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  • Author or Editor: Kocku von Stuckrad x
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The article argues that “action” is one of the basic categories in our attempt to understand human behavior, and thus also in the study of religion. “Action” is differentiated from “behavior” or “happening” by the necessary inclusion of intentionality and agency in its interpretational setting. The article sketches the history of the concept in philosophical and sociological theory, focusing on Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, and Niklas Luhmann in particular. It then identifies the often overlooked importance of the category “action” in recent theoretical approaches in the study of religion, notably in rational choice theory of religion and in ritual and performance studies.” ⸙

Astrology is a system of knowledge that interprets the connection between heavenly phenomena and events on earth. The article discusses the relationship between astrology and astronomy, the separation of those two systems of knowledge after the eighteenth century, as well as the polemical exclusion of astrology from the accepted systems of knowledge, including the discursive impact this marginalization has had on the study of religion and culture. It is argued that alternative, even if incommensurable, systems of knowledge need to be accepted as equally valid expressions of the human mind. ⸙

The article traces the origins of the terms “esoteric” and “esotericism” in European intellectual history and describes the emergence of “Western esotericism” as a distinct field of research in the study of religion and culture. It problematizes the adjective “Western” and sketches the major theoretical challenges of this field of research, arguing that a sound analytical framework will be necessary if the academic study of esotericism is to be sustainable. ⸙

This entry sketches the diversity of discourse research and then focuses on approaches to discourse that are informed by the sociology of knowledge and the work of Michel Foucault. After having defined the most important terms in discourse theory, the entry looks at the implications for the study of religion and considers challenges and controversies in discourse theory. ⸙