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PROJECTING THE SHADOW

"Inasmuch as it enhances social responsibility, consciousness of the Shadow benefits the group.   And the more influential the individual, the greater the benefit--provided, of course, that he constellates a benevolent aspect of the moral archetype; and does not, like Hitler, Stalin or Idi Amin, become a channel through which the Shadow can flow in blind destructiveness. --Anthony Stevens

Films are cultural dreams that money can buy. A film’s success depends on how many of us buy into those dreams. Film directors are spirit guides who lead us to the world we want to see. And, like projections of ourselves, the main characters act out our desires.

From hero (John Wayne in The Sands of Iowa Jima), to anti-hero (James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause), to outlaw (Peter Fonda in Easy Rider), to criminal (Marlon Brando in The Godfather), to psychopath (Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs) we can trace the evolution of our cultural dreaming.

Although Steve McQueen was the logical heir to the anti-hero in film, how could he compete for national attention once Abbie Hoffman took center stage? And how could the criminal, as portrayed in The Godfather, measure up to the criminal drama played out by Richard Nixon in Watergate? And can "Hannibal the Cannibal" truly measure up to Jeffery Daumer?

If a culture hero shares the neurosis of a neurotic culture, where are all these central psychotic characters in films coming from? Does this herald the transition of a neurotic culture to a psychotic culture? And what can be said about the culture that spends millions of dollars watching psychotics with rapt fascination? Culture is consensus. So are box-office receipts. Who are we really, that we should pay homage (give to much time and attention and money) to learn all we can about mass murders, cannibals, and demons?

Our culture is romancing the Shadow, dancing with the Devil. It is as though this culture’s neurosis has become psychosis; and from within that dark place the only ritual is survival. It is the age of blood and bones and carnivores.

I don’t know where we are going in this new dark age. I do know this: We didn’t need need atomic bombs to plunge us back beyond the Stone Age. Spiritually we are there. And like our ancient ancestors rubbing sticks together to create fire, we must individually take our psyche in one hand, fundamental myths in the other, and rub them together until we ignite our own spirits, light our own lives.

Without myths, without religion we become beasts of burden, and that burden is our life. Myths lighten the burden until it becomes a gift, an enlightening gift.

Life has become a spectator sport. We tune into television dream merchants who hold mirrors up to our own emptiness. There is no depth to the experience. We are entertained by types not archetypes. When the archetypes do emerge they tend to be dark, sociopathic. We, having abdicated all choice in our passivity, fall victim to the sociopath who is all will and desire, impulse and hunger. The only rules are power and self-gratification. And in our passive state, suggestive of the hypnotic trance, we pattern our subconscious behavior in accordance to the message. We tune into, and a resonant manner, tune ourselves to a medium which has institutionalized need and gratification on the most superficial level imaginable.

Only by turning away can we turn to ourselves. Within each of us is the most vital dream merchant of all. and its merchandise is not the stuff of the marketplace, but of the temple. We are more likely to hear the voice of God listening to trees than we are listening to tele-evangelists. All we need is patience. Sooner or later that voice, which has often the sound of our own voice, will tell us what we need to know and only faintly apprehended before.

 

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