The Lure of Darkness
There seems to be a lure towards darkness. As the Phantom of the opera tells us, the darkness is seductive. It is amazing that this character who is a serial killer gets portrayed with such sympathy. But he does. People love the Phantom.
Children are afraid of the dark for the monsters they fear hide in it. But they grow up to be adults who are just as often drawn to it, lured to it for its purported appeal of power. The darkness has a slick which lures us, ever so gently.
Many, many years ago I dated a woman who claimed that her family was a part of the Gambino Crime Family. She described the anxiety her family felt when big Paul Castellano (“Big Paulie”) got whacked by John Gotti. They didn’t know what to expect. She described how the FBI came to all the family gatherings. Her Aunt Jenny had also married a man in the Gambino family. She calmly related how her Aunt Jenny would have to kiss the ring of “Cousin Joey” when she and her husband went to family gatherings. Her uncle, she claimed, was a Capo in the family. He was a butcher in ordinary life. I shook his hand once and. I thought he was going to break it. There was an icy coldness about him. I dated this woman and went with her to family occasions. Once at the dinner table I made the mistake of mentioning an opera company which I described as Mafioso. People’s heads shot up and their eyes almost popped out. I always had a knack for faut pas!
When I first moved to New York for my operatic career I had to supplement my opera income with other gigs and often sang in Italian restaurants. The Godfather had just come out and everybody was talking about it. Real “Wise Guys” would come into the restaurants and talk about how they were famous now! Even they were taken by the glamorous mob figures the movie presented. Soon the whole country was obsessed with the characters. But the real Wise Guys were not at all glamorous. They were cold as ice and dead serious. They believed, as surely as Iago, in the darkness they lived in.
Several times I sang in an Italian restaurant run by a guy who had been a book keeper for the mob. His tough wife ran the place. One evening the great baritone from the Metropolitan Opera, Mario Sereni, walked in. I sang Nemico della Patria for him and he motioned for me to come to his table. He was very complimentary about my singing and every bit a Divo. We talked shop a bit and then in walked a dozen Wise Guys. The air froze and everybody stopped talking. They went downstairs to have a meeting. Gradually people resumed their conversations. Sereni had sung a lot of operatic roles that I aspired to sing and so I picked his brain for a while. Finally natured called and I excused myself to go to the wash room which in this restaurant was down stairs. Sereni grabbed my arm and asked, “Where are you going?” I told him, “I need to go to the John.” He shook his head and said, “Better you piss yourself than to go down there. When they are down there, you stay up here.” I got it.
When I wasn’t performing opera, I was often bartending at the Asti Restaurant in Greenwich Village. One of my friends had introduced me to this opera restaurant shortly after I moved to New York and I loved it. It was owned by Adolfo Mariani who had been a pretty good baritone himself. He studied with Madame Schuman-Heink but discovered he just wasn’t quite good enough to make a career out of singing so he opened a restaurant. There were lots of Italian restaurants, so to make his distinct, he began singing behind the bar, using the bell of the cash register for some accompaniment. Soon the waiters were singing. Then he hired some singers to perform arias and ensembles. After a while The Asti became the place where opera singers would go after a performance. Adolfo covered the walls with the pictures of all the great singers who came and sang there. After many years the quality of the singers hired for the restaurant became less distinguished and the show became more of a comedy or parody on opera, but people still loved to go there and great singers would still come and sing. My friend took me there and I loved the place. A Neapolitan baritone was singing La Donna e Mobile and I could hear that it was a step down in key. I wondered what he was going to do at the end. He started to go down and so from the table I sang the high note to end the aria, a high A in his key. People applauded and cheered. Adolfo came to the table and introduced himself. He was such a gentleman and a great raconteur. “You’ve got quite a voice,” he said. “Sing something for us.” I got up and sang the prologue to I Pagliacci and the whole place went nuts. Adolfo and I became friends and The Asti became almost a home away from home.
