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More on Avatar and Pantheism

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 12, 2010

I’ve blogged on spiritual responses to the film Avatar here and here where I discuss possible pantheist readings of the movie.

Santi Tafarella’s recent post picks up Ross Douthat in the NY Times, reflecting on the film Avatar. I agree, he does write eloquently of the human existential dilemma:

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.

I hadn’t considered this “end” of pantheism, the hopelessness of being inescapably drawn down into the mud. Your thoughts?

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