORICAL events as opposed to the ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATIONS of ALEXANDRIAN THEOLOGY which was based on the work of PLATO.
ANTI-THESIS: the opposite. The term was developed by KANT, FICHTE and HEGEL before being picked up by MARX to develop a theory about reasoning which replaces the TRADITIONAL LOGIC of ARISTOTLE with a FORM of reasoning that denies ABSOLUTE TRUTH in favor of relative truths.
ANUSSATI: a PALI term for BUDDHIST teachings about recollection which form a basis for some types of MEDITATION.
APOCALYPSE: refers to the Book of Revelation the last book of the NEW TESTAMENT which is attributed to the APOSTLE JOHN. More generally the term refers to ancient HEBREW and CHRISTIAN visionary PROPHETIC literature. These books are written in figurative language and are very difficult to interpret although many writers try to see in them a PHILOSOPHY of HISTORY foretelling the end of the world.
APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE: a genre of literature distinguished principally by its mysterious allusions to the SIGNS preceding the events to occur in the last days of world HISTORY. The Society for Biblical Literature has defined apocalyptic literature as a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework where REVELATION is mediated by otherwordly BEINGS to human recipients disclosing a transcendental REALITY that is temporal (ESCHATOLOGICAL SALVATION) and spatial (involves another SUPERNATURAL world).
APOCALYPTISM: BELIEF in the imminent end of the world or other impending disasters as a result of divine JUDGMENT.
APOCRYPHA: in Greek this means "hidden things" and is a term applied to both JEWISH and CHRISTIAN writings which were excluded from the official CANON of SCRIPTURE.
APOCRYPHAL NEW TESTAMENT: a collection of writings which the EARLY CHURCH deemed uncanonical and rejected because they did not teach ORTHODOX doctrines. In recent years APOCRYPHAL LITERATURE, such as the Gospel of Thomas, has become popular among alternate religious GROUPS and has formed a basis for many NEW AGE BELIEFS. Many wild claims have been made about apocryphal writings but the truth is that most were written well into the second century A.D. and lack all HISTORICAL connection to the historical JESUS.
APOLLONIAN: the RATIONAL, harmonious and orderly. A term used by NIETZSCHE to describe one tradition of Greek art. The other tradition he described as DIONYSIAN.
APOLOGETICS: the reasoned defence of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION against INTELLECTUAL objections, and attempts to establish certain elements of CHRISTIANITY as true or, at least, not demonstrably untrue. Christians appeal to such NEW TESTAMENT verses as 1 Peter 3:15, Luke 1:1-4, and 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 as a basis for apologetics.
APOSTASY: the abandonment or renunciation of a RELIGION, such as CHRISTIANITY or ISLAM, either voluntarily or by compulsion. There are frequent Biblical allusions to the EVILS and the dangers of apostasy. It is described as departure from the FAITH 1 Timothy 4:1-3; being carried away by the error of lawless men Hebrews 3:12. The great apostasy, "The Rebellion" 2 Thessalonians 2:3, is associated with the return of CHRIST and the end of the world or JUDGMENT DAY.
APOSTLE: a term used in the NEW TESTAMENT for someone who experienced the risen CHRIST and received a commission to preach the Gospel. It is also used by ANALOGY to refer to pioneering MISSIONARIES and, occasionally, important leaders within the CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Today certain religious movements, such as the MORMONS and some CHARISMATIC CHRISTIAN GROUPS, claim to be led by Apostles.
APOSTLE'S CREED: one of the earliest statements of the CHRISTIAN FAITH dating from around the fourth century.
APOSTOLIC FATHERS: those CHRISTIAN writers who lived immediately after the time of the APOSTLES, such as CLEMENT OF ROME.
APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION: the theory developed by ROMAN CATHOLIC theologians that theological ORTHODOXY is preserved through an unbroken line of BISHOPS who derive their AUTHORITY from CHRIST.
APOTHEOSIS: the DEIFICATION of a person, such as a Roman Emperor, after their death.
APPEARANCE: that which stands in contrast to REALITY. A term similar to the HINDU concept of MY.
APPOLO: Greek GOD of WISDOM and son of ZEUS.
