On David Marshall's Integral Archipelago forum, a member there named Shashank recently posted a blog (and initiated a discussion) on the relationship between horror and fantasy literature and spirituality that I am quite enjoying.  I invite
you to read it, if you're interested.  Here, I wanted to open a related
discussion, based on some of my comments to Shashank, particularly if
any of you enjoy the horror or fantasy genres.  (I wish I had time to
compose something nice, but I don't, so here are a few jotted notes).

 

 


I no longer read fantasy or horror, but I used to read and write quite a lot of both, and I still enjoy an occasional horror or fantasy film.  In my conversation with Shashank, we were discussing the respective approaches of Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft.  I was noting that Barker tends to see "order" behind the terror and horror, and redemptive or transformative potential in the encounter with darkness and evil, whereas Lovecraft attempts to present a vision of reality as ultimately alien, containing dimensions which are wholly other -- realms and beings that are wholly unassimilable, human contact with which can only result in madness or destruction.  In other words, absolute limit conditions.


In my reading, Lovecraft's Otherness is an Otherness that must remain Other for the human center to hold, and for our higher ideals to flourish (though those who encounter it now come to see those ideals largely as flimsy defenses in the face of a vast, menacing, terrifyingly alien realm).  If I had to place Lovecraft along the values line, I'd say he was a Modernist -- writing for a genteel Modern audience, many of whom were likely in hard flight from "animal nature."  This is revealed, I think, in his preference for pre-human, visceral images to represent the Other: slime, gelatinous substances, crustacean or invertebrate anatomy, etc.


But while Lovecraft is primarily a modernist (as opposed to Barker's more postmodern approach, where otherness is a functional limit condition of particular stages of development or perspectival frames rather than a concretely identified, metaphysical "thing" or "realm"), I still find his work offers something interesting to consider, particularly in the context of Integral spirituality:  he presents a powerful challenge to complacency and a "comfortable" anthropocentric view of the universe, a view that honestly I sometimes feel marks much New Age and even Integral discourse and thought.  I don't think Lovecraft is an Integral thinker (as I said, I view him as essentially a Modernist, though some post-metaphysical materialist writers find kinship with him as well), but I think he makes a kind of move -- a firm presentation of That which intractably challenges and disturbs present boundaries and narratives -- that we could use more of in Integral circles, in my opinion.  With talk about "making sense of everything" in Integral marketing, and even in the popularized use of phrases like "swallowing the whole universe in one gulp" (assimilating it in its entirety to the "known"?), I feel there is a move towards what we might call the suburbanization (or urbanization) of the Kosmos.  No spooky corners left, no pesky unknowns, no threatening or destabilizing shadows.  (This is why King, Barker, Lovecraft, etc, are so powerful: they bring the 'unknown,' the terrifyingly alien and powerfully Other, back into our comfortable suburban back yards).


So, I guess what I'm groping toward is the question, What is an Integral nightmare?  What, in its appearance or irruption, would deeply disturb, even terrify, Integral consciousness?  What are the boundaries of our (often comfortable, suburban) narratives, and what has the potential to shred them?


I enjoy and appreciate this topic because I think wrestling with, encountering this sort of "dark" or Otherness, is both humbling and chastening (something Lovecraft cultivates through his shocking, chthonic vistas) and potentially transformative (a la Barker).  I am thinking here of several things: Rilke's terrible angels, which perhaps show up in modern popular form in something like Strieber's Communion series (where the Other is a vastly more evolved and powerful entity, an entity that has a disturbing, inscrutable agenda for us); and which showed up for me, in a wilderness visionary experience many years ago, as powerfully disturbing -- even terrifying -- entities who I associated with Krishnamurti and who put me through a mind-blowing (and humbling) ordeal.  And I think also of the "darker" aspects of Tibetan practice, which I explored when studying with Dzogchen teachers:  practicing ch'od, for instance, or purposefully going to graveyards or other frightening places in order to practice.  But even doing that, I also was aware of bumping up against worldview differences: not all of the images cultivated in traditional Tibetan practice were really terribly disturbing for me, and I recall wondering at the time what a modern equivalent could be -- how could the practices be made more challenging and relevant for our time?


What would scare the bejeesus out of the Integral community?  :-)

Views: 2767

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

The already old-fashioned phrase "dark fantasy" suggests the specific element of Horror that is missing from the genre Terror. Neither loathsome disgust nor the uncanny necessarily has to be present (although it is nice if they are!). Much of the legitimate genre is populated by B-grade films which make reference to the Uncanny without presenting. Most film versions of Lovecraft fall into this category. They do not have be great horror films or even good ones to strike that note which we recognize as the central experience of the genre. Horror (like Sci-Fi) is a privileged genre in its capacity to present mythic entities and bardo realms explicitly... rather than by implication. Horror might be said to be the explicit rendering of dangerous bardo realms or their appropriate entities.

