Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul

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He concludes by exploring what we may have lost with the development of medical anesthetics.

Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul

This fascinating, closely argued study suggests that, in religion as in sports, there is no gain without pain. View Full Version of PW. More By and About This Author. The Strides of Vishnu Ariel Glucklich. Faithful Revolution Tricia Colleen Bruce.

Review of Sacred Pain: Hurting the Body for the Sake of the Soul

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Prodigal Nation Andrew R. Where the self is preoccupied by guilt or anxiety, pain quiets and compensates for interiorized aggression.

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Trau- matic pain can even break up the body-self template, so that another self, or agency, can be induced to emerge. Glucklich's chapters on self-mutilation, ghost possession, rites of passage, and the religious torture of heretics offer disparate and difficult cases for interpretation. Yet here his tact enables a critical probity that never forgets that the subjects of whom he is writing hurt, even as he explains how their hurt achieves particular religious goals.

Glucklich observes that most of the literature on ritual violence is preoccupied with the symbolism of the methods for inflicting pain on victims.

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Contemporary scholars have written as though the human body were a blank text on which cultural signs are forcibly inscribed. But ritual violence against the body works only insofar as it produces intended effects on consciousness; the link between ritual violence and religious consciousness is the lived experience of pain.


A key theme of religiously effective pain, Glucklich argues, must be that victims come to incorporate the aversive disruption of their previous body-self template into a new sense of identity and embodiment. They accept pain as necessary, as medi- cine, even as a gift, because they view the transformations to consciousness that it generates as desirable.

Sacred Pain

Modern people have forgotten this constructive poten- tial of pain, Glucklich argues, so that religious valuation of pain seems inex- plicable. The explanation offered here, though, is multilayered and flexible; it permits rich, exciting and contestable interpretations of a wide range of cases.

Although Glucklich claims that he does not aim for a methodological revolution in the study of religion, it would be a dull reader who was not galvanized by this book. Is the collection more than the sum of its parts?

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Although one could quibble with the choice of topics-why is there nothing on Sikhism or New Age or Vodou, for instance-the chief virtue of this collection lies in the fact that it is the first of its kind, the first to explore the diverse religious life of New York City at the turn of the twenty-first century. What is missing, however, is the ballast of history.

Only two or three of the essays offer any substantive treatment of anything that hap- pened before, say, Directories Courses Discussion Groups. Review of Sacred Pain: Book Reviews mates at Sing Sing Prison. This means that pain per se is an event of consciousness; it combines The Journal of Religion sensory, cognitive, and evaluative information to produce the sensation and qual-.