Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Carl Olson's "Indian Asceticism"

Carl Olson is a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Allegheny College. Besides numerous essays in journals, books, and encyclopedias, he has published seventeen books on subjects such as Hinduism, Buddhism, comparative philosophy, and method and theory in the study of religion. His most recent books include Celibacy in Religious Traditions and The Allure of Decadent Thinking: Religious Studies and the Challenge of Postmodernism.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Indian Asceticism: Power, Violence, and Play, and reported the following:
By applying the page 99 test to this book, a reader finds oneself in the middle of chapter 5 and a discussion of narratives about demons practicing asceticism and gaining various types of powers usually associated with human ascetics. These narratives suggest a relationship between the demonic, power and violence, which are interrelated themes of the book along with various forms of play. Ascetic powers considered include the ability to fly, walk on water or through dense objects, read minds, know former lives, see into the future, and others forms of power gained by practicing a vigorous ascetic regimen.

In addition to a discussion and analysis of ascetic powers, the author discusses the erotic, the demonic, the comic, and miraculous forms of play and their connections to power and violence. Besides focusing on Hinduism, literary material from Buddhism and Jainism are included in order to suggest the widespread nature of power, violence, and play in the lives of Indian ascetics. The book includes a brief examination of findings from cognitive science and what it might suggest about understanding the nature of these powers. The book also includes attempts to redefine the nature of the demonic and power.
Learn more about Indian Asceticism at the Oxford University Press.

 --Marshal Zeringue