The symbolism of King Kong

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!


About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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8 Responses to The symbolism of King Kong

  1. Tabless Tom says:

    Wow. Wonder what he’d have thought of Planet of the Apes. Or, for that matter, Young Frankenstein.

    • thegodguy says:

      Dear Tabless Tom,

      In the future these movies might make for good “spiritual” blog topics. Until then, try to fathom the higher symbolic meanings of these movies for yourself. We are all capable of such deeper interpretations if we try to connect with our higher mind! It takes practice and study – but the Lord is counting on it!

      Spiritually yours,

  2. rdb92 says:

    Thank you for this! I just watched 2005 remake got all that symbolism you wrote here so I wondered if the original sent the same message. This movie and “Brave New World” really surprise me, people knew then what will world be now but they didn’t change anything. I just hope that more people than I think got King King’s message 🙂

    • thegodguy says:

      I am glad you found this blog article intellectually interesting. Breaking things down to their psycho-spiritual equivalent (symbolism) is what the future of human thought holds for us!

      Spiritually yours,

  3. Art Howard at Night says:

    “Beware following your dreams!” I just watched the 2005 remake again tonight, and I feel like that’s what it was saying. The movie producer believes the redemption of his professional reputation lies in the jungle. He then manipulates everyone else’s hopes and ideals to help him accomplish this, and they follow him into the quicksand: “You’ll be a star!,” “You’ll be known as the greatest trapper in the world!, “We’re doing it for his wife and kids!” Even Kong’s dream is to have the girl and sit on a mountain looking at the sunset. The movie producer escapes death to become the talk of the town, only to be ruined on his big night. The seamen who forge on in the name of their co-workers die themselves. The girl who wants the spotlight first finds herself sacrificed to a giant ape (she’s center stage! And is the ape a metaphor for a ravenous audience?), then sees the ape, the first truly appreciative audience she’s ever had, slip from the top of a tall building. And King Kong dies for trying to have a pretty girl at his side while enjoying the beauty of a sunset. “It was beauty killed the beast.” Beauty being different for each of us: Vanity, ambition, self sacrifice, all tragic flaws that can bring about the doom we want to avoid.

  4. Matt Jones says:

    Well not all monster movies have a higher meaning other than just entertainment value, but in king kong, godzilla, war of the worlds, and other major movies such as these I believe do have a literal, and even spiritual meaning. In king kong for example: I feel like it represents the human tendency to seek out new and wonderful things. But once a value (money, fame, etc.) Is applied to these things, they instantly want to harness it and milk it of it’s worth until it is destroyed. Why? Because it is a heavenly order. God said to subdue the earth and to keep in subjection it’s creatures. Genesis 1:28. Unfortunately, our now imperfect nature has distorted this order into one that allows the torture and mistreatment of nature. Some movies do reflect on the human condition, but we can only know how much by knowing how humans are supposed to be, and we can only know how much by reading god’s word the bible.

    Encouraging to read the bible daily
    Matt Jones

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