Emerging Archetypal Themes: Avatar
Taurus: Spiritual Matter, Mother Earth & Our Bodies
The Lakota was a true Naturist - a Lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. . . . That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him. . .Luther Standing Bear
It’s time to find your copy of Avatar and watch it again.
Our souls need archetypal stories to structure our psychic energy, and Avatar speaks to the part of us that knows we need to take care of Nature, both Earth’s nature and our own.
With the Sun in Taurus, people naturally want to attune themselves to Nature. Taurus builds the life that brings us beauty, peace and happiness, because it knows what’s of value. Taurus values the body, the senses, eternal truths. Taurus tells us that the issues that speak to the heart of our global problems are environmental as well as moral. Taurus asks us what we value. Conscious Taurus values Life, unconscious Taurus values possessions. It seems we’ve made a choice to value things over life.
But we can change direction with our next steps. Our Mother, the Earth, is sick and we need to take care of her. Her ecosystems are breaking down, her children are dying and her resources are being depleted. We have to work with the Earth to help restore balance, or it will become a replica of Mordor – the land dead, the people horrifically mutated, the one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them!
“As Above, So Below. As Within, So Without.”
Just as our water is fouled, our air is poisoned and our soil is depleted, our bodies and our psyches are suffering from these same environmental damages. If we want to change how we live in this world, we need to start believing that we really are connected with the Earth and each other. So belief comes first. That’s how Jake Sully learned on Pandora. First he had to feel and believe in Pandora before he would fight for Pandora.
We live in a society that prizes its economic success over people’s health and well-being, creativity and inner essence. We need to change our priorities and focus on healing our bodies and our Earth. There are other ways to live that are more healthy and creative than our present way of life. We have the intellect, the imagination and heart to do it. But we need our wounded warrior king to heal first.
Life on Pandora shows us another way to live. Like Taurus’ vision of life, it is a way that puts us in harmony with our Earth and each other. We are seduced by beautiful, magical Pandora into imagining ourselves that free, that connected to Eywa, to the animals and plants, waters and air. That connected to the Tree of Life. Yes, Pandora is an image of Paradise, but Jake brings consciousness into the picture. Paradise becomes a choice.
Avatar’s theme is obvious: our mechanistic, violent, money-oriented way of life is destroying our own Pandora here on Earth. The question is what will we do about it? The story shows us how we can do it if we chose to side with the Earth.
Avatar shows us that our wounded bodies and the wounded Earth come from a common source. We are faced with the truth of a despoiled environment; now we have to face the truth of how we’ve ignored the deeper needs of the body, settling for outer comfort rather than inner peace and health, beauty and connectedness.
Understanding that we don’t need everything our society tells us we need, and simplifying our lifestyles, can help us discover new and better ways to live. Creating a society that helps everyone meet a level of comfortable needs will allow us time to use our energy for creativity and relationships. As we form a deep connection with Nature, we will be able to see and know what the Earth needs to recover. This has to be our top priority. We need to ensure that our Earth is healthy and strong so our children’s children will have a viable world to live in.
We cannot count on our redemption coming from the heavens (on Pandora, the Sky People only bring destruction) because we need to become responsible stewards of our own world. That was God’s command in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve. That is our true place in Earth’s ecosystem. Just as the Na’vi are good stewards of Pandora, so we can become true stewards of the Earth.
To change how we interact with each other and the rest of Nature, it would help to “… sit or lie upon the ground … to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; … see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives . . . Jake changed as he learned how to navigate in Pandora’s landscape. He changed as he became one with it.
Avatar: Honoring the Earth and Reclaiming Our Bodies
Avatar’s appeal is not just visual, it’s visceral. A story about the body and Nature, it speaks to our deep body wisdom. Like the ancient myths, this beautiful story gives form to the archetypal energies that are stirring within our collective psyche, energies that sense a big change coming. Because we see in images and hear it as story, Avatar speaks to our hearts and wakes up our innate love of Mother Earth. This is what an archetypal story does – it makes us think about what we’re feeling and what we value, so we can do what is necessary to enhance life. Archetypal stories teach us to see how we are part of the bigger picture, moving our perspective from the small self to the greater Self.
