Creation of the Sacred Tracks of Biology in Early Religions

ISBN-10: 0674175700

ISBN-13: 9780674175709

Edition: 1996

Authors: Walter Burkert

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A breathtaking journey, as entertaining as it is provocative, Creation of the Sacred brings rich new insight on religious thought past & present & raises questions about the ultimate reasons for, & the ultimate meaning of, human religiousness.
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Book details

List price: $32.50
Copyright year: 1996
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 1/13/1998
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 270
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.25" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.748
Language: English

German-born scholar Walter Burkert currently teaches at the University of Zurich. He is the leading active scholar of the religion of early and classical Greece. Burkert's work proceeds through intense, meticulous historical and philological investigation, seeking to understand Greek religion in and of itself. His studies wed philology and history with methods drawn from anthropology and resemble the work of Jonathan Z. Smith. But, unlike Smith, who seems to rule out diachronic considerations categorically in favor of synchronic taxonomies or analogical comparisons, Burkert remains interested in questions of long-term historical evolution and cross-cultural influence. Burkert gives particular attention to psychological causation and the biological roots of human behavior as revealed by the science of ethology. For example, his study of Greek sacrifice, Homo necans, roots the practice of sacrifice in the biological necessity faced by prehistoric hunting groups that killed to survive. Burkert suggests that this necessary, aggressive behavior gave rise to anxiety, but through the practice of sacrifice the unavoidable aggression, which otherwise threatened to destroy society, was redirected to its promotion instead. In Structure and History Burkert's theoretical concerns are larger, including both myth and ritual. The precise relation between myth and ritual has been a vexing question for scholars of ancient religions; Burkert places them side by side and links them at a structural level. He thinks ritual is older than myth, because it is a form of behavior found even in animals. Nevertheless, ritual and myth share several important features: Both depend upon basic biological or cultural programs of action and detachment from pragmatic reality. Both serve communication. Because myth and ritual are related in this way, it is possible for them to be found together. Burkert's Greek Religion is the current, standard handbook on the religions of ancient Greece. His most recent work has been devoted to examining the influence of the ancient Near East on archaic Greek civilization.

Preface
Culture in a Landscape: Situating Religion
Beyond Culture
Sociobiology?
A Common World: Reduction and Validation
Escape and Offerings
Finger Sacrifice
Biology, Fantasy, and Ritual
Castration and Circumcision
Scapegoats
Life for Life
The Core of a Tale
"Caught up in Tales"
The Propp Sequence: The Quest
From Biological Programs to Semantic Chains
The Shaman's Tale
The Initiation Tale: The Maiden's Tragedy
Hierarchy
The Awareness of Rank
Rituals of Submission
The Strategy of Praise
Two-Tiered Power
The Language of Power: The Envoy
Guilt and Causality
Religious Therapy and the Search for Guilt
Present Sufferings
The Foundation of Cults
The Mediators: Risks and Opportunities
Explanatory Models: Fetters, Wrath, Pollution
The Reciprocity of Giving
Le don in Perspective
Giving in Religion
Genealogy of Morality?
Failing Reciprocity: Religious Criticism
Failing Reciprocity: The Facts of Ritual
Gift and Sacrifice
Aversion and Offerings: From Panic to Stability
The Validation of Signs: A Cosmos of Sense
Accepting Signs: Divination
Decision through Signs: The Ordeal
Creating Signs: Territory and Body
Language Validated: The Oath
Conclusion
Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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