Spiritual content hidden in movies

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Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:12 am

I think that whenever we tap the potential of human creativity, a lot more may come through than the author herself may have intended. I think this is especially true for works of fantasy and science fiction, the Harry Potter series or Star Wars come to mind.

Recently I was reminded of the movie "Tron" because of its wonderful soundtrack by Wendy Carlos. I also said that I still like the movie and rewatch it now and then, and I was asked why... That made me wonder...

The basic idea behind "Tron" is that besides the people in our world there is also a world of programs inside the computer, and these are also conscious entities. A programmer named Flynn (Jeff Bridges) tries to hack into the computer of the corporation he used to work for because a manager has stolen his ideas and then removed him from the company. Flynn's friends help him get into the building to circumvent a lockout of all low-clearance workers and uses Wendy's (Cindy Morgan) terminal to attempt another breakin. The villain of the story is a program called Master Control Program (MCP) created by that ambitious manager. The MCP uses a new technology designed for teleporting matter to beam Flynn into the computer to eliminate him as a threat.

Where I see the spiritual analogy is the dual planes of existence in which the action takes place. To the "users," the world inside the computer is something they seem to control, but they cannot see all the little details taking place. The "programs" inside the computer also behave like conscious entities and are played by the same actors as their users are. The relationship between user and program reminds me a lot of the relationship between soul and incarnate. This becomes especially apparent when the program "Tron" (Bruce Boxleitner) tries to communicate with its user Alan. It seems like a spiritual epiphany and ritual, where the voice of Alan is heard through a beam of light coming down from above. Mysterious music underlines the transcendental quality of the scene - the piece is called "Let us pray." (The ending credit music not only uses an angelic-seeming choir, it also takes the movie's theme and transfers it to church organ.)

Another interesting scene is Flynn's entry into the computer, which is called "wormhole sequence" - like travelling through a tunnel, the scene both plays on the birth sequence and entering the world of the computer through the depiction of beams and circuit-board-like elements. Flynn initially is treated like all the other programs, but he turns out to be more - as a "user" he's able to transcend the limitations other programs have. He can heal other programs, restore damaged equipment, redirect energy beams and manipulate a multitude of things. In the end his sacrifice helps Tron overcome the MCP and catapults himself back out of the computer.

So, we have three different variations: The world of the users/souls, the world of programs/incarnates, and we have Flynn who kind of is an embodied user/soul inside the computer/physical plane - denoting the effect his "spiritual awareness"/user skills have. I think that is a rather powerful message hidden inside a movie that can also be considered good entertainment. Wink
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:30 am

I'm currently (re-)watching the series "Star Trek: Enterprise" - a prequel to the original series from 1969 featuring Scott Bakula.

As so often science fiction seems to be a vehicle to introduce concepts that people often do not think of, but that have a certain energetic reality - in this case regarding love and sexuality.

One episode features the male engineer being set on board an alien space ship. At first he's miserable, but he gets more than well along with the female engineer. She invites him to the holodeck of their ship and shows him her homeworld - on board a little rowboat. They play "a game" she wants to introduce him to and they put their hands into a bowl of crystals, and have both empathic experiences, reading the emotions of another, experiencing jolts of joy coming along with these experiences of opening. (Later in the episode it turns out this was the mating ritual, but she thought they were not biologically compatible. He ends up pregnant. Wink )

I find this a beautiful depiction of a nonphysical mind-meld, also with the erotic moods playing in that makes us tend to think of these encounters as astral sex.

In another episode the doctor of the enterprise, a male alien, notices the interest of a female human crew member in him. They spend a lot of time together, she initiates physical contact (unusual for his species) and he asks all kinds of friends about what it means. At one point, on an alien planet, he mentions to her that he's married. She asks him why he says so and he tells her about what he perceives.

Her response is most interesting. She tells him that she has interest in him, but jokes that she does not want to be his friend. "What exactly do you mean when you say 'friend?'" - "Let us find out." Smile

Instead of playing a misunderstood romance drama the authors of the series seem to explore more fine nuances of what love can mean and feel like. The presence of alien races creates an ambience of mystery and exploration, but also timidness. The characters cannot simply act within the usual confines of what is considered the norm or part of their role model.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Donna on Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:49 pm

Warning: rambling discourse follows.

