Monday, 22 June 2015

...Ghoulies and ghosties

A psychic's sign
photo: Bohemian Baltimore
"...And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night..."
From a traditional Scottish prayer.

So-called "reality TV" came about as a result of a writer's strike in the U.S. Most of it consists of putting members of the public in unusual situations to see how they react to it and to each other; some variations pick a profession like picking for antiques or running pawn shops. Of course, the chances of some of those great discoveries actually occurring are far less than what seems to be happening. One show that is interesting me at the moment is The Dead Files. Their web page blurb says:
"On The Dead Files, physical medium Amy Allan and retired NYPD homicide detective Steve DiSchiavi combine their unique and often conflicting skills to solve unexplained paranormal phenomena in haunted locations across America."
The premise is that Amy investigates through paranormal abilities and Steve uses police work to get the background on the building and the families involved in various "hauntings". They claim that they do not confer on any case until after each has investigated it in their own way. Of course, we have no way of telling if that is true. While this fact might bother some people, it does not bother me because my main interest in the show, past its entertainment value, is purely mythological.

Whether a myth is true or false, or based on something real is of no relevance to me whatsoever, I am only interested in its structure. You might think that the days of mythology are over for us, but you would be wrong. Current myths are more believed than the traditional myths of long ago, so much so, that we do not usually even recognize them as myths at all. The thoughts we have when we experience any creative work from a novel to reality TV actually consist of mythological elements that are reactions to the "plot". Mythology, itself, is really the original psychology, it was never a crude method to discover how nature works. That is a modern attitude and a modern misunderstanding.

The most important division between eastern and western belief is that the former is far more introspective. In the Buddhist scriptures, it is explained that demons etc. that are seen by a person after they die, and that try to drag that person down are really just of their own creation and knowing that will free that person from their effect. For most psychics in the west, though, these are actually real entities; real demons of a sort.

Yet, many psychics, including Amy, look at some phenomena as residual energies left after a traumatic event; an energy that plays on a sort of loop and can be experienced by some observers, or as an energy projection from a living person (a poltergeist). Psychics are all introverts, and thus form a sort of transition between typical western extraversion and materialism, and the eastern meditative religions that are essentially introverted and psychic. The greatest psychological health, for an individual or a society is that which produces something in the middle, that which balances mythos and logos. The two main roles in The Dead Files represent mythos and logos. Their resolutions require both. It is in the interplay where insights about modern western mythology can occur. If, and how much is fiction, is immaterial. A work of fiction is only enjoyed because it "reads" as if it was real, and it is the mythology which gives it an impression of authenticity. A few people believe that many works of fiction are actually real experiences from the author's life. That actually happened to my wife once: one of her friends imagined that a short story that she wrote represented something that happened to my wife that she did not want to admit. I'm not sure whether he believed her when she said that it was an invention.

How far I might go with this line of research is unknown to me at the moment. I am finding the thought intriguing, though.


  1. A writer's strike everyone who took part in, is now ruing the day! A modern example of cutting your nose off to spite you face, as they used to say, with reality TV being prolific and cheap to produce, it does not require a lot of scripting (or writers) although most have some minor scripting or a "treatment" as a guide for inciting the conflict needed to move the story along...pretty much in-line with the machinery of myth-making. Yes, I agree, myths are being made still. Will they last into the deep future, told around a campfire in a radioactive wasteland? Maybe the myth of the "Real Wives Of Atlanta" will be one of those everyone enjoys, but does not really understand.

  2. It must have have been a shock for the writers to discover that, in big business, no one is indispensable. Joseph Campbell pointed out that as soon as the modern hero kills the bad guys and "gets the girl", the credits roll. The earlier mythic hero returns to his people and continues as the wise man or the elder. I suspect that in the modern, truncated, version, the hero myth has been conflated with the cult of the young. They certainly pay most at the box office...