Archive for October 21st, 2009

Monsters, ghouls, alien creatures, and all manner of dark figures are playfully personified on October 31st each year. It is one day out of the year, traceable to celtic pagan celebrations, when children and adults alike don costumes and masks, makeshift and elaborate, and revel in the  bizarre and macabre.

While the Vatican, under Popes Gregory III and IV, attempted to eclipse pagan elements with the Christian symbolism of All Saint’s Day, celebrated on November 1st, the secular theater was never pushed aside or superceded, reason being that the psychic inspirations for each express different, though complementary, archetypes.

All Saint’s Day is the Christian commemoration of the souls that have already completed their journey back to G-d. The archetypes inspiring this ecclesiastical celebration are embodied in images of the soul, “anima/ animus,” as conceived by C.G. Jung. Halloween, however, manifests the Jungian “Shadow,” that part of the unconscious that represents the irrational, our weaknesses, instinctive fears and existential dread. We ignore the Shadow at our peril. Doing so, according to Jung, would only increase the power of the darkness it embodies which would then be projected on others. Confronting the “shadow,” embracing  it and making it conscious, alternatively, unleashes creativity. The soul navigates the delicate interweaving of opposites throughout life. The depth of our spirituality depends on our integrating the opposites.

All Hallows Eve, followed by the Feast of All Saints, is an outward enactment of a psychic dilemma, and provides a time to flaunt, in dramatic and playful ways, the things that remain otherwise generally submerged. In fact, monsters are not to be denied. Monstrous acts are reported daily by the media and perpetrated globally. Real monsters exist and monstrous thoughts populate our nightmares. Masks afford a conscious shift in persona toward the “shadow,” mimicking the anonymity of the masked ball, or masquerade. In its’ positive expression, it is a healthy, public, spirited, and socially legitimized form of exorcism of things that “go bump in the night.” It represents the hero’s quest to master these same fears.

The horror genre in literature and cinema is an interesting illustration of the cathartic power of exposing dark fears that make us cringe or scream. Those who choose this genre enjoy being scared. They force themselves (with enthusiastic expectation) to recoil, avert their eyes, yet peak back and look again. In the horror genre, the hero defeats monsters through the sheer force of his or her reason; a capacity to put fear aside, and act boldly and courageously with powers of intelligence and cunning. In “Aliens,” Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) rises to the challenge, and takes on H.R. Giger’s monstrous, wholly “other,” and perfectly adapted bio-mechanical creatures. Serving as foils for Ripley’s strength, combat soldiers and other support characters merely cower in fear, and seemingly freeze in their places waiting for the beast’s gruesome bite.

Fear, generated either through the pages of a book or in a safe theater,  elevates vigilance and emotional intensity, while providing a path through the monstrous and the darkness toward resolution. Vampires have long been popular in this genre both in literature and in cinema. Television series (such as “True Blood”) and movie adaptations of the Anne Rice stories ( e.g.,”Interview With a Vampire,” and “Queen of the Damned”) and the more recent success of “Twilight” and, already presumed success of soon to be released, “New Moon,” attest to the fascination with drawing near to what we fear.

What do these paradoxical approach-avoidance. attraction-aversion, terror-romance polarities teach? Is there a spiritual practice in all this worth considering? We all fear something. Our nightmares are the playground of these darker forces. They invite us to enter into what Joseph Campbell called the “inmost cave,” wherein we come face to face with our demons. In doing so, we have the chance to overcome them, and release our creative powers. J.R.R. Tolkien, facing the horrors of war and fear for his son serving in combat, wrote the “Lord of The Rings” in installments to occupy his son during his tour of duty. There are many other authors of fiction that found release from the prison of fear by harnessing the psychic energy unleashed by writing spiritually therapeutic tales.

In a few moments of quiet reflection, we can bring to mind our  fears in the face of life’s mysteries, uncertainties, and risks; our worries over things over which we have limited control. In an act of bold and creative active imagination, we can envision our own inner strengths doing battle with “creatures of the darkness,” and experience the blessings of Light that stream into all soul’s that open themselves up with vulnerability, humility, and love to the Spirit.

In meditating on inner turbulence and the psychic dilemma:

  1. What is it in my thought’s today that stirs up agitation, dread, anxiety and worry?
  2. How deep do these thoughts run? What memories do they dredge up from my past as I worry about the future?
  3. At what point, as I think on these things, do I feel a need to rush off, push away the images of the darkness, and get involved in something else?
  4. Staying with them, what physical sensations come over me?
  5. What do I envision as a force of inner protection and blessing ( a Saint, a force, a feeling, a symbol) that proceeds from the Spirit and pierces the darkness?

Prayers of protection are an entry level practice. At higher levels of contemplation, the healing and transforming Light is given to the Soul that enters communion with the Beloved. The price of admission to the contemplative state is full awareness, recognition, and acceptance of the path through the darkness that leads to  the well-spring of renewal and epiphany. Jesus went into the desert for “40 days and 40 Nights” where he was tempted. Only then did he present himself to John the Baptist for baptism in the waters of the Jordan. We cannot purify the human stain by attempting to go around it, trying to  fake-out, so to speak,  the archetypes of Spirit.  True conversion demands that we first must go through the dark corridors of mind.

As we watch our children in their costumes and our own child-like embrace of the shadowland, let us also take a moment to appreciate the subplot and the drama that surely lies beneath.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Read Full Post »