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Conceptions of Time and Space in Religions of Ancient and Late Antique West Asia

Conceptions of Time and Space in Religions of Ancient and Late Antique West Asia

Seminar / 30h / 4ETCS / winter semester* (10.10-20.10.2022) Coordinator: prof. Kianoosh Rezania email: kianoosh.rezania@rub.de

Time and Space are not only two basic dimensions of our physical world but one of fundamental importance for the conceptualization of many religious ideas. Whereas space is basic and omnipresent in our cognitive processes, time is one the most enigmatic concepts of mankind. Different aspects such as the biological, cosm(ogon)ic, calendrical, social and finally the transcendental cross at the abstract concepts called time and space. In some religious themes such as eschatology or cosmogony, the concept of time is particularly emphasized. In contrast, in the delimitation of ritual surface and its direction, the concept of space is accentuated. The course will discuss how time and space can be conceived in a religion. The linear, circular, or spiral movement of time for example, or different forms of spatial delimitation, have consequences on or depends on the wider concepts of a religion. How the priestly organization depends on the spatial organization of a society, or the intersection of space and purity are some examples, how space could be a matter to a religion.

In this course, we will systematically deal with the concepts of time and space. We will scrutinize some theories about time and space in the study of religion, on the one hand, and will study some examples in the ancient and late antique history of Iranian religions. Of particular interest will be the genesis of time abstraction and its relation to space, the emergence and development of temporal and spatial conceptions in the history of religions. In the course we will discuss cosmic, ritual and social aspects of space as well as cosmogonic, ritual and eschatological conceptions of time. A comparative approach will be practiced in the course.

In every session, we will critically discuss a text which the students have carefully read in advance. The active participation in the discussions in the course constitutes the center of the seminar. Doing so, the students will practice reflective engagement with literature. The texts might be theoretical or excerpts from primary source in translation. The reading material will be circulated before the beginning of the seminar.