Why are People Fearful of ............THE DARK, Part 1/2
The dark generates some of the most negative, visceral reaction in the human mind and consciousness. It also produces some of the primal responses in the human subconscious. It evokes a feeling of trepidation of what is seemingly going to happen. It also evokes feelings of frightfulness and utter dread right down to the bones.
The dark is often the subject of real and imagined fears. It induces uneasiness which can be unnerving and/or intensely immobilizing. It is the subject of countless and horrifying nightmares and other occurrences that go bum-pity bump or worse. It is the subject of unknowing and suspect terror which is bound to surface at any time. It is also the vulnerability of the imagination as to what is about to strike when one least expects it.
The dark is the primary theme of many a Gothic and horror novel and/or fiction. It is also the main staple of horror movies. Without this ingredient of darkness, horror and/or scary movies would not even frighten a baby. Countless film noir and mystery movies commonly use the element of darkness as a background and a prevailing theme.
Author Edgar Allen Poe was quite fond of the dark, regularly using it to morbidly describe his poems and novels. One of his most famous poems The Raven and his novels, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Black Cat are resonate with dark themes. Anne Rice, author, is also quite adept of using dark themes in her novels.
The dark permeates throughout her novels such as Lestat, Interview With The Vampire, Lasher, and The Queen of the Damned, earning her best-selling author status and world renown. Ms. Rice RULES the dark. One can aptly and succinctly state that Ms. Rice is to the dark genre of novels what Jackie Collins is to the spicy, steamy genre of novels.
One must not forget the King of the one of the darkest novels in history, the immortal Bram Stoker. His character, Count Dracula, was one of the darkest characters in history. This character is the subject of countless horror movies and plays. Of course, Count Dracula was based upon a real historic prince who was one of the darkest and horrific princes in history.
Director Mario Bava became quite famous because he artfully used the dark physically and to create a psychological aura in his movies. One of his movies, Black Sunday or Mask of the Devil became a horror, Gothic classic. Black Sunday became such a phenomenal classic that other horror movies such as The Haunted Palace and countless other horror movies imitated its dark style. Count Dracula lovingly remarked how lovely, sweet, and utterly musical the dark was.
The dark is the period and time that many people are quite apprehensive of and with good reason. It is what ancient people and many of us are still terrified of, sometimes with good reason. It is what parents, teachers, and/or other adult figures warn children to be wary of. It is also used to as a tactic to scare disobedient and/or otherwise unruly children to conform and obey.
The dark frightens and petrifies the extremely superstitious, making them more fearful than they already are. This dread and fear of the dark are the stuff of anxiety provoking ideologies, belief/religious systems, and mythologies. Yes, THE DARK generates such an extreme and gut-level reaction,a vivid imagery, and numbing apprehension to the point of panic.
The Dark as FEAR and UTTER DREAD
The human mind is hardwired to fear and dread the dark. Primordial humans feared and dreaded the dark for good reason. Nighttime was often a dangerous time. It was when wild animals were marauding and/or lurking about, ready to attack an unsuspecting person or animal.
Primordial humans knew not to venture out at night for they knew that they were probably going to be attacked or worse by such marauding animals. If any primordial human was foolhardy enough to venture out at night, he/she would be undergoing a suicidal endeavor. He/she would not return alive. Today, in some rural and/or agricultural societies, people are highly apprehensive of going out at night because there is a greater probability and/or likelihood of being attacked by animals.
Animals were not the only thing people were fearful of in the dark. People were also fearful of other people. They feared and dreaded the dark because there were certain categories of humans lurking about. They were fearful of the dark in the belief of being more vulnerable to the elements of the dark whether they were animal or human. In the dark or nighttime, people are more subjected to crimes and other acts being committed against them than they would be during the daytime hours.
To this day, people are still warned not to go out at night, particularly alone, as they are more likely to be considered prey or victims of crime when they are alone than when they are with a crowd. Criminals of varied types contend that they are freer to commit their acts as there are less people out at night than during the daytime. For this reason, people are told if they are to go out at night, they should go out in crowds as to be less vulnerable to attacks or worse acts.
Besides fear of material and/or animate things in the dark, there is a supernatural fear and dread. Primordial, ancient,medieval, and sometimes modern humans fear and dread the dark because they believe that there were certain supernatural entities more likely to be present and/or prevalent during the dark hours. Primordial and ancient humans were unable to explain such occurrences of the dark and/or night. Since they were not able to understand the dark and/or night, they considered it to be evil, foreboding, and otherwise negative in context.
Since primordial, ancient, and medieval people could not adequately explain occurrences that happened at dark and/or during the night, they associated such events with demons and/or other negative supernatural entities. It is no accident that Satan/Lucifer and demonic entities were/are associated with either the dark or nighttime. Every mythology and religion created and instituted its darker, malevolent spirits to represent the dark and night. As people feared the dark and could not adequately explain its essence, a spiritual bogeyman was invented to somewhat rationalize the dark and darker elements in nature and sometimes in humankind.
Devils and demons are not the only denizens associated with the dark or nighttime. Monsters and other creatures such as ghouls and phantoms have always been associated in the human mind and consciousness with the dark and nighttime. These creatures, as with demons, were invented as a means to explain the darker elements in nature. They were also invented as a means by parents to control and frighten more recalcitrant children. Monsters and other night creatures were frequently used in folk tales with the purpose of educating children and others to the importance of being good and conforming to particular societal rules.
There is no other creature associated with the dark and/or nighttime other than the vampire. Vampires have been a staple of folklore and mythologies for eons. They have been particularly associated with the dark and night when they are believed to be at their most potent and deadliest. In medieval and early modern times, people were routinely warned to be careful of the dark because vampires were considered to be lurking about. There were even rituals created to protect one against vampires. To many, the vampire was/is still seen as the most fearsome creature in the human consciousness with the exception of the devil. People had a logical reason to fear and dread the dark; this fear is totally instinctual and part of the human consciousness.
