New Town Tormentors
Mr Hyde, My Little Pony and my Shadow.
Edinburgh gets a bad rap in Scotland for being an enclave of English culture. I don't think its particularly fair, and just exposes the internal conflict Scotland has about self-cultivated success.
To me, Edinburgh is certainly a refined and well kept version of Scotland, and yes, far too many shops selling all kinds of terrible knick knacks. But it also has this very odd dark side, that lurks under the cobbles. I think it comes out a lot in the literature.
I don't consider myself particularly literary, but coming from Stockbridge, near the New Town, it was a quiet wonder to read Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, knowing that he was born and raised in a house not far from my own, and that he tapped into some of that darkness.
Because what fascinate me about RLS and his work is his relationship to sleep and his psyche, and his surfacing of that darkness within.
As someone who has spent most of his adult like suffering from sometimes paralysing night terrors, I've tried to understand them from every angle conceivable, and the most direct, simple route to understanding them, I think comes not far from home.
Through years of conversations about my night terrors, there eventually enters the indellible image of Mr Hyde: the beastly, murderous, terrifying monster that Dr Jekyll transforms into after consuming a mysterious elixir.
RLS himself received the idea for Jekyll and Hyde from his dreams, and he was unafraid to describe the origins of his best ideas: he claims he was visited by Brownies, which are home-dwelling fairy/tiny people that spend the wee hours tidying houses or causing havoc (depending on how the house treated them). They exist in most British folk culture, and have lots of similarities to other European folklore, but they historically exist outside of someone's head, not inside like RLSs.
He once wrote:
"My Brownies who do one-half my work for me while I am fast asleep, and in all human likelihood, do the rest for me as well, when I am wide awake and fondly suppose I do it myself. "
I think it's fascinating that RLS, as the reclusive, poorly man he was, so relied on these magical creatures that exist in his mind to help him in his creative writing.
In their specific benevolence they remind me a little bit of Terence McKenna's 'Machine Elves', and Aldous Huxley in fact took keen interest in how RLS used his dream states as ways of accessing new forms of consciousness.
To me, RLS's Brownies recalls the 'Tulpa' of ancient Tibetan mystics and 20th century Theosophy. Tulpas are thought forms that are created through spiritual or mental powers. They take different forms, but there has been this incredibly wild phenomenon of 21st century Tulpas that emerged on Reddit (where else?) and the Bronies (adult fans of the children's show My Little Ponies) who created them in the mid-2010s, which spurred many other young people today to become associated internally with contemporary Tulpas/Brownies that they communicate and exchange thoughts with.
RLS was way ahead of Carl Jung and his theory of 'the Shadow' - the part of the unconscious mind which is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings - when he created the monster figure. Indeed, he feels so ethereal that I cannot imagine his face. Its more a smear of grubby ink, shot through with penetrating white in the eyes. He is the Shadow.
I've been long visited by various Mr Hydes during my sleep, and only in the last few years been able to being to accept that they are not ghosts, or trans dimensional beings filtering through our limited reality, or my crumbling reality into madness but simply projections of all the things that I cannot conciously surface in my every day life.
They are unwelcome, but for me, are a necessary part of an ongoing path of healing. A path whereby I work to heal things that I know happened to me, and things that may not have happened to me, but certainly were passed down.
Thinking of Robert Louis Stevenson and his brownies, I have a hope that I might one day try and reach out to my Mr Hyde, and like Robert commune with this liminal, dark creature. It fills me with a very strange sensation that if I don't, I otherwise may be entirely limiting my experience of connection to myself, and its perhaps only through their violent interruption to my sleeping life that I must do something about it.
I am very curious to find out what it (or I) want.