Cycles of Faith
The Development of the World's Religions
By Robert Ellwood
Cycles of Faith looks at broad patterns in the development of five of the world's historic mass religion -- Hinduism, Chinese religion, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam -- and finds that they have gone through comparable stages, here named Apostolic, Wisdom/Imperial, Devotional, Reformation, and Folk Religion. Each has had a primal period of consolidation as a new world religion, a time of alignment with a major empire giving it a political base, the exfoliation of medieval-type devotion, a Reformation involving putative simplification and return to the sources, and a final stage when it survives more or less as folk religion in a changed world. Though there are great variations, each stage may very roughly last five centuries or so. Thus Christianity would be now entering its Folk Religion stage, while Islam, five hundred years younger, is amidst the turmoil of an era like that of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Some commentators have felt this analogy helps one to understand what has happened with the two faiths in the twentieth century and after.
Read this book and see what you think.