Death and the Icon

E. John Winner

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Let us begin with a technical clarification, by way of a discussion of the semiotic status of icons. An icon is a powerful representation, not only of an object or a person, but of the concept of that object or person; a reminder of what it is the perceiver of the icon may wish to know or learn from that object, that person, that idea.

An Icon is a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes merely by virtue of characters of its own, and which it possesses, just the same, whether such Object actually exists or not. (…) Anything whatever, be it quality, existent individual, or law, is an Icon of anything, in so far it is like that thing and used as a sign of it. [1]

An icon communicates information about what it signifies, not by pointing to it, nor by elaborating the concept of it, nor by referring to it, but by “showing” it; by assuming the likeness of the signified when the signified itself is not present. Thus, obviously a statue – even of a mythological personage – can be the icon of that personage, if it is carved to give us all the likeness of the character expected of the personage. Thus we expect a statue of Hercules to have well developed muscles, reminding us of his strength. But the kind and amount of information an icon can convey can actually vary quite a bit. An aerial photograph of a road would certainly be iconic of the road, but a map drawn on the basis of the photograph would be more so, because it could include greater details, for instance measurement, roadside attractions, etc. Unfortunately, icons are not univocal. They can represent exactly what we don’t want from their signified.

It may be questioned whether all icons are likenesses or not. For example, if a drunken man is exhibited to show, by contrast, the excellence of temperance, this is certainly an icon, but whether it is a likeness or not may be doubted. The question seems somewhat trivial. [2]

We want Peirce to have said, that the drunken man is made an icon of drunkenness, or of drunken men per se. But that is not what he is saying. Rather, he is contemplating the way in which the mere presence of a drunken man is iconic representation “by contrast” of what the temperate do not want from drunkenness. A sign may be iconic exactly in contrast to an object that is different from any form it may immediately represent. To put it simply: The drunken man stands in iconic re-presentation for “temperance” (continued non-drunkenness), because whatever he is or presents, will not be found among the temperate. He is not the picture. He’s the frame.

The sign can be an icon when it frames the interpretant with another interpretant. The interpretant of the drunken man includes his being drunk; the interpretant of temperance includes not being drunk. But there is no not-being-drunk unless there is also the possibility of being drunk. More technically: The definition of the class “drunken humans” stands as limit to a definition of all that is not to be defined as “drunken” but still defined as human, which satisfies the definition of the class “temperate humans.” Peirce called this trivial. It is silly because it is so obvious.

What is not obvious is the way that this transforms the drunken man into an icon for temperance. If a person looks at a drunken man; at his messed hair and watery eyes with dilated, unfocused pupils; his reddened, runny nose; the cut on his cheek from trying to shave with an unsteady hand; the bruise on his chin from when he stumbled and fell; the dried saliva at the corners of his lips; his soiled clothing and inability to stand straight; and then of course, the stench of stale drink and of urine.

The temperate person can see in this man all the signs of drunkenness as they look to an outsider, and might imagine what it must be like to live among others in such a manner: the insults; the unwanted pity and condescension; the incessant nagging of temperance missionaries. All of this is present in such a projection, except the actual experience of being drunk. It is the man himself who stands as an icon for his own condition. But it’s more than that. By inversion, if I do not want to be a drunken man, then he stands iconically for my condition of temperance. “That,” I say to myself, looking at the man (and smelling him), “is what I do not want. I want what he hasn’t got.”

So now we see that an icon can really prove a difficult signifier to interpret. Since it is representation in likeness of its signified, it raises all the questions we might have of the signified, including whatever ideas or responses we could have of it. It can even represent, by contrast, the signified’s opposite.

