Estimated Reading Time : 7 Minutes
On the night of Friday, June 10th, singer Christina Grimmie, a 22 year old former contestant on the NBC show The Voice, was shot and killed by a deranged fan after a performance in Orlando, Florida. The next night, June 11th, Omar Mateen, a 29 year old American man of Afghan descent, walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and shot over a hundred people, killing 49 of them, in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The following Tuesday, June 14, Lane Graves, a two year old boy visiting Disney World from Nebraska with his parents and four year old sister, was snatched and killed by an alligator while wading in shallow water in a lake in Orlando, Florida.
These three stories share much in common, violence, tragedy, grief, frustration, heartbreak and, oddly enough, geographic location. From a human perspective, these stories illicit a great deal of emotion, as we are all able to project ourselves or our loved ones into their horrific circumstances. From a mythological/psychological perspective, these stories reveal something much deeper and much darker about us, our collective unconscious, our time and what lies ahead for us all.
The Religion of Fame and Celebrity
The Jungian psychological symbolism of these three attacks are relatively obvious, and strikingly ominous, for anyone looking for them. The incident that kicked off this horrific four days in Orlando was the senseless murder of Christina Grimmie. Grimmie had obtained a modicum of fame being a contestant on the show The Voice. Grimmie is symbolic of one of the new and powerful American religions…the religion of fame and celebrity. The talented and ambitious Grimmie was trying to climb up the ladder of success to become one of those people who are the Greek gods (immortal myths) of our time…the famous. All religions sell and profess "the light", but that light brings with it the shadow. That which is demonized by a culture or religion, becomes the shadow of that culture or religion. The shadow of the old religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, is usually sex. See the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church as a prime example of the repressed shadow asserting itself in distorted ways. The shadow of the new American religion of celebrity is desperation and delusions of grandeur.
The fan who shot and killed Christina Grimmie was the vehicle for the shadow of the religion of fame and celebrity to assert itself. He stalked and then killed Grimmie, and then himself, as a sacrifice to this new religion. Without that level of crazed fanaticism, which is a toxic combination of desperation and delusion, the new religion of celebrity would hold no psychological power over the masses. Good can only function in opposition to evil…the famous can only be famous if there are masses of anonymous people yearning to be just like them. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow, and in this case, the darker the shadow the brighter the light. Christina Grimmie was, like more and more people in our culture, consciously acting upon the siren call of fame and celebrity, her killer, like many of the unwashed and un-famous masses, was unconsciously acting upon the siren call of fame and celebrity's shadow. In terms of the new religion of fame and celebrity and its psychology…meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
The Old vs The New
Which brings us to Omar Mateen, the man who slaughtered 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse on June 11. Mateen, like Grimmie's killer, was playing a part in a much wider mythological struggle than just his own psychological torment. Mateen, by all accounts a closeted homosexual, was a foot soldier in the battle between the old religion and the new. The old religion, in this case Islam, which like Christianity and Judaism before it has sex as its shadow, is not going quietly into the goodnight of its evolutionary oblivion. The religion it is battling was born of its own shadow, that religion is the religion of Libertinism. Mateen was a man torn between the new religion, Libertinism, and the old religion, Islam. Mateen's biology, sexuality and western culture pulled him to the church of Libertinism, and yet his family, tradition and heritage pulled him towards Islam. The poor people slaughtered in Orlando by Mateen are just collateral damage in the war raging between the new and old religions and in his own psyche. Mateen was unconsciously mugged by not only the shadow of one religion but two. The psychological shadow of Libertinism caused him to yearn for the clarity and moral purity being offered by the old religion of Islam, while the the shadow of Islam caused him to act out his repressed sexuality and deem it "deviant", which made him hate himself for his biological urges, and then project that hate on to others who seemingly had no internal struggle over their choice of Libertinism.
Mateen's psychological (and sexual) struggle is the same struggle as the entire culture and its old religions of Islam/Judaism/Christianity. The old religion of Islam/Judaism/Christianity is trying to hold back the tide of human biological urges as well as the new religion, Libertinism, which celebrates them. All the laws, violence and intimidation in the world cannot stop what has started, namely, the decay and collapse of the old order and its religions and the rise of the new order and its religions. There is no moral judgement to be made for or against either side, only the admission of this psychological reality.
And then there is the horrific tragedy of Lane Graves, the little boy snatched by a gator and killed in a Disney resort lake. Graves is symbolic of the innocent, the pure and the good. The little boy joyously playing in shallow waters with his father and then a beast rises up from the depths to snuff out his life.
An innocent little boy killed by a beast from the depths is symbolic of the entire series of killings in Orlando that week. From the depths of the collective unconscious and the individual unconscious of the killers, a Leviathan, like that shown to Job in a vision in the Book of Job, born of the shadow of God, rose up to snuff out innocent life in an attempt to make its unconscious aspects conscious. In Jungian psychology, water is symbolic of the unconscious, and this story is about more than the Graves family tragedy, but about the beast lurking in our collective unconscious that is desperate to be made conscious and which will kill as many innocents as it can in order to bring about that consciousness. This primal, primitive unconscious energy is fighting for its survival and will do anything to stay alive (become conscious).
