Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Judging the Book

Another story of mine has been published at “Long Story Short”. It’s a very short piece entitled “Just Like”. This is not a horror story, it does not fit into the archetype series. It’s just a vignette I wrote while feeling somewhat literary. The benefit of this piece is that it’s something I can share with my colleagues without them thinking I’m a deranged lunatic.

It’s interesting how people judge the personality of the author by their writings, as if every piece were autobiographical in some fashion. Certainly some thoughts and feelings of the author will manifest themselves in stories, but it would be a mistake to think that the characters are literal reflections of real life people and events. The exception would be if the author tells you that a fictional piece has some autobiography, or is autobiographical. Besides that, I wouldn’t assume anything.

A good example of this is H.P. Lovecraft. He was often vilified as a deviant, perverse and monstrous for his writings. Yet Lovecraft was extremely mild-mannered and conservative in most respects. You probably wouldn’t meet a more normal person in your life. His writing was how he grappled with his terror of the unknown. This is certainly a motivation that I share with him.

I’ve been reading a collection of Jung’s writings on psychology and the occult. Jung talks about spirits, demons, and all sorts of manifestations that come directly from the collective unconscious. Early on he describes the collective as being separate from individual consciousness and personal unconsciousness. In earlier writings, Jung suggested that we should have nothing to do with the collective—it should not intrude on conscious life. By his later years, he spoke more of integrating collective content with our ordinary consciousness.

Jung tackles something in his introduction to Moser’s book on ghosts that has always been a pet peeve of mine. He says “Rationalism and superstition are complimentary. It is a psychological rule that the brighter the light, the blacker the shadow; in other words, the more rationalistic we are in our conscious minds, the more alive becomes the spectral world of the unconscious. And it is indeed obvious that rationality is in large measure an apotropaic defence against superstition, which is every present and unavoidable.”

Thank you, Dr. Jung. While I think skepticism has a place and can be healthy, there is often a rationalism applied to things that don’t lend themselves to logical processes, a seeking for statistical data on occurrences that are often entirely random. And the inability of these things to be rational and orderly causes the skeptic to dismiss them as false without a second look. But we only dismiss out of hand those things that make us uncomfortable. I have seen hardcore skeptics who scoff at the idea of anything “paranormal” be the first to freak out when they witness a “paranormal” event that is obviously not a trick and defies any normal explanation.

Psychological truth is different from physical truth. Regardless of the interpretation of the event, the fact that one authentically experienced something makes it a psychological truth. It doesn’t matter if they saw something “real” in a material sense, if they were hallucinating, or if they were simply mistaken or tricked. Psychology is never about “proving”; it is (or should be) about mapping the processes of the unconscious, and their interaction with consciousness.

Unconsciousness and the contents of the collective unconscious are part of my lifelong study and personal quest. We have become split by dismissing the unconscious to an alarming degree. If we don’t explore what’s there and tackle it—especially the negatives—then during a crisis, those things will control us, and we won’t have a clue as to where it comes from or what to do about it. It’s not psychologically healthy to be that unaware. We try to fight things off by being “clinical” and “scientific”, or by clinging to dogmatic religion and/or xenophobia out of extreme fear. In this sense, the atheist and the evangelical may have something in common.

I am over-generalizing again, of course. Certainly there are those in religious and non-religious camps who cultivate awareness of themselves and their cultural context. But there needs to be an openness, one that doesn’t shut down every strange thing as “demonic”, or “false”. Psychological truth requires a different kind of study and understanding.

Wish me luck as I move on to the writings of Henry Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus.

In the meantime, I leave you with a recent Cthulhu comic. It’s animated, so watch the last panel for at least a full minute. If Cthulhu really existed, he couldn't be more horrifying than current news and reality TV...

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