Ivan Ilyin: On the Devil

The Soul of the East

In this 1947 essay, Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) addresses the reality of the devil in history and our own time. Tellingly, the advance of the secular and materialist outlook has corresponded with an ever-growing fascination with the demonic – along with its public justification. Translated by Mark Hackard.

In the life of the human race, the diabolical principle has its own history. On this question serious academic literature exists – not concerning, however, recent decades. Yet namely recent decades shed new light on the past two centuries. The age of European Enlightenment (beginning with the French Encyclopedists of the 18th century) undermined within men belief in the being of a personal devil. The educated man cannot believe in the existence of such a revolting anthropomorphic being “with a tail, claws, and horns” (according to Zhukovsky), unseen by anyone but portrayed in ballads and in pictures. Luther still believed in…

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