“The Dark Man: The shadow that follows us all”, by Deborah Wells

Reviewed by Sue Oxley

The Dark ManIn many ways, this book has much to commend it. The writing is approachable and much of the subject matter interesting. The topic of the Dark Man is not one that is often raised in Goddess or New Age literature and since the mythology of the same is woven throughout Western culture, then maybe a new perspective on it is due.

It would have been marvellous to read more about the Lord of the Underworld aspect within this mythology, and this is the difficulty with the book.  There needed to have been concentration on the whole metaphor as harbinger of change, rather than the romantic minefield of non-scholarly exploration of historical ideas of the Devil and various dreams of the author about him, as well as trying to link him to basic everyday needs.  It would also have been far better to leave out the use of bold type to emphasise a point – if it’s not in the writing then it’s not there.

Eventually, of course, the author does discuss the Devil as seen within our own society but runs away from exploring the metaphysical issues that this raises.  She really can't decide whether or not to give the Dark Man material reality: is he a Jungian archetype or an old god; exactly what is he?  We never find out.  However, we do find out lots about what he looks like, giving 'substance to vampires, highwaymen and other gentlemen of the night'.  This rather worrying statement,  confusing the reality of vampires and highwaymen points us beautifully to the confusion in the subject matter and in her own attitude to the topic.

She peculiarly warns us against becoming romantically involved with the idea of him, a warning that seems very strange, but maybe not if you are the sort of woman who falls in love with serial killers, and yet herself insists that everyone has had some experience of seeing a dark man hovering on the edges of their sight.  She also wants to endow him with qualities of reliability and truth.  This need to bring him back from total evil (it’s not him, it’s his actions, she tells us) into a place of redemption or sympathy, again speaks of women addicted to bad men, as do her accounts of her dreams about him.

However, this book is not all confused by any means.  Once the author gets onto the firmer ground of the Tarot – seeing the Devil as the bringer of change – everything becomes very interesting and thoughtful.  Her section on the Underworld and the movement through the various stages of change is excellent and very enjoyable.

What is especially fascinating is her idea that there is no short cut; change of any kind involves hard work, depth of exploration of archetypes and imagery and emotional difficulty.  She warns that if you try to bypass any of this through traipsing through the 'primrose path' you will 'end up trapped in hell ... of imbalance and gloom ... it creates a wound that will not stop bleeding and which cannot heal.'

This is a book excellent in parts and quite difficult in others.  A ruthless editor and critic would have created a  remarkable book, as the writing is approachable and clear.

“The Dark Man” is published by O Books and is available from their website.