‘I See Satan Fall Like Lightening’, by Rene Girard, is one of the most interesting and powerful books I think I’ve ever read.
I don’t read many books that have to do with religion directly, or myth, with the exception of many of the books by Joseph Campbell. I’m definitely not a religious person, and don’t turn to the bible for answers to life. At the same time I try to maintain respect for people who do, and understand that Christianity has contributed greatly to western civilization.
This book attempts to demonstrate through an anthropoligical lens the impact that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, has had on human development. It looks at the Bible as a very human story, and interprets it with respect to mimetic theory.
This book is about 200 pages of deep analysis, and an introduction to Girard’s mimetic theory. The theory and analysis is compelling, interesting, and powerful, and I want to read more by Girard.
In it Girard shows the origins of Myth and the mimetic cycle, and how myths are perpetuated through violence and scapegoating. He then shows how the Bible exposes this process, most completely with the Gospels and the Crucifixion of Christ, and in doing so, dupes Satan, and puts on display the process with which Satan expels Satan.
To be fair, I know basically nothing about the Bible. My only Bible education comes from faith nursery school and the corny Crucifixion movies I suffered through on occasion on holidays. Girard could be full of hot air and I wouldn’t know any better. But in this book he provides the most compelling reason for the effectiveness of the Bible and how it has impacted human civilization that I’ve ever heard.
I certainly feel that reading this allows me to have a little more reverance for Christianity. I like the story Girard tells, and I find his mimetic theory to be compelling.
With his interpretation it’s easy to see why Christianity has spread, and, despite its renunciation by many people now, it’s very message of concern for the victim is more and more what drives civilization.
This is a meaty book. It’s short, but there is so much contained within the 200 pages that I plan on going back and taking notes and thinking about it a little more. Mimetic theory provides a basis for the study of violence, and why it exists.
It’s unfortunate that most of the narrative concerning religion and God is driven by popular culture, and reduced to soundbites and hypocrisy. Despite being a nonbeliever in a supreme being myself, it’s pretty clear that there is value in the Bible, and to a large extent the world we now live in would very likely be very different if not for this frequently maligned book.
The book certainly doesn’t ask you to become a believer in any way. Not once when I read it did I think it was trying to “convert” me. It is a study of mimetic theory, the bible, and myth. It provides a framework for interpretation, one which may provide great insight into the behavior of humanity, both in the past and present.
I definitely recommend it. It’s only 200 pages and you can get it on your favorite friendly internet megastore.