Dragon, painted by Koizumi Junsaku
Photograph by Lee van Laer
What do we actually desire?
What an appropriate question for Halloween.
This is a very dangerous question; because what we actually desire, from the parts of us that are not connected to something real, not devoted to God, come exclusively out of the darkness, and it is very deep indeed.
From time to time, more often every day now, an individual succumbs completely to what comes out of this darkness and we read about it in the news. The darkness is a very big thing, and it wants to swallow Being and goodness; everyone has this in them. It is part of the mystery: and a necessary one, although the reasons for it are impossible for us to understand.
I think that when we encounter this idea of a struggle between desires and non-desires, we are inevitably in tempted to cast it in terms of a morality; and perhaps it does take place on that territory, but the morality is not one drawn in human hands. Many desires come from places that can't be defined, and seem to exist completely separate from all the real human impulses we ought to have; in point of fact, one could say — as they used to in classical times — that they come from demons, from urges, that is, evil spirits, elemental forces that are destructive in nature.
In my experience, if a human being is truly willing to see their desires, they will surely know the difference between our lower and higher natures, and between God and the devil, because both God and the devil are inside us, that is, the territory occupied by the divine, or truth, and the profane, or untrue. This relationship is defined by the inner nature of our Being and by the nature of our consciousness, not by the external manifestations that take place after the conflict is engaged in within. Everything that takes place outside is only a consequence of this struggle, not the struggle itself. It takes place first in us; only then does it emerge as adultery, murder, war.
There is no doubt that the good is real; but the good consists, one begins to suspect, of our non-desires, and not our desires.
So there's peculiar irony, then, in wearing dress that casts us in the roles of witches, vampires, zombies. Perhaps this is the one night a year where we are willing to show ourselves and others what we are. Of course we can laugh about it and make it a lighthearted Mardi Gras of the dead; but as we go about, on every other day of the year, tearing each other — in the world — apart at the seams as we pursue our selfish wants, it doesn't seem so funny, does it?
This becomes the lead in for a series of essays I've been meaning to write about the difference between Love, the Good, and Mercy. That will be undertaken beginning with the next post.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.