A Psychological Theory of Vampirism

I'm one of those scientific types who don't believe in the supernatural so my first reaction was skepticism. However, because of my romantic streak, I really wanted to believe in the existence of vampires in all their supernatural glory. So I discussed this with a friend who has a degree in psychology. The question was: is it possible that there can be real, supernatural, blood drinking, classical vampires?

By MoonlightWe came up with the following theory.

Just as magic can be interpreted as science which is too advanced for us to understand, so the supernatural can be interpreted as psychology we don't fully understand yet. Using Carl Jung's theory of a collective unconscious, and Joseph Campbell's theory of a mythology common to all man we derived that vampirism must be a form of possession by an archetype. Before I explain this, I'm going to go over some of Jung's and Campbell's terminology as well as their philosophy as I understand it. This is so that you all know where I'm coming from when show why I think this theory works.

Now in Jung's psychology, there is the self (your self, my self etc...) which has two sides (sort of like yin and yang) the conscious mind or ego and it's opposite, the shade (unconscious mind) or tap into the collective unconscious. The unconscious is the part of the mind which is the repository and source of all our emotional, intuitive thinking. In Jung's theory, while our egos remain separate, our unconscious minds are linked into what he termed the collective unconscious. This is the place where we get our dreams, our strongest primal beliefs, and our symbolism from. In their work and case studies, both Jung and Campbell made the discovery that there are common themes and symbols in psychology and myths from person to person and people to people. Jung called these symbols or themes archetypes.

According to Joseph Campbell, most religions of the world contain some belief that a person can get possessed by a spirit or daemon for good or evil or just because it's natural to do this sometimes. According to Carl Jung most of us in everyday life are possessed by a spirit known as the ego (our *own* spirit if you will.) Most of the time when we are dreaming, we are possessed by our shade. Then there are the times when we are possessed equally by both sides: for example when we act on impulse or intuition and turn out to be right. There are also times when we are thoroughly possessed by the collective unconscious in one area of thinking while simultaneously being possessed by the ego in another area of thinking. Lucid dreaming for example where our state of consciousness is possessed by our shade, but our awareness within this possession has been possessed by the ego or conscious mind. In our dreams we take on many different roles as part of the possession and even if we don't, the other characters in our dreams represent aspects of our selves. So what ever archetypes they represent, we are partially possessed by during the dream state.

This is theoretically possible in waking life as well. It operates mildly in everyone's lives. For example the mature college student who goes home for the holidays, once steeped in family life, starts acting like she did back in high-school when she lived with her parents even though she'd never act like that in her dorm at school. In this case the college student becomes possessed by the family's local collective unconscious idea that she has a certain place and is expected to occupy it at all times. This is why it's so hard for most young people to break out of that pattern and relate to their parents and familial elders as equals and friends.

In some of Jung's case studies, there were patients who had, it seemed, been possessed by daemons or other archetypal fantastic creatures. These were people who either believed themselves to be someone they weren't, like an historical figure, or and animal or an elf, or a god etc... This is not always unhealthy according to Campbell. There are many cultures where the use of temporary possession is considered very important to spiritual growth and healing. The key word here is temporary or at least the concept that it is possible to come back to reality when one chooses. It's not considered healthy either to be constantly possessed by a given archetype of the collective unconscious, or be constantly possessed by ego. Unfortunately most of our society is in the latter state of mind.

How does this lead up to the existence of vampires? Here's what I think. Because there seems to be some version of a vampire myth in every culture, it is logical to assume that the vampire is an archetype. Now everyone's personality is different because everyone's ego is a little different and likewise everyone has a different set of archetypes they primarily tap into out of the collective unconscious. In other words everyone's shade personality is a little different from everyone else's. I suppose it is safe to assume that the shade personality of nearly everyone on the list has a large component of the vampire archetype.

We all tap into that aspect of the collective unconscious. And of course we all have our differences too. For example, large components of Firefly's and Cat's shades include the feline archetype, whereas I identify more with the dragon archetype and Kiwi and Black Eagle have an avian archetypes.

