A Shift of MetaphysicsBy Bobby Neal Winters
Before I was old enough to go to school, I used to sit on the floor and watch the old TV show Dark Shadows while my mother did housework in the background and we waited for the bus to bring my brother home from school.
Mom always joked that I had to explain it to her. She meant this as a compliment to my intelligence, but I think it’s actually a commentary on the level of writing in that show. It was actually written so that a four-year-old could understand it.
That having been said, Dark Shadows was my introduction to Barnabas Collins and the world of vampires. Let me say at the onset that I am not an expert on vampires. I’ve never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula nor much else beyond Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Any knowledge I’ve gained I’ve done so through popular sources on TV and at the movies. The things I know are this:
- Vampires feed on blood.
- Vampires cannot come out in the daylight;
- Vampires cannot see their reflection;
- Vampires flee from the Cross;
- Vampires can only be killed by special means which vary from source to source; a wooden stake through the heart will usually do the trick;
- Vampirism is contagious;
- There is a connection with bats.
Apparently, the Vampire Myth goes way back in history into the pre-scientific age, but I’ve seen articles in popular science magazines which have attempted to explain the Myth in scientific terms. It may have been no less than Isaac Asimov who attempted to connect the Vampire Myth with rabies. It’s not a bad case either.
This connection by Asimov and others grows out of the modern age. We cannot tolerate mysteries. We must have solid, scientific explanations.
But the purpose of a myth is not to be explained away with science. The purpose of a myth is to teach.
What the Vampire Myth teaches is important because there are vampires.
Okay, you have to take a shift into metaphor to see what I am saying, but bear with me for a moment. Haven’t you ever been around someone who sucks the life out of you? Who when you see them for what they are, their power over you disappears? Who cannot recognize the flaws in themselves? Who have no desire for redemption? Who are terribly hard to deal with?
Often these folks can be charismatic individuals--until you see them for who they are--and they can convert others to their cause while sucking the life out of them at the same time.
I’ve got everything in there but the connection with bats.
My point is that the Vampire Myth is a spiritual thing. It is based in the supernatural, the unnatural.
But in addition to the efforts by Asimov and others on the scientific front, the popular media has shifted as well. Vampirism is viewed in many, if not most, of the popular media on the subject, as a disease. Movies like I am Legend and Daybreakers view vampires as suffering from a disease that one might attempt to sure. It’s caused by a virus just like a cold or the flu.
It’s an extension of the arrogance of modernism into the realm of the undead. If there is a problem we can fix it. If their is a disease we can cure it.
As movies, I am Legend was better than Daybreakers. Though, as I will expand on momentarily, Daybreakers did a good job in capturing many of the spiritual insights the Vampire Myth offers us, it lacked the umami to bring those ingredients together.
Let me now expand. Sunlight kills vampires. It destroys them utterly. They are left as nothing but ashes. In Daybreakers, there was a cure found. The first man cured of vampirism had been caught on fire by the daylight but plunged himself into water to put out the flames. From there he was cured. I am reminded here of the purifying flames of purgatory or the Uncreated Light that was with God at the beginning of the world which burns away all that is impure in us.
There were also those among the vampires who didn’t want to be cured. Because of their fear of death, they were willing to subject themselves--and everyone else--to a life of eternal darkness.
So Daybreakers does capture the spiritual message of the Vampire Myth. What it does is buy into the scientific-materialist notion of mechanism for vampirism.
Bear with me while I tell a story. There is a man of my acquaintance who has some challenges in dealing with reality. One of these is that he could go months without paying his rent even though he had the money.
His landlord was a wealthy man who didn’t become wealthy by letting people go months without paying their rent. Why did he allow this man that option? The landlord’s father knew the renter’s father. The renter’s father had been an abusive man whose abuse had led to the renter’s challenged condition.
The scientific-materialist would say the reason the landlord let him go was because of the chemicals in his brain rewarded him for this act of altruism. The real reason is that his father taught him pity.
Science has some need to try to take over everything. It’s like kudzu. It has its uses, but one must be alert lest it get out of its proper place and succeed in taking over everything.