Study Guide: Questions for Kripal's Comparing Religions.

Try to answer each of these questions and complete each of these tasks as you read the textbook. Some answers, drawn from the textbook alone, will be rather simplistic. They can, and should, be elaborated upon as your knowledge of the subject grows. Remember that it is part of your assignment to ASK as well as answer questions and certainly not simply to believe everything that you read.

Pages 1 - 7:

  1. What are said to be “the perennial questions” of the professional study of religions? Do you agree?
  2.  

  3. How does the study of religion relate to particular religions and absolute truth claims?
  4.  

  5. How can Kripal claim that the critical study of religion is "harder" than science?
  6.  

  7. How is comparison defined in this context?
  8.  

  9. What is sameness, sometimes?
  10.  

  11. How does the author describe religions? Do you agree?
  12.  

  13. What is Comparing Religions about, “specifically”?

 

Pages 9 - 27:

  1. How can ancient cultures be said to practice comparative religions?
  2.  

  3. What do “some of the most radical forms of mystical thought” deny?
  4.  

  5. What is an underlying assumption of polytheism?
  6.  

  7. What is “the nonlocal self”?
  8.  

  9. Explain pantheism, panentheism, cosmotheism, and the claim that "sometimes polytheism is monotheism" (15).
  10.  

  11. What does Kripal mean by his advice that we should "leave home" (16)?
  12.  

  13. What is "monotheism"? When did it originate? When was it named? How did it change the religious scene?
  14.  

  15. What qualifications Does Kripal make concerning our study of early Judaism?
  16.  

  17. What is a canon?
  18.  

  19. What does Kripal mean by “same move, different religion” in this context?
  20.  

  21. What did Christianity do that Judaism never could?
  22.  

  23. What were “heretics”?
  24.  

  25. What was the first or original Christianity?
  26.  

  27. What were “gnostics”?
  28.  

  29. Summarize the main points of Comparing Religions 9 - 27.

 

Pages 27 - 39:

  1. To what does the Arabic term "den/din" refer?
  2.  

  3. What are Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism?
  4.  

  5. Who were the "people of the book"?
  6.  

  7. What is the "mystical element of Islam"?
  8.  

  9. What is the difference between "din" and "madhhab"?
  10.  

  11. What has been a constant theme of Indian foundational texts?
  12.  

  13. Who are the Dalits? What does the word mean to the people themselves?
  14.  

  15. What, according to Kripal, was Guru Nanak's declaration that "there is neither Hindu nor Muslim"?
  16.  

  17. What is the "Sanjiao"?
  18.  

  19. Answer the "tough questions" on page 39.

 

Pages 43 - 58:

  1. What does the phrase "as above, so below" mean?
  2.  

  3. What is the meaning of the long quotation from Pico della Mirandola on p. 46?
  4.  

  5. Who was Giordano Bruno?
  6.  

  7. What are the two sources of religious truth discussed?
  8.  

  9. Who was William Tyndale and what happened to him?
  10.  

  11. Why were Martin Luther and John Calvin not put to death?
  12.  

  13. About what is it suggested that the Roman Catholic Church might have been right here?
  14.  

  15. What is fundamentalism?
  16.  

  17. What did the Enlightenment follow?
  18.  

  19. What is Deism?
  20.  

  21. What did the Romantic thinkers want? What did they not want?
  22.  

  23. What is projection theory?
  24.  

  25. Who was the most influential of the German idealists?
  26.  

  27. What is the significance of the Biblical phrase "to this day"?
  28.  

  29. What did David Friedrich Strauss demonstrate?
  30.  

  31. With what did the study of religion begin in earnest?
  32.  

  33. What is said to be the "golden rule" of the comparative study of religion?
  34.  

  35. Who was Abu Zayd and what happened to him?

 

Pages 58-73:

  1. How does Kripal describe the birth of the modern comparative study of religion?
  2.  

  3. What must one do if one really wants to understand how religion works?
  4.  

  5. What were the three responses to Darwin's vision of evolution?
  6.  

  7. Why might our current era be best described as "postcolonial"?
  8.  

  9. What was the positive side of colonialism?
  10.  

  11. How can modernity be describes as "monotheism in a secular key"?
  12.  

  13. What is the relationship of American Transcendentalism and romanticism?
  14.  

  15. What did Emerson find "particularly odious"?
  16.  

  17. What is "spiritualism"?
  18.  

  19. What is spirituality"?
  20.  

  21. Of what are both the spiritual and the secular critical?
  22.  

  23. Why is Marxism called "dialectical materialism"?
  24.  

  25. How was fundamentalism born?
  26.  

  27. How is "race" described?
  28.  

  29. To what did the three categories of race, gender, and class add up?
  30.  

  31. What did Charles Tart point out about other societies?
  32.  

  33. What happened in the "counterculture" to doctrines that were once secret teachings?
  34.  

  35. Who was Swami Vivekananda?
  36.  

  37. Why was Buddhism more palatable to European and American youth than Hinduism?
  38.  

  39. What did the counterculture do even more than colonialism?
  40.  

  41. What did fundamentalist movements reject about all religions?
  42.  

  43. Does Kripal claim that all religions are really saying the same thing?
  44.  

  45. Try to answer the "tough questions."

 

