The Great Transformation: The World in the Time of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and JeremiahPaperback
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- Publisher: ATLANTIC BOOKS
- Format: Paperback | 464 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 192mm x 42mm | 458g
- Publication date: 8 March 2007
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1843540568
- ISBN 13: 9781843540564
- Edition: New edition
- Edition statement: New edition
- Illustrations note: 24pp b/w plates, maps
- Sales rank: 40,420
The centuries between 800 and 300 BC saw an explosion of new religious concepts. Their emergence is second only to man's harnessing of fire in fundamentally transforming our understanding of what it is to be human. But why did Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jeremiah, Lao Tzu and others all emerge in this five-hundred-year span? And why do they have such similar ideas about humanity? In "The Great Transformation", Karen Armstrong examines this phenomenal period and the connections between this disparate group of philosophers, mystics and theologians.
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Karen Armstrong is one of the world's foremost commentators on religious affairs. Her bestselling books include Islam: A Short History; Buddha; A History of God; Through The Narrow Gate and The Spiral Staircase.
By Mark Thwaite 10 Dec 2008
It seems fashionable to think of religion as an aberration: a style of thinking only credible to fools and fanatics. But fashionable thinking is itself often wrong-headed. Religious thought has helped mankind as often as it has hampered it; has been the cause of great good as well as unspeakable evil. When thinking about religion it is worth remembering both its continuing ubiquity as well as its antiquity. Religion has been with us for a very long time and looks able to renew itself in very many different contexts (and, as John Gray points out in Black Mass, to insert itself squarely inside secular thought too).
Whilst the new atheists (Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, Sam Harris, Michel Onfray et al) are right to be robust in their attacks on religion, they could do with both a little more humility and a lot more history. Karen Armstrong's The Great Transformation could help them out here. Explaining the beginnings of religious faith as we still know it, Armstrong's sensitive book shows us when, how and why certain ideas about human beings -- what we need to prosper, why we are here, how to improve ourselves -- first developed. It was between 800 and 300 BC, "in the time of Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Jeremiah" that new ways of thinking -- ways of thinking that transformed humanity for ever -- first came about. Those ideas are still with us. The new atheists are right to challenge these notions, but understanding them better should be their first motivation, rather than simply deriding them. Armstrong should be congratulated on on excellent, and very readable, journey back to the beginning of thinking.
"'A remarkable history... fascinating and highly readable... profoundly relevant.' Julie Wheelwright, Independent '[Armstrong] shows a formidable grasp of sacred history and biblical scholarship.' Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The Times 'Armstrong writes with her customary elegance and lucidity... It would be hard not to learn a lot from this substantial book.' Diarmaid MacCulloch, Guardian 'This book deserves nothing but praise.' Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times"