The Brill Dictionary of Religion

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Edited by: Kocku von Stuckrad

The impressively comprehensive Brill Dictionary of Religion (BDR) Online addresses religion as an element of daily life and public discourse, is richly illustrated and with more than 500 entries, the Brill Dictionary of Religion Online is a multi-media reference source on the many and various forms of religious commitment. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online addresses the different theologies and doctrinal declarations of the official institutionalized religions and gives equal weight and consideration to a multiplicity of other religious phenomena. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online helps map out and define the networks and connections created by various religions in contemporary societies, and provides models for understanding these complex phenomena.

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(1,659 words)

Author(s): Hack, Achim
The word ‘epiphany,’ closely related to ‘advent,’ is used to designate the strange and unusual (if at times regular) ‘appearance’ (in Gk., epipháneia) or ‘advent’ (in Lat., adventum, ‘arrival’) of a human or divine person who has been (thought to be previously) absent. It is followed by a temporally limited ‘presence’ (Gk., parousía, Lat., praesentia), which ends with the departure (in Lat., profectio, ‘setting forth’) or disappearance (in Gk., aphanismós) of the person in question. Both ‘epiphany’ and ‘advent’ can be used to describe topical conceptualizations a…


(1,605 words)

Author(s): Walther, Wiebke
Origins of the Concept 1. ‘Erotic’ is derived from the Greek Eros, the god of heterosexual love, homosexual persons, and pedophiles, as also of the longing of love, and is frequently applied as a concept fluctuating between ‘Platonic’ → love and → sexuality. Plato's Symposium during a merry ‘drinking bout’ among men, presents, in seven ‘poetic philosophical‘ discourses, and in rich facets, the image of eroticism as a motor of life. It includes the physical desire of the senses, and even the witty-and-ugly—here, that of Socrates—just as mu…

Esalen Institute

(668 words)

Author(s): Kripal, Jeffrey J.
The Place The Esalen Institute is located in Big Sur, California. Geographically speaking, it is an ocean cliff adorned with a lodge and meeting rooms, gardens, an assorted collection of dwellings, a swimming pool and a bath house, the latter built around the land's hot sulfur springs. Amerindians, including the Esselen (after which the Institute was eventually named), lived along this mountain coast for thousands of years before the Spanish colonists and settlers arrived in significant numbers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Tho…


(2,987 words)

Author(s): von Stuckrad, Kocku
The Concept ‘Western Esotericism’ 1. a) ‘Esotericism’ has become a highly popular term during the last three decades. Like → ‘New Age,’ it is a catchword for a lot of quite disparate religious or cultural phenomena, and its usage in a wider public differs considerably from that in academic contexts. Since its first appearance in the nineteenth century, a definition of ‘esotericism’ often refers to the meaning of the Greek esôteros (‘inwardly,’ ‘secretly,’ ‘restricted to an inner circle’) and lays the main emphasis on → secrecy and concealment of religious, spiritu…

Esotericism, Astrology, Gnosticism, Hermeticism: Time Chart

(1,588 words)

Author(s): von Stuckrad, Kocku
Era 1: Early Premises of Ancient Esotericism (c. 2500–300 BCE) from c. 2500 BCE First astronomical systematizations in Mesopotamia Under Hammurabi of Babylon (1728–1689 BCE), a calendar reform occasions the collection of astronomical knowledge. c. 1500–300 Astrological compendia in Mesopotamia; astronomical diaries; development of Zodiacal schemata; first horoscopes Calendrical and astronomical tables are further developed, and the competency of calculation is improved. From c. 1350, the first astrolabe is on the scene. Important compendia, then, are Enuma Anu Enlil (omen…


(303 words)

Author(s): Hartmann, Stefan
As a concept of the contemporary field of signification, eternity can be conceptually apprehended through various definitions: (a) infinity from a temporal/chronological viewpoint; infinitely long duration of time; without beginning and end in time; (b) time as a whole, the sum of all time; (c) condition beyond the category of time; (d) non-fleeting, non-transitory; (e) the very long, but not infinite, period of time of a world age (Gk., aion). From a philosophical standpoint, the question of eternity is systematically dependent on the underlying conception of ti…