Think of the vampire; or more specifically, the mighty “king of vampires” of literary legend, Count Dracula. The first thing we notice about him is that he is a Count, an aristocrat, an ancient nobleman, and has been for some 500 years. He has control of a part of Transylvania, his home country, existing in a huge, highly decorative castle, commanding the farmlands below it. We have to remember that he’s a feudal lord; that the farmers and peasants who live around his castle are beholden to him in one way or another which explains why they allow him to feed on their livestock. Occasionally, they even allow him to steal away their daughters, something feudal lords did quite frequently during the Middle Ages. He has aristocratic tastes of a sort, and with aristocratic self-assurance he expects respect. Really, given the power and authority he seems to represent, who wouldn’t want to be such a nobleman and aristocrat? Of course, the 19th century is not the Middle Ages, and it is quite possible to imagine people in that century who would not have wanted to be aristocrats. Nobility had not survived very well through the terrors of the French Revolution, and even in other nations with more evolutionary political developments, their power had been receding greatly over the previous several centuries. They were losing control over vast areas of land and wealth, and political powers were passing into the hands of elected officials or civil servants (who came out of the propertied upper classes) and from commercial and industrial nouveaux riches. So it’s entirely possible to imagine many outside of Transylvania who might look on the aristocracy with fear and loathing. We can see how this might happen in the case of Dracula in particular, not only in the novel written by Bram Stoker but in many films derived from that novel or considered pastiche sequels to that novel. Dracula’s opponents in that narrative – the Sewards, the Harkers, Dr. Van Helsing – are all from the upper middle class: doctors and lawyers; even real estate executives so to speak; all living fairly comfortable lives. Dracula himself is confined to a castle that’s gloomy, drafty, and crumbling from disrepair. The lands he commands are considerably depopulated, and farm land in a mountainous region is not very wealth-producing anyway. Of course, Dracula has no friends or family and no way to communicate with others, because few wish to communicate with an out-of-date aristocrat one can only meet at night. In appearance, he is a decaying old man with fetid breath, a grizzly mustache and cold hands, and he dresses to impress rather than to stay warm. The English people who confront him, on the other hand, are dressed comfortably. They live in comfortable homes with improvements in heating and lighting – and towards the end of the 19th century, decent sewage systems – that Dracula could never have dreamed of in that dank Carpathian castle of his,. We forget how much of modern sanitation concerns – really the origin of modern environmentalism – owes itself to bourgeois desires for clean living conditions, both inside the home and out in the streets. But Dracula’s opponents also enjoy rich social lives. They have close intimate relationships with family and friends and are recognized as part of the community. No one owes them fealty, yet everyone who knows them respects them, because they are decent hardworking people who have earned that respect, something Dracula cannot do. And in place of the feudal power Dracula enjoys in his depopulated farmlands, his opponents enjoy the power of the vote. They can remove their “lords” through election.

Dracula as an icon represents loneliness; decaying old age; a reference to a bloody past. His presumed power and arrogance is really cold-heartedness, selfishness, and cruelty. This is precisely what the original, primarily middle-class readers of Stoker’s Dracula did not want, and that is what many of the audiences of the pastiche films and books and comic books and so on still do not want. Dracula as an icon represents something that looks on the surface to be the ideal of desirable, powerful, wealthy, sexy individualism. But, discovered in the dark crypt he inhabits, it also represents what we do not want – the loneliness and isolation that comes with separation from the laws of community and from ourselves as human beings. Of course, he also is dead – perhaps more accurately, “not alive,” – and won’t ever be found lying around on a beach soaking up sunlight. Yet being not quite dead, but not really alive, is precisely his curse. He is caught forever in the grip of a past that he cannot escape and a future he cannot embrace.

It is not surprising then that the icon Dracula himself fears most of all would be a representation of everything well trained Christians would believe to be the very apotheosis of human being. It was Aristotle in the Metaphysics who argued that the belief in God arises from the desire for perfection and for eternal life, and the crucifix not only stands iconically for Jesus-on-the-Cross, it also stands for something that is not on the cross. If we see in it the icon of a self-sacrificing god who redeems us, it may well also prove an icon of something about ourselves that is ungodly, and possibly nonredeemable.

The crucifix bends those who hold it a sacred icon downward in a convolution towards sorrow and pity, manifested physically in the bending of the knee and the bowing of the head. It’s a low moment for humanity, yet ideologically elevated to the very apotheosis of human being. But there is a positive turn in all this sorrow and pity, of course, or else there would never have been a Christianity. Christians think they have a good take on things that leads them to the hope of joy and comfort, after all. And our previous discussion concerning iconology, reminds that an icon not only stands in for what it represents, but also for the opposite of what it represents. The crucifixion of Jesus is held to be the painful death of a single man who also happens to be a god. Pain, death, the isolation of the individual on the cross, all redeemed only by belief in God. Thus the Christians (or at least the Catholics) read into the crucifix the hope for potential joy, unending life, the union of the human with the divine, and the redemption of human being itself. After death, which is key. Following the crucifixion is, of course, the resurrection and all that means to Christians. Jesus suffers the Passion and dies, on the third day he rises from the dead, gives a pep talk to his followers, and then ascends to heaven. All of this assures his followers (a) that pain is an impermanent state, and once beyond it, contentment and happiness ensue; and (2) that death is itself a transitory moment for the believer, who is then guaranteed eternal life of the soul, ascension into heaven, and joyful union with the divine. Who could refuse such an offer?

