Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Disneyland for God

No survey of Fantastique Film would be complete without mentioning the many contributions of Walt Disney Studios. Even if one ignores studio's animated oeuvre, one must acknowledge such seminal classics as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Tron (1982) , as well as the intelligently adolescent Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), the guilty-pleasure of The Black Hole (1979), and the well-intentioned Sleepy Hollow (1999) . 

We should also consider the studio's numerous scifi-themed comedies such The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), The Shaggy Dog (1959), Now You See Him Now You Don't (1972), and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), etc.

Finally, of course, there is the studio's noisy and inisipid Pirates of the Caribbean series, which, despite being artistically barren, is nonetheless a financially lucrative cultural force here in the futuristic 21st century. 

Equal or greater to the studio's film legacy are its two North American theme parks, Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. In operation since 1955 and 1971 respectively, they are filled with fantasy-themed attractions such such as the futuristic Monorail train, Space Mountain, and the Astro-Orbiter, entertaining and thrilling 3 generations of youth from around the world.

Disney's parks are rightly considered to be revolutionary, a pioneering attempt to make the impossible visions of the studio's enormously popular fantasies into solid, three dimensional reality. They arose from the soil of the wealthiest nation on earth, at the zenith of its economic prosperity and imperial power.

Disney's parks have enjoyed spectacular financial success and retain, even to this day, a special status in the longings and dreams of children. The very fact of Disneyland's existence as an actual physical place here on Earth where the fantastic and magical things could actually have a tangible presence has imbued the Disney films with a unique set of implicit, perceived qualities.

At the same time, the park's overt connection with the works of the Disney studios imparted a kind of psychic luster around the park as well. The mystique of the park and the magic of the movies quickly created a cultural feedback loop, mutually reinforcing each other.

The third leg of the table was Disney's weekly TV show, broadcast from the 1950's through the 1970's, which frequently and unabashedly promoted Disneyland, with several episodes specifically devoted to technical workings of the park or to a visit by the famous Osmond Brothers.

It was exquisite timing that the Disney aura was perfected in the crucial decades of the 1950's through the 1980's, when entertainment technology was heavily dependent on TV and movies, and the range of choices was much more limited than today.  In those years, the weekly Disney TV program was a ritual for millions...and the semi-annual Disney new release or re-release was something akin to a holiday. In our multimedia and portable technology era, to create a ubiquitous media juggernaut and infuse it with Disney's perceived magical and nurturing qualities would be more difficult.

The mass media had imposed brand-consciousness across the spectrum of American kids with admirable efficiency in the post WW2 period. But Disney became more than just a brand. Very early in the studio's history, a decision was made that all its productions would be aimed at children as a primary audience and that the productions would all ostensibly promote or reinforce white middle-class Judeo-Christian heterosexual nationalist center-right moral values.

Even now in the cynical 21st Century, nearly 80 years after the release of Snow White, Disney products are not only unquestionably accepted as 'safe' and 'moral' by Americans, but any skepticism regarding this notion is virtually outside the realm of possible thought. And while few Americans believe in the historical reality of Long John Silver, the corporation has successfully propagated a highly mythologized, idealized view of  history via Davey Crockett and similar productions.

For several generations of American children, Disney occupied a psychic space similar to that of a religion, except that, unlike religion, kids found it pleasurable and they partook of it voluntarily. But like a church, it was the kind of magic people would pay for.

Disneyland and Disney World, despite being objects of crass hype and despite being saturated with a simplistic morality and infected with wildly inaccurate history, are rightly celebrated as masterfully crafted 3-D fulfillments of American mythology, fantastic narrative, and the power of pure imagery. Nothing in North America can match them, although parts of Las Vegas come close.

Walt Disney summarized his vision in these words:

'Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and hard facts that have created America. And it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to all the world.'

(The Fascinating Original Disneyland Prospectus)

But it isn't all happy 'toons' and fairy tale characters. The North American Disney parks both feature  a show comprised an assortment of amazingly realistic robotic U.S. presidents giving speeches representative of the company's idealized and sanitized depiction of US history. The Hall of Presidents is a textbook example of this hagiographic propaganda. 

But more popular by far is the famous Haunted Mansion, full of 'animatronic' ghosts projected via a truly brilliant array of analog era optical tricks.

