Halloween keeps growing more popular. I see many more houses preparing for this holiday’s spirit. Some start decorating early in September. In my walks around various neighborhoods, I see more front lawns sprouting graveyards than ever. Great fear-mongering archetypes are used — headstones, skeletons, spiders and webs, bats, scaredy cats, and ghosts — to ratchet up the spook factor.
A major irony I notice is that through the Halloween entertainment filter, mainstream culture gets all excited about death. You could say that it honors and celebrates death. Ghosts, goblins, and ghouls become get embraced as quirkily beloved characters. In some places we even pay to get scared, like attending charity haunted houses or horror films.
As a student of death and afterlife, I am intrigued that the Halloween (and Hollywood) version of the afterlife — mostly of the haunting variety — is so popular. In contrast, many of those who eagerly celebrate Halloween want nothing to do with (okay, I’ll say it) real-life afterlife studies. Why do we honor gore and trauma in a holiday or at the movies but ignore what afterlife research suggests are the consequences of true death?
I think it’s the fun factor. Halloween has merged with that most awesome of forces: marketing, marketing, marketing. In this venue, death is peddled for its entertainment value. In contrast, “real” death is up close and personal, and it is primarily sold to us as sad, tragic, miserable, heartbreaking, definitely not delightful.
This creates an unusual (if you think about it too much) paradox: it’s OK to put a headless zombie on your front porch for entertainment value — nudge, nudge wink, wink. However, if a neighbor down the street gets murdered and decapitated, you must haul out plenty of righteous indignation, conspiracy theories, and speeches about law and order.
DEVIL OR ANGEL?
For years I have observed a strange relationship between good and evil. There is a difference between pretend evil and the real deal. Back in 1990 when I first went online, I noticed how flirting in a text-based medium invoked the idea that evil was sexy. People often added <evil grin> as body language punctuation for something naughty they said. Whenever I saw that, I thought to myself, “Is sex really evil?”
This followed a trend throughout the media that characterized sexuality as devilish or hellish. The delights of ooey-gooey sex were portrayed as a ticket to hell if you veered away from monogamous heterosexual marriage. In contrast, angelic beings seemed peculiarly disinterested in all things erotic.
I learned these stereotypes of devil and angel as a young child watching cartoons. I remember loving those scenes where the devil spoke from one side of a person and an angel from another. The devil was often depicted as the fun one. The angel was often portrayed as a snooty, judgmental bore.
So I learned that evil was wrong but fun. Carry that much, much farther down the highway of sophistication and we encounter the social paradigm that having a really good time requires bedding down with the devil. You have to rebel against sanitized social order and quit being such a damn prude. For example, really hot sex is frequently depicted as breaking the rules, usually rules initiated by religions that controlled the populace through fear and punishment. Evil, then, is often depicted as flipping the bird against oppressive religious dictates. That’s where <evil grin> comes from.
It’s not from evil like conquering another country and raping and torturing everyone.
Of course you may wonder what this has to do with Halloween where it’s fun to dress up as a serial killer. For fun I may dress up as celebrity serial killer Charles Sobhraj and get lots of happy chatter at a Halloween party, even though the real Charles Sobhraj murdered a real friend of mine.
EVIL IS FUN, ECSTASY ISN’T
In its glorification of the horror genre, Halloween seems to support the premise that evil is entertaining. Gore is fun, mischief is fun, anarchy is fun. (And you get candy, too!) But Halloween doesn’t celebrate the idea that real-life death is fun, nor does it acknowledge that ecstatic experiences are fun?
Like materialist science, Halloween turns a blind eye to ecstasy. Our whole mass media is anti-ecstasy.
Strangely, in mainstream culture, ecstasy is not taught. I would wager to say that most people who hear the term ecstasy these days are hearing about the drug, not the natural state of ecstatic consciousness. Sometimes they hear about it as the ecstasy of winning something or as a synonym for orgasm, but it is entirely too rare that ecstasy or bliss consciousness is described or depicted. Out of sight, out of mind.