Pages 76-88:

  1. What do we all take for granted when reading history?
  2.  

  3. What does Kripal mean by "world(s) of meaning"? What do you understand by this expression?
  4.  

  5. What two things does "history of religions" mean?
  6.  

  7. What are the four basic stages of the comparative method?
  8.  

  9. What does Kripal mean by the claim that "the theory ... produces the data"?
  10.  

  11. What can be seen once local healings and sacred spaces are collected, classified, and recontextualized?
  12.  

  13. In what strange position might the comparativist be left?
  14.  

  15. What does every perspective do?
  16.  

  17. What might a focus on the extraordinary and the extreme accomplish?
  18.  

  19. What do the three stories on pages 82-84 have in common?
  20.  

  21. What is the most basic and most important skill needed to compare religions well? How is it described?
  22.  

  23. You should all have read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's article, "The Veils of Maya" in the Westminster Inquiry Reader. Can you connect it to Kripal's final point in his section on "reflexivity"?
  24.  

  25. What was the "Golden Rule" of comparing religions?
  26.  

  27. Should one feel "that sexist, racist, ethnocentric, and religious chauvinisms ... are being threatened by the academic study of religion"? Why? How do you feel about that?
  28.  

  29. What has happened to robust comparative practices applied to religion in many parts of the world?
  30.  

  31. What does the text offer as "the most technical definition" of the humanities? What do you understand by this?
  32.  

  33. What do the humanities as a whole assume?
  34.  

  35. What profound truth is hidden by religious claims that one cannot be "saved," or "chosen," etc. if one is not part of a particular community?
  36.  

  37. What comes to the fore in the fair comparison of miracles?
  38.  

  39. George Santayana supposedly said, "Any attempt to speak without speaking any particular language is not more hopeless than the attempt to have a religion that shall be no religion in particular." Do you agree or disagree? What is the connection here?
  40.  

  41. How is the "liminal stage" of initiation described? What is its relevance here?

 

Pages 89-102:

  1. What is it important to note about the vast amount of religious activity?
  2.  

  3. What can one count among the effects of the Protestant Reformation? Of what might this be reminiscent?
  4.  

  5. What two major political transformations had to take shape before the category "religion" could come into common use?
  6.  

  7. What does the expression "to have a religion" imply?
  8.  

  9. Through the development of what was modernity instituted?
  10.  

  11. How does modernity differ from most religious ways of thinking?
  12.  

  13. What becomes a real possibility whenever religion aligns itself with the state?
  14.  

  15. What does the logic of "freedom of religion" affirm?
  16.  

  17. Of what are the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the JDP in Turkey examples?
  18.  

  19. What does using a category like "Hinduism" imply?
  20.  

  21. What is the case if religious identities like "Christian" or "Muslim" are constituted as secondary features of a shared humanity?
  22.  

  23. What two things does the category "religion" assume?
  24.  

  25. What do all religious practices have in common according to Martin Riesebrodt?
  26.  

  27. What do you think of Kripal's definition of religion? What sort of definition is it? What does it do?
  28.  

  29. What is said to be a very serious mistake?
  30.  

  31. What is the sacred finally about? Can you define the sacred?
  32.  

  33. To what does the concept of experience generally refer?
  34.  

  35. Why was the "move to experience" especially potent?
  36.  

  37. Can experience so defined be separated from public institution, tradition, and culture?
  38.  

  39. What did Steven Katz and his co-writers argue about mystical experience?
  40.  

  41. How is the institutionalization of Sufism described?
  42.  

  43. What two other modern categories were born alongside the category of religion?
  44.  

  45. What are siddhis?
  46.  

  47. How did early Christian writers use the category of "magic"?
  48.  

  49. How does Kripal define magic?
  50.  

  51. With what did the principles of science resonate deeply?
  52.  

  53. What did Sir Isaac Newton do apart from giving us the groundwork of a model of gravity and the foundations of calculus?
  54.  

  55. What did T. H. Huxley mean to signal with his use of the term agnosticism?

 

Pages 103-125:

  1. What does Kripal mean by his analogy between the professional study of religion and quantum physics? Do you agree?
  2.  

  3. What does he mean by an "insider" and an "outsider" in this context?
  4.  

  5. Is an idea that is accepted by almost everyone in a community necessarily right?
  6.  

  7. Upon which perspective must we rely heavily, and which must we privilege?
  8.  

  9. What does Kripal take to be the key to the professional study of religion?
  10.  

  11. Which perspective must we finally privilege if we claim to study religion as opposed to professing it or practicing it?
  12.  

