An inevitable post about Avatar (no spoilers though)

There is a lot of discussion about the movie Avatar and its ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ dimensions. Some folk think it’s pantheistic and pagan. Others see Christian themes. Some Christians don’t see enough Christian themes and bag it for valorizing paganism or pantheism. I have no idea what James Cameron was trying for and have not yet bothered to find out.

All of this is good, I guess, as at least the topic of spirituality is out there?

Hmmm…I cynically think not as it trivializes religion and spirituality to the point of being just another consumer item. Personally, I found whatever spiritual message that may have been in there, Christian, pantheist, pagan or whatever, very weak.

What I found amazing, inspiring and potentially spiritually transformative was viewing the movie in 3D. The new 3D technology was wonderful and so unlike the old 50s red and blue cellophane glasses it has to be experienced. With the 3D glasses on we experienced objects and events in such a deep virtual reality our bodies would jerk and move away as an object came toward us.

Yet there was no object. There was no action. No spears, no arrows, no floating plants. There was only projected light on a screen and manipulation of the way our eyes saw that light. Hmmm. I tried telling my body that at one of the slow points (the plot is nothing to write home about). Five minutes later as ‘a rocket’ sped ‘towards’ me, I jerked backwards anyway.

So here we have a movie called and about Avatars, which are appearances or ‘incarnations’ of deities in a lower world, or in gaming terms a user’s representation of herself within a game or virtual world. And through the 3D (and to be fair this happens without 3D in great movies) we ourselves enter into another world. We experience the world in our bodies, emotions and thoughts. In one sense we become an avatar through the experience.

If we really stop and think about this process we will enter the mystery.

To quote Aura Paper one on the subject:

Ye know from many books of sciences, that what a man perceives by his consciousness is not any external object, but only certain rhythmic thrills of nerves and centres in his brain.

This is the key message of all esoteric and depth spiritual traditions around the world. Look at the diagram. What we see, what we feel as real is actually inside us, not outside us. Again, if we really stop and think about this process we will enter the mystery. Try it.

Also, there are many theologies in the esoteric and religious traditions about the regular human life being a reflection or appearance of a deeper, higher self. Watching the Avatar movie can be seen a Malkuth or mundane reflection of that mystery. So regardless of the theology of the movie, if we reflect on how it works (and the giveaway name) we can move to an appreciation of an eternal verity that is beyond theology, beyond Paganism, beyond Christianity and beyond incarnation.

‘Twas well worth the money. And I still have the glasses for next time. 🙂



  1. Pete Madstone · January 6, 2010

    Thanks – more and more people are seeing (pardon the pun, and now the cliché) things this way. I’ve been blogging on the same…

  2. sophrosyneradical · January 17, 2010

    I’m confused. You said the spiritual aspects of the film were “weak”, but from my vantage, they were centre-stage through the whole film. It wasn’t greed, ego or consumption that compelled the lead characters, but a reverence for the sacred.

    If interested, here’s my review: ‘Avatar’: Anti-Piracy Crusaders vs. Reality.

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