What we call fairy tales are the remnants of ancient archetypal stories. Avatar is a modern day fairy tale, build on ancient archetypal patterns. Its message tells us that our society’s values are at war with Mother Earth and our physical nature. We are out of balance with our instinctual life, our natural ecosystem. Our Judeo-Christian, enlightened, rational, capitalist beliefs have led to the rape of our environment for economic gain, risking sickness and death in Nature and the human population rather than focusing on what is right and healing. We are creating a wasteland, and the story shows us what we need to do to protect and defend our home planet from environmental death and from soul-death. We have to hope that we find a way to make the land fruitful again. And we have to know that sometimes it’s just not possible.
It all begins with our beliefs. We need to change our collective paradigm from the pursuit of human comfort to the responsibility of good stewardship, both of the Earth and of our own lives. What is the best way to live on this beautiful and endangered planet? We can no longer deny the damage. We have to face it and deal with it to come back into balance.
The Wounded Earth: The Wounded Warrior-King
The beginning of an archetypal story tells us where the problem or the wound is. And then the story goes on to show us how to heal it. So let’s see how Avatar speaks to our own condition.
In the beginning of Avatar, we hear and see Jake, our wounded hero. We hear him say, “I dream I am flying. I am free. But sooner or later you always have to wake up. Or cry when you can’t dream.” His wound centers on freedom, and the disconnect between our collective reality and our deepest wishes, between our minds and our bodies.
When his brilliant scientist twin brother is killed in a robbery – all that life bled out for money - Jake is enticed to take his place on Pandora to make enough money to heal his spine so he can walk again. The money is emphasized, both the expense of creating the avatar body and the money Jake will make. It’s all about the money.
As Jake watches his brother’s body incinerate, he thinks: He was the brains and I was the brawn. Right away we see that Jake doesn’t value his own knowledge, his common sense, even while he deeply ponders his life and his options. His learning style comes through his body awareness, which he negatively compares to his brother’s intelligence. We also do this by valuing left-brain rational thinking above right-brain emotional intelligence, mind over body, Heaven over Earth, masculine over feminine consciousness. Jake’s paralyzed, cut off from the thing he knows best. He’s been wandering around lost until this new opportunity comes his way. An opportunity to gain back what was lost. To make a new beginning. So he takes it.
Jake is such a great symbol for our own wounded bodies, bodies cut off from the Earth’s energies and unconscious of our own instincts. Besides the obvious ways our health has been affected by our dying environment, we have lost our deep connection with Nature. Who spends more time out in Nature than inside a climate-controlled building? We have lost touch with our instincts and it paralyzes us. Who follows receding ocean waters to be swallowed by the resulting tsunami? A wounded body awareness doesn’t kill our curiosity. It just kills us.
Jake’s useless legs symbolize the wound to our physicality and to our warrior nature; a wound that affects our standpoint. By warrior nature I mean the warrior within each of us that is willing to grapple with issues and fight for what we believe in. When we lose our belief in the system, we lose our spine, our standpoint and become paralyzed. We begin to question what we believe in and what we’re willing to fight for. That’s why the rallying cry of patriotism is so seductive. We are called to defend our own. But what happens when our own is no longer worth defending? This is the dilemma Jake faces. This is our dilemma.
What happens to warrior energy when it has nothing to believe in anymore? It works for money, it gets cruel, and in the end, it operates out of fear. Jake comments on this when he arrives at corporate headquarters on Pandora. He looks around and sees fellow ex-marines who used to fight for freedom but now fight for money. The Colonial is a character whose outlook is based in fear, fear of something greater than his own prowess, which constellates his violent aggression. He is afraid of Pandora and its wildness and of the Na’vi because they’re better warriors than he is. And so he retreats to ‘pumping iron” and encasing himself in a metal monster to fight. FEAR rules him. He fears he is not a warrior, but a coward.
