When we were a child, we were afraid of darkness. Waking up in the middle of the night, we had to be courageous enough to go to a restroom alone. Even during the daytime, walking through dark woods required our courage, too. We didn’t know why, but we felt some awful monsters must be hiding in any dark places. Anything unknown scared us, as a child, a lot.
Unknown darkness is one of the symbols for such infant consciousness.
We were so superstitious. For our childish mind, all the fairytale stories looked so real. We used to believe the scary existence of Baku (獏). According to the Chinese and Japanese folklore, Baku is a mythical creature who devours dreams and nightmares. Baku sounded so ambivalent for children before sleeping. While he eats up their nightmares, kids are afraid of losing their precious dreams. I can still recall my scary feeling that Baku showed up himself on the ceiling in my bedroom when I was so small.
We also used to believe the existence of Santa Claus, which, on the other hand, sounded more positive and joyful. Based on a Christianity-related fairytale, I still remember my excitement of waiting for the unique gifts that Santa Claus would deliver for me. I didn’t know why, but he knew me personally and would visit my bedroom in the middle of the night to place the unique gift that I wished.
Just like Baku‘s visit, I was scared, but the positive excitement was much stronger.
Now, these reminiscent sentiments make me smile, which influences the way that we love and look after our children. When we talk with our children, we intentionally recall our superstitious, childish consciousness, and immerse ourselves in it. With our children, we can think and feel like them. With them, Baku is real, and Santa Claus is real. We are also afraid of unknown darkness.
The border between the real world and fairytale can diminish itself when we are with our children. When we were a child, we were so superstitious. When we become an adult, we have forgotten this very fact. With our children, we should restore our childish consciousness to be with them.
That is, however, not the end of the story.
As a no-nonsense, realistic adult, how should we deal with various supernatural beings that our children find real? Should we deny the existence of Baku and Santa Claus? How about angels and devils? How about these realms like heaven, earth, and hell? Are these merely the products of our primitive imaginations? Should we disregard them all?
The answer is Yes and No.
We should no longer think like and feel like children. We don’t have to be scared in the superstitious, primitive way that our children do. We, adults, know that these supernatural beings are not real. We must not be a pseudoscientific sorcerer at all.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.1 Corinthians 13:11-12
At the same time, however, we should not deny another reality that these supernatural beings could represent, either. Putting away childish things when we become a man, we must see them face to face. What does it mean?
For various artworks, there is a different reality that a set of supernatural beings can be still genuine even for us adults. In the theater play of No (能), for example, we call this treatment Yūgen (幽玄), which is one of the atheistic efforts to place the supernatural beings to make the scenes more subtly and profoundly real.
Even as a no-nonsense, realistic adult, we still reflect on how Baku and Santa Claus deal with our dreams and nightmares. We always deeply listen to the whispering voices of various angels and devils. Through contemplation, these dimensions like heaven, earth, and hell are still the very realms that we existentially experience. We even meet a dragon within ourselves. And above all, as the universe is real, He is indeed real.
We can’t understand the whole entity of the world and universe without noticing what is unknown and dark. Such a strange darkness is ontologically inevitable. So does the light. We can never feel the completeness of the universe without them, which are superstitious, allegorical, symbolic, mythical, and mystical, depending on who we are and how we see them.
The way we see them real is different from the way we used to see them as a child. Real faith never rests on the realm of superstitions, but on our very realization of the profound mystery.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (agape).1 Corinthians 13:13