The full import of this iconic representation through the crucifix struck me while I was watching The Horror of Dracula from Hammer Films (1958), starring Christopher Lee as the Count and Peter Cushing as Dracula’s nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing. In the climatic showdown between the two, Van Helsing crosses two candlesticks. The vampire, being intimidated by Christian symbols, is forced into the sunlight coming in through an open window, and perishes. But, there’s something wrong here. The film is extremely well-made, well-written, well-acted, and brilliantly paced. It rushes by like a ride in a coach with a runaway horse. Consequently some problems are not only easy to overlook, but are hardly noticeable. It took me several viewings over some twenty years before I realized that the crossing of the candlesticks actually posed no threat to Dracula at all. In fact the gesture is down-right silly. The candlesticks appear before Dracula as intersecting in the shape of a cross, “+,” much as we should expect as symbolizing the instrument of the death of Jesus. But only as long as Dracula remains at the end of one the candlesticks. All he really has to do to mitigate the effect of the symbol is change perspective – say, step to the right, so that the crossed candlesticks would then form, for him, the harmless letter “x.” Is Dracula stupid or what? Think of all the moments in our lives when we have “+” images and “x” images surrounding us – crossed window panes; fallen twigs; cross-walk signs (etc.). Even at night, Dracula would surely find himself visually bombarded with threatening symbols. Why, he could hardly leave his coffin to get out for a cool drink. So what sort of mistake has been made by the producers of the film Horror of Dracula and many others like it? And why is this almost never noticed by audiences?

The British Horror of Dracula is a film produced in a Protestant culture for consumption by a majority-Protestant audience. Protestant churches largely suppressed such iconography, replacing it with a (rather watered-down, in my opinion) symbology. But according to the old legends, as they arose among rural Catholics in predominately Catholic cultures, no “cross” could have stopped the vampire; what one needed was a crucifix. Although fears of animated corpses sucking the life out of victims has a long history and can be found in many cultures, the term ‘vampire’ was not popularized until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to what can only be called mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism. [3]

The importance of this is that, despite more than a hundred years of Reformation upheavals, southeastern Europe was still dominated by conservative Orthodox and Roman Catholic beliefs. We would rightly expect that the cultural drift of the vampire legends would carry along the full baggage of the meaning of the creature, as well the spiritual armament necessary to combat it. But exactly because of the Reformation, this could not be so:

Some of the Protestant reformers, in particular Andreas Karlstadt, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin, encouraged the removal of religious images by invoking the Decalogue’s prohibition of idolatry and the manufacture of graven (sculpted) images of God. [4]

Eventually the Reformers softened their stance – “Now if it is not sinful for me to have Christ’s picture in my heart, why should it be sinful to have it before my eyes?” noted Martin Luther – but the damage had been done. Protestants could accept symbolic portraiture of the Christ, but could no longer accept any such as a sacred icon. So, the vampire came west and north out of Catholic and Orthodox Europe and found a home in Protestant Europe, but without the necessary apotropaic: the Crucifix as talisman to ward off evil. They could no longer use the iconic crucifix to ward off the undead, but perhaps a symbolic cross would do as well.

The old legends of the vampires in southeastern Europe don’t really make sense, unless the crucifix functions iconically as a direct representative of the crucified Christ. As I’ve shown before, a symbolic cross will not do, because it can be reconfigured in perspective by moving to one side of it (and, as suggested before, the vampire has to be able to do this, simply to survive in a world filled with cross-like objects). For the crucifix to be a crucifix, there must not only be the cross, but also, as though nailed to it, a representation of a man, in suffering, presumed to present the very likeness of Jesus of Nazareth, assumed crucified in that manner. The vampire cannot walk around the crucifix and change perspective, for the importance is not in the shape, but in the iconic representation of Jesus on the cross and all that this was assumed to mean in the cultures that gave the (modern) vampire birth.