I think Sci Fi is one of the most dynamic genres of our time and has the potential to keep generating new ideas and scenarios. It originated with the simple idea of "scientific fiction" with "hard" and "soft" delineations. The hard science fiction was fiction that was based on known science fact with imaginative speculation, while the soft was based more on the social implications of science (the social sciences). Initially, the hard sci fi scoffed at "fantasy" elements but even then the possibility of enhanced human psi capacities were considered scientifically possible by some editors. Early hard sci fi generally had a "gee whizz" attitude to science and so refused to accept dystopic texts like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) as part of the genre.

A considerable number of pulp era sci fi texts were essentially westerns and travel romances transposed into space. A number simply continued old imperialist ideologies of the white man's burden. Then came a New Wave with texts which were more political, controversial, literary and avant garde. The genre developed into something more encompassing, asking the big questions that humans will always ask.

A messianic streak runs through a number of popular sf texts like Starwars. The Matrix and The Fifth Element also come to mind. Academics make careers deconstructing such works. It's there in different form in Asimov's Robot Dreams, which you can read online if you haven't read it - it's worth it.

I've recently finished a book called Science Fiction 101 where sf writer Robert Silverberg writes about his own development as a writer and presents a collection short stories that inspired him. I think you might enjoy one of these stories particularly, Oliver. It's called Common Time by James Blish.
Synopsis

A man named Garrard is a test pilot for an experimental space ship bound for Alpha Centauri. Previous attempts to make the trip have failed. Garrard is put in the ship in suspended animation and wakes up after the ship has gone into "over-drive". The first thing he remembers is the injunction: "Don't move". Garrard realizes that ship time seems to be almost stopped relative to his own; he is not breathing, and his muscles respond slowly to mental directions. He calculates that 6000 years of subjective time will pass before the ship reaches its goal. Suddenly, he realizes that ship time is speeding up, until it equals, then exceeds, his subjective time. As the differential time rates increase, he again loses control of his body and goes into "pseudo-death".
Garrard awakes as the ship comes out of overdrive near Alpha Centauri. Around him in the space ship is a group of dreamlike beings that call themselves "the clinesterton beademung" and speak to him in dream-language, which he understands perfectly. The story's narrative also becomes dreamlike at this point, suggesting that Garrard's experiences are indescribable. As the ship's automatic mechanism is about to start the journey back to Earth, Garrard again goes into pseudo-death, and remains in that state until the ship nears Earth. He lands safely. He can no longer remember what the "beademung" was like or even if it was real, but he has a haunting sense of loss.

Wikipedia

Actually, I've read quite a few sf short stories lately and re-read Dune (which I'd totally forgotten). This too is messianic and very interesting in its approach to the messiah figure's fear that his legacy will be jihad. I love the genre because it allows for such breadth and depth.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:06 pm

Well, I always loved "The God Emperor of Dune." I consider it the deepest work of the line. Exploring that alien consciousness is quite interesting.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:04 pm

Alpha Centauri seems to inspire these stories. There's a game of the same name. Six factions from planet Earth land there after having made the long trip at a fraction of light speed. All honor an ideal, but some of these ideals are not very attractive. Two factions seemed more interesting - the ecologists and the scientists. Only ones I ever played. Wink

The colonists grow their settlements and find out that the planet does not only have native lifeforms - aggressive psychic worms and funghi - but soon after the leader of the colony is contacted by the consciousness of the planet itself. In the unfolding of the story it turns out that the planet is trying to convert into a new kind of consciousness, but cycle after cycle it falls short of its goal. It remains in a half-conscious state and a cataclysm happens.

If the player makes the right decisions, the planet and the humans can transform together. They become one consciousness - both present in the bodies of men and within the whole. The cycle is broken and the evolution of the planet has achieved its next state.


Also I was reminded of the Vulcan mind-merge today. Smile
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Donna on Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:28 pm

If the player makes the right decisions, the planet and the humans can transform together. They become one consciousness - both present in the bodies of men and within the whole. The cycle is broken and the evolution of the planet has achieved its next state.

That's a cool concept.