  13. What does Kripal mean by "religious questions"?
  14.  

  15. Who was Tertullian and whom did he oppose?
  16.  

  17. Try to answer the "Tough Questions" to the best of your own ability. You will never be forced in this class to reveal you answers, but you absolutely must be aware of them.
  18. Chapter 4

  19. Does the quotation from Iris Murdoch on page 111 remind you of any of our other class readings?
  20.  

  21. What does Kripal mean by questioning the existence of "Wednesday" etc.?
  22.  

  23. Contrasting Chaos and Cosmos, Kripal calls the structured cosmos a "world." Does this help answer the question previously asked about page 79?
  24.  

  25. How does Kripal describe "a social self"? How does this connect with page 34 earlier?
  26.  

  27. What did Plato think of his own use of myth?
  28.  

  29. How has the word "myth" come down to us?
  30.  

  31. What does the modern comparative category of myth suggest?
  32.  

  33. Kripal describes myth as "a sacred story that founds and grounds a particular world" (114). So, is it then "a made-up falsehood" or "a symbolic expression of the profoundest of truths"?
  34.  

  35. What does he mean by the questions, "do you have a culture? Or does the culture have you? Do you have a religion? Or does the religion have you?" (114).
  36.  

  37. Do you think that you understand the claim that "magical practices can be seen as rather obvious and acute forms of ritual and myths in action. ... both myth and ritual are crucial ways of 'programming' a people into a particular religious world" (116). Do you think that you are ready to understand this?
  38.  

  39. What three-word definition of ritual is given?
  40.  

  41. How does he primarily employ the word ritual?
  42.  

  43. What is "Hadith"?
  44.  

  45. What three types of myth does he analyze?
  46.  

  47. What does he mean when he says that "creation myths are not just descriptive; they are prescriptive"?
  48.  

  49. See here for an excerpt from the Epic of Gilgamesh.
  50.  

  51. What is "the classic plotline" of hero or quest myths?
  52.  

  53. Who was Utnapishtim?
  54.  

  55. What sort of stories do many mythical systems feature, and what do these do?
  56.  

  57. Put simply, of what is the trickster figure an embodiment?
  58.  

  59. What are both trickster myths and hero myths about?
  60.  

  61. What does Kripal suggest professional comedians and political cartoonists might be?
  62.  

 

Pages 125-141:

  1. How many sorts of ritual does Kripal list? How many does he treat?
  2.  

  3. Why, in your opinion, do funeral rituals have to be "carefully controlled and scripted"?
  4.  

  5. What do rituals construct and restore?
  6.  

  7. What are civil religion rituals?
  8.  

  9. When did the phrase "under God" appear in the American Pledge of Allegiance?
  10.  

  11. Why do Muslim Shiites oppose the practice of crossing the hands when standing for prayers?
  12.  

  13. Kripal raises one "tough question, if ever there was one." What is this? Do you think it's so tough? Why or why not?
  14.  

  15. What has been the most accepted model of sacrifice?
  16.  

  17. What is the logic behind the ancient rituals of sacrifice?
  18.  

  19. What or who was "The Pythia"?
  20.  

  21. Yogi Berra once said, "We make too many wrong mistakes." How is this relevant here?
  22.  

  23. Divination is described as an "attempt to intuit, predict, or fathom the future, usually to some practical end or decision." Do you agree with this definition? What do you think is the real point of divination?
  24.  

  25. The Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) scholar Shen Gua said that one must use something that does not have a mind to access the human mind. How does Kripal suggest we might translate this in modern terms?
  26.  

  27. What sorts of phenomena might be used for divination?
  28.  

  29. In what does the human phenomenon of divination lie? What "is" it?
  30.  

  31. See the Six Guidelines for Comparing Religions Responsibly. What does Kripal tell us not to believe?
  32.  

  33. What is "hagiography"? What might it represent?
  34.  

  35. What is asceticism? Does the ancient Greek origin of the word remind you of anything?
  36.  

  37. Who wrote The Life of the Buddha?
  38.  

  39. What are the differences between the Jain and the Buddhist beliefs regarding the "soul"?
  40.  

  41. Why is the statue of the Jain Kevalin Bahubali shown with vines around it?
  42.  

  43. What might founding myths be said to identify?
  44.  

  45. What two basic ideas do the various authors cited share?
  46.  

  47. What skill sets should we now have?
  48.  

  49. What is the key of the skill set in the comparative tool of myth and ritual?

 

Pages 143-154:

  1. How does Haldane's "quip" resemble that of Huxley given earlier?
  2.  

  3. What are the probable dates of humanity's arrival in the Polynesian Islands?
  4.  

  5. Kripal repeats "That is the truth. That is who we really are" and "This is the truth. This is what we really are" (144, 145). Why do you think he does this?
  6.  

  7. What are cosmogony and anthropogony?
  8.  

  9. Earlier Kripal said that "the key of the skill set ... is to locate sameness in the function and not in the content" (139). How might this relate "scientific plots" and "religious plots"?
  10.  

  11. What is the difference between the Draper-White thesis and the Merton thesis? Which do you think Kripal commends?
  12.  

