by Victoria Nelson
At the same time, however, this demonology is the only avenue open to the transcendental. “You can raise issues in the horror genre that you can’t raise so easily in other types of films,” a Hollywood screenwriter once ingenuously explained, adding, “Characters can talk about the existence of God in a horror movie, whereas in other films that would be incredibly pretentious.” Ironically, beacuse of the old Reformation link between Catholicism and the supernatural, the only means for defending oneself against the Devil in these narratives is always represented as a potpourri of faux rituals rendered in Latin or Greek and always erroneously attributed to the Catholic Church, to the unendng aggravation of that church’s worthies, who might be less upset if only they reflected on the unavoidable implication—that the Protestant mainstream unconsciously perceives its own rituals as utterly inadequate for warding off demons.
Lacking an allowable connection with the transcendent, we have substituted an obsessive, unconscious focus on the negative dimension of the denied experience. In popular Western entertainments through the end of the twentieth century, the supernatural translated mostly as terror and monsters enjoyably consumed. But as Paul Tillich profoundly remarked, “Wherever the demonic appears, there the question of its correlate, the divine, will also be raised.”
Far from being mutually exclusive, nous and logos share this common denominator of human consciousness, a field that remained constant while its content and focus have swung like a pendulum between the two modes. For the gnosis-oriented authors of the Corpus Hermeticum tractates, consciousness was not only humanity’s distinguishing charactistic but the special feature that connected us with the divine. This position was counterbalanced by the materialist views of their contemporaries the Stoics and Skeptics; indeed, many Greeks and Romans of the time openly mocked graven images. And, as Susanna Elm argues, far from being a “decline into belief” as is usually supposed, the radical iconoclasm of Judeo-Christianity, learnedly argued first by the rabbis and then by the early Christian fathers, represented a scientific revolution of rational discourse that supplanted the gnosis-dominated cults and religions of Late Antiquity analagous to the iconoclasm of the Protestant Reformation, which performed a similar function in relation to the Catholic Chruch a millennium later.
Secret Cinema: Gnostic Vision in Film
by Eric G. Wilson