Horror As A Quest For The Otherworld

Jonathan Black writes in his outstanding book, The Sacred History, “I look, too, at the work of the great storytellers of modern times, writers who can ask if there is a mystical dimension to our lives, if the world is shot through with meanings we did not put there, if we really are engaged in interaction with unembodied intelligence”.

Black writes, “In the age of scientific materialism this is perhaps the greatest philosophical question, and novelists, from Dostoyevsky and George Eliot to David Foster Wallace, have looked for mysterious patterns, mystic traces and otherworldly influences not in the epic lives of heroes, but in ordinary, everyday lives” (Sacred History, Preface).

In the best of all cases we find a deeper reality embedded in a novel or a movie. It’s something which cannot be forced by the writer. In some cases it seems the otherworld itself is the invisible guiding force giving the writer, artist or filmmaker hints from time to time.

And, maybe, through art, music, literature and movies something is communicated to the listener, the reader or the viewer. Is it possible that the writer is used as a “device”?

Asked where ideas come from David Lynch answered in an interview 2014 that ” “It comes, like, on a TV in your mind.”

And what is a TV? A TV is like a radio, a receiver connected with an antenna or in our days to the internet. It seems that our minds sometimes connect with the otherworld and receive important messages.

Of course its impossible to distinct between the works and fabrications of our own brain and these subtle guiding influences which happen only from time to time.

One little clue might be that it might be more images rather than complex thoughts which are transmitted directly into our consciousness.

However, identifying “mysterious pattern, mystic traces and otherwordly influences in our ordinary, everyday lives” is a demanding task.

Perhaps, the so-called-synchronistic-events come to mind as the book which opens on the right side or falls from the shelf. However we can’t say for sure what that means. “Otherworldy influence” seems to be executed usually more like a very weak current of electricity, which is difficult to measure.

The larger patterns of mysterious influence on our history is also a question of interpretation. Humans have a natural tendency to find some meaningful pattern everywhere which creates sometimes the weirdest conspiracy theories, and any interpretation should be done very carefully since we could easily deceive ourselves.

Nevertheless there are moments in life where we think it’s not a coincidence that we ended up in a certain situation or met somebody at a certain time which changed the course of our life. Even more, we might have seen a movie or read a novel which changed the course of our life. Is there a real otherworldly influence?

Yes, but I think  “mystic traces in everyday reality” might usually not appear as spectacular alien encounters but in the weirdness of our everyday reality itself.

Often, we watch out for strange apparitions but miss to see the obvious.

Today we’re not any longer “trained” to see strange things or mysterious turning points in history or in our lives.

In the old Greek tragedies or in Odysseus fateful journey divine intervention was responsible for many things. In our days we are on our own (officially).

But from time to time we feel different. Even very rational people often believe in astrology, which seems to work like a modern replacement for the interventions of the Elder Gods.

The artist however often wishes he could adjust the “TV set in the mind”, looking for different channels and get a better picture. It’s like seeing a strange light somewhere deep in the forest, and we wish to take a closer look.

Writing a (supernatural) story or developing a supernatural thriller is in some cases a quest for the otherworld or a kind of field research.  We have seen the mysterious light and hope a good story might reveal a bit more of it. We want to find some sense here, or find a sufficient reason or explanation for something which either happened in the real world or the sometimes weird and disturbing scenarios in our own imagination. Naturally here are many fears involved:

Disenfranchised from any idea of “interventions from the otherworld” any experience of an intrusion of the supernatural is experienced as horror, since we fear to lose control.

Since the rise of the epoch of science we have been told that we’re in control. We’re not allowed to lose control of our lives. If we lose control there will we punishment. And this is the moment where the horror begins.

Horror as a quest for the otherworld is therefore an attempt to do better, to understand the “mysterious traces in our ordinary lives ” and remember a way how to  deal with them.

Subsequently the best horror stories may frighten us because of their journey into darkness, but in the end they have also a healing quality as we have found a way to integrate the otherworld in our normal life.

 

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