The Devil

Jeffrey Burton Russell

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Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity, Russell, Jeffrey Burton, Paperback
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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. (Kirkus




Jeffrey Burton Russell  
Cornell Paperbacks  
Cornell Univ Pr  
276 p.
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