Paul Carus’ “The History of the Devil”

Paul Carus’ “The History of the Devil” February 26, 2016


Carus was a forerunner of interfaith dialogue, promoting communication between world religions.  He was respected for his writing on philosophy and comparative religion.  Paul Carus lived from 1852-1919, and The History of the Devil was his magnum opus.  Carus’ work explores the evolution of the devil from antiquity to the modern age, and how the concept of Satan has changed across cultures.

Carus traces the diabolic origins of the many manifestations of Satan through different locations, and historical periods of significance.  He examines the concepts of good and evil from both a theological and philosophical view.  By looking at examples from Ancient Egypt, Persia, and Israel; we get an idea of the pre-Christian conception of the adversarial role.

There are 350 illustrations depicting various forms of the Devil throughout the ages.  Analyzing these visual representations helps us understand the changing ideas about the Devil, but also compares the concept with Eastern traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, who also have evil counterparts.

There are many anthologies, excerpts from manuscripts, and other research from various philosophers and theologians, including passages from various holy books.  This 500 page codex provides a broad cross-section of human cultures and their beliefs that Carus ties together.  It can sometimes be a little tedious and disconnected, but the information is extensive.

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