  13. Does this "star people" narrative support or oppose religious belief?
  14.  

  15. What "sameness" do all religions arise from and participate in? How must we qualify this?
  16.  

  17. What is meant by the claim that "Potentially, any of us is all of us"?
  18.  

  19. What is a hierophany?
  20.  

  21. What may be activated by particular kinds of relational experiences with the natural world?
  22.  

  23. What is a primary mechanism whereby human societies have separated themselves from the natural world?
  24.  

  25. "Religious dietary rules seem arbitrary to many people." Are they?
  26.  

  27. What are dietary codes about?
  28.  

  29. How do eating regulations relate to rituals? (See Kripal 126.)
  30.  

  31. What do purity codes structure and maintain?
  32.  

  33. What is wrong with Kripal's four common features of purity codes?
  34.  

  35. Are the fours Hindu Varnas (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra) the same thing as the caste system?
  36.  

  37. What are endogamy and commensality?
  38.  

  39. Kripal mentioned the "untouchables" earlier. What did he say about them?
  40.  

  41. On what does the "polluted" status of the "untouchable" depend?
  42.  

  43. Why is "pollution" said to be "a ritual notion"?
  44.  

  45. What is structuralism?
  46.  

  47. How does a text like the Biblical book of Leviticus understand holiness?
  48.  

  49. What must a system do to create a whole or secure a sense of unity?
  50.  

  51. What does Holiness mean in this context?

 

Pages 154-174:

  1. What is cosmology and how does it differ from cosmogony?
  2.  

  3. Was NASA's effect on the imagination negative or positive?
  4.  

  5. What was assumed by all three of the West's monotheistic traditions in the first millennium of the Christian era?
  6.  

  7. What seldom happens to modern people who experience near-death or out-of-body experiences?
  8.  

  9. What is the Institute of Noetic Sciences and who founded it?
  10.  

  11. Can the sky be said to be sacred for modern people?
  12.  

  13. How is "deep ecology" like any worldview? How does it differ?
  14.  

  15. What was the "signature moment" that split religious responses into two camps?
  16.  

  17. What has been the traditional monotheistic attitude to nature religions?
  18.  

  19. See Lynn White's The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.
  20.  

  21. Why is "dark green religion" said to be an excellent example of (religious) comparison done well?
  22.  

  23. How could we say what the biological and historical facts of evolution mean? What would it involve to know what they mean?
  24.  

  25. What may be happening to scientific narratives like evolution?
  26.  

  27. Why does Kripal give us the examples that he does on pages 162-164? Why do we need to attend to them?
  28.  

  29. As what do shamans generally act?
  30.  

  31. What is "neo-shamanism"?
  32.  

  33. How did the Quechuan people come to know how to use the ayahuasca vine to modify their consciousness?
  34.  

  35. What is an entheogen?
  36.  

  37. What is accomplished by leaving a space between the two words "super natural"?
  38.  

  39. Are science and religion always opposed? Why or why not?
  40.  

  41. Kripal asks how a religious experience in a car accident or on a deathbed differs from one involving mushrooms. What do you think? Are they different?

 

Pages 177-192:

  1. With what subject can Western Monotheism be said to begin? Why?
  2.  

  3. What did the serpent in the Garden of Eden claim would be the result of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree?
  4.  

  5. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 215 CE) wrote about a community of early Christians who drew what connection?
  6.  

  7. For what do eating and knowing function as symbolic codes?
  8.  

  9. What did some early Jewish rabbinic authorities suggest about Adam?
  10.  

  11. What does a myth like that of Adam and Eve force us to take seriously?
  12.  

  13. Kripal suggests that there is no way not to be impolite in thinking seriously about religion. But what, at least, can we be in this?
  14.  

  15. To what does the category of sexuality refer?
  16.  

  17. How is a person's gender described? What do you think?
  18.  

  19. What is asceticism?
  20.  

  21. What is monasticism?
  22.  

  23. How does monasticism appear? What might it turn out to be on closer inspection?
  24.  

  25. For what is "the third gender" an umbrella term?
  26.  

  27. Who or what is Ardhanareshvara?
  28.  

  29. What is Moral Relativism?
  30.  

  31. By what simple biological fact can most religious purity codes be explained?
  32.  

  33. What are women, according to most traditional systems?
  34.  

  35. For what "more practical" reason did Christianity break with Judaism?
  36.  

  37. What was one central expression of the quest for total transcendence in the Jain tradition?
  38.  

  39. What is a common assumption from the insider's perspective concerning feelings, fears, attitudes and moods, etc.?
  40.  

  41. What is probably the best known case of religious transgression?
  42.  

  43. See Mtt. 1:1-11 for the genealogy of Jesus involving Mary, Tamar, Ruth, and Rahab. See Gen. 38 on Tamar, see the Wikipedia entry on Ruth, who was the great-grandmother of King David, but was not herself Jewish, and see Josh. 2 on Rahab. Note that these three are the only women mentioned by name in the genealogy and the only other woman referred to is Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, who committed incest with King David (see here).
  44.  

