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Isn't there a danger in divesting responsibility to these ethereal forces? I think part of the reason art seems grimmer is because the world has been exposed to more of the grimness within it. How many of us could imagine slavery is as big, if not bigger problem, than it ever was in the past? That child trafficking was so pervasive? That the likelihood of reversing climate change along with other environmental problems might be passing us by?

I actually think the post-apocalyptic tendency is a realization that science divorced from meaning cannot give us a utopia.

Henri Bergson predicted this to an extent in his works, along with his defense of free will and his rescuing of immaterialism (a special kind of dualism) from materialism and just as importantly from mechanistic thinking. Sadly his work is surprisingly well known even among those who pay attention to non-mechanistic, immaterialist scientists like Sheldrake who in fact was inspired by Bergson's Matter and Memory.

I'm sure theses have been written about the zombie phenomenon; I actually like The Walking Dead, but I've been trying to analyse why. There is something compelling about reminding one's self of the primordial 'kill or be killed' instinct, and the fear of being hunted, feelings that perhaps many people in modern western societies have (thankfully) largely lost touch with. These shows allow us to safely reconnect to these old primordial fears and motivations in a safe setting.

At the same time, I think there is *also* some connection between the zombie meme and the current materialist paradigm which is being drip fed into every facet of our society and world view. After all, according to this worldview, we are simply 'meat machines', not far from zombies really? I think people are connecting with zombie symbolism in some way as a means to process the uncomfortable implications of our present world view.

I don't think there is an either/or interpretation of the zombie phenomenon. I think there are multiple layers to this meme. Perhaps there is even a layer of unseen spiritual influence, as you suggest?

Douglas

"But I can't help wondering if the prevalence of this grim subject matter reflects, in part, a growing influence exerted by low-level entities."

Hard to say. I suspect that one factor is the growing understanding that science has its dark side.

I remember going to the World's Fair in 1965. It was a Disneyland-like celebration of all the marvelous inventions and discoveries we would soon be able to enjoy, and how wonderful our lives were going to be.

We were fundamentalists then. Our Bible? The infallible word of science.

Since then we've been seeing how flawed that particular religion is, and many of our movies reflect our disillusionment.

"the great Things to Come, based on H.G. Wells' novel, prophesied a destructive world war and ensuing dark age, but also a rebirth of science and technology that would lift man to the stars."

Wells' Time Machine, which also looks into the future but goes much further, is less optimistic. Though in that story, ironically, the people of the future (at least in one locale) are saved by a visitor from our time.

For what it's worth, I've had a couple of (powerful) dreams on this subject, and they disagree somewhat with this vision of the future. In these dreams, there is first tremendous strife, war, etc. After this, everyone is forcibly made aware that God is real. At this point, atheism effectively ceases to exist. However, some people are allowed to live in God's presence on Earth while all others are excluded. This changes the proportion of honest to dishonest people in many regions, causing an overall degradation of living standards. It does not reduce them to Mad Max-like levels. In many ways life goes on much as it does now, except the excluded population endures the knowledge of what they have missed by their thoughts and actions prior to the events that preceded a return of God to earth. This on its own creates an overall sullen mood that is pervasive whenever other thoughts do not occupy the attention of the excluded people.

Keep in mind that this is simply a record of a bit of a couple dreams that I have had. I do not claim that it is literally true or even symbolically true, just that it is what I dreamed and that it is a plausible alternative perspective to the one presented in the Astral City movie (based on your description) and the other examples discussed here.

AP

"However, some people are allowed to live in God's presence on Earth while all others are excluded. This changes the proportion of honest to dishonest people in many regions, causing an overall degradation of living standards.'

Andy, I'm confused here by your interesting scenario. Could you explain the reason for the "overall degradation of living standards"?

I think there are three things, Michael:

1. The mundane negative factors that you mentioned:

||Fears about scarcity of resources (Peak Oil and whatnot), fears of catastrophic environmental collapse (climate change, etc.), fears of an omnipresent Big Brother government and/or corporate bureaucracy, worries about terrorism, even the malaise brought about by a lackluster economy...||

2. I think Bruce's insight was also great:

||Hard to say. I suspect that one factor is the growing understanding that science has its dark side.

I remember going to the World's Fair in 1965. It was a Disneyland-like celebration of all the marvelous inventions and discoveries we would soon be able to enjoy, and how wonderful our lives were going to be.

