When an interviewer asked suspense novelist James W. Hall where he got the ideas for his horrifying villains, he offered an intriguing answer. “They must come from some zone in my consciousness that we all have. That place where our nightmares bubble up. . . from the unrestrained creative, disobedient, bad boy part of consciousness.”
I’d argue that this disobedient part of our minds is where all good writing comes from; that whenever writing feels effortless, inspired, and charged with energy, it’s rising up from some place just out of awareness. Call it the subconscious or what have you, it is a place of mysteries, secrets, paradox, and ambiguity, a world where the rules of everyday life don’t apply and things aren’t always what they seem. It is the realm of Osiris.
The beginning of Osiris’s story could come out of Soap Opera Digest. The elder brother inherits the family’s lavishly successful plantation; the younger gets a dry plot in the middle of nowhere. The elder brother and his wife are wise and benevolent; The younger, a ticked-off pipsqueak with a chip on his shoulder. Pipsqueak’s jealousy gets the better of him, and he offs his wise elder brother, hacks up the body, and scatters it hither and yon.
Then it gets weird: The wife finds all the pieces and puts her husband back together, and the reassembled god, no longer able to reside among the living , becomes lord of the Underworld.
The successful plantation in this story is the lush Nile Valley where ancient Egyptian civilization thrived, the poor farm the barren Sahara, and the murderous brother a minor god named Set. But the wise couple, Osiris and Isis, are among the central deities in the Egyptian pantheon, actively worshipped for over 3,000 years.
Osiris’s Underworld is a apt metaphor for the subconscious. It is a land of mystery, magic, and darkness. It lies just below the horizon, where the light of the sun—a symbol of intellect and reason—cannot reach. Like the subconscious, Osiris’s kingdom is bewildering and chaotic, a place of labyrinthine corridors and hidden chambers.
“For the most part, our consciouness. . . looks outward,” wrote Carl Jung, the psychologist who brought mythic archetypes to the study of the human mind. “The inner world remains in darkness.” The contents of the subconscious are not easy to access—and they aren’t generally charming when we do. So it is with Osiris’s realm. It is a hidden place, dimly lit and treacherous.
The rites of Osiris’s worship were secret. They were performed by a select group of initiates who could not reveal their mysteries. Only they knew the special rituals and incantations that would appease the Lord of the Underworld. Everyone else just went about their business, knowing Osiris was there, but not knowing what to do about it.
It’s the same way with the subconscious. You need special courage and know-how to enter that world, to explore the secret passageways of memory, dream, fantasy, and fear. It takes a priest who knows the incantations. It takes a writer.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...