  45. What did Theodore Jennings Jr. conclude about Jesus' attitude to the rules of piety and purity?
  46.  

  47. Why may Paul have taught that marriage was not ideal?
  48.  

  49. What is the bottom line concerning the positions that Christians took on matters of gender and sexuality?
  50.  

  51. What was the range of the identity of Mary Magdalene?

 

Pages 192-206:

  1. What is the glaring omission in the comparative study of religion and sexuality?
  2.  

  3. What was the "serpent's gift" and what did it promise?
  4.  

  5. What does Kripal mean by "the erotic"?
  6.  

  7. What do we find throughout the general history of religions?
  8.  

  9. When did the ancient yin/yang system come to the fore?
  10.  

  11. What is the most fundamental way to combine "opposites" into a greater whole in human experience?
  12.  

  13. What was the clear and unambiguous conclusion of the gender : reality comparative pattern and the "agricultural pattern"?
  14.  

  15. What do we now know about ancient religious texts?
  16.  

  17. What can human beings learn as a mode of survival in traumatic contexts?
  18.  

  19. Who named the Shakers?
  20.  

  21. To what did the countercultural consequences of the Shaker community work and why?
  22.  

  23. What was Niskeyuna?
  24.  

  25. Why will the response to the question, "what does ... this mean for a female member of the community?" seldom, if ever, be traditional?
  26.  

  27. With what must we eventually come to terms in respect of traditional religious understandings of human sexuality?
  28.  

  29. See Amartya Sen's essay on the D2L Handouts class page.

Chapter 7

Pages 209-225:

  1. What is the reason for all of physical reality according to Franklin Jones (Adi Da)?
  2.  

  3. Who was Bubba Free John?
  4.  

  5. Under what circumstances are many people comfortable with teachings that claim that the divine has taken human form to teach humanity the ultimate lesson?
  6.  

  7. What does Kripal ask about the "core" of religion?
  8.  

  9. How did Max Weber define "Charisma"?
  10.  

  11. What is the difference between secular and religious charisma?
  12.  

  13. What often needs to happen before we can access our own "supernature" according to Kripal?
  14.  

  15. How does charisma relate to the status quo or "old order"?
  16.  

  17. What do believers always forget, according to Kripal?
  18.  

  19. What is a crucial aspect of the charismatic personality or group, according to Eisenstadt?
  20.  

  21. What are the six strategies that Kripal lists for? What do they do?
  22.  

  23. Over what central problem did Islam split into two basic traditions?
  24.  

  25. How does the Shia model differ from the Sunni model in this context?
  26.  

  27. What is the one reason given why the Jesus movement became non-Jewish?
  28.  

  29. What is the most important and influential feature of Islamic society, apart from the Quran itself?
  30.  

  31. What is the key to the proper and fullest human life according to Confucianism?
  32.  

  33. In what does art play a key role?
  34.  

  35. What was particularly important to the religious life of Medieval Europe?
  36.  

  37. What makes St. Peter's Basilica so special?
  38.  

  39. Why do we have to generalize and make abstractions?
  40.  

  41. What is the nature of religious belief for Troelsch?
  42.  

  43. What serious challenges can be issued to Troelsch's thesis?
  44.  

  45. What, according to Steve Bruce, are ordinary people expected to do in respect of religious professionals?
  46.  

  47. How do members of sects usually feel in respect of religious tolerance?
  48.  

  49. What eventually resulted in the modern notion of religious tolerance?
  50.  

  51. What did Eckhart mean by "Take leave of God for God"?
  52.  

  53. What is the structural weakness of even the ideal type of mysticism?

 

Pages 226-236:

  1. Why have miracles posed special problems to the study of religions?
  2.  

  3. What rendered any sympathetic discussion of miracles impossible?
  4.  

  5. How did David Weddle define miracles?
  6.  

  7. If a miracle is not just an anomalous event what, then, is it?
  8.  

  9. What is the second thing that miracles do, according to Weddle?
  10.  

  11. What does "especially holy" mean in the context of the saint?
  12.  

  13. What are "beatification" and "canonization"?
  14.  

  15. What matters, finally, about the presence of the miraculous?
  16.  

  17. Whose is the most well-documented case of human levitation on record?
  18.  

  19. What does Kripal suggest might be the weirdest thing of all about the levitations of Joseph of Copertino?
  20.  

  21. What is interesting about the term "psychic" in respect of Daniel Dunglas Home? (Pronounced "Hume.")
  22.  

  23. Who was Russell Wallace (1823-1913) and what did he believe about folklore and legend?
  24.  

  25. What is the first thing that we can observe about the comparison of the flying saint and the floating medium?
  26.  

  27. What one answer is suggested to the question of why one might believe in the miracles of Jesus but not in the miracles of Daniel Dunglas Home?
  28.  

  29. Kripal suggests that "once we have met a historical and obsessively documented figure like Joseph or Daniel, we cannot help but wonder whether historical realities may not lie behind the most fantastic folklore traditions as well." Do you agree? What does your own reaction indicate about Kripal's claims?
  30.  

  31. How is Charisma best thought of, according to Kripal?
  32.  

  33. What most certainly does depend on a social community in this context?
  34.  

  35. What does Kripal ask regarding religious people and the facts concerning miracles in religion? How did you respond?

 

Pages 239-253:

  1. When and where do we see the appearance of "lightforms" in the history of religions?
  2.  

  3. What does Kripal suggest the imagination might be, which allows it to stand between the human mind and that which the imagination mediates?
  4.  

