THE DEVIL: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity by Jeffrey Burton Russell

THE DEVIL: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity

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The devil is the personification of evil, so an opening chapter defines evil as ""abuse of a sentient being, a being that can feel pain."" Dostoevsky, Colin Turnbull's mountain people, the daily newspaper are among the points of reference in this pointed, concrete but literate and humane introduction. Jung is a recurring theorist, with the journey from individuation's knowledge of good and evil to integration as the hoped-for goal seen as having meaning for mankind, as well as for the individual. Per the subtitle, this is Part I of a history, the history of the concept of the devil--the reasons why this continuous objectivation of forces felt to threaten men has been found necessary at different times within the period covered, and the ways in which it has taken place. An excellent teacher-to-layman discussion of how we know and learn, of history and in particular of the history of concepts, constitutes the first third; here, the latter is distinguished from the conventional history of ideas as being more broadly based and dealing with PsYChological levels deeper than the rational. Then we move to that learned and masterly two-thirds of the book which traces the history of the concept of the devil through the bizarre deserts of the mythology of the ancient world. The string which threads the selection of material is the monist/dualist question, in that ""the perception of a flawed world is deeply rooted in each individual soul."" If there is one god and he good, whence evil? ""Dualism wrenches from the unity of God a portion of his power in order to preserve his perfect goodness."" A professonal historian's book, and a sometimes eloquent one, impatient of intellectual games and dealing with a problem central to humanity.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press