The juxtaposition of an attraction essentially devoted to characters who might be considered to be the 'undead' in the midst of the often forced cuteness and sweetness (see: It's a Small World) is notable. It is also notable that the notion of a houseful of  mischievous spirits of dead persons is contrary is directly contrary to much religious dogma circulating in the USA. 

North America, home to the first two Disney parks, is dominated by worshippers of the bronze-age Hebrew war-god Yahweh (also known as God or Allah) and the legendary Jewish demi-god Jesus. Strictly speaking, most of Yahweh's official doctrines do not provide for the souls of the undead to go cavorting about the Earth for mortals to view.

The fact that the Flapdoodle Files could find no record of Christians ever protesting the Haunted Mansion is interesting. The Disney brand banks heavily upon the perception that Disney products are wholesome and moral, and in America, religion is almost universally conflated with morality.

But then, America also loves ghosts and many other supernatural legends not officially sanctioned by the quasi-state religion. And based on box-office receipts and TV ratings, America also loves these spooky supernatural legends more even more than cute anthropomorphic mice and ducks.

Even as inventive, relentless and crassly commercial as Walt Disney and his 'imagineers' were, it is unlikely Disneyland would have arisen had it been without a prototype.  And so it is that throughout the history of the species, the human animal has constructed many architectural edifices whose aim was to impart a sense of physical reality to the most fantastic of our imaginings. 

Since some of the best extant examples of such prototypes were created during the Italian Renaissance, it was determined that the Flapdoodle Investigators should travel to the two great centers of this movement, Florence and Rome. 

What we call the Renaissance began in Italy during the 14th Century, concurrent with the rising wealth of the mercantile class, especially certain families such the notorious Medicis. By the 15th century, the Medicis owned one of the largest banks of Europe, and one of their clients was the Pope himself. 

The Medici Pope Leo X, by Raphael
The Medici collected taxes for the church, with such ruthless efficiency that they were granted 10% of the take. Prior to the demise of the Medici Dynasty in 1737, no less than 4 members of this clan had achieved the papacy itself. 

The Medicis were lovers of art, learning and culture (as well as sex, drugs and alcohol), and used much of their wealth to promote these interests, which included classical sculptures, especially depictions of naked people.

When Emperor Constantine I converted to Chrisitianity (circa 312 AD), the Roman Empire effectively merged with Christianity. Christians were then vigorously encouraged to loot and destroy Pagan art, and the outlawing of Paganism in 391 by Emperor Theodosius I reinforced the idea that all non-Christian art was sinful. (The Roman Church had previously executed the first of many so-called 'heretics,' the bishop Priscillian, in 385.)

But the Medici Family, along with other key figures, appreciated the value of the ancient Roman sculptures, which emphasized hyper-realistic depictions of the human form. Of special interest to the Flapdoodle Files is the fact that the technology of super-realism was often utilized in the context of pure fantasy.

And so by virtue of the Medici's economic power over the church, there began at a last a degree of toleration, preservation and scholarship of the ancient non-Christian works.

Since the Romans sculptors were masters at realism, it is around this time that rapid advances in the techniques of visual realism resume in Europe. Adding to the realism was the discovery of Linear Perspective, a set of methods utilized by artists to create the illusion of 3-D 'depth' to a 2-D 'flat' painting.

The Florentine genius Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) is generally considered to be the first Rennaissance artist to discover and utilize linear perspective, and it is also he who made another crucial innovation in the quest for the original European Disneyland: the magnificent dome of the Florence's greatest cathedral.

Work on the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral had begun in 1296, stopping and then re-starting and stopping again several times (stopping once due to the Black Plague in 1348). The originators of the project had specified a self-supporting dome but no one in Europe knew how to design one, even 100 years after the project started.  Finally in 1418, a contest was initiated to determine who would design a dome to cap the edifice.

This was more audacious than the 1961 JFK proposing to land a man on the moon by 1970. Although theoretically possible, it would require revolutionary new technology. Brunelleschi had to design new construction equipment just to build the structure:

The Classical Romans had built domes, and so had numerous societies in Asia and Africa. But in 1418 no one in Europe had the technology or the expertise to construct a self-supporting dome. Luckily for the church and the Medici Family, the secretive and eccentric Brunelleschi won the contest, therefore claiming the glory of creating Europe's first self-supporting post-classical dome.