For the purpose of discussion, I'm going to use Firefly and Cat as examples since their shades are similar. Firefly has only allowed herself to be possessed to the extent that she can write compassionately and realistically about feline vampires. Cat, on the other hand has totally immersed her identity into the archetype so that she is now entirely possessed by it. She is another example like the lucid dreamer of a person who is totally possessed by her shade in one area, in this case her physical identity, and at the same time possessed by her conscious ego in the area of awareness rendering her a suave and sophisticated, intelligent vampire rather than a revenant.

People who are possessed by their shade often undergo significant physical changes during the possession. This can explain why someone possessed by the vampire archetype would genuinely be dependent on blood for survival and why their body could fight off any diseases incurred while drinking it. This also explains the growth of fangs, the over sensitivity to sunlight as well as an allergy to garlic, the appearance of not aging or aging more slowly and the ability to heal her self and others.

People who are possessed also have great presence and subtle hypnotic influence over others since they are directly linked to the collective unconscious. This can explain the famous vampiric charisma and hypnotic powers. It also explains how the possession can be passed on. The vampire induces the strong belief in the person they intend to turn that this is for real and therefor is successful in bringing the turnee over to the shade side of being. As for reflecting in mirrors: It's easy enough for the vampire herself to be convinced that she doesn't reflect and because of the subtle unconscious influence she has over the minds of those around her they wouldn't see her reflection either. Holy symbols might have an effect just as was discussed before on the list. Strong belief on the part of the potential victim would by it's very nature (derived from the collective unconscious) be an effective weapon against such a vampire.

Copyright 1991 Toni Benjamin

Quantum Mechanic
Charter Member: SOAS

Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1991 21:55:41 -0400
From: Barbara Weitbrecht (IRMSS100@SIVM)
Subject:Quantum Mechanic's Jungian vampires

I just read Quantum Mechanic's impressive explanation of vampirism in terms of Jungian psychology. Bravo! This theory (possession by an archetype) could apply to other supernatural beings as well, such as werewolves and other shape-shifters.

I'm not qualified to comment on QM's theory in its own terms (Jungian psychology is not one of my strong points) but I would like to offer another analogy from my own fields, computer programming and organismal biology.

This node (as you can tell from its name, SIVM), uses the VM operating system. VM stands for 'virtual machine'. If you ignore the fact that there is really only one CPU and we're just taking turns with it, you can visualize VM as being many little 'virtual machines' sharing one big physical machine. Each user works with his own virtual machine, under the illusion that the entire mainframe is at his disposal.

There are also 'disconnected machines' -- virtual machines working away by themselves without human supervision. I believe the analogous critter on UNIX is called a 'daemon', an appropriate choice of words as you shall see.

Well, from what I have read about human brain function, I'm pretty sure that our physical brains are inhabited by lots of little virtual minds. Some take care of simple tasks like detecting moving edges in the visual field.

Some take care of motor details so we can walk without thinking about which muscles to use. And some (set speculation on) are in charge of the unconscious. Only the virtual mind that has charge of 'the microphone of consciousness' (not my phrase, but a nice one) is perceived as 'me'. But just because they aren't hogging the microphone doesn't mean that those other minds aren't thinking. Occasionally they present us with their conclusions, and we say 'Aha!'

If you indulge in creative pursuits you'll know exactly what I mean. Did you ever have an idea and think, 'Whoa! Where did *that* come from?' And who is in charge of choreographing your dreams, if it's not one of your virtual minds? Do you really think they're coming from outside your brain? Ever wonder why you snap to attention when someone says your name, even though you were concentrating on something else? *You* may have been concentrating, but *someone* was listening.

And what better way to explain multiple personalities than to suppose that something has gone wrong with the usual assignment of chores, and some of those other minds are grabbing the microphone? Almost every disease is caused by a normal process that has become defective. The defects just expose 'the man behind the curtain' who was there all along.

So what does this have to do with vampires? If you have a tap into the collective unconscious, some physical/informational structure must be doing the tapping. (My prejudice, but effects usually have causes when the effects are larger than the quantum uncertainty.) So suppose I do, indeed, have a virtual mind that is tapping an archetype, specifically the vampire archetype, and suppose that virtual mind grabs the microphone of consciousness -- suddenly I, meaning whatever is animating my physical body -- sincerely believes that it is a vampire.

