Somewhere (in my garage, I think), I have a copy of Mary Douglas's Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. I need to look at it again. Maybe this time I could understand what she was on about, my previous efforts in that direction having always ended with me going, "Why did I buy this damn book, anyway?" Today I know: because God wanted me to read it.
I also know I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but if I could afford it, I'd buy this other Mary Douglas volume strictly on the strength of the following graphic. From what little I can glean, I guess the idea is that one big class of things people find risky, what they really fear, are various kinds of pollution and environmental toxins. Which is to say impurities. But that the purity that's being guarded (if not truly protected) by such fears might be something deeper. Hidden. Masked, you could say.
For instance, in the Wikipedia entry for Purification Rundown, we read...
[L. Ron] Hubbard put forward his ideas about Niacin in a book called All About Radiation. He claimed to have discovered that large doses of vitamins could both alleviate and prevent radiation sickness. He marketed this anti-radiation mixture in the form of a tablet, calling it "Dianazene." 21,000 such tablets were seized and destroyed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1958.
There's also Moral Purity and Persecution in History by Barrington Moore Jr., and it looks as if he has some insightful (inciteful? I always forget) things to say about purity. However, the reviews seem to indicate that he blames monotheistic religions for too much. Me, I think it's a crime to leave out The Mystic East in a work of this type. I mean, can you spell P-U-J-A? Not to mention, more generally, purification rites.
Ritual purification is a feature of many religions. The aim of these rituals is to remove specifically defined uncleanliness prior to a particular type of activity, and especially prior to the worship of a deity. This ritual uncleanliness is not however identical with ordinary physical impurity, such as dirt stains; nevertheless, all body fluids are generally considered ritually unclean, and some religions have special treatment of semen and menses, which are viewed as particularly unclean.
America has a deep Puritan heritage, but few have Clue One what that means. I don't. Despite any number of books by Perry Miller and Sacvan Berkovitch lying about the place. I'm not sure, but I think it might have something to do with the odd fraction in this...
It might also have something to do with The White American: Racial Purity is America's Security, an "official publication" of the National White Americans Party in Birmingham, Alabama (where the skies are so blue).
However, by far the greatest invocation of purity involves the spiritual risks and dangers of sex (Lord, I'm coming home to you). For one example among thousands, see And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity.
OK, now we're getting somewhere. Hmmm, let's see. What else have we got in this vein? How about...
Oh wait... How did that last one get in there? Sorry, I don't know what I was thinking. But while we're at it, let's dip in and see what's up with this unwelcome intruder. Here the author is discussing Lester F. Ward (1841 - 1913), who, as Wikipedia helpfully informs us, was no less than the first president of the American Sociological Association. Just imagine! The author notes Ward's view that...
White racial purity was an impossibility; miscegenation a social inevitability. Yet Ward wrote in support of whites' double standard with regard to miscegenation, condoning sexual intercourse between white men and black women as advantageous to blacks, while castigating and forbidding sexual intercourse between black men and white women. For the purposes of evolutionary progress, according to Ward, sexual intercourse need only occur between men of the conquering race (white men) and women of the conquered race (black women).Ain't science wonderful?
And of course there are all sorts of books like Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity.
Yeah well, I suppose this must all seem totally arbitrary, huh? But here's how I got to those books and links (up to but not including Angelfood McSpade). Pay close attention here, OK? First, here's an equally white cover, wherein we return from simple and possibly ideology-free interior decorating to something more spiritualized. Note, for instance, the carefully chosen title term "sanctuary."
Then note that Josephine Collins, who wrote the above, also wrote
And lest you still doubt the deep spiritual purity dimension of detoxification, try The Tao of Detox: The Natural Way to Purify Your Body for Health and Longevity
Get rid of the the dirt, the pollution, the poisons, the toxins, the horrid and unforgivable blackness of racial and sexual sin! Another popular term for this sort of detox is "cleansing," as in...
Of course, it would be utterly wrongheaded to associate this sort of cleansing -- ridding the pristine Godly self of invisible sub-molecular dangers unspeakably spiritual quantum risks -- with the completely unrelated idea of ethnic cleansing.
Yes, it would be wholly irresponsible to suggest such a relationship. Even despite books like Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide (Columbia University Press, 2009)...
...from which, boys being boys and all, let's crib a couple quotes anyway. Just for the hell of it.
This search for 'oneness' also very often goes along with a headlong quest for 'purity'. This is another theme of the imaginaire that 'toughens' the identitarian process and impels it more inexorably toward an episode of mass violence. To define oneself as 'pure' in fact implies categorizing some 'other' as impure. The accusation of impurity constitutes a universal accusation against the population one is going to massacre. Purity already implies a requirement of cleanliness as opposed to another catalogued as 'dirty', perceived as rubbish. Purity also contains an appeal to the sacred: the need for purification falls within the province of religion, and constitutes a powerful springboard for unleashing a purgative violence. These clichés -- pure-impure, cleanliness-dirtiness, whiteness-blackness -- seem terribly crude to us. Their binary structures mirror however the elementary functioning of the human psyche in times of crisis.p. 56:
In the 1920s [Alfred] Rosenberg became a kind of guardian of the general doctrine (Weltanschauung) of National-Socialism, propagating through his writings profound personal convictions about the reality of a Judeo-Masonic world conspiracy. His masterwork, The Myth of the Twentieth Century [: An Evaluation of the Spiritual-Intellectual Confrontations of Our Age], published in 1930 (thus three years before Hitler came to power), was to become the second Nazi 'bible' after Mein Kampf. This book, which had taken him years to prepare, is deeply inspired by the racist theories of the Count of Gobineau and Houston Chamberlain. The myths of Rosenberg are based above all else on the mystique of the purity of Aryan blood which, under the sign of the Swastika, sparked off a worldwide spiritual revolution: that of 'the awakening of the Aryan soul'.And so in closing let me say: Axe not for whom de tocsin toll. It Tolle for thee, Eckhart.
Yo G, now we Donne.