The Darkly Numinous Redux

As I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions, I’ve spent a significant portion of my professional career  — and in recent months, my personal life — wrestling with the effort to understand evil. As I’ve told some of my friends, there’s always a difference between theory and practice, and as Dr. Johnson noted in Rasselas, teachers may “discourse like angels, but they live like men.”

As I noted the other day, there’s a numinous aspect to some of the ghastly things that happen, and we can’t confront that aspect directly. What we do instead is substitute things we can talk about, and that gives us the illusion that evil is something we can manage, by eliminating a root cause, by isolating some vector of spiritual disease.

Margaret Cabaniss understands this as well, and in a post at, she has some interesting things to say on the topic. It’s worth a read, I think.

(H/T: The Anchoress, at her snazzy new digs.)


About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Faith, Why I Do What I Do. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Darkly Numinous Redux

  1. Fred Krome says:

    Have you read Alexabdra Walsham’s Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford UP 1999)? Although she does not specifically address the question (or problem) of evil, her analysis of how people interpreted good and bad events in the context of providential design or God’s plan/anger is very interesting. I mined it for some good examples for when I am lecturing about religious beliefs.

  2. Pingback: Dalrymple on the Numinosity of Evil | Professor Mondo

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