Maps of Heaven, Maps of Hell: Religious Terror as Memory from the Puritans to Stephen King

By Edward J. Ingebretsen | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE

Last Things First:
A Dante-esque Digression

And now for love you vengeance prove,
it is an equal thing.
Your waxing worse, hath stopped the course
of wonted clemency:
Mercy refused, and grace misused,
call for severity.

—"THE DAY OF DOOM," MILLER, P. 138

I propose to show how a map of Heaven could only be constructed, as it were, by inversion, beginning with Hell. But first a diversion to another time and to another country, since to explore heavenly maps I must talk about endings, the final things. However, diversions, as the word implies, can be entertaining, and entertaining diversions— especially about Final Things—are, after all, my subject.

The perennial, always-returning subject of American fantasy is the Divine—hidden and disguised, it is true, but, that's why its search is called a diversion, since we are deflected from it at every turn. The Divine is that which must be revealed, the secret hidden away till the end of time. Indeed, the Divine's uncovering will be the end of time. After all, what are the diverting and entertaining qualities of the Apocalypse, if not the grammar by which the Sacred shall be discovered, (recovered, uncovered) and written in time?

Yet it needs to be remembered that the Apocalypse does not come at the end of time, as is conventionally thought. Its terror lies behind, not ahead. Even our foundational narratives tell us this. The Book of Genesis, that first map of western culture, makes it

-ix-

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