The following text is from Irving Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.
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Copyright © Irving Hexham 1994, 1998.
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For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE.
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Cross-references are indicated by the use of CAPITAL LETTERS.
GABRIEL: a common name for an ANGEL or spiritual BEING of great Holiness. In ISLAM, Gabriel revealed the QUR'N to MUHAMMAD.
GAIA: the name given by the NEW AGE MOVEMENT to the earth which is believed to be a living organism. Although justified in terms of ecology, this is the revival of a medieval OCCULT idea which has been popularized by NEO-PAGANISM and groups like the FINDHORN COMMUNITY. Apart from ideas about NATURE being alive, BELIEF in such things as FAIRIES, and nature SPIRITS are also connected with the idea.
GALBRAITH, John Kenneth (1908-): Canadian/American, "Keynesian" (see John Maynard KEYNES) economist, advisor to the American Democratic Party and American Ambassador to India, in 1961. He shaped the thoughts of many people about modern society through such books as The Affluent Society (1958) and The New Industrial State (1967).
GALEN Claudius (130-200): Greek physician and author whose works, especially on medicine, deeply influenced both CHRISTIAN and ISLAMIC thought.
GALILEO, Galilei (1564-1642): Italian ASTRONOMER whose theories and personality brought him into conflict with the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. In the nineteenth century he became the popular, mythic, rationalist hero who was seen as a MARTYR for SCIENCE against the dogmatism of RELIGION. In reality he went out of his way to provoke the Church and was as dogmatic and intolerant as his opponents.
GALLICANISM: the theory developed by French theologians in the fourteenth century and popular until at least the late nineteenth century that the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH ought to be free from PAPAL AUTHORITY.
GANDHABBAS (Pali) GANDHARVAS (Sanskrit): a class of heavenly BEINGS whose existence is taken for granted in BUDDHIST cosmology. They are the lowest of the DEVAS and subject to the law of REBIRTH.
GANDHI, Mohandas Karamchand (1869-1948): Indian political leader and MYSTIC who developed a technique of spiritual/political action which he called "Satygraha" (truth-force). Today he is remembered as an advocate of non-violent resistance. Gandhi was opposed to modern technology and sought to return India to its spiritual roots.
GANEA: [Anglicized "Ganesh"] a popular HINDU GOD who was the son of iva and KL. He is represented as an elephant-headed BEING who is regarded as the union of opposites being part human, part elephant. Thus he is seen as symbolizing the identity between GOD and man.
GARBHAGHA: from the SANSKRIT term referring to the home, womb or seed. It is used to refer to the inner sanctum of a TEMPLE.
GARDNER, Gerald Brousseau (1884-1964): English Mason, OCCULTIST and creator of modern WITCHCRAFT or "WICCA." He was a sickly child and received very little formal education. In 1900 he moved to Sri Lanka where he worked on a plantation and later became a civil servant. He travelled widely in the East, absorbing local CULTURES and FOLK BELIEFS. Retiring to England in 1938, he joined a THEOSOPHICAL group led by the daughter of Annie BESANT, through whom he met Dorothy Clutterbuck who claimed to be a WITCH and initiated him into "the craft." In 1949, under the assumed name "Scire," he published a novel High Magic's Aid where he outlined many of his ideas about MAGICAL RITUAL. Following the repeal of England's Witchcraft Laws in 1951, he published Witchcraft Today (1954) and numerous other books. Gardner's system is a mish-mash of Masonic ritual, Eastern FOLK CULTURE, YOGIC RELIGION and his own vivid imagination designed to appeal to a popular audience on the basis of its alleged historical roots. Central to his ideas is the creation of a CULT of the Mother Goddess about whom he wrote in his novel A Goddess Arrives (1948). In 1963 Gardner initiated Raymond and Rosemary Buckland who spread his CREED to North America.
GARDNERIAN WITCHCRAFT: a very influential NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT which has influenced WICCA and many NEO-PAGAN groups. It was created almost singly handedly by Gerald B. GARDNER who attempted to recreate the type of WITCHCRAFT discussed by Margaret A. MURRAY in her various books. Gardner created RITUALS and BELIEFS by integrating older OCCULT and SPIRITUALIST ideas into a Gothic type mythology which drew on YOGIC RELIGIONS and his own rich imagination. Most important of all, Gardner supplied the Neo-PAGAN Movement with pseudo-historical justifications leading many to falsely believe that they were joining an ancient religion which had flourished underground while being officially suppressed by CHRISTIANITY.