AQUINAS, Thomas (1224/27-1274): known by his contemporaries as "Doctor Angelicus" he is the most important philosopher and theologian of the ROMAN CATHOLIC TRADITION. Educated by BENEDICTINES and DOMINICANS he studied in Paris and Cologne. Later he taught in Paris 1252-59, 1269-72; and Italy 1259-69, 1272-74. He was responsible for "baptizing" the PHILOSOPHY of ARISTOTLE which he made the basis of Roman Catholic THEOLOGY and APOLOGETICS. His Aristotelianism was opposed by the FRANCISCANS, but his teachings were made the official doctrine of the Dominican Order. He was canonized in 1323 and made a Doctor of the Church in 1567. Finally, the study of Thomas Aquinas was made part of all theological training in 1366. Made patron of all Roman Catholic universities in 1880. His authority as teacher was reaffirmed in 1923. In his thought the relation of REASON to FAITH is one of subalternation, in which the lower (reason) accepts principles of the higher (faith). He rejected ANSELM of CANTERBURY'S ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT preferring the COSMOLOGICAL and TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS for the EXISTENCE of GOD. For Aquinas there is a level of knowledge attainable by REASON alone; another attainable by reason for skilled thinkers and by FAITH for unskilled thinkers; the highest level, however, is attainable only by faith. The system Aquinas developed is called "Thomism," his followers "Thomists."
ARAHANT: a PALI term for a person who reaches the final stage of SPIRITUAL progress. The word literally means "the worthy" and was applied to the BUDDHA by his contemporaries. Previously it had been used of the founder of JAINISM, MAHVRA, but later it was applied to Buddhist SAINTS both in life and after their death.
ARCANE SCHOOL: the organization established in 1923 by Alice BAILEY to propagate a FORM of THEOSOPHY and the teachings of the GREAT WHITE BROTHERHOOD. Originally part of the THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY proper. Bailey clashed with Annie BESANT over Besant's BELIEF that Jiddu KRISHNAMURTI was the expected world savior. Instead she received SPIRITUALIST communications promising the return of CHRIST in the form of the Buddhist BODHISATTVA MAITREYA. In recent years Benjamin Creme has claimed that he is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Through its many books and writings the Arcane School has been a major influence on the NEW AGE MOVEMENT.
ARCHETYPE: a notion used by PLATO to signify the original FORM of things as contrasted with their APPEARANCE in the world. It was picked up by JUNG as a term for the collective representation of SYMBOLS found in art and dreams.
ARCHIMEDES (287-212 B.C.): probably the greatest Greek scientist, mathematician and engineer.
ARIANISM: CHRISTIANITY'S most troublesome schism named after its principle exponent ARIUS who was a thorough-going Greek RATIONALIST who inherited the almost universally held LOGOS CHRISTOLOGY of the Eastern Roman Empire. He contended that GOD was immutable and unknowable therefore CHRIST had to be a created BEING made by God as the first in the created order. The ORTHODOX counter-attack on Arianism pointed out that Arian THEOLOGY reduced CHRIST to a demigod and in effect reintroduced POLYTHEISM into Christianity because Christ was worshipped among Arians. Politically, Arianism has been accused of seeing the Emperor as a semi-divine BEING and promoting the sacralization of the State. In February 325, Arius was condemned as a heretic at a Synod in Antioch. The Emperor Constantine, who was sympathetic to Arianism, then called the first ECUMENICAL council--known as the Council of Nicaea--which met in May 325 and also condemned Arius and his teachings, but instead of resolving the issues, the Council launched an Empire-wide Christological debate during which it often seemed that Arianism would triumph as the dominant form of Christianity. Only after a hundred years of heated debate did ORTHODOXY emerge triumphant. Today, a FORM of Arianism has been revived among UNITARIANS and the JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. Wild claims are also made by various OCCULT groups about Arianism as a persecuted source of occult knowledge.
ARISTOBULUS OF PANEAS (3rd-2nd Century B.C.): JEWISH Alexandrian philosopher who sought to reconcile JUDAISM with Greek PHILOSOPHY through the ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION of the HEBREW BIBLE. He argued that the HEBREW BIBLE was, in REALITY, the true source of many philosophical ideas among the Greeks. He is known to have written a commentary on the PENTATEUCH but this has been lost and is only known through quotations in CHRISTIAN writings.