Even here in the futuristic 21st Century, the Florence Cathedral dome is still considered to be the largest masonry dome in the world and it remains a triumph of design. But in the year of its completion, 1436, with most of Europe still living in medieval hovels and other dark, dank dwellings, Il Duomo, as it became known, stabbed 376 feet skyward, a wonder far beyond most peoples' wildest imaginings.

While the overwhelming majority of the population lived a lifestyle similar to Monty Python peasants digging for 'some lovely filth', some of Europe's elite were beginning to travel, and their travelogues were among the most popular literature of the period. The Gutenberg printing press, another technological wonder, was introduced to the Holy Roman Empire about 1440, and this early mass media device aided and accelerated the dissemination of accounts of Il Duomo.

Additionally, the rising mercantile class was expanding and improving trade routes, so that more and more visitors from other lands also viewed the spectacular new edifice. The result of these cultural and commercial contacts was that descriptions and illustrations of this truly incredible structure, dedicated to the glory of the bronze-age Hebrew war-god Yahweh and the legendary Jewish demi-god Jesus, were gradually disseminated outward, no doubt benefiting from some unconscious exaggeration and amplification along the way.

There were no plausible first-hand accounts of Heaven floating around the world of the early Renaissance, but there was ample testimony of the magnificence of the Il Duomo. The clergy, stooped in dank country churches or the dark gothic cathedrals of the city, were eager to evoke an invisible firmament, a spiritual connective tissue linking their own modest local House-O-Worship with the majestic and fantasitc dome.

An example of the artwork displayed in the cathedral is an illustration of the poet Durante degli Alighieri, considered to be the seminal genius of Italian literature. Dante's most famous work was The Divine Comedy (1320), has been mined extensively for the last 700 years by artists and writers of all stripes for its lyrical and explicit depictions of the tortures of Hell.

Because construction began in the Medieval era, there is an abundance of art from those years as well.  One example is this mosaic from the baptistry of the cathedral, begun in 1225:

As was the custom of the day, the cathedral contains sarcophegi of several high-ranking figures. Perhaps the most notable is the tomb of Antipope John XXXIII, who is depicted as though taking an afternoon nap. This work by Donatello and Michelozzo was completed circa 1420:

But it is the interior of the dome itself is is the most prominent and audacious piece, decorated with an immense fresco begun in by Giorgio Vasari in 1568, who worked in true fresco (wet plaster) until his death in 1574 (Vasari, BTW, was the first person to use the word 'rinascita,' translated to us as Renaissance, in print.) After that, the work was taken over by Federico Zuccari and other assistants, finally finished in 1579.

Since the dome was self-supporting, the interior was not cluttered with beams, arches, and other supports, but was instead a kind of vast empty canvas. As anyone who has lain flat on the earth of an open field can tell you, the human sensory-nervous default interface automatically depicts the sky as a kind of vast dome interior, therefore. With a canvas shaped like the sky itself, it was a truly revolutionary artistic opportunity. 

Commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimio di Medici, it is titled The Last Judgement, and it contains (from top to bottom) Choirs of Angels; Christ, Mary and Saints; Virtues, Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Beatitudes; and at the bottom tier: Capital Sins and Hell.

Here in the Futuristic 21st Century, our super-high-tech photography and media are useful for capturing and transmitting images of Il Duomo and its fabulous interior. Even still, it is not possible to fully appreciate the edifice without also experiencing its vastness.

From the outside, it's size evokes a veritable mountain, the archetypal nexus between humans and their sky-dwelling gods.

The subjective impression of the dome's interior is only slightly less expansive, especially since the rest of the cathedral is strangely dark and austere. And if one tries to sort, identify, and make sense of the teeming mass of biblical heroes, saints, prophets, angels and other members of the Christian pantheon, one easily succumbs to a sense of confusion, as though trying to make sense of Cirque du Soleil.

