Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Theological Horror

My favorite horror sub-genre is theological, it’s a flavor of psychological thriller but with cultural as well as personal dimensions.

These aren’t very common. I know of maybe five in the category, two are mine, but I find it fascinating how one culture’s gods are another’s devil. Baal became Satan, Kali the devil. Evil is the result of an aggressive PR campaign and the product of a limited world view.

In a magickal world view, power is everywhere. Gods, angels, rocks. The very water we drink, the air and elements are potent and worship worthy. All is energy, facets of a greater thing we are unable to describe in a single name outside of God, which is too loaded a term for magickal use. To the outside world, the magician deals with forces they have not business playing with. It’s a hubris to toy in God’s play box, but that is what they do. There’s an immediate characterization of one who dares to work magick, a willful character, an actor, one striving for greater things, taking greater risks, traveling the taboo roads. This is the basis of BEATRYSEL, my debut novel. I go to great lengths to accurately depict this thriving world view. In the mainstream they are definitely a counter-culture, but a humanistic one in the face of a materialistic society.

What defines our culture—American culture, western culture, is the dual nature of theology. We have good and evil. These are of course value judgments. One person’s good is another person’s evil. A freedom fighter is a rebel to the establishment. It’s all relative. The universe doesn’t make value judgements; man does.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this idea of right/wrong, good/evil is the foundational concept of faith. But it’s not universal. In my upcoming book WHAT IMMORTAL HAND (coming September from Omnium Gatherum Media), I posit an eastern religion upon American soil. Indian pantheons have taken root. Their cults and castes are an unseen presence. The Thugs, followers of Kali, highwaymen, dacoits, killers do their holy work upon the lonely highways. This is great fodder for horror, but the true terror of the piece comes not from the killings, but the acceptance of it.

At the root of Hinduism, the universe is not a binary, but a triad. There are many gods but the three primal ones, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva represent the creator, sustainer and transformer (destroyer). Life is a cycle and each has its place and season. There is necessary sacrifice, destruction and culling. I challenge the reader to examine this concept, to accept it and possibly embrace it. I went down the rabbit hole for this one and met with Shiva’s consort, Kali, in her many forms—lover, killer, supreme force. The record of my journey is WHAT IMMORTAL HAND. It is a bold piece, literary and dark, steeped in the cruel realities of nature and the limiting imagination of polite society.

It all comes back to Hamlet’s timeless quote: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” When we challenge our core ideas of right and wrong, good and evil—God Himself, we are in some truly unsettling waters. Here there are dangerous tides and thrilling undercurrents, madness beneath the surface. This is a place where only horror can truly thrive.

WHAT IMMORTAL HAND — Michael is called of God; just not that God.

Painting by Sean Ricks

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