The Dragon and the Man-Machine:Mythic Dreams in Jurassic Park and Frankenstein



by James W. Maertens, M.A., Ph.D.

Dinosaurs in the Mythic Field


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Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park and its subsequent film adaptation seized the imagination of a nation grown just a little weary of Barney. T. Rex strode onto the stage of popular culture as the shadow of that lovable, purple, singing dinosaur with the flawless white smile. Dinosaurs have long been a fascination for generations of young boys, but the juxtaposition of Barney and T. Rex illustrates the profoundly ambivalent nature of the archetype that energizes these figures.

Crichton's Professor Alan Grant considered that children liked dinosaurs "because these giant creatures personified the uncontrollable force of looming authority. They were symbolic parents. Fascinating and frightening, like parents. And kids loved them, as they loved their parents" (115).

Parents have the power of life and death over their children, and so seem godlike, at least to the child's unconscious imagination. The murderous father, the devouring mother: these are the dark fantasies of infantile fear that persist in one's adult life as unconscious phantasms. Moreover, the monstrous parent constellates an even broader, perhaps more primordial fear: the fear of Nature itself as that living thing larger than the self, a living reality that is built upon eating and dying: one life consuming another.

Like the Hindu goddess Kali, Tyrannosaurus Rex personifies devouring Mother Nature. Like fairytale giants, dinosaurs represent the dark side of human eating: they are predators large enough to eat us at one gulp. To push the symbol further, the huge maw of the tyrannosaur or the swarming claws and teeth of the raptors are the shadow of the human desire to consume: food, property -- consumerism. It is ironic that John Hammond and his genetic engineers want to produce their artificial offspring as "consumer biologicals" with all the spin-off tee-shirts, toys, and goodies that feed the infantile desire to consume.

If Crichton's dinosaurs take on the archetypal significance of the devouring mother and the devouring child, they also present us with a form of another archetypal creature: the dragon or serpent. Ubiquitous in myths and folklore, dragons may be good or evil, sources of superhuman benefit or superhuman dread. They may be, like the Dragon of St. George or Beowulf, a force of destruction that threatens the fragile order of human culture huddled in its circle around the village fire. They may also be, like the Chinese Dragon, the sprits of the mountains and the flow of water in mist and rain, a symbol of good fortune and power. The undulating form of the dragon resembles rippling water, bringing life and fecundity and rebirth to the land. In the Western traditions the "fire-drake" is a personification of lightning and fire in its destructive aspect.

The dragon is a variant of the serpent motif, often used in myth to symbolize primordial wholeness, an enveloping, self-feeding power like the worm ouroborus or Babylonian Tiamat. In this guise, the dragon is the source of the material world. It unifies the opposites -- or more precisely, it signifies a union of light and dark, fearfulness and nurturance that precedes the cognitive division of the universe into the categories of "good" and "evil." Edinger discusses the dragon-serpent of alchemy in his study of C. G. Jung's Mysterium Coniunctionis. There he says the dragon is a symbol of the sacred marriage itself, the union of spirit and body, soul and sexual pleasure, light and dark. These dichotomies exist in united form in the primordial energy of the universe. In the Eastern tradition, this primordial, underlying energy is chi, often called the vital energy. It is the union of yin and yang, the balance of dark and light. In such a mythology, the dragon is a good thing, emblematic of the bounty of limitless potential, the source of being, the Tao itself in its flow. In the West, where philosophy has tended to polarize life into contraries, the dragon ends up being slain as an enemy of goodness. The Light wants to slay not only the Darkness, but also anyone who would dare suggest that the two are really one.
Splitting the Cosmic Egg

Dinosaurs emerged from the obscurity of prehistory in the late nineteenth century, ironically just as paleontology and geology were burying the old mythic belief systems that had included dragons and the Eden serpent. There is a sharp division in collective self-image in that period. On one side of the gulf is a culture with no knowledge of the millions of years and thousands of species that populated the earth prior to the existence of humans. The Biblical account of Genesis was taken as the whole of existence. On the other side of the gulf is a culture that sees itself as one small phase of an unimaginably long process of evolution. The rigorous classification of life forms by modern biologists led to the imaginal extinction of the old mythical beasts: the giants, chimeras, lamias, and dragons of old. Yet, the same science uncovered even stranger creatures inhabiting a new expanse of time too vast to be grasped by anything but a mythic imagination. In this way dinosaurs have taken the place of the mythical beasts in the scientific mythos.