The shadow Jake has to face is his fear that he’ll never walk again. The need to heal his body is what keeps his hopes alive as Jake begins to inhabit his avatar. Jake needs to become ‘embodied’ again – he wants his legs back, he wants to move forward. When he gets those legs in his avatar body, he remembers his old skills and opens himself to learning new things. His natural joy, curiosity, playfulness and competitiveness come back online.
For the most part, western culture is ‘dis-embodied'. We all live in our heads, sitting for hours on end, perhaps taking the time to exercise for an hour, but never fully inhabiting our bodies for any length of time. We adorn our bodies but rarely listen to them. We use our bodies but are not open to our bodies’ sensual gifts. We’ve lost touch with our instincts.
The freedom and joy of the body moving, leaping, daring is a major component of this story, just as Pandora’s beauty complements the body’s freedom. Corporate (ironically, from the word corpus ‘belonging to the body’) people live in metal boxes, without beauty or free movement: even walking in open spaces, which is such a big part of the game of golf, is reduced to putting in the office.
On the other hand, the Na’vi live in their bodies. They use their bodies to live, and not just to carry around a brain! They move through their day, depending on their body’s wisdom, strength and curiosity. Many people longed for the ability to have the Na’vi hair endings that unite them to magical horses and flying dragons. If we spent more time out in nature, we could develop similar organs of perception to connect us to nature. We can once again feel at one with nature if we choose to really go and live as part of nature. Unfortunately, most of us do nothing because our warrior nature is wounded and our corporate state keeps us asleep.
Once again, Jake shows us the way. When his awareness is focused through the body again, Jake is naturally courageous, daring, strong, inquisitive and persistent, playful, foolish and fearless, willing to take risks and willing to learn. All good warrior traits! Traits that are completely different from the Colonial’s fear, control, and manipulation.
The Divine Feminine
Once we return to our bodies, we reconnect with the Divine Feminine spirit of Life. Eywa is the spiritual energy of Pandora, its World Soul; it is an energy that pervades the landscape and unites all the beings of Pandora. All of Pandora rises up to meet the challenge of defeating the Corporation because of this connection. It is Eywa who announces that Jake is important to Pandora. How do we know that it wasn’t this spiritual energy of Life who substituted Jake for his scientist twin, knowing, because all life is connected, that it was this type of knowing, rather than the scientific ‘brain’, that was needed to save Pandora?
Why would Spirit go outside Pandora for a new hero? Is it because white men, even the damaged ones, are superior to everyone else? I don’t think so! Spirit brought Jake to Pandora because new knowledge has to be integrated into the Na’vi collective psyche to get rid of the ‘Sky People’. It is not about a white guy knowing more than the natives, but about the need to heal the wound of one side through the life-giving energy of the other. The integration between these two different types of consciousness takes everyone to a higher level of awareness.
Spirit operates in our lives, whether we know it or not. Spirit does not take away our free will, but rather opens us to the possibilities of growth available to us in life. It is this deep connection to the Divine Feminine that heals Jake and opens him up to his ‘kingship’, just as a connection to the Divine Feminine can heal our ‘wounded’ body and Earth and restore us to a more balanced understanding of life.
I love Neytiri! She’s a perfect expression of how a woman lives the deep power of the Divine Feminine, grounded in her body, open to her intuition, in tune with her instincts. Her fierce rejection of Jake’s initial childishness is wonderful! What woman hasn’t wanted to hiss at her man that way? Her take on Jake is true: you have a strong heart and have no fear, but you are stupid! Ignorant as a child! It says something about Jake that his response is: teach me to see.
Neytiri’s fierceness is need now in our world, and like her strength and loyalty which open Jake up to his feelings, women need to stand in our fierce beauty and challenge men to open to the power of the Feminine. Clarrissa Pinkola Estes wrote about this kind of feminine fierceness in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. Neytiri’s female strength attracts Jake and helps birth the king archetype in him. Would that our earthmen were attracted to this same strength in women!
