By Mr Philip A Mellor, Professor Chris Shilling

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In conceiving of the sacred as radically transcendent, as 'sublime', Protestantism encouraged patterns of sociality based on individual commitment and contract, rather than the sacred bonds of effervescent sociality. These events mark a significant stage in the Western tendency to equate the eye with the mind and to 'forget' that sight is itself a sense. More generally, emotions became things to be moderated and controlled and it was the 'spirit', separated from the impurities of the sensuous body, which sought contact with God.

Much of Giddens's analysis of these tendencies towards 'radical doubt', which he sees as being particularly strong in modern societies due to the pervasiveness and depth of 'chronic reflexivity' (1990, 1991), is consistent with the earlier work of Peter Berger, though Berger places greater emphasis upon the importance of the sacred for containing such tendencies toward meaninglessness (1990 [1967]: 45). Both, however, tend to portray the construction of meaning and tendencies towards doubt in essentially cognitive terms (and this is despite Berger's debt to philosophical anthropology's emphasis on the bodily 'unfinishedness' of human beings).

Once again, though, this confrontation illustrates how identities of that era were bound up with immanence of sacred meanings within the fleshy body. The confrontation with death involved anxieties and fears surrounding one's own bodily resurrection (Bynum, 1991: 276280; 1995), and the contrasting fates of bliss or torture awaiting those who had been saved or damned (Camporesi, 1988: 2627). Not surprisingly, this resurrection anxiety contributed to the fear and terror which surrounded death in the medieval period.

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