By "scientific mythos" I mean a mythic field for the modern Western mind, a cosmology woven from scientific factuality and reason but going beyond them to fulfill the deep desires of human imagining. Popular fiction has occupied the zone of myth expressing all our hopes and fears for the scientific cosmology. Genres such as science fiction, fantasy, detective fiction, and techno-thrillers are our modern myths. As scientists have replaced priests as authorities given the ultimate power to name and explain how the world works, they have assumed the mythic roles of savior, wise man, and miracle worker. They have also, however, inherited the more uncomfortable archetypal roles of mad ruler (the technocrat), and bungling demiurge -- that creator-god who, in the Gnostic tradition especially, was blamed for fouling up the perfect universe.

This popular mythology of science emerges on the scene almost immediately as modern science itself emerges in Western culture. Faust is probably the earliest form of the destructive scientist motif which flowers with Goethe and then takes on an even more secular form with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Today the novels of Crichton operate as part of a pervasive and vast mythological field that includes animated action-adventure heroes for children, comic books, the whole genre of science fiction stories, novels, and films. This mythic field also extends into the realm of cultural criticism: from academics who write about the history of science from the standpoint of cultural studies, to popular critics, whose voices expose an insidious corporate society that uses scientific language to rationalize the most horrible crimes against individual humans and against Nature herself.

Without advocating any part of this mythic field as "objective" truth, the student of myth and psyche realizes that such myths are charged with psychological truths. Three-year-olds believe in the salvational power of Power Rangers; middle-aged executives and politicians believe just as strongly in the salvific power of thermonuclear fission. Plutonium has replaced Pluto and Plautus, gods of death and miraculous wealth, in our imaginal landscapes, but the desires these things represent are just as thoroughly imbued with godlike powers as the older anthropomorphic deities. Modern chemical elements such as uranium, titanium, and neon have as much mythic power invested in them as did the gold, lead, and sulfur of the medieval alchemists in their time.
She's a Man-Eater

Crichton's Alan Grant is based on the real-life paleontologist Robert Bakker, whose scholarly studies were popularized in Dinosaur Heresies. Bakker and his colleagues turned the interpretation of dinosaurs on its head, and their work exemplifies one dimension of science-as-myth. Scientific discourses in all their desire to stick to "reality" serve the needs of their cultures for cosmological stories. The old view of dinosaurs was that they were slow, stupid, isolated creatures who all became extinct after "ruling the earth" for millions of years. The moral lesson implicit in this tale of fallen giants was not deliberately concocted by the scientists telling the story. They were just interpreting data, putting together skeletons. But they were also re-writing the cosmology of Western culture. They were creating a new mythic age, a new Dreamtime, populated with monsters. No Saint George slayed these dragons, however. The hero of the old story of dinosaurs was Natural Selection, and the extinction of these supposedly cold-blooded giants stood as a monument to the superiority of warm-blooded mammals -- of which humans were, naturally, the epitome.

Evicted from Eden by nineteenth-century Biblical scholars, Man was made by paleontologists into the king of an even more wonderful (and in some ways less problematic) prehistoric Garden -- a Jurassic Park, as it were -- from which he did not fall, but rose up and conquered the world with big brains and technology made possible by opposable thumbs. This myth not only replaced the Genesis myth's insistence on human supremacy, but neatly explained why technologically advanced Europeans had a natural right and duty to rule over, raise up, or make extinct all the slower-developing brethren populating most of the rest of the globe. "Savages" were clearly less evolved, mere cavemen, whose "primitive" lives demonstrated their inferiority. They were manifestly laggards, still living in a prehistoric past and chock full of incorrect stories -- myths.

