Dark Forest Theory

Why is it quiet in the forest in the night? Some animals are sleeping. Humans don’t enter the forest normally in the night. But there are other more important reasons: It is import to stay quiet in order to survive. Predators are out there. And perhaps there are other things roaming the night. It is better to make no noise and make sure nobody can see or even smell you. It is dangerous in the night in the forest.

Liu Cixin. The Dark Forest (Novel): “The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds another life—another hunter, angel, or a demon, a delicate infant to tottering old man, a fairy or demigod—there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them“.

The quote is from a sci-fi novel. It became the source for “the dark forest theory”. Scientists discuss this theory seriously. Why is it so quiet in the universe? The majority of scientists believe there must be a tremendous number of alien life in the universe, some of them intelligent. Why is it that humankind seems to be the only civilisation sending radio signals out there? The theory has a frightening explanation. Most civilisations stay quiet because it is better to not make a noise because it is dangerous. Predators are out there.

There is no proof for the dark forest theory. We better pray that this theory is wrong. Furthermore, there is no scientific way to find out if it is the wrong idea. However, like many other ideas, the dark forest theory has a long tradition. If we take a closer look, we will find it is a very old experience.

Of course, we had this situation in ancient times. The forest was indeed a dangerous place. In our times the forest at night might be a safer place as the roads of a big city. But what about the otherworld? The otherworld is sometimes described as a shadow world as the Upside Down. In such world there are dangers. Maybe some inhabitants of the otherworld are hiding because they are afraid. It is better to hide because it is a dangerous place.

Perhaps the dark forest theory refers not only to experiences from ancient times but is related to our idea of the otherworld.

It is a common idea that there are places where the veil is thin between our world and the otherworld. There are forests where the otherworld is closer to us than anywhere. These are dark forests. They are haunted. The dark forest theory applies here. It is important to stay quiet in these places.

However, we might find this a narrow-minded concept. The dark forest theory completely relies upon the assumption that everything is about the survival of the individual. Complex civilizations instead survive because they learned about cooperation. And if we stick to the example of the forest at night it is not true that it is completely quiet. We hear the noises of animals which are active in the night. Not anybody is afraid in the dark forest. However, isn’t cooperation always a risk? There is a saying the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Cooperation happens often simply because it is necessary for some time. Survival instincts are always at work. The same applies to the creatures of the night. They have found a way to survive even if you can see or hear them. They are risk-takers.

There is one key question here which might explain why the dark forest theory rings true: If we ask ourselves, what is life? There is no real satisfying answer yet. We understand the concept of life. And we know what life is like: Life is always about survival: Survival of the own race, the own form of life, my survival, the survival of my kins. The dark forest theory appeals to us because it is about what life really is: Survival.

If the otherworld matches our world in basic principles it will be also about survival. It could be a war of ideas or principles or different forms of entities.

Perhaps staying alive in the otherworld is something different as in our own world. Being quiet in this dark forest can mean to hide your thoughts. In the other realm, it is important that nobody can read your mind because you could be overwhelmed, invaded and lose your wits.

It is very interesting that Liu Cixin speaks of “demigods”, “angels” or “demons” and “fairies”. These are typically inhabitants of the otherworld. They are not what we think as “aliens” in the context of science-fiction or the universe. But if we see the universe and the otherworld as closely connected – perhaps, in the end, the universe is the otherworld, the dark forest theory makes sense as a universal experience. If we look at the myth of mankind or even the ancient stories from the Old Testament our world appears more like the dark forest as anything else.

Lords Of The Forest

A deity or a local god plays often an important role in forest horror stories. In Christian tradition, these original pagan gods become sometimes the devil. But forest deities as the Green Man survived. They even exist in churches as paintings or sculptures. There is a deep respect for these deities as they represent archaic forces of natures. Are they a product of human imagination or do they indeed represent the otherworldly side of nature?

Storytellers like the lord of the forest as a sinister deity since it makes a great mystery or even a murderous antagonist. H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen and many others made use of the long tradition of deities. Some of the forest deities are the same or resemble ancient gods of the greek, roman or Celtic tradition.

A prominent example is The Great God Pan. Horned gods appear often as lords of the forest. Both Herne the hunter and the Celtic god Cernunnos are horned gods like Pan. Cernunnos, sometimes also a fertility god, has a frightening appearance. He is present in rituals, in folk stories and made a career in horror. Sometimes he is more seen as a devil or demonic figure. Recently he appeared in the outstanding forest horror series Black Spot (Zone Blanche) by Netflix and France 2.

