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There is an occult meaning to the word mushi [虫 / 蟲] in Japanese, the nuances of which are lost in its English translation as ‘insect’ or ‘bug’. Here is a translated excerpt* from an article called Mushi ga ii [虫がいい] in a collection of essays Nihongo Omote to Ura [日本語 表と裏] written by the cultural critic Morimoto Tetsurou [森本哲郎] (1925 – 2014) –
The Japanese characterize such mysteries of the heart as mushi. The heart is what one desires, what one thinks and what one feels. Nevertheless, there are times when the heart does not work the way one would like it to. In other words, there is another heart within one’s heart. The Japanese call that ‘second soul’ mushi. It is believed that, of the two, mushi is by far closer to the depth of one’s being. The reason for it is that when one loses consciousness and when one’s breathing weakens, the Japanese call that condition ‘the breath of mushi‘. ‘The breath of mushi‘ means that only the mushi within one’s body is left to do the breathing. In other words, mushi is the last thing that supports one’s life. In that sense, the Japanese concept of mushi is close to Freud’s libido.
After I watched the anime Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) [新世界より] and also read its original novel by the always insightful Yusuke Kishi [貴志祐介], I cannot help but think of the Japanese educator and mystic Makoto Shichida [七田真] (1929 – 2009).First, a quick summary of the story of Shin Sekai Yori. Human societies as we know in the present day collapsed after 0.3% of people discovered that they had psychic powers, and after prolonged struggles in which the psychics and non-psychics fought each other to establish a new world order, the earth became depopulated (down to 2% of its height) and a new society in which everyone is psychic finally emerged. The protagonists of the story – a group of five friends – live in that new society 1,000 years from now. As we follow these five friends from childhood to adulthood, we discover the true history of what happened to the human race in the intervening 1,000 years through their interactions with an inferior race of bakenezumi – mouse-like mammals who are intelligent, speak human language and supposedly worship humans as deities. The story culminates with the rebellion of bakenezumi against the human race.