Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Dark Muse in TV

At my kosher Starbucks this morning, as I was eating my ham and cheese croissant (Yes, I do not know how that works either), I was reading Gary Lachman's "A Dark Muse - A History of the Occult" that focuses on the influence of occult or esoteric ideas on literature from the eighteenth century on-wards.

He was noticing the proliferation of occult societies that sprang up in the late eighteenth century, especially in France, as a response both to rising scientific materialism that was undermining peoples felt sense of meaning and the anxiety aroused by political decay and living in a threatened order.

One feature of these societies struck me namely their open elitism. Open both in the sense of comfortably acknowledged but also that underlying many of them was the sense that their members were the harbingers of a new dispensation (either religious or political or both) which would ultimately embrace all. We would all discover our true, illuminated destiny eventually thanks to these (us) the prophetic forerunners!

This would appear to be a repeating mythical trope. Look, I thought, at the extraordinary number of popular television series that carry this story line. A group of people emerge who begin to recognize that they are special (and different) and yet are the vanguard of new possibilities for humanity. They must struggle against the forces of reaction (at their difference) or evil (or a combination of both) and in that struggle they are comforted (and prompted) by a sense of selection or providence. The only difference being the mechanism of their election which rather than a result of the actions of occult magic (though that has not gone away, witness, say Buffy the Vampire Slayer) but of genetic mutation (Heroes) or alien involvement (4400) though even here some form of occult operation or more than human providence is hinted at. God is not dead. He is alive but operating somewhat vaguely in a cable TV series coming soon!

As Lachman remarks in his introduction, our desire to make meaning out of wider wholes that can be felt and experienced is a persistent need and no amount of the improbability of the mechanism (to the dominant scientific narrative) appears to make any difference. It is, in many cases, simply hijacked!

As usual, Lachmans book is intelligent, skeptical yet sympathetic and woven with skill, economy and a dry sense of humour. It restores an esoteric perspective to the explorations of many significant writers of the past three centuries (and some less significant but charmingly or horrifyingly entertaining)!


No comments:

Post a Comment

That Wondrous Pattern

When I was at school, a friend encouraged me to read both the poems and the (three volumes) of autobiography of the poet and Blake scho...