By Gregory Shushan
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Extra info for Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations: Universalism, Constructivism and Near-Death Experience
Neither the phenomenological nor the comparative methods (as opposed to ‘phenomenology’ and ‘comparative religion’ as theoretical/theological stances) are mutually incompatible with agnosticism (theoretical and metaphysical), theoretical eclecticism, and reflexivity. A theoretical eclecticism which is open-ended (and open-minded) enough to consider metaphysical theories does not indicate that the comparison is defined by a universalist agenda in which the researcher discovers unity in world religions because he or she is looking for them out of humanistic or theological motives (see Martin 2000b: 279).
Arguments that comparison in general and claims of universality in particular are necessarily theologizing exercises are thus without merit. e. ’ He argues that the solution is a ‘new comparativism’ which disregards such theories and instead advocates the a priori adoption of ‘naturalistic’ ones. The first problem here is that Martin’s use of ‘theological’ as a synonym for ‘metaphysical’ is both inaccurate and misleading (and presumably deliberately provocative). A metaphysical explanation8 does not require an associated theological system for its formulation and expression, and can in fact be independent of one.
Perhaps one of the reasons comparative studies have so often focused on similarities is that the dissimilarities are both expected and incalculably vast. It is unsurprising to find that Egyptian Osiris does not judge the Vedic dead, or that Sumerian Inana does not descend to the Chinese Yellow Springs to play football with the decapitated head of Maya underworld hero-twin Xblanque. Uniqueness is not denied, but taken for granted. It is normative ‘difference’ which reveals the similarities, while the concept of ‘different’ is only comprehensible by reference to the concept of ‘similar’.