We were fundamentalists then. Our Bible? The infallible word of science.||

This insight also dovetails with your negative factors.

3. Dystopian pop culture isn't actually new. "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley came out in 1932, and "1984" by George Orwell came out in 1949. I would say that the genre has simply slowly developed since then and in time become a commonplace.

It is a bit like asking why the fantasy genre is so prevalent in 2015 with "Game of Thrones" and looking for social implications in that. Well, it isn't new, but it did take time to develop based on Tolkien's works and other predecessors.

---

So I would say that there isn't necessarily a big social reason for why the genre is popular these days, but if there were a reason, it would be due to the more mundane factors that you and Bruce have pointed out.

I don't think the umbral plane or its denizens (if we take that concept at face value, which I do not; I think the possible negative fates of the "evil dead" and other dysfunctional people who have passed on are much more variegated) has any particular influence on our times. These are people of a lower vibration and in a confused state. They are not empowered.

Nor do I see any evidence that people these days are trying to channel their influence or anything, which is probably only going to result in some Ouija Board-style unpleasantness anyway.

I think the real answer you are looking for is that we are in a negative-yin period of time characterized by a more or less quiet malaise (ISIS is playing with firecrackers compared to what the Nazis et al. did), whereas the time, say, of WWII was a negative yang period characterized by dynamic swings of fortune. Thus, it is possible to look back on that era as being good by comparison, but it definitely was not.

The world is collectively losing its religion--literally. The old belief systems are collapsing. This is a necessary stage in our development. It feels like total **** for a lot of people, and a lot of people react by doubling down on what no longer works (pick your favorite reactionaries), but it's ultimately a good thing.

Is this all playing out in pop culture? It could be. Perhaps zombies represent the undead, dysfunctional belief systems, economic practices, etc., that we must kill but cannot. Perhaps dystopian governments such as exist in "The Hunger Games," "Divergent," etc., represent, well, our crappy governments, economic systems, etc., in which we no longer have faith. That's all plausible. But with pop culture, it's always hard to say one thing or another is definitely the case.

"We are often told by mediums and other seers that influences from nonphysical planes of existence can reach us here on earth. Influences arising from higher planes can be beneficial, leading to useful new inventions, spurts of artistic creativity, and acts of compassion and love. Influences arising from lower planes, on the other hand, are not so wholesome; the entities inhabiting these planes are stuck in a shadowshow of violence, rage, frustration, and desperation, and if we unwittingly channel their impulses we will act in stupidly destructive ways."

Which puts me once more in mind of the foregoing discussion re: depression. If entities from nonphysical planes of existence are able to influence physical beings on earth then, surely, it has to be a case of like attracting like?

I'm not convinced that depression is merely an imbalance of the brain's chemical function. I think it's the other way around in that any chemical imbalance is caused by the depression which ,I believe is a disease of the soul.

If we stare into the abyss long enough we will quite likely attract others similarly inclined. Similarly, if we find the courage and the will to look up at the stars we will attract those of similar mental aspect.

My feeling is that that's why tools such as the Tarot and the Ouija Board are dangerous to those stuck, or wallowing, in a negative state of mind. Misery loves company . . . . but then so does its opposite.

Ps. Can I add that I didn't mean to cause any offence to those suffering from clinical depression by my last comment - especially since I'm a visitor to that mental region myself. But if that illness has taught me one thing it's that we have more control over our psyche than we think.

For instance, there's a new therapy for the ills of old age which involves living - at least for a while - in a physical environment reminiscent of earlier times. Studies reveal that this has the effect of fooling the mind and body into believing they have actually returned to earlier times. Results have shown significant reversal of dementia and arthritic symptoms.

Similarly, experience has taught me that if one casts one's mind back to earliest childhood enthusiasms and rekindle those enthusiasms, then the sense of optimism will return - or at least glimpses of it will.

I suspect this is what's meant by a second childhood. I think there's a natural inclination to look back towards a time of innocence; a time before the collective reality took its toll. I believe these are healing memories; memories that take us beyond the damage and back to who we really are.

