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From: "Peter T. Cash" <PTCash@ibm.net>
Subject: (urth) Dualism & horror
Date: Sun, 18 Oct 1998 23:04:33 

>from alga:

>Manichaeism: But Sarge, that's just exactly what Mani cobbled together, a
>ragbag of a religion, borrowing from everything he knew of Buddhism,
>Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Marcionism (Marcion taught that there were
>two gods: capricious old Yaweh of the OT was similar to the Gnostic
>Demiurge, while Jesus was son of the True God whose time would come). If
>he'd known about Thor, he'd have thrown him in too. Mani would have been a
>great scriptwriter for "Xena: Warrior Princess." And so would Dr. Talos, if
>he got a decent editor.

I know. Mani was the L. Ron Hubbard of the third century.

>Mani's dualism came from the Zoroastrians (who supplied Meschia and
>to Dr. Talos) and he added the concept of Light vs. Darkness, so beloved of
>gothic writers. Alex, you can't say that there is only Dark in Lovecraft,
>for opposed to that is the normal world, represented, in Hollywood
>by pretty suburban streets. If you don't have a norm--Innsmouth or Arkham
>before the horrors came--where's the scare? The Amurican Way of Life,
>the Light. At least in novels.

Alga, your thesis that horror is inherently (will that do instead of
"necessarily"?) dualistic is so thought-provoking that I hate to spoil
things by finding fault with it. However, I would venture that if suburbia
is the light that opposes the  Great Darkness, then we've got a pretty weak
dualism. This light is a dim bulb, this divinity is one of communion by
water and not wine. It is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
illuminating this place. It's George Westinghouse.

>I will back-pedal a bit on "necessarily," but only a bit. Since the end of
>the 19th century, the Dark is not necessarily a Christian dark, in fact
>often it isn't. Despite the crucifix hocus-pocus, we do not think of
>vampires as demons of Satan; they inhabit their own Dark. Werewolves are
>folkloric, not Christian. Hyde, though a demon, is a metaphor for what
>would call the id, not a damned soul. Dorian Grey hides Hyde's face behind
>his own (sorry about that sentence), but again it's extra-Christian.

"How about "pagan" instead of "extra-Christian"? I don't think this darkness
is anything new; perhaps after the 19th century it becomes "neo-paganism",
that's all. I would argue that any work that doesn't have a Christian
dimension but does deal with supernatural evil is pagan; any dualism is
strictly secondary and quite uninteresting. (I'm not saying that pagan works
necessarily lack value or interest, of course.)

>Nevertheless, if only for convenience of term, I would argue that the
>tradition is Manichaean--with all the implicit messiness. Writers like C.S.
>Lewis and Tolkien, who tidy up the mess, have made this even clearer, but
>they are far ounumbered by the others. King now, a dualist to the Dark
>Untidy Core.

Never having read King and having not the slightest desire to do so, I'll
have to withold judgment. I do believe you're helping me  understand why
I've always despised the horror genre. Since I do believe in the God of
Abraham, this "supernatural evil" stuff seems a trifle silly to me; I just
don't get it. I know that God permits evil in the world--but it's evil done
by us humans--it is not supernatural. If Satan exists, he's void, in the
sense of having no substance--I believe the common metaphor is say he is
like a shadow. (Hmmm....shadows in Wolfe's works...not an uncommon theme.

>But nevertheless, Dr. Talos and his play do represent apocalyptic dualism,
>Armagedon, Ragnarok, whatever. And it may be a mess, Sarge, but it belongs

I never meant to say it doesn't. Just that it's a mess, and maybe a bit of
self-parody contained within the larger work.

Sgt. Rock

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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