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The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead claimed that symbols evoke loyalty to vague notions in humanity's spiritual nature. He argued that symbolism needs to be evaluated continuously and modified by new forms of expression. Unexpressed instinct becomes toxic as it festers underground, unknown and unexamined by the light of reason.

Symbolic transference however, may not be a smooth process. Both rigidity and disruption may lead to human sacrifice. Preserving the rule of law thus requires respect for tradition combined with the constant reappraisal and revision of symbolic codes. Michael Polanyi's view of the roles of conscience and tradition in Science, Faith and Society is highly instructive in this regard.

Gold investigates the phenomenon of the monster in the collective subconscious through its persistent expression in the realm of superstition and myth. She discusses the different forms of the monster figure and its attributes in global folklore, literature and the modern phenomenon of aliens & UFO's, identifying certain common characteristics like therianthropy, metamorphoses, size and invisibility.

She deconstructs the horror story as regards setting, the nature of time, the triad of main characters, auxiliary characters and plot. Her research is quite thorough with reference to and quotes from inter alia Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wendigo, The Willows, The Black Seal, Carmilla & The Fall of the House of Usher.

Shown to be closely connected to the promotion of fertility and representing a synthesis of motherhood and virginity, the goddess figure is always accompanied by a young male deity. Examples include Ishtar & Tammuz, Anat & Baal and Isis & Osiris. Quotes from scripture, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Herodotus and various Popes enliven the text.

The next three chapters analyze the Christ story as regards setting, history, the politics of Roman domination, the various strains of Judaism prevalent at the time and the Hellenic religio-philosophical influence. A chapter each is devoted to the Messiah and to the intertestamental writings which comprise the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls, followed by a comparison of setting, characterization & plot in the horror story and the gospel accounts.

The nature of relationships, type of sexuality in the encounters between characters and the disguise mechanisms in these texts are dissected in detail, again with numerous references and quotes from the classics. In the chapter on pornography, Gold explains the relationship between horror and pornography and their similarity of structure and content. The occurrence of primal sexuality in a sort of "dreamtime" characterizes both pornography and horror.

The teachings and personality of Jesus in the Gospel of John differs so radically from those in the three Synoptic Gospels that prominent theologians have been claiming - since the 1800s - that only one of the two traditions can be true; it is impossible for both to be true. Raymond E Brown provides a brief synopsis of a prominent theory on the development of the Gospel of John, identifying three textual levels:
- An Original narrative of someone personally acquainted with Jesus/Yeshua;
- A Structured literary creation by an editor that draws from other sources;
- An Attempt to harmonize the text with the rest of the New Testament canon.

The Wedding at Cana holds the key to many a mystery - the author examines every aspect in detail. What emerges is quite astonishing and difficult to deny; underneath a Judaistic veneer an ancient tale unfolds. Bizarre elements of the text include the somber tone in which a wedding is described, the strange lack of detail, the oneiric style and the weird dialogue between Jesus & Mary.

The final chapter on Antisemitism connects all the dots. This plague existed in the ancient world but took a turn for the worse after Constantine Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire in A.D. 394. Quotes from this gospel, the Church Fathers, a selection of Popes, Martin Luther, Shakespeare, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, passion plays and 20th century literature expose its similarity of expression down the ages.

Faith is a profoundly emotional issue with its own dynamics as Eric Hoffer makes clear in The True Believer, a seminal study on the nature of belief and mass movements. Another valid insight is that of the metaphysician Can We Talk to God? who warned against destroying/undermining a person's faith if that faith gives them comfort and helps them to seek what is good and right: "Every person's religion is an answer to the cry of the soul for something which is real, something which may be relied upon - a resting place for which everyone instinctively feels a need."

Gold has made a valuable contribution to the study of a phenomenon that has caused untold misery and suffering over many millennia. Monsters & Madonnas is highly recommended to students of history, psychology and metaphysics.
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