ARISTOTLE (384-322 B.C.): born in the Greek colony of Stagira. He was sent to Athens at the age of 18 where he remained in close association with the ACADEMY of PLATO for twenty years. The logic of Aristotle, called "ANALYTIC" is, he argued, a discipline prior to all others because it sets forth the requirements of scientific inquiry and proof. Aristotelian logic depends on formal relations and the possibility of discovering principles, i.e. UNIVERSALS and CAUSES. Aristotle is fond of tracing the transition in knowledge from the particulars of sense experience--the things we can know--to the universals which are grasped by INTUITIVE reason. For Aristotle every sensible object is a union of two principles, MATTER and FORM. Matter is regarded as potentiality the form which actualizes it. The fact of motion or change is then accounted for as a process by which potential BEING passes over through form into actual being. Aristotle has had a long and profound influence on Western THEOLOGY especially since his work was used as the basis of theological reflection by Thomas AQUINAS in the twelfth century. Aristotle's philosophy provides the basis for many classical APOLOGETIC arguments including the COSMOLOGICAL and TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS for BELIEF in GOD who Aristotle called "the unmoved Mover." His ideas also lent legitimation to the ROMAN CATHOLIC doctrine of TRANSUBSTANTIATION and not surprisingly were strongly rejected by early PROTESTANT REFORMERS such as Martin LUTHER and John CALVIN. They were reinstated as the basis for CHRISTIAN scholarship by later reformers and are the official basis for Roman Catholic teachings.
ARIUS, (250-336): regarded as the arch heretic of the EARLY CHURCH, he seems to have been a highly successful preacher and was revered for his ASCETICISM. Arius appears to have written little, preferring instead to embody his teachings in popular songs. He rejected the ORTHODOX definition of the DEITY of CHRIST, the TRINITY and related doctrines replacing them with a form of subordination which made Christ the first created BEING but not GOD.
ARJUN, (?): the fifth SIKH GURU who was the Sikh leader from 1581-1606. He was responsible for the building of the Golden TEMPLE in Amritsar and for the compilation of the first authoritative version of the Sikh SCRIPTURES. He died after torture and imprisonment by the Mughal overlords, who were MUSLIMS: this act led to the militarization of the Sikh community.
ARMAGEDDON: the name used in the Book of Revelation 16:16 for the site of the final battle between the forces of GOOD and EVIL.
ARMENIANS: the first nation to embrace CHRISTIANITY in a form similar to Greek ORTHODOXY. They were slaughtered in a organized massacre in 1918 and driven from their TRADITIONAL homeland in Turkey.
ARMINIANISM: a general term embracing the teachings of Jacobus ARMINIUS. The THEOLOGICAL views of Arminius and his followers were summed up in five points which were designed to counter the prevailing CALVINIST ORTHODOXY of his day. They are: (1) GOD from all ETERNITY predestined to ETERNAL LIFE those of whom He foresaw would remain steadfast in FAITH to their end; (2) CHRIST died for all mankind, not only the elect; (3) through free will Man cooperates in his CONVERSION; (4) humans may RESIST divine GRACE; (5) humans may FALL from divine grace. At the SYNOD OF DORT the Arminian teachings were condemned as heretical by orthodox CALVINISTS. Today, Arminianism is the major theological force among North American EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS.
ARMINIUS, Jacob (1560-1609): Dutch theologian and critic of CALVINISM. His views were condemned by the SYNOD OF DORT but spread rapidly in the Netherlands and France. The were introduced to ANGLICANISM by ARCHBISHOP LAUD where they degenerated into a FORM of PELAGIANISM. A modified form of ARMINIANISM characterized the METHODIST revival of the eighteenth century and dominates much EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY in America today.
ARMSTRONG, Garner Ted (1930-): son of Herbert W. Armstrong and for many years heir apparent. In the early 1970s a series of allegations about his alleged sexual infidelities forced him to leave the CHURCH in 1974 to establish his own rival organization.
ARMSTRONG, Herbert W. (1909-): radio and television preacher who founded the WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD, Ambassador College, and the well-known magazine The Plain Truth. He promoted a FORM of Arian THEOLOGY laced with an Americanized version of BRITISH ISRAELISM strengthened by a strong premillennial ESCHATOLOGY.