  5. What is an anomaly? How is it defined?
  6.  

  7. What popular expression did J. B. Rhine bring into broad public use?
  8.  

  9. What did scientists originally mean by postulating the paranormal?
  10.  

  11. How was the term "preternatural" used by the Catholic Church?
  12.  

  13. Why has the study of the paranormal been marginalized?
  14.  

  15. What questions does Kripal raise about the imagination?
  16.  

  17. How might "the empowered imagination" be connected to Shamanism?
  18.  

  19. What does it actually mean that "the symbol has become concrete or quasi-concrete"?
  20.  

  21. Can you think of any symbol that has taken on a "new or opposite meaning"?
  22.  

  23. If symbols are "little myths" then what are big myths?
  24.  

  25. With what was the early western history of number deeply intertwined?
  26.  

  27. What was the earliest meaning on record for "symbol"?
  28.  

  29. How does Peter Struck use the tropes "the label" and "the talisman"?
  30.  

  31. What is the most striking thing about the present split in the contemporary study of religion, according to Kripal?
  32.  

  33. What sort of thing might the empowered imagination know and "speak through symbolic events"?
  34.  

  35. What might one note about the narratives from Mark Twain and Janis Amatuzio that might raise the possibility that Kripal is being a little too credulous? What do you think?
  36.  

  37. What is the most common catalyst of robust paranormal events?
  38.  

  39. Within what framework did Frederick Myers propose the term "imaginal"?
  40.  

  41. What was Théodore Flournoy's final conclusion about "supernormal" appearances?
  42.  

  43. In what way did later writers find the term "imaginal" useful?

 

Pages 253-269:

  1. How does the textbook reframe "exorcism"?
  2.  

  3. What does it suggest UFOs might be?
  4.  

  5. Of what must we entertain the possibility before we can possibly understand ancient polytheistic religions?
  6.  

  7. What is meant by "intermediatism" in this context?
  8.  

  9. Toward what does the miracle always gesture?
  10.  

  11. What four categories are clearly related although they belong to different cultural and ritual contexts?
  12.  

  13. What does Kripal suggest might be "not a bad definition of religion"?
  14.  

  15. What was perhaps surprising about the greeting of the "glowing raccoon" as narrated by Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Kary Mullis?
  16.  

  17. What is a "screen memory"?
  18.  

  19. Who wrote the narrative of the experience of Kali in Kolkata?
  20.  

  21. What happens to us all when we fall asleep?
  22.  

  23. What are usually considered to be the most memorable features of such apparitions?
  24.  

  25. What is the primary point of this chapter, according to Kripal?
  26.  

  27. What are especially important in triggering paranormal, imaginal, and visionary events?
  28.  

  29. Kripal asks, "what would happen to our religions if we understood religious doctrines as 'mediating symbols' rather than as 'literal dogmas'"? What do you think? What difference would it make?

 

Pages 271-284:

  1. How did the British architect, Douglas Harding, describe the "real self" he found himself to be?
  2.  

  3. What is "ineffability"?
  4.  

  5. What does Kripal say that the general history of religions is really about?
  6.  

  7. When did Sigmund Freud come onto the scene relative to Ludwig Feuerbach?
  8.  

  9. What is soteriology?
  10.  

  11. With what did even Neanderthals work, as best we can tell?
  12.  

  13. There are two "animating principles" according to Ancient Chinese Daoism: the hun and the po components of the person. What, eventually, happens to them both?
  14.  

  15. What is animism?
  16.  

  17. How does the anthropologist T. M. Luhrmann approach belief and the practice of prayer?
  18.  

  19. What does Kripal mean by "the phenomenon is one thing, the interpretation another"?
  20.  

  21. How does he define "trance"?
  22.  

  23. Who are particularly "porous" to spirit possession phenomena? Who are the most usual objects of spirit possession?
  24.  

  25. What is the relation between beliefs and funerary practices?

 

Pages 284-297:

  1. To what does Kripal compare the Protestant framing of the doctrine of Grace? Do you understand why?
  2.  

  3. What is eschatology? What is the difference between cosmic and personal eschatology?
  4.  

  5. What is unusual about mythologies of death and the afterlife across cultural and temporal boundaries?
  6.  

  7. Who or what was Padmasambhava?
  8.  

  9. What are NDEs and CORT?
  10.  

  11. What does Moorjani's experience lead us to believe about the various hells and judgments?
  12.  

  13. What is true of the idea of the self as a stable biographical entity with a particular life story?
  14.  

  15. Why, according to Kripal, may doctrines of the soul and salvation be so widespread and consistent across cultures?
  16.  

  17. Kripal asks how specific religious beliefs might encourage a lack of concern with global catastrophe. How do you answer that question?
  18.  

