The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization

By Teofilo F. Ruiz | Go to book overview

1
THE TERROR OF HISTORY

FOR MORE THAN THREE DECADES, I have taught an undergraduate course entitled, as this book partly is, “The Terror of History.” The class examines the development of mysticism, heresy, magic, and witchcraft in medieval and early modern Europe. I often have large enrollments in my classes, but none compare to the crowds that attend my lectures on these subjects. I have long thought that students flock to this particular course because of the unorthodox nature of the topics discussed, but year after year I am struck by the many students who eagerly take the class for more than its esoteric or “magical” aspects. They come—many of them do—seeking answers to existential fears, seeking to understand and deal with the harshness of the world in which they live.

One could argue that college students—often coming from well-to-do families and being impossibly young—seldom know about the angst and anxieties provoked by historical events and existential questions. In these materialistic and apathetic times in which we live, spiritual concerns are, more often than not, overshadowed by the pursuit of commodities, a career, or a good job. Law school, often chosen without any real sense of what the law is or what it is for, beats the reflected life most of the time. But to my amazement a large

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The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • I - The Terror of History 1
  • II - Religion and the World to Come 35
  • III - The World of Matter and the Senses 83
  • IV - The Lure of Beauty and Knowledge 129
  • Conclusion 167
  • Index 173
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