Religion and Its Monsters

  • 40 749 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview


"Ranging from the lair of Leviathan to the mosh pit of The Misfits, Beal's exhumation and dissection of religious monstrosity and monstrous reli giosity is as entertaining as it is incisive." -Stephen D. 1\1oore, author of God:1 Gym "Timothy Beal has let the monsters out of our cultural and religious base

ment and allowed them to roam freely-to our great benefit, distress, and delight. His is a detailed, learned, and engrossing book, and our under standing of religious disorientation bounds forward because of it."

-Frederick J. Ruf, author of The Creatimz of ChatM

"Timothy Beal's book fascinates, just as the monsters who inhabit these

pages. The author guides us unerringly through a labyrinth whose entry point in the ancient world leads by unexpected turns to contemporary cul

ture. A richly illuminating book, attractively written, which sets the Bible in strange company and thereby makes us rethink the religious in both Bible and culture."

-David 1\\. Gunn, coeditor of Reading Biblu, Writin.q Bodied #

"Religion and h1 MmMterd




is particularly valuable to biblical scholarship

not only as a corrective to a too simplistic reading of the place of the chaotic in ancient Near Eastern religious thought but also as an eye open

ing account of the way Western culture has continued to recast the old

mythic themes in new forms."

-Carol. A. Newsom, coeditor of The New O.�:iwd Annotated Bible,

Third Edition "Tim Beal is a first rate reader. He knows how to read the Bible in the midst of its complex mythic, symbolic world. He knows how to read pop

ular culture clear to the bottom of its anxiety. He knows how to read at the interface of ancient tradition and current disorder. The outcome is a summons to candor among us, to the best and brighfest to face

down deep, to the 'keepers' of social order to move past moralism to the seething where truth boils. Beaf as

remarkable, engrossing read."


it is


reader gives us a

-Walter Brueggemann, author of The Prophetic lrnaq _ inalwn




New York


Published in 2002 by Routledge 29 West 35th Street New York, NY 10001 Published in Great Britain by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane London EC4P 4EE Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group. Copyright © 2002 by Routledge Printed in the United States of Arnerica on acid free paper. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including any photocopy ing and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The publisher and author gratefully acknowledge permission to reprint the following: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" reprinted by permission of Bauhaus. Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, David J. Haskins, Kevin Haskins © 1982 Bauhaus. All rights reserved. "Dust to Dust" Words and Music by Jerry Caiafa, Michael Emanuel, Daniel Rey © 1999 Zomba Sangs Ine., Cyclopian Music, Ine., Zomba Enterprises Ine., Vile of Venom and Daniel Rey (pub. Designee). All rights on behalf of Cyclopian Music, Ine., administered by Zomba Sangs Ine. All rights on behalf of Vile of Venom, administered by Zomba Enterprises Ine. All rights reserved. Lyrics reprinted by permission of Warner Bros. Publications. Librar y of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Beal, Timothy K. (Timothy Kandler), 1963 Religion and its monsters j Timothy K. Beal. p. cm. ISBN 0 415 92587 8

ISBN 0 415 92588 6 (pbk.)

1. Theodicy. l. Title. BT160 .B35 2001 291.2 dc21





ll'\TRODUCTIO:'\J Genesis l,TakeTwo l/ Religion and I ts Monsten�t Monsters-.�nd Their Religion// Paradox of the Monstrous// Demonizing and Deifying// MonstrumTremendum, MysteriumTremendum




Fragments from the Ancient Near East//To Order and Back// Chaos 1\lother// The Cloudrider and the Warrior Goddess // No Rest



Biblical Monsters and Mad Professors// Water Play or Water Fight// Disorientation andT heological Horror // 1\'lonstrous Enemies // Conjuring v







Job and theAbyss of Surfering//Absence ofAll Refuge// Desiring Chaos// Lyricism of Terror


FR0.\1 THE \VIIIRL\\'1.:\'D


Rousing God Rousing Leviathan// Diapered Monster// Behold Behemoth// Drawing Out Leviathan// Wholly Other// Divine Abyss





Watching and Eating 1'\i\onsters in Rabbinic Tradition// Seafaring Tales of the Rabbis// Fresh, Frozen or Salt-eured// Is This Monster Kosher?// Jonah's UnderseaAdventure





Apocalypse //lt's the Edge of the World as We Knowlt// Diabolical Dragon// The 1V1onster-maker's Bibie's Bible// From Beowulf to Dracula to Harry Potter




