Within the 4 Seas: Religion and Science

In a set of essays called Within the Four Seas (1969) Joseph Needham agreed that there was growing disenchantment in the west about organised religion. Why? Because of factors such as science undermining the older simplistic beliefs, excessive “Puritanism”, and atrocities in Christian history such as the Crusades and Inquisition. Against that science itself had been associated with evil, take Hiroshima for example.

Underlying everything remained “the mysterium tremendum”, the wholly other, the immanent. The category of the “numinous”, with its highest ethical principles, “altogether transcends the particular manifestations of it familiar in our parochial and limited experience” (pp.196-7).


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