The phrase "the dark side of the moon" has excited me for many, many years. In fact, I can remember the exact day that my fascination with it was born. It was one Christmas morning in the late eighties or early nineties. I remember this Christmas morning for several reasons. Me and my brothers were all opening our gifts, and several of them made a big impression on me. One was a wall-chart of the moon that my older brother received, along with a telescope. This is the first time I realised that the craters of the moon had such poetic names. Another was the Sherlock-Holmes themed board game 221B Baker Street, which seemed impossibly classy to me. Finally, I received (as requested) a model of Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots. (I was a Transformers nut.) Every Transformers toy had a potted biography on the back of the box, and the potted biography on this version of Optimus Prime mentioned (I forget why) the dark side of the moon. I'd never heard the phrase before, and it seized my imagination forever.
It's interesting to speculate how much of our adult selves exists, in embryo, in our childhood selves. Is it a coincidence that "the dark side of the moon" is an expression that now seems to express so much of what I believe, of what fascinates me?
I mentioned in a previous post that I've been reading about Christina Rossetti, the English poet who died in 1894. Aside from the fact that she was a fine poet, I'm interested in her because she was associated with both the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Oxford Movement. Both of these movements were unabashedly "backward-looking", something I admire. They were also unabashedly romantic. (All these qualities also pertain to the Gaelic Revival and Irish cultural nationalism.) What fascinates me about such movements is that the very things which were recently disparaged suddenly become prized. For instance, in the Oxford Movement, all the qualities which the Protestant Reformers decried-- ritualism, hierarchy, celibacy, "monkishness", and so forth-- became admired and sought-after. That such "flips" are possible, and indeed that they occur, should be a matter of deep significance to anyone with conservative views. Indeed, I think we can see it happening in our own time-- the resurgence of populism and nationalism is extraordinary. Certainly I never would have predicted it.
Another reason Rossetti's poetry is interesting to me is because of its dream-like, symbolic, otherworldy atmosphere. At the moment, I'm completely besotted with this kind of thing. I'm in the mood for dreams, visions, archetypes, legends, myths, folklore, and everything that sustains the less rational, more poetic side of our nature. I want to read about all these subjects right now!
Not that I'm ever uninterested in these things. Even when I was a kid, long before I'd heard the term "Counter-Enlightenment", I was on its side. Man does not live by reason alone. Indeed, I tend think that reason is the least of his psychological requirements.
The image of a cinema audience is one that haunts me, and one which I use as a wallpaper on various computers and computer applications. Here is the image I use as the backdrop on my gmail account:
It's beyond a cliché now to compare the experience of watching a movie in the cinema to dreaming, but it's a cliché for a good reason. You're in the dark. The imagery on the screen is magnified to an enormous size. Scene gives way to scene in a way that is similar to the sudden shifts of a dream. More than anything else, perhaps, we seem to "regress" in the cinema, to allow ourselves to become receptive and open in a way that we usually don't. There is an element of self-forgetting and disassociation with ourselves-- we merge with the audience.
To me, the cinema is a perfect metaphor, not only for dreams, but for consciousness in general-- especially the "lower" levels of consciousness, the subconscious, the unconscious and the collective unconscious.
Cinema audiences seem to be an especially good symbol, or even an especially good example, of the collective unconscious. Few phenomena express the state of the collective unconscious as effectively as hit movies. If dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, I think hit movies are the royal road to the collective unconscious. (Even more so than television or music, for various reasons-- TV is less likely to "isolate" the themes that are especially exercising society at any particular time, as its plots and genres are much less varied, while music is less immediately related to life.) Cinema historians often draw parallels between the themes of successful movies in any given moment of social history, and the anxieties or traumas or enthusiasms which were gripping society at that time, and I must say I often find these very convincing. Sometimes it's quite obvious, as in the case of the "giant bug" movies which were popular in the fifties, when nuclear power and radiation were a new public fear. Sometimes it's more subtle, as with the wave of occult thrillers that seemed so popular in the seventies, as society became more secularized.
The flickering light playing on the absorbed faces of the audience, in the darkness of the movie theatre-- that, to me, is perhaps the best symbol of this state of being that interests me right now, the state of being that we find in dreams, stories, legends, archetypes poetry,, symbols, and so forth-- the "dark side of the moon". I plan to spend more time exploring this territory in the foreseeable future. I'm also inclined to think that Christians and conservatives should make more use of this spiritual terrain, in their efforts to reach others-- Peter Hichens once wrote that we keep trying to make a case in prose which is best made in poetry, and I agree with him. This is not to concede that Christianity or conservatism is irrational, but it seems to me that successful conservative movements such as Romanticism or the Oxford Movement do tend to speak to society through the imagination, rather than through the analytic mind.