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God & the GothicReligion, Romance, & Reality in the English Literary Tradition$
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Alison Milbank

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198824466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198824466.001.0001

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Holy Terrors

Holy Terrors

The Mystical Gothic of Arthur Machen, Evelyn Underhill, and Charles Williams

Chapter:
(p.269) 13 Holy Terrors
Source:
God & the Gothic
Author(s):

Alison Milbank

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198824466.003.0014

In Chapter 13, a range of writers, all belonging to the Christian occult group, the Order of the Golden Dawn, employ Gothic tropes to describe theurgic/magical mystical ascent, whereby the material world is raised to the spiritual. Arthur Machen made ecstasy the aim of literature, and his Three Impostors is a self-reflexive work in which embedded tales seek to engender this mystical alchemy, whereby the abject is theurgically raised. Evelyn Underhill takes the concept of the doppelgänger in A Column of Dust to a new place as a heuristic device to learn the love which alone makes knowledge transformative. Like Underhill, Charles Williams explores the redemptive power of the doppelgänger for his theology of reciprocity and exchange in Descent into Hell. Gothic tropes enable a spiritual education and find new ways to deal with the loss of meaning in the natural world.

Keywords:   Arthur Machen, theurgy, Order of the Golden Dawn, magic, Evelyn Underhill, Charles Williams, double, doppelgänger, exchange, Dionysius the Areopagite

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