This paper evaluates claims that classical Ayurveda was scientific, in a modern western sense, and that the many religious and magical elements found in the texts were all either stale Vedic remnants or later brahminic impositions. It argues (1) that Ayurveda did not manifest standard criteria of "science" (e.g., materialism, empirical observation, experimentation, falsification, quantification, or a developed conception of proof) and (2) that Vedic aspects of the classical texts are too central to be considered inauthentic or marginal. These points suggest that attempting to apply the modern western categories of "science" and "religion" to ancient South Asian medical texts at best obscures more important issues and, at worst, imports inappropriate orientalist assumptions. Having set aside the distraction of "science" vs. "religion" in classical Ayurveda, the paper finds support for claims that brahminic elements were later additions to the texts. It concludes by arguing that this is best explained not in terms of a conceptual tension between religion and science but in terms of social and economic tensions between physicians and brahmins.
This paper attempts to fill in a dimension of discussions of religious relations between memory and the body, time and agency, habituation and social control. Analyzing the works of seventeenth-century divine Richard Rogers, I distinguish two ways of attending to time: amount of time spent well, and continuity of attention. For Rogers, lapses in memory and moment of idleness are gaps through which Satan snares the unwary; the godly must foster correct habits "at all times." The case of English Puritanism underlines the central role that time plays in the formation of correctly habituated human activity. It points to a key site at which religious ideas and practices gain leverage over human agency. It suggests further that modernity is distinguished by the more effective means of habituation fostered by highly motivated and consistent attentiveness to time. This distinction goes beyond Weber and other work on the Protestant ethic thesis and could inform further empirical work in the area.
Scholars of religion continue to talk of syncretism where their colleagues have moved on to talk of hybridity. This paper reviews critiques of the latter concept and argues that “hybridity” can be a useful concept, but only if further specified. I follow Peter Wade in distinguishing between hybridity of origin (the combination of pre-existing forms), and hybridity of encounter (the result of diasporic movements). I propose a third type, hybridity of refraction, in order to highlight the manner in which religious or cultural phenomena refract social tensions within a specific nation or society, resulting in a spectrum of ritual, doctrinal and/or religious forms. The typology is not meant to be complete or mutually exclusive: it suggests the value of adopting distinct, potentially overlapping, perspectives on hybridization. I illustrate the heuristic value of this approach with the case of Umbanda, a twentieth-century Brazilian religion.
This article works with theory of ritual in order to begin addressing a series of questions raised by Brazilian spirit possession rituals (in Kardecism and Umbanda). Four contributions to theory of ritual highlight relevant conceptual issues: Humphrey and Laidlaw on non-intentionality; Bloch on deference; Houseman and Severi on social relations; and Kapferer on virtuality. Strawson’s philosophical distinction between objective and reactive attitudes toward intentionality is used to make a case (i) that certain formal aspects of ritual (indexicals) serve to (ii) mark culturally-variable attitudes to agency within rituals, which are related to, but fundamentally distinct from, non-ritual attitudes to agency.