Throughout history, human beings have been strangely fascinated by the monstrous and the macabre. In Horror and the Holy, a study of the classic horror story, Kirk Schneider explains the compelling power of such tales as a result of our thirst for the sacred, and identifies elements of the holy in familiar blood-curdling yarns.
True horror arises when the mundane becomes unexpected and when the contained breaks free of its confining chains to become unlimited. Anything boundless tends to become terrifying, argues Schneider. It is infinitude, which draws us to the unsavory, infinitude that lurks behind dread. Sheer bliss, paradise, or Nirvana therefore always has the potential to turn into horror, as limits fall away and the boundless expanses of infinity open up. While ecstasy is a glimpse of the infinite, terror is full disclosure.
Drawing upon a detailed and telling analysis of eleven well-known horror stories, Dr. Schneider finds that a spiritual understanding of life can be attained through horror. Classic horror steers a middle path between fanaticism and despair: the path of wonderment. Horror teaches us that human personality is paradoxical; that revulsion and disgust are the obverse of excitement and freedom, and that both poles are vital to individual, social, and ecological well-being.