Avatar as ‘The Hero's Journey’
The Hero's Journey, or mono-myth structure was first articulated by Joseph Campbell, who posited it as the backbone of all mythological tales,
like the stories of Jesus & Buddha. George Lucas wrote Star Wars as a conscious exercise in creating a Hero's Journey myth that would speak to modern people.
The Hero's Journey can be broken down with different subtle variations, but the fundamental stages as I see them are:
1) Ordinary World
2) Call to Adventure
3) Refusal of the Call
4) Meeting with the Mentor
5) Crossing the First Threshold
6) Tests, Allies, Enemies
7) Rethinking Approach
10) The Road Back
11) Resurrection Hero
12) Return with Elixir
The Hero's Journey is a fundamental story of transformation, the path to mastery, victory, enlightenment…& it's generally walked by an individualist, male hero,
in most modern mythologies. Some of my criticism of Avatar in relating to the heroic story revolves around the identity politic of the regurgitated "white male hero" saving the helpless indigenous/native/ female/ minority. Which is just so played out. But when I get past that knee-jerk reaction, I don't see it as that simple. When we critically create the distinction between an "external" and "internal" heroic journey it's easy to see the "internal" heroic journey in Avatar as the process of Ascension,
enacted by not just one hero, but #: Jake, Neytiri, & the Collective Alliance with Eywah.
only myth that is going to be worth thinking about
in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet,
not just men, but the planet, and everybody on it.”
-Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
The Simple Human Hero
Powerless & vulnerable in a hostile place, Jake Sully cowers behind his weapon in his first jaunt through Pandora. He can't read his environment,
doesn't know which animals are dangerous, which aren't, how to hold his ground & defend his territory, or how to kill with grace.
The forest is experienced as separate from self, nature as something to be studied; he lacks intuitive understanding of his environment or his effect within it…
he pokes plants, provokes animals, & makes a bunch of noise, getting himself corned by several packs of scary wild things.
Although he is "stupid... like a baby," Jake possess the qualities of a hero in the making: unlike his colleagues, he is not overly intellectual…
he comes with a beginner's mind, natural courageousness & curiosity, a hunger born of desperation, & most importantly (according to Neytiri) a strong heart,
strength of spirit. She would have missed it were she not so tuned in to source -- but because she is aware, open, receptive, she sees & understands
the meaning of the sign from Eywah, when, arms extended outward in a Christ-like power pose, Jake is illuminated by hundreds of the orb-like creatures
that seem half dandelion, half jellyfish, flocking to him like fireflies defining his etheric body, & symbolically signifying to Neytiri that he is special, worth saving.
While Jake is already at stages 4&5 of his external heroic journey by this point, this meeting with Neytiri & the forthcoming arrangement of her being assigned
as his mentor, or guru, marks the beginning of his internal/ascensionist journey, as well as the beginning of Neytiri's heroic journey, which is purely internal.
In the Hero's Journey/Ascension story, whether there's an external monster, villain, or enemy to be fought, the real battle is always the internal one,
which revolves around the hero overcoming fear. In Jake's internal battle, the choice between fear & connection/ love is represented by whether he will
choose to exploit the trust of the Na'Vi & side with the imperialist human war mongers, or to defect from the mission to which he was originally assigned
& side with Grace & the Na'Vi, collaborating with them to attempt to protect Home Tree & their pagan permaculturalist way of life.
When he chooses love/trust/fearlessness, he chooses Ascension, alignment with his Higher Self. His ascension is literalized at the end of the film…
his consciousness switches bodies & his self ascends into the higher dimension permanently, fused with his avatar, the representation of his Higher Self.
One aspect of Ascensionist language that particularly resonates with me is its presentation of divinity as a continuum (the evolution of God), rather than a polarity
(God or Not God). A modern concept is that polarity is always false, maya, illusion…nothing is purely good or evil; light simultaneously exists as both a particle
& a wave; we are both God & Not God. But the multi-dimensional metaphor, with its accompanying concepts of ET races, Archangels, Ancestors & Ascended Masters, fills in a lot of blanks, making it easier to understand the continuum paradigm.
As a representation of a higher dimensional being, Neytiri's heroic journey is less extreme & purely internal. She has already learned to 'see'
(as in namaste, "the god in me sees/acknowledges the god in you"), experiences a deep energetic connection with all life,
as well as a special psychic connection with animals & nature facilitated by the tail-braid linking, experiences her "self" as part of a collective higher self
(deeply entwined with both the people & Eywah)…& as the shaman's daughter, is one of the more spiritually advanced community members.
Yet she still experiences fear, distrust, & separation, & is presented with choices that would allow her to break out of those lower vibrational states of consciousness…
like whether she will continue to trust Jake after his initial seeming betrayal (which also represents trusting her Higher Self & Eywah,
who told her to trust him in the first place), or whether she will choose a story of separation, lost love, & bitter resentment.
She's tested by the initial attack on the Na'Vi in which her father is killed…her experience of grief & loss plummets her consciousness down
& she temporarily shifts to more of a fear/separation consciousness - distrustful of Jake & fearful of the end of the world as she knows it, she renounces Jake.
After he changes his approach (link to the chart again #7), swooping down on the big flying dragon banshee, she, in tune, changes hers,
& after spiritually re-grounding, she decides to take the leap of faith & choose trust.
It's unclear whether she fully ascends (merges her Higher Self into her existing body), or simply raises her vibrational level to a higher dimension,
but it's inarguable that she's as much a heroine of the film as Jake is a hero. If she hadn't heeded the signs from Eywah & saved his life,
the most likely scenario is that Jake would have been killed by scary beasts, & the mission would have continued as planned,
culminating with Home Tree & the Na'Vi civilization getting completely obliterated, & the bad guys winning. Additionally, she clearly chooses love over fear,
& is rewarded by 3D tantric kitty elf sex with the "alien" she loves, & getting to save both her protégé (twice!) & her planet.
Yes, her heroism is more subtle…her role as Jake's guru (the teacher who facilitates his enlightenment) is less glamourous than Jake's as dimension-hopping ambassador. She didn't tame the biggest banshee like Jake did, but she taught him how to... And she tamed the big beast inside herself, her negative mind, so that she was able to listen to her soul, soften her hard warrior edges, & let love in. I don't see this as anti-feminist or dis-empowering, but rather as a balanced integration of concepts of the Divine Feminine in which fierce shakti warrior energy is woven together with nurturing receptive mother & lover energy to create balance.
Hero As Collective
The true hero of the film, however, was not Jake or Neytiri, but the collective alliance created between all those who sided with Eywah.
While Jake served an important role as ambassador between worlds, uniting The Collective using some very effective grassroots community organizing techniques,
& Neytiri served an equally important role as Jake's guru, neither of them saved Pandora, they just played their parts by using their unique gifts
to facilitate a situation in which a Collective Alliance against the imperialist invaders was able to form, organize, fight, & win.
Ascensionist theories describe the purpose of life as finding your own unique note & being able to hold that frequency, so that together
all of us can create harmonic resonance, a sophisticated symphony, perfect in its diversity. In the Ascensionist paradigm, every human can be
as heroic as Christ by pursuing their own path of Ascension, which generally consists of prosaic tiny battles that, if well played, culminate in bigger victories.
These tiny battles take place when the ego-self becomes attached to something that is not harmonic with the larger picture…the big victories are experienced
when we've navigated the right balance between giving & receiving, serving one's own needs & serving the needs of the people or The Whole, s
uch that we feel safe, connected, symbiotic. The method towards achieving this is to go deep within & allow yourself to acknowledge the things you're afraid of,
the ways in which you're still clinging to concepts of separation, & work through them in whatever manner you find most effective.
Until the situation got desperate in Avatar, no one seriously entertained the possibility that humans & Na'Vi could fully trust one another
& work together for an agreed-upon greater good. But due to a domino effect created by a few strong individuals choosing Divine Alignment,
this became a possibility. The reward was something previously unimaginable to humans & Na'Vi alike - that the connectivity between all of Eywah's creatures
could be experienced as total alliance, in which all living creatures magically collaborated towards the preservation of the sacred.
Avatar teaches that in the struggle to heal our world, birds & animals & trees & grasses can become our active allies if we "see" them as part of ourselves,
part of our Beloved Community. Is there a way to make this true for us?
As old systems crumble and we stand poised on the brink of what can be a new paradigm of collaboration & symbiosis, both with other people & with Gaia,
the model of collective as hero is relevant. We've grown up in a world in which a small percent of the population controls the majority of the world's wealth.
We've felt dis-empowered, fearful, even despairing. It's our job to figure out how to turn the despair into power, how to go from complicit cogs
to intentional co-creators. We have to figure out what we want, how to make our visions meet in the middle, &, most challenging, how to work together
in order to actualize them. We must learn to "see into" the other, & have the courage to make ourselves vulnerable enough to defeat our own fears.
In this time we live in, the guru, or mentor, is not an external teacher, but an inner knowing, & all have equal potential for greatness, if only they heed the call.
+ It Makes Me Feel Good (The Elixir)
I can feel Neytiri hovering above me like my Higher Self, a feline protectress reminding me that piety can also be sexy. I wanted to be her cub & her lover,
& wouldn’t it be great to have a strong body like that. Speaking purely empirically (in terms of my own direct experience), she's reminds me of Krishna
& even Jesus Christ…a beautiful conceptual container into which Spirit has stuffed it’s abstract yet tangible flavor of Divinity, expressed via mythology.
She's archetypally aspirational, a useful Avatar. When I'm tempted to get short tempered or revert to negative thought patterns
telling me the same old separation sob stories, I think it will help for me to feel her inside me, to feel the moment of choosing trust, forgiveness, & to associate that choice with a happy ending. Similarly, it also doesn't fully matter to me whether the legions of extraterrestrial races that populate the Ascensionist mythologies are "real" either.
My intuition tells me that there's something here, there, everywhere…. & When I "hear voices" in my head during meditation, it feels good, & right,
to experience that as tuning in to a more divine frequency, something larger than my ego-self. When I listen to the voice I identify as my Higher Self, I never regret it.
When I trust a healing modality that I've been drawn to, it's generally quite effective - including recent forays into things beyond logical explanation;
rhythmic sound healing, esoteric realities, or enigmatic magic…at this stage in my journey, the result is what matters - if something gives me hope,
makes me feel connected, & breaks through my inner bull-shiznit, it's true for me, for now. Like ‘The Zombies’ said, I don't need any reason;
it just makes me feel good…& beyond the relativist pragmatist justification, there's also something deeper: an intuitive knowledge that my experience is also true -
maybe someday I'll feel as confident about the language I have at my disposal to describe it.
What Does Your Avatar Look Like?
From what facebook tells me, many people have been affected by the images of Avatar in a way that may hit home
like existing spiritual or religious mythology has failed to. Some people are even feeling suicidal as a result of the deep longing that's been awakened by this movie -
& the corresponding fear/belief that they do not live in a world that could facilitate such beauty, such connection. I'm lucky. I'm a left-centered, fringe-forging
neo-Witch-Crone…I've got Beekeeping & Permaculture with Starhawk, Rhythm-Rituals & Women’s Mysteries, Waldorf & Chi Gong…I have a compost in my backyard & solar panels on my roof… It's easy for me to shoot my psychic tail braid into the roots of the wild onions or up through the sand to reach
the Great Inland Sea, & feel myself connected with all living things (most of the time)…I also started my existential crisis early & have had the privileges of training, experience & community…But for some, it sounds like this movie can become the catalyst that may inspire them to seek their own personal resonance.
So whether you believe we're at the dawn of a new paradigm or simply responsible for cleaning up a big mess, the questions are equally relevant:
What are you afraid of…? & how is that fear limiting you…?
What does your Avatar look like…?