@Bruce:

Imagine what would happen if all the honest, kind, generous, forgiving, compassionate, loving people in the world lived on one side of a fence and everyone else lived on the other side. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but the idea is that with all those people effectively removed form the environment, the ones who remain will control and shape that environment. This is a bit like group projects in the classes I teach. What tends to happen is that most groups have several slackers and each also has one or two people who do most of the work. If you take those people out, then all the teams are composed of slackers and less work gets done.

In the dream, it wasn't the hardest-working people who were sorted to another geographical location, but the people who most influence our ability to enjoy our life. Added to that, the people not included in that group had an intense awareness that God was real, yet their activities to date had been a repudiation of God in many ways--this would include so-called 'believers' who behaved in a callous or nasty way to others (in other words, religion had nothing to do with the sorting process). This knowledge shamed them collectively and most felt pretty bad about it. To use a financial allegory, it was as if God had given every person a winning lottery ticket at birth, but the majority of people didn't believe they had any value so they used them as toilet paper then threw them away. And then God comes to redeem the tickets, they see the people who kept theirs (primarily due to their good conduct and thoughts) and these people get the biggest jackpot they could imagine. Worse, they could have had the same thing, but they not only threw it away, but soiled them as well. So, the environment is now populated by people who have missed their big chance and have to live with the result. They become somewhat apathetic, but not so much that society crumbles. Instead it is more like a society for whom the joy has gone. No matter what they have, they know it is better on the other side of the wall. No matter what they are doing, they are constantly distracted by what they missed. When they talk with their neighbors, they are consciously embarrassed to be there because they know the mistakes they made that led to being excluded and that everyone else knows what those mistakes were also. It is like a criminal having his rap sheet stapled to his forehead for everyone to read. In this case though, criminality was not the defining characteristic used for the sorting process. Although I don't remember this specific example from the dream, based on what I do remember, it is plausible to me that some criminals would have been sorted to the "good" side of the wall, while some law-abiding citizens aren't. The reason is that love, kindness, and compassion were much more important qualities, beside which abeyance to other laws is less important.

I really have a hard time discussing dreams that have strong religious overtones (as this one does) because I am not particularly keen on any given religion, though I recognize and do appreciate some of them for what they offer. This particular dream sounds more Christian than anything else to me, but it isn't totally inconsistent with Islam or Judaism either. In it, after some trials on earth (principally war of the type we see going on with ISIS), angels come to earth to make it ready for God's return. Some people are forewarned of the event and told where God will be when he returns. If they are there when the time comes, they will live with God in his holy "City of Truth". Please keep in mind that this is a powerful dream I am recounting, that does not mean that I accept every word as literally true. As far as I am concerned, I'm just the typist for these things, even if I do find them interesting.

So there is a time and place, and some people have been given this information, including me, apparently. When he arrives, I sense, then see, the leading edge of his aura, which is overwhelming. Then I black out and wake on the other side of the holy city, four months later. In that time, the city has been established and only those who were given the warning are allowed in. The rest of the world is the same, except that the wars seem to have ended and almost everyone feels like they've really blown it by living their lives the way they did. As I make my way to the holy city, I witness changes to the environment: the mood, the degraded city services, less innovation, the sullenness. There is some crime, but I don't know if it was more or less than we have now. It may have been less because everyone was now aware that nothing they did escaped God's notice. Those who wanted to harm others felt themselves somewhat constrained by this knowledge and that made them antsy also.

Anyway, I hope that answers your question.

AP

I sometimes wonder if this is just a cultural thing, that the values of materialist Western society drive this bleakness. I occasionally watch programs showing native "uncivilized" tribes, and what strikes me is how happy and welcoming they seem. I'm not an expert on this, just an impression, and I could be totally off. But so many first-worlders seem so unhappy and miserable. And the message we seem to get is - you have an iphone, reality TV, pornography, of course you should be happy! The Western-values model just seems to too-much over-emphasize gaining possessions, showing off, and competing with others. Or maybe this bleakness is just a symptom of end-times capitalism, which I think we're in.

Michael: I agree with your speculation. The denizens of the dark dimensions are constantly knocking at our psychic doors. They want to download dark scripts into our collective consciousness.

My take: Resist them.

Dwell on light, love, higher consciousnesses, higher beings -- however one wants to conceptualize it.

Darkness is no match for light. Light wins every time. Yes, struggle occurs. But, light trumps darkness.

My take is that we are in this for the long haul, spanning many lifetimes. Darkness always loses in the long run.