There's a Ray Bradbury short story called "Dark they were, and Golden Eyed" where the colonists on Mars (refugees from an Earth about to be destroyed by nuclear war) gradually transform into Martians, taking on the race consciousness of the planet's former occupants. "Call me Joe" by Poul Anderson is similar in a way to Avatar in that a character operates a synthesised creature adapted to live on the Jovian surface and who gradually becomes more that creature than human, the forerunner of a new species. "Four in One" by Damon Knight is a transformation story about four explorers who fall into a carnivorous plant and must share the vehicle, so to speak. "Colony" by Philip. K. Dick explores a predator that can morph into anything and "The Monsters" by Robert Sheckley is another explorer story, this time about cultural differences. On this planet the sentient creatures kill their females after a specified time due to the ratio of males to females and the needs of the population. It's seen as a religious duty to kill one's wife but when one of these people kill the woman from a group of human explorers a battle ensues.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:13 am

On this planet the sentient creatures kill their females after a specified time due to the ratio of males to females and the needs of the population. It's seen as a religious duty to kill one's wife but when one of these people kill the woman from a group of human explorers a battle ensues.

This could be inspired by an unfortunate human custom I read about one and a half weeks ago. In the book "The World Until Yesterday" science writer Jared Diamond looks at traditional societies, and tries to establish that some customs were born out of need (environmental pressure) and some were cultural anomalies. For the later he mentioned one people who had the custom of "widow strangling," where family members like sons were required to strangle the widow. In a bizarre twist this was also acceptable to the widows themselves. I guess cultural programming can be very strong.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:00 am

Ever saw a movie called "Enemy Mine"? It was an early Dennis Quaid movie, scifi. Humans and another race battle each other in space. There's deep enmity, when one of each race strands on a hostile planetoid. It features an overcoming of cultural differences and the fear of the unknown, and ends with the discovery that the alien is a female and Quaid helps deliver her offspring.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:01 pm

A little synchronicity on the "single conscious planet" theme - just an episode from Enterprise were an organism seemed to be eating up the Captain and some crewmembers. But it turned out to be intelligent and a group consciousness. They brought it back to the planet it came from. It turned out to be part of one giant consciousness - covering wide vistas as far as the observer's eye could see. The episode is called "Vox Sola" - "single voice?"
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Donna on Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:10 pm

For the later he mentioned one people who had the custom of "widow strangling," where family members like sons were required to strangle the widow. In a bizarre twist this was also acceptable to the widows themselves. I guess cultural programming can be very strong.

That's horrendous. In the short story, the female creatures are also bent on enforcing the ritual and that struck me as a good observation at the time.

Ever saw a movie called "Enemy Mine"? It was an early Dennis Quaid movie, scifi. Humans and another race battle each other in space. There's deep enmity, when one of each race strands on a hostile planetoid. It features an overcoming of cultural differences and the fear of the unknown, and ends with the discovery that the alien is a female and Quaid helps deliver her offspring.

I'll keep an eye out for that one. District 9 deals with a similar theme, even though it's primarily about apartheid, I feel.

A little synchronicity on the "single conscious planet" theme - just an episode from Enterprise were an organism seemed to be eating up the Captain and some crewmembers. But it turned out to be intelligent and a group consciousness. They brought it back to the planet it came from. It turned out to be part of one giant consciousness - covering wide vistas as far as the observer's eye could see. The episode is called "Vox Sola" - "single voice?"

Cool. And now I'm reminded of another story I read: The New Prime by Jack Vance. In it candidates are put through virtual reality simulations where they prove their mettle without the benefit of remembering who they are (sound familiar?). Ultimately, one is selected by the elders as the Galactic Prime whose characteristics influence all of the societies in the universe.

I don't want to tell you how it end, in case you ever read it. It really is a beautiful twist.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:47 am

District 9 I watched exactly once. Too much gore and shock in that one, though the real selfishness of the main character also shocked me as much in hindsight. I wanted the movie to be over and know the end, even though I knew that in many aspects it was well-made.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Donna on Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:30 pm

It's redemptive though. The character grows.

IIRC, I wasn't much put off by the violence which I took as an instrument of satire.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:36 pm

Well, it probably made sense in the context of how violent South Africa is said to be.
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Donna on Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:46 am

This ebook library has some of the mentioned stories if you're interested.
http://bookos.org/
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Re: Spiritual content hidden in movies

Post by Oliver on Tue Jan 29, 2013 7:11 am

I don't read anymore for some reason. I'm not really sure why.
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