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An academic generation gap?

5 June 2017

Duncan Reyburn recently posted a link to a book, Philosophical Approaches to Demonology, in which he has written a contribution, concerning which he says that it is “about how King James was a being really nasty when he wrote his book—titled, “Daemonologie”—back in 1597. My philosophical approach is rooted in the work of the late, great René Girard.”

I was interested in this because some years ago I wrote an article on Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery, While Duncan seemed to be viewing the topic through a macro-closeup lens, focusing on one book by one man, mine was more of a wide-angle view, though sometimes zooming in on the Zionist Christians of southern Africa.  In spite of these differences, however, it seemed that we were dealing with the same topic. King James VI of Scotland (I of Great Britain), was one Christian and Duncan covered his approach, I looked at a few more approaches.

I was quite surprised, then, to discover that in our bibliographies there was not a single work in common.

Perhaps this indicates a kind of academic generation gap. My article was published in 1995, whereas Duncan cites several works published after 2000, which obviously weren’t available to me. Even so, it still surprises me. Does knowledge get completely recycled every 20 years or so? Does that mean that I’m now completely out of touch?

Here are the two bibliographies:

Witchcraft Bibliography


Philosophical approaches to Demonology — contribution by Duncan Reyburn

Alison, James. 2001. Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments, Catholic and Gay. New York: Crossroad Publishing.

Collins, Brian. 2014. The Head Beneath the Altar: Hindu Mythology and the Critique of Sacrifice. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

The Politics of Possession 269

Crossan, John Dominic. 2012. The Power of Parable: How Fiction By Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus. London: Harper One.

Farneti, Roberto. 2015. Mimetic Politics: Dyadic Patterns in Global Politics. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Garrels, Scott R. 2006. “Imitation, Mirror Neurons, and Mimetic Desire: Convergence between the Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard and Empirical Research.” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Culture and Mimesis 12–13: 47–86.

Girard, René. 1965. Deceit, Desire and the Novel, trans. Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Girard, René. 1977. Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory. London: Continuum.

Girard, René. 1986. The Scapegoat, trans. Yvonne Freccero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Girard, René. 2001. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. James G. Williams. Maryknoll: Orbis.

Girard, René. 2008. Evolution and Conversion. London: Continuum.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. 2009. The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. New York: Infobase Publishing.

Hamerton-Kelly, Robert. 1993. The Gospel and the Sacred. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Levack, Brian P. 1992. The Literature of Witchcraft. Garland: University of Texas.

Palaver, Wolfgang. 2013. René Girard’s Mimetic Theory, trans. Gabriel Borrud. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Pavlac, Brian A. 2009. Witch Hunts in the Western World. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Stewart, Alan. 2003. The Cradle King: The Life of James VI and I, the First Monarch of a United Great Britain. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Stuart, James. 2011. “Daemonologie (1597).” In The Demonology of King James , ed. Donald Tyson, 221–283. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications.

Teems, David. 2010. Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible. London: HarperCollins.

Tyson, Donald. 2011. The Demonology of King James I. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications.


Christian responses to Witchcraft and Sorcery by Stephen Hayes

Adler, Margot. 1979. Drawing down the moon: witches, druids, goddess-worshippers and other pagans in America today. Boston: Beacon.

Anderson, Walter Truett. 1990. Reality isn’t what it used to be. San Francisco: Harper.

Berglund, Axel-Ivar. 1976. Zulu thought-patterns and symbolism. London: Hurst.

Bosch, David. 1987. The problem of evil in Africa: a survey of African views of witchcraft and of the response of the Christian church, in Like a roaring lion, edited by Pieter G.R. de Villiers, vide de Villiers 1987.

Cohn, Norman. 1975. Europe‘s inner demons: an enquiry inspired by the great witch-hunt. London: Sussex University Press.

Comaroff, Jean & Comaroff, John. 1991. Of revelation and revolution: Christianity, colonialism and consciousness in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Daneel, M.L., 1990. Exorcism as a means of combating wizardry: liberation or enslavement?, in Missionalia, Vol. 18(1) April. Page 220-247.

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. 1993. The lost beliefs of Northern Europe. London: Routledge.

de Villiers, Pieter G.R. (ed.). 1987. Like a roaring lion: essays on the Bible, the church and demonic powers. Pretoria: C.B. Powell Bible Centre.

Ellwood, Robert S. 1973. Religious and spiritual groups in modern America. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Fox, Robin Lane. 1987. Pagans and Christians. New York: Knopf.

