Audiobook Review: Great Courses: The Terror Of History: Part 2

Great Courses:  The Terror Of History:  Part 2, taught by Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz

I must admit that I did not enjoy this part of the course as much as the first course, although there were at least some elements of the lectures, particular the exploration of the esoteric interests of the Renaissance and the way that religion, science, and mysticism became disentangled from their medieval synthesis.  The author has a clear interest in social history and he is clearly a skeptic but one who is genuinely supportive of “the old ways” of heathen religion.  Obviously, there is a lot of disagreement that I have with this view, and definitely some ways where I think he views religion, especially biblical religion, with an unfriendly bias.  Even so, this course, and this part of the course in particular, is for the fanboys and fangirls of witchcraft and the professor doesn’t disappoint even if his comments are likely to be surprisingly negative about contemporary forms of neo-paganism for someone who has a great deal of fondness for the original.  Those who like their history a bit unconventional and who are willing to explore the darker side of superstition and irrationality that serves as the opposite side to the rationality that people pride themselves on will find much to appreciate here.

In terms of the contents of these lectures, there is a lot of discussion about the witch craze of the early modern period.  The most enjoyable parts of this part of the course for me were the first three lectures, which dealt with Jewish Millennial expectations, the esoteric mystery tradition of the Renaissance, and hermeticism and related subjects, respectively.  Not only have I done a fair bit of reading on these subjects [1], but they are also subjects of greater cultural interest.  That said, eight of the lectures deal with views of magic and witchcraft, ranging from its origins in pagan nature worship, the divide between science, religion, and magic, historians of the witch craze, the role of fear, ideas about Satan, misogyny, and the world of witches.  Of course, the instructor feels it necessary to look at some of the writing related to the witch craze, and unsurprisingly he devotes a lecture each to Loudon (a celebrated French witch craze) as well as Salem (well known especially to Americans [2]).  The lectures end where the course as a whole began in looking at the survival of the past within the present, particularly through the endurance of heathen customs like May Day.

Ultimately, this is not a course that will likely convince anyone whose mind is made up about the author’s mindset.  If it were not for the immense appeal of neo-pagan practices and the attempts of areas like Salem to capitalize on their history involving witchcraft, it is unlikely that anyone would care enough about this subject for such a course to be marketed.  Be that as it may, there is still some material of worth to be found here for those who are critical about the endurance of heathen ways within society.  This relevance has several layers.  For one, socialism and other corrupt systems have an enduring basis of hostility to God’s ways and God’s laws that leads them to have a rooting interest in pagan mindsets that focus on the acquisition and use of power for purposes of domination as well as in freedom from standards of morality.  For another, the Roman Catholic Church has long been known for its swallowing of popular “scientific” or heathen practices in order to increase its own cultural power as an institution.  For another, even contemporary rationalism is not nearly as rational as it makes itself out to be.  For these reasons alone this course is worth giving a listen even where there is much to disagree with.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to Audiobook Review: Great Courses: The Terror Of History: Part 2

  1. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Great Courses: Buddhism: Part 1 | Edge Induced Cohesion

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