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And the laws of motion that govern the universe begin to look like chains, by which we too are bound. In response to this, we might join in the chorus of debunking, hunting out the meanings and values that have been woven into the fabric of our world and pulling the threads away. Or we can make our own attempt at re-enchantment , perhaps entering into alliances with other religious believers and, in any case, trying to knit up the unravelled fabric by means of the many arts that humans have discovered—poetry, drama, storytelling, law, and myth.

One of the purposes of a liberal education, as I understand it, is to help us in this task: to provide the concepts, stories, and analogies that will enable us once again to see the face of the world with clarity, no longer clouded over with skepticism but addressing us, person to person, I to thou. All my work as philosopher, writer, and educator has been devoted to that task, and in The Soul of the World , I argue that the task is a generalization of our day-to-day duty to see each other as subjects of dialogue rather than as objects of use.

Concealed within that duty is the precious sense of the human person as a participant in sacred moments, sacred relations, and sacred ways of being. That intuition of the sacred is given to all of us in the practice of personal relations, and even if we do not succeed in translating it into a firm religious faith, it constantly reminds us that, in our deepest feelings, we are not fully at home among ordinary physical transactions.

We are exiles in this world, and all art, all nobility and heroism, all beauty and sacrifice are attempts to regain the place where we belong. That, to my mind, is why a liberal education is so important: it is an education in ideals, teaching us to love humanity for that which transcends mere humanity so as to situate our being in a world of sacred things.

In exploring beauty in art, music, and poetry, we are also acquainting ourselves with the sacred and arming ourselves against the culture of desecration that is swirling all around. Such, in my view, is the way of re-enchantment. In all our responses to each other, whether love or hate, affection or disaffection, approval or disapproval, anger or desire, we look into the other in search of that unreachable horizon from which he or she addresses us. This is why our interpersonal responses develop in a certain way: we see each other as wrapped within those responses, so to speak, and we hold each other to account for them as though they originated ex nihilo from the unified center of the self.

The indispensable presence in our lives of this reaching towards the other is at the root of philosophy and is the real reason that people find evolutionary and reductionist perspectives on the human condition so hard to accept.

It also explains the oft-heard complaint that while our secular societies make room for morality, for knowledge, and for the life of the mind, they suffer from a spiritual deficit. The reason, I believe, is this: the reaching out to the other is not an unalterable given; it can be educated, turned in new directions, disciplined through virtues, and corrupted through vice. In some cases of extreme autism, it may even be lacking, as it is lacking in animals. Moral education involves the maintenance of this state of mind, so as to make it possible, in the hardest circumstances, to look the other person in the I, so to speak.

However, that kind of education is in retreat before the dominant way of disenchantment, and this is something that we should try to understand. Whether we are religious or whether we are the kind of fellow-traveller of the religious worldview that I have been assuming so far, it is plain to see that the things that are most precious to us are not only being ostracized from the secular culture but also denigrated by our intellectual elites. We live under a secular rule of law that guarantees freedom of religion and tries to define the rights and duties of the citizen without assuming the tenets of any particular faith.

This must surely be a precious asset to members of a religious minority who also seek to live with their neighbors as responsible citizens. However, this very same secular rule of law has, until recently, exercised a kind of guardianship over the spiritual life of the nation—not insisting on membership in any faith but acknowledging nevertheless the areas in which our sense of the sacred takes root. Such things are dismissed as forms of oppression. Learning to deal with this culture of repudiation is one of the great challenges faced by religious people in the West today and also by those to whom I referred earlier, who have retained the concepts through which religion enables us to make sense of our experience—concepts of the sacred, the consecrated, and the sacrificial—even though they might have lost the firm foundation in faith that anchors those concepts.

One after another, the sacred spaces that our customs have protected are invaded and spoiled. That which has been assumed to be unquestionable, indeed protected from the questions that might profane it, is for that very reason subjected to question. The liberal mentality, encountering certainties that seem to place obstacles in the pursuit of desire, is irresistibly tempted to undermine them.

If people are certain that marriage, for example, is a relation between man and woman, the liberal instinct is to see this as a constraint on homosexuals. The response is therefore to propose marriage between people of the same sex, which is offered as an entirely innocent reform, a mere expansion of our freedoms.


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If all social life is founded in human choice, and no institution derives its validity from any other source, then there are no certainties and no institutions that encapsulate sacred ties. Some trace this outlook back to the Enlightenment and to the idea of a social contract based in pure rational choice. And there is truth in that: the social contract was a way of excluding God from the equation so as to root legitimacy not in divine command but in the free choice of human beings. However, we should not ignore the fact that an idea of natural order, in which shared spiritual values governed the customs of family life and the relation of human beings to neighbors, to neighborhood, and to country, was part of the European legacy, shared by the people who came to establish themselves in America and assumed by the American founders.

Until very recently, the Enlightenment has been treated as a liberation from superstition but not as an attack on the core decencies of Christian civilization or a repudiation of our moral, legal, and cultural inheritance. On the contrary: thanks to the Enlightenment, writers and artists began to explore the past of our civilization and to discover a vision that they could affirm as their own. There was also, at the time, a growing interest in Islam, even conversions to Islam among those who believed that its Unitarian concept of the divinity is uniquely compatible with rational theology.

In every case, people were seeking an enduring revelation that would give the true meaning of the temporary doctrine in which it was encased. When the liberal arts colleges arose in this country during the course of the nineteenth century, it was with the intention of perpetuating that revelation.

Spirituality at the Movies

The idea was to teach young people to appreciate the art, literature, and music of their civilization and, by that means, to reaffirm their membership of it. Some religions have religious texts which they view as divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired. Muslims believe the Quran was revealed by God to Muhammad word by word through the angel Gabriel Jibril.