Just another multiple personality disorder? Partly -- but since this *is* a tap to the collective unconscious, my thoughts will influence other people's perceptions too. So they will 'see' me vanish from mirrors, or fly, or dissolve into a mist.

So intensive long-term therapy might cure vampires (fluff attack! fluff attack!) in the same way the multiple personalities can be integrated. Whether the vampire would want to be cured is another story.

Mentally healthy folks like us can keep our vampiric personalities under control by role-playing on the list, or gaming, or fluff- writing. But since we're just sharing the microphone, not handing it over, the supernatural aspects of the vampiric persona are absent or weakened. But if the vampire really gained control -- well, just think what yogis and martial artists can do with their bodies, or what is possible under hypnosis, which are only partial surrenders of the self. If a vampire could do only these things, wouldn't you be impressed? If the vampire were even stronger, *and* hypnotically controlled your perceptions of itself by affecting your unconscious, you would be convinced it was really a supernatural being. At least I would.


Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1991 22:44:06 BST
From: Charles Keith-Stanley (keithst@WINVMC.VNET.IBM.COM)
Subject: Quantum Mechanic's note of Tue, 15 Oct 1991 03:06:02 -0700

Gentlebeings, I don't intend to quote extensively from Q.M.'s sterling post on the relationships between Jungian psychology and Vampyrism. I do wish to amplify and expound on a few segments, however. At one point, Q.M. said:

Using Carl Jung's theory of a collective unconscious, and Joseph Campbell's theory of a mythology common to all man we derived that vampirism must be a form of possession by an archetype.

I'd like to add another voice to the chorus. Idries Shah, in his collection of ethnic stories called 'World Tales', describes a 'world tale' as a story or fable which appears in widely disparate cultures or historical eras, one which travels across great distances without apparent effort. As an example of this phenomenon, many cultures have a fable wherein the gods, angry with their creation, destroy the world in a flood; only one family survives this disaster, through various means, to repopulate the world. Judaeo-Christians recognise the story of Noah, but a similar legend is found elsewhere. Other easily identifiable stories (Cinderella, for one) can be found in different cultures.

Shah opines that these tales are spread by itinerant storytellers who shift the cultural details to fit the audience, yet leave the essential core more or less intact. These stories appeal so widely because they describe one or another of the fundamental human viewpoints, or that they relate historical events from the pre- literate (if not pre-cultural) days. The flood tale may be a magnified version of a local disaster which wiped out a city or region save for a few scattered survivors; it might also endeavour to explain why, in the face of human wickedness, the gods don't wipe us out and start again (they already did and promised not to again). Cinderella in her guises says how a meek heart and kind disposition overcomes adversity.

(As a personal sidebar, Your Humble Werewolf applied Shah's theory to Norse legends, Milton's 'Paradise Lost', Tolkein's _Silmarillion_ and Revelations 7:12 when he delivered the homily for his examination as Lay Reader. And he didn't use notes or hide behind the pulpit...)

But I digress -- the point here is that since so many cultures have legends of the Vampyre, the Werewolf, the Spirit, it seems reasonable that this too is also a 'world tale' which attempts to address an essential question:

What might happen if you could cheat Death?

I don't wish to offer this as a counter-proposal to Q.M.'s ideas of Jungian archetypes. Rather as an additional talking point to explain how or why the archetype may have come about.

(Again a personal sidebar: I'm familiar with the concept of being possessed by one's shade. It happens to me under certain circumstances which I shan't describe further. Trust me. I also accept from personal experience the idea of being possessed by a collective unconscious or shared fantasy. This also has happened to me, somewhat recently.)

To conclude, I believe the basis for the Vampyre having become part of what Jung calls the collective unconscious could be that it was already a 'world tale'; that perhaps when such tales achieve even greater currency or power, they are somehow caught up into fundamental human culture.

Thank you, Quantum Mechanic, for bringing this topic into discussion.

Howlingly yours,
The Werewolf of London

Source: Originally posted to the VAMPYRES list by Quantum Mechanic (teserakt@MILTON.U.WASHINGTON.EDU)

Fanged Films

Malaysia, 1957

USA, 2005
Raising the Stakes

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?

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Stolen Centuries