James Wood writes:
A history of the afterlife will then be a history of our conceptions of God, as well as a history of our self-conceptions, of our utopias and terrors, and this is what John Casey provides. Casey is in many ways an ideal guide. He is bracingly conservative about the writing of cultural history, meaning that he likes texts, and chronology, and evidence. He has taught English at Cambridge for many years, and his book has about it the relaxed obsessiveness of the magnum opus, a life’s happy gathering of knowledge across different literatures and languages, especially strong in its command of Latin and Greek texts, and of the stacked drawers of internecine Christian theological dispute. All this, one might expect from the cofounder (with Roger Scruton) of the Conservative Philosophy Group. But Casey is not only conservative (and, besides, presents the interesting spectacle of a man who has been getting steadily less conservative with age). He was educated at a provincial English grammar school by the Irish Christian Brothers, ‘in an austere, puritanical, Augustinian version of Catholicism’, and the experience seems to have turned him against the Church’s cruelties and illogicalities. He is a sympathetic analyst, but he writes like a non-believer – like a pagan, in fact.