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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

9780199890347 - A Storm of Witchcraft

Who was Giles Cory?

“Monday, Sept. 19, 1692. About noon, at Salem, Giles Cory was press’d to death for standing Mute; much pains was used with him two days, one after another, by the Court and Capt. Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance: but all in vain.” Thus reads Judge Samuel Sewall’s terse account of one of the most gruesome incidents in early American history, one that continues to horrify yet fascinate. Who was Giles Cory? Why was he accused of witchcraft? And how did he come to such a horrible fate?

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Pilgrimage VSI cover

How much do you know about pilgrimages?

Pilgrimage has been celebrated in literature from ‘The Canterbury Tales’> to Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrimage’. Test your knowledge of pilgrimages throughout history, across religions, and around the world.

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Lawrence+McCartney_Mathmeticians (2)

Yes, maths can be for the amateur too

A friend of mine picked an argument with me the other day about how people go on about the beauty of mathematics, but this is not only not obvious to non-mathematicians, it cannot be accessed by those outside the field. Unlike, for example, the modern art, which is also not always obvious, mathematical beauty is elusive to all but the mathematicians. Or so he said.

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gregg cover

Art across the early Abrahamic religions

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered kindred religions–holding ancestral heritages and monotheistic belief in common–but there are definitive distinctions between these “Abrahamic” peoples. The early exchanges of Jews, Christians, and Muslims were dominated by debates over the meanings of certain stories sacred to all three groups.

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Four myths about the status of women in the early church

There is a good deal of historical evidence for women’s leadership in the early church. But the references are often brief, and they’re scattered across centuries and locations. Two interpretations of the evidence have been common in the last forty years.

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Lawrence+McCartney_Mathmeticians (2)

Sects, witches, and wizards-from Pythagoreans to Kepler

To start a conversation based on mathematics may seem to some to be one of the tasks inevitably converging towards the plot-line of Mission Impossible. Well, certainly there are more pressing things that would occupy people’s minds, concerning international politics, the future of Europe, and the future of the Middle East. What’s new?

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‘Abrahamic religions’ – From interfaith to scholarship

Together with Ulysses, Abraham is the earliest culture hero in the Western world. More precisely, as Kierkegaard, who called him ‘the knight of faith,’ reminds us, he has remained, throughout the centuries, the prototype of the religious man, of the man of faith. The wandering Aramean from the Book of Genesis, who rejected his parents’ idols and native Mesopotamia to follow the call of the One God to the land of Canaan, started a saga reverberated not only in early Jewish literature, but also in the New Testament (Galatians 3: 6-8), and in early Christian literature.

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The value of knowledge

Traditionally, the story that opens chapter three of Genesis is called The Fall. In the Christian tradition, both the name and the interpretation of the story associated with it were made canonical by Saint Augustine in the first decades of the fifth century AD, about fourteen hundred years after Genesis was written down.

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Lawrence+McCartney_Mathmeticians (2)

Will we ever need maths after school?

What is the purpose of mathematics? Or, as many a pupil would ask the teacher on a daily basis: “When are we going to need this?” There is a considerably ruder version of a question posed by Billy Connolly on the internet, but let’s not go there.

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Does ‘divine hiddenness’ belong to theists or to atheists?

Theistic literature is full of references and allusions to a self-concealing deity. The psalm writer whose poems are included in the Hebrew Bible regularly calls out, in alternating notes of perplexity, impatience and despair, to a God whose felt presence apparently seemed frustratingly inconstant. But he or she still assumes that God is there.

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Commemorating Sri Aurobindo’s anniversary, the birth of a nation, and a new world

The fifteenth of August commemorates Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, and the birth of independent India, a historical landmark where he played a significant role. Aurobindo, the founder of Purna, or Integral Yoga, is a renowned and controversial poet, educationist, and literary critic, a politician, sociologist, and mystic whose evolutionary worldview represents a breakthrough in history. Nevertheless, what is the relevance of Aurobindo nowadays?

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Faith and conflict in the 21st century

As another summer is overcast by reports of religious conflicts and atrocities around the world, I have been thinking about faith, and how the way we understand it affects our response to some of the global challenges we face.

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How much do you know about the history of myth? [quiz]

Myths have been applied to the arts and sciences for thousands of years and been used in seminal works by prominent figures such as Sigmund Freud, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Roland Barthes. How much do you know about the history of myth? Test your knowledge in the following quiz, based on Robert Segal’s Myth: A Very Short Introduction.

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OUP Philosophy Creast

Philosopher of the month: Lao Tzu

Lao (Laozi) Tzu is credited as the founder of Taoism, a Chinese philosophy and religion. An elusive figure, he was allegedly a learned yet reclusive official at the Zhōu court (1045–256 BC) – a lesser aristocrat of literary competence who worked as a copyist and archivist. Scholars have variously dated his life to between the third and sixth centuries BC, but he is best known as the author of the classic Tao Te Ching (‘The Book of the Way and its Power’).

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