Transcript of "Rel 207 sacred power in religious studies"
Ritual Symbol MythUnit 2 – Sacred Power
Ultimate RealityTruth Language of Philosophy Elite Textual Thinking not feeling How do we know that whatwe know is true? Humans can reason andtherefore knowPower Language of Religion Popular Experiential Feeling not thinking How do we know that whatwe feel is real? Sacred power reveals itselfto humans so they canknow
The Dao The Nameless Beyond human reason Infinite and boundless “The Way” of Nature Yin and Yang Potentiality without Being Humans should live inharmony with the Dao. Apath of no-action
GOD “God” is a Being thanwhich nothing greater canbe conceived. Reason alone proves thatGOD exists GOD is the Ultimate Reality One need not experiencethis GOD to prove GODexists. Revelation and Reasonlead to the sameconclusion
Important theisms Monotheism: belief that only one god exists Polytheism: belief that multiple gods exist Pantheism: belief that everything is god Panentheism: belief that everything exists IN god. Monism: Belief that everything emanates from theOne god. Henotheism: belief that multiple gods exist but onlyone (at a time) is worshiped Atheism: belief that no god exists
Beliefs about god/s Theism means “belief in the existence of god/s”. Inantiquity, the Greek word “theoi” referred to thepanoply of Greek gods/goddesses. The singular formtheos is the same word that Greek scriptures use torefer to the God of the Christian Bible. When scholarsbegan to study religion “scientifically” in the 19thcentury, religion was pretty much another word forthe Christian belief in God. Not all ideas of sacredpower should be equated with a belief in god/s. When scholars began to study other religions withdifferent conceptions of sacred beings and power,new words were created to describe these ideas:Polytheism, henotheism, pantheism, atheism, etc.Christians referred to their belief in one God as“monotheism”. Judaism and Islam were alsocategorized as monotheistic religions.
Manifestations ofsacred powerIf the ultimate reality of mostreligious philosophiestranscends the physicalworld, or is beyond humanreason or reach, who arethese gods, goddesses, kami,ancestral spirits, totems, etc.that people worship, pray to,placate, love and fear?
E B Tylor,Anthropologist(1832-1917)Tylor defined religion as “thebelief in spirits” or ANIMISM. Hewas a rationalist who believedthat human beings came upwith the idea of spirits toexplain why dead people stillappeared to them in dreams.An evolutionist, he argued that“primitive” thinking wouldeventually give way to scienceand religion would disappear.
Emile Durkheim,Sociologist (1857-1917)Durkheim studied aborignalsocieties in a quest to discover theorigin of religious beliefs. TOTEMISMwas the term he used to describethe way people divided reality intotwo categories: the accessible andordinary (profane) and the specialand taboo (sacred). Durkheimargued that the special powerpeople attributed to the sacredwas another way of describing theforce that held their societytogether It was a power humanbeings generated, not somethingsuperhuman.
Sacred Power A basic religious category or characteristic By comparison ordinary power is “profane” Sacred power is ambivalent and unpredictable The human encounter with sacred power is thebasic building block for most religion(s). Religious people claim to experience this powerin an endless array of forms Early scientists tried to explain human belief insupernatural beings or sacred power.
Manifestations ofthe Sacred Almost anything can be a symbol ormanifestation of Sacred Power. Ancestral spirits testify to the limitations ofphysical death in many religious cultures Gods can be part of nature or they candemonstrate power over nature. Gods can incarnate (become human), orappear in the material world as avatars,monstrous beings, angels, unusual objects, oranimals, or their power can become visible andactive even as they remain invisible.
Daoism and ChristianityThree purities ofDaoismThree persons of theChristian Godhead
Similar but DifferentThe Three Purities The Dao produced “One” “One” produced “Two” “Two” produced “Three” “Three produced All things Each of the puritiesrepresents a god or “deity”and a heavenly location. Each deity is a form of “chi”or the ubiquitous energy ofcreation and of createdthings.The Catholic Trinity The Father generates The Son is begotten The Spirit proceeds The Father, the Son and theHoly Spirit are uncreated andindivisible. They share onedivine essence. All things were created bythe Father, through the Sonby the Power of the HolySpirit.
Hindu Trimurti The Hindu Trimurti comprisesthe three main forms ormanifestations of Brahman,the Ultimate Sacred Power inthe Hindu universe: Brahma,Vishnu, and Shiva Brahma creates Vishnu sustains and Shiva destroys. Although Brahma is thecreator, his role is lesssignificant than Vishnu (andhis 10 avatars) and Shiva.
ImmortalsThe flow of sacred powerbetween the created anduncreated realms is a two-wayaffair. In Daoism, humanbeings who have mastered themysterious ways of the Daomay ascend to immortality, likeMarshal Wen whose selfless actof heroism saved a town fromdeath by poisoned water. He isworshiped as one of manygods in the Daoist pantheon.
IncarnationIn the idea of incarnation,deity takes on human flesh,descending from theuncreated realm to thecreated realm for the sake ofhumanity. The Christian Jesus,a divine-human being, is theparadigmatic example ofincarnation.
AvatarsAvatars are also incarnations ofsacred power. The term is mostoften used when referring to theten animal or human forms that theHindu deity, Vishnu, has takenwhen it has been necessary tointervene for the good of dharmaon earth: the fish, the tortoise, theboar, the human-lion, the dwarf,the angry man, Lord Rama, LordKrishna, Balarama (Buddha), Kalki.A final Avatar is yet to appear.
Shiva Shiva is one of the threeforms of Brahman, Hindus’Ultimate Reality or SacredPower. Here Shiva is depictedwreathed with snakes, whichmay “represent theevolutionary power within thehuman body, the spiritualpower which may bedeveloped through yoga,and also Shiva’s power todeal with death”(http://www.strath.ac.uk/redb/notes/hinduism/shiva/) Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of Hindumythology, is one of Shiva’ssons.
Humans and Sacred Power Avatars, Incarnations, gods and goddesses,ancestral spirits, totems, angles, demons andghosts … all make the Ultimate Reality of thereligious universe present in some way in themundane, profane world of the ordinary humanbeing. Sacred power is heady stuff, whether marked offby taboos or experienced through trance statesand spirit possession. Theological truths may nurture the religiousthinker but sacred power is the experience of alifetime for the religious believer.
“You can have as much ofGod as you want.”Them seminary preachers don’t understand that. They don’t understand the spirit of the Lord. They’retaught by man. The know the forms of godliness, but they deny the power” (Covington, Salvation onSand Mountain, p. 64).