It is the three women in the story, Neytiri, Grace and the clan priestess Moat, who help Jake grow up and take responsibility for the part he plays in the destruction of the Home Tree - the World Tree – the Tree of Life. Neytiri teaches him love. Grace teaches him responsibility. Moat gives him his chance at new life. When Moat decides to allow Jake to be trained as a Na’vi, he asks her why nobody else has done it. Her response hits the nail on the head: we’ve tried to teach then, but they are already full. (That’s the hubris of left-brain thinking.) She allows Jake to train to see if man’s insanity can be cured. Isn’t that what needs to happen?
It’s time we stopped blaming our mother Eve for eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge and getting us kicked out of Paradise. Perhaps her only sin was sharing it with an unconscious man! We have to grow up and acknowledge our part in the destruction of life – our home, our paradise - if we’re ever going to step up and do something about it. The male left-brain (which women are caught up in too) is crazy when it thinks it has all the power. It needs the balance of the feminine right-brain’s intuition, sensuality and feeling.
It all goes back to the underlying belief of our patriarchal culture which says that there is a Father God who lives in the heavens and who has no Feminine counterpart. This belief allows us to think the material world is 'dead matter' instead of the Feminine aspect of the Divine – the Divine ability to incarnate spirit in material life. This belief in only the power of the Masculine Spirit has cut us off from Feminine Spirit, which comes through our bodies and souls and gives us a truthful 'standpoint' about life. When we get 'embodied' again, we regain our connection to the Feminine Spirit of Life and to our connection with Spirit in an intimate way. That’s how we grow into conscious human beings. And that’s how we’ll save our Earth.
The Return of the King
Jake gets a chance to be an Avatar, which means an incarnation of a god or spiritual essence. We could all take this lesson to heart and remember that each of us contains a part of Spirit, and it is our spiritual destiny to integrate our body and spirit, which we do through a conscious connection to our soul. This is what the upcoming square between Pluto in Capricorn and Uranus in Aries is calling us to. Our hero, in connecting to his avatar body and to Pandora, learns the truth of the Celtic belief that the good king is wed to the Land to protect its health. (The Lion King, as well as the Grail stories, has this story plot: once the evil Scar kills the rightful king, the land dies. We get the Wasteland. It is only with the return of the true king that life become fruitful again.)
Avatar is a story about the wounds we have inflicted on our Earth and on our bodies. It is also the myth of the return of the King. Neytiri doesn’t kill Jake because she pays attention to Eywa’s messages. When the glowing seeds of the Sacred Tree float down and cover Jake’s avatar body, Neytiri understands Eywa’s message: he has a good heart, a strong heart. That’s what we all need to face the challenges before us. Our corporate world-view is willing to kill our Earth, our Tree of Life for profits, just as the corporation on Pandora topples the Home Tree in its search for the costly ‘unobtanium’.
This is what our times are demanding of us. We need men to take up their 'kingship' again and protect life, not create death in the service of the economy. The inner king has returned in many women, but not yet in many men. Arthur has been healed in Avalon, but the men have to bring him back to life here. We need this new, strong warrior-King as much as we need the feeling, intuitive queen to ground our energies. We need both men and women working as partners to use their energy and talents to reclaim our world before we destroy ourselves.
Avatar sets us a task: defend what you love. Honor the World Soul and listen to its voice. It will tell you to ask for beauty, truth, honor and body awareness in your life. Then create a new paradise by invoking Spirit whenever you do anything, so your life will be meaningful. Learn to listen to your body, not just get in shape. Unite with like-minded people through ritual and learn to understand the signs Spirit sends you. When appropriate, stop worrying about what others think of you and in the right situations let your fierceness make the point. Take the leap, love someone who knows themselves, dare to risk death for the love of both your land and your people. If you want to live on Pandora, find the Pandora here on Earth, and defend it.
The visuals in Avatar are so breathtaking they open our imaginations and hearts to the message of the story. The wounded Warrior-King, who has faced death and accepted it, now goes on to a new life. He becomes the avatar. Avatar shows us how to ‘die and be re-born’; how to awaken to a new vision of life. Jake is called to become a mythic person, taming the King Dragon to claim his power. We are all being called to become mythic people again, so claim your souls and fly free!
Copyright @ 2012 Cathy Lynn Pagano, All Rights Reserved