As a friend of mine (and a Jungian analyst) The Big Falconer, said to me recently, "the unconscious, the Self, the dark side of the God-image, doesn't care how many millions of people or how much of life is killed in the quest to become conscious…." And the horrors of Orlando are proof of that.
The Happiest Place on Earth
The fact that this horrific drama played out in Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, otherwise known as "The Happiest Place on Earth" is also of great symbolic meaning. Disney is a religion unto itself. The religion of Disney, is a uniquely American religion that sells an eternal childhood and all the innocence that comes with it. This Disney religion is puritanical, and like its sister religion of Celebrity and Fame, is also delusional and grandiose. The Disney religion ignores the darker parts of reality, namely, the impulses and instincts toward sex, violence and death. Those things, sex, violence, and death, were what came out of the shadows and into the light that bloody weekend in Orlando. The shadow will not be denied. You ignore it at your own peril. As the saying goes, "Do you believe in the Devil? You should, he believes in you."
Like Disney, the American culture has turned into an adolescent theme park and maintains the delusion of being the "happiest place on earth". Disney is as American as it gets, and to have this bloodshed on its doorstep is no "coincidence". The veil of Disney (childhood)/American (adolescence) delusion and illusion is not just being pulled back, it is being violently shredded. The scales won't gently fall from our eyes, but will be forcibly torn away. An innocent little boy, a perfect symbol for the religion of Disney (childhood), was devoured by what that delusional and illusional religion ignores, namely death, which took the form of a primitive shadow beast (reptilian instincts/alligator).
"Many miles away something crawls from the slime, at the bottom of a dark, Scottish Lake" - The Police, lyrics from the song Synchronicity II, off of the album Synchronicity
The fact that the alligator, the symbol of the lizard/reptilian brain, the most archaic part of the psyche, the home of the unconscious drives of sex, violence and fear, was lurking just below the surface of the delusional Disney (childhood)/American (adolescence) waters is striking. This primal beast, this alligator/dragon/Grendel is lurking in the depths and the darkness of America and the world, and it is hungry. The beast's hunger is for life, for consciousness, for survival. It devoured an innocent little boy (childhood) that night, but it also slaughtered an aspiring singer and 49 other people (eternal adolescence) the previous two nights. This Leviathan has crawled out of the primordial ooze of our collective unconscious and is determined to make itself known and to be made wholly conscious.
The news is currently filled with stories of the primitive, the primal and the wild lashing out at mankind. In Florida, Gators found with human bodies in their jaws, or taking bites out of unsuspecting people. Bears, awaking from their hibernation to devour humans in Japan or attack runners in New Mexico. Mountain lions attacking young children as they play in their back yard. While on the surface these stories reek of the vacuousness of our media, mythologically, psychologically and symbolically they are harbingers of the darkness, like a bear awoken from its slumber, that is dwelling in our collective unconscious, lurking just beneath the surface of our consciousness. These stories are reminiscent of the plethora of shark attack stories in the summer before the 9-11 attack. That summer was deemed the summer of the shark, and if anyone had been paying attention, those shark stories forewarned us not of more shark attacks, but of something much more sinister stalking humanity from the depths and the shadows of our collective unconscious.
The death and destruction played out over those four days on the stage of Orlando, the "Happiest Place on Earth", is like a mini-drama of all mankind and the collective unconscious. The attacks in the "Happiest Place on Earth" are the eyes and nostrils of a gator/dragon/Grendel just breaking above the surface waters of our consciousness, that portends an ominous and powerful dark force just beneath the surface of our awareness, that is ascending from the depths to descend upon our world.
What Rough Beast?
As W.B. Yeats wrote in his poem "The Second Coming"...
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere", even, as we recently learned, at the "Happiest Place on Earth". "The Ceremony of innocence is drowned" like the innocent Lane Graves drowned underneath those blood dimmed tides of the Leviathan's lair. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity", does this line not speak prophetically to the time in which we live today?
The rest of Yeat's poem is as follows...
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Yeats asks the question, "what rough beast, it's hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?" That rough Beast is now born, risen to life in the bloody waters of Orlando, and now, with its hour upon us, slouches its way to prominence and power in our world. This Leviathan is loosed upon us, and will gorge itself upon our ignorance and unconsciousness. There is a very dark age quickly descending upon us all and it will obliterate man's world and try men's souls. The Beast has been unchained…and it is desperate to feed, and we are all on the menu. This is just the beginning of the long descent into darkness…and we are not all going to survive to make it into the light.
Related Article - The Way of the Gun : Meditations on America and Guns
Recommended Reading for anyone interested in learning more about Jungian psychology and the Shadow - Answer to Job by C.G. Jung, Archetype of the Apocalypse by Edward Edinger, Owning Your Own Shadow : Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson.