The Great Transformation By Karen Armstrong 469 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, $30 (hc).
FOR ANY THINKING STUDENT OF RELIGION, a broad knowledge of religious history can enhance and bolster one's own belief system. For example, at a time when women were denied public education, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, read widely and familiarized herself with literature about the Bible and religious history. Her knowledge in this area permeates her writing. In Science and Health, for example, she specifically discussed other religious traditions See Science and Health, p. 524. and definitions in the then-recent Smith's Bible Dictionary. See ibid., p. 320.
In this tradition, Christian Scientists may find one of today's bestsellers—Karen Armstrong's latest book, The Great Transformation—a worthwhile read. Armstrong delivers an articulate recounting of major historical religious trends in the Middle East, Greece, India, and China over a 700-year period. Her skillful presentation takes us effortlessly through centuries of little-known history, although the simplicity of her presentation masks the many controversies that beset this history.