It makes sense to have Cernunnos and Herne in the European tradition of folk horror since there is indeed a Celtic tradition. The tradition was later borrowed by modern witch-covens. The horned god plays an important role in Margaret Murray’s Witch-Cult hypothesis. These lords of the forest are often connected with sacrifice and magic powers. People worshipping the gods hope to get something in return. In more modern traditions the lords of the forest are also connected with the seasons and rituals related to fertility. One example is the Beltane tradition on April 30.

In winter the lords of the forest are related to the wild hunt. Herne is sometimes mentioned and this – of course – mostly presents the darker aspects of the forest deities. They are often hunters and it’s not always animals they are after.

The lords of the forest are often local deities. Even it seems easy for a god to travel wherever he wants to these deities often represent the genius loci. It is a spirit residing in an exceptional tree or a mountain top. There is no evidence for this, but the idea of the lords of the forest represents more an earthbound entity rather than a cosmic force as in my story.

However, it isn’t necessarily either one thing or the other. If there is one thing that “true stories”, folklore stories, witness accounts of supernatural phenomena or horror fiction tells us then it is the fact that the gods exhibit many faces of themselves. It might be the same phenomenon which appears in different disguises. The important thing about forest deities is that nature itself is an expression of these gods. The giant old tree or the impenetrable forest itself is only a cover. There is an invisible world behind this. Ancient folks had a sense about it. Forest deities as the horned god make it more simple to grasp these feeling because if something has a face or a form it is easier to handle.

The Otherworld, The Upside Down And The Beyond

In today’s TV-series, the otherworld is presented in ways not seen before. In David Lynch’s latest Twin Peaks series a much deeper exploration of the otherworld realm happens as in the original series. The black lodge, the white lodge and some sinister otherworldly dimension appear in a much more organic way. It infiltrates the everyday world and is anything but a fantasy realm. Another excellent demonstration of a dark otherworld accompanying us is the Upside Down in Stranger Things. The otherworld had been always a crucial part of my forest dark story too. They all relate to an overwhelming tradition lasting since the origins of all mankind.

What is the Upside Down?

In Stranger Things, the Upside Down is presented as kind of a mirror world reflecting our own. It is like a distorted version of our reality: “The Vale of Shadows is a dimension that is a dark reflection or echo of our world (Stranger Things, Episode 5)”. The blue-coloured frightening dimension is a brilliant visualisation of the idea of a dark otherworld. It became also popular as the “Upside Down” effect.

A long tradition

An alternate dimension like the Upside Down is already described in Stephen King’s masterpieces. There are some similarities between the world of Stranger Things and Derry in King’s novel IT. Some people noticed that the other world in Silent Hill worked similarly. However, we could track this kind of alternative dimension to big feature film classics as MATRIX (which will have a reboot soon) and “Welt am Draht” from Germany’s legendary filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder too. In some stories, the alternative dimension is always a kind of energy. Even the Force in Star Wars is a form of an alternate dimension. These ideas go back a long way: Dante’s Inferno describes a dark alternate dimension. The otherworld as a reflection of our world is an old Celtic idea. It exists in Greek mythology and ancient Norse mythology. It is the realm of the Gods but also of angels and demons.

The Otherworld is Real

Modern science suggests that the alternative dimension is not a fantasy. It is a reality. There are theories about a multiverse or a five-dimensional world. It relates to the experience of philosophers. It is hard to imagine a world without the existence of an alternative dimension. The mirror world is present in dreams and visionary experience. In many near-death-experience, there are accounts of an alternate dimension. There are similarities between the Upside Down and the stories from alien abductees. They experience often an alternate distorted reality before they could return to the ordinary world. The otherworld is an essential part of any hero’s journey. It is a fact that this applies both to fiction and true stories.

The deeper dimensions Of The Otherworld

If we take a closer look into descriptions of the otherworld and visionary experience we see that there is much more as the distorted alternate dimension. This dimension itself appears as a projection. It is in some way a simulation – an idea which also occurs in Stranger Things. There is something behind the veil. We are experiencing two forms of the otherworld, one which resembles our own and another otherworld which is beyond comprehension. It might be a more abstract world or a primordial world of ideas (as Plato expressed it). People experiencing the deeper realms of the otherworld are changed forever. A good example of the distinction between the alternate dimension and the deeper otherworld – The Beyond – is Stanley Kubrick’s Odyssee in Space. In the end, there is a room which is a distorted version of our reality with the 18th-century room but we sense this is a simulation. There is a palpable higher realm behind. We never see The Beyond, but we know it is there.