GTHS: the oldest writings of the ZOROASTRIAN SCRIPTURES, the Avesta, which form a liturgy of seventeen HYMNS.
GYA: a small town in Bihar, northern India, which is where the BUDDHA is believed to have received ENLIGHTENMENT. It is one of the four SACRED places for BUDDHIST PILGRIMS.
GEERTZ, Clifford (1926-): American ANTHROPOLOGIST and strong advocate of cultural RELATIVISM. His works include: Islam Observed (1968) and The Interpretation of Cultures (1973).
GEHENNA: a valley between Jerusalem and the hills to the South and West which gained an EVIL reputation due to its CULTIC associations with human SACRIFICE. In later JEWISH literature it became the place of the wicked and in the NEW TESTAMENT is described as a pit into which the evil are cast. As a result it became synonymous with HELL.
GEISTESWISSENSCHAFTEN: a German word meaning "spiritual sciences" as distinct from the "physical sciences." The term includes such things as AESTHETICS, ETHICS, RELIGION etc.
GENESIS: a Greek word meaning "origin" or "beginnings" and the name given to the first book of the BIBLE.
GENEVA: the Swiss city which became the center of the CALVINIST REFORMATION.
GENEVA BIBLE: the first English translation of the BIBLE to use CHAPTER AND VERSE. It was favored by the English PURITANS and used by SHAKESPEARE. It is also known as the "Breeches Bible" because of its translation of Genesis which normally reads "garments" (or "aprons") as "breeches."
GENKU (12th century): See HNEN.
GENSHIN (942-1017): Japanese BUDDHIST scholar and exponent of the PURE LAND SCHOOL whose art was greatly admired for his depiction of TRANSMIGRATION and the AMIDA BUDDHA.
GENTILE: a NON-JEW.
GENUFLECTION: the RITUAL act of kneeling on the right knee while holding the head erect during specific parts of the MASS or while approaching the SACRAMENTS.
GENUS: a general class of objects which possess the same qualities; e.g. dog, cat, etc.
GENUS AND SPECIES: a form of classification used in the logic of ARISTOTLE which greatly influenced the development of Western thought and SCIENCE. A "genus" is a class which may be divided into sub-classes or "species;" e.g. a cat is the genus, while a Tabby cat is the species.
GHETTO: the segregated part of a town or city set aside for JEWS often involving curfews and other restrictions on movement. European ghettos were self-governing usually under the control of RABBIS in what was a form of apartheid.
GIBBON, Edward (1737-1794): English HISTORIAN famed for his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1781). A youthful CONVERT to ROMAN CATHOLICISM he rejected CHRISTIANITY and presented a hostile interpretation of the rise of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH in his classic work.
GILGAMESH, EPIC OF: an ancient Sumerian epic tale the moral of which is that men must accept their lot and not seek the impossible. The story itself contains a FLOOD LEGEND and a FORM of CREATION story. It is best described as a MEDITATION on death in the form of a tragedy.
GILSON, Etienne Henry (1884-1978): French Thomist philosopher who played an important role in the revitalization of Thomism during the twentieth century. His works include: The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (1956) and Elements of Christian Philosophy (1960).
GIOTTO di Bondone (1267-1337): Italian artist who played an important role in the RENAISSANCE and the rediscovery of REALISM in art.
GLADSTONE, William, Ewart (1809-1898): British LIBERAL leader and statesman whose policies were based on his attempt to apply CHRISTIAN principles to politics.
GLASTONBURY: the ancient English town and MONASTIC site where King Arthur was said to be buried. The BENEDICTINE monastery was the largest in England and traced its ancestry to a CHURCH which the MONKS claimed had been built by JOSEPH of ARIMATHEA. Many medieval LEGENDS, including ones about visits by the child JESUS, are associated with the town which became a center for the COUNTER-CULTURE in the 1960s and has played a prominent role in the MYTHOLOGY of the NEW AGE MOVEMENT.
GLOCK, Charles Y. (1924-): American SOCIOLOGIST and survey researcher who has done extensive work on religion and racism. His works include Religion and Society in Tension (1965) and Christian Belief and Anti-Semitism (1966) both of which were co-authored with Rodney STARK.
