I love vampires. But I’m not much interested in the popular campy appeal of vampires, the horror, the stylization. What I love about vampires is how close they are to humans, how much we have in common with them.
Dependency and Exploitation
Vampires live off of the blood of others, and when they attack someone, the victim in turn becomes a vampire and goes on to infect others. This is the standard cycle of abused becoming abusers. In almost all close relationships, there exists some element of dependency and exploitation. Often, neediness and dependency can sap the life energy out of the partner in a relationship, just as a vampire saps the life blood from a victim. The vampire can become a powerful metaphor for our behavior in these relationships. Our abuse of another sometimes has far reaching consequences that reverberate in their life, just as the bite of a vampire does.
When we sin against others, we can recognize that sin as a potential “infection” that we inflict upon others. Often, we sin against them in the first place, because we are taking life from them to feed a need within ourselves. Our sins against others can be defined as feeding the addictive need we have to control others. It is sometimes hard to recognize this for what it is, as it is often disguised in terms of care and concern. But more often, on a subconscious level, it has to do with the insecurity we feel in life, and the need to somehow shore up that insecurity by keeping others rotating within our orbit.
Humanity’s vampiric tendencies can best be understood as addictions. The pedophile is an extreme example of the vampiric type. He suffers from an addiction to sex with children. In many cases, the addiction is passed on to the child, by virtue of their innocence and vulnerability at the time, and they often go on to either repeat the abuse, or to manifest the infection in other forms of abuse, or addictive behavior. Both the perpetrator and the victim become vampires, and even take on the spiritual persona of a vampire: a kind of ghostly, groundless misery, unable to find fulfillment in anything but their addictions, and then letting their addictions suck the life out of them.
Vampires are sometimes referred to as the “living dead” or the “undead.” If they are put into direct sunlight they burst into flames. They wander to and fro in the dark, with haunted, tormented visages, consumed only with satisfying their need for blood. There is a symbol in this idea of “living dead” in the LDS doctrine of spiritual death. We believe that when we sin, we become spiritually dead from God, cast out of his presence into the lone and dreary world. Repentance through Christ’s atonement brings us back into life and God’s presence. But until we experience the atonement, we are spiritually dead. This symbol was powerfully evoked in the film The Sixth Sense, where Bruce Willis, the film’s star, goes about his daily life, only to realize at the end of the film, that he has been in fact, dead for some time, and that the reason everyone was ignoring him in real life, was because he was a ghost, and no one could see him. Likewise, in our own life, few of us recognize that we are in fact spiritually dead. We are the living dead. Blood is also a powerful metaphor in the gospel. Signifying both life and death. Brigham Young explained that sin must be paid for in blood, the doctrine of blood atonement. Christ’s blood pays for our sins.
The Atonement and Sacrament
Understanding mankind’s vampiric state can give added perspective to Christ’s admonition to “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Christ died to satisfy the blood lust of the people. They saw Him as a threat to their power and place in the world. They needed Christ to stay in their orbit, not pull people away from them. So Christ is the classic victim of vampires, killed in the most cruel way, in order to satisfy the most base and carnal of addictions: to torture and humiliate. He literally debased himself to become the “fix” for mankind’s addictive sadism. But unlike other vampiric victims, Christ went like a lamb to the slaughter, willingly, and “to this end was I born.” As a God, he transformed his sacrifice on the cross to become a blood sacrifice for all mankind’s sins.
So what happens when we, as metaphorical vampires, partake of the blood of Christ at the sacrament table? This is the only blood that truly satisfies, that transforms us, and brings us back to spiritual life. It is similar to Christ’s description of living water: Whoso drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but the water that I shall give him shall be a well of water springing into everlasting life.” Vampires, like addicts of all stripes, cannot find satiation in blood, but are constantly thirsting for more. But Christ’s blood provides lasting satiation and rest. (I thought about being a vampire at the sacrament today, and about drinking the blood of Christ to find life and relief from the restless pursuits of the flesh. I can’t say that it totally worked, because vampires have unfortunately been so stylized in popular culture, that their place at the sacrament table seems a bit sacrilegious.)
Vampire lore has been part of many diverse cultures for thousands of years. Why would such a consistent phenomenon show up across cultures and centuries? Because the metaphor of a vampire is so universal and human. We are all spiritual vampires, selfishly feeding and feasting off of the spirits of others. We have only invented their physical reality as a way of trying to understand and cope with the darkness within our own soul.