Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Da Vinci's Other Code

Priests Become Perverts Because of...Art?

A new documentary, Rape of the Soul, posits an odd theory that occult/sexual imagery in centuries-old religious art has helped create an atmosphere of evil within the Catholic Church, leading to the sexual molestation of youngsters by priests. According to the director, subversive imagery is still used in the Church - even in children's books. The film is directed by Michael Calace, a devout Catholic who wants to expose the shameful legacy of "embed art" within the Church. From the Silver Sword International website: "SSI has announced that its story rights to the recently uncovered religious artwork scandals have now been completed into a feature film documentary for release.The highly inappropriate imagery that is being distributed by trusted organizations has caused the demand for expert analysis and education on the subject, which has affected a vast multitude of churches and millions of people internationally.The stunning images and deceptive techniques, which were primarily aimed at children, is clearly identified, and includes the investigations utilized to uncover the scandals, resulting in a crucially engaging motion picture." Hmm.

I've no doubt that subtle imagery can influence us on a subconscious level, especially if we're bombarded with it on a regular basis. And Calace is hardly the first person to point out the strange use of erotic imagery in religous art. In his book The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and In Modern Oblivion, Leo Steinberg noted Renaissance artists' preoccupation with Christ's genitalia. The late University of Chicago professor Ioan Couliano explored such ideas in depth in his book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. From the book description at Amazon.com: "Renaissance magic, according to Ioan Couliano, was a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. Its key principle was that everyone (and in a sense everything) could be influenced by appeal to sexual desire. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imaginations of his subjects. In these respects, Couliano suggests, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent". Basically, Couliano contended that the Italian upper classes manipulated the masses through liberal use of sexual imagery in art, fashion, and public displays.

But do really old paintings hanging in churches and the Vatican spur priests to become pedophiles? Highly unlikely. I think this director should have stuck to exposing the hidden messages in these artworks, rather than using them to explain decades of sexual deviance. The Rape of the Soul website is rather strange, too. It's advertising a supposedly serious film that excoriates long-dead artists for sneaking naughty stuff into their work...but the website itself has a ghoulish cartoon full of popes' skeletons and dead trees (with a clap of thunder for effect) on its homepage; looks like an ad for an anime horror movie.

I'll post more on Rape of the Soul when I know more about it. I'm curious to know which artworks contain all this interesting stuff.

E. Michael Jones, conservative Catholic founder of Culture Wars magazine, has different thoughts about horror movies, fiction, and art. In his book Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film (Spence Publishing Company, 2000), Jones argues that horror "is an unconscious backlash against the Enlightenment and the evils of secular humanism...the moral order, when suppressed, reasserts itself as an avenging monster." He draws connections between Enlightenment ideals and the disastrous love affair of Mary Godwin and Percy Shelley, Dracula and the 19th-century fear of syphillis, contraception and drive-by shootings. Sex is to blame for pretty much every social ill, in Jones's view: The exploitative and exploited Marian visions of Medjugorje, Bosnia, are somehow the result of the sexual revolution, the homosexual is the "culture of death's ideal citizen", and Bahaus architecture is a symptom of sexual immorality. Somewhat like Couliano and Calace, Jones believes that today's leaders of media, insdustry, and politics manipulate the masses with sexual imagery.
When not battling the evils of architecture and birth control, Jones writes songs a la Bob Roberts, such as "I'm Voting for Skull and Bones."

Humorous aside: Check out these before and after pics of the cover for a Christian self-help book called After You've Blown It. "Embed imagery", indeed!

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