Is “Dark Energy” Real?

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The phrase “dark energy” carries a metaphysical, almost voodoo-like connotation. It manifests imagery of cleansing items and places with Holy water and sage and comes off as rather unscientific. Despite all of this, it is still quite common to hear different versions of considering something to have “dark energy”. Is this phenomenon real or is it just another superstition?

Defining “Dark Energy”

When someone says that something, someone, or someplace has “dark energy”, they normally mean that it gives them a bad feeling. For example, if you were admiring a chef’s knife on display in a friend's house and then found out that the knife was actually used by a local serial killer to slaughter several people, you may note a change in how you perceive that knife.

And that is at the root of “dark energy” — it’s actually all in the psyche. Had no one ever told you that the knife was used to murder people, you would have left in admiration of the item. Upon learning what the knife has done you begin to feel the “dark energy” around it.

Is It Real, Or In Our Heads?

Because our feelings towards certain items are dependent upon what we know about them, it follows that there is nothing inherent in the item that gives it this energy. Therefore, it can be tempting to think that what we feel towards it isn’t real.

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Harry Potter had struggled with such a question when he died and went to what represented some grounds between heaven and earth. Harry asked Dumbledore, the wise, Christ-like figure, if this experience that he was having was real or just in his head. Dumbeldore responded:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Consider the murderer’s knife again. Could you cook with that knife knowing what it had done? Most people wouldn’t be able to, even the least superstitious among us. Here’s another example: the classic Amityville horror house.

In The Amityville Horror film, a family moves into a house where the previous owner had turned to evil and murdered his entire family. A new family moves into this house and slowly begins to turn evil as well. Scary movie aside, would you be willing to live in a house where a man murdered his entire family? Again, most people wouldn’t be able to. It’s hard to say that something isn’t “real” when it has quite objective (in respect to the human experience) responses to a similar situation.

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Does Cleansing Dark Energy Work?

Many religions have some way of cleansing dark energy. Christians use Holy water, for example, to purify rooms and items. Critiques of religion look at something like Holy water usage from a scientific lens and cannot comprehend why large groups of people seem to believe that Holy water cleanses places and items (at least in their minds). However, I believe this to be due to hubris.

In fact, I would argue that even the rational Stoics do something very similar. Consider how a Stoic deals with negative thoughts. If, for example, someone made fun of your 10-year-old car, you may have some bad feelings towards it. If you are embarrassed about your car, then every time you must drive, you will feel some negative emotions. The Stoic approach to such things is to immediately change your perspective. For example, if you are inclined to think: “this car sucks, I wish I had a better one”, you may replace it with something like: “this car gets me from Point A to Point B, and a better car wouldn’t make me happier so I’ll just feel grateful for what I have”.

This is a psychological form of cleansing. It’s replacing negative thoughts with something positive. You could even accompany such a thing with an action. You may be inclined to give your car a little *tap* on the roof as you’re thinking these thoughts, almost as a way of saying “you’re not so bad, car!”.

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Does the tap do anything? Well, yes and no. It doesn’t change the material composition of the car. But it does make it easier for some to associate those cleansing thoughts with that action. That way, when you perform the action, the thoughts naturally follow.

Circling back to Holy water usage, it is true that Holy water is just plain water, and that using it on an item doesn’t change the material composition of that item. However, the actions of using Holy water are attached to the psychological cleansing that takes place in everyone’s minds.

Closing Remarks

There’s nothing simple about human psychology, so it’s important that we approach different ways of life with humility. Using Holy water may not change anything on a material level, but it does seem to allow many people to cleanse bad thoughts and replace them with something better. Even though I am not a Christian, it seems quite reasonable to me why such practices have stood the test of time.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in learning more, listen to similar reflections on The Strong Stoic Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

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