James Cameron made a movie which has become a worldwide phenomenon. He wrote the screenplay in the 1990’s and it sat on a shelf for the best part of seven years. That screenplay was recently released as the movie “Avatar”. It is the highest grossing movie of all time and has been nominated for nine Academy awards. I’m a bit of a sci-fi buff; among my favourite authors are Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and Frank Herbert. With this in mind I went to see “Avatar” and was completely blown away by the scope of the film. As I was watching it I realised that, either purposely or by default, James Cameron had included a number of subtle messages in “Avatar”. What are those messages you ask? Well follow me and let us explore together.
Avatar’s lessons for the Spiritual Warrior and Seeker of the Way
You might say that Avatar is just a movie, there are no spiritual lessons or life lessons in it, it is purely entertainment on a massive new scale. Well, whether it was intentional or not, I feel that James Cameron included a number of subliminal messages in the script and on screen action which, considering when it was written, were well ahead of their time.
In our own mythologies, there is always reference to the “first ones”, the “mother goddess” or some other primal source for our creation. Even the bible indicates in Genesis that there was a supreme intelligence behind the creation of our planet and the life upon it. For example, in Egyptian mythology there is the swirling chaotic waters known as “Nu” from which “Atum the creator” sprang forth. 1 While “Atum” is identified as male, “Nu” is definitely female. She can also be identified with “Gaia” from Greek myth and “Eurynome” from Pelasgian myth. 2 These female “first ones” can be traced back to the constellation of Ursa Major, the great Bear.
Why am I talking about feminine “first deities”? Because the Na’vi (the people) of Pandora worship “Eywa”, a mother goddess who keeps the souls of all the Na’vi and other living creatures on Pandora within her until it is time to be born. After death, the soul returns to “Eywa”. The Na’vi believe they can commune with the souls of the departed through linking with “the tree of souls” which provides a direct link to “Eywa”. Could this actually be the “tree of life” or “world tree” from many of our own ancient myths? If so, then “Avatar” the movie is drawing upon some of our most ancient archetypes. I was moved by the depth of the connection the Na’vi have with “Eywa” and their departed ancestors. My realisation was that here is something basic in our lives that we have forsaken for the pursuit of the future.
As a Spiritual Warrior, I feel the urge to return to more basic systems of belief without the dogmatic intervention of conventional religions. This first message then is:
Avatar reminds us where we come from. Cherish and care for the Earth (Nu, Gaia, Eurynome, Eywa) and she will continue to provide us with the nourishment we need to survive.
Is there more that Avatar can teach us?
The Na’vi of Pandora are a peaceful people. They believe all life is sacred and should be honoured. This includes paying respect to the plants and animals that are harvested or killed to provide sustenance. Does this remind you of something? How about the hunting rituals of the North American indigenous peoples? Many nations in the region from arctic circle to the Gulf of Mexico performed ceremonies celebrating the spirit of the animal they were about to hunt. 3
Over and above these ceremonies are those that date back to Palaeolithic times and the hunting rituals performed by early humans. Palaeolithic art includes a kind of hunting magic which was practiced prior to and after hunts. However, interpretation of western European Palaeolithic cave art as shamanistic hunting magic is not universal. 4 The second message then is:
All life is sacred, including those we rely on to provide us with the sustenance we need to maintain our lives.
There are still more messages…
Avatar brings us the Na’vi from Pandora who are a people born with nerve endings growing from their heads and braided into what looks like hair. This braid is called a ‘queue’ and they use the nerve endings to bond with animal life on Pandora. This bonding is called ‘Tsahaylu’. It is a permanent bond that is formed for mutual benefit. The Na’vi are able to ride or fly on the backs of the ‘Pa’li’ or ‘Ikran’ (Direhorse or Mountain Banshee)5.
The bond can also be made with the “Soul Tree” so that the Na’vi are able to commune with “Eywa” their deity. In this complex ecosystem the Na’vi understand that all of the flora and fauna on the planet, including them, are connected to a central all encompassing spiritual existence. This is a reminder that:
All life is energy that is being utilised and radiated in different ways. We are connected, one to the other, seeking ‘gnosis’ or communication with the divine spark that motivates us all.
The ‘Tsahaylu’ that the Na’vi practice is learnt by Jake Sully, the central character, when he is ‘dreamwalking’ in his Avatar (artificially engineered Na’vi body motivated by a human whose DNA is fused into the body – it is controlled during a dreaming state = dreamwalking). This transfer of consciousness is reminiscent of reincarnation which occurs when the soul departs from the dying body to re-enter and animate a new body, generally without retaining knowledge of a previous existence. The ‘dreamwalker’, however is aware that they have a human existence.
Adding to the ‘cycle of birth, death and rebirth’ and aiding in the transference of consciousness is the fact that the entirety of the planet’s ecology acts like the synapses in a human brain. The root systems of the trees are able to process and convey information at amazing speeds. “Eywa” is able to be contacted through this bonding and the information storehouse is then accessed by the Na’vi. Part of the information stored in this system is the essence or energy of those Na’vi who have died. These ancestors can then be contacted in a form of spirit communication.
Remember that birth and death are not the totality of human existence. We are multidimensional beings who manifest in physical form to learn and progress towards enlightenment.
By developing this ability to commune with their flora, fauna and each other, James Cameron’s Avatar, gives the Na’vi a form of metaphysical sight. This is a spiritual insight into the nature of things and other beings. It is conveyed in the movie by the phrase, “Oel ngati kameie”6 which translates as “I see you” and is explained in the movie as being able ‘to see into a person to know their heart’. Does this have parallels in our society? It certainly does. New Age culture has borrowed a term from Hinduism that has a similar meaning to the Na’vi phrase ‘I see you’.
Namaste - I honour the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honour the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.7
If Avatar could be seen to contain these messages, where does that leave us?
I’m not going to go all hyper-metaphysical here, however, I do believe that the popularity of Avatar arises from the fact that it speaks to us on such a variety of levels. The pathfinder in me, my wolf spirit, was touched by the messages I have outlined above.
As a Spiritual Warrior and Seeker of the Way, I would like to reinforce Avatar’s messages, intended or not.
- Care for our planet so that all life may abide here in peace and harmony.
- Honour the sacrifice of the animals that sustain our existence, as all life is special in the eyes of the Universe.
- We are all of us, divine beings in our own right, connected through a sharing of spirit/energy.
- Birth leads to death which is not an end but a new beginning.
James Cameron, thank you for Avatar and its subtle messages, intended or not. Namaste – I see you.
***UPDATE 21 March 2010***
One more thing which I feel needs to be said is that the theme song to Avatar has messages of its own. Check out my thoughts in “Avatar Song I See You – Hymn or Love Song” and tell me what you think.