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Posts tagged ‘Writing’

The Monster’s Doctor

Mary Shelley’s horror story, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, is a classic examination of the ‘science vs. religion’ debate. Written during the Industrial Revolution, Doctor Victor Frankenstein is so taken by the technological achievements of the time he forgets the soul of his creation; his Monster, and ultimately loses all he loves as a result.

Scientists conducting electrical experiments at the time certainly provided much of the inspiration for Shelley’s maniacal doctor, but one man is cited as a possible model for the theme of her novel.

1673 – 1734

Johann Conrad Dippel was born in Castle Frankenstein in south central Germany in the region of Hesse. As was the custom of the day, he acquried Franckensteinensis or Franckensteina-Strataemontanus as a surname and became forever linked to the place of his birth. He received a Master in Theology in 1693 at the University of Giessen where he also studied philosophy and alchemy and gained a prominent position among Europe’s intellectual elite.

Influenced by the Age of Reason while remaining a fervently religious man, Dippel authored several controversal theological papers under his nom de guerre; Christianus Democritus, a name that represented the duality of his views. In them he called for the demise of the traditional church organization and a rejection of the Bible as the literal word of God in favor of a more personal approach to faith. They were widely circulated throughout Europe and earned him both praise and criticism. One enthusiastic follower, Emanuel Swedenborg, later criticized him as a cultish opportunist who was “bound to no principles, but was in general opposed to all, whoever they may be, of whatever principle or faith…becoming angry with any one for contradicting him.” Swedenborg also accused Dippel of being the ‘most vile devil…who attempted wicked things.’ This opinion was surely based upon his suspected experiments in alchemy. In his Maladies and Remedies of the Life of the Flesh, Dippel announced his discovery of the ‘Elixir of Life’, as well as, a method to exorcise demons through potions produced from the boiled bones and flesh of animals. Even more alarming to the public were rumors of his attempts at ‘soul-tranference’ on human cadavers, where he was viewed as playing God on desecrated corpses.

In the end, it was reported by his contemporaries that after having been thoroughly trashed by the religious leaders of the day Dippel gave up his faith altogether, directing all his energy to his experiments in alchemy. He never backed down from his arguments or the experiments that he felt supported them and may have even actively encouraged rumors that he was in league with the Devil, having sold his soul to become a dark sorcerer.

So, in the end, Mary Shelley may have used this real-life ‘mad scientist’ as inspiration but the moral lesson she provided her Doctor Frankenstein was lost on Johann Conrad Dippel.

 

Mom’s Music

I’m listening to classical music right now.

I listen to all kinds of music while I’m writing, often picking particular styles that set the mood for whatever I’m working on at the time. I don’t know why I picked classical today but it just so happens the first piece to come up features a pianist.

As I’m trying to concentrate there is a thing deep inside me that makes itself known. Not a voice, although it certainly speaks to me. Not even a feeling, really. Just a knowing…

It’s my mother.

My mom passed away almost ten years ago and for those who knew her personally I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the sound of a piano instantly brings her back to life in my mind. Music was a big part of her life. As was I. If only two things could be said about my mom they would be, above all else, she loved her kids and she loved music.

Thank you, Mom.

Now that I’m writing I can understand why she felt so connected to her music. Just like putting pen to paper is for me, playing music transferred her to a different world…heart and soul. When she heard the notes rolling gently along, building then receding, they spoke to her in a language only she could understand. It is the most intimate thing in the world. It was her poetry.

The image of her at the piano keeps popping up in my head. Her back is to me, her hands fanned out across the keys. They move with the grace of someone who is part of the music…not the clumsy, clunking poking at them like I do. She felt each and every note she played.

In a way, I see her music in my writing. The ebb and flow of the story, the pace and tone…it’s there. The way a sentence reads, letting it lead to the next thing. The images. For me, I must feel what my characters are feeling. I have to experience their emotions myself in order to express them in my writing. Sometimes that’s a bit scary…like right now.

I see her finishing now…just as I’m about to. She lifts her fingers from the keys gently, letting the music fade off into nothingness…

Just as she does…

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