Speaking of too-verbal cats...

I used to have to walk down a long corridor as child to get to the bathroom at night. I always either imagined that glowing rhinocerous would watch me in the hallways OR when I opened the door a cat would be sitting on the toilet, reading the paper. He would great me with bizarre nonchalance. And I would respond accordingly. A curt nod... and then back to my room to wait until he was done.

One day I told this to my younger brother. Wouldn't that be awesome, I asked? No. No it wouldn't. He said it would terrifying. I could hardly believe we were related!

But then I was always absurdly overconfident about the subtle planes...

Does horror have transformative properties?

o.k. get it  a really smart cat....

naropa was an academic ,no doubt , THEN he met the hag and had his moment of horror.

what scares the integral dude the most ? eeaasy question : telling the truth about islam into the face of

a believing muslim......

and i find a speaking cat rather funny actually maybe i didn´t smoke enough dope yet ...

but happening into a islamic terror suicide mission and seeing all the torn victims with blood everywhere

well ,that terrorizes me a lot more, then sitting in a nice western christian cementary, banging a drum

and studying tibetan knowledge has only to do with the horror of the chinese tibetan invasion , forcefully

destryoing the tibetan society ,killing a large number of tibetans and destryoing all the monasteries etc , thats the reason we can study dzog chen now easily

and has  nothing at all to do with that confused being event weence whatsoever.

so our luck was based on quite some horror.

in any case IF we want to look at the horrorible as a sacred instances all we have to do is look at christianity

jesus dying on the cross that entire sequence is as horrible as it comes and is also the essence of chöd

any good little catholic christian has to watch that event in great detail, it is the big event in the church year

death and birth being the other. but easter is the bigger event because any of´dd god can be born so what but only jesus died for your sins,  buster ,.......

whats missing is ...------......pleasure.especially any sensual pleasures......but

horror ... hey europe is build on nothing else.



kelamuni said:

Let's do some phenomenological exploration...

Query: What is the trope or genre we call "horror?"

The usual formulation has it that horror is a combination of terror/fear, plus a sense of disgust or loathsomeness.

OK, let's go with this and see where it goes...

Anyone who is a horror buff "intuitively" knows this to be true.

But I suspect that they would also sense that this definition is inadequate or incomplete. It's a partial definition. Something's missing. It "feels" inadequate.

Think of the great horror movies... Are they encapsulated by the slasher movie or gore movie sub-genre?

No, they are not.

Something's missing. So what's missing?

Why do slasher flicks fail to fulfill certain aficionados of the horror genre? There is lots of gore (yuckiness, ie., disgusting scenes) and there is certainly fear and terror. The combination would appear to fulfill the definition if horror.

But, the the sense that it's not "real" horror (with apologies to certain scotsmen) endures: "That's not REAL horror."

So what's missing?

I think that we cannot properly thematize the genre of "horror" simply with reference to the tropes of terror and loathsomeness. There is something else.

That "other," I will hold, is what Lovecraft calls "The Uncanny."

It is that odd sense that what one is perceiving is not quite not right, unnatural, and outside the limits of conception within your current world-view.... Imagine yourself walking down the street, and stopping for a rest, and noticing a cat, and having that cat address you in English: "Hey! What up?" An odd example, perhaps. But imagine something like that actually happening. It would fuck u up. No?

As I understand it, the Tibetans, and Zen dudes, say that at that moment of complete bewilderment... the mind stops... just for a moment... 

like the moment when one state of consciousness morphs into another... for example, that moment when sleep morphs into awakening... something that happens every day for all of us, but that most of us don't notice...

"Does horror have transformative properties?"

Yes. Recall this post earlier in the thread, quoting Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now (my bolding): 

“I remember when I was with Special Forces--it seems a thousand centuries ago--we went into a camp to inoculate it. The children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us, and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile--a pile of little arms. And I remember...I...I...I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out, I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it, I never want to forget. And then I realized--like I was shot...like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, ‘My God, the genius of that, the genius, the will to do that.’ Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they could stand that--these were not monsters, these were men, trained cadres, these men who fought with their hearts, who have families, who have children, who are filled with love--that they had this strength, the strength to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral and at the same time were able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment--without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us.”

In itself Brando's extraordinary performance of this character provided a cathartic experience. As did the entire movie, a classic I've seen numerous times and could still watch again. That is REAL horror.

And how about American Psycho? Another classic in the horror genre with added dark comedy I can watch repeatedly. It's also a statement on corporate capitalism.

