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Living with the Devil

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  513 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Stephen Batchelor's seminal work on humanity's struggle between good and evil

In the national bestseller Living with the Devil, Batchelor traces the trajectory from the words of the Buddha and Christ, through the writings of Shantideva, Milton, and Pascal, to the poetry of Baudelaire, the fiction of Kafka, and the findings of modern physics and evolutionary biology to exam
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 7th 2005 by Riverhead Books (first published 2004)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Have you ever wondered about the randomness inherent in even the most trivial events? For example, how often have you been about to lock the front door of your residence and go out to your car, when you suddenly remember that you left your phone on the kitchen counter? Or your wallet on your dresser? Or your notes for that important meeting later today on your desk?

In those few seconds that it takes you to re-enter your home, retrieve the forgotten item, and then finally lock the door and walk t
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wisdom
This book sits in a nice place between the latest "Buddhism for Beginners"-esque books and the heavier, more historical Buddhist religious texts. Which is great, as this was what I was looking for.

Books that are aimed at those completely new to the subject often repeat definitions and concepts I already know, and those that are aimed at practitioners are often too esoteric for me, as if I'm missing a few graduate classes to fill the gap. I feel like I have a halfway grasp of the basic tenets n
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Each time something contingent and impermanent is raised to the status of something necessary and permanent, a devil is created. Whether it be an ego, a nation-state, or a religious belief, the result is the same. This distortion severs such things from their embeddedness in the complexities, fluidities, and ambiguities of the world and makes them appear as simple, fixed, and unambiguous entities with the power to condemn or save us."

"In completely surrendering himself with love to the potent
Shawn Ingram
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Stephen Batchelor is the Buddhist author for the secular Buddhist! Highly recommended.
Jun 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
The arguments are derivative and, worse, lacking in nuance: eg. no distinction between contingent, groundless, temporal, beyond one's control, etc. ...more
Steve Woods
When we begin the journey along the Path that is opened to us by the Buddha's teaching, it seems that for many there is a period of heady realization and a sense of having found the Way. While that may be a fact, the predisposition of most is that the "self" moves in and takes it over and turns it into "my way". A trap for young players! Tthen seems to follow a period when "I" set about getting it perfectly right. In that there develops a struggle, however, with time and patience and simply comi ...more
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I don't know any writer that updates and synthesizes Buddhism with the western tradition better. You could say that Sangharakshita created a movement along with his awesome corpus of books, and that's true, but in a certain way, even though he read deeply, maybe more than anyone I know, he was sort of a victorian. Batchelor has more modern assimilations of western literature, more philosophical than poetry, compared to Sangharakshita. They are both from England, and they are both self taught, an ...more
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
i adore this book. it's buddhism for bookish anti-socialites. it's a constant reminder of where we're all at in a ridiculous universe. it's beauty, truth & now all at once. i reread it constantly. (in the interest of full disclosure i also constantly reread harry potter, madeleine l'engle & the bridge to terabithia) ...more
Hugh McGinness
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite philosophy and history of Buddhism authors delivers again.
Daniel Gargallo
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddhism
My experience reading this was precisely like what the title suggests. It's a very difficult book to read if your presumptions stand in your way, and once you recognize your presumptions the book becomes very easy to get through...

Well, that's not entirely true. If you've read Alone With Others or are familiar with Batchelor's... thing. then you may find some of the first chapters redundant (but then again, it's the kind of info that some people might need a refresher on). And much of the info i
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Interesting look at Buddhist ideas through the lens of western religious ideas and mythology...also a comparison of evil in East vs west. I love this book because there is no “belief” that asserts itself or gets in the’s funny that as an atheist, Steven Batchelor presents a very equanimous viewpoint as he doesn’t subscribe to any supernatural belief system, only the tenets of Buddhism. He even says that we can learn a lot from Judeo-Christian beliefs and mythology to enrich our understa ...more
Freida Maverick
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion, this is the best book Stephen Batchelor has written - and he's written many superb, important books. The reason I think this book, Living with the Devil, is so great is because it answers the question, "how does one 'let go'"? It also clearly uses metaphor to describe what is commonly called the 'inner critic', which is often (mis)presented as a separate but internal entity rather than a metaphor. ...more
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-the-shelf
I really enjoyed much of the writing in this book. Some of his references to older poets and philosophers kind of went over my head, but there were some strong chapters with profound insight. I respect Stephen Batchelor and will almost certainly look into more of his writings.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it
The first three-fourth of this book felt like word salad (existantialist + buddhist + christian thoughts and terminology mixed), which is maybe on me, but at the end Batchelor does what he's probably the best at. Interpret the buddhist canon from his very authentic and well argued viewpoint. ...more
Judy Grove
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The impermanence of compulsive living

