Avatar – A mythic masterpiece for our troubled time

In the Avatar film, James Cameron, the maker of Titanic, has taken the new computerized, digital, 3-D technologies to a new astounding level of brilliance and mastery. It’s a story of adventure, space exploration and the wonders of evolution on alien worlds, echoing the best of the Star Wars series; a searing critique of the military domination-exploitation agendas of our corporate empire and their devastating effects on indigenous, earth-centered cultures; and a Earth-human/indigenous-alien love story and cultural encounter that echoes the Pocahontas story and numerous similar “gone native” conversion experiences.

Avatar in Hindu mythology is a human form consciously assumed by a deity to function in our human Earth-world. In computerized gaming, your avatar is the humanoid form you assume to function in the virtual cyber environment of the game. In the film the avatars are the blue-skinned humanoid forms, mimicking the bodies of the native Na’avi of the alien moon, that the human military corporate raiders assume in a somatic exchange operation, while their normal human bodies are resting immobilized in a digital transfer chamber. Thus blending in with the natives, the hero, a paraplegic ex-Marine, is sent to scout out the alien world for information on how to take over it’s mineral-rich environment – but instead, becomes enamored of a native beauty and is so moved by the magic of their world and the peaceful animism of their culture – that he comes to their aid, with a few of his companions.

In the final Hollywood-obligatory battle, reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings saga, native warriors riding flying dragons battle with bows and arrows against monstrous armored space cruisers armed with missile launchers – but, with the unexpected aid of equally armored indigenous dinosaurs and the necessary doses of improbable luck, prevail. The final delicious twist in this tale, is that the rapacious alien invaders, i.e. the Earth-based humans, are sent packing, leaving the greatly damaged but still surviving world to its indigenous Na’avi and their formerly human, now true native avatar sympathizers.

The concept behind the Hindu mythology of avatar is that at higher levels of evolution (such as that of a deity), human bodies are consciously chosen for incarnation in the Earth time-space environment. Esoteric spiritual traditions of East and West teach that human incarnation is also by choice of a human soul, although ordinarily, the choice is heavily predetermined by karmic patterns left over from previous incarnations. I discuss this multi-dimensional view of the human being, which is inherent in shamanism, alchemy and yoga, in my book Alchemical Divination:

Humans are multi-dimensional spiritual beings, living in a multi-dimensional universe…As the Sufis say, w human beings live in a many-storied mansion, but have occupied the ground-floor for so log, we have forgotten even the existence of the higher realms.(p. 59-60)

The concept behind the game and film adopts the theme of conscious deliberate choice of a humanoid form appropriate to the planetary environment. The spiritual element is eliminated, and the conscious creation of an avatar vehicle for planetary existence is subordinated to the classic capitalist-colonialist exploitation agenda: use scientific technology to trick the natives out of their planetary resources, and if that doesn’t work or takes too long, kill them and take what you want.

I discuss this historic pattern in my book The Roots of War and Domination:

The mega-corporations of the military-industrial complex…with the help of their governmental clients, promote wars of aggressive invasion that destroy a designated “enemy” country, complete with sophisticated PR campaigns to induce psychological shock and economic paralysis. Finally, these same imperial corporations appropriate the natural resources (oil, forests, minerals, water) of the destroyed nation state into their corporate machines.(p.34)

There are many exquisitely beautiful image sequences in Cameron’s film. Two stand out for me. One – the way a native or hybridized humanoid on this world “tames” their horse for riding is by connecting the fibrils in their tails with analogous polarized fibrils in the horse’s mane – the result being that horse and rider become one being, functioning according to the thought intentions of the rider. The other image that I found truly magical are the phosphorescent jellyfish that float in the air and may land on your body. They are the emanations of the Mother Goddess Aiva, and when they touch your skin they infuse you with the essences of peace, healing, knowledge and delight.

6 Responses

  1. You just talked me into seeing it. I like an elevating metaphor.

  2. Your synopsis and archetypal depiction go down nicely while the film, personally, still provokes powerful emotional pulses within days after having seen it. I was also moved by the imagery you mentioned and would offer my own favorite part- when the whole tribe is sat on the holy ground and chanting, praying, swaying, holding their neighbors as one superorganism enganged in rhythmic ecstatic ritual and literally connected to their goddess via the hair tendrils… simply amazing power.