1\lOl'\STERS Il\'




Modern Chaos Batties// Hobbes' Mortall God// Theophany// But Why Leviathan? //Awe and Order// Heliraiser

8. O THE R Goos


Orientalism and Its Monsters// The Witch's l\1onkeys// Rama's 1\'\onkeys// Horrid Chambers oflmagery// Diabolical Monsters// Sublime 1'Ylonsters// Disoriental Monsters

vi i

9. THE BLoon Is




Ritual Purity and Danger in Dracula 11 The Count's Religion// Laws Pertaining to Blood// Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood // Rituals of Resacralization// Transfusion// One Wedding and a Funeral// Last Battie

1 o. SCREE:'\11\G MO:'\S TE RS


Movie Time, Sacred Time// Monstrous Revelations (No,iferatu and

Shadow of the Vampire) 11 Stage Rite (Dracula) 11 Exorcism (Metmpoli1)




I Arn Become Death// Ecohorror on Screen// Demythologizing the Monster// Shooting the Monster// These Are Ourselves

12. O uR





I sland of the Misfit Boys// .Bela's Hideous Progeny// Cthulhu Mythos// Lovecraft's Hideous Progeny// From Scholars to the Campus Crusade for Cthulhu// Homesickness



Here Be Monsters// Warning


19 7




This has been unnerving work. So many horror stories are about professors and researchers going bad. Think of the budding Swiss graduate student Frankenstein in Mary Shelley's novel, the defrocked professor, Dr. Pretorius, in James Whale's The Bride o/ Franken.:Jtein, and the distinguished Semitic languages scholar, Professor Angell, in H . P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu," to name just a few. All went over the edge as they fol lowed-or ran from -their monsters into oblivion. Perhaps one reason was that they did not recognize themselves in their monsters. Beyond that, I am betting that a big part of their problem was that they worked in isolation. So I have attempted to secure myself against a similar ruin by surrounding myself with a community of friends and col­ leagues. I am happy to acknowledge them here. As ever, I am deeply indebted to those in Tel Mac in Diaspora, especially Bill Perman, Deborah Krause, Tod Linafelt and Brent Plate, who have engaged my work in p rogress with critical care that stretches beyond friendship and inte�est. I have also benefited much from the editorial savvy, broad intelligence and patience of my editor, Bill Germano. Thanks for the criticisms, \orrections, references and eneaur­ agement offered by many colleagues at Eckerd College, Case ix


Acknowleogmenlr,.lf TranAa lt�m , Bilingual Ed ition (New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2 000) 1 49 9 1 .



1 2 . ,J . R. R. Tolkei n , " Bt't '" 'u(/: lts "\ lonsters and I ts Cri tics, " PrtiCt't'(hll.lJ. ' ��/ the Brt"tt;,f, 1 Icadcmy 22 ( 1 936) 245 95; and Fred C. Robi n so n , Bt'OH 'u(/ il/l() thc lipptl. •tlti 'C .Sty!c ( Knoxville: C n iversity of Te n n essce Press, 1 985) . 1 3. The Lat i n Vu lgatc Bible, which soon gains ascendanc�v in western Christendom , also calls it a dragon ("draco mapnu.• rt{/it. • [great red d ragon l d/c . •t''flt' anlt�;uu. • tjllt I 'Ocalur lh�z/Jo!u.• cl Satana.• [that ancient serpent who is called Devil and Satan]"; I 2 :3, 9) . 1 4 . Ro binson l O and 3 1 ; and R u t h i\ le l l i n koff'. " Ca i n 's 1\ lon strous Proge ny in I3eowult'. " J lnpf,, Sa,\'011 Fn.qland 8 ( 1 979) 1 43 62; and 9 ( 1 9RO) 1 83 97. •


