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Archive for the ‘werewolf archetype’ Category

Why spend the money to go see a movie and be tempted by the over-priced, unhealthy and obscenely sized snacks, and then subjected to unwanted, irritating advertisements?  What redeeming value does a trip to the cinema have to offer anyway?

Costs, ads, snacks, and the poor bathroom hygiene of the public aside, the time in front of the big screen is a study in the archetypes of psyche.

The image, consciously portrayed and unconsciously fed, is a central force in our spiritual lives. It is an externalization of the “Imago Dei,” the image of G-d Within. The work of Joseph Campbell in comparative mythology bears witness to the powerful imagery that replicates certain iconic patterns that cut across the global history of art. The moving image captures, even more compellingly, the dynamic qualities of patterns of images, the organizing systems of Mind, or the fields that cause structure, form, and meaning.

Case in point: we just took in “New Moon,” and we enjoyed it very much. The mythos of vampires and werewolves have exercised their power over imagination for a long time. Besides the splendid cinematography, the average acting, and the quite well composed and orchestrated soundtrack of New Moon, nine sets of signs and symbols, the imagery and its archetypal roots, struck me as particularly interesting.

The opening sepia moon: Representing the feminine aspect of the male unconscious, the new moon image anticipates the unleashing of dark forces and their conversion into something redeemable by virtue of love. It is a symbolic foreshadowing of Bella and Edward’s complete vulnerability as they abandon themselves and their fears to their overwhelming need for each other. The archetype of the vulnerable lover, taking whatever risks necessary for his/her beloved, reminds us of the great power in us all that is paradoxically only released when we are  totally opened; a time, also, when we are most susceptible to getting hurt. The tension here, from the very opening scenes of the movie, is between the unleashing of the feminine unconscious, and loss of control to its power, and conscious choice and control.

The red robes of the townsfolk of Volterra, Italy, on “St. Marcus” Day: The red robes of the fictitious “St. Marcus” Day, celebrating the expulsion of all vampires from Volterra, Italy, offers allusion to blood, passion, sensuality, and royalty (intimating power), anger, and, paradoxically, the red vestments of joyful Holy Days, especially the red vestments of Christmas. The tension, in this instance, is between the celebration of new life, freedom and redemption through love, amidst the threat of being “undead,” or annihilated by the forces of dictatorship, the will of the cruel and powerful (e.g., the Vulturi) over the weak (the townspeople and Bella), and narcissism.

The tall trees of Forks: The tall trees of the Northwest territories conjure up reflections on great age and long life, strength, deep roots, seeing far and wide from the tree-tops, self-sacrifice (the tree of the cross), the tree of knowledge (and the costs of knowing), and the tree of life (or living large, and deep).

Anger as the trigger for conversion to werewolf: The Janus head in monstrous guise, the werewolf has two faces, one by day, another by the light of the moon. It symbolizes a hidden evil, hidden stirrings, forces of undoing, and the potential for hurting those we love in acting out when we are not in touch with our deep emotion, inner rage and the unintegrated darkness.

The enmity between werewolves and vampires: In the case of vampires, the predatory instinct is played out in full consciousness. The werewolves, on the other hand,  commit evils incited by forces beyond their own control. Those forces are  animal and primal. The tension here is between the forces of destiny, and our freedom to choose: a dynamic tension played out throughout Twilight and New Moon.

The Allure of the Vampire: Capable of bestowing immortality and, especially, perpetual youth, but at a great price, as one is also consigned to being forever a parasite. Even here, the archetype of blood-union, made by those to whom we are forever bound, conjures an extreme intimacy: a radical level of self-abandonment to the other.

Bella’s Physical Pain Over Separation: As if having been dealt a mortal blow, Bella is stricken with interminable and inconsolable grief for many months after Edward leaves her. The archetype of being abandoned and lost is powerful, and it triggers our own deepest fears of being alone, cut off from those closest to us. The tension is between loving one so much we can let them go, and holding on with every fiber of our being. New Moon is largely an homage to this existential dilemma.

Adrenaline Rush & Seeing the Beloved: High risk sports such as sky-diving, cave diving, scuba diving, flying, bungee jumping, or, as in the movie, cliff diving, attracts many people. The link to “seeing” one’s Beloved is a striking series of moments in the film. Bella intuits Edward when she confronts her fears. She takes up motorcycling to “see” him and then, ultimately, takes a near fatal leap from a cliff to force a reunion, mystically, with her beloved. The myth of Orpheus and Euridice embodies the underlying archetype. Orpheus travels into Hades to see Euridice whom he loves. This is an allusion to complete self-abandonment, throwing all caution to the wind for love, and, in submitting totally to one’s passion, we catch a glimpse of what we seek. Ironically, however, the glimpse is very fleeting. The tension here is between living safely, comfortably, surrounded by what we know, and striking out into the unknown, engaging with adventure, and discovering possibilities yet undisclosed. Bella also dives into turbulent seas as waves break on the shores and the rocks violently. Added to this scene, the vampire Victoria, bent on killing Bella, swims toward Bella just before Bella strikes her head on the rocks, and is unconscious and at risk of drowning. Our worst fears and the greatest of adventures are the one’s authored by the collective and personal unconscious.

Wanting Immortality, Envying Mortality: Bella wants Edward for all eternity and is willing to give up her mortal life to join him as a vampire. Edward pushes back recognizing what he lost in not being “normal,” and living out a regular life, with all of its pleasures and its limitations. From the Epic of Gilgamesh on, literature and art is replete with allusions to our thirst for eternal life. Much of the world’s religious traditions are preoccupied with the pursuit of the promise of life beyond the grave. Yet, at the same time, life’s finitude and limitations add significance and urgency to how we use the time we have. This is a central tension running throughout the books and the movies. It reminds us of  the archetype of the living waters of eternal life promised in scripture and about which we dream and mythologize. The tension is between the urgency and savor of life’s moments, and the fear of the loss of who and what we think we are. This one archetypal thread deserves many pages of refection as it also is a pivot point around which our unconscious and conscious energies obsessively revolve.

Our love affair with the cinema is far more than mere escapism. It is an opportunity to live vicariously in a sea of archetypal vibrations that awaken deep stirrings in the unconscious. It is a complex retreat to the Platonic world of forms that dynamically shape all phenomena and noumena. A night at the movies makes them manifest in visual and acoustical imagery and is an excursion into the realms of Mind that we may otherwise make little time to transit.

See you at the movies.

© 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.

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