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Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis …
The Theosophical Society started out, it is argued, as a hyper-syncretistic religion,while at the same time promoting anti-syncretismon behalf of other religions.
Particularlyuseful in this concern, anthropologistsRosalind Shaw and Charles Stewart have suggested a demarcation between “syncretism” (as the politics of religious synthesis) and “anti-syncretism” (as attempts to protect religious boundaries).
In Syncretism/Anti-Syncretism: The Politics of Religious Synthesis
What is Catholicism? By that question we do not merely ask what is thatcharacteristic quality which distinguishes Catholicism from other forms ofChristianity; we go deeper than that, and seek to discover what is its governingidea and what are the forces set in motion by this idea. We ask what is thesingle basic thought, what is the essential form that gives life to the greatstructure which we call Catholicism? Regarded from the outside Catholicism hasthe appearance of a confused mass of conflicting forces, of an unnaturalsynthesis, of a mixture of foreign, nay contradictory, elements. And for thatreason there have been those who have called it a complex of opposites. Thereligious historian, Heiler, believes that he can discern as many as sevenessentially different strata in a cross-section of this vast structure. Soenormously rich and manifold and conflicting do the particular elements ofCatholicism seem to the student of comparative religion, that he supposes thathe must at the outset discard the notion of an organic development of aprimitive Christianity which was planted by Christ Himself, and must regardCatholicism as the coalescence of evangelical and non-evangelical elements, ofJewish and heathen and primitive constituents, as a vast syncretism which hassimply taken up into itself all those religious forms in which men have everexpressed their religious striving and hope, and has fused them together into aunity. And so, for the religious historian, Catholicism becomes a microcosm ofthe world of religion.
Shaw (Eds.), Syncretism/Anti-syncretism: The Politics of …
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