On one level, Jurassic Park presents this change in the scientific mythos, showing us a fictional version of one of the scientists who stood up to scholarly orthodoxy. Bakker's arguments have changed our view of dinosaurs. Now they are not only warm-blooded, but smart, capable of complex social organization, and eminently successful. After all, however extinct they are now, dinosaurs dominated the natural world for millions of years, while mammals have dominated for only a fraction of that time, and humans only a comparative blink of the eye. The lesson of this morality play has been reversed. In the old myth of the dinosaur, they were ponderous creatures who failed because they were inferior to the speedy, little warm-blooded mammals. It was a fable of the triumph of brains over brawn, the hubris of the huge and bloated. A person whose usefulness or way of thinking is deemed passé by a younger generation is called a "dinosaur."

In the new myth developed by Bakker and his colleagues, the dinosaur is a grand and glorious race of creatures who successfully adapted themselves to the ecosystem around them. The lesson is that maybe the dinosaurs were smarter than we are, poisoning our habitat and threatening the whole world with nuclear winter. So, in Jurassic Park the monsters are really the heroes. By the end of the book, one can't help admiring the velociraptors with their intricate society and communication, their desire to escape their prison. Theirs is an elegantly adapted and far-seeing intelligence. Hammond and his scientists, by contrast, have only what Ian Malcolm calls "thintelligence."

They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and call it "being focused." They don't see the surround. They don't see the consequences. You cannot make an animal and not expect it to act alive. To be unpredictable. To escape. But they don't see that. (284)



Womb Envy


This motif of the monster stitched together from dead matter (DNA fragments in this case) hearkens back to one of the seminal tales in the scientific mythology: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Victor Frankenstein and his monster have become universals of Western popular culture. Is there anyone who cannot instantly picture Boris Karloff's interpretation of the monster, even if they've never seen the film? Yet, the genre of the monster movie drains Frankenstein's creature of most of its blood. In the original by Shelley, the creature is drawn with compassion, so that his murders are almost excusable. The reader is meant to sympathize with the monster, even as chills run down her spine. A similar feeling emerges in Jurassic Park. There is something in the technique used by Crichton's genetic engineers that suggests an illicit resurrection and consequently evokes the uncanny for us. The prehistoric monsters that ruled the earth are brought back from the grave of extinction by extracting microscopic traces of their blood from mosquitoes preserved in amber. They emerge as test-tube babies from a dinosaur factory-laboratory, and are just as parentless and bewildered by the world as Frankenstein's artificial man. They are not just resurrected corpses; they are resurrected fossils.

Jurassic Park thus taps, on one hand, into the archetypal network of creation myth, and, on the other hand, into a tradition of human inventions turned into disasters. The creation of the primordial world of the dinosaurs is the modern Eden myth. The Jurassic (or half a dozen other geologic periods) is the lost world, the Golden Age, for us, as the times of the Titans and the Olympians were to Hesiod and Homer. To recreate the Jurassic -- especially in the form of an amusement park -- is an archetypal usurpation of God. Scientists, like Prometheus, steal the fire of life and generation from the divine and turn it to their own uses. Of course, when scientists make this Promethean move, they manage to make Zeus vanish in a puff of logic, and so escape divine vengeance.

Or do they? Where God vanishes, chaos theory steps in to act the role of the Fates or the Furies. Hubris, that foolish overreaching, still leads to destruction.

John Hammond's "consumer biologicals" are created by the ultimate fantasy of masculine creativity -- male parthenogenesis. The Greek gods also suffered from such womb-envy. Take Zeus swallowing Metis to claim sole parenthood for Athena, born subsequently from his head. Or his other trick of snatching Dionysus from the ashes of poor Semele and sewing the godling into his thigh to gestate. Indeed it is arguable that one of the perennial themes of patriarchal traditions is the usurpation of female reproductive power by men. In the Western tradition the act of usurpation usually results in the death of the mother. In this way, the patriarchal god repays the old Goddess cults of the Corn King with their annual sacrifice of the Goddess's consort. Turned on its head, the myth-ritual now sacrifices the (devalued) female in order to permit a claim of male supremacy.

