The child’s legitimate fear of the dark—the contest between dog and cat
Children are often known to flee their rooms and crawl between their parents in bed—many parents have been troubled by such a “night visitor” and not a few marriages terminated in this way. The child’s reaction to the night is correct—no matter how often the parents reassure them that there are no “monsters under the bed” or tell them they are old enough to be on their own. The child’s reaction to being alone in the dark is the response that is inherent in every man—to flee from the night to the group, to the residual light. You cannot help this archaic reaction—you cannot escape the voice that says, “There is a beast in the dark and it will kill me if I am alone.” Modern people think that the child should out-rationalise this reaction—yet they themselves have it and would regain it if they went out alone at night into a national park. It is only the will to survive the night.
Twilight on the savannah. The group of early humans has stopped for the night—two days ago they lost their leader, an older man who was wily and known for his great strength. He died in an attempt to kill a large cat-like creature, perhaps a grand-relative to the lion or tiger. The creature died too, a day later, from its wounds—but the group doesn’t know that. It might still be out there. The younger man who has taken over remains unsure in his new role—so the group has broken camp early, set up a fire. Soon the night will come and the night is the time for fear—round about the camp stalks “the beast”, just beyond the fire’s range. You think you see a motion in the darkness—perhaps it was the cat, perhaps it was a velvet illusion (the darkness is purple and red and green, it bubbles with possibilities like an alchemical broth). It’s very silent—sometimes it’s so quiet everyone falls asleep; and it’s then, the next morning, there’s a collection of animals skins where your friend once was.
This is the way we live, night after night—and those who survive are those who are most alert in the night, those who do not fall deep asleep, and those who react with swiftness when there’s a movement in the dark (it was a moth but one time it won’t be a moth). This is why your child doesn’t want to sleep alone in the dark—doesn’t even want to do it with a night light on. It’s not irrational or selfish—“It’s time to be a big boy now, you’re very gown-up now.” Nay, parent—the grown-ups, those who lived, stayed close to the fire and the group. We survivors, we descendants, didn’t just bundle up where we pleased come nightfall (those that did died, carried off in the jaws of the beast).
Our small group found an ally for the night—the jackals that followed man and scavenged his remains. At night, they sleep near the light circle cast by man’s fire—and they will howl when the beast, “the cat”, approaches. Those jackals become the first watchdogs—not parasites but symbiotes on man’s waste. We fed them, they protected us—the howl was an alarm. Later, when our group hunts a deer that doubles through its traces after it’s wounded with spears, the jackals will stay on track and man will follow “dog” to the kill. Hence the jackal became the first hunting dog, in an iterative and emergent manner—and it was only so long before a genetic freak, a jackal less ethnocentric than most, would make friends with a man; and his puppies would stay with the group—the formal guard dog that also helped with the hunt was born.
In time, man would jailbreak the jackal, as he jailbroke himself, and destroy its instincts—this is why the dog is the animal most akin to man, more akin than even the great apes. We are two species that have broken our instinctive patterns and can program ourselves—hence when I raise my finger to my lips, even though I never trained him to, my dog falls silent (it’s rare for dogs to understand hand signals, but he is a very clever dog). Our relationship was forged in the dark—forged against the beast that stalks in the night, “the cat”. And is not this “cat”, though I dislike to bring the metaphysical down to the material, also “Satan”—the beast composed from many animals, from wing of bat and claw of tiger (from our imagination in dark night-terror)? It waits for us beyond the firelight to devour us—it’s just a movement in the black, you never see it but you know it’s there. Beside you is your dog (god, esoterically)—enemy of the cat. Dog be with us.
Dogs don’t come from wolves, that is a misconception. The wolves were formed at a higher latitude—and relatively few breeds have the wolf blood. The jackal-blooded dogs will worship you as a God, as Pharaoh—they don’t have “alphas”, that’s wolves. The wolf pack is hierarchical and yet collegiate—the wolf is loyal to you as the alpha and yet is more like your colleague than slavish subordinate, it exercises a critical intelligence towards you and your actions; it is an individual bond, he is like the god Mithras (it means “friend”, at your side in battle). The wolf is a natural “classical liberal”; he thinks like a man who lives in a property-owning democracy where there is individual expression within a strict hierarchy that is governed by the principle primus inter pares (the alpha is “first among equals”). Hence the wolf pack, forged in the cold white north, presents the natural analogue to political organisation for European man.
The cat is, by contrast, the creature that “walks by itself”. It is not tamed, even if it was revered in Egypt—ancient civilisation. It is aloof, it is related, ultimately, to “the beast” we fought on the plains (when we were the mouse)—it is still governed by instinct and magic; it knows no loyalty, it dissembles—the cat is the pet for women because it is as a woman, a dissimulator and a cupboard lover (aligned to Satan—hence witches, male and female, keep cats); for a man to keep cats is to identify with the feminine—it’s homosexual. Hence the eternal enmity between cat people and the people of dog.
This was all forged in the dark: it is right to fear the dark—only the shaman can traverse the dark alone; he was the man who went out from the group into the dark and because he faced the dark alone and survived he became the man who does not need the group—the man beyond the city walls who, as Aristotle observed, must become “as beast or god”. He who lives alone in the dark can become whatever beast he pleases—and men will approach him with trepidation, he offered himself to the dark and survived and, in return, was granted “powers”. To find him, you must also go into the darkness alone—hence the journey to the shaman only occurs at a moment of absolute crisis.