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Posts Tagged ‘kabbalah’

I took in this  James Cameron film in the first week of its release and it was simply delightful. Avatar is a melange of mythic elements and powerful archetypes that speak to and from our depths. The 2 hours and 45 minutes went by almost too quickly. This is a testament to the film’s rich symbolism and conformance to the twelve stages of the hero’s journey as articulated by Dr. Joseph Campbell, and the extraordinary and captivating CGI iconography.

As a Jungian, Avatar was a cinematic tour du force leaving me with plenty to think about.

While the storyline itself is not especially remarkable, the images and the interdependence among them certainly are. Of the many things in the film worth reflecting on and talking about, three things were especially striking as I look back on the experience:

  1. The Home Tree World: The central place of community and family life of the Nav ‘i people.
  2. The Tree of Souls: The luminous tree that acted as a nexus of the planet Pandora’s neural network, and the physical signifier of the presence of the sacred and ancestral souls of the Nav’i.
  3. The Contrast of Capitalistic Greed and Pastoral Intimacy: the Military-Industrial mining of Pandora that acts as the reason to displace an indigenous people by force, coupled with the Nav’i’s strong connection to the planet, it’s feminine spirit, and their deep respect for all living things and resolve to defend them.

The Home Tree world of the Nav’i was an enormous living structure with towering branches that served as passageways through the Nav’i homeland. It was reminiscent of the Tree of Life and was filled with delightful creatures (like the spiral plant-like worms with beautiful plumes that would retract as soon as touched). There were also the Seeds of Eywa, the spirits of the Nav’i divinity: phosphorescent parasol-like creatures that are intimately connected to Eywa.

The Tree of Life appears in traditions throughout the globe. It connotes the interdependence of all life, and the common heritage (brotherhood and sisterhood) of all sentient beings. It symbolizes the mystical history of the Family of Humankind and the Family of All Creation. As I watched the film, I was impressed with the sense of filial feeling and accountability that the Nav’i express toward all life, including the life they take for food or in self-defense.

There was a clear allusion to Wisdom and Sophia in the characterization of Eywa, the divine presence. The Home Tree is a symbol of life before the “Fall,” an Eden of beauty and youthful exuberance, filled with an authentic sense of awe before the Sacred: a pristine and simpler world threatened by the harsh and violent intrusion of weapons of war and technologies of death.

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Christ means the “Anointed One.” Throughout history and across cultures and religions, oil figures prominently, along with water, in ritual moments of sacred awakenings.

While the water of Baptism prepares and cleanses,  anointing ( from a linguistic root meaning to “smear”) is often performed using blessed oils, or chrism. In opening the Heart to the second sacramental gate, the oil, richer and heavier than water, penetrates to the inmost layers of our Being forming a foundation. It adds complexity.

The anointing with oil signifies an effulgence, an expression of one’s uniqueness, and brings the soul into more direct contact with the Christ Within. It materializes the spark of Divine Light that knows no evening, the fire that pierces the darkness. Where the waters of Baptism meet the flammable oil of  Chrismation, the flight of one’s soul toward the Omega Point, the Heart of the Infinite whence it arose, is enabled.

The Holy Spirit, the breath of the Beloved, moves through matter and psyche, like the solar wind, creating auroral-like currents announcing the presence of the Son. In this sacrament, we are confirmed in our identity as a seeker of the Grail, as a Knight commissioned by the “Most High.” We are deemed ready to step boldly into uncertainty and face the perils along a narrow road. We receive our first true commission to advance on the road that Joseph Campbell calls the “Hero’s Journey.”

Known better in Western Christendom as “confirmation,” this sacrament acts to energize the second sephirot of the Kabbalah Tree of Life, “Yesod,” or foundation. It represents “shalom” or peace. It completes what began in Baptism, when the first sephirot, “Malchut,” or the Kingdom, was spiritually opened. The second sephirot  builds on the baptismal naming of the soul, exciting the gift of self-expression or the embodiment of the Logos. “Yesod” also represents the unconscious Mind and the charism of spiritual knowledge. With the anointing, the first two gates to the Kingdom of the Beloved are opened to the soul, and the spiritual journey enters a new phase in fulfilling its telos (τέλοϛ) in the Pleroma, or the Divine fullness.

In Catholicism, Confirmation is the conscious decision to “be a soldier for Christ and defend the faith,” and is usually conferred in young adulthood.  In Eastern Orthodoxy,  Chrismation is combined with Baptism by water as a mystical conjoint act of naming and blessing. In Protestantism, confirmation is a rite viewed as a service of public declaration of membership.

For me, the Eastern tradition of Chrismation retains the fullest sense of the mystery that these moments of sacred encounter embody. The anointing with oil communicates a Christic charism to help unleash the foundations of the quest for the Pearl of Great Price. The Gates of the Cosmic Heart are swung wide as the individual soul joins the collective movement of the World Soul toward the Teilhardian “Omega Point,” the place at which the great opus of creation realizes its destiny according to the divine archetypes guiding it.

Meditative Epilogue:

In preparing greens and vegetables for a meal, we first wash them thoroughly and purify them. More often than not, we next garnish them with a favorite oil. First the cleansing by water, then the adornment with oil as the base with spices added that adhere to the oil and elevate a common collection of materials to something truly delicious; a culinary experience in the hands of a master chef.

So, too, we come into the world with a common collection of materials ( the organic stuff of what it means to be human). We are  Baptized in water, cleansed, and are then fully opened to receive the charisms that follow. Then comes the anointing with oil, that awakens us further to embrace the spices added later by the Master: the remaining five sacraments, and the experience of a lifetime in expanding upon them.

It is powerful to revisit these moments that happened in one’s youth, recalling their nature as perpetually active, not static happenings. Each day, the action of each blessing expands our spiritual universe as the universe we observe all around us accelerates its expansion.

Chrism

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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