Mary Shelley’s story of Victor Frankenstein retells the Christian story of creation in which Victor Frankenstein is the new creator god who would make use of the powers of science and technology available in his time to create a new race of beings who would never know the stain of death. In her story, the creature that Victor creates abandons, and then would destroy, haunts his maker from the margins where his side of the story waits to be told.
In Mary Shelley’s story, Victor Frankenstein and the ‘Monster’ personify two opposite attitudes toward the natural world. Frankenstein intentionally cuts himself off from the natural order and rhythms of nature, eschewing the beauty of the changing seasons, refusing to be distracted from his work to reanimate dead matter. In his obsession, he adopts a purely utilitarian attitude toward the natural world.
Today, there’s a lot of buzz about mindfulness, which is wonderful. But we often neglect our sleep and dreams. Imagine how much more your life could transform if you brought mindfulness into the third of your life that you spend asleep! Our dreams are like a movie reel of our own deep unconscious imagery.
In the myth, Prometheus, whose name means forethought or foresight, is the creator of humankind but dissatisfied with the lot imposed upon them by the gods, he steals fire from the gods and gives it to mortal beings. Angered by this action, the gods take their revenge through Epimetheus, whose name means afterthought or hindsight.
Freud’s “classical” approach, and the dreamworkers who followed in this tradition, associated dream images back to events occurring in the dreamer’s past. In this context, “To associate means to find hidden connections between a dream image and past experience.”
Without a mythic context as a backdrop for our lives, we are all too easily swept up in the current of the times. This dynamic applies not only to one’s personal life, but also to the collective lives of all of us. Myths are the larger stories that provide context and as such can often have therapeutic value in times of need.
The story begins with Arthur hunting deer, when he encounters a man (oddly named Sir Gromer Somer) who accuses him of stealing his land and giving it to Gawain. The man threatens to kill or decapitate Arthur if he can’t find out what women love best within a year’s time.
How are we framing this pandemic? Some compare it to a war, or more specifically to WWII. Some use as their measure the seasonal flu or the 1918 Spanish flu. Such comparisons, however, carry with them not only the belief this crisis will pass as did the others, but they also engender the idea that we will be able to carry on as usual once the crisis has passed.
Dreaming is therapeutic. Is there a way to make it more so? Unequivocally, yes. Much like therapy, the more we invest our time and energy into our dreams, the more helpful they will be. This is not a new idea, but one that is gaining a broader spectrum of supportive evidence, moving beyond clinical case studies to include the realms of neuroscience and traumatology.
Mary Shelley’s story of Frankenstein is a psychological primer on how we make monsters. The interaction between Victor Frankenstein and the creature he makes enact this drama. Like a mirror, the monster reflects Victor’s horror of his dream to be a new god who would erase death from life.
Today we are webbed together in virtual space and time as we sit at our computers. But are we alone together, apparently connected but haunted by a sense of isolation? Do we suffer from terminal identity, a felicitous phrase that not only describes our sense of identity in the digital world, but also suggests that there might be something more pernicious about this phrase, something terminal about our addiction to the terminal?
Victor Frankenstein, as a modern Prometheus, erases the boundary between the Gods and humanity. In this boundary violation, he is following the track of modern science, whose origins lie in the mid 15th century with the artistic development of linear perspective vision. In this regard, the fictional character of Victor Frankenstein does what the historical figure Galileo did when, looking through his telescope, he erased the boundary between the uncorrupted heavenly sphere and the corrupted sphere of the earth.