In recent years zombies have become an increasingly popular theme in movies, television, and literature. From what I can tell, they have also been spending a lot more time stumbling across the landscape of peoples’ dreams. What is it about the walking dead that has captured the interest of so many people? Or, perhaps a better question is: what is taking place in our society and our individual psychologies that makes zombies a relevant theme?
Unlike a ghost, which is a disembodied spirit, a zombie is a dis-spirited body. They are human entities which behave as if they are alive yet they are “dead.” Their soul/spirit is elsewhere. They lack consciousness and the spark of life. If we look at this image symbolically, zombies represent ourselves when we have lost touch with our own soul, when we move like automatons, blindly and more or less unconsciously through life. We may appear to be awake when in fact we have fallen asleep to our soul, the font of our individuality.
Carl Jung once wrote: “The more you cling to that which all the world desires, the more you are Everyman, who has not yet discovered himself and stumbles through the world like a blind man leading the blind with somnambulistic certainty into the void where all the paralyzed ones follow him. Everyman is always a multitude. Cleanse your interest of that collective sulphur [an alchemical symbol of desire] which clings to all like a leprosy. For desire only burns in order to burn itself out, and in and from this fire arises the true living spirit which generates life according to its own laws…” (MysteriumConiunctionis, CW 14, pars. 189ff)
The “Everyman” for Jung is the societal man, the part of us that thinks, values and behaves in accordance with the collective viewpoint of the many. To the extent that we see and live within the bubble of this perspective, much of our thinking and feeling is done for us by others and we lose touch with our own individuality. As we are educated into the desires of the world we are often de-educated from the desires of our soul. The result of this is what Jung calls a “somnambulistic certainty,” a sleepwalking arrogance, otherwise known as egocentricity. We are entranced by our own worldview and goals, but fall utterly asleep to the wisdom and values of our deeper self.
In my experience, when people dream of zombies it is often because they are losing or have lost touch with their individuality. They may be relying on the consensual “wisdom” of society rather than seeking out and trusting the guidance of their own soul and intuition. They are falling asleep to their inner spirituality and calling. Such dreams should be taken seriously and not brushed aside as the chance result, for example, of a zombie show you recently viewed. It is important to reflect on the ways you may be trading your soul for conformity, and a path of consciousness for unconsciousness.
In recent years zombies have taken on a new characteristic. Modern depictions of zombies show them to be more violent and carnivorous towards the living. They are more determined and contagious, readily transmitting their deadness and somnambulism to those they attack. Why is this trend occurring? I believe it reflects a more virulent and aggressive process of soul attack, clone-making, and spiritual unconsciousness in the world today. For example, time- and mind-wasting activities beckon daily, vying for attention through your phone, computer and television. Is the newest video game or reality TV show helping you develop your unique potential and gifts? Is Facebook adding to the depth and quality of your relationships? Are the latest spiritual and metaphysical fads (e.g., The Secret) helping you become more conscious of your shadow, or do they just embolden your ego?
The values of materialism, narrow self-interest, and expediency are on the rise, displacing the character-building values of honesty, integrity, compassion, and service. What better metaphor than the zombie to depict the psychological and spiritual cannibalism that is starting to proliferate in our society? What better image to describe people who are falling asleep to the reality and value of their own souls?