    After having viewed the latest box office hit Avatar, themes which seemingly resonate timelessly, find their expression once again.
    The story takes place on the distant planet of Pandora. This planet is bountiful in its natural resources and in particular “Unobtainium.” This precious mineral is highly coveted universally, as a business interest from the distant planet Earth seeks to exploit the planet in gathering this resource for its own entrepreneurial purposes. Such an endeavor would be easily undertaken if not for the indigenous population of the planet, the Na’vi.
    This group of highly intelligent, disciplined and physically gifted beings are a deeply spiritual people, who demonstrate complete deference for all forms of nature as they derive their sense of being and purpose from their deity known as Eywa, the source of all living things.
    Indeed, Avatar’s story line has been crafted from World history, as almost all indigenous people of color have had to contend with European colonizers determined to steal the natural resources existing in the lands of these populations. In Europe’s quest to secure these resources belonging to foreign peoples, colonial forces demonstrated no regard for the indigenous people, their customs, or their right to exist as a sovereign body.
    In the case of Africa, such European acts of unfettered exploitation found their expression no more so than in South Africa, where the British – among other European groups – for more than a century have and continue to subjugate the original peoples of the land while simultaneously raping the region of its most precious commodities – its gold, platinum, coal and diamonds.
    Avatar ‘s plot simply takes a page from this unfortunate segment of Africa’s history, as it places a group of foreign mercenaries – primarily composed and completely headed by those of European ancestry – in the land of the Na’vi, who seek to rob the indigenous people of their organic capital.
    A small band of supposed good doers – who through technology are able to mimic the appearance and abilities of other life forms – function as covert agents working on behalf of their mercenary cohorts, as they are instructed to make efforts to convince the Na’vi to remove themselves from their homeland so as to create a circumstance where by the theft of the regions considerable deposits of “Unobtainium” would be easily facilitated.
    Jake – the lead character – heads this collection of duplicitous individuals as he is successful in infiltrating a Na’vi clan. However an extended stay among “The People” would function to civilize the former marine, as he would become acquainted with the high principles regarding universal respect for life and the environment which govern Na’vi thought and behavior.

    Subsequently, Jake would undoubtedly conclude that the Na’vi would not surrender their homeland to any outside force.
    A now spiritually imbued and morally centered Jake then warns the Na’vi of the intentions of his comrades and informs the group of his role as a secret agent in helping to bring forth their agenda, essentially causing his banishment.
    Throughout the early stages of the movie, the actions of the imperialistic business class clearly denote those tenets which undergird the concept of White supremacy; however it is also during this portion of the film, where the less pronounced undertones of such a paradigm emerge.
    Jake through an ancient Na’vi spiritual occurrence is identified as an anointed savior figure by this population.. This absurd reality surfaces in the face of his role as stealth informant working to uproot this group from its homeland in attempt to make the land’s spoils available for plunder to his capitalist superiors.
    Additionally, as the main character interacts with this Na’vi clan he not only is proven their spiritual superior –again by virtue of the fact ancient spiritual forces suggest he is their redeemer – but also their physical and intellectual superior as he masters all of their practices and customs requiring speed, strength, endurance and intellectual prowess on his way to becoming a respected member.
    Jake’s final display of his inherent ascendancy atop the Na’vi – African people – occurs when he demonstrates his abilities in regard to combat, as he physically subdues this clan’s top warrior and future King after the defeated prince publically exposes the romantic involvement between the supposed hero and the clan’s princess and subsequent future Queen.
    As evidenced, the ethos of white superiority is consummated by Jake’s perpetual dominance over “The People” of Pandora as it is demonstrated in every conceivable manner, not withstanding his ability to capture the favor of the future Queen of this clan, an act which violates the group’s sacred prearranged pairing of the rightful royal prince and princess.
    Fearing its financial interests will not be realized; Earth’s occupying business class releases the full breadth of its hired military in an effort to remove Pandora’s indigenous people by force, vowing to spare no lives if deemed necessary.
    Jake having been ostracized by his former hosts, once again demonstrates his unbridled dominance as he would reintroduce himself to the clan after having tamed a revered and legendary “flying beast”; the likes of which only a few honored Na’vi warriors in the history of the people have ever domesticated.
    Such an occurrence would further reinforce the revealed prophecy expressing, the divinely inspired role this paradoxical figure – who worked to considerably undermine the interests of Pandora’s original people – would play as the Na’vi’s chosen deliverer.

