Written and Photographed By Federico Mata
Lack of light attracts the senses to danger… to the unknown, the void. A great mystery is inherently present when the nocturnal aspects of nature manifests themselves to the psyche. When the luminescence is missing from the scene of what’s seen, a rebellion occurs: that which is usually hidden, is released. All bets are off, a true sense of living is at hand. The night has come, and it is early.
If waking hours are for work, night is for play. There is the sense of something more real within the nocturnal essence, something more authentic. We humans tend to feel much more loose, more relaxed at night, the seriousness of the day is for the moment, forgotten. Yet, at the same time, we take the night-time very seriously: -in partying, the way we dress, our language, the innuendo… serious fun. It all brings a romanticism that is lacked during the day. Again, in a way, it is more authentic. But why, and how so? Could it be because in the light, one could see it all? Hidden in the darkness of night, a shadowed persona arises, concealing that which in other instances, the light illuminates?
How is that authentic? To what or to whom?
To understanding darkness, that which Jung referred to as the Shadow Self, the unconscious element of man must first spring forth into realization. Characterized in dreams, and usually allegorical, the hidden or occult areas of our psyche are symbolized by instances of shame, repulsed or forgotten memories due to some trauma in one’s life, usually in childhood, the formative years. These dark emotions drive the ego into a tailspin searching for luminescence within the dark void, led by ancient instinctual patterns of primitive understanding; a primal urge for destruction. These dark forces are molded during the day, yet dreamed of and manifested at night.
This curious observation, in no way definitive but speculative in its arrival, begs the question of duality: the opposing forces are in constant struggle to make sense of one another. Man’s ontological essence is eternally tied to this, and both the creative and destructive urges are found:, the light and dark. Ying/Yang. This dual nature of light/dark is an ancient motif that humanity has crafted into allegory and myth. The great heroes of mythology and modern folklore are often in a battle of light vs. dark, where ultimately the light triumphs over evil.
This is clearly seen in the stories of so-called “God men” or saviors found in antiquity. The central focus points of these myths are the birth, death, and resurrection allegories of the cycle of life. The extrapolation towards this sense of being always has to do with facing darkness with an added light. In the first incarnation, birth, the innocence and wonder of all things are clearly evident, there is plenty of light to see all things, and the imperial Self begins to take shape. Once death is reached, and all that can be done in life is more or less accomplished, the darkness takes over as one passes on to the other-world, the unknown, the void. It is unknown whether or not there is an intellectual continuance of being once one passes away to the netherworld of the void. However, the third and final act, the resurrection, is tied to the first incarnation, the birth. If one journey through life towards Self, to authentic knowledge, then death is merely a passing phase on the path to being reborn, as is told by the numerous mystery schools throughout the world.
It can then be said that this journey happens in a daily cycle: the birth of the first ray of light catches the first waking breath and inevitably leads to the setting sun, only to die at night, dwell in the darkness…until the next day, resurrecting, born again, and the cycle repeats itself. A historical example would be that of the ancient Egyptians, the myth of Horus and Seth. In this story, Horus would represents the light, Seth, Horus’s brother of the underworld, comes along vanquishing the light bearer down with darkness., Here we recognize both motifs for day/night cycles. To add another example emblematic of the day/night cycles is that of Lucifer- the fallen angel. Lucifer, Latin for light bearer, and is represented by the planet Venus, the brightest star in the night sky. The story goes that Lucifer was the Creator’s brightest angel, but became corrupted with power, choosing to live in the underworld of God, represented by the sun. Further reading can be found in the excellent book Symbols, Sex, and the Stars by Ernest Busenback. But if the night means death, a savory zest lies within it. To be ready to be born again the next day means that the night truly means to let loose, to let all inhibition out the door and enjoy the last night on Earth, as in to fulfill the cycle in mythological form. The great mystery, that which is man’s ulterior motive of living with himself, is a cyclical process of the unconscious laying the foundation through time and space.
One must be one’s own light, as is prescribed by essentially by all the world’s philosophies. The mystery of Self, if there is any, must be kept from fear. In the allegorical sense, the night allows for one’s inner sense of being to manifest a source of light in an otherwise dark setting. An act of showing the light of one’s own accumulated experience to Otherness. The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger in his master work, Being and Time, called this Otherness Das Man, as “The-they,” or the “One,” and explained it to be as the inauthentic representation of external influence, not represented as the true Dasein (“Being-there” through authentic, temporal existence, i.e., a true self). He went on to show that Das Man is also an apophantic assertion, meaning that which is present-at-hand, such as “My friend went to the party” is true yet can be picked up and repeated but the context may get lost. This is what Heidegger means as an obstacle to overcome to reach a Dasein, and one thing to consider as we put the ego along with a heavy persona for the night, and “the-they.”
Inevitably this leads us to symbols, in the fashion sense: to the tattoos, to the shoes, to the jewelry, to the makeup, the way we smell like, to how we walk, and talk, how we spend our money, to what cars we choose to drive, etc. The night brings the hard work of the day to its accumulated end. The accumulation of things becomes our mirrors, shown symbolically as representations of our moral character. The German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm called this the Marketing Orientation, and elaborates as such in his succinct work, Man for Himself:
“Since modern man experiences himself both as the seller and as the commodity to be sold on the market, his self-esteem depends on the conditions beyond his control. If he is to be “successful,” he is valuable, if he is not, he is worthless. The degree of insecurity which results from this orientation can hardly be overestimated. If one feels that one’s own value is not constituted primarily by the human qualities one possess, but by one’s own success on a competitive market with ever changing conditions, one’s self esteem is bound to be shaky and in constant need of confirmation by others. Hence on is driven to strive relentlessly for success, and any setback is a severe threat to one’s self-esteem; helplessness, insecurity, and inferiority feelings are the result. If the vicissitudes of the market are the judges of one’s own values, the sense of pride and dignity are destroyed.”
Fromm took this diagnostic in the negative, as to further elaborate on Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, where the marketing machine has made man a mindless consumer. The marketing of the night-by numerous alcoholic, automobile, clothing, and soft- drink makers, has made a business out la noche, the night. These advertising companies know all too well that we shop during the day and to consume what they sell at night, as we gather in groups. Money is to be made. Das Man then manifests itself clearly, as we market everything that we do, only to posting the light of our lives on social media. Of course, the landscape itself is another manifestation of the dwindling understanding of our darkness. To add further, eight out of ten Americans born today won’t ever live where they can see the Milky Way, so says Paul Bogard in his book The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. We are drowning in artificial light, but we seek the night, to make it bright.
This is a vivid reminder of what the darkness can mean to the very essence of existence. Fear of darkness is by no means a reason to face it, as it is not a question if, but when, the void will make an appearance in our lives.
“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”
To face the darkness is to face one’s authentic self in the mirror, and to understand it is to be in touch with the all, the infinite, the circle of creation, the place where the Brahma lives, according to the Sanskrit texts. La noche is more than the adequate place to meet it.
Model: Mariana Montes @marian_montesval
Makeup: Amy Prado @amyprad0
Assistants: Frank Chavarin, Sandra Vega