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Myth and Ritual In Christianity Paperback


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Myth and Ritual In Christianity + Behold the Spirit: A Study in the Necessity of Mystical Religion
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (June 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807013757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807013755
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Brown on July 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Alan Watts, as many readers know, was a famous popularizer of Asian spiritual traditions (particularly Zen Buddhism) in Britain and America. At least this is the common conception of him. Actually he was also a compelling popularizer (in the best sense) of comparative religion. He often contrasted "Western" religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) with "Eastern" ones (Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism). Of course the first group are also Eastern - West Asian (Israel and Arabia) in their origins. But some readers may not know that Watts was raised as a Christian, and returned to that faith at least once in his later years. In fact, his greatest contribution may be the one he made to Christian spirituality, a tradition he knew even better than Zen Buddhism. His critiques of Christian doctrine as usually (mis)understood are profound and potentially transforming. Therefore I feel that this work "Myth and Ritual in Christianity" and the earlier "Behold the Spirit" are two of his very best. If you have read only his later and better-known works, you may be very surprised by this. But his message of joy in life, consciousness-expansion, and love were never better expressed. This book is particularly recommended to those who (like Watts himself) were raised as Christians but who since have explored Eastern Asian spiritual traditions. All the great truths are hidden in your own back yard - you just have to find them.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert L. Rose VINE VOICE on January 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in 1976, after a few years of Christian fundamentalist practice, and it revolutionized my understanding of faith, Christianity and religion. After the demonization of sacramental or liturgical traditions I accepted for a time in Bible-believing circles, Watts enabled me to appreciate the Catholic tradition of my youth as a mystical, universal, even alchemical source of wisdom and liberation for those in search of wisdom.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Ross James Browne on May 13, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a comprehensive and thorough, yet narrowly focused study on Christial ritual - specifically the gesticulations and gyrations associated with the Catholic mass. Protestants have always had a very difficult time understanding why Catholics do things the way they do, and now this book might help shed some light on this mystery. Even as a non-Catholic I was able to get a lot out of this book, but it must be approached with an open mind. Anyone who is dead set against the idea of elaborate, symbolic church rituals might find this book to be unfathomable. But if you look into the symbolism and psychological parallelism of these rituals, you will find that there is profound meaning and significace to what might have earlier appeared to be mere suprstitious incantation. This book is worth reading if you are curious as to the deeper philosophic significance of the actions performed at the Catholic mass, and non-Catholic Christians will be able to look into some of the religious secrets they have been missing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K.S.Ziegler on September 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Alan Watts grew up attending a Christian church and at one period in his life was an Episcopalian minister for six years. In taking an interest in the ultimate issues of life, he found answers, or at least replies, to those disturbing problems in Christian culture "somewhere between Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism". In this book we can discern the Eastern influence that he applies not in regard to a criticism of the living Christian myth but to that literal interpretation, institutionalized and rigidified into authoritarian doctrine.

The book is structured around a tour of the Catholic Church liturgical year - the Catholic rituals that are observed and celebrated in a yearly cycle - starting with Advent, then Christmas and Epiphany, Lent, the Passion, and then Easter on to Pentecost. The events follow the solar year and have pagan analogs reaching far back into the past.

As a basis for the ritual of the Catholic Church, there appears to be two main Christian myths: the Creation myth in Genesis which lays out the state of the human condition - of how God created the world in seven days and how humankind disobeyed and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and the myth that involves the extrication from sin, the path to salvation through the resurrected Christ. The author is not adverse to the myth as poetry, calling it beautiful at several points. Problems arise, however, when myth becomes bound up with theology. The result has been tangles of illogic such as how an omniscient and omnipotent God can administer eternal punishment for temporal sins.

The author takes for a basis of his criticism the metaphysic of India rather than the Greek. The Greeks took eternity to be an abstraction, as an ideal form remote from space and time.
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