    As the ensuing battle between the Corporations’ military and the Na’vi would unfold, Jake, recognized as sacred leader and commander of “The People”, would unite all indigenous clans – Africans – in facing this formidable opponent.
    Additionally, though not having engaged the Na’vi people for more than a few months, Jake would demonstrate an exceptional ability – reserved only for an arch witchdoctor – to access the ultimate source of “The People’s” power in summoning Eywa to aid the group in their campaign.
    As would be expected the indigenous people of Pandora aided by Eywa would vanquish their opponents, peace would be restored and Jake would find himself as the undisputed leader of the Na’vi and God figure to all its clans.
    The overwhelming messages communicated in the movie Avatar are disturbing on a variety of levels. The overarching theme promoted in the film, suggests the Na’vi – Africans, Native Americans, South Americans etc. possess not the spiritual, physical or intellectual capacity to compete with their Caucasian counterparts and thus have not the ability to adequately govern themselves, much less in times of adversity ergo the need for a White savior.
    Such an interpretation may germinate as the main character Jake would singularly outperform members of the Na’vi – to include their most formidable warrior – in every imaginable fashion, to the extent he would ultimately rise to the level of King and quasi – God figure in securing the survival of the very individuals who civilized him.
    Furthermore, not only is the proposition regarding the main character as liberator of those –Africans – who brought him further into the fold of humanity troubling, but even more still unsettling and potentially problematic is the premise that such an arrangement was divinely inspired.
    This circumstance prevailed as the Na’vi’s deity Eywa recognized Jake as a more spiritually pure and courageous being in relation to his indigenous–African–mentors, again in the face of his less than honorable intentions in regard to the very people the deity governs. Lastly, Jake’s rather exclusive channel to this groups’ celestial ruler, exercised as he prepared for battle, further establishes the proposed aforementioned spiritual pact.
    Regrettably, movie goers often fail to recognize the incessant inane and divisive ideas promoted by such productions as Avatar and subsequently are subliminally compelled to accept false notions in regard to either the superiority or inferiority of various groups and their subsequent essential value. Such has been the case far more often than the public is perhaps aware.
    The theme of Caucasian superiority has played itself out over an extended period of time throughout the history of the movie and television Industry. A considerable number of big and small screen productions – including but not limited to – Tarzan, The Lone Ranger and The Last Samurai serve as manifestations of this ethic.
    If society is to emancipate itself from such orchestrated tapestries of confusion, those among the masses able to discern the workings of the purveyors of this brand of cerebral control must remain vigilant in sounding “the alarm”, so as to impel media forces to more regularly reflect truth. If such a phenomenon fails to emerge, those transmissions designed to maintain and reinforce existing inequitable social arrangements and attending precepts will continue to flourish. Such is the net effect of the movie industries’ latest instrument- Avatar.
    Frederick Alexander Meade is a journalist providing analysis on social and political matters. His works appear in news magazines and publications around the country. The author may be reached at meade1900@yahoo.com
    * Although our Opinions column has some edgy material that does not necessarily represent J’Adore, it always has submissions that are great reads!

  4. It seemed that Jake went into a deep meditation until his consciousness was able to speed though the tunnel and enter the Na’avi body that had been combined with his DNA. He did not go as a ‘white Saviour’ but as a US marine spy, and could have been any colour Jake was equally as surprised as the Na’avi Princess when surrounded by the emanations of the Mother Goddess Aiva indicating his Avatar potential.
    To catch the horse or dragon, he was told ‘they will try to kill you first’. Hinduism likens the horse to the mind which needs to be controlled before spiritual evolution can take place.
    The connection with the horse and dragon made with the hair tendrils came from the base of his spine, was this indicative of the Kundalini energy rising to give him control of the animal mind and connection to a higher state of consciousness?
    Impressed by the use of symbols from our world’s ancient cultures. Pandora reminded me of C.S.Lewis book about the planet Venus, which also naturally supplied one’s needs.
    Brilliant film and perhaps more in tune with current human consciousness than one might expect.

  5. Hey could I quote some of the content from this entry if I reference you with a link back to your site?

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