But perhaps that’s what Protestants found disturbing about it; the continued re-iteration of the death of God. While there are images and symbols of the Resurrection and of the Ascension, iconographically, Jesus is always dying on the crucifix. He hangs there, head bowed in despair, lacerated and bleeding. This may not be the way Protestants wish to imagine him, but for Catholics, there may be no other way. Eternal life is a tricky business. Get stuck under a curse, and one haunts the night alone, possibly forever.  But die and be reborn, perhaps heaven awaits; or even union with the Divine. In the Eucharist, Catholics share in his death, through the transubstantiation of bread into his flesh, and of wine into his blood. “You will be flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood.” Oh, wait, that’s a line from Dracula. [5]

All this leaves some unsettling questions. Generated in conservative Catholic cultures, and assumed to have very physical manifestations, both the crucified Christ and the modern vampire are representations of death: death-before-afterlife on the cross and afterlife as animated death beyond the grave. The Christ dies to save all souls; the vampire’s death cannot even save his own. Both god-as-man and man-as-demon seem condemned to a body that will not continue, and a soul that will not let go.

Notes

[1]  Charles S. Peirce, Collected Papers (C.P.), volume 2, section 247.

[2]  Peirce, C.P., V. 2, s. 282

[3]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iconoclasm#Protestant_Reformation

[4]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire

[5]  Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897. Chapter 21.

https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/drac-21.html

19 comments

  1. Interesting iconic foil;

    – A man who dies but achieves an aristocratic afterlife by cruelly and selfishly living off the life blood of others which relegates him to a cold, isolated, monstrous existence and leads to social desolation.

    – A man who dies but achieves a servant’s afterlife by compassionately and selflessly giving life to other’s which transcends him body and soul to a warm, loving, divine existence and leads to the construction of a utopian society, the Kingdom of God on Earth.

    As much political, social, economic commentary as semiotic ethical teaching.
    I wonder which society we are currently living in today?

    “All the vampires, walking through the valley, the move west down Ventura Boulevard.”
    Tom Petty – Free Falling

  2. Well written and loaded with interesting observations – “The Christ dies to save all souls; the vampire’s death cannot even save his own.” Thanks for posting this essay.

  3. Protestant Stoker used Catholic sacramentals; the host, holy water, figured cross and rosary beads. When you want big ju-ju whoyougonnacall. Van Helsing had a special dispensation so that was O.K.

    I associate icon (eikon) (etymology – a likeness in the mind) with eidos (idea) the Platonic form except that the icon has taken form in the corporeal, concrete state and lives amongst us. Dracula represents the freely given embrace of loathsome evil in exchange for life among the undead.

    “Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own free will”. He made no motion of stepping to meet me but stood like a statue, as though his gesture of welcome had fixed him into stone. The moment however that I had stepped over the threshold, he moved impulsively forward and holding out his hand grasped mine with a strength which made me wince, an effect which was not lessened by the fact that it seemed cold as ice, more like the hand of a dead than a living man. Again he said
    “Welcome to my house! Enter freely. Go safely and leave something of the happiness you bring.”

    Ah yes, was ever a more prophetic invitation made. Note the quiet old-world dignity of the formula and the implication that all motions of the soul are fundamentally free. Can there be such a thing as a willing victim? When you join the ranks of the Undead you do so by invitation. He invites you to a mockery of eternity, you accept. As Dr. Van Helsing makes clear later in the case of Lucy she must first have let the Count in.

    1. Possibly related to eidetic “relating to vividley experienced visual imagery thats readily reproducible” and eidos “the formal content of a culture, its system of ideas, criteria for interpreting experience.”

      1. ‘Icon(ic)’ is one of those worn out words that one wishes the sun would set on. Can it be rescued? An icon as we know is a religious representation imbued with power. It channels that power and in many cases is itself a wonder working object. This is the source of the metaphor and as it were licences the profane use. We might call the Eiffel Tower an iconic structure and perhaps mean by that a useless jeu d’esprit that by familiarity becomes beautiful. It now mediates that power and other cities will try to emulate its pointless withal necessary existence.

  4. E. John Winner

    “It can even represent, by contrast, the signified’s opposite.”

    Explicitly so when framed by the circle-backslash symbol. Saw this recently with a vomiting stick man. No vomiting here!!

    “Generated in conservative Catholic cultures, and assumed to have very physical manifestations, both the crucified Christ and the modern vampire are representations of death…”

    Decadent weirdo and fake priest Montague Summers (1880-1948) wrote about vampires and werewolves as a believer in such things. I used to read that nonsense once, half wanting to believe it!

    I am a bit puzzled by what you mean by “unsettling questions” in the final paragraph. Death itself is unsettling, no doubt about it. But there seems no good reason to be unsettled by the *iconography* of death or suffering. I would have thought that the latter — be it a crucifix or a plain old memento mori — generally functions to bring us to terms with death, to settle, not unsettle.

