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The American Journal of Semiotics

ONLINE FIRST

published on February 17, 2018

Thomas D. Craig
DOI: 10.5840/ajs201821634

Shelter on the Mountain of God
Ernst Cassirer and the Religious Institution of Empire

Ernst Cassirer proposes that a significant shift in thinking occurs in the early decades of the twentieth century. In sum, the makers of modern political myth had exploited the allure of “mythical world feeling” (1957 [1929]: 150) for their own pragmatic purposes. While there is no direct connection between the two, the American Protestant Fundamentalist missionary organization, L’Abri Fellowship International, began in Switzerland shortly after Cassirer’s Myth of the State (1946) was published in the early post-WWII era. Cassirer’s analysis in that publication, as well as his earlier writings on the symbolic forms of expression, provide an insightful theoretical means for understanding how a new strategic institution of religious empire could appropriate an immediate sense of reality within a collectivist claim to truth. Borrowing from both the theoretical corpus of Cassirer on (1) the symbolic forms of bodily expression (Ausdrucksfunktion), (2) the discursive function of strategic organizational action (Darstellungsfunktion), and (3) the ongoing communicological writings of Richard Lanigan, I provide a semiotic and phenomenological analysis of the disclosure of the forms of expression of L’Abri within the available historical and cultural contents, norms, and inscriptions which helped to build a worldwide religious institution that has endured for over sixty years.