All posts tagged: monsters

4 Reasons Why Christians Should Read Dante’s Paradiso

To insist that a Christian should read the Paradiso is a far more specific injunction than to enjoin her to read good religious literature where she can find it or even to read the Divina Commedia. It is more bold as well as more specific than even the latter, since it has become a cliché in 20th century reception of the Paradiso that poetically it is the least realized part of Dante’s great epic. The general opinion is that as a poet Dante is at his best in the Inferno, even if it has become a commonplace to express humanistic reservations about the sadistic forms of comeuppance to be found throughout all the circles of hell. Still, even for those critics who wish to impress on us their refined moral sensibility at its very worst the Inferno is a masterpiece of horror in which Dante provides objective correlatives for our deepest fears (explored in the series which this essay concludes). Thus, it should not come as a surprise that not only has the Inferno found a …

Kant and de Sade: The Modern Recalibration of the Monstrous and the Demonic

Demons and Monsters With regard to the imagining of who we are, and who we could become, 1794 was no ordinary year. This was the year in which the ever-reliable Immanuel Kant, whose walks in Konigsberg were such that you could set your watch by them, wrote a strange and spectral book called Religion within the Boundaries of Reason Alone, a book that seemed at once to recall the thinker of a few years earlier while also presenting a stranger who was more familiar with evil than anyone—including his erstwhile self—might have guessed. If Kant surprised himself by feeling compelled to write about “radical evil” in book 1, he shocked Goethe who, feeling betrayed, decried what he judged to be an inexplicable regression to the hateful Christian doctrine of Original Sin. Goethe was only somewhat right in linking Kant’s view of radical evil to the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, and if right at all perhaps only by accident in that certainly Kant intended to debunk Augustine’s doctrine of Original Sin and any of its …

The Stare of Medusa and the Return Gaze of Christ

It is just one of Nietzsche’s many bon mots that if one stares at evil long enough it looks back. As is usual with Nietzsche there is an implied boast. We divide into the strong and the weak depending on whether we can or are willing to endure this look or looking back. Nietzsche leaves us in no doubt as to which camp he belongs in, even if with all the bravado about amor fati we sometimes get the impression in reading him that he is expecting as much our pity as our admiration. Still, the aphorism is powerful, and it is powerful not only because it is scintillating in its expression, but because it is experientially apt. Over the centuries, as they looked at and into the world, victims as well as victimizers have experienced the force of that look or counter-look that announced that all hope should be abandoned and that our abused flesh empty itself of everything that makes it human and all will to be human. With regard to victims we …