Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On the Descent of the Avatar…

[What, you ask, does avatar mean in Sanskrit?]

Ross Douthat says of the pantheistic vision of the blockbuster Avatar:

The question is whether Nature actually deserves a religious response. Traditional theism has to wrestle with the problem of evil: if God is good, why does he allow suffering and death? But Nature is suffering and death. Its harmonies require violence. Its “circle of life” is really a cycle of mortality. And the human societies that hew closest to the natural order aren’t the shining Edens of James Cameron’s fond imaginings. They’re places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short.

Religion exists, in part, precisely because humans aren’t at home amid these cruel rhythms. We stand half inside the natural world and half outside it. We’re beasts with self-consciousness, predators with ethics, mortal creatures who yearn for immortality.

This is an agonized position, and if there’s no escape upward — or no God to take on flesh and come among us, as the Christmas story has it — a deeply tragic one.

Pantheism offers a different sort of solution: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness, a re-merger with the natural world our ancestors half-escaped millennia ago.

But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.

1 comment:

gregchaos said...

Pantheism begins to make rational sense once you fit a big missing piece back into the cosmic jigsaw puzzle. This is the conscious Sun, something intuitively recognized by every culture until the Church, not science, forcibly erased it. What brings life to our bodies is energy. Stars make their own energy fields as they release the light of life to the likes of us. Everything from an atom upwards has an energy field. Dive deeper at http://www.sunofgod.net