The Oresteia of Aeschylus takes such inversion to an almost propagandistic extreme when, at the end, the murder of the vengeful Queen Clytemnestra is justified on the grounds that mothers are not, biologically speaking, true "parents" because the embryo develops only from the male seed. Such logic may seem ludicrous to us today, with our modern understanding or reproductive biology, but the myth of male supremacy, or even monopoly, in matters of creativity persisted well into the nineteenth century as a serious "scientific" argument. The logic goes like this: Creativity is active; masculinity is active; therefore men are inherently more creative. The best women can hope for is to be immortalized in song or visual arts as the inspiration of men's creativity. "Original Genius" as the Romantic tradition celebrates, is distinctly male.

It should come as no surprise then, than in the climate of such Romantic arguments about the godlike creative powers of male artists and inventors, the theme of male parthenogenesis is re-written with a tragic turn for this inflated symbolic Father. It was Percy Shelley (with inspiration from Milton and Aeschylus) who took up the character of Prometheus and made him a symbol of rebellious mankind struggling in the face of tyranny. In Prometheus Unbound, the Titan is a suffering genius fettered and persecuted by the narrow-minded despotism of the Establishment. But it was Shelley's wife Mary who turned that rebellious modern Prometheus into a more complex and ironic tragic hero. For it was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which first suggested that the modern Man of Science was the creator of his own shadow; that his creation was itself doomed to be monstrous because of his short-sighted megalomania.

Victor Frankenstein is the literary ancestor of John Hammond in Jurassic Park, for each man believes he is artificially procreating, making something marvelous, the wonder of his age that will leave all other men breathless with admiration. For young Victor, his artificial man is his Adam, his hope for a whole race of androids (as we should call them now) who will worship him as a father and a god. Frankenstein usurps God's place as creator, as Mary Shelley indicates through her many allusions to Milton's Paradise Lost. This act of overreaching is not the admirable rebellion against tyrants espoused by Percy Shelley. Rather, it is a dangerous hubris Mary Shelley sensed in the scientific ambitions of Romantics such as her husband.

Romantic idealism and the desire to discover the human-divine became coupled, in Western culture, with the masculine desire to master all creation by knowing and manipulating it. And this coupling, in the Frankenstein story, produces a creature superior to his creator: the monster who is bigger, stronger, faster, and even more sensitive than his supposed master. Contrary to later film portrayals, Frankenstein's monster is highly intelligent and articulate, arguing eloquently that he deserves to be treated humanely, to be loved and respected. Although Crichton's velociraptors and tyrannosaurs do not speak to us in the poetic voice of a wounded child raised on Paradise Lost, the character of Frankenstein's monster is nonetheless present in their alien intelligence. They are not commodities, but living children of their human creators. The dinosaurs are smarter, faster, and stronger than their human creators. They are also repulsive, terrifying, and at the same time sublime.
Fathering and Control

The missing emotional bond between father and son is not so overtly evoked in Jurassic Park as in Frankenstein. At first, the dinosaurs are icons of the alien, utterly non-human, and so the lack of emotional relationship between creator and creature is no surprise. However, as the story unfolds, the dinosaurs (particularly the predatory raptors) seem more and more "human" because of their intelligent behavior. Yet, they are distinctly not abandoned sons seeking to murder their fathers. The dinosaurs are explicitly female, engineered in what proves to be a naive attempt to control their breeding. Science blindly reproduces the culture's patriarchal assumption that females are more passive, easier for men to control. Jurassic Park becomes a kind of bestial harem with electric fences to keep its female charges inside and continually available for the pleasure of their masters. The (potentially) male embryos are neutered, made into eunuchs, as it were, to preserve the genetic engineers' monopoly on reproduction. But, as with so many harems, some of the eunuchs turn out to be all too fertile. Moreover, as the story teaches, when it comes to velociraptors and tyrannosaurs, the females are at least as dangerous as the males. Put another way, the female dinosaurs refuse to let their reproductive power be usurped.

