The Grim Reaper in the Global Village -or- Poetics of the Macabre

One of the "fathers of the Atomic bomb" Robert Oppenheimer after the first necrophilic weapon of mass destruction (or doomsday machine) was detonated recalled a quote from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

World of the Dead -or- Fascination with Death

The fascination with death is not a new and modern preoccupation, it may be as old as human history itself. Erich Fromm "The Anatomy of Destructiveness" discusses a dream of someone where the "imagination of his dream life is mainly occupied with visions of the world of the dead." 

Here is the dream; 

"I am going to visit a friend; I walk in the direction of his house, which is well-known to me. Suddenly the scene shifts. I am in a kind of dry, desert like scenery; no plants or trees. I still seem to be trying to find my friend's house, but the only house in sight is a particular building which does not have any windows. I enter through a small door; when I close it I hear a particular noise, as if the door had been locked, not just shut. I try the door knob and cannot open it. With great anxiety I walk through a very narrow corridor - in fact it is so low that I have to crawl - and find myself in a large, oval, darkened room. It looks like a big vault. When I get accustomed to the dark I see a number of skeletons lying on the ground and I know that this is my grave. I wake up with a feeling of panic." 

Mr Hagen's Response: The Necrophobic Imagination -or- Memento Mori 

Fromm adds to the associations surrounding the dream, that the dreamer has many dreams in which "he sees tombs, mummies and skeletons." I agree with Fromm, that the "dream is not necessarily about necrophilia". Instead the dreams are most likely about "necrophobia". This phobia becomes embodied by the poetic figure of "Grim Reaper" who is a "personification of death". Such dreams of "tombs, mummies and skeletons" emphasize the atmosphere of "the macabre". The artistic idea of "momento mori" reminds everyone "you must die". 

Thanatology is the study of death, in all its psychosomatic aspects. We remember the dead by placing them in a "tomb". The universal motive for "mummification" is psychologically less clear, although by preserving the dead body, we also preserve the memory of their existence. On a few final notes, the panic that the dreamer feels he knows "that this is my grave", can be interpreted as "the fear of being buried alive", which as unfortunate as it sounds would not be the first time that someone woke up in their grave. From a literary perspective, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Premature Burial" is a horror story about being buried alive." We all take our last dance to the tune of the "danse macabre". Seen from a different literary perspective, in Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol", Scrooge is shown a vision of the future and Christmas yet to come. The ghost of Christmas yet to come also shows Scrooge "his grave".

From a popular music perspective "Don't Fear the Reaper" (watch music video) by Blue Oyster Cult speaks to us of facing the inevitability of death. The Hollywood dream factory has been entertaining audiences with the "Mummy" films featuring the 1932 Boris Karloff personae, to the 1999 personae by Arnold Vosloo as the reanimated Mummy.

Postscript: The Manhatten Project -or- The Trinity Test and the Atomic Age

The fact that the dream above took place in the desert, may allude to the "Trinity test" of the first nuclear weapon that was detonated in the desert in New Mexico. On August 6, 1945 the first nuclear weapon of mass destruction code named "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima, and on August 9, 1945 the second weapon of mass destruction code named "Fat Man" was dropped on Nagasaki. The cost of life and death toll of the two blasts range from 150 to 250 thousand dead. The detonations signaled the beginning of the "atomic age" and soon thereafter the beginning of the Cold War MAD-ness.

The suicidal "doomsday" and MAD logic of mass destruction would be parodied in Stanley Kubrick's black comedy "Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". This necrophilic thought process is also discussed in the International Institute for Dream Research interpretations "The Kafkaeque" and "Laughter in Hell".





All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.