1st Edition

Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West Between Mind and Body

Edited By Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston Copyright 2013
    282 Pages
    by Routledge

    296 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Subtle-body practices are found particularly in Indian, Indo-Tibetan and East Asian societies, but have become increasingly familiar in Western societies, especially through the various healing and yogic techniques and exercises associated with them. This book explores subtle-body practices from a variety of perspectives, and includes both studies of these practices in Asian and Western contexts.

    The book discusses how subtle-body practices assume a quasi-material level of human existence that is intermediate between conventional concepts of body and mind. Often, this level is conceived of in terms of an invisible structure of channels, associated with the human body, through which flows of quasi-material substance take place. Contributors look at how subtle-body concepts form the basic explanatory structure for a wide range of practices. These include forms of healing, modes of exercise and martial arts as well as religious practices aimed at the refinement and transformation of the human mindbody complex.

    By highlighting how subtle-body practices of many kinds have been introduced into Western societies in recent years, the book explores the possibilities for new models of understanding which these concepts open up. It is a useful contribution to studies on Asian Religion and Philosophy.

    General Introduction Geoffrey Samuel and Jay Johnston Part 1: Subtle Bodies in China and India Introduction to Part One Geoffrey Samuel 1. The Daoist Body of Qi. Livia Kohn 2. The Subtle Body in India and Beyond Geoffrey Samuel 3. Subtle-Body Concepts in the Work of Indian Dais. Janet Chawla Part 2: Subtle Bodies in Tibet Introduction to Part Two Geoffrey Samuel 4. Of Souls and Subtle Bodies: A Shamanic Perspective Angela Sumegi 5. On the 'subtle body' and 'circulation' in Tibetan medicine Barbara Gerke 6. Magical Movements: Ancient Yogic Practices in the Bon Religion and Contemporary Medical Perspectives M. Alejandro Chaoul Part 3: Subtle Bodies in Europe and Islam Introduction to Part Three Jay Johnston 7. Sex, Athleticism and the Soul: Physical Philosophy in the Ancient Mediterranean and South Asia. Joseph S. Alter 8. In the Light of the Sphere: The Vehicle of the Soul and Subtle Body Practices in Neoplatonism. Crystal Addey 9. The Subtle Body in Sufism. Milad Milani Part 4: Subtle Bodies and Modernity Introduction to Part Four Jay Johnston 10. Subtle Reality in Early Modernism and the Occult Revival. John Bramble 11. Magical Consciousness: Relationships with the Natural World, Animals and Ancestors Susan Greenwood 12. Invisible, Dispersed and Connected: The Cultural Plausibility of Subtle Body Models in the Contemporary West Ruth Barcan 13. Subtle Subjects and Ethics: The Subtle Bodies of Western Post-Structuralist and Feminist Philosophy Jay Johnston 14. Subtle-Body Processes: Towards a Non-Reductionist Understanding. Geoffrey Samuel


    Geoffrey Samuel is Professor of Anthropology in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University, UK, and Honorary Associate in the Department of Indian and Subcontinental Studies, University of Sydney, Australia.

    Jay Johnston is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, Australia, and Senior Lecturer in the School of Art History and Art Education, College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

    "This collection of consistently excellent essays is the first academic study of the concept of the subtle body across many cultures, in pre-modern and contemporary societies, and in elite and vernacular traditions...The book has four parts, each with a helpful introduction by one of the editors...Summing up: Highly recommended."

    - J. Bussanich, University of New Mexico, CHOICE 

    "This book would be of great interest to a general audience, and also for students of Asian religion, and especially Tibetan Buddhism. In sum, this book offers a rich exploration into a much-needed area of research."

    Loriliai Biernacki, University of Colorado, Asian Medicine 9 (2014) 273–304