Theory of Religious Cycles

Tradition, Modernity, and the Bahá’í Faith


In Theory of Religious Cycles: Tradition, Modernity and the Bahá’í Faith Mikhail Sergeev offers a new interpretation of the Soviet period of Russian history as a phase within the religious evolution of humankind by developing a theory of religious cycles, which he applies to modernity and to all the major world faiths of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.

Sergeev argues that in the course of its evolution religion passes through six common phases—formative, orthodox, classical, reformist, critical, and post-critical. Modernity, which was started by the European Enlightenment, represents the critical phase of Christianity, a systemic crisis that could be overcome with the appearance of new religious movements such as the Bahá’í Faith, which offers a spiritual extension of the modern worldview.

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Mikhail Sergeev, Ph.D. (1997), Temple University, is Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of the Arts (Philadelphia). He has published numerous books and articles on his areas of expertise, including Sophiology in Russian Orthodoxy: Solov’ev, Bulgakov, Losskii, Berdiaev, (2006).
"There is no doubt that Sergeev’s theory of religious cycles and his philosophical, sociological and political analysis of the evolution of religion, presents a significant scholarly value, not only in theological but also in philosophical and sociological contexts, because ... it sets the landmarks of understanding and reinterpretation of pressing problems of modern humanity." - Natalya Shelkovaya

"It should be acknowledged that Mikhail Sergeev’s book is undoubtedly a profound and thorough scholarly work, based on a wide range of sources. Not only is it a valuable contribution to studies in the evolution of human religious and social consciousness, but it also outlines possible perspectives for that evolution in the future." - Youli A. Loannesyan

"[T]his is an extremely important book in understand that religions change or evolve according to a precise system of phases. Sergeev has argued clearly, too, that this evolution comes not from a simplistic "decline in faith", but from a highly complex series of interactions between texts, traditions, and believers, and the forces of modernity and cultural change." - Benjamin B. Olshin, The University of the Arts

"In this insightful and provocative book, Sergeev creatively takes the reader through the world religions, with a remarkable and easy-to-understand
table of comparisons at the end. It shows not only his deep interest in religions but also a fair and accurate understanding of the Bahá’i Faith, which takes up a major part of this book. ... In my opinion this book provides the best bridging of religious changes I have read. It is more relevant now than any time since the Enlightenment, so is highly recommended." - Gity Banan Etemad, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

Part I

1. Cycles of Religion: Theory and Application
1.1. Model of Religious Cycle
1.2. The Cycle of Judaism
1.3. The Cycle of Buddhism
1.4. The Cycle of Christianity
1.5. The Cycle of Islam

2. The Project of Modernity: Pro et Contra
2.1. Defining Modern Times
2.2. The Project of the Enlightenment
2.3. Critics of Modernity

Part II

3. The Bahá’í Faith: A New Paradigm
3.1. Modernity as a Point of Departure
3.2. Traditional vs. Bahá’í Religion
3.3. The Enlightenment vs. Bahá’í Teachings

4. Principles of Bahá’í Organization
4.1. Interpretation vs. Administration
4.2. Approaches to Unity and Dissent
4.3. Conflation of Religion and State


Postscript: Theses on Modernity and the Bahá’í Faith

Structure of Religious cycle
Religious Cycles of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam
World Religions: A Comprehensive Chart
Comparative Tables
Phases of Religion: A Comparative Table
Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition in World Religions
Three Main Trends of the Enlightenment Thought
Piotr Chaadaev and Two Main Ideological Trends in Modern Russia
Theory of Religious Cycles vs. Classical Westernism and Slavophilism
Comparative Table of New Religious Movements
The Enlightenment Ideology / Soviet Marxism vs. the Bahá’í Faith
Christianity vs. the Bahá’í Faith: A Doctrinal Summary
Traditional Religions vs. the Enlightenment: Controversial Issues
The Bahá’í Faith vs. Catholicism: Organizational Principles / Practices
Religion and State: Comparative Table of Possible Bahá’í Models
Timeline of World Religions
Self-Governance, Parliamentarism and Democracy: A Timeline

Works Cited
Additional Reading


Readers interested in the history of world religions and civilizations, and anyone concerned with modernity and the development of new religious movements such as the Bahá’í Faith.
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