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Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion 1st Edition
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The book itself is a survey of Christian 'enthusiasm' from the Corinthians to Father Divine, though focusing most on the 17th and 18th centuries; the nearest equivalent in recognisable modern times is the charismatic movement. (It was largely this book, together with the same author's 'Belief of Catholics', which converted me from a charismatic evangelical to a Catholic.) It's elegantly written, but that's only the half of it; there's a depth of learning and scholarship worn lightly, wit and humour which few other religious writers have ever achieved (Chesterton springs to mind); and, most of all, a compassion and sympathy for many of his subjects (not all; he's very scathing about the Jansenists and Mme Guyon). In all, a book which is wonderful to read, but also full of almost prophetic insights into the current situation in the Catholic Church, which Knox never saw (he died several years before the Second Vatican Council).
All I can say is "Buy it"!" You won't regret it.
This book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the history of fringe religious movements in general, any of the sects described here specifically, or the psychology of fanaticism.
I also recommend that students of Eric Voegelin read this book, as it provides much food for thought in light of his comments about the nature of gnosticism. Likewise, anyone who finds the psychological portions of this book interesting should look at Voegelin's work, which deals with similar issues from a philosophical perspective. I suggest that you begin with "Science, Politics, and Gnosticism" and then move on to "The New Science of Politics" to get a basic grounding in Voegelin. He and Knox share a fundamental insight - that fringe religious groups are motivated by an antinomian hatred for reality and society that seeks to destroy nature rather than to heal it, which is the goal of more mainstream religion. What Voegelin adds to the discussion is a deeper fund of historical examples of such attitudes, an investigation of a paralell set of ideas to be found in modern philosophy, and an understanding of how these ideas have influenced modern culture and politics (for example, Voegelin regards socialism, in all it's forms, as a secularized version of the same kind of anitnomian millenarianism to be found in, say the Montanists, who Knox investigates at length).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely one of the most interesting books I have ever read. Plus, Msgr. Knox's writing style is so superb, you can't help but savor his gorgeous sentences.Published 7 months ago by Carol F. Goodson
And I have a first edition, rebound in leather and gilded. I knew I had a jewel when I picked up the dusty copy from a secondhand bookstore in Wales.Published 20 months ago by Maria Lourdes Barcelon Locsin
Enthusiasim , is unbelievably detailed and precise about the off shoots and derivatives that sprang up like weeds to challenge the Catholic church for hundreds of years. Read morePublished on April 19, 2009 by Mark Wischmeyer
It's true, this is one of the few books by Ronald Knox that you can't just flip through in one sitting. You really have to pay attention. Read morePublished on November 11, 2002 by Chrissy the Stooges Woman