Nietzsche's first book, "The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music" describes how the monstrous, horrible and fantastical popular plays of High Greece evolved out of the early religious and musical festivals of Dionysus. What one encounters in these wild dark fantasies is the dissolution of the principle of identity. In Horror we are faced with the loss of the human body, human morality, human sanity, social organization even (in Lovecraft, etc.) the very laws of comprehensible reality. This constitutes a safe and often pleasurable bath in the possibility of radical ego-transcendence. Obviously spiritual growth is not achieved by having one's body hacked to pieces and flushed out into vast cosmic oblivion... but our own internal mechanism for encountering self-overcoming may be stimulating by such images. Tibetan * Hindoo spirituality is notably filled with Kali-type imagery that serves a similar function. The "blowing of minds" is symbolizes by the "taking of heads" in the necklace around the wild Goddess of Dark Time. 

So one of the major spiritual potentials of horror is found in this safe "flirting" with dissolution of our deep and mortally instinctive identification with forms, self & conventional psyche.

The second transformational benefit is the re-mythologization of our landscapes. The expansion into shamanic and psychophysical experiences of the energies of reality requires a rupture with ordinary experience, a welcoming of the uncanny, an eye that seeks out the "dwellers" and "elementals" who mingle our social, pschological and biological energies into hybrid spiritual potentials.

 

nicely put .layman .needless to say that in western spirituality this dimension is most notable through its absence, if we forget the christian cross mediations which in any case have a different function. due to this absence siggi freud and cg jung could make a very comfortable living, providing,even in very limited and distorted form, some access to and processing of this ....darker awareness dimension.

but ,as j .hillman then noticed, they (the 2 sigis) did not really understand much about it anyways.....

it is ya tricky twilighty landscape and without a competent guide many got lost in the netherlands of their very own ....self especially if the "dwellers" and "elementals" noticed their snooping around : )

anyway : layman . where do you find phrases like :" but our own internal mechanism for encountering self-overcoming may be stimulated by such images " .......;)

self -overcoming.....are u sure this is what high end tantra is really about?

and just because hindoo and buddhist tantra use the same (similar) imagery , are you sure they mean the same thing? and if you are sure, how come you are so sure ?on what  evidence ? or is it just a hunch.? i once asked this question lady sally and she said : well it obvious , because they all came from tzhe same village somewhere in the himalayas , like kashmir , its a small place, so obviously they all knew each other and were friends and therefore it is the same , and hindu bindu buddhist , who cares ,its a bit like tom and jerries 35 icecream flavours : but it is all icecream underneath like all is the same sort of ....moa ,   

whats kens name for it ,....ah yeah , same flavour or was it one taste , hmm ,; )

anyway i enjoyed this last piece of writing of yours here ,it seems to say what i seem to meaning to say sort of, at least partially,  but you  do it so much more eloquent and probably sensible too. 



Layman Pascal said:

Nietzsche's first book, "The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music" describes how the monstrous, horrible and fantastical popular plays of High Greece evolved out of the early religious and musical festivals of Dionysus. What one encounters in these wild dark fantasies is the dissolution of the principle of identity. In Horror we are faced with the loss of the human body, human morality, human sanity, social organization even (in Lovecraft, etc.) the very laws of comprehensible reality. This constitutes a safe and often pleasurable bath in the possibility of radical ego-transcendence. Obviously spiritual growth is not achieved by having one's body hacked to pieces and flushed out into vast cosmic oblivion... but our own internal mechanism for encountering self-overcoming may be stimulating by such images. Tibetan * Hindoo spirituality is notably filled with Kali-type imagery that serves a similar function. The "blowing of minds" is symbolizes by the "taking of heads" in the necklace around the wild Goddess of Dark Time. 

So one of the major spiritual potentials of horror is found in this safe "flirting" with dissolution of our deep and mortally instinctive identification with forms, self & conventional psyche.

The second transformational benefit is the re-mythologization of our landscapes. The expansion into shamanic and psychophysical experiences of the energies of reality requires a rupture with ordinary experience, a welcoming of the uncanny, an eye that seeks out the "dwellers" and "elementals" who mingle our social, pschological and biological energies into hybrid spiritual potentials.

 

Great Musical Scores from Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Horror Cinema:

An excursion into the musical unconscious of kela.

If you have the time, have a listen.

Dracula - James Bernard

After my graduation from Godzilla movies, I began to watch the re-formulation of the great Gothic horror movies at the hands of Hammer Studios. James Bernard and Bernard Hermann  -- the two "Bernards" -- are my favorite horror movie composers. The opening theme says to me, "DRACULA... where are you... DRACULA...?"

The Day the Earth Stood Still - Bernard Hermann

Alien - Jerry Goldsmith

Two of my favorite Sc-Fi film scores. 