We live in a world where it is more routine to wallow in conflict and misery than to mentally open ourselves to receiving bliss. When I have been in a funk and have wanted to find some media to re-set my state of mind, it has amazed me how difficult it is to find mood-enhancing media (especially before search engines were invented.) Religion is commonly offered as a solution, but many places of worship seem to me to wallow in seriousness to the point of misery. Is religion supposed to occupy a no-joy zone? Are angels supposed to be zombies, cheerless cheerleaders for God? Don’t they like to laugh and party? Is laughter allowed in sacred spaces?
So in this atmosphere, Halloween comes along. While the holiday is geared towards children and much is designed around age-appropriateness, the holiday is still centered around the “trick or treat” concept. Dole out candy or get fear retribution. Isn’t that essentially what the billionaire (and the Mafia) class says, too? Trick or treat?
I know that many of you love Halloween. I am not trying to take that away from you. I am trying instead to simply point out that there is a huge imbalance in our social approach to good and evil.
People who have returned from classic near-death experiences often describe the sheer ecstasy they felt on their journey. Nothing like it here. Many also say that words cannot begin to adequately describe this ultimate joy ride. Returning to business as usual often becomes a most dreadful challenge.
It sounds something like PTSD, but instead of trauma, they experienced bliss far beyond just having a good day. Beyond pleasure, beyond triumph, beyond a five-day-long orgasm. When they get back, they have to integrate this experience with all the hardships and pain of the physical world that does not accept “fairy stories” of other dimensions. Instead of having nightmares about the horrors of warfare, they feel deep loneliness and separation from the best world they have ever known.
Halloween symbolism includes very little of the fun of dying often featured in near-death experiences and afterlife research in general. Even though the holiday is all about having fun, the decorations are ghoulish, often focusing on mutilation and other manifestations of the macabre that you probably would not like to encounter in the middle of the night on your way to go potty.
Imagine having had a near-death experience that was entirely ecstatic, and then returning to a planet where many people thought of death as total misery. Then answer the doorbell on Halloween and see a bunch of happy kids dressed as corpses standing on your front porch, candy bags gaping wide. .
Ghosts and ghost stories play heavily into the lore of Halloween, but so-called ghost hunting is kind of a twister sister of afterlife research. Seeking to capture ghost presences with digital equipment is too often approached for kicks and grins and the occasional thrill ride panic attack. It is usually not approached as a serious, respectful, and humanitarian endeavor to help lost, wandering spirits. (See this excellent article.)
Halloween marketing, along with Hollywood business as usual, perpetuate ignorance about ghosts. Research suggests that ghosts are earthbound spirits tragically stuck in a twilight zone between earth and heaven. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re dead. Sometimes they are in shock, unwilling to move on, perhaps fearing a hell and brimstone place that religion and horror shows predicted.
Using ghosts as targets for “research” by recreation-seekers is like deliberately seeking out troubled souls on the street to pester and photograph. It usually doesn’t contribute to an understanding of the survival of consciousness. It’s usually approached with the prime objective of getting some exciting video footage, not helping humanity.
I believe that for every depiction of a peaceful death, the mass psyche endures thousands of depictions of miserable death. We are way out of balance on showing positive possibilities, such as the material that is so frequently shared at afterlife conferences.
HALLOWEEN OF THE FUTURE
In a different world, Halloween (or a holiday like it) might be set aside to celebrate the fun of dying. Author Roberta Grimes came up with the slogan for her book aptly named The Fun of Dying. It’s a nice counterpoint to the fear of dying.
The new Halloween might celebrate that we are all attending Earth School for the purpose of soul evolution. With advances in afterlife research including the soul phone, we might gain more of a picture of the relationship between lives on earth and lives in other dimensions, popularly known as heaven. The new Halloween might be more about gratitude and appreciation for the grand design of the cosmic system.
Some kind soul on Facebook reminded me of this little gem. It shows perfectly what I would like to see the spirit of Halloween be like. The animated short is 3:41, well worth the time to get a feel for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead.)