There is one area of the fresco that stands out dramatically, and whose meaning is clear and obvious, even from the floor to the cathedral. And that is the artists' depiction of the eternal punishment in store for those who don't follow Yahweh's instructions:

This is, conveniently, the largest section of the concentric rings of visuals, and it is also the closest to the seats, all the better to be seen close-up. In fact the lower portion of the dome is ringed with an interior catwalk, accessible via stairs, so that Hell and its torments can be viewed close-up. From any place the public might access, the fresco is heavily dominated by Hell:

These billboard-sized renditions of horned, lascivious demons burning and rending the flesh of sinners, with the Great Beast himself devouring these poor unredeemed wretches is a masterwork of the fantastique. For our money, it is more frightening than most contemporary horror movies, retaining its potency even after more than 500 years.

It is this combination of a supremely powerful, uncompromising vision, plus a technical genius which stands the test of time, which ultimately make this Renaissance theme park a marvel superior to the optical and electronic effects of Disneyland.

Of course, there might be another, darker reason for the power of these images. The tortures performed by Satan's minions, as well as and hundreds of others, were inflicted upon so-called 'heretics,' the hapless victims of the Holy Inquistion, which had been established in the 12th century and which would continue until the 19th.

In fact, at the time of the fresco's creation, the Inquistion was expanding rapidly and would continue to do so for at least another hundred years. The original audience would have been acutely aware of the painting's deeper, more sinister meaning.

Theologically, this vivid, horrific depiction of Hell makes perfect sense. Saint Thomas Aquinas himself had this to say regarding visions of Damnation:

"In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful and that they may give to God more copious thanks for it, they are permitted perfectly to behold the sufferings of the damned . . . The saints will rejoice in the punishment of the damned."

Additionally, there is the curious fact that many Renaissance artists, in pursuit of anatomical realism, observed and participated in dissection of human corpses. It is well-documented that Leonardo and Michelangelo, for example, both dissected cadavers at certain points in their respective careers. To see the damned, suffering the torture of flaying, knowing that artist himself had most likely skinned corpses himself, enhances the horror.

Just as Disneyland inspired its creator to create the larger, more elaborate Walt Disney World fifteen years later, on 18 April, 1506 the Church began the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

St. Peter's is the largest edifice within a complex of buildings and gardens best known as Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church since 1377. Thanks to the efforts of Benito Mussolini, Vatican City is legally recognized as an independent nation, which is tremendously effective at thwarting independent scrutiny of finances and legal issues.

Occupying 110 acres, the Vatican is somewhat smaller than the California Disneyland, which occupies 160 acres. Annual visitors to the Vatican exceed 5.5 million per year, whereas Disneyland gets about 16 million per year. 

Despite its smaller scale and attendance, it should be noted that St. Peter's Basilica was completed in 1626, without any of the technological and infrastructure advantages which Uncle Walt could utilize. It remains to be seen what kind of crowds the Magic Kingdom will draw 350 years after its opening.

A major attraction for Vatican tourists is the Holy See's art collections. Pope's have been collecting art here since 1506, and four museums on the property are devoted to sculptures alone. 

As in the case of the fictional Charles Foster Kane, no one seems to know just how big the whole collection really is. Aleria Lapidaria, single part of just one of the five museums, contains more than 3,000 stone tablets and inscriptions, which is the world's greatest collection of its kind. The collection ranges from the Classical Roman era to the modern. Like much of Rome, rapid transitions and juxtapositioning between Classical, Medieval, Renaissance and Modern gives the visitor a strange sense time travelling, ala Dr Who.

The dome of St. Peter's reaches a maximum height of 448 ft., exceeding that of its Florentine predecessor, but it's interior is decorated with a kind of grid-pattern of reliefs, depicting the usual ecclesiastical personages, and is sadly lacking in horror and torture imagery.

St. Peter's Basilica is said to to be the largest church on Planet Earth, and in fact its mammoth size creates a paradoxical effect for visitors to its interior. The peculiarities of human sensory perception are such that it is difficult to correctly interpret space and distance when encountering something of unusual scale. 

But the natural distortion is amplified by the fact that much of the interior statuary was constructed to be larger than life, so that a cherub, which would be approximately toddler-sized in real-life, is instead the size of an adult gorilla.

This was done to make it possible for persons on the floor to discern visual works placed near the ceiling, but a by-product is that the interior seems smaller than it actually is. It is the opposite of Dr. Who's TARDIS.

The most famous art work at the Vatican are the frescoes of Michelangelo, which decorate the interior of the Sistine Chapel. These magnificent paintings are justifiably considered to be among the greatest art treasures of the western world, with the images being republished by many sources, and of course the inspiration for a movie featuring the great scifi thespian, Charlton Heston.