    1. “But there seems no good reason to be unsettled by the *iconography* of death or suffering.”
      Without getting too Freudian here, it’s the Thanatos problem – the unfortunate fact that we do find something almost tempting about death, which informs our fascination with it, and also informs our responses to both icons discussed here.

  5. Hi EJ – much food for thought 😉

    “visually bombarded with threatening symbols” – Peter Watts’s Blindsight indeed has it that this is why vampires went extinct back in the Pleistocene – they had an unfortunate tendency to epilepsy when exposed to right-angles (of which humans made more and more)

    From my more superficial knowledge of vampire movies, it always seemed that one had to keep the cross facing towards the vampire at all times, precisely because it would otherwise lose its iconic power.

    Charles Morris’s “Esthetics and The Theory of SIgns” offended many people, with one criticism being about
    “the [ill-defined] relationship between conventional signs and iconic signs…what common properties are to be considered as relevant to iconicity, and, secondly, how many properties must be found to be common in order to call the sign iconic.” He therefore suggested “that iconicity of a sign is, to a large extent, a matter of degree, and not governed by a strict rule.” In your example, the crossed candles are only iconic when close to a perfect right angle, and viewed from straight ahead. I found some interesting experiments with changing the details of safety icons [Caldwell, Safety Icons and Usability: a Peircean Reanalysis], where increased detail often makes the images less iconic (ie interpretable). This fits in with my neuroscience type thinking that an icon is closer to the abstract core of the particular concept as held in the ventral temporal cortex – a la averaged face of a given person seen at different angles, lighting etc.

    Finally, Brian Aldiss thought a lot about Dracula – he points to Stoker’s fear of tertiary syphilis, with its facies of death-in-life, or maybe the other way around. The idea that syphilis also leads to great creativity cum superhuman ability might fit in there too.

  6. EJ: I find it curious that Transylvania is so much associated with the Dracula legend. Why Transylvania? In its heyday — the 17th century, before the Habsburg takeover in 1683 — it was Europe’s only home of religious liberty. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox and even some Unitarians were able to co-exist. Transylvania was Europe’s Pennsylvania. (But the name similarity is coincidental.)

    I’m sceptical of your religious interpretation of the legend. It looks to me more like magic than religion. Magic is something within human powers, religion something outside. Christianity generally does not license the use of the crucifix as a device against evil. The idea that someone could carry around a cross or any other icon to protect themselves against real evil seems to me not something Christians ever believed or practiced. But maybe I’m wrong about that.

    In general, I think the Dracula story is a secular invention, in the genre of the horror movie or novel, designed to give us a nice little scare while we know the thing can’t harm us at all. Then along came real evils, equipped with their own iconography, against which we needed military actions. Against that, crucifixes were no use and no-one thought they were of any use.

    Still, I liked your essay very much. Lots to think about in it.

    Alan

    1. “The idea that someone could carry around a cross or any other icon to protect themselves against real evil seems to me not something Christians ever believed or practiced. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”

      You are wrong about that, the anthropological evidence on this is quite clear. We mustn’t confuse the religion of the clergy with that of the many believers who may be relatively uneducated and not trained to discern the magical from the religious.

      (As personal aside: Long before I knew of vampires, I was convinced, after my confirmation, that the crucifix could save me from anything; I took it to school, where a bully proved me wrong.)

      At any rate, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampire: “Apotropaics—items able to ward off revenants—are common in vampire folklore. Garlic is a common example, a branch of wild rose and hawthorn are said to harm vampires, and in Europe, sprinkling mustard seeds on the roof of a house was said to keep them away.[37] Other apotropaics include sacred items, for example a crucifix, rosary, or holy water. Vampires are said to be unable to walk on consecrated ground, such as that of churches or temples, or cross running water.”

      It is also well known that Bram Stoker derived the character of Dracula from folk legends from southeastern Europe, but it’s admittedly not clear what his direct source or sources were.

      The Transylvania of the 15th Century – the Transylvania of Vlad Tepes, – was a somewhat different place than that of a century or so later. Vlad was both a national hero – for finally kicking the Turks out of his part of Romania – but also a national outrage, known for impaling people who irritated him. Rumors converted into folklore include cannibalism and, yes, vampirism. Vlad is assumed to be Stoker’s primary inspiration, although he seems to have borrowed the name Dracul from Vlad’s father. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_the_Impaler (Dracul: “dragon,’ as derived from “drac:” “devil.”)