GLOSSOLALIA: literally "speaking in tongues." It refers to an ecstatic SPIRITUAL state that manifests itself in utterances.
GNOSTICISM: a religious and PHILOSOPHICAL movement which was popular in the Greaco-Roman world that found expression in many different SECTS and settings. Gnostic groups were characterized by their claim to possess secret knowledge--Gnosis--about the NATURE of the UNIVERSE and human existence. Despite clear criticisms of Gnostic ideas in the NEW TESTAMENT, many writers have attempted to prove a link between the EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH and Gnosticism. This view has been increasingly discredited as our knowledge of both Gnosticism and the Early Church has increased through archaeological and other discoveries. Today, many NEW AGE type groups claim links to ancient Gnosticism although such claims are pure fabrication.
GOBIND SINGH (1666-1708): the tenth SIKH GURU who gave the community its present form. He organized the Sikhs as an effective military force and ordained the "Five emblems" or "Five K's" of Sikhism. Before he was assassinated in 1708, he made his followers accept that he was the last human Guru and that after his death they would look to their SACRED writings, the Granth, as their Guru.
GOBINEAU, Joseph Arthur, Comte de (1816-1882): French diplomat and "Father" of modern RACISM whose theories, which involved a rejection of ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY, have had a disastrous effect on European HISTORY.
GOD: although many people claim that all RELIGIONS share the idea of God, in fact only CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM and JUDAISM have a similar understanding of the term. This understanding probably comes from a common source rooted in the religion of ABRAHAM with the result that these religions may be identified as ABRAMIC RELIGIONS. Traditionally, the Abramic religions understood God as the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE and everything that exists. All three religions saw God as a personal BEING who demanded obedience from humans but it was in Christianity that the personal relationship between God and humans was given its highest expression through the doctrine of the INCARNATION which taught that God became man in the person of JESUS CHRIST. Islam and Judaism place greater stress on God as law-giver and our responsibility to respond to Him by obeying His law. Many INDIAN religions developed highly personal versions of the DEITY but usually limited the powers of each deity through the acceptance of a vast pantheon of over three million Gods. The concept of a CREATOR GOD in the Abramic sense is, however, missing from Indian religions. CHINESE and JAPANESE religions recognized an impersonal force behind the universe but never developed a concept of God similar to the Abramic one. In other religious traditions, God or Gods may play important roles for specific tasks, such as healings, but their power and role as creator or personality is severely limited. BUDDHISM is unique in recognizing the existence of Gods in the affairs of daily life but in declaring in no uncertain terms that as a religion or practice, Buddhism has nothing to do with God. Indeed, Buddhism explicitly denies the Abramic concept of God and is therefore often described as a FORM of ATHEISM.
GOD PARENTS: in CHRISTIAN CHURCHES which practice INFANT BAPTISM it is common to appoint sponsors who assume responsibility for the SPIRITUAL welfare of the child and promise to assist the parents in fulfilling their role in religious education.
GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832): arguably the greatest German poet, philosopher, and man of letters. In his early work he was an exponent of ROMANTICISM but later he took a more critical attitude towards the Romantic Movement and developed his own unique insights and SPIRITUALITY. A lover of NATURE he was a religious HUMANIST who strongly influenced German CULTURE.
GOG AND MAGOG: symbolic enemies of GOD in the BIBLE. In APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE they are often identified with specific peoples and figure prominently in attempts by modern writers to interpret BIBLICAL PROPHECY.
GOLDEN AGE: the idea that in the long distant past there was a time of peace and prosperity which was lost through some human act. The idea features in many RELIGIONS and is often linked with the related notion of the DECLINE OF THE AGES.
GOLDEN CALF: in Exodus 32, MOSES returns from Mount Sinai with the TEN COMMANDMENTS to discover that the PEOPLE OF ISRAEL have created a golden idol in the image of a calf. The expression has come to represent APOSTASY and anything which lures believers from worshiping GOD.
GOLDEN RULE: taken from the SERMON ON THE MOUNT where JESUS tells his followers to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The term has become the basis for a SECULAR MORALITY which essentially says that we ought to act towards others as we would like them to act towards us.
GOOD: theologically that which is approved by GOD or the divine. In SECULAR ETHICS defining "the GOOD" becomes a major problem to which many solutions are offered.
GOOD FRIDAY: the Friday before EASTER which commemorates the DEATH OF JESUS. It is called "Good Friday" because CHRISTIANS believe that on that day, through His obedience to GOD and SACRIFICIAL death, Jesus obtained the SALVATION of mankind. CHRISTIANS usually celebrate the day with penitence and fasting.
GORE, Charles (1853-1932): English ANGLO-CATHOLIC theologian, BISHOP of Oxford and one of the founders of the ANGLICAN MONASTIC Order THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION. He was the editor of the controversial book Lux Mundi (1889) and author of numerous works including The Reconstruction of Belief (1924).
GRACE: in CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY is the loving action of GOD in an individual's life making possible their SANCTIFICATION. It is by GRACE that God makes SALVATION possible and through grace that He sustains the CHURCH.
GRAHAM, William, Franklin, "Billy" (1918-): American EVANGELIST and Southern BAPTIST Preacher whose work did much to revive evangelical religion in America. Among his many achievements probably the most significant is the founding of the magazine Christianity Today (1956), and the encouragement of solid evangelical scholarship. His ideas and appeal are summed up in his book Peace With God (1953).
GRAIL, THE HOLY: in LEGENDS originating from the twelfth century the CHALICE, or cup, used at the LAST SUPPER was said to have MYSTICAL powers. Stories about the Holy Grail are associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as well as GLASTONBURY and JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA.
GRAMSCI, Antonio (1891-1937): Italian COMMUNIST leader and THEORETICAL MARXIST who is viewed by many as the most important European communist since LENIN. His works became fashionable among left-wing intellectuals in Britain and America because they appeared to offer a viable form of Marxist HUMANISM.
GREAT AWAKENING: a series of REVIVALS in the American colonies between 1725 and 1760. They reached a peak in 1726 but fresh conversions and excitement occurred in New England in 1734-1735 through the preaching of Jonathan EDWARDS. The English EVANGELIST George WHITEFIELD linked these regional awakenings into a "Great Awakening" through his itinerant preaching tours. The established Clergy soon criticized the revivalists' preaching and practices and Edwards became their vigorous defender. In his book Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival (1743), and later work A Treatise on Religious Affections (1746), he distinguishes between the beneficial and detrimental effects of revivals. New England defenders of the Great Awakening were known as the "New Lights" while those who opposed it were known as "Old Lights." The movement made a great contribution to education and led to the founding of Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, Brown, and Dartmouth Colleges. Equally important was the mood of tolerance that led to ECUMENICAL ventures among Clergy supporting the movement.
GREAT MOTHER: a CULT figure in ancient Greece which became important in the Roman Empire before dying out around the fourth century. Many WICCA type movements have sought to revive the cult by giving it modern interpretations in terms of a FEMINIST THEOLOGY.
GREAT WHITE BROTHERHOOD: an imaginary hierarchy of a SPIRITUAL BEING, who were said to oversee human development, by Helena BLAVATSKY. The idea is very important in THEOSOPHY and many of its offshoots such as the I-AM MOVEMENT. According to Blavatsky, the brotherhood is based in Tibet from where it contacts initiates by telepathy.
GREBEL, Conrad (1498-1526): leader of the SWISS BRETHREN MOVEMENT out of which the MENNONITES emerged. He was converted to PROTESTANTISM around 1522 and in 1525 founded the ANABAPTIST movement which preached ADULT BAPTISM and advocated what is now known as a "Believer's Church."
GREEK: the language of the NEW TESTAMENT.
GREEN, T. H. (1836-1882): English philosopher and leading champion of HEGELIANISM in Britain during the nineteenth century.
GREENPEACE: founded in 1971 as an environmental protection lobby the movement has maintained a REVOLUTIONARY edge and APOCALYPTIC spiritual flavor derived from YOGIC RELIGIONS and the prophetic fringe of CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISM. Today it is the second largest environmental organization in the world.
GREGORIAN CHANTS: See PLAINSONG.
GREGORY OF NYSSA (330-395): one of the so-called CAPPADOCIAN FATHERS and notable CHRISTIAN philosopher and theologian strongly influenced by PLATO and ORIGEN. He was a defender of the NICENE CREED and CHRISTIAN ORTHODOXY.
GREGORY OF TOURS, (538-594): BISHOP of Tours who wrote The History of the Franks.
GREGORY THE GREAT (540-604): one of the greatest POPES who had a genius for administration at a time when civilized life in Western Europe was collapsing. He founded many MONASTERIES, sent MISSIONARIES all over Northern Europe, including AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY to England, and played an important role in shaping the LITURGY of the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
GREGORY VII (1021-1085): a dynamic POPE, also known as HILDEBRAND, he was responsible for many REFORMS in the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and for his insistence on the separation of the Church from the power of SECULAR authorities.
GHA SUTRA: a BUDDHIST text which discusses the "science of household behavior."
GRID: a term used by ANTHROPOLOGIST Mary DOUGLAS in her group-grid analysis. A grid exists when the roles of individuals are "allocated on principles of sex, age and seniority" and represent ego-centered CATEGORIES which are capable of varying independently of the GROUP. In other words, a grid represents SOCIAL relationships which are controlled by sets of rules and impersonal criteria.
GROEN VAN PRINSTERER, Guillaume (1801-1876): Dutch HISTORIAN, political theorist and CHRISTIAN philosopher who founded the DUTCH ANTI-REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT to oppose the ideology of the ENLIGHTENMENT and FRENCH REVOLUTION. An outline of his system is to be found in his greatest work Unbelief and Revolution (1847). As a member of the Dutch Parliament, he argued vigorously for Christian Schools which he saw as distinct from both CHURCH and STATE Schools. The reasons he gave for his position are now used by many supporters of Christian Education even though few people today recognize the origins of their arguments.
GROTIUS, Hugo (1583-1645): Dutch theologian and jurist who pioneered BIBLICAL CRITICISM and religious liberty. His greatest theological work was his De Veritate Religionis Christianae (1622) which was intended as an handbook for MISSIONARIES to refute all other religious claims and admired by ROMAN CATHOLICS and PROTESTANTS alike.
GROUND MOTIVE: a term used in the PHILOSOPHY of Herman DOOYEWEERD. A ground motive represents the fundamental motivation or driving force of a CULTURE. It is the common spirit which gives a community its dynamics and controls its entire attitude to life. Ground motives exercise unconscious influence on individuals and societies. Dooyeweerd recognizes four basic ground motives in the development of Western society: form-matter; creation-fall-redemption; nature-grace; and nature-freedom. In his view only the Christian ground motive of creation-fall-redemption exists as a radical unity that avoids dialectical tensions. The others are plagued reductionist tendencies which force a choice between one or the other poles of the ground motive. For example, in the field of PSYCHOLOGY, various conflicts exist between "humanistic psychology" and deterministic theories. According to Dooyeweerd these conflicts reflect the influence of the polar tensions of the modern Western ground motive of nature-freedom and not, as most, practitioners think, different interpretations of "the facts."
GROUP: in Mary Douglas' group-grid analysis "To the extent that the family is a bound unit, contained in a set of rooms, known by a common name, sharing common property, it is a group..." In other words, a group can be seen as a set of SOCIAL relationships governed by personal interactions.
GROUP-GRID ANALYSIS: a method of social analysis developed by anthropologist Mary Douglas as means of comparing societies and their cosmologies. Douglas argues that similar social structures will produce similar cosmologies. Thus an observer ought to be able to deduce the cosmology of a society from information about its social structure and re-create its social structure on the basis of a knowledge of its cosmology. The technique is based on the concept of positional control or the social restraints, physical or otherwise, which limit the ability of people to act.
GURDWARA: a SIKH temple which houses the Granth, or HOLY SCRIPTURES of the Sikh religion.
GURU: a spiritual teacher. Traditionally a Guru occupied a hermitage and the student lived with him to serve him and learn from him. The Guru is important in HINDUISM as a communicator of divine TRUTH. The term is also used by the SIKH'S to denote the founders and leaders of their RELIGION.
GUYARD, Marie (1599-1672): ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC and the first Mother Superior of the URSULINE Order in Quebec, Canada.
GUYON, Madame [Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Mothe] (1648-1717): ROMAN CATHOLIC PIETIST writer and MYSTIC who was several times falsely imprisoned for HERESY and supposed IMMORALITY. Her works include A Short and Easy Method of Prayer and her Autobiography.