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date: 18 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Purity is an extremely varied and heterogeneous religious ideal that lies at the critical intersection between the individual physical body, the social body, and the cosmos as a whole. At once a material and a spiritual ideal, purity overlaps partially with but far exceeds modern notions of cleanliness or hygiene; indeed, it may in some cases even contradict the latter. One can distinguish five different forms of purity, each in this chapter illustrated by one primary example: physical purity, social purity, mental purity, sexual purity, and the ritual use of impurity. There is also a variety of contemporary theoretical approaches to purity, drawn from psychology, cognitive science, cultural anthropology, gender studies, and comparative religions.

Keywords: dharma, esotericism, halakhah, Hinduism, Islam, pollution, purity, religion, shariah

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