      Of course Stoker’s novel – and the many vampire stories in all media since – are secularizations of folklore that conflated the magical and the religious – that’s actually part of the back-story I am hinting at, rather than arguing outright, which would require a much longer, and more different essay (and which I also hinted at in my two essays on the English Revolution last year.) Many people accept that the secularization of Western societies began with the Enlightenment and Romanticism, foreshadowed in Renaissance resurrection of Greek philosophy. I am becoming more and more convinced that it actually began with the Reformation, and the overthrow of the totalitarian Catholicism of the Middle Ages. And I am not using “totalitarian” to be political or disparaging here, merely stating a somewhat obvious historical fact. When the Reformers achieved separation of two notions that had been long held identical – the Catholic Church of Rome and Christianity per se – they initiated a rethinking of the relationships between believer and church, believers and neighbors, believers and what we now consider state, and even between the faithful and the faith itself – with consequences that we are still living with today. But, obviously, that goes far afield, and I only remark it as a suggestion here.

      1. E.J.Winner:
        You wrote:

        . When the Reformers achieved separation of two notions that had been long held identical – the Catholic Church of Rome and Christianity per se – they initiated a rethinking of the relationships between believer and church, believers and neighbors, believers and what we now consider state, and even between the faithful and the faith itself – with consequences that we are still living with today. But, obviously, that goes far afield, and I only remark it as a suggestion here.

        More ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ from you:

        The Church of England is the Established Church of the U.K. The monarch is its head (Fid.Def. Defender of the Faith) A Roman Catholic cannot be Prime Minister – Tony Blair waited to convert to his wife’s religion until he had left P.M.’s office. The National Religion in the Constitution of Denmark is Lutheranism as in Sweden until 2000. It was not until 1871 that subscription to the 39/49/95 Articles was abolished in Oxford and Cambridge.

        1. I don’t understand your need to inject right-wing troll language (“let’s go Brandon”) into a comment here, and I don’t see the relevance of the information concerning the Church of England. I’m sure you find some personal gratification for this behavior, but I have no idea what it might be, and have no particular interest finding out.

      2. EJ: Thanks, good reply. It’s clear that numerous Christians carried things like rosaries and amulets and good luck charms and maybe had them blessed by a priest and expected these things to do them some practical good. Many still do. So the line between religion and magic is very blurred — and is so in every religion, I imagine. So, yes, these stories come from a context that conflates the magical and the religious. I think we agree.

        I also agree about “totalitarian Catholicism” in your sense. The Roman church claimed authority in all spheres of life, even if it did not exercise such authority but rather delegated it to the secular authorities. The rise of science is important partly because it derived from neither religious not political authorities. But the Reformers had no sense of why science mattered. Nor did they have any room for philosophy or for liberal politics in their worldview. So I would regard the Enlightenment — being based on science and philosophy and political liberalism, though often tolerant of religion — as the main secularising force.

        1. You should see Dracula within the Gothic tradition, where vampires start with Polidori’s The Vampyr (which I haven’t read in years, but was recently reminded by the movie Mary Shelley to be a veiled portrait of Byron – “in the midst of the dissipations attendant upon a London winter, there appeared at the various parties of the leaders of the ton a nobleman, more remarkable for his singularities…”),

          http://www.public.asu.edu/~cajsa/thevampyre1816/complete_text_vampyre.pdf

          Many English Gothic tales and penny dreadfuls were by Protestant authors and regularly included the evil Catholic monks etc of propaganda of the era.

          1. David: I think the Gothic tradition came out of a post-Enlightenment context. Godwin and Wollstonecraft were pure Enlightenment people; Byron, Shelley and Mary Shelley were post-Enlightenment. They were certainly not “Protestant”. But I don’t know much about how that tradition evolved after that.

  7. E.J. Winner
    The point is that ‘you hear what you want to hear’ even if it is not what is being said i.e. the historical record. Church and State remained a unitary force even after the reformation and the enlightenment.

    1. “Church and State remained a unitary force even after the reformation and the enlightenment.” Nobody denies this is true in some Western nations (but certainly not all), but these are only parts of the larger social trends that have been unfolding for centuries, the only question being in which phenomena these trends originated.

      1. E.J. Winner:
        It is interesting how many European countries have a church tax levied by the government. The National Church of Denmark has 9% of its budget bestowed through general taxation whether you are a member or not. The full list is here:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_tax
        The Italians have a .8% tax which is mandatory.

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