Sacred Pain

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

3.72 (48 ratings by Goodreads)
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Physical pain ranks as one of the great evils of human life, not far behind death. Yet, religious individuals and groups around the world and throughout history have inflicted pain on themselves and on others in pursuit of religious goals. Despite this, no broad explanation for the uses of pain has emerged, and this book seeks to remedy this lack. Glucklich shows that a ritually controlled regimen of pain can produce a transformation of consciousness in which personal identity gives way to identification with God, Truth, or other spiritual ideals. This phenomenon is explored in many cultural and historical contexts, including rituals of possession and exorcism, rites of passage, and the tortures of the Inquisition. Glucklich also shows how the modern invention of anaesthesia transformed our perception of pain and undermined the idea that pain can be good. This book helps us to understand "sacred pain" from the perspective of its practitioners, opening a window onto a mysterious world of experience.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 154.94 x 228.6 x 20.32mm | 317.51g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0195169433
  • 9780195169430
  • 830,561

Review quote

"Indeed, Glucklich examines the function of pain as part of the redemptive pilgrimage from numerous angles and distances, then turns it over and examines it some more...anyone with a serious interest in religion, pain and suffering, and/or the anthropology of the "community" will find much food for thought in this book...Sacred Pain offers valuable insights about pain, belief, and Western society's conflicting attitudes about pain and
suffering."-Medscape "Ariel Glucklich is that rare being, a genuine comparativist, of cosmopolitan learning and wide sympathies. Drawing upon such diverse approaches as neurobiology, social psychology, ritual studies, cultural theory, phenomenology, and history of religion, he succeeds in shedding light on the darkest reaches of the seemingly chaotic realm of pain. Glucklich reminds us of all-but-forgotten insights into the transformative power of sacred pain, brings these insights into
dialogue with the best thinking that is being done in the behavioral and biological sciences, and in so doing forges new instruments for the study of religious consciousness."-Carol Zaleski, Professor and Chair, Department of Religion, Smith College "A brilliantly written, thought-provoking volume on the transformative potential of physical pain experienced within a religious context."-Harold G. Koenig, M.D., co-author, Handbook of Religion and Health "This demanding book does justice to the complexity of its subject as Glucklich masterfully leads the reader through all the diverse paths that connect with the central topic. He is a skilled writer who presents complicated material well without sacrificing meaning or nuance."-Library Journal "Erudite and wide-ranging...compelling.... This fascinating, closely argued study suggests that in religion as in sports, there is no gain without pain."-Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Succeeds not only because of the immense and careful scholarship it displays, but also because it establishes a creative dialogue between science and religion on a question of enduring, and today largely forgotten, importance. Most of all, the book invites its readers to appreciate that pain need not be meaningless."-Stephen G. Post, First Things
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About Ariel Glucklich

Ariel Glucklich is Associate Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and the author of The End of Magic (OUP 1997) and The Sense of Adharma (OUP 1994).
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Rating details

48 ratings
3.72 out of 5 stars
5 31% (15)
4 29% (14)
3 25% (12)
2 10% (5)
1 4% (2)
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