  19. See here for a short document on this idea.

Chapter 10

Pages 299-313:

  1. About what single, all-encompassing question do the final three chapters attempt to help you to come to clarity?
  2.  

  3. From whom did Kripal probably derive  his three broad responses?
  4.  

  5. What does it mean to say that Philip K. Dick's experience was not rational in the simple, secular sense of that word?
  6.  

  7. What has Kripal been emphasizing throughout his textbook?
  8.  

  9. What fundamental gap does he repeatedly stress?
  10.  

  11. Who were the Bab and the Baha'ullah?
  12.  

  13. Why is the Baha'i faith believed by its followers to be privileged today?
  14.  

  15. To what is the fact of ongoing revelation challenge?
  16.  

  17. What is interpretation claimed to be?
  18.  

  19. How is theology defined, simply put?
  20.  

  21. What does it mean to take religious diversity seriously?
  22.  

  23. How is religious tolerance defined?
  24.  

  25. How is religious freedom defined?
  26.  

  27. What are the real costs of religious freedom and religious tolerance?
  28.  

  29. What do the civic virtues of religious freedom and religious tolerance fail to address?
  30.  

  31. What makes a "faithful rereading" faithful?
  32.  

  33. Which terms does Kripal suspect you will remember in 20 years and why?

 

Pages 313-331:

  1. Why would it be a serious mistake to see forms of exclusivism as things of the past?
  2.  

  3. What does exclusivism achieve that are hardly minor accomplishments?
  4.  

  5. What is the correlation between education and religious exclusivism?
  6.  

  7. What, according to the Second Vatican Council, does the Roman Church reprove as foreign to the mind of Christ?
  8.  

  9. What strategy did the Baha'i movement adopt with respect to Islam?
  10.  

  11. What did the Hindu tradition declare the Buddha to be?
  12.  

  13. What two different things does inclusivism manage to do at once?
  14.  

  15. Under what circumstances can pluralism as a theological position be recognized as one of the most common and popular positions in the US?
  16.  

  17. Why did John Hick call his pluralistic theology a "Copernican Revolution"?
  18.  

  19. How is pluralism sometimes read? What do you think?
  20.  

  21. What is the absolute truth claim of religious pluralism?
  22.  

  23. If the fundamental concern of liberation, black, feminist, and queer theologies is not to assume a particular type of God or ultimate reality, then what is their fundamental concern?
  24.  

  25. Sameness is justice only to what extent?
  26.  

  27. What is liberation theology?
  28.  

  29. What does the God of the Prophets demand?
  30.  

  31. What do those who want to conserve the inequalities of a society always argue?
  32.  

  33. What did W. E. B. DuBois mean that the African American is born with second sight?
  34.  

  35. When and why did Malcolm X renounce all forms of racism?
  36.  

  37. Why does black theology generally not read the Bible literally?
  38.  

  39. What is the bottom line about the social worlds from which the three monotheist canons emerged?
  40.  

  41. To what conclusion were women in the abolitionist movement forced?
  42.  

  43. What is womanist theology?
  44.  

  45. What did James Cone point out about theology?
  46.  

  47. What did John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality demonstrate?
  48.  

  49. Why are these theologies said to be specifically religious re-readings of religion?
  50.  

  51. What is basically the same in all the series of religious discriminations and liberations?
  52.  

  53. Does religious conviction produce better or worse re-readings of religion?

 

Pages 335-348:

  1. What is theodicy?
  2.  

  3. What must the professional study of religion do as well as focus on things like texts, rituals, the formation of social identities, etc.?
  4.  

  5. Why does Kripal choose to focus on Freud and Durkheim?
  6.  

  7. On what further three complexes does he focus?
  8.  

  9. How do such rational re-readings of religion solve the gap between reason and revelation?
  10.  

  11. What do strong forms of reductive inquiry do?
  12.  

  13. What do cognitive science and evolutionary psychology have in common with Freud's strong biological reductionism?
  14.  

  15. What did Freud learn from his suffering patients?
  16.  

  17. What was God essentially for Freud?
  18.  

  19. What is the point of the quotation from the Buddhist scripture at this point?
  20.  

  21. How does Freud use the idea of sublimation?
  22.  

  23. What is the point of observing that language is not a personal invention?
  24.  

  25. What is a totem?
  26.  

  27. What are "collective representations that express collective realities"?
  28.  

  29. In what way does Durkheim see humanity as "double"?
  30.  

  31. What do moderate forms of the sociology of knowledge suggest?
  32.  

  33. How does Berger contrast humans from other higher mammals?
  34.  

  35. What is "internalization"?
  36.  

  37. What notion is widespread from ancient European religion to contemporary Hinduism and Confucianism?

 

Pages 348-362:

  1. What did Foucault's model of knowledge insist?
  2.  

  3. What did Said observe about the interaction of the West with "the orient"?
  4.  

  5. In what ways did orientalist tropes function?
  6.  

  7. How has Said's orientalist critique often been invoked?
  8.  

  9. If Kripal is not defending colonial and imperialist practices what is he doing?
  10.  

  11. Much of the world is now Christian or Muslim because of what?
  12.  

  13. Why were evolutionary models of religion abandoned for most of the twentieth century?
  14.  

  15. Why does Kripal describe theistic and mystic vitalist evolutionary models only briefly?
  16.  

  17. To what does vitalism refer?
  18.  

  19. Of what are both the anthropologists and the "foreign" cultures that they study manifestations?
  20.  

  21. What does religion demand?
  22.  

  23. What do individuals perform by performing public rituals?
  24.  

  25. How do beliefs, scriptures, and deities relate to evolutionary adaptations according to cognitive evolutionary models of religion?
  26.  