(3,393 words)

Author(s): Antes, Peter
1. Ethics and moral philosophy are frequently employed as synonyms, to denote, systematically, the rules of ideal human behavior. Where the two terms are differentiated, the concept of ethics, derived from the Greek éthos (‘habit,’ ‘custom’), denotes the systematic discussion and isolation of the good or commanded, in opposition to the evil or forbidden and reprehensible; while the concept moral, derived from the Latin mores (‘customs’), denotes the ideal type of ways of behavior—the right ‘doing’ in concrete situations. Each area can be closely connected wi…


(1,287 words)

Author(s): Gronover, Annemarie
Ethnicity as a Pattern of Explanation 1. a) Since the 1970s, ‘ethnicity,’ with all of the catchwords it comports—awareness, group, conflict, cleansing, religion—has served as an explanatory variable for descriptions of relations between groups in multi-ethnic national states. It also functions in the attempt to meet the set of problems attaching to the formation of a state and/or nation, or to processes of globalization. In these cases, ethnicity offers a theory that seeks to explain the conditions an…


(1,456 words)

Author(s): Engels, Eve-Marie
The Concept 1. The concept ‘eugenics’ was introduced in 1883 by F. Galton, who borrowed it from the Greek eugenes to designate the science of “all influences that tend in however remote a degree to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had.”1 Galton had developed his fundamental ideas on this notion as early as 1865 in reference to the theory formulated by his cousin Charles Darwin, according to which the evolution of all features of animals and hum…

European History of Religion

(3,506 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
The Project 1. a) The project of a European history of religion is new. It is to be distinguished from two other perspectives on the same object. On the one hand, there is church history that finds religion, by definition, in the Church, with extra-ecclesial religion taken for heresy, paganism, and secularization. In such a view, any ‘religion’ is an illegitimacy. The counter-thesis presents Christianity as a late and foreign, Eastern, religion, which has suppressed “Europe's own religion” (Sigrid…

European History of Religion: Time Chart

(2,453 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
In terms of the indication of the entry above, European history of religion is bound up with an urban public character. Its orientation is to ancient discussions and methodical approaches of the logic of a quasi-Aristotelian method of ‘theo-logy,’ and the logic of the majority of religions. This situation was reached with the twelfth-century ‘Renaissance.’ In contrast, the antiquity of the Eastern Mediterranean extends to the demise of urban culture with the capture of Constantinople (‘Byzantium’) in 1453 (→ “Antiquity,” Time Chart). Era 1: Europe appropriates the culture of …

Europe II: Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Balkans

(3,335 words)

Author(s): Schnider, Franz
1. With Greece as an exception, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans comprise the countries under Communist rule until 1989–1991. The ‘category’ indicates not only their geographical situation, but also and especially their common post-Communist quality, one not attaching to the countries of Western Europe. Since 1989–1991, after decades of Communist oppression, the three great religions of these countries' history—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—are experiencing a process of transformation, in an era of freedom, democracy, and unrestricted capitalism. 2. In t…

Europe I: Western and Northern Europe

(2,990 words)

Author(s): Höllinger, Franz
1. For the vast majority of persons in Europe, religion scarcely plays an important role in everyday life any longer. In many places, thin little bands of mostly older people show up on Sundays in greatly oversized old churches. → Christmas and Easter are still the most important feast days of the year, but at the focus of these festivals stand the obligatory exchange of gifts and the sumptuous meal in the family circle, no longer the religious celebration of a community. Scholarship usually exp…

Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide

(1,598 words)

Author(s): Gest-Gronover, Werner | Gronover, Annemarie
Social Context 1. Concrete, conscious dealing with dying raises social, ethical, and political questions. Institutions like clinics, nursing homes, or special establishments for dying (such as hospices) are interpreted in the public debate over assisted dying/euthanasia as proof of a social ousting, as well as a tabooing of death (→ Death and Dying). The marginalization of the aged and infirm here includes social death. The key question where the individual is concerned is whether she or he has a …