ARNOLD, Matthew (1822-1888): son of THOMAS ARNOLD he was an English poet, essayist, and critic who has been described as "the great English APOSTLE of CULTURE." Although he professed an INTELLECTUAL appreciation for the ideals of the French REVOLUTION, he was shocked by DEMOCRACY in America and propounded a sophisticated snobbery in the guise of an attack on the "philistinism" of the English middle classes. In fact, his ideals are a continuation of the destructive social views of his father. He dabbled in THEOLOGY opposing TRADITIONAL ORTHODOXY in a desire to dispense with the miraculous and SUPERNATURAL elements of RELIGION which he believed conflicted with modern SCIENCE.
ARNOLD, Thomas (1795-1842): ANGLICAN Clergyman and Headmaster of Rugby School. He is famous for his REFORMS of the English public and elite private school system and unique among educational reformers in that his "reforms" limited social mobility and strengthened the English class system. Although hailed as a wise and brilliant CHRISTIAN educator who infused education with a moral purpose, his work has had a devastating effect by creating deep social divisions in British SOCIETY.
ARYANS: a SANSKRIT term MEANING "the Noble Ones" which, in the nineteenth century, led to a great debate about Aryan RELIGION and languages. In the twentieth century the term was corrupted through its use by Nazi propagandists who used it in terms of their own distorted views about racial purity.
ASANA: YOGA posture or mode of sitting.
ASAGA: BUDDHIST philosopher and founder of the YOGCRA school who lived in the fourth century A.D. His ideas are similar to both MANICHAEANISM and NEOPLATONISM.
ASAVA: a PALI term for the influences, influxes or taints which in BUDDHISM are regarded as intoxicating the mind thus preventing spiritual progress. They are: sensuality; lust for life; false views; and ignorance.
ASBURY, Francis (1745-1816): a founder of METHODISM in America and one of the first Methodist BISHOPS.
ASCENDED MASTERS: a term popularized by THEOSOPHY that refers to supposed superhuman BEINGS who are said to guide human destiny. They are often depicted as living in remote places like Tibet or, more recently, either on other planets, or in UFO'S from where they telepathically communicate with selected human beings.
ASCENSION OF CHRIST: the CHRISTIAN BELIEF that after his resurrection, JESUS finally ascended to HEAVEN from where he continues to rule over CREATION.
ASCETICISM: religious practices which lead to the neglect of the body and SPIRITUAL EXERCISES which involve extreme fasting, FLAGELLATION and other discomforts. Asceticism is characteristic of all FORMS of MONASTICISM.
ASHARI, Ali b. Ismail (873-935 A.D.): a follower of AHMAD ibn HANBAL he taught that the QUR'N is God's speech and therefore shares the eternal ATTRIBUTES OF GOD, that GOOD and EVIL were both created by God and even MUSLIM'S who have sinned may be tortured in HELL before eventually entering HEAVEN. Finally he taught that although the QUR'N refers to the hand, face, etc., of God, these expressions are to be understood as figurative and that God is incorporeal. Therefore we do not fully understand language which speaks of God in human terms.
ASHRAM: a HINDU term for a Retreat or Hermitage.
AOKA (3rd century B.C.): the ruler of the Mauryan Empire of Northern India who, after many bloody conquests, became a BUDDHIST in reaction to the violence of his own reign. He sought to promote Buddhism yet was tolerant of other RELIGIONS and left behind a wealth of inscriptions mentioning the DHAMMA (PALI term) as well as his own achievements.
ASRAMAS: the four stages of life's journey in HINDUISM. They are: the student, the householder, the HERMIT and the wandering recluse.
ASSASSINS: the European name for members of a minor branch of the ISMAILI branch of ISLAM who smoked hemp (canabis sativa) to gian a foretaste of paradise. they were associated with Syria and religious fanaticism, and were believed to specialize in t the murder, or assassination, of religious opponents. As a movement they were suppressed by teh Mongols between 1256 and 1272.
ASSUMPTION: a presupposition or POSTULATE. Something that is taken as a "given" in any argument.
ASSUMPTION OF MARY: the ROMAN CATHOLIC doctrine decreed in 1950 that MARY the Mother of JESUS was taken up into HEAVEN thus avoiding the pangs of death.
ASTIKA: a HINDU term for correct teachings or ORTHODOXY.