Contemporary audiences were justifiably awed and the Flapdoodle Files encourages the reader to seek out the many hundreds of fascinating details of the fresco, if he has not previously done so. Being mindful of the passage of time, we shall sidestep most of these and focus on the Michaelangelo's The Last Judgement (completed 1541).

As with Vasari's painting of the same name, it is the lower portion, closer to the audience, which is of the most interest. As with Vasari, Michelangelo is unambiguous regarding the fate of sinners, shipping them en masse to their eternal punishment, herded like cattle by grinning gargoyles:

While Michelangelo opted not to depict the actual torture of the damned, he nonetheless triumphs in his exquisite depiction of their stark wretchedness. A special treat is Cheron, a character borrowed from Dante:

It's also notable that in Michelangelo's vision, the Hosts of Heaven are not idle bystanders. Below is a magnificent detail showing Yahweh's angels beating back damned souls who try to escape their fate:

Another point of interest is the artist's depiction of St. Bartholomew, who according to the legend, suffered death by being skinned alive. He is depicted here as healthy and robust, yet also holding a flaying knife and a human skin (in one piece), which is said to have been a kind of gruesome self-portrait of the artist.

The Sistine Chapel is only one of tens of thousands of great art works on display at the Vatican. And since Christianity is intensely focused on suffering, punishment, torture, and death, there are are countless crucifixions, and numerous depictions of saints enduring the gruesome horrors of martyrdom. Yet nothing rivals the scale, virtuosity or fame of the Sistine Chapel frescoes. 

But in fairness, there is more to this place than just the mere visceral terror of the flesh. It is, for example, impossible to tour Vatican City and ignore the massive, impervious power conveyed by the edifices and artifacts.

Saint Peter's Basilica, like the Cathedral of Florence, is a palace. And such terminology is entirely appropriate for a religion which promises access to an eternal and perfect Kingdom of God

To the vast majority of persons living in the Medieval and Renaissance eras, such phrases were not metaphorical, just as the tortures of hell, and the gruesome agonies of the saints were not metaphorical. The horrors were every bit as real as the Inquisition itself, and the promise of God's Kingdom as real as the Medici's money.

Speaking of the Medici's, one of the many brilliant minds to emerge from this period in history was Niccolo Machiavelli, who had been a government official in Florence but who made the mistake of resisting the power of the Medici Family. Having suffered torture and exile at their hands, he wrote his seminal work of political science, The Prince, which contains this pithy passage:

...a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

The Bronze-age Hebrew war god Yahweh, commonly known as simply 'God' to most Christians, certainly seems to have followed Machiavelli's axiom, at least until very recently. His biography, The Bible, contains numerous accounts of plagues, a genocidal flood, murders of Egyptian children, atrocities against the Canaanites, and other various horrors. For Yahweh's Christian worshippers, the culminating moment is the torture and execution of His Son, Jesus, which seems strangely to foreshadow Keyser Söze, of The Usual Suspects fame.

Put bluntly, someone who believed in the factual existence of the Biblical Yahweh and didn't have the bejeezus scared out of him would be a highly unusual person.

The Vatican, containing its vast array of Ecclesiastical simulacra and architectural constructs of the highest technology available at the time of its construction, culminating with Michelangelo's masterpiece of terror, gives form and substance to much of the Biblical mythology, and including the largely apocraphic Cult of the Saints.

The Numero Uno saint of course is Peter, for whom the basilica is named. The Catholic Church purports that his remains are entombed at the Vatican, despite the fact that Rome is 4000 miles from the reported residence of the legendary Peter and despite the fact that stories of Peter moving their did not appear until about 20 years after his reported death. Why Peter would, after the Romans executed his boss and friend, have migrated to the heart of Roman power and control, is also a mystery.

Not to mention the fact that Jews of the First Century AD did not commonly collect the remains of dead clergymen for worship, such practices being considered idolatry.

The Church promoted the concept of the Pilgrimage, specifically to Rome, specifically for Christians to utter prayers and adoration within hearing range of Peter's alleged corpse. Ostensibly, this was done so as to reaffirm and fortify the faith of the flock, but prodigious cash donations were also collected. 