I sang at the Asti so many times and finally got on A&E while singing there. One evening I sang an aria that really brought the house down and a couple of well dressed gentlemen called me over to their table They said they were “investment bankers” from Denver and liked my singing so much they wanted to talk to me about my career. They proposed that they would become “limited partners” in my career in exchange for an equity interest in it. In my beginning lean years they would advance me a guaranteed salary of $50,000 a year and make certain contacts that would enable my career to grow. For a young singer just starting his career this sounded like a heavenly gift. They suggested that I contact them through a lawyer and draw up the deal. I utilized one of my contacts in the opera world who was a stock broker on Wall Street and asked if he would make the deal. Soon drafts were flying back and forth. But one day I caught the whiff of something Faustian in the air. They wanted the contract to be “for life.” We got them to change the wording to “for the life of my voice.” That seemed better but by this time I was getting a very uneasy feeling. I wanted to know who they really represented. I had a friend in New Jersey who had mob contacts so I asked her to check them out. Sure enough, they worked for the mob in Denver. No sooner did she check them out than they found out she checked them out! As soon as they discovered that I knew who they were they backed out of the deal!! All during this process when drafts were flying and it looked like the deal was a done job, I had feelings of titillation and power. I was going on up to the East Side…finally got a piece of the pie! The lure of darkness is to believe in it. Wise Guys are the high priests of a dualistic world that believes it is separate from God. They share that role with priests, ministers, rabbis and gurus. You say. “Teach something abstract man. I know there is evil. Just read the newspaper.” How much we have invested in the belief in evil! If evil is real, God is not. You can’t have it both ways. If you can justify hating your brother, God will remain unknown to you. Dualistic systems complain that Monism does not do “justice” to the problem of evil and suffering in the world. But no justice is done in affirming the reality of something that must be illusory. The lure of darkness is to believe in it. The belief that darkness is real and that it can fight the light is as illusory as a nightmare. To believe in darkness is to give it power it can never have in truth. In Verdi’s Otello Iago said:
“I believe in a cruel god who has created me in his image, and whom in hate, I call upon. From some vile germ or base atom was I born. I am evil because I am a man; and I feel the primordial slime in me. Yes! This is my creed. I believe with a firm heart, just as does the young widow in church, that the evil I think and which from me proceeds was decreed for me by fate. I believe that the honest man is a mocking buffoon and both in face and heart, everything in him is a lie; tears, kisses, glances, sacrifices and honor. And I believe man to be the plaything of a wicked fate, from the germ of the cradle to the worm of the grave. And after this derision comes death. And then. And then. Death is nothingness. Heaven is an old wives’ tale.”From this thought system came all the illusions which followed in the play with its tragic end.
A Course in Miracles gives us a non-dualistic system. It says, “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all encompassing can have no opposite. This Course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way: Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
The world we see of opposites, of good and bad, inhabited by separated creatures, is not real. It has no more reality than a child’s nightmare. It is a mistake in thought. It stems from a tiny mad idea that we could be different from God, even hurt him, offend him, or receive punishment from him. It is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden. It is an illusion. The world of duality which we see was not made by God. We made it, and we continue to make it every day by projecting the opposite. There is in truth nothing opposite to God’s Love. It is all encompassing. But by a mistake in thought we have created fear and projected it. This nightmare world is no more real than Iago’s creed, but we believe in it. We give in to the lure of darkness in our tiny made idea that we could be different from God, offend him, hurt him, be punished by him. And then, like the Phantom, we strive to convince others that this darkness is not only real but better than the light.
heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defences …
Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendour
Grasp it, sense it – tremulous and tender
Turn your face away
from the garish light of day,
turn your thoughts away
from cold, unfeeling light –
and listen to the music of the night …
Close your eyes and surrender to your
Purge your thoughts of the life
you knew before!
Close your eyes,
let your spirit start to soar!
And you’ll live
as you’ve never lived before …
music shall surround you …
Feel it, hear it,
closing in around you …
Open up your mind,
let your fantasies unwind,
in this darkness which
you know you cannot fight –
the darkness of the music of the night …
Let your mind start a journey
through a strange new world!
Leave all thoughts
of the world you knew before!
Let your soul take you where you
long to be !
Only then can you belong to me …
Floating, falling, sweet intoxication!
Touch me, trust me savour each sensation!
Let the dream begin,
let your darker side give in
to the power of the music that I write –
the power of the music of the night …
You alone can make my song take flight –
help me make the music of the night . . .
As odd as it may sound, all dualistic systems sing this song. They need to make the darkness real. They need to have a vengeful god who punishes the wicked. They need to have a Satan and a hell where he can be tortured forever along with the wicked.
The truth is: Only God and His extensions of Love are real. Whatever is not of love is not real. God is spirit. Whatever is not of spirit is not real. Nothing real can be threatened. It is not at risk. It cannot be harmed. It cannot be offended. Nothing unreal exists. The world of form we see is made up from a tiny error in thought. And from this error comes the nightmarish belief that we have offended God and have fallen from his favor.
In the famous words of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God:”
“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some detestable insect, over the fire, detests you, and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath towards you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be thrown into the fire; He eyes are too pure than to bear to have you in His sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in His eyes, than the most hateful venomous snake is in ours. You have offended Him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet, it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell last night; that you were allowed to awake up again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose this morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in this church, provoking His pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending His solemn worship. Yes, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.”
This is the insane thought that comes from our tiny mad idea just as the whole drama of Othello proceeded from Iago’s insane creed. We are given in every moment the light of the Holy Spirit to keep us from the lure of darkness. We are given God’s love in place of our fear. We are given his whole so that we will not have to project the opposite. We must forget the world that we have made and remember Heaven which is our home, and where we remain still. The first step is to forgive our brother for what he has never in truth done to us. As we forgive we remember more of our true identity as God’s Son. We travel but in dreams while safely at Home. The lure of darkness is not real.