Monday, November 5, 2012

Cloud Atlas and reincarnation

Continuing from my last post on the movie, much as I appreciated it I must address the reincarnation therein, and the worldview that informs that belief. The review linked earlier is called “Cloud Atlas’s Theory of Everything,” indicative of the certainty of, well, everything in its place like Wilber’s model. Therein it also said: “The directors made literal what Mitchell had left playfully ambiguous: characters in later sections are the spiritual embodiments—reincarnations—of those in earlier ones.” So here we have one metaphysical premise for the movie not in the book. At to mystical Oneness, the reviewer said:

“So intent are the Wachowskis and Tykwer on delivering the movie’s mystical tidings—we’re not just bodies, but also souls (or even holons); the choices we make in one life affect who we become in another; we’re all connected to each other and to something bigger than ourselves—that the film risks the earnest impenetrability of a New Age infomercial.”

Reincarnation itself assumes that “something bigger than ourselves” is a mystical Oneness connecting everything. A sort of repository for immortal souls that transfer from a material life into a spiritual life and back again. This is a pure metaphysics in the ontotheological sense, which assumes the One at its base. Granted that Oneness might be beyond our grasp, but that statement is made with certitude as to its nature. I’d be fine with the connections between us being personal love, and even cultural connections via letters or other movies, since the narrative does use those devices as connectors to each story. Even Mitchell’s comment about the birthmark being a symbol of "the universality of human nature.” But the explicit universal Oneness inherent to reincarnation?

But again, as I said earlier, Somni 451’s speech about singularity seems antithetical to such a One. Reincarnation though taints that, since it is the immaterial soul that is singular, not the various bodies it inhabits from life to life.  And that immaterial individual Soul is part of the larger connection to the One immaterial spiritual Whole which enables such magic. All of which is in Wilber’s writings and subtly in the movie via reincarnation, which is not in the book.

For example, see this wiki entry on "eight consciousnesses." In yogacara the 8th is the alayavijnana, which "is the storehouse-consciousness which induces transmigration or rebirth, causing the origination of a new existence." It is aka "causal consciousness" as used by kennilingus for example in this thread (e.g., p. 1 May 31, 2010 at 7:53pm). And in this thread (p. 93) it is key in Gorampa's nondualism as the causal, which kennlingus maintains from the Vajrayana Buddhism that goes along with this. Reincarnation cannot be separated from and is implicit in this type of causal realm. And this is the elephant in the movie behind reincarnation and the Causal One that connects everything.

Also see excerpt G on reincarnation, p. 42 and following. For example, p. 44:

"According to Vedanta/Vajrayana, although there is never a mind without a body, the subtle bodymind can exist without the gross bodymind, and the causal bodymind can exist without either of them."

1 comment:

  1. Also see this Buddhist Geek interview with Batchelor:*

    "The basic idea is that for there to be rebirth, there must be something that does not cease to exist with the death of the physical body. And I find it very difficult to understand how you can propose a theory of rebirth without adopting a mind-body dualism."

    Therein he also noted that reincarnation is not necessary for karma. Cloud Atlas does a fine job in showing how a person's or group's actions and words carry consequences and effects forward on their own. Reincarnation is not needed for that. I'm even wondering if perhaps the film recognizes this, since Meronym disabuses Zachary of his mythical belief in Somni as a God. Does the film also disabuse itself of the mythical belief in reincarnation by its narrative structure?

    I'm also seeing this another way, recalling Bryant's potentially eternal and incorporeal machines (from the OOO thread here** et seq). I'm thinking of memes, v-memes or otherwise. But again, these are home-grown, so to speak, always requiring a non-metaphysical body to exist. It's similar to Wilber's causal body except that the latter does not require what he calls a gross body. If I wasn't such an assholon I wouldn't say that Bryant's sort of reincarnation is a developmentally more advanced way of looking at it (v-meme). But I am and there it is.




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