“Vain Repetitions”

Robert A. Yelle

in The Language of Disenchantment

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199924998
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980444 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

“Vain Repetitions”

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Chapter 4 studies the colonial attack on Hindu mantras, chants, and related forms of ritual language, which echoed an earlier Puritan critique of vain repetitions in prayer that was deployed initially against Catholics. The reconstruction of this theological polemic reveals that many Protestants objected to what they perceived as rhetoric, magic, and idolatry in repetitive chants: rhetoric for their poetic form and persuasive function, magic for their attempt to coerce or cajole God to intervene in the physical world, and idolatry for the anthropomorphism and belief in divine immanence on which such practices ultimately depended. These polemics may have been motivated in part by the introduction of the printing press, and the tendencies of thought that went along with it. Significantly, a number of the Hindu practices the British singled out for condemnation were closely associated with oral performance.

Keywords: prayer; magic; rosary; ritual; poetry; mantras; printing; literacy; orality; idolatry

Chapter.  14061 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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