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Bringing the Sacred Down to EarthAdventures in Comparative Religion$
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Corinne G. Dempsey

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199860333

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860333.001.0001

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Embodying the Extraordinary in Iceland and India

Embodying the Extraordinary in Iceland and India

The Difference Spirits Make

(p.108) (p.109) Chapter 4 Embodying the Extraordinary in Iceland and India
Bringing the Sacred Down to Earth

Corinne G. Dempsey

Oxford University Press

This chapter juxtaposes Hindu and Christian strategies for conferring extraordinary abilities onto human bodies. The traditions under consideration, Icelandic Spiritualism and Indian Neo-Vedanta, were similarly formed by their countries’ respective independence struggles during the turn of the last century as well as by scientific frameworks through which both find validation. This use of science emerges from the turn-of-the-century scientific revolution that challenged the existence of religion, met by Spiritualism and Neo-Vedanta not with a rejection of the supernatural but with a softening of the divide between science and religion, matter and spirit. This chapter's juxtaposition illuminates how the similar epistemological, historical, and political forces that shape these traditions are trumped by that which most dramatically distinguishes them: the insistent presence or absence of spirits. Rather than analyzing this presence/absence of spirits as representing yet another layer of social influence, this chapter focuses on the ways practitioners’ differently conceived bodily encounters with the sacred guide their cosmologies and, subsequently, their ethics.

Keywords:   Spiritualism, Neo-Vedanta, Iceland, Independence, science, spirits, ethics

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