Much like Labyrinth, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal is one of those kid’s films all of us who grew up in the 80s seem to have a strange affinity for. And, much like Labyrinth, it is chock full of Henson’s same occult proclivities. While Labyrinth, in my analysis, constituted the inner journey into Sarah’s psyche (much like Inception is an inner journey into Cobb’s labyrinthine psyche), Dark Crystal is more of an exterior journey.
We are told in the beginning the setting is a long gone “age of wonder” on another world where time comes and goes in thousand-year cycles, or aeons. Such terminology may be said to be of another world, but as the symbolism necessarily goes, such films (and all stories in general) function as statements relative to the human story. Thus, the two great races that arise in the age of the Dark Crystal are symbolic of two kinds of people (passive and aggressive/followers and elites), which is itself a manifestation of the film’s obsession with duality. Indeed, the film follows perfectly in a long train of gnostic nostalgia, elsewhere reviewed by me.
The notion of a 1,000 year cycle is also a Hindu theme, similar to the theory of Kali Yuga, where we are currently entering an age of dominance of chaos, the demonic, strife and dischord. This is also similar to the notion espoused by other occultists that this is the aeon of the child, etc. Occultist Madame Blavatsky also formulated bizarre theories of numerous other races and worlds that preceded our own, as well as the Babylonian Talmud mentioning such ideas. It becomes evident that Henson, like Lucas, borrowed heavily from the mythology of various cultures in creating these fantasies.
The eastern dualist conceptions are marked in the film, as mentioned. The Skekses represent the left hand path of severity and cruelty, control and empire, while the “gentle mystics” are supposed to represent the “gentle ways of natural wizards.” The Skekses, then, are harbingers of technology and power – they harness the Dark Crystal for the purpose of advanced control mechanisms and even brainwashing (yes, brainwashing), while the mystics are purported to be in tune with nature and the forest. The Mystics, as is worth noting, chant the Buddhist “Om,” further reinforcing the eastern dualist religious conceptions, while the Skekses are busy enacting the “Ceremony of the Sun” for the passing of the Emperor, which brings to mind ancient Egyptian theology, and it’s identification of Pharoah as son of Ra.
For this “aeon,” the chosen “avatar” is Jen, the last (he thinks) of an older race of beings. Again, similar notions appear in the charlatanry of occultist Madame Blavatsky, whose theosophical sect taught that different ages produce different “avatars” such as Moses, Buddha, and Jesus, who are all appointed “prophets” of God. Further, when the Mystics, who are also dying, pass away, their bodies disappear, while the Skekses apparently do not. The Mystic who care for Jen disappears when he dies, echoing Greek ideas (as when Oedipus dies), or as when Obi Wan Kenobi does the same. The idea being that matter is crude and base, and must be transcended for the “good” of spirit. Again, the classical eastern and gnostic notions of dualism arise to the fore.
As with other films reviewed and analyzed here, there is also the idea of a lost technology or power that the crystal possesses from a former age. The Skekses, presently in possession of the crystal, have harnessed it for the purpose of extracting the life essence from the slave race, whose wills they remove through brainwashing. This appears to be a critique of the notion of power mad elitists and imperialists, who parasitically thrive on the lives of the dumbed-down masses, and who have their wills and potentialities removed through mass control and brainwashing. However, it stops far short of being an actual critique of command and control power elites, since all the film really does is demonstrated to a young, ignorant audience how the “system” itself works.
Indeed, most adults are too unwares to understand that the film is actually laying out before them the principle of dialectics and control of both sides, because it’s all wrapped up in glittering puppetry and imaginary landscapes. But make no mistake about it, this films is displaying concepts far more complex and intricate than a mere fairy tale. Unfortunately, most people can only see things in a one-dimensional fashion, and thus are unable to read the narrative on any deeper level than a simple children’s story, when in reality, it is presenting an entire worldview of managed opposition and dialectics.
As it turns out, Jen must go on the cliché hero’s quest to restore the shard to the crystal before the Great Conjunction, resulting in the end of that “world,” or aeon. Jen first visits an astrologer named Aughra, who informs him that “End, beginning, all the same. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.” Aughra presents a pagan, cyclical view of the world, as opposed to the biblical idea of time being linear, with a definite beginning and end. By the time Jen reaches the castle of the Skekses, however, the focus turns from the magic and astrology of Aughra (which, interestingly, sounds like augur, one who practices divination from watching birds), to the science and technology of the Skekses who will meet the magic of the Jen and the mystics. Yet another duality will attempt to be reconciled – in the Great Conjunction.
Jen finds a female of his race named Kira who is able to summon the powers of nature. Thus once again Jen, Kira, and the Mystics represent one half of the dialectic in opposition to the imperial and technologically minded Skekses who, we find out, are in fact extracting essences and brainwashing creatures for the purpose of discovering immortality. Aughra tells Jen that when the Skekses complete their ritual and the Conjunction of the suns occurs, the Skekses will have “power over the stars.” The Skekses are thus after immortality and godhood, and we see in this scene a striking pyramidal image with an eye when Jen places the shard back into the crystal. Here the story is imaging the actual world, where the elites truly try to conquer death through technology via transhumanism.
However, that is not all. The film ends with the Mystics arriving on the scene, and actually melding with the dreaded Skekses into a new, higher race of gods. So the supposed good and evil principles, we are told, are no different. In fact, that they were was an illusion, or a mere necessity. In reality, the Mystics were one side of the coin, and the evil Skekses, the other side. The “truth” was a Hegelian synthesis of the two principles into a higher godlike being. The world was previously split, and once the Mystics and Skekses unite, we learn that pantheism was true all along – “We are all part of each other,” the new god beings pontificate. The Dark Crystal itself is now transformed, too, into the “Crystal of Truth.” The new god beings ascend, and tell Jen and Kira to “make the world in the image of the Crystal’s light.” We then see the “new world” as an Edenic paradise.
Thus, in order for the world of duality and opposition to be “fixed,” the film would have us understand that there is no good or evil, and that self-refuting pantheism is the case. The dualities and opposition were “necessary” to overcome and produce the “higher” evolutionary synthesis. In short, classical pagan dialectics is at work. However, what Henson presents is not the case. The dualities and dialectics are not transcended through denying them, nor by saying they are all one. In fact, as I have argued for a while, it is precisely the acceptance of pantheism and it’s cousin, dualism, and other such pagan conceptions like cyclical time which are themselves the trap! Without enlightenment to the fact that these are self-refuting, contradictory, and impossible systems of thought – systems taught by eastern religions and gnosticism, for example, one does remain caught in the dialectics.