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Production of Religious Knowledge

Session Chair: Esther Eidinow | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Katrin Killinger

Beyond the Divide between Religion and Medicine – The Carakasamhita and the Ayurvedic Knowledge System

The medical system of Ayurveda was shaped during a power struggle between heterodox and orthodox religious groups in ancient India. As a result of this dynamic interchange, the earliest complete surviving document of Ayurvedic medicine, the Carakasamhita (100 BC – 400 AD), was compiled. Calling attention to the interconnectedness of religions and medicine in this Sanskrit source, the paper asks whether or not it is suitable to regard the medical theory of Ayurveda as secular or whether we can consider the Carakasamhita a religious document. Challenging in turn both assumptions, the paper shows how Indian medical discourse drew on Vedic and Buddhist traditions as well as aspects of Samkhya philosophy. Consequently, Ayurvedic medicine constitutes an innovative knowledge system that can only be comprehended in its historical and methodological relevance when we acknowledge the transformative and integrative power of traditional religious discourse, thus going beyond the divide between religion and secular medicine.

André de Campos Silva

Changes in Discourse Regarding the Relationship between Humans and Deities in the Ancient Egyptian Wisdom Instructions

In ancient Egypt’s “wisdom literature” there were several differences, in form and content, from one historical period to another. Here the subgenre of the “instructions” of the Middle and New Kingdoms (c. 2010-1630, c. 1539-1069 BCE, respectively) will be considered. Chiefly among the changes from the Middle to New Kingdoms’ instructions that will be addressed are: the contributions from the wider New Kingdom phenomenon known as “personal piety” − leading to the depiction of a closer relationship between humans and gods −, and the seeming replacement of connective justice (Ma’at) by arbitrary divine will. In this paper an analysis will be undertaken of what made possible these changes in the instructions’ discourse regarding the way the relationship between humans and deities was presented and used by the authors of these texts, and of how the new ideas coexisted with the intensive copying of Middle Kingdom instructions in New Kingdom schools.

Heidi Marx-Wolf

Mapping the Afterlife in Late Antique Platonism: Porphyry and the Author of "Zostrianos"

This paper argues that despite his vehement criticism of the Christian sectaries he calls "Gnostics" who populated the circle of Plotinus at Rome, Porphyry of Tyre may have learned a great deal from some of the texts they brought with them. By reading Porphyry's account of the afterlife in his fragmentary work, On the River Styx, alongside the so-called Gnostic text, "Zostrianos," this paper will suggest that the former shares a similar taxonomy of spirits with the latter.

Chiara Crosignani

Philosophical meaning and functions of demons in a Christian context

The aim of my paper is to demonstrate the changes in Christian demonology in the first three Centuries A.D. The Hebrew Philo of Alexandria and some of the Christian authors (Origen above all) aim to discard the fear about demons: in order to do that they use the philosophic notion of daímon, which Philo and Origen are well aware of. Philo only reads the Ancient Testament, where demons are almost never quoted, hence explaining that evil spirits do not exist; however, Christian authors must accept their existence because evil spirits are widely present in the Gospels. My aim is to demonstrate that the most important change in Christian demonology derives from Origen, who explains the nature of demons by rationalizing the demonic system presented by the Gospels and by Paul’s Letters: he makes Christian demonology suitable in the context of Greek philosophy, without denying its Christian features.


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