Horror: A Thought

This is a bit of an l’esprit de l’escalier post.

From my piece on Kolchak the Night Stalker.

“Horror, began appropriately enough during the Reign of Terror.  Religion was officially outlawed in France.  The Catholic Church had been forced out of the country and if you were going to worship anything at all, it had to be the Goddess of Reason.  Graveyards were filled with dead people who were, according to the First Republic, gone forever.  They were in an eternal sleep from which there would be no waking.

Into this government mandated spiritual vacuum stepped Étienne-Gaspard Robert, the creator of the very first horror show: The Phantasmagoria…”

Something that occurred to me later is that horror didn’t exist as a genre before the Enlightenment.

The reason is simple enough, before the Enlightenment, people believed in the supernatural. It wasn’t a matter of ignorance, it was a matter of everyday life. If you believed in the Bible, you believed in the supernatural. It was filled with the stuff.

It was only after the Enlightenment that Christians were required to uphold to irreconcilable and opposing viewpoints. That God existed but that the supernatural did not, despite the fact that God Himself is fundamentally a supernatural being. Declaring this thing or that to be a superstition that the scientifically minded should sneer at in disdain, created a spiritual vacuum.

And almost immediately a need for the “delightful shiver” emerged.

Horror was a bone deep reaction to the Enlightenment.

3 thoughts on “Horror: A Thought

  1. Horror? Examine the proceedings of the CheKa during the Red Terror Too,there is the Soviet GRU film of the execution of Pyotr Popov, used as an initiation document for subsequent entrants in the GRU.

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  2. The Directory and its Reign of Terror were the logical, practical outcomes of the Enlightenment. Man now thinks he has erased God, but forgot that the Master of this world was now freed of constraints. Horrors and hopelessness were loosed on all.

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