Zombies: a call to consciousness

Oct 27, 2022

Zombies have recently risen from mythological depths to menace modern-day culture. Zombies image the horror of vulnerability to dehumanized existence. They exist in a meaningless void marked only by insatiable appetite; they are our collective’s pathological shadow. The undead alarm us–and can also awaken us. We are summoned to contend with dark and deadening powers through vigilance, consciousness, and action. Jung says, “If you will contemplate your lack of…inspiration and inner aliveness, which you feel as sheer stagnation and a barren wilderness, and impregnate it with the interest born of alarm at your inner death, then something can take shape in you, for your inner emptiness conceals just as great a fullness if only you will allow it to penetrate into you. If you prove receptive to this ‘call of the wild,’ the longing for fulfillment will quicken the sterile wilderness of your soul as rain quickens the dry earth.”

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I was in a dark house with animals in large enclosures next to each other with glass screens. We opened them all to let them move around as we’d been somewhere all day. The person with me was a shadowy stranger I didn’t identify; it felt like their house. There was a beautiful little hawk that was very tame and had a feeling of wisdom and kindness. Then there was a giant pinky-purple “Spanish” snake, bulging, heavily pregnant, on the floor, asleep. I wasn’t scared of the snake but found it repulsive and knew it was dangerous. A blue jay flew in and started chasing the little hawk, and I got a bad feeling that continued to build. The jay was squawking loudly and was much bigger than the hawk. Then the snake suddenly stretched up and bit down hard on the hawk. The hawk fell to the floor, the noise of the birds stopped, and the jay flew off. The stranger took the hawk, and we saw it was dying; they then proceeded to pull off its legs and wings and then wring its neck.”


C.G.Jung. CW 14, para 189

Dawn of the Dead (1978 film), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_of_the_Dead_(1978_film)

In The Flesh (2013-2015, TV Series), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Flesh_(TV_series)

Night of the Living Dead, (1968 FILM), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Living_Dead

The Walking Dead (2010-2022 TV Series), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Walking_Dead_(TV_series)

Wells Hanley, Zombie Say Hey (song). https://wellshanley.bandcamp.com/track/zombie-say-hey


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  1. Mamie Allegretti

    Hello Joseph, Deb and Lisa,
    A very nice episode! And thank you, Wells, for your song. It was very enjoyable. Wells’ story kind of reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s A Graveyard Book where a young boy runs into a cemetery and is aided by the spectral figures there. And thank you for the quote you posted in the introduction to this episode! It struck me as something I needed to hear at this very moment. My husband and I feel like zombies every day going to work. The feeling has gone out of it and we both feel a kind of deadness in our jobs. We often feel like we’re just kind of going along just surviving (eating). He often says in the morning, “It’s great to be part of something bigger than myself!” He says this sarcastically and we both chuckle because we know exactly what it means (unfortunately – or fortunately!). In terms of the zombie image, there doesn’t seem to be a way to break free from the possession – except maybe the “death” of the zombie. I haven’t watched many zombie movies, so I don’t know how their final demise is often portrayed (and if there is even a final way they “die”). So it seems like the quote from Jung that you give could be a clue. Also, I was thinking that in my situation, it may be interesting to create my own story around how this zombie is TRANSFORMED once again into a living being. How I create that story may give me a key to how it might be done in my own life. So, thank you again for a thought provoking episode!!!

  2. Todd

    Zombies have featured in my own dream journal a few times early in my analysis. Here are two such dreams:

    A zombie is coming to a restaurant where i am and he is coming to eat women in the restaurant. I flee the restaurant because i feel that somehow my presence makes the zombie more voracious or somehow more potent. As I run away i notice that I look like a zombie in the mirror. Am i the zombie? I have feelings of guilt that I am somehow the one perpetrating the crimes of the zombie on the women.

    and this one:

    I am standing on rolling hills looking out over a bay. I’m with my kids and other people. We are there to watch for whales. There before us, several white whales surface. We are happy and cheering as the whales playfully blow mist into the air through their blowholes. We return to our lodge which looks like some space ship–large sleek, futuristic disc like a large flying saucer perched on a hill looking out over the ocean. The stairs enter the large circular structure through a hole in the center. Once inside, I begin to take a bath in a large glass cylinder– i’m decompressing/relaxing in the bathtub looking out through the windows. Suddenly, i see two black zombie pirates appear at the top the stairs carrying large pirate sabres. The first one is looking around the platform for people to kill and eat and doesn’t notice me. I try to hide by scooting down deeper into the water but i’m in a tub inside a glass fishbowl and fully visible to the outside. The second zombie spies me and i lock the glass door. However, he climbs up over the top of the glass wall (the ceiling is open) and he lowers himself down into the tub with me. He stares/glares at me with shining blue eyes and menaces me as he bares his sharp teeth. End of dream.

    I determined that the zombie was actually one of my inner children which had become burned beyond recognition later in life. The zombie was in fact the kind of inner protector/persecutor that Don Kalsched refers to in his books. The zombie was the dying persecutor and wanted to be resurrected, wanted to live again and was also a depiction of of deadened libido energy that wanted new life.

  3. Todd

    So here i think it’s important to realize that often the Zombie desires resurrection….many things that chase you in life desire to be animated. So this is a different take …rather than wanting to pull you down (which they do) they also want to be rescued from the horror of zombification.

  4. LAB

    Joseph around the 39:00 mark you were trying to recall a show about a boy who becomes a zombie and it’s treated like a medical condition. I don’t know which show that is, but a series that attempts to humanize the zombie and comes to mind right away is Santa Clarita Diet. Interesting episode – thanks for sharing!

  5. marie

    I wonder if you could discuss cannibalism at some point? It has been shown quite a bit in music videos, and there is a new artsy movie out called Bones and All, with current young heartthrob Timothy Chalamet, which is supposed to be very graphic and violent. And also artsy and romantic and using popular actors, trying to make it more mainstream.


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