Like Frankenstein's creature, Hammond's dinosaurs symbolize the tensions inherent within modern masculinity, especially as it is constituted within the roles of bourgeois scientist and (bio)engineer. The monsters possess unexpected patricidal desires; desires which are partly spawned by the cruel imprisonment they undergo; but also desires which resonate as a shadow-side of the scientists themselves. Like Frankenstein's monster, the dinosaurs outwit their creators. Each story depicts an egotistical technocrat who rushes headlong into the application of a new discovery on the grandest scale he can conceive.

Hammond is like Frankenstein in his naive inability to conceive his creations as subjects, as living beings, rather than as objects, mere machines, or worshipful playthings. Both men assume the place of god, not just in the act of "playing god" but in the way they view their control and expect passive obedience from their creatures as if they possessed God's omnipotence. They not only lack omnipotence and omniscience, but they lack God's love: neither Frankenstein, nor Hammond proves capable of loving and respecting his "offspring." This is emphasized in Hammond's case because Crichton makes him almost entirely unsympathetic. He is a scheming impresario who uses other people's money to hire scientists and technicians to carry out his dream of stealing the fire of life.

Hammond does not create an Adam (although one wonders if he would have balked at the genetic recreation of Australopithecus or Homo Erectus, who were, presumably, also bitten by mosquitoes). Yet, he goes Frankenstein one better by creating pre-human life, the original life of the scientific cosmology. The dragons become the new Adam.
The Factory Eden

Hammond creates a modern version of Eden, the hortus conclusus , or enclosed garden. This Garden possesses all the primordial mystique (and mist) which the Jurassic era conjures in the minds of twentieth century men and boys. It is a world without humans, which, if it can be controlled and commanded, places its master squarely in God's throne.

Isla Nublar is a world of all females controlled by a brotherhood of elite men. It is an island of purified Nature, entirely removed from (but imprisoned within) civilization. It embodies the mysterious potency of the archetypal Feminine which is both Woman and Nature, while at the same time attempting to elide Motherhood entirely. The power to reproduce, to create life in Nature is lodged with the man behind the curtain and his machines. In this respect, Jurassic Park symbolizes the ultimate fantasy of technological civilization, a totally controlled Nature. We take too much for granted this myth behind our modern scientific and technical civilization. We turn a blind eye to the factory farms that dehumanize chickens and pigs into monsters of rage and violence. The chickens in the factory egg farms of the United States have to have their beaks cut off to prevent them from cannibalizing each other as they are stuffed together into cages. Imagine an elevator stuffed to capacity with pregnant women, kept there for years, fed and maintained in a continual state of pregnancy in order to harvest their offspring. What madness would be bred in such a harem?

One of the theories of Alan Grant is that modern birds descended from the dinosaurs. A visitor to a modern egg farm might have a better picture of the bird-turned-monstrous than most of us who merely crack a soft-boiled egg at breakfast. But birds are deeply archetypal in other ways than the monstrous. Birds symbolize freedom, soaring and flying; they are the image of happiness in their spontaneous songs. One of the most sublime scenes in the film version of Jurassic Park is when, waking up in the tree where they have sought refuge, Grant and the two children hear the brachiosaurs calling to each other in titanic voices that echo through the misty jungle. Calling back to them, Grant makes the whole herd raise its thirty-foot necks above the treetops to turn and look. This act of communication signifies a connection, a relationship of one speaking subject to another.

For Grant and Sattler, and the children, these creatures are not mere machines to be disposed of at whim and controlled by computers and corporations. They are living beings with intelligence and life and powerful instincts. In the novel, the most powerful scene comes just before Isla Nublar is destroyed by aerial bombardment. Grant has insisted that they find the cave where the velociraptors are breeding so that they can count the hatched eggs and have some idea how many animals have escaped the island. The scene that follows as the humans enter into the subterranean nest of the raptors is sublime. For under the earth the velociraptors have recreated their own social forms, complex and deeply mysterious, apparently including migration patterns, and nurturance of their young among their strong instincts. The fearful monsters are glimpsed as Prometheus imprisoned and, through intelligence, escaping in defiance of old father Zeus.

