Glossary - T

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taboo: from Polynesian tapu or tabu; refers to a strong social prohibition, the breaking of which generally entails being susceptible to punishment, delivered either by the social group, or from some divine agency.

tao/Taoism: See dao and Daoism.

Tantra: typically secret body of beliefs and practices of Eastern origin, concerned with self-realization mostly through body-mind ritual activities centred on the transcendence of dualities, symbolically understood as male and female principles.

teleology: the study of the purposes, goals, or ends (Greek: telos); also used to refer to the mediate and ultimate objectives in religious systems and practices.

thaumaturge: wonder worker; performer of miracles or magic.

theism: belief in the existence of a deity or god.

theocracy: (god + rule); government where religious officials rule in god’s name.

theodicy: (theos – god + dike – justice); branch of theology that seeks to justify the existence of evil and injustice in a world presided over by a good and just deity.

theology: (theos – god + logos – study) intellectual reflections on the nature of the divine; typically done within the framework of a religious tradition’s accepted beliefs.

theophany: appearance or manifestation of a god, see also the broader term, hierophany.

totemism: a cluster of beliefs and activities centered upon a perceived relationship between a person or group (often kin) and an entity, such as a plant or animal.

transcendent: beyond or above the ordinary; apart from and beyond the limitations of the material world, such as the power or realm of the divine.

transmigration: see reincarnation; this term is slightly more broad in its sense of a soul or spirit of some type moving from one existence to the next; includes movement up and down a hierarchy of beings (e.g. levels of hell dwellers, ghosts, animals, humans, and gods common to many Asian cosmologies).

triumphalism: attitude that one’s religion is superior to other beliefs and traditions.




  1. (C)Hillary Rodrigues and John S. Harding 2008; Courtesy Routledge


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