Hillgarth, J.N. 1986. Christianity and paganism, 350-750: the conversion of Western Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hunter, David E. & Whitten, Phillip. 1976. Encyclopedia of anthropology. New York: Harper & Row.

Hutton, Ronald. 1991. The pagan religions of the ancient British Isles. Oxford: Blackwell.

Kiernan, JP. 1987. The role of the adversary in Zulu Zionist churches, in Religion in Southern Africa Vol 8(1), Pages 3-14.

Levack, Brian P. 1987. The witch-hunt in early modern Europe. London: Longman.

Luhrmann, Tanya M. 1989. Persuasions of the witch’s craft: ritual magic in contemporary England. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

McCord, James B. 1951. My patients were Zulus. New York: Rinehart.

Murray, Margaret Alice. 1973. The god of the witches. London: Oxford University Press.

Parrinder, Geoffrey. 1958. Witchcraft: European and African. London: Faber & Faber.

Pomazansky, Michael. 1994. Orthodox dogmatic theology. Platina, CA: St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

Saul, John Ralston. 1992. Voltaire’s bastards: the dictatorship of reason in the West. New York: Free Press.

Schmemann, Alexander. 1973. For the life of the world: sacraments and Orthodoxy. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Stewart, Charles. 1991. Demons and the devil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Trombley, Frank R. 1993. Hellenic religion and Christianization C. 370-529. Vol 1. Leiden: Brill.

Williams, Charles. 1959. Witchcraft. New York: Meridian.

Wilson, David. 1992. Anglo-Saxon paganism. London: Routledge.

Wright, William Kelley. 1941. A history of modern philosophy. New York: Macmillan.

What does it mean?

Though the differing bibliographies seem to indicate that there is no common ground, at least on the subject of witchcraft and demonology, fortunately Duncan and I have common ground in a wider sphere: we have both read G.K. Chesterton, though Duncan is far more of a fundi on Chesterton than I am, and has also written a book on Chesterton.

Or perhaps it is not so much a generation gap as an interdisciplinary one. The blurb for the book in which Duncan’s contribution was published, Philosophical approaches to demonology, reads:

In contradistinction to the many monographs and edited volumes devoted to historical, cultural, or theological treatments of demonology, this collection features newly written papers by philosophers and other scholars engaged specifically in philosophical argument, debate, and dialogue involving ideas and topics in demonology. The contributors to the volume approach the subject from the perspective of the broadest areas of Western philosophy, namely metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and moral philosophy.

Since the philosophical approach is so strongly contrasted to all other approaches, including my historical-theological approach, perhaps one cannot expect a common bibliography.

But I like to make connections. I like to see how different approaches can throw light on a phenomenon, and so I favour a more interdisciplinary approach. I’ll therefore be putting some of the books that Duncan lists on my “to read” list. And it bothers me somewhat that the philosophical approach seems to be proudly isolated from all other approaches. I’d be interested in reading some of the other contributions. but the price, even of the electronic version of the book, puts it way out of my league.

Also, the book focuses on demonology rather than witchcraft, and for much of history, and even Christian history, they were largely separate phenomena. King James I/VI lived in a place and period when witches and demons were most closely linked  in people’s minds, That could also help to account for the difference in the bibliographies.

That leads to another aspect of witchcraft that I haven’t mentioned yet — the literary. Witches played an interesting role in contemporary theatre, most notably in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It could be interesting to compare King James’s treatment of witchcraft with Shakespeare’s, and there’s an interesting blog article about Shakespeare’s approach (from which I also borrowed some of the illustrations): Are the witches in Macbeth evil?

Coming down to more recent times, we have the role of witches in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, where the links with demons are fairly tenuous. Lewis’s contemporary Dennis Wheatley made a much stronger connection between witchcraft and satanism, though his writing slides over into the horror genre. Lewis’s fellow Inkling Charles Williams wrote about satanists in some of his novels.

One finds an entirely different understanding of witches in the Harry Potter books, in which witches are assumed to be female, and the male equivalents are “wizards”. Though English does not have gendered nouns in the same way as Greek, French, German or Russian, J.K. Rowling treats “witch” as feminine and “wizard” as masculine.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s books also feature wizards, who, far from being linked with demons, are on the side of the angels; in fact, as we discover if we read The Silmarillion, they are angels, until they go over to the Dark Side, that is. In The Hobbit there is also the witch-like figure of the Necromancer, who is male.

So I think there is quite a lot more that could be said about this, and perhaps we can discuss it at our next Neoinklings coffee klatch on 6 July 2017, when we hope Duncan Reyburn will be with us to introduce it from the starting point of his article.


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