The Dark as PURE NEGATIVITY and EVIL
To many people, the dark can be classified as psychological and/or psychic negativity. They see this as something to be feared and avoided at all costs. It represents the point of no return and redemption. It is negativity of the worst and abysmal kind. It is the type of negativity which in the end even destroys one mentally and emotionally. It further weakens one's resolve and causes one to completely give up in terms of his/her identity and utter humanity.
Others view the dark as abject, abysmal, and dismal despair. They see it as the utmost bottomless pit which one cannot possibly escape. This darkness is mental despair of the lowest and most abject level. It represents extreme depression and hopelessness in the human psyche. It is beyond bad moods and feelings. One can aptly describe such darkness as a hell beyond hell.
Many religions, especially Western religions, view the dark as extremely negative, even sinister. It even has evil connotations. The dark has quite suspect connotations. It is hidden, even occult as anything that is not considered to be open and above surface is deemed to be quite suspicious in the human mind and consciousness. Anything that is deem hidden is considered to be evil because it is unknown and untested according to the human mind. People feel more comfortable with what is tested and known and are quite leery and highly suspicious of what is unknown.
The dark in the human mind and consciousness was considered to be unknown. In the minds of primordial, ancient, and medieval people, darkness was seen as negative because they could not easily fathom and describe the dark, especially nighttime, as they could daytime. From this mindset, daytime as light was always associated with goodness while the dark and nighttime was associated with evil. Many religions used darkness to metaphorically and physically represent evil. Western cultures has specifically categorized darkness, especially blackness, to be stained, evil, impure, and bemirsched. It is no accident that evil spirits are represented as dark entities e.g. Satan/Lucifer. Hell is considered the most darkest and negative place imaginable in the human consciousness and imagination.
Western religions have regularly inculcated people to associate darkness as evil or negativity in addition to something to be avoided and/or dreaded at all costs. They saw/still view darkness as archetypes of sin, imperfection, and even damnation. Many people subconsciously and unconsciously associate darkness with some type of iniquity. Some even view darkness as somewhat inferior to light, believing that the latter is more perfect than the former. Darkness, to the western and westernized human mind is thoroughly demonized, negativized, and relegated to "the other" and seen as undesirable or worse.
Historically, darkness is considered to be abject regression in civilization and/or in human consciousness. The Kali Yuga ( The Epoch Dark Age) is considered to be the lowest point in human consciousness and morality. In the period of the Kali Yuga, war, greed, evil, and other baser instincts are a natural part of the human condition. Humankind is said at this time to exist at a fear-based consciousness where there is suspicion towards and mistrust of each other. It is also believed that in the Kali Yuga, humankind is existing at its darkest and most negative consciousness. It is further believed that this negativity will have to pass if humankind is to further evolve as a species.
There were several Dark Ages in history where civilization seemed to regress and humankind was existing at its lowest common denominator in extremely precarious and fearful conditions. For example, the Dark Ages after the decline of the Roman Empire was a very dark time physically and psychically. What was known of culture and civilization had totally regressed to its most basic, survivalist level without even the basic necessities.
Civilization as it was once known had been demolished, if not destroyed. In essence, everything has disintegrated. Diseases ran rampant during this period which resulted in demolition of 50% of the population. One was lucky if he/she lived to adulthood. Of course, these conditions and circumstances created fear and dread in the population at the time. The Dark Ages became known as one of the most fearful and dreaded times in history. Humans have associated darkness with psychological, psychic, spiritual, as well as historic negativity of the worst kind which they wish to avoid or escape from, never to repeat such darkness, if necessary.
FEAR of the Dark -Why?
Part 1 of 2 of this hub addressed part of the myriad reasons as to the reason people fear and dread the dark. The dark is seen as quite foreboding, even dangerous. The human brain is hardwired to fear the dark as mere basic survival. If people were not fearful of the dark, they would have been overcome by stronger and more cunning animals thus becoming extinct as a species.
Many of these fears have a material origin. Not only were people fearful of marauding animals in the dark, they were also fearful of and dreaded certain categories of human who lurked around during the dark hours, particularly at night. To this day, people are warned not to go out at night alone but in crowds. In addition to that, they are furthermore told to be especially alert at night as not to be vulnerable to criminals and other denizens.
The dark, particularly nighttime, is associated with negative supernatural entities which inspire fear and dread. It is no accident that demons and other negative entities represent the dark and night. It is believed in myths and religions that such spirits are more prevalent during nighttime. Besides demons, monsters and other supernatural denizens are considered to be creatures of the dark and night. They are also the subject of stories used to instill fear, especially making children obey and conform to societal mores.
The dark is psychologically symbolized by despair, even depression. This darkness has a quality of being abject and without hope. It can also be classified as being in a bottomless pit psychologically and psychically without any type of redemption nor respite. It is viewed as being in a hell beyond any type of description. People try to avoid such darkness at all costs for they know that such is draining and immobilizing mentally and emotionally.
The dark is seen historically as any period where humankind is at its lowest ebb culturally, morally, and in terms of civilization. During such periods, humankind is at its lowest and most negative common denominator. Wars, greed, and other forms of base behavior is commonplace. It is natural during such period for humankind to be suspicious of and mistrust each other thus generation all sorts of behavior not conducive to its well-being. Such historical period are infernal and people who live through these periods want something better than this. When better periods come, there is hope that such negative periods are never repeated.
In the concluding part of this hub, more reasons will be addressed and thoroughly discussed as to why the dark is a subject of fear and dread to many people.
© 2014 Grace Marguerite Williams