As in all genuine or universal forms of symbolism, what is always being expressed is some spiritual condition of the human race. In previous posts I offered interpretations of the symbolism in horror movies, like vampires and werewolves, etc. Now I think I want to go after something larger—King Kong!
According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, the entire human race has a connate knowledge of objective truth. This cosmic knowledge is a function of a higher level of the human mind that is trying to make contact with our everyday consciousness. Movies like King Kong are a result of this temporary contact, which produces a profound symbolic representation of humankind’s spiritual predicament.
So let’s break down some of the elements in this famous movie and see if we can translate them into their spiritual analogies (correspondences).
First of all, the movie starts off in a center of modern civilization—New York City. An expedition is formed to seek out something unusual on a far off island. Symbolically speaking, New York City represents the modern, or western intellect. A far off island represents something obscure in the human psyche. Traveling by ocean means that to get to this desolate island one must go to the far boundaries of one’s memory.
The island they are seeking represents a forgotten, but important part of the human psyche. The human intellect, represented by the exploratory party and expedition, believes it will discover something important for the modern world to see.
King Kong symbolizes a gigantic part of the human psyche, which has failed to take part of the current trajectory of human development. Removed from this development it has grown into something immensely savage and primitive (which is symbolized by living among dinosaurs). King Kong represents what happens in a modern society that neglects the importance of developing one’s emotional world properly.
That King Kong becomes attracted to a female of the human race symbolizes an intention of this improperly developed world of human emotions to conjoin with the more intellectual world of knowledge.
This conjunction is doomed to failure because the knowledge and progress of the modern intellect is artificial and therefore does not reach or affect the human heart in any spiritually helpful way. This neglect of cosmic responsibility brings the fabricated human intellect into conflict with real human feelings (which represent the reality of our inner world and our true being). This conflict plays out in the ultimate setting of King Kong climbing to the top of the Empire State Building—the pinnacle of modern, manufactured knowledge. But the “beast” is killed by the highest ideas of the fabricated human intellect (airplanes) because the modern world doesn’t want to deal with reality or its true responsibility of addressing its inner ugliness.
I believe Swedenborg would have enjoyed King Kong, and used it to highlight many of the points he made in his theological writings!