Hammond, who takes on the mantle of Zeus in this reading of the story, is not rescued (as he is in the film) but falls down a hill in a moment of panic and is bitten by the cute little compysaurs, who inject him with their anesthetic venom. Hammond, the great master capitalist who would have conquered the world and made billions off his Titanic zoo, is pushed off across Lethe into deep Tartarus so that the compysaurs may dine on his flesh.

In Jurassic Park dinosaurs represent a Nature that modern man has worked hard to destroy over the last hundred years: the Nature that eats humans. The Tyrannosaurus Rex epitomizes this rampant predation, so large that human machines are even hard-put to fight back. But T. Rex also symbolizes primal rage and destructive aggression that is Nature fighting back against the selfish and "thintelligent" control of corporate technocracy. In quite an explicit way, T. Rex is the personification of Chaos, that force or condition that precedes even the gods. Chaos underlies Order, and Nature's chaos is at odds with the puny, computerized variety of Order modern technocracy seeks to impose. Ian Malcolm is the prophet of Chaos in Jurassic Park, warning the inflated rulers of the modern world to beware the consequences of their actions.

The technicians of Jurassic Park (not surprisingly all men who seem to have no families) have reduced themselves to a confident rationality which believes it can predict all outcomes, evade all consequences that are contrary to its will. Theirs is a fat and arrogant masculinity that is represented by Nedry, the greasy and unscrupulous computer security specialist. The counter-maleness that emerges spontaneously among the dinosaurs despite the bio-engineers' high-tech castration, is Nature itself in all its chaotic sublimity, and the non-rational as a positive, creative force larger than human will. Nedry, Wu and the other technicians have not just lost the Feminine and its ability to be in relation to others; they have lost Nature and the understanding that they are part of it. Removed from Nature into their air-conditioned control-room (control-womb?), the technicians play out a game of absolute mastery: they know it all and so are slightly bored with even their own creations. They are just doing their jobs; just trying to make a buck. Like the owners of factory farms and their corollary, the mechanized slaughterhouse.
The Abandoned Child and the Masculine Sublime

When one reads Frankenstein, one sees a young man who has so devoted himself to rationality and the lust for control over Nature that he has lost touch with domestic life and friendship. He is disconnected from the world and so irresponsible, a deus absconditus who abandons his messes and flees. When reading Frankenstein, one feels that Victor has lost part of himself; indeed that the monster is his better half -- strong, courageous, loving, sensitive, and conscious of his need to be connected responsibly to a family. He has lost a sense of wholeness and his response is to maniacally try to restore it by recreating that giant man inside himself, his shadow, his lost embodiment in Nature. When he confronts his double, he is horrified and flees its "ugliness" as the modern mentality flees the natural world because it contains ugly, messy, things. Ultimately Victor Frankenstein is fleeing Death, his own mortality, which is inherent in being a creature within Nature. Frankenstein and the scientists of Jurassic Park attempt to be perfect reasoners, perfectly conscious, wholly subjects manipulating others who are wholly objects. They hope to do this through a pure mastery of Logos -- logic, words, signs -- but to their dismay, such action only leads to chaos and fragmentation. In psychological terms, these men are investing all their energy in their egos, or indeed even more shallowly, in their personas, the masks they wear. As Technicians, Lawyers, PR Men, Men of Reason, Men of Business, they are shrunken fragments of a whole soul.

Yet, Ian Malcolm, the chaos theorist in Jurassic Park, represents another view, a science that has cast off its hubris and sees wholeness in Nature with all her chaotic unpredictability. Like a Taoist or a Hindu, Malcolm sees Nature as inherently uncontrollable because it is inherently unpredictable and infinite. The universe is the manifestation of the vast unmanifest, its soul is pure potentiality and so anything might happen. Instrumental reason controls through prediction of order, by applying the myth that the universe is a finite machine that works on clockwork principles, ultimately predictable and controllable, no matter how complex. The relationship between science's obsession with "laws" of nature and Western culture's blind faith in "law and order" becomes clear in Jurassic Park. The opening of the film shows armed guards, living in a world made exclusively of men, battling the savage female rebellion of one of the velociraptors fighting for her freedom. In the novel, however, the reader comes away with a profound sense of sympathy for the raptors as they escape the military destruction of their former prison.