Stephen Tou l m i n , Co.,mopo!t;,_. ll.�t• Ht'ddcn li.qcnda tl (Ch icago: U n iversity of Ch icago Press, 1 990) 98; also 1 07 1 1 5 on the " i ntel lect ual scaffoldi ng" of this cosmopolis. 2. Toulmin 7 1 . 3. Thomas Hobbes, /,cl't�ztban, ed. Richard Tu ck (Cam bridge Tex t s in t hc I l i story of Pol iticaJ Though t ; Cambridge: Cam bridge U n iversity Press , 1 996) 9. All quotations are from this edition of f lobbes ' text, which is based on the copy in the Cambridge U n iversity Library ( .��lfl/ . 3 .65. l ) . 4 . I l obbcs 9 1 0. 5. Hobbes 1 2 0. 6. Hobbes did not do the e ngraving for t he frontispiece i mage , but hc certai nly influc nced its design . An earl ier d rawi ng for the vel! u m edition that l lobbes had com m issioned for Charles I I (see below) was probably d rawn by \Venceslas Hollar. A revised ver­ sion of t hat drawi ng \\'as then used as the basis for the e ngravi ng on the pri n tcd book. See Keith 11rown , " The Artist of the Leviathan Ti de-page , " l�ritt: ,f.� /,tlwat:lf Jourtw! 4 ( 1 978) 24 36; and Tuck, " l n t rod uction " lii. 7. Rccount ed i n Edward l {yde , Earl of Clarcndon , " A Su rvey ' ol i\ \r l lobbes fft: , Le\·iathan " ( 1 670 ) , Ln·t�zthan: Contcmporat:lf Re.•pt '!l. 'l'· ' /ti tbc Po!t'tti·a! Tl.'t't lt:lf o( Tl.'t 'llltl, , f-!o/J/Jc. • , cd. G . A. ,_j . Rogers ( B ri stol: Thoem mes Prcss, 1 99:S) 1 80 85. i\c cording to Tuc k , "A note on t h c t cxt " l i i 1 \· i , l lobbes probably had intended to dedicate l.



the book t o Charles I I (the Godol phin dedication was added late i n the print process) . 8. Gerald Reedy, T he Rt"Me and Rca,,on: An_qlt"can., and �'cniJture ,·n La te Se, •enft't:llfh Coztw:v Fn_qland ( Ph i lade l ph ia: U niversity of Pen nsylvania Press, 1 985) ; also Christopher H ill, Thc En_qfi,/.J BdJie and the Se,•entanth Century Re,•olutL�J/1 ( New York : Pengu i n , 1 993) 425 28. 9 . H obbes 3 . l O. T h e Lati n text printed here di ffers from the establ ished text of the Lati n Vu lgate for Job 4 1 :24 . In the Vu lgate, " potestas" appears atter "terram" and before "quae . " H obbes ' title-page quo­ rat ion , which has " potestas " before " S u per Terram, " may have been drawn from a di f'fe rent copy of the Lati n text, or, more likely, is a m isquote. 1 1 . H obbes 220 2 1 . H obbes ' versification fol lows that of Ch ri stian Bibles, which correspond to the Vulgate. H obbes' English translation here is not from the King James Version ( 1 6 1 1 ) , but appears to be his own . 1 2 . H obbes 247. 1 3 . George Lawson, " An Exami nation of t h e Pol itical Part of Nlr. Hobbs His Le,•Lizthan, " in Rogers 1 9, 90, 9 1 . 1 4 . John Bramhal L " The Catching of Leviathan, or the G reat Whale, " in Rogers 1 5 1 . Al luding to the rabbinic tradition, discussed earlier, in which Leviathan is to be killed and eaten by the righteous in a fi nal banq uet, Bramhall concludes his critique of H obbes with the suggestion ( 1 79) t hat i f he were given the c hance to i m plement his political theory, " h is supposed su bjects m ight tear their mortal God in pieces with their teeth, and entomb his Sovereignty in their bowels. " Hobbes' l.�e i'Ltz!ban was otten criticized by contemporaries as a work of political theory whose weak ness was the author's own lack o l' experience and his inclination toward speculation. This is evident in Bramhall 's critique, as well as in the well-k nown com­ mentary of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, "A Su rvey of 1\lr H obbes H,:, Leviathan , " in Rogers 1 1 5 300. 1 5 . Although the seq uel to Clive Barker's Helimiter ( 1 987) , Hcllåound: Hellnu:,cr 11 ( 1 988) was directed by Tony Randel and written by Peter Atkins. 1 6. Tuck, " l ntroduction" xliii. ..


