It’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and, not surprisingly, it’s been a subject of much media attention. It seems to me that there is something more psychologically unsettling to the actual event that continues to resonate within the depths of the human psyche. Using symbolism, I’m going to give my insights into the most famous maritime disaster in history.
The ocean has always symbolised the unconscious: the unknown element of existence. The surface that reflects the light of the sun provides the subconscious reassurance for those above the waterline. Cruising majestically across the Atlantic, the Titanic embodies the progressive idea of western civilisation. She symbolises the marvel of the age, a colossus of the empire manufactured through iron and steel. With the privileged passengers in first class, and the not so privileged in the lower decks, the whole spectrum of humanity is symbolically present on board. Disaster strikes as the Titanic collides with an iceberg and ruptures the ships side.
The wound to the side of the great liner punctures the dream of existence, just as the roman centurion gashed open the side of the messiah two thousand years before. As the crippled Titanic becomes flooded, the bow end begins to rise above the surface in preparation for the inevitable. To observe a ship or any vessel sinking is extremely distressing even when there are no fatalities involved.
A sinking ship symbolises the preparation for death of the physical body. Incredibly, it follows the sequence of the subconscious shift from a lateral to a vertical descent that finally severs the thread to the senses. The release of the burden of the world, the emotional tension now gushing through the portholes of the cells of the body instigates a flood, or inrush, of pure love that focuses the attention inwards. The individual man or woman withdraws from existence and sinks gracefully into the unconscious. The iconic image of the Titanic sinking slowly into the chilly Atlantic Ocean is the recognition of something strangely familiar to everybody. This is why the myth of the Titanic endures, for each successive generation, as a reminder of our own mortality.
Lance Kelly 2012