The 15, handwritten pages produced by the mystic Maria Valtorta were represented as direct dictations from Jesus , while she attributed The Book of Azariah to her guardian angel. A revelation communicated by a supernatural entity reported as being present during the event is called a vision. Direct conversations between the recipient and the supernatural entity, [55] or physical marks such as stigmata , have been reported. In rare cases, such as that of Saint Juan Diego , physical artifacts accompany the revelation.

In the Abrahamic religions , the term is used to refer to the process by which God reveals knowledge of himself, his will , and his divine providence to the world of human beings. Revelation from a supernatural source plays a less important role in some other religious traditions such as Buddhism , Confucianism and Taoism. Reincarnation is the philosophical or religious concept that an aspect of a living being starts a new life in a different physical body or form after each biological death.

It is found as well in many tribal societies around the world, in places such as Australia , East Asia , Siberia , and South America. Although the majority of denominations within Christianity and Islam do not believe that individuals reincarnate, particular groups within these religions do refer to reincarnation; these groups include the mainstream historical and contemporary followers of Cathars , Alawites , the Druze , [65] and the Rosicrucians.

In recent decades, many Europeans and North Americans have developed an interest in reincarnation, [68] and many contemporary works mention it. With origins in ancient India 's Vedic civilization , the philosophy of karma is closely associated with the idea of rebirth in many schools of Indian religions particularly Hinduism , Buddhism , Jainism and Sikhism [73] as well as Taoism. In Catholic theology , the supernatural order is, according to New Advent , defined as "the ensemble of effects exceeding the powers of the created universe and gratuitously produced by God for the purpose of raising the rational creature above its native sphere to a God-like life and destiny.

#139 — Sacred & Profane

Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead — and further developed by Charles Hartshorne — It is not possible, in process metaphysics, to conceive divine activity as a "supernatural" intervention into the "natural" order of events.

Process theists usually regard the distinction between the supernatural and the natural as a by-product of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. In process thought, there is no such thing as a realm of the natural in contrast to that which is supernatural. On the other hand, if "the natural" is defined more neutrally as "what is in the nature of things," then process metaphysics characterizes the natural as the creative activity of actual entities.

In Whitehead's words, "It lies in the nature of things that the many enter into complex unity" Whitehead , It is tempting to emphasize process theism's denial of the supernatural and thereby highlight that the processed God cannot do in comparison what the traditional God could do that is, to bring something from nothing. In fairness, however, equal stress should be placed on process theism's denial of the natural as traditionally conceived so that one may highlight what the creatures cannot do, in traditional theism, in comparison to what they can do in process metaphysics that is, to be part creators of the world with God.

A spirit is a supernatural being, often but not exclusively a non-physical entity ; such as a ghost , fairy , or angel. Spirit is often used metaphysically to refer to the consciousness or personality. Historically, it was also used to refer to a "subtle" as opposed to "gross" material substance, as in the famous last paragraph of Sir Isaac Newton 's Principia Mathematica.

In Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions , including ancient and medieval Christian demonology , a demon is considered a harmful spiritual entity, below the heavenly planes [84] which may cause demonic possession , calling for an exorcism. In Western occultism and Renaissance magic , which grew out of an amalgamation of Greco-Roman magic , Jewish Aggadah and Christian demonology , [85] a demon is believed to be a spiritual entity that may be conjured and controlled.

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Magic or sorcery is the use of rituals , symbols , actions, gestures , or language with the aim of utilizing supernatural forces. The term magic has a variety of meanings, and there is no widely agreed upon definition of what it is. Scholars of religion have defined magic in different ways. One approach, associated with the anthropologists Edward Tylor and James G. Frazer , suggests that magic and science are opposites. An alternative approach, associated with the sociologists Marcel Mauss and Emile Durkheim , argues that magic takes place in private, while religion is a communal and organised activity.

Many scholars of religion have rejected the utility of the term magic and it has become increasingly unpopular within scholarship since the s. The term magic comes from the Old Persian magu , a word that applied to a form of religious functionary about which little is known. During the late sixth and early fifth centuries BCE, this term was adopted into Ancient Greek , where it was used with negative connotations, to apply to religious rites that were regarded as fraudulent, unconventional, and dangerous.

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This meaning of the term was then adopted by Latin in the first century BCE. The concept was then incorporated into Christian theology during the first century CE, where magic was associated with demons and thus defined against religion. This concept was pervasive throughout the Middle Ages, although in the early modern period Italian humanists reinterpreted the term in a positive sense to establish the idea of natural magic.

Both negative and positive understandings of the term were retained in Western culture over the following centuries, with the former largely influencing early academic usages of the word.


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  8. Throughout history, there have been examples of individuals who practiced magic and referred to themselves as magicians. This trend has proliferated in the modern period, with a growing number of magicians appearing within the esoteric milieu. Divination from Latin divinare "to foresee, to be inspired by a god", [90] related to divinus , divine is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic , standardized process or ritual. Divination can be seen as a systematic method with which to organize what appear to be disjointed, random facets of existence such that they provide insight into a problem at hand.

    If a distinction is to be made between divination and fortune-telling , divination has a more formal or ritualistic element and often contains a more social character, usually in a religious context, as seen in traditional African medicine. Fortune-telling, on the other hand, is a more everyday practice for personal purposes. Particular divination methods vary by culture and religion. Divination is dismissed by the scientific community and skeptics as being superstition. Witchcraft or witchery broadly means the practice of and belief in magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups.

    Witchcraft is a broad term that varies culturally and societally, and thus can be difficult to define with precision, [96] and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution. Witchcraft often occupies a religious divinatory or medicinal role, [97] and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view.

    A miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Informally, the word "miracle" is often used to characterise any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a "wonderful" occurrence, regardless of likelihood, such as a birth.