2 1 o.l

C H A PT E R 8 , OT H E R G O D S

l . J u dith Halberstam , Skin S/.Jou•,t: GothL·c HtNTor and t /.1e Tt:chno!t�lJY ��{Aion.,ter,, ( Durham: Duke U n iversity Press, 1 995) l 27 on the tech nology of monster making. 2. In the Ramayatza narrative itself. Hanu man is not a deity but a lege n dary h e l pe r o f Rama. ( I n some popular i m ages of Hanuman, Rama and Sita are pictu red on his c hest . i ndicati ng h is devotion to the m . ) Alt hough he is not a deity i n the Ramayana , i n contem porary H i nd u practice he is a v e ry popular figure and sometimes even serves as a Vai !?l!ava i mage. In these cases, "deity is focused through a beloved animal rep resentation, oft:en a cult object i n its own right " (Julius Li pner, lh/U)u,t: Thcir Relt.qt�Jil,, BelL�/:, and PractLi:e,, [ London and New York: Routl edge , 1 994] 283) . 3. H e had been sent to the mou ntain i n order to get a particu­ lar heali ng herb, but "vhen he was u nable to find the particular herb he brought back the whole mountai n . This demoostrates his great strength and devotion, if not intellect or discernment. 4 . John L. StoddarcJ :, /Jcctw·t'•'• I V ( Boston: Balch B rothers, 1 897) 89 . On Banaras, com pare 1\\ .A. Sherring's reactions to "the wor­ ship of u ncouth idols, of monsters, of the J i nga and other i ndecent flgu res, and of a m u ltitude of grotesque, ill-shapen, and hideous obj ects " in The Sacred City ��f thc HL'n du., ( London: Tru bner & Co. , 1 868) 37; c ited i n Diana Eck , /JarJan: Seein_q the /Jil'ine lma_qe in f/U)L(z , 3rd ed . (New York : Col u m bia U n iversity Press, 1 998) 1 7- 1 8. For examples of similar reactions from earlier western travelers, see Wi ll iam Foster, ed . , Aizr�v 7/m•ef., ,·n !tuh�z 1 58'i /6/9 ( London : Oxford U niversity Press, 1 92 1 ) . 5 . Lu cy E. Guinness, Jlcro,,,, I/Uh�z a l the Da ll'n t/ 1/.Je 20//.J Cen tw:v ( New York: Flem i ng H . Reveli Company, 1 898) 75 76. 6. Stoddard : , Lee/ure,, 83 84 . 7. l\ \ark Twain, l;�,flou•in.lJ l he h'tJLLlllor: f� Journcy 1"1 round t/.1e lY� w/d ( Hart ford : The American Publi shing Company, 1 897) 504 . 8. Guinness 1 99-2 00. 9. These and others are discussed at lengt h i n Partha 1\\ itter,

Afuch A!aiL!Jnl'd , 1/ontfet�': f� 1/i.ory t/ European Reac/L�I/1,, lo lndL�lll 1"-lrl

(2d edition; Chicago: U niversity of Chicago Press, 1 992 ) . The sub­ seq uent discu ssion of early European reactions to I ndian religious



iconography, especially o n t h e legacy of Varthema, is greatly indebted to i\litter's research. l O. The flinemt:v tl Lodo,•ti:o {)e Vart/.Jcma tlBolo.qnafrom /502 1 508,

trans. John Winter Jones, ed. N. 1\l. Penzer ( London : The Argonaut Press, 1 928) . Varthema's flinemrL�J was first translated in to Lati n in 1 5 1 1 , and Richard Eden 's 1 577 Engl ish translation, The .LYa P�qalion and !{Jya.qc,, tl Lewt:, lf/elomannu,,, was based on the Lati n rather than the ltalian. The German edition is Die Ritter!ti·h un[d] lohu•ir{h.iJ Ray,,,, (Augsburg, 1 5 1 5; repr. o f the edition in .J oh n Carter Brown Library by Scholar's Facsimi les and Repri nts, 1 992) . Calicut appears to have been located on l ndia's southwest coast, south of lVlangalor and Can nanor and north of Pon nani and Coc h i n . 1 1 . flinerary 55 56. 1 2 . i\llitter 1 7 1 8. 1 3. G iven the h istorical context (the manuscript m which it appears is dated 1 5 1 5, j ust two years before the Protestant reformer lVlartin Luther presented his n i nety-five theses against Pope Leo X 's use of indulgences) , it is just possible that the Augsburg artist Breu, who would later identi(y expl icitly with the Reformation, intended to put an anti-papal spin on the scene. On Breu 's rel igiou s and political h istory, Pia F. Cuneo, Art and Polilti·,, in Ear�v Afodcrn Germany: .få"t:q Brcll thc f,'/dcr and l he Fa,,ht�min_q tl Polilica! Idenlily ca. 1475 /5)6 ( Leiden: Bri l l , 1 998) 1 5 8 1 . 1 4 . The tl John H"Y.tJDen l 'llll Lin,choten lo lhe A(z,,f !tuJie,1: from the 0/d En.qft:,IJ Tmn,,fatt�J/l tl 1 598, val urne l, trans. Arthur Coke