St. Peter became a tourist attraction in Rome at about AD 400, long before the construction of any of the surviving Vatican buildings. By the time Michelangelo began painting, Rome was so full of alleged body parts of legendary saints that at any one moment a Christian was likely in shouting range of a piece of God's Forensic Evidence.

St Peter is the number one corpse in Rome, but not the the only skeletal tourist attraction. 

While Vatican City is unquestionably the absolute zenith in God's quest for His Own Disneyland, it is also true that Rome, which surrounds the Papal State, is itself a vast cornucopia of Christian tourist attractions.

Within walking distance of the Vatican sits another of the world's great monuments to Yahweh, the Capuchin Crypt.

This is relatively small space, comprised of several tiny chapels is located beneath the church of  Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, near Piazza Barberini. Since 1631, the church has been occupied by monks who brought with them 300 carts containing the remains of an unknown number of their dead brethren, along with burial soil from Jerusalem, as ordered by the Pope.

The estimated number of dead friars in the crypt is now about 3700. But it is not the number of corpses which is interesting.

Constructed somewhere between 1732-75, there are five underground rooms which hold the bones of the friars as well as indigent Romans, including children. At some unknown point, a decision was made to arrange the bones into artistic compositions of macabre genius.  

The Capuchin Order insists that the display is not meant to be horrifying or sensationalist, but  instead 'a silent reminder of the swift passage of life on Earth and our own mortality.'

One of the earliest writers to note the crypt was the Marquis de Sade. Pioneering Fantastique writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain also published their comments, with the latter being suitably irreverent and blackly humorous. 

Besides pain and punishment, Christianity is of course obsessed with death as well. Despite the rationalizations created after-the-fact, it is unlikely that the skeletal tableaux would have been created without the artist's awareness that his creations would scare the pants off his audience.

Before we end this macabre travelogue, we will consider one more attraction, this one also within walking distance of Vatican City.  In Campo de Fiori, stands a tall, black metal statue of a hooded man with a book, with a dignified, unemotional countenance. 

The sculpture represents the philosopher/scientist Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake for the crime of heresy in this very square, in the Year of Our Lord, 1600. 

Bruno was a pantheist, and, like his acquaintance Galileo Galilei, theorized that the earth moved round the sun, as opposed to the sun moving around the earth. 

Per the Church's orders, Bruno's executioners tied his tongue so as to preclude him from uttering his heresy to the onlooking crowd. Mercifully, one of them tied two bags of gunpowder round his neck, which, when the flames finally reached them, detonated so as to end his suffering slightly sooner. 

Thirty-three years after they burnt Bruno, they lured Galileo to Rome and arrested him. The Roman Inquisition interrogated and threatened him with torture till he recanted his statements on heliocentrism. The last 9 years of his life were under house arrest. 

The Bruno sculpture was unveiled in 1889, 63 years after the last officially-sanctioned execution of a heretic. Like the Capuchin Crypt, it is not an artifact of the Renaissance, and it owes its creation to the Freemasons, rather than the Church. 

And yet the somber Bruno, representing the lengths to which the Yahweh's followers will go, underscores a deadly truth as we conclude our tour of Theological Theme Parks.

Walt Disney and the leadership of the Church both understood the deep psychic power of the simulacrum, of technology, and of the edifice, combined and interwoven with archetypal mythologies. 

The Church used this power to create and maintain a near universal belief in an invisible, silent being, whose only alleged witnesses were long dead, and whose alleged miracles all took place in the ancient past. 

Disney used this power to create and maintain a pervasive belief in the virtuosity, benevolence and morality of his entertainment company and of the government which had allowed his empire's growth.

Disney and the Church both achieved fabulous wealth and power, and have maintained the power to inspire awe and wonder, even as they seem quaint and old-fashioned.

The Church of course, exerts a power over humanity beyond Disney's wildest dreams of avarice, but then again, it had a 1900-year head start.  

Disney, being the product of 20th-Century entertainment technology, is now ahead of the Church so far as digital and portable media of the present is concerned; if they can capitalize on this lead, they may someday surpass the Church's vast cognitive infrastructure of belief. 

Or, in a manner similar to the merging of Christianity and the Roman Empire, Disney might absorb the Church, transforming both in ways we cannot foresee.

This essay is respectfully dedicated to the great Umberto Eco.

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