This book examines life after death and changing concepts of heaven and hell in English thought from 1650 to 1750. It explores seventeenth- and eighteenth-century images of the journey of body and soul from Platonist accounts of pre-existence, to the intermediate state between death and the Last Day, to the Final Judgement and beyond into heaven or hell. It discloses a society in which frail and fleeting human life was lived out in the expectation of salvation or damnation, of eternal happiness or eternal torment, of heaven or hell, and depicts a world radically different from our own. Drawing on the writings not only of the elite, but also of the middling and lower classes, Almond shows how there hovered, around images of the after-life, many classical and contemporary debates: free-will and predestination, materialism and dualism, religion and science, Catholicism and Protestantism, religious and political radicalism, demonology and witchcraft, and so on.
"Utopian scholars will find an interesting account here of judgement day, which throws light on millenarian thought throughout this period...this book offers insights into a crucial period of development in modern religious thinking." Utopian Studies "...draws perceptively from the publications of theologians, philosophers, and religious writers of many denominational and philosophical persuations to present a nuanced historical account of their debates over the nature of heaven and hell...This is a fascinating book with surprises for even knowledgeable readers." American Historical Review "This is an excellent, analytical work that handles deftly the dialectical give-and-take of printed controversies. Almond takes special note of the neo-Platonists and their obsession with confronting Cartesian science and nullifying Hobbes's materialism." History "Almond (Univ. of Queensland) has followed a succession of fine works in world religions with this elegant historical presentation of Christian eschatology of the English Enlightenment. Meticulously researched, the book successfully weaves a remarkable melange of views on the journey of the human body/soul/person complex into a coherent and highly readable narrative...A carefully edited, well-bound book containing striking illustrations." D.G. Schultenover, Choice "What he is concerned with--and this is something he does very well--are the more striking ideas that were then being entertained about 'life' on the other side, something that could only be imagined." John Burke, Albion "The writing is lively and casts a great deal of light on the manner in which English-speaking protestantism moved away from traditional theological concepts as well as on the reasons for that evolution. In the process of telling this story, it contributes to our understanding of the transition to modernity in English religious thought. Almond's volume can be read with profit by all students of religious studies as well as students of early modern England and English intellectual history." Samuel Pearson, Journal of Religion "...this work brings to life the intellectual debates about the supernatural world, which even into the eighteenth century was as real a world to all in England as England itself." Richard M. Golden, Religious Studies Review