My view :)

"Imagine what would happen if all the honest, kind, generous, forgiving, compassionate, loving people in the world lived on one side of a fence and everyone else lived on the other side. "

Andy, thanks for the detailed explanation. What confused me was that I thought you were saying that the less advanced souls were entirely weeded out from the earth environment.

"To use a financial allegory, it was as if God had given every person a winning lottery ticket at birth, but the majority of people didn't believe they had any value so they used them as toilet paper then threw them away."

This has a lot in common with my own belief that we are each a piece of God, temporarily separated from the rest, and largely unaware of it.

"This particular dream sounds more Christian than anything else to me"

Unlike some of your other dreams, this one seems spiritual to me but not tied to any specific religion.

I’ve been finding myself more and more uncomfortable with the Walking Dead. Been watching it since the start. But, I’ve never (I know, contradiction.) been a fan of Zombies. I have loved horror and ghost stories since my youth. But, the vampires (not the sparkly kind) were in a way really cool since they lived forever and could have any woman they desired. (Calling Dr. Freud) The ghost story was about survival after death. So, that had an attraction. I find the zombie to be mindless, pointless and ultimately boring. You don’t even have the occasional self reflection of the Vampire. Remember Lestat and Anne Rice? Anyway, Douglas made a good point earlier with this statement:

I think there is *also* some connection between the zombie meme and the current materialist paradigm which is being drip fed into every facet of our society and world view. After all, according to this worldview, we are simply 'meat machines', not far from zombies really? I think people are connecting with zombie symbolism in some way as a means to process the uncomfortable implications of our present world view.

That is something that bothers me about the Walking Dead and our society in general right now. It’s so focused on me and mine vs them. I do like Leonard Nimoy and of course Spock. (he just passed) But, I absolutely disagree. The need of the many Do Not outweigh the needs of the few or the one. We all mean something.
Unless, of course you really believe we are just brain farts. ;-)

I think part of the attraction we have to zombies is related to the state of world affairs: In today's tough times, simply killing enough bad guys/Communists/Nazis/etc. won't lead to the end of conflicts, the ones of which we have now seem to have no end in sight. With zombies, however, it's much less complicated. Kill them all, and you'll save the world. No moral complications, no philosophical conundrums. It's all nice and easy with clear-cut bad guys and good guys, and probably a form a stress relief from our complicated world.

With regards to all the apocalyptic imagery and downbeat scenarios we see in movies these days, I think it's because those of us in first world countries subconsciously fear that we're in our golden age and that it's coming to an end, and these movies are our attempt to try and deal with that: project our fears into a fantasy and confront it that way. Do negative entities have a hand in that? Perhaps; I've read on some spiritual sites that negative entities gain strength from negative energy that humanity gives off. Thus, it would be logical for them to influence those in the entertainment industry to make films that would release a lot of negative energy that they could consume. Or maybe they just want to drag humanity down, and what better way than by making our entertainment as dark as possible?

Regardless of whatever answer may be true, it would be nice to see more uplifting, or at least hopeful outcomes in our movies these days.

The darkness is often associated with evil, hence shadowlands, but this has to be a vestige of that human beings are diurnal creatures and tend to see the darkness as a place where there may be hazards. This implies that the spirits of the deceased have not been entirely stripped of their biological nature despite leaving behind their organic bodies; so the negative postmortem state of nocturnal sentient beings would be lightlands.

The growing trend toward emotional darkness in most new motion pictures seems to be aided and abetted by the inexorable aesthetic degradation of commercial movie technology - the actual declining quality of the images audiences are able to see in theaters. This is the replacement of analog film in cameras and theater projectors with digital video technology - the almost infinite range of chemical reactions in film emulsion being replaced by discrete digitally controlled pixels. Besides being cheaper in many ways digital actually produces the sort of downbeat, emotionally dark effect that directors, screenwriters and producers seem to want nowdays.

To generalize, digital is cold, hollow, and ‘too clean’ (despite the pixels being slightly smoothed over) for an overall murky, smeary effect, whereas analog film is full, flowing, vivid, bright and contrasty. Color wise, digital is far inferior, usually (compared to film) having a brownish, orangeish, or greenish murky tint.

I think this overall effect is, besides being an artifact of the digital video technology, an actual artistic choice of the 'film'makers.

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