Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Notes: Creation of the Sacred by Walter Burkert

Available online at the Gifford lectures site: Creation of the Sacred (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996)


p. 10 – "Sociobiology could be called the computerized version of social Darwinism. Whereas Lorenz had still largely relied on observation and empathy, evolutionary theory now moves along the lines of game theory, models which can be tested by computer programs."

p. 15 – "It is tempting to assume that the very advantage secured by religion stability and thus continuity of culture. As the 'software' of civilization became too precious and too complicated to leave its preservation to individual choice or chance, new institutions had to arise to guarantee social cohesion across long spans of time. … [[p. 16] Yet, survival fitness] in the long run, means adaptability to changing conditions; int eh cultural systems the key to success is the ability to learn fast and to keep learning in a changing world. … What kind of fitness is it that renders [religiously traditional, dogmatic] people unfit for change, and how can we say that it has been successful?"

p. 17 – "…human sexuality as such has a clear biological function and pedigree. During adolescence humans everywhere and at all times will spontaneously discover sexuality along with new feelings and behavior, while cultural and educational efforts to repress them normally fail. … variations and deviances [noted by postmodern constructivist critics] are slight in the face of overwhelming uniformity. The biological program develops on its own according to predetermined patterns, which reach back far beyond the emergence of humans and have long been inscribed in the genetic code. It has never been shown that religiosity arises spontaneously in such a way; religion depends on the formative impact of cultural learning. The prospect of discovering religious genes is dim."

p. 18 – "Language is exclusively human, even if chimpanzees can be taught its rudiments to a surprising degree.66"

p. 23 – n. 83

p. 25 – n. 87

p. 26 – n. 93 infra.

p. 27 – n. 96

p. 31 – n. 117, supra et infra.

p. 33 – "Life's…"


p. 38 – "The hero thus…"

p. 41 – "…has its analogy… analogies, not homologies…."

p. 42 – n. 18??

p. 45 – "Karl Meuli took…"

p. 46 – "…sparagmos…" vs. "not a bone of his shall be broken…"

p. 46 – apotropaic magic; shitting in panic became an intentional action; p. 47 – Hekate, "eater of excrement," borborophorba

p. 54 – "An action that would…"


p. 56 – In Geshcichten verstrickt (1953) von Wilhelm Schapp

p. 57–58 – "A tale is not…"

p. 58 – "According to Propp…"

p. 62 – "The tale is…"

p. 63 – "The main strand of…"

p. 65 – "the missing link from…"

p. 66 – "Another strange…"

p. 68 "Shamanistic experience surely…"

p. 79 – "The slogan…"


p. 80 – "…the French Revolution…"

p. 83 – "Gerhard Baudy…" n. 27

p. 84 – "Religion makes all this…"

p. 86 – humilis

p. 88 – "Eusebius calls…" and n. 61

p. 92 – "Exaltation even…"

p. 93 – "Polybius found that…"


p. 103 – "Four characteristic…"

p. 106 – nosos, disease

p. 111 – a luckless life, akerdes bios

p. 111 – Phylakos finds his son, Iphiklos, cannot beget children. Melampus…

p. 113 – "Disaster brought…"

p. 115 – Passion Play

p. 118 – the hypothesis of pure deception; The mediators…

p. 119 – lysioi teletai, katadesis, defixio

p. 121 – hilaskesthai

p. 122 – Apparently the style of … Greek society… ; miasma, agos, katharmos

p. 123 – apolymainesthai

p. 127 – katharmos; pollution, face-saving

p. 128 – the principle of causality…


p. 129–130 – exchange, amoiba; a smile, charis; gifts, dora; standard of equivalence, axion

p. 132 – gift exchange is one means of imposing rationality on sexuality.

p. 133 – object of trade, porne; to be punished is termed "to give justice" (diken didonai)

p. 134 – Systems of gift exchange…

p. 135 – religion becomes a "craft of trade" (emporike techne); amoibe thusion

p. 136 – do ut des, da quia dedi, date quia dedit

p. 140 – The returns of continued trade…

p. 142 – "Man, do not be ungrateful……"

p. 143 – non licet deos gratis nosse: venales sunt; "Alone among gods, Death is not desirous of gifts."

p. 144 – n. 95, n. 98

p. 150 – The Greek concepts of moira

p. 152 – apotropaic sacrifice, do ut abeas

p. 154 – zoon logikon thneton; The strange fact remains…

p. 155 – antamoibe; antapodidonai; homoeostasis


p. 157 – The capacity to find…

p. 158 – divinatio, divine activity, hepatoscopy

p. 161 – Humans have no fixed…

p. 166–167 – The link between… will on the body.

p. 169 – Oath is a…

p. 171 – "surplus"; wid-, histor

p. 174 – per Iovem lapidem

p. 175 – Jesus forbade oaths, but later Xns made them, n. 94

p. 176 – Locke, "Promises, oaths… atheist"


p. 177–179 – I propose… Still, insofar as… Even within…

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