Rituals and celebrations


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Cognition and intelligence
One more time

Why do we listen to our favourite music over and over again? Because repeated sounds work magic in our brains

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis

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Religion
Not your Tibetan Buddhism

Behind the beatific image of Tibetan Buddhism lies a dark, complicated reality. But is it one the Western gaze wants to see?

Mark Hay

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Stories and literature
The truth about tarot

Whether divining ancient wisdoms or elevating the art of cold reading, tarot is a form of therapy, much like psychoanalysis

James McConnachie

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Philosophy of religion
Inside the mind of God

Punitive Big Brother; cosmic petty-thief-catcher; vigilant landlord. Why is God so interested in bad behaviour?

Benjamin Grant Purzycki

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Metaphysics
Everything and Moore

The legendary comics author Alan Moore has written a million-word novel, tribute to every eternal speck in his universe

Tim Martin

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Mental health
Learning to fall apart

My OCD had been creating vivid, painful rituals for years. So could Buddhist ritual give me a means to fight back?

Matt Bieber

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Consciousness and altered states
A good trip

Researchers are giving psychedelics to cancer patients to help alleviate their despair — and it’s working

Linda Marsa

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Medicine
Do some harm

Traditional Chinese medicine is an odd, dangerous mix of sense and nonsense. Can it survive in modern China?

James Palmer

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Consciousness and altered states
The uncertainty machine

Forget prophecy and wisdom. Using the I Ching is a weirdly useful way to open your mind to life’s unexpected twists

Will Buckingham

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Rituals and celebrations
The love of stuff

The problem with our society is not that it values material things too much but that it doesn’t value them enough

Nick Thorpe

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Evolution
Is there a war instinct?

Many evolutionists believe that humans have a drive for waging war. But they are wrong and the idea is dangerous

David P Barash

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Biography and memoir
Like a prayer

Even secular people need time out to meditate, reflect, and give thanks. Is prayer the answer?

Heather Havrilesky

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Anthropology
Trial by fire

From fire-walking to the ice-bucket challenge, ritual pain and suffering forge intense social bonds

Dimitris Xygalatas

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History
Medieval parasites

People in the Middle Ages took great care over cleanliness – except the clergy, who accepted filth as a sign of devotion

Katherine Harvey

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Rituals and celebrations
Possessed by a mask

Every human culture has used masks for ritual disinhibition, shaming and play. Is being online the ultimate masquerade?

Sandra Newman

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Cultures and languages
Is nothing sacred?

Every culture looks for creative inspiration to other cultures, but is there a point when this is just outright theft?

Nabeelah Jaffer

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Rituals and celebrations
All his materials

In a rare interview, Philip Pullman tells us his own origin story, and why the great questions are still religious ones

Peter Jukes

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Anthropology
Did laughter make the mind?

A psychological relief valve and a guard against despotism, laughter is a uniquely human – and collective – activity

Chris Knight

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Anthropology
Human rites

Rituals bind us, in modern societies and prehistoric tribes alike. But can our loyalties stretch to all of humankind?

Harvey Whitehouse

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Rituals and celebrations
Mrs Myself

Self-marriage promises love and fulfilment – but is it a radical act or a depressing concession to self-absorption?

Polina Aronson

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Food and drink
Sacrament

Wine is an elixir, a miracle-worker and shapeshifter – no wonder even the most secular of us hold it sacred still

Ross Andersen

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Food and drink
A taste of the divine

An exquisite, luxurious meal is an ephemeral pleasure – but perhaps that’s the point. So is the human condition

Julian Baggini

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Love and friendship
The modern wedding

A white gown, a grand reception, a multi-tiered cake – the stuff of a traditional wedding or something else entirely?

Beth Montemurro

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Art
Head to head

Michelangelo and Raphael; Leibniz and Newton; Constable and Turner. Does every creative genius need a bitter rival?

Jacob Burak