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The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditionsby Karen Armstrong
Synopses & Reviews
From one of the world’s leading writers on religion and the highly acclaimed author of the bestselling A History of God, The Battle for God and The Spiral Staircase, comes a major new work: a chronicle of one of the most important intellectual revolutions in world history and its relevance to our own time.
In one astonishing, short period – the ninth century BCE – the peoples of four distinct regions of the civilized world created the religious and philosophical traditions that have continued to nourish humanity into the present day: Confucianism and Daoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece. Historians call this the Axial Age because of its central importance to humanity’s spiritual development. Now, Karen Armstrong traces the rise and development of this
transformative moment in history, examining the brilliant contributions to these traditions made by such figures as the Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Ezekiel.
Armstrong makes clear that despite some differences of emphasis, there was remarkable consensus among these religions and philosophies: each insisted on the primacy of compassion over hatred and violence. She illuminates what this “family” resemblance reveals about the religious impulse and quest of humankind. And she goes beyond spiritual archaeology, delving into the ways in which these Axial Age beliefs can present an instructive and thought-provoking challenge to the ways we think about and practice religion today.
A revelation of humankind’s early shared imperatives, yearnings and inspired solutions – as salutary as it
Excerpt from The Great Transformation:
In our global world, we can no longer afford a parochial or exclusive vision. We must learn to live and behave as though people in remote parts of the globe were as important as ourselves. The sages of the Axial Age did not create their compassionate ethic in idyllic circumstances. Each tradition developed in societies like our own that were torn apart by violence and warfare as never before; indeed, the first catalyst of religious change was usually a visceral rejection of the aggression that the sages witnessed all around them. . . .
All the great traditions that were created at this time are in agreement about the supreme importance of charity and benevolence, and this tells us something important about our humanity.
From the Hardcover edition.
The critically acclaimed, best-selling author of A History of God examines the origins and history of the religious traditions of the world during the ninth century B.C.E. Axial Age in four distinct regions of the world--Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, monotheism in Israel, and philosophical rationalism in Greece. 100,000 first printing.
From Karen Armstrong, the bestselling author of A History of God and The Spiral Staircase, comes this extraordinary investigation of a critical moment in the evolution ofreligious thought.In the ninth century BCE, events in four regions of the civilized world led to the rise of religious traditions that have endured to the present day--the development of Confucianism and Daoism in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, monotheism in Israel, and philosophical rationalism in Greece. Armstrong, one of our most prominent religious scholars, examines how these traditions began in response to the violence oftheir time. Studying figures as diverse as the Buddha and Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah, Armstrong reveals how these still enduring philosophies can help address our contemporaryproblems.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous books on religious affairs. Her work has been translated into 40 languages and she is the author of 3 television documentaries. Since September 11, 2001, she has been a frequent contributor to conferences, panels, newspapers, periodicals, and other media on both sides of the Atlantic on the subject of Islam. She lives in London.
Table of Contents
List of Maps and Plans
1. THE AXIAL PEOPLES (c. 1600 to 900 bce)
2. RITUAL (c. 900 to 800 bce)
3. KENOSIS (c. 800 to 700 bce)
4. KNOWLEDGE (c. 700 to 600 bce)
5. SUFFERING (c. 600 to 530 bce)
6. EMPATHY (c. 530 to 450 bce)
7. CONCERN FOR EVERYBODY (c. 450 to 398 bce)
8. ALL IS ONE (c. 400 to 300 bce)
9. EMPIRE (c. 300 to 220 bce)
10. THE WAY FORWARD
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History and Social Science » World History » Ancient History