Fargo - Carter Burwell

Silence of the Lambs - Howard Shore 

Vertigo - Bernard Hermann

Marnie - Bernard Hermann

These four themes, from four thrillers (though maybe Fargo is not a thriller), convey to me a sense of the tragic, particularly Shore's score. In Marnie -- a movie that, alongside Psycho messed me up as a six year old -- Hermann contrasts the tragic with romantic themes. I recently read the original novel for Marnie. Hitchcock and his screenplay writer rewrite Marnie, and there is a sense of overcoming of the tragic with the redemption of Marnie.

Planet of the Apes - Jerry Goldsmith

My favorite Sci-Fi movie. This is an awesome score by Goldsmith. His use of antonal, post-modern music helps to convey the sense of the "other" and of the upside world that Taylor encounters. I tried to find the atonal post-modern hymn that the underground humans sing in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but I could not find it on Youtube. As a nine year old, the hymn was my first real introduction to 20th century music.

The Innocents (Oh Willow Waly) - Isla Cameron

One of those haunting, childlike songs that stick in your head.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre  - Tobe Hooper and Waynes Bell

Ambience that sets the scene for one of the most disturbing movies ever.

Psycho - Bernard Hermann

Nuff said. The classic score.

Drag Me to Hell (Concerto to Hell) -Christopher Young

A wonderful violin solo.

Dementia 13 - Ronald Stein

Possibly the most sinister theme I have ever heard.

Kiss of the Vampire (Vampire Rhapsody)  - James Bernard

Hypnotic. My favorite theme from the horror movie genre. In the movie, Carl plays the Vampire Rhapsody on the piano so as to seduce Marriane to the dark side of the Ravna vampire cult. This is my favorite horror movie. The first time I saw it I was in a state of hyper-awareness for several hours. Later, in my pre-pubescent years, it propulsed me into an exploration of the occult, and into spontaneous drawing of manadas. Notice the mandala-like stain-glass image in the background:

In this post I will review some of the music from the soundtrack for The Exorcist. Much of the music for The Exorcist derives from 20th century music, and is inspired by Arnold Schoenberg. The paradigmatic piece in this regard has to be the first movement from Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, "Premonition." Schoenberg, at this point in his life, was attempting to do for music what the Expressionists were doing for art at the time. Schoenberg was particularly inspired by the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky.

Schoenberg has described "Promonitions" as an attempt to evoke a feeling of pure dread.

Premonitions, from Five Orchestral Pieces - Arnold Schoenberg

Music from and for The Exorcist


Anton Webern was a student of Schoenberg and his compositions make use of atonal composition -- the twelve tone system:

Five Pieces for Orchestra - Anton Webern

George Crumb belongs to a later period of 20th century music; his initial influence appears to have been the music of Webern. Crumb thought of music as a vehicle for "spiritual impulses." He explores a wide range of timbres in his music. In Black Angels musicians are required to vocalize rhythms, bow their instruments in unconventional ways and play several instruments in addition to their principle ones -- bells, drums, goblets etc. He also makes use of electric amplification in this work. Only the opening section, "Night of the Electric Insects," was used in The Exorcist. Kronos Quartet play this rendition.

Night of the Electric Insects, Sounds of Bones and Flutes, Devil Music, Danse Macabre, from "Departure": Black Angels - George Crumb

Having recently passed away this year, Elliot del Borgo was a composer of wind and string works. His compositions display complex rhythms and are occasionally atonal in quality. The following track occurs in the credits at the end of The Exorcist.

Fantasia for Strings - Elliot del Borgo

The following is, apparently, a musical score written by Lalo Schrifin -- composer of the "Mission Impossible" and "Man From U.N.C.L.E" themes. It was written for the trailer to The Exorcist that never used. It shares some of the qualities of the above works.

Original Score for The Exorcist - Lalo Schifrin

Tonite's excursus: the tritone. Also called "diabolus in musica."

First example: Gustav Holst's "Mars" from The Planets

Holst owned one of the few hard copies of Schoenberg's Five Pieces. He had initially thought to call the suite Seven Pieces, but later renamed it, The Planets

"Mars" opens with a series of tritones, setting an unsettling and ominous musical soundscape.

Second example: "Black Sabbath," Black Sabbath. Opening track. That's a tritone, from the first to the third note. 

An interval that was seen as theoretically and harmonically difficult to resolve... until the 20th century. Following Sabbath, it became a staple of metal -- Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer...

Lynch's use of "tonal sounds", specific music and exaggerated audio-visual splicing (much of which has been recently recapitulated in the TV series Hannibal) deserves examination in terms of its use in the evocation of dark bardo realms with transformative potential.



kelamuni said:

 

Comment upon Alien: The trumpet at the beginning of the Alien score evokes the use of trumpet by American composer Aaron Copland, who had used it to portray the American West as a opening frontier; here of course it is space itself that has become the "new frontier," replete with deposits of the unknown.

Compare Holst's Saturn, which also resembles the plainchant tune for "Dies Irae."

Reply to Discussion

RSS

What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2019   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service