Jesus Christ said, “Let the dead bury the dead!” Uh oh, was he already into zombies long before us? I think so and let me tell you why.
Zombies DO walk the earth and yes they are all around us! Zombies, the living “dead,” are those apparently human beings who are un-self-aware. They walk around as if dead, doing the same things, saying the same things, day after day. Paramhansa Yogananda called them “psychological antiques!”
We all know some: they repeat the same old opinions, clichés, stories, and trite conversational subjects day in and day out with bluff and bravado. What was good for their parents is good enough for them: religion, race, gender, nationality, occupation and on and on.
The zombie movies simply mimic the great war that is taking place on this planet between those hanging on with zeal and fanaticism to old tribal-like paradigms and those, however confused and lacking of a moral compass they may sometimes be, breaking all barriers (of race, gender, religion, etc.) and taboos handed unconsciously down from the past. Zombies mimic and mock the unthinking, unfeeling state of human consciousness. They are hard to kill because so blind and unconscious that there’s little life in them to begin with.
Werewolves are those people who, like Jekyll and Hyde, flip flop in their character and loyalties, or who are perhaps (effectively, if not officially) manic-depressive, going from one extreme of behavior to another often with little warning. They are easily influenced to the extreme by the moon of negative emotions.
Skeletons warn us of identification and attachment to our physical body, saying, in effect, “Beware to those who live just for today, to ‘eat, drink, and be merry.’” “The time will come when your body, too, becomes but a bag of bones.”
All those monsters, witches, super heroes and temptresses warn us, by their mocking exaggeration, of the foolishness of our own fantasies, fears and excesses.
And last but not least are the ghosts and ghouls flitting about in sheets with holes for eyes shouting “Boo!” Our fear of ghosts reminds us of our fear of death and of the state that lies beyond it. Ghosts also symbolize our past karma returning to haunt us.
Yogis sometimes meditate in graveyards, for not only are such places quiet places to meditate but they serve as stark reminders of our mortality and the transient nature of material existence in human bodies. Medieval monks used to keep a human skull in their cells for the same purpose. Paramhansa Yogananda, too, as a young monk would meditate in such places.
In “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Yogananda’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, told a childhood story of when his own mother tried to scare him by saying there was a ghost in the closet. Yukteswar’s response was to march over to the closet and open the door! So Halloween’s playful summoning of our worst fears offer us a vicarious vehicle for confronting those fears by humorous exaggeration.
If I could revise Halloween, perhaps only for yogis, I would move the date to November 1 – the traditional Christian day of “All Saints,” and have parties where we dress up as saints of east or west to affirm our aspiration and ideals. We could choose that saint who characterizes qualities we aspire towards. We could do readings or act out skits taken from their lives.
Others might prefer to dress up as famous, admirable, and noble characters from history, in science, the arts, governance, medicine or the humanities.
And if some were committed to their ghoulish foolishness, they could, at the party, start out as ghouls and show, by their change of costume and with a little acted out drama, how they would evolve and be transformed into a noble or saintly character.
So perhaps as the modern age evolves, Halloween, too, can move in a more positive and life and soul affirming direction. From its current “hollow” meaninglessness, it could ‘tween times, become truly “hallow.”
May the Holy Ghost be with you this Hallowed time Tween darkness and light.