It is an important question if the alternate deeper dimension is just a different realm or another plane of reality or does it interact with our reality. If we take the visionary’s experience serious we can’t be sure if our ordinary reality isn’t kind of a projection. It could be the other way around: Our everyday world is a distorted version of the otherworld – see Matrix. Our world cannot exist without the otherworld.

Psychic Communication and Devices

Sometimes people purposely make attempts to enter the alternate dimension or communicate with the other realm. Psychics seem to have a natural ability to access the otherworld. “Eleven” in Stranger Things has a long history of models in fiction and the real world. In Tarkovsky’s Stalker which is also about entering alternate realms, the Stalker’s daughter, in the end, has psychic capabilities. In realties, many people who had close encounters are becoming psychics. Indeed there are many examples of telepathy, telekinesis and even teleportation in connection with the Otherworld. The alternate dimension is similar to the internet and can transport information. It is a way to access places and people far away without travelling in the physical plane. However, this is always a dangerous path since the otherworld can also be a treacherous reality.

Normal people use drugs, ritual and different devices to connect. As this is in the first place a shadow version of our world there are dangers everywhere. In the story of the Forest Dark Feature Film project, people try to make use of black fire. People going into the woods in the Witch Mountains because the mysterious lights promise knowledge. Many never come back.

In David Lynch’s Twin Peaks the log of the log lady is the device. Sandra Bullock communicates through the electrical lights in Stranger Things.

In other cases, people use any kind of magic device or practice to get something from the alternate plane of reality. Indeed, people sometimes get rewarded with knowledge about the unknown. Often a price must be paid. People getting too curious loose their mind. The alternate dimension is the realm of the dead too. Danger lurks there everywhere.


The Forest Dark Video Instalment No5 – Creation

“From the very beginning, there was light and there was chaos. Both came from far beyond” (The Forest Dark Screenplay).

Black Fire. Dark Energies in the forest. Telluric Forces. Where do they come from? There are many descriptions of the nature of haunted places. There are the remote forests and the mist-shrouded mountains where people vanish. Hidden places where rituals and sacrifices do happen. The region where mysterious lights can be seen. The haunted countryside where unspeakable forces had influenced many generations. There must be a source for this. Somewhere.

The mythological stories of mankind have many tales about something which came from deep within. There is a rich imagination about an underworld. The caves had been populated by the lower gods.

What if it came from outer space? H.P. Lovecraft described an entity in his famous story “The Color From Outer Space”. It is something which has an indescribable colour. Since it set its foot on Earth it is exerting a malicious influence. It never reveals its true nature.

In Lovecraft’s story the “Color From Outer Space” terrorises a strip of farmland. However there might be supernatural forces which are larger. They represent primordial forces. We find reports of “Chaos Gods” in any ancient culture. They are called “Ahriman” or Andra Manyu, destructive spirits, in Zoroastrianism’s hypothesis and Apep or Apophis in Egyptian mythology. Also the Norse mythology and American Indian People do know about the gods which stem from primordial chaos. Mostly these gods reside in the skies. They are opponents of the sun gods or the light.

In our times we tend to envision these forces as the “Great Old Ones” (Lovecraft) which come perhaps from a distant galaxy. But if we think about the cosmic influence it doesn’t necessarily always imply travel.

Albert Einstein who developed the Quantum mechanics described a phenomenon called “Spooky action at a distance”. It refers to the so-called “quantum entanglement”. Entanglement makes it possible to achieve what is not possible in the conventional world.

Entanglement means that if you watch a particle in one place, another particle, which could be light-years away, will instantly change its properties. It suggests that the two are connected.

This phenomenon contradicts ordinary laws of nature. Nothing can travel faster than light. But in the mysterious quantum world, there is long distance communication without any need of time.

Many scientists conducted experiments about the “Spooky action at a distance” and there are more and more results which appear to prove the existence of this phenomenon.

Perhaps the strange places on Earth, the haunted forests, are mysteriously connected with the universe. We could think of them as the cosmic forest, created by forces beyond our imagination. Thus a place on Earth could be directly be connected and influenced by something far away. It could be some sort of intelligence in a nebula or wherever the chaos gods reside.

If we follow the ideas of quantum physics we might also find that our idea of “here” and “there” isn’t any longer valid under certain circumstances. If “they” can be in touch with our everyday world here there could be also windows into the other worlds. In dreams, sometimes, very clear visions of distant worlds pop-up, which hasn’t been seen by any real explorer.

“Forest Dark Video Installment No5 – Creation” is related to the feature film project and hopefully inspires viewers about “Light and Chaos”, “Here and There” and how the forest is connected.