Jurassic Park epitomizes Foucault's image of the "panopticon" described in Discipline and Punish: it is a prison in which the inmates are all constantly watched by their captors who are positioned at the center of the prison itself. Ironically, of course, the guards are most deeply of all imprisoned in the concentric circles of their surveillance and control. Anthony Easthope draws a similar circular fortress as a model of the modern masculine ego. Ego constructed as complete control over external forces, is entrapped in its own defenses, unable to escape the barriers it has raised against a universe that can only be conceived as an enemy. Western culture has conflated this paranoiac type of egocentrism with creative genius so that the most praised inventors (or comic superheroes) in our civilization are those who can contain and control the most monstrous powers -- biological pathogens, nuclear fission, toxic wastes, vast armies. Such Promethean desires are ultimately the illusions of Icarus.

The abandonment of children is as strong a theme of Jurassic Park as it is in Frankenstein. It is a spiritual abandonment that lies hidden within Hammond's grandiose belief that the vast theme park is really for children. The infatuation of the technicians with their own mechanical prowess begets the abandonment of family. Indeed any genuine relatedness to others is replaced by the artificial and strictly hierarchical relationships of the corporate org chart. Fearing the overwhelming feelings associated with the infantile encounter with the archetypal Mother, these men take refuge in what I will call the Masculine Sublime.

The Natural Sublime is that encounter with the vastness of the universe that leaves the ego feeling small and insignificant. The response to such encounters can be to let go of desires for control and become aware of the infinity of the living world. A response rising out of fear of ego-extinction, however, can give rise to ego-inflation through a fantasy that the Natural Sublime is not absolute otherness, but a mirror of the Self and its potential power. Frankenstein is a timorous and nervous young man, introverted and ill-adjusted to the world of male competition. Is it a wonder that he reacts to his own insecurities with overreaching ego-inflation? The monster he encounters is the shadow of this inflated ego. To identify with the universe, to say "I am the universe" or "I am the center of the universe" is to paradoxically become utterly disconnected from the material world. This form of irrationality grounded in the mana of rationalism is Hammond's fatal disease. Alan Grant is symbolically redeemed from this technician mentality by his being forced to protect Lex and Timmy as they make their Dantesque journey through the park. He becomes the symbolic Good Father -- one might say the Mothering Father -- in atonement for all the bad fathering of his fellow scientists.

Crichton displays the evils of the Masculine Sublime that underlies the desire to unlock the "secrets" of the genome. It is a desire to control bodies which rises out of the masculine ego's separation from its own body, its own self-objectification. In modern industrial culture men are separated from the domestic sphere, from tender emotional expression, and from a nurturant focus on relatedness to others (rather than competition with them). This is the social reality out of which the myths of science arise -- myths of masculine power, control, rationality, objectivity. The relationship between control and fear is made clear in Jurassic Park's repetition of the word "CONTROL" as a chapter heading, when the action shifts to the innermost interior of the panopticon. Disembodied minds, dependent upon the disembodied power of computers, electricity, and radios, the scientists of Jurassic Park are confronted with their repressed shadow, their mortal bodies, and their own physicality. Seeking the immortality of fame, they die, one by one, prey to their own repressions and the rage generated by their own lack of Eros. Denying connectedness to their offspring, they refuse to believe in their vulnerability. For vulnerability is the ultimate enemy of control and mastery.

One should not think that Jurassic Park, any more than Frankenstein, is only a critique of scientific institutions or their attendant ideology of control. Both stories go beyond this to recognize that these mentalities pervade modern political culture. The panoptic mechanisms of control Hammond's men construct could just as well be turned on human societies. The dream of controlling Nature has led to the dream of controlling criminals, the underclass, foreigners, and women. Ultimately it is rooted in a desire for absolute self-control, the ability to recreate oneself into a predictable machine, one which, if it does break down, can be fixed. Willpower triumphs over the dragon -- the body and the unconscious. Encased in armor, willpower eliminates human vulnerability -- to disease, to emotional pain, to defeat, to death.


Copyright 1998 James W. Maertens