ASTROLOGY: the ancient BELIEF that both individual and national destinies are influenced by the stars. The role of the stars in the life of individuals is known as "natal" astrology while "mundane" astrology deals with the fate of nations and concepts like the AGE OF AQUARIUS. Although popular in many CULTURES in the past, astrology was discredited in the seventeenth century by a combination of the rise of modern SCIENCE and a series of well-publicized predictions by prominent astrologers which were completely wrong.
ASVAGHOSA (1st-2nd century A.D.): BUDDHIST writer--or school of writers--who authored various works preserving Buddhist TRADITION and expounding Buddhist doctrine. Various scholars dispute when, where, and how many Avaghosas actually lived.
ATHANASIUS , (296-373): champion of ORTHODOXY against ARIANISM. He was Egyptian by birth but Greek by education. Athanasius took no official part in the proceedings of the Council of Nicea but as secretary to BISHOP Alexander, his notes, circulars, and encyclicals had an important effect on the outcome of the Council. Because Arianism had a wide following in the Empire and the sympathies of Roman Emperors, Athanasius was hounded through five exiles totalling seventeen years of flight and hiding. His later years were spent peacefully at Alexandria. Almost single-handedly Athanasius saved the CHRISTIAN CHURCH from the PAGAN intellectualism of Arianism. As a young man he was impressed by Christian MARTYRS and eventually had a great influence on the MONASTIC movement, especially in Egypt. Writings: Contra Gentes de Incarnation.
ATHANASIUS , (10th century): a Greek ORTHODOX MONK who established the monastery of Lavra on Mount ATHOS.
ATHANASIAN CREED: a CHRISTIAN CREED dating from the fifth century which concentrates on the doctrines of the INCARNATION and TRINITY that has been attributed to ATHANASIUS.
ATHEISM: originally used in Greece of all those who, whether they believed in a GOD or not, disbelieved in the official GODS of the State: SOCRATES was the classic instance. In the Roman Empire the term was applied to CHRISTIANS but sometimes Christians, like POLYCARP, would turn the term against their persecutors. Until the expression "AGNOSTICISM" came into general use in the nineteenth century, the term "ATHEISM" was popularly used to describe those who thought the EXISTENCE of GOD an unprovable thesis.
ATHOS: mountain in Greece which became a site of PILGRIMAGE and monastic life. Today it houses a number of monasteries and is a center of ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY.
ATLANTIS: in his dialogue Timaeus, PLATO mentions an EVIL people whose city was destroyed by a earthquake which submerged it under the sea. For at least four hundred years after he wrote Timaeus, Plato's story was recognized as a PARABLE. Some Roman writers, however, began to take it literally but it was not until the nineteenth century with the work of Ignatius T. T. Donnelly that the idea of such a "lost civilization" became widespread. From Donnelly it was adapted and given OCCULT significance by Helena BLAVATSKY and has since become the stock and trade of occult writers who use it as an APOLOGETIC device to promote their claims. In fact, careful examination of these claims is one of the weaknesses of NEW AGE writings.
ATMAN: a key HINDU term for the individualization of REALITY often translated as SOUL but actually MEANING something rather different like the ESSENCE of life or fundamental SELF. In some UPANISHADS and VEDANTA tman is identified with BRAHMAN.
ATOMISM: the ancient theory found in both India and Greece that sees the UNIVERSE as composed of building blocks known as ATOMS. Modern atomic theory takes its name from this PHILOSOPHY.
ATONEMENT: reconciliation or "at-one-ment." In CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY, it refers to the restoration of the broken relationship between GOD and humans accomplished in the DEATH and RESURRECTION of JESUS CHRIST.
ATTRIBUTE: a term developed by ARISTOTLE who divided the world into SUBSTANCES and their ATTRIBUTES. Attributes describe substances; e.g. "hard" is an attribute of stone. In THEOLOGY attributes describe the NATURE and character of GOD.
ATTRIBUTES OF GOD: those characteristics uniquely applicable to the divine BEING. Two classical ways of arriving at the attributes of God have been: (1) the way of negation, via negativa: rather than saying what God is, say what He is not; e.g. "God is unlimited"; (2) the way of ANALOGY, via analogia, which compares God to things known from human experience; e.g. "God the Father," likens God to a human Father.
AUGSBURG CONFESSION: the great LUTHERAN statement of FAITH drawn up in 1530 to review the abuses of the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and set forth Lutheran doctrine.
AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY (died 604): a MISSIONARY to the English; made ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY in 596 by POPE GREGORY THE GREAT.
AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354-430): the greatest of the Latin CHRISTIAN Fathers and African theologians and one of the outstanding thinkers of all time. Augustine was of Berber descent and almost certainly Black. His mother, Monica, was a Christian whose virtues he praised. But at Carthage he was drawn into sexual excesses: later, while studying RHETORIC and PHILOSOPHY, he came under the influence of MANICHAEISM followed by NEOPLATONISM. In the spring of 387, after many sessions with AMBROSE, BISHOP of MILAN, and the study of the BIBLE, Augustine was BAPTIZED. These events are recorded in his Confessions which is a spiritual classic and the first real work of Christian autobiography. His CHRISTIANITY remained strongly ASCETIC and his writings display a remarkably African ethos. In 396 he was consecrated BISHOP of HIPPO and remained a PASTOR until his death. For more than thirty years Augustine was the leading the theologian in African Christianity. In 410 the Goths sacked Rome and the PAGANS blamed the Christians whose GOD they said caused the disaster. Augustine put the capstone on his theological activity by defending the Christians against this charge in his great work The City of God. Augustine's THEOLOGY helped bring about the PROTESTANT REFORMATION and deeply influenced early PROTESTANT theologians such as Martin LUTHER and John CALVIN who were strongly Augustinian in their outlook.
AUGUSTINE, RULE OF: an early MONASTIC rule attributed to AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO outlining life in the monastery. It deeply influenced the DOMINICAN Order.
AUROBINDO, Sri (1872-1950): the founder of a vigorous HINDU REFORM and MISSIONARY movement. He was educated in England and served the British in India until he was arrested for alleged support of rebels. In jail he had a MYSTICAL experience and devoted the rest of his life to RELIGION. In his book The Life Divine, he seeks to interpret HINDUISM in terms of evolutionary theory in a manner similar to the Jesuit TEILHARD DE CHARDIN. He taught what he called "integral YOGA" which integrated spiritual and practical disciplines. In the 1920s he was joined by a French CONVERT whom he eventually called "the Mother" and with whom he is said to have practiced various FORMS of TANTRA or SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of a sexual nature. After his death "the Mother" took over and ran his SHRAM in Pondicherry which, unlike most shrams, accommodated married as well as single people and made many concessions to modern technology.
AUROVILLE: a model community, which has influenced NEW AGE thinkers. Founded in India as an international village based on the teachings of Sri AUROBINDO, it was designed and run by Mira Richards (1878-1973) who was known as "the Mother."
AUTHENTICITY: a term used by existentialist philosophers to designate true human existence freed from all FORMS of deception.
AUTHORITY: religious authority springs from the CHARISMA of a person, book, or teaching and is transmitted through a recognized TRADITION.
AVATAR: a HINDU term meaning "descent" which signifies the manifestation of a GOD on earth in human or animal form.
AVERROES, (1126-1198 A.D.): one of the most influential MUSLIM philosophers and a native of Cordova, Spain. He was an important commentator on the works of ARISTOTLE and a strong defender of REASON against appeals to mystical illumination. He wrote many books on law, PHILOSOPHY and RELIGION and argued against the ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION of the QUR'N. His views led to accusations of ATHEISM and exile they were, however, very influential in CHRISTIAN Europe and helped spur Christian thinkers to "rediscover" Aristotle and develop a Christian Aristotelianism.
AVICENNA (930-1037): an Islamic philosopher who greatly influenced CHRISTIAN thought in Medieval Europe through his use of PLATO and ARISTOTLE.
AVIDYA: ignorance in HINDU thought--which is the explanation for the endless cycle of birth and REBIRTH which binds humans to the wheel of EXISTENCE.
AXIOM: a SELF-evident TRUTH used as the basis for an argument.
AYER, Sir Alfred Jules (1910-1989): English linguistic philosopher and humanist whose best work Language, Truth and Logic (1936), introduced LOGICAL POSITIVISM to the English speaking world. The central demand of this work was the "elimination of METAPHYSICS." In 1988, shortly before his death, he wrote an article describing a near death experience which had forced him to question his earlier views.
AYUR-VEDA: a collection of medieval HINDU manuscripts containing MEDICAL knowledge and MAGICAL ideas which greatly influenced Oriental medical practices.