Eliade, assisted by ten well-known editors and an impressive group of contributors, has produced a monumental encyclopedia that aptly reflects contemporary religious scholarship and interdisciplinary influences from the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. The work largely replaces the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings (Edinburgh, 1908-1926; New York, 1955. reprint), an important reference series that has become outdated both in its conception of religion as chiefly theoretical (rather than also sociological and practical) and its Western bias, and by the progress of religious research (including hermeneutical and methodological approaches) and discovery (e.g., Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi library, and research in folk religion and in gnostic and esoteric traditions). While there are several one-volume encyclopedias and dictionaries of religion in general, as well as multivolume encyclopedias of single religions, nothing compares in scope and currency to the present work. The entries are clearly written, with attention to scholarly detail; alphabetized, but with sub-topical organization (e.g.,"Rites of Passage" has five adjacent articles providing an overview, several definitions, and separate articles on Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim rites); and accompanied by end-of-entry bibliographies. The work especially deserves commendation for its internationalism of topics, contributors, and points of view; its attention to primitive religions throughout the world; its treatment of alchemy, the occult, mysticism, and popular traditions; and its conception of religion as a vital part of human culture (including articles on atheism and Marxism). Religious information is used to illuminate human experience and the meaning of being humana use that implies, for many of the contributors, a belief in the unity of core experience beneath its diverse manifestations. Its coverage of the so-called great religions is comprehensive and balanced but avoids presenting them (or anything else) as normative. As editor Joseph M. Kitagawa says, the aim was "to produce not a dictionary but a genuine encyclopedia that would introduce educated, nonspecialist readers to important ideas, practices, and persons in the religious experience of humankind from the Paleolithic past to our day." In this aim the editors have succeeded admirably. Nonspecialist readers of all types will find here a wealth of information on religion and its interaction with other aspects of human culture. Indispensable for all libraries. (Index not seen.) Carolyn M. Craft, English, Philosophy & Modern Languages Dept., Longwood Coll., Farmville, Va.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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