  27. What are spandrels?
  28.  

  29. If evolutionary processes do not work towards the survival of individuals, towards what do they work?
  30.  

  31. What is teleology?
  32.  

  33. What may the attribution of non-ordinary powers to things trigger and what may this achieve?
  34.  

  35. What two stages are there to responsible scholarship? What does each require?
  36.  

  37. Towards what three things has recent scholarship on religion shifted?
  38.  

  39. How was the word "cult" originally used?
  40.  

  41. How do most scholars today see conversion?
  42.  

  43. Is religious terrorism a uniquely recent phenomenon?
  44.  

  45. What does religion probably accomplish much more often than violence?
  46.  

  47. Which values are commonly mocked by religious fundamentalists?
  48.  

  49. What is the first core principle of the kind of "liberalism" that Kripal describes?
  50.  

  51. What two diametrically opposed ways of being religious does he describe?
  52.  

  53. What are two of the most common professions of fundamentalist leaders?

 

Pages 365-379:

  1. About what should apparently precognitive events such as narrated on page 366 make us think twice?
  2.  

  3. How does Kripal describe the history of religions? Do you agree with his description?
  4.  

  5. How is "reflexive re-reading" described? Does this remind you of any earlier advice?
  6.  

  7. Why are such reflexive re-readings not the same as faithful re-readings?
  8.  

  9. What is the final source of the infinite series of reflections that occur when we look into "the reflecting mirror of culture"?
  10.  

  11. What was Freud's attitude to the idea of telepathy?
  12.  

  13. What did Rabindranath Tagore mean by "the religion of man"? How does this fit with what you know of Hinduism?
  14.  

  15. Who or what are the Bauls?
  16.  

  17. How did Tagore describe religion? Again, how does this fit with your understanding of Hinduism?
  18.  

  19. How does Kripal describe "the reflexive cycle"?
  20.  

  21. When Erik Davis described his experience of "the barren and serene realms of Witness consciousness," it was "nothing particularly human," but it did have an emotional affect. What was this?
  22.  

  23. What did Kant demonstrate?
  24.  

  25. What did Kant call space, time, and causality?
  26.  

  27. What does the phenomenology of religion claim about all religious experience, in fact, abut all experience?
  28.  

  29. What does Kripal now wonder about Biblical accounts of resurrection appearances?
  30.  

  31. David Friedrich Strauss was one of the early exponents of the historical critical approach to the Bible. What did he feel it necessary to introduce later in his career?
  32.  

  33. What did Ioan Coulinano (Culianu) suggest about historians and history?
  34.  

  35. What might "mind space" be, according to Culianu?
  36.  

  37. Who has been responsible for the return of interest in mysticism (again, according to Culianu)?
  38.  

  39. What are "catalytic exteriorization phenomena"?
  40.  

  41. What did Mark Twain say about history? What do you think that means?
  42.  

  43. What was "the Pauli effect"?
  44.  

 

Pages 379-394:

  1. To what did Frederick Myers refer as the subliminal self?
  2.  

  3. What is described as "one of the most influential essays on an individual religious experience published in the twentieth century"?
  4.  

  5. What did Aldous Huxley speculate about psychoactive chemicals?
  6.  

  7. What does sui generis mean?
  8.  

  9. How does Kripal suggest we might understand consciousness?
  10.  

  11. What does the metaphor of religion as filter allow John Hick to accomplish?
  12.  

  13. What might the brain turn out to be if seen this way?
  14.  

  15. What does Kripal mean by being in one's "right mind" in this context?
  16.  

  17. Of what is Eben Alexander's vision an evolutionary updating?
  18.  

  19. What sets Sam Harris apart from the other "New Atheists"?
  20.  

  21. What does Harris accept might be the case with electrons?
  22.  

  23. What do all four of Kripal's examples have in common?
  24.  

  25. How does Kripal understand these extreme religious experiences?
  26.  

  27. What does Kripal mean by consciousness as the ultimate C behind all the other Cs of our comparative practices?
  28.  

  29. What did Iain McGilchrist demonstrate about the brain?
  30.  

  31. What do all the rational re-readings have in common?
  32.  

  33. Why do you think that the reports that Kripal narrates carry such authority in our present culture?

 

Pages 397-411:

  1. How do we “produce a sense of the really real”? Why does Kripal ask this question?
  2.  

  3. What (among other things) can be seen from the moon?
  4.  

  5. What is true of all cultures and what does this imply?
  6.  

  7. Upon what does a sustainable human future depend?

 

Additional Notes: