Part 2- Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”
The thesis of this article is that artists of contemporary culture, particularly in the literary area, are intuitively creating influences to set aside the barriers to higher consciousness, to provide insight that ushers the experience of it into the collective consciousness of humanity. The human condition can be interpreted as a call to greater freedom, meaning, and purpose, beyond the known boundaries of experience, and yet, always known. Many artists are keenly aware of this, and they reveal it to the masses in an act of true spiritual service.
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Now let us turn to the most grandiose work of Webber, “The Phantom of the Opera” (1986). Although the original novel by Gaston Leroux has gone through several modifications, one wonders if Leroux was studying Carl Jung as he was writing his stories. This particular fiction seems to be such a precisely drawn parable of the forces of the unconscious as Jung was distinguishing his theory of psychology that it seems almost impossible that the author, Leroux, was not informed by that theory. If not directly, then it was just “in the air.”
Refinements to the original version by Webber only serve to more precisely render the story in terms of the shadow of the unconscious, the persona, and the Self, particularly the feminine aspect of the transpersonal Self. The pivotal moment comes when Christine must choose between the Phantom and her childhood sweetheart, Raoul. The Phantom demands that Christine give her life to him or he will take the life of Raoul. Christine reaches deep within herself and then out to the Phantom with pure compassion. Her words are, “Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known? God give me courage to show you, you are not alone.”
In this act of compassion for the very identity who assumed the place in her heart of her father, who nurtured her gift of singing, who is maniacally controlling, obsessively possessive, and criminally insane, not to mention disfigured, she is freed from it. The Phantom, convulsed with the realization of his futility, tells Christine, “Take him. Forget me. Forget all of this.”
Interesting that the Phantom offers forgetfulness of the twisted past, for when we truly integrate and heal from the past, we are free to live completely in the now. Ken Wilber’s theory of consciousness draws heavily on the theory of Jung’s persona and shadow within the Self . The Phantom represents the shadow, which in Jung’s analysis is the part of the personality that is rejected and not identified with. It becomes part of the individual unconscious and then is projected in the irrational dislikes, and irrational worshiping, of the conscious self. Jung uses the small “s” self for the identity of the ego, the capital “S” self for the eternal archetypal individuated consciousness, of a divine nature. Raoul represents the persona, the positive identity of the Self.
Christine Daae is the embodiment of the divine feminine nature. She feels the connection and power of both of these forces upon her. She cannot have freedom while she resists the Phantom and clings to Raoul, as much as she loves him and the precious innocent history that they share from their childhoods. It is supremely enlightened that the reward in this parable is freedom. Freedom is the commodity of enlightenment. It is the currency of trans-personal emergence.
In this opus, Webber has given us the vicarious experience of making that choice to embrace the opposites, to surrender to the demands of the tortured, and to cease judging and condemning. In that one moment when the whole world of good vs. evil is revolving around the Phantom’s crumbling will, when we see his face contorting in the sudden insight that his victory is not gratifying, Webber has made an aperture in the collective unconscious that transcends, perhaps forevermore, that old battle that utterly vanquishes the evil.
We may be learning that there is no such thing as vanquishing it. We may be preparing, by witnessing this tale, for higher states of consciousness that are only possible when we embrace the opposites as expressions of the same universal oneness. This is a surrender of judgments and a yielding of self-defense to behold the same essential divinity to be inherent in all that is.
Next installment: Higher Consciousness Influences in the work of Garrison Keillor