Burnell ( London: Hakluyt Society, 1 885) 296 97. Burnell inelicates that the Dutch text describes the teeth hanging over the chin rather than down to the knees. 1 5 . Eu ropean representations of h u man sacrifice and of I ndian gods devouring people may also all ude to another bibl ical figure of religious otherness, namely i\lol ech , a god identified with h u man sacrifice in several passages of the Hcbrew Bible. 1\lolech (same­ times spel ied i\loloch ) is a rival deity mentianed at seve ral poi nts i n biblical literature , especially in prohibitions against child sacri­ fice (2 Kings 23: l O; Leviticus 1 8:2 1 and 2 0:2 5; l Ki ngs l l :7; J erem iah 32:35; Acts 7:43) . Discu ssed i n George C. H eider, Thc Cu!t t�/!IIolech: 1t Rea, ,,,c,,,,ment ( Shdfield: ShefTield Academic Prcss,



1 985 ) ; and .J ohn Day, ;7/o/ech : il God tl Human Sacrdi�·e in the 0/d Tt.', t/amml ( Cam bridge : Cambridge U niversity P ress, 1 990) ; sum­ marized i n H eider, " 1\lolech, " Anchor Bt'f,fe !Jt�·ft�lllary, ed. David Noel Freedman ( New York: Doubleday, 1 992) 895 98. Another

tigure of religious otherness that is sameti mes proj ected onto u n fa­ mi liar religious practices (and that may be part of the p rojection i n these texts) is Dionysus, t h e Greek god identiEed w i t h social transgression , mad ness, ecstasy, Hesh, wine and h u man sacri fice, cal led " render of men " and "eater of raw flesh " (\Valter F. Otto, Dt� l ny,tu,t: ;Jyth and Cu!t , trans. Robert B. Palmer [ Bloomington: l ndiana U n iversity Press, 1 965] 1 1 3 ) . In the Roman Empire , the rel igion of Dionysus was a prominent rival to an e mergi ng Ch ristian ity. There is evidence that Ch ristian ity was sti l l strug­ gl i ng to define itse l f agai nst the Dianysian religion as late as 692 C E , when the Truilian Synod of Constanti nople warned against Dianysian danci ng, transvesti sm and litu rgical masks. See Albert H ei n richs, " Loss of Self, Suffe ring, Violence: The Nlodern View of Dionysus from Nietzsche to Girard , " 1/an•ard Studie,, in C/a,l,tu·a/ Pl.ldo!t�lJY 88 ( 1 984) 2 1 2- 1 3 . 1 6. Homi K. Bhabha, The Locatt�m ,�f Calture ( London and New York: Routledge, 1 994) 70 7 1 . 1 7. O n the monster as "d iscipli nary sign , " see H al berstam, esp. 72 . 1 8. Edmund Bu rke, A Phi/o,�·a/ lnquity info Our ldea�' t?{ the SuMime and Beaut�/ul, ed . Adam P h i l l i p s (Oxford : Oxford U n iversity Press, 1 998) ; I m manuel Kan t, " Analytic of the Sublime, " Critt'que t?{ Ju(�qmenl , ed 1\\eredith (Oxford : Oxford U n ivers ity Press, 1 987) . The pri mary precu rsor to the eighteenth­ century discu ssion of the sublime was the Greek essay On the SuMime (peri huphou,,) trad itionally attributed to Longi nus but of

un known authorsh ip. l nterestingly, that essay refers to Eu ripides '' Baccbae and Dianysian religion as examples of the sublime's ability to carry one away with emotion ( On the SuMt'me: The Greek ]{w/ Edited t�/ter tbe Pari., Afanu,,cniJt , ed. and trans. \V. Rhys Roberts [Cambridge: Cam bridge U niversity Press, 1 899] 89) . 1 9 . " Desc ri ption of t h e Caves or Excavations on the i\ lou ntain . . . eastward of t he Town of Ellora, " A,,[att'c Re,,earche,, V I ( 1 80 l ) 382 83; Wi l l iam Ersk ine, " Account of the Ca ve-Tempie