- Born in Germany in 1852.
- Raised as a piously orthodox Protestant.
- Prolific and diverse author, writing 75 books and 1500 articles on history, politics, philosophy, religion, logic, mathematics, anthropology, science, and social issues of his day.
- A student, theologian, and philosopher in the field of comparative religion.
- Immigrated to the United States in 1882 "because of his liberal views."
- Described himself as "an atheist who loved God."
Oh, and he was also pen pals with some of the greatest minds of his time, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton (leader in the early woman's rights movement), Booker T. Washington (prominent figure in bridging the old racial divide in the time of Jim Crow segregation), Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace, anyone?), Ernst Mach (ever wonder how "Mach" related to the speed of sound?), Thomas Edison (made the incandescent light bulb and a little company now known as GE), and Nichola Tesla (made Edison look like an idiot, both figuratively and literally when Edison went for DC instead of Tesla's preferred AC power), among many others.
Joseph Campbell would have been jealous of this guy, and/or they would have been good friends.
In a slightly similar fashion to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Carus took a look across various religious traditions with a focus on the "evil" side, and followed some of their evolutions in time, to compile an impressive work in 1900 known as The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. (That was back when book titles were more descriptions than tag lines.) I'll call it The History of the Devil for short.
While not as entertaining as Campbell can be, I found Carus' book to be excellent. His writing helped to coalesce many thoughts I'd previously had, persuaded me to more-strongly consider some different viewpoints, and challenged me to confront ideas which were foreign to me. That's my kind of book!
I'll be re-reading this book, and blogging about it along the way. It's not really going to be a formal book review, or a summary. It'll be a highlight of interesting facts, and a discussion of the many thought provoking conjectures and points he made. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.