The author has liberated the reader from fear, desire, defensiveness by awareness of Satan as the reality that keeps us fixated for security on avoiding our own contiguous.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat difficult in parts but enlightening overall. The book lacks a real ending in the sense of reaching some conclusion, astounding or otherwise. The prose just trails off..... I learned I was finished when I turned the page expecting another chapter and found end material.
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Buddhist take on good and evil is itself a good primer on practice, suffering, temptation and morals. Batchelor is entertaining in his account of Buddha's lifelong battle with the "demon" Mara, which in the end is all the creations of the human mind that lead us astray into suffering. ...more
Shannon Meridian
Oct 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
not engaging. pompous language. abandoned.
Sep 02, 2020 marked it as tried-but-didn-t-finish
This was an audible edition that I tried listening to. While I think the author is excellent, his narration is horrible. I am not shoving this book because of the content.
Danny Greene
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of Batchelor's early works exploring his move toward secular Buddhism. Reading it after all of the others might make it more interesting and helpful. ...more
Frank Jude
I enjoyed this book when I first read it ten years ago, and just this month, re-reading it with my sangha's book club, I found some chapters so good I could have underlined almost every line. The general thrust of Batchelor's argument in this book, is that rather than falling into the twin poles of externalizing and projecting "the demonic" onto others or suppressing it with denial, we need to learn how to live with it by recognizing and understanding those patterns of thinking and behavior that ...more
This is a notable work of comparative religion and spirituality, which draws predominantly on Buddhist philosophy to examine the question of evil (through the metaphor of Mara/"the devil") in human life. I thought the book would follow the well-trod path of trying to explain how there can be bad in a world of good - à la Christian apologetics - but it actually approaches the problem by examining the evil in our own selves, recognizing that this is the more honest and accurate approach. Evil isn' ...more
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The subtitle of the book is 'a meditation on good and evil', and it feels like a meditation to read, rather than a systematic presentation - very refreshing and life-affirming, and timely for me, after wading through Mo Yan's meaty tome!

I really like reading Stephen Batchelor's work. I appreciate his multiple perspectives and his ability to weave useful insights out of the spaces between traditions.

I was particularly taken this time with the image of a path as an empty space, rather than a plac
Jason Hancock
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
After having read many buddhist books over the past three years this was one of the most significant. It is written by a former monk now living in France and he intertwines poetry and scripture(buddhist and other) throughout the book as wonderful asides and inspirations in themselves. Maybe because it was written by a contemporary author was the reason that it had so much impact on me. One thing that I didn't count on was when he cited christian scripture and wove it into the text I was not as p ...more
Dave Murray
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A helpful book. I recommend it.

This is the fourth of Stephen Batchelor's books that I have read. Having gone from a fundamentalist version of Christianity to Buddhism, only to find myself a marginal Buddhist, his other books helped me with my agnosticism. But I remained a religious man who rejected religion. This book helped me with that.

Having long thought of the myths of religion as metaphor, but often puzzled as to what the message is, this book offered clarity. I have been wandering the gaps
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
"The devil is a way of talking about that which blocks one's path in life, frustrates one's aspirations, makes one feel stuck, hemmed in, obstructed." And what blocks our path in life is the habit of setting limits, attempting to create certainties, the "tyranny of opinions" as a way to deny that our lives are impermanent and contingent. "Compulsions obstruct the path by monopolizing consciousness. The hypnotic fascination they exert prevents us from attending to anything else. . . . To escape t ...more
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Finally got around to finishing this one. It seems that my appreciation of and respect for Stephen Batchelor’s writing and insights have grown over the years. I purchased this book when it was first published (2004), eagerly set out to read it, but got bogged down; it seemed tedious and disjointed to me. Now I can appreciate the insightful, compelling ideas and commentary in this volume (despite the occasional hints of what had bothered me about it, 15 years ago).

My suggestion: If you’re seriou
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritualistic
And by "devil," he means the metaphorical devils within each of us that lead us to desire things that we know are unhealthy, unsatisfying, or hurtful to others. While writing primarily from a Buddhist perspective, Batchelor draws on a number of other belief systems and cultural myths--from Christianity and Islam to Shakespeare and Baudelaire--to enrich his meditations on how humans come to grips with the essential tension of the human condition: our desire to be good, and the continual temptatio ...more
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book by accident. It looked interesting and only cost a dollar. Ah, the lure of the used book store. To my surprise when I finally got around to it, it is an illuminating text on good and evil, and has given me a deeper understanding of Buddhism as well as human nature. That's a lot to ask for. It is a book I will read more than once as it is filled with insightful philosophy which needs to be re-read and re-experienced. ...more
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“Each time something contingent and impermanent is raised to the status of something necessary and permanent, a devil is created. Whether it be an ego, a nation-state, or a religious belief, the result is the same. The distortion severs such things from their embeddedness in the complexities, fluidities, and ambiguities of the world and make them appear as simple, fixed, and unambiguous entities with the power to condemn or save us.” 2 likes
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