posted on Oct, 30 2005 @ 04:32 AM
Speaking in terms of literal darkness, as opposed to a metaphorical darkness, there are a number of reasons why a lack of light is associated with
First and foremost amongst these is the simple fact that human beings have poor night vision. Although, as predators, we have fairly decent colour
vision and depth perception, we sacrifice proficiency in night vision and as a result the darkness becomes a great unknown for us as a whole. Humans
are typically afraid of what they do not know and cannot see. If you are able to identify a threat visually, you are subsequently able to assess it in
terms of your ability to deal with it and survive it. Bereft of this ability, humans become somewhat helpless, unable to identify threats and
therefore unable to adequately deal with them. This can perhaps best be illustrated through the example of small children, who often demonstrate a
vague fear of the darkness. This is the reason why many parents will leave a night light on for their children, so that they are not in total
darkness. Because if a child is able to see for themselves that there is nothing to fear, they will be able to sleep more peacefully. When this
ability is stripped from them, as is the case when the light is turned off, they are unable to perceive their surroundings and are more capable of
entertaining imagined terrors. This simple example can be extrapolated to represent Humanity as a whole - as long as we can see what is before us, we
are able to deal with it. When we are unable to see, we are rendered virtually helpless. This is one of the reasons why humans in general fear the
darkness and why it has become such a potent metaphor for fear.
Coupled with this is the human experience of being prey to those night predators who hunted us in the past. Whilst humans may not have good night
vision, some of our fellow predators do not share this limitation. There are a number of capable predators who are nocturnal, possess superb night
vision and have preyed upon humans throughout the centuries. We must consider that Humanity, as we currently understand it, has existed for
approximately 200 000 years. Civilisation, on the other hand, has only existed for approximately 8000 years or so. That means that for 192 000 years,
or 96% of human existence, we have lived primarily in relatively small communities of hunter-gatherers. Whilst it is true that such societies were
often far more capable than we give them credit for, it is equally true that they were often more exposed to the predations of nocturnal animals. Is
it unreasonable, then, to posit that humans may still, on some primal level, fear the darkness and the predators that dwell in it? Perhaps we
remember, even now, on some instinctual level, what it was like to sit in caves with a series of fires our only defence against predatory night
animals. This shared memory may be one of the reasons why darkness is often afforded a negative image, or is associated with monsters or suffering.
A more direct reason for humans to fear the literal darkness is simply that, for a great majority of us, we are essentially unconscious for a
significant portion of the night hours. We sleep, which renders us relatively defenceless for a large portion of the night. Whilst this is an
oversimplification in some regards, and has been significantly negated by modern living patterns and security technologies, it may be that our fear of
the darkness is based upon self-preservation. When we go to sleep each night, we are largely incapable of defending ourselves should the need suddenly
arise. When the darkness falls, so does our ability to defend ourselves to a large extent. This may help us to understand why the darkness is often
perceived as threatening or malevolent, since it makes sense that beings or creatures that wished to do us harm might attack us when we are at our
most vulnerable - during sleep.
I am curious - you seem to refer to the darkness both in a literal sense (your Wikipedia reference, for example) and as something more tangible.
Whilst I hope I have helped address at least some of your questions, what do you perceive the darkness, and fear of darkness to be? Do you believe it
to be something tangible, or simply a reflection of primal fears?
[edit on 30/10/05 by Jeremiah25]