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Extended Audio Sample The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions Audiobook, by Karen Armstrong Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,405 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Karen Armstrong Narrator: Karen Armstrong Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2006 ISBN: 9781415932087
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From one of the world’s leading writers on religion and the highly acclaimed author of the bestselling A History of God, The Battle for God and The Spiral Staircase, comes a major new work: a chronicle of one of the most important intellectual revolutions in world history and its relevance to our own time.

In one astonishing, short period—the ninth century BCE—the peoples of four distinct regions of the civilized world created the religious and philosophical traditions that have continued to nourish humanity into the present day: Confucianism and Daoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece. Historians call this the Axial Age because of its central importance to humanity’s spiritual development. Now, Karen Armstrong traces the rise and development of this transformative moment in history, examining the brilliant contributions to these traditions made by such figures as the Buddha, Socrates, Confucius and Ezekiel.

Armstrong makes clear that despite some differences of emphasis, there was remarkable consensus among these religions and philosophies: each insisted on the primacy of compassion over hatred and violence. She illuminates what this “family” resemblance reveals about the religious impulse and quest of humankind. And she goes beyond spiritual archaeology, delving into the ways in which these Axial Age beliefs can present an instructive and thought-provoking challenge to the ways we think about and practice religion today.

A revelation of humankind’s early shared imperatives, yearnings and inspired solutions—as salutary as it is fascinating.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Great Transformation can serve the needs of new readers interested in a popular work that synthesizes scholarship. . . . [U]seful to anyone seeking an integral sense of world religions. The Globe and Mail
  • Karen Armstrong is a genius. A. N. Wilson, author of Jesus: A Life
  • Armstrong is a lucid writer with a knack for synthesizing vast quantities of research. The Globe and Mail
  • Armstrong’s writing continues to offer a religious mirror and a cultural vision. Amazon.com
  • Armstrong has a dazzling ability: she can take a long and complex subject and reduce it to the fundamentals, without oversimplifying. The Sunday Times

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Matana | 2/10/2014

    " To understand the origins of many religions. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tom & Beverly | 12/10/2013

    " interesting with great ideas but slow going for me. ended up skipping a lot as there was way more information than I was able to consume. All in all it gives a great perspective on the era of the Buddha and give one a sense of the atmosphere in which he was teaching. Certainly worthy of reading "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maureen Clark | 11/30/2013

    " Once again, Karen Armstrong is able to look at the really big picture and pull from history lessons we need today. This was an amazing book. The Axial Age religions bring us two very important insights: the golden rule is absolutely relevant to our situation today, and, in a violent world like the one in which we live, we must look into our own hearts first to overcome bias and hatred. There are violent factions in almost every religion, and America is not exempt. If it's not the preaching of hate and violence, it's the philosophy that each religion represents a "chosen" people. Both philosophies contribute to the increasing violence in our world. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steve Clason | 11/25/2013

    " The Great Transformation: the Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong (1980) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dima | 10/26/2013

    " a must read book, although a little bit painful to finish... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sue | 10/23/2013

    " I fluctuate between 3 and 4 stars for this book. It's a totally fascinating account of man's spiritual migration and has many important points in it. My rating probably depends on my mood at the time. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Roger Blackwell | 5/25/2013

    " I cannot recommend this book enough. It was important to me in understanding the history and interworkings of Axial Age religious transforamtions "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jason Duffy | 3/17/2013

    " Unlike the rest of her books that I've read, this one was tough to get through. It's a little wordy for it its point, but worth getting to it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gina | 3/9/2013

    " Actually didn't finish... VERY dense... but fascinating "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeannie | 2/3/2013

    " An amazing look at the origins of current religious philosophies and the cultures in which the religions flourished, changed and sometimes destroyed itself and others. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 10/24/2012

    " I read this for a research paper in college. This book is a heavier read but it is so fascinating to learn about the origins of modern day religion. I enjoyed it immensely. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nikki | 6/17/2012

    " This is a very interesting non-fiction book about the axial age. I was glad I read it, but there were a few too many details than what I was hoping for. Armstrong is clearly very scholarly. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Conrad | 5/22/2012

    " She has a personal stake in defining the last great transformation and planning for the next one. Controversial if it really existed and will really happen again, but she is scholarly and makes a case. Along the way you learn more than you ever may want to know "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cliff | 2/4/2012

    " A bit dry but very well researched. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 H Wesselius | 10/29/2011

    " An encyclopedia like effort to chronicle the origins of world religions. Attempting to draw common themes to the origins of all major religions, Armstrong over reaches. The History of God and The Battle for God where she confines herself to monotheism are far better. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Roar | 8/28/2011

    " I think this is as much a history of general mindset as it is a history of religions. I didn't quite finish the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adam | 8/22/2011

    " It's fascinating to see where our myths and religions stem from and how they are all connected. Heavy read but worth every minute. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lysergius | 7/8/2011

    " Magnificent summary of the significance of the religious movements of the Axial Age. Emphasising the importance of compassion in the major faiths of the time, especially when set against the prevailing climate of violence and uncertainty. Well written. Quite excellent. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erika | 1/7/2011

    " Our generation is desperately in need of a Great Transformation of our own. This is yet another example of how studying the past can give us hope for the future. If humanity can survive the disasters of this wide-spread period, we can focus on developing our compassion for future generations, too. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mckinley | 11/11/2010

    " Very indepth historical and cultural review of Axial age religions which are the bases of many of current religions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julia | 11/9/2010

    " So much history here. Clear and objective commentary on those times BCE that I knew next to nothing about, using the evolution of religion as a focus. A great read from a smart, smart woman. I'll be reading her other books ASAP. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 10/16/2010

    " I really like Karen Armstrong's work in early religious traditions. I didn't think she did justice to the Greeks, and her chapters on Judaism and early Christianity were pretty much a repeat of History of God, but the work on eastern traditions is well worth the read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steve | 7/27/2010

    " The Great Transformation: the Beginning of Our Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong (1980) "

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About the Author
Author Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous books on religious affairs. Her work has been translated into forty languages, and she has written three television documentaries. Since September 11, 2001, she has been a frequent contributor to conferences, panels, newspapers, periodicals, and other media on both sides of the Atlantic on the subject of Islam. She lives in London.