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Hits to the Heart and Mind from the Land of Dreams
Dogma is a 1999 release that drew somewhat mixed reviews but was generally liked and praised by many as interesting and provocative . It was no surprise that the Catholic institution—which is the center point of the film's exploration, questioning and creative character and theme synthesis— reacted strongly.
What has been left in the wake of this film and continues hotly to this day, and the film contributed to this although a myriad of forces are at work here—is the ongoing, deeply layered debate of the status and effect of organized religion.
What are perhaps two of the main pivotal points of this ongoing discussion:
1.The exclusionary element of (two of the world's largest) organized religions.
2. Beliefs—their nature and the inner workings of how they impact, if not actually generate, experience,—and specifically to this movie—the concept of ideas instead of beliefs as a more liberated thinking m.o.
Metatron: (voice of the one true God) Say you're the Metatron, you're lucky to get a blank stare. Mention something from a Charlton Heston movie and suddenly everyone's a theology scholar!
It doesn't take being a scholar in theology to recognize certain points.
The extraordinary plot of the essence of origin, the prime creator, singularly manifesting into a human, and the ensuing drama—is sweepingly powerful, although not original to Christianity. The incredible increase in the flow of shared thoughts and ideas, built up through the burgeoning technology of the industrial age and exploding in the information age, has perhaps brought us to certain theological crossroads. As some modern philosophers are pointing out, our intuitive knowledge combined with revelations regarding historical material are indicating that the truest messages of mythologies may be those of our own divinity; the nature of being an "aspect" of Divinity and the function of such. A version of this conceptualization is what moved Joseph Smith Jr to form a new branch of Christianity.
Loki: What do they do? They dupe all these oysters into following them and then proceed to shuck and devour the helpless creatures en masse. Now I don't know what that says to you, but to me it says that following these faiths based on mythological figures ensures the destruction of one's inner being. Organized religion destroys who we are by inhibiting our actions, by inhibiting our decisions, out of fear of some intangible parent figure, who shakes a finger at us from thousands of years ago and says "Do it, do it and I'll f*ing spank you!"
Hand in hand with the authoritarian nature of some religious systems are other elements—no weightier one than an extremely embedded patriarchy.
Serendipity: The whole book's gender-biased. A woman's responsible for original sin. A woman cuts Samson's coif of power. A woman asks for the head of John the Baptist. Read that book again sometime. Women are painted as bigger antagonists than the Egyptians and Romans combined. It stinks.
Though there are many, including Christians, who would greatly qualify this fact, Christianity has actually shown a measure of the flexibility to soften, even to change—the Catholic element and their reaction to this film notwithstanding. However, the exclusionary precept stays concretely in place—essentially the crux of which is the Christian bible's passage of John 14:6 - "I am the way... No one goes to the Father except through me."
Where does this leave even inquisitive, open-minded Christians regarding the effort among people to truly come together? Some pursue bridge building with honest enthusiasm and tolerance but the theological "crossed fingers behind your back" is there, even in the most loving and kindhearted. It would seem it has to be.
Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the sh*t that gets carried out in His name: wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.
Bethany: Having beliefs isn't good?
Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea, changing a belief is trickier. Life should be malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant.
An idea is a notion, an impression./ A belief—a conviction, a confidence. There are philosophies that outline all of conciousness as being a combination of soley two factors—impressions and beliefs. We have experiences or memories of experience, and tenents or conclusions from and, in turn, about those impressions. One of the most contemplated concepts in life is if, how and to what degree those convictions affect what we experience, which in turn are our impressions. Does what we believe create our reality?
There was an interview/discussion on a major cable show recently with a Catholic priest, a Rabbi and an Orthodox minister (which sounds like the opening to a possibly funny or possibly unfunny joke). A few striking things from the discussion--
The Catholic priest took a profoundly tempered stance on the fate of the soul of Bin Laden in relation to the concept of hell. When the Rabbi pressed the point that God couldn't have anything but eternal condemnation in store in this case, the priest expressed a gentle reminder that no one knows what God has in mind except God; who can speak for him? The response from the Rabbi was rather heated, with him stating that he, the Rabbi, can speak for Him. He studies his word and he can speak for Him. Now, this is not intended as criticism of the Rabbi, - after all, the very position itself is as "master of the law," but it serves to illustrate a mysterious point. We all have an inate desire to connect with truth, with genuine sovereignty and perhaps we do just that in a far greater way than we even realize, but whenever we say anything, referenced from anywhere, it is our word, our contained subjectivity—it can't be anything else. When anyone says or believes they are speaking in an exclusive way for a prime source, certain red flags spring up. Does this mean we can't, in some true sense of the word, connect with the Universe and even be a conduit for high forms of energy? It would seem people do it all the time. It has certain earmarks.
God's one and only voice is silence Herman Melville
Not from the movie but a profundity that resonates. There are many decent, earnest people wondering what to make of the things that seem to so sorely separate us; wanting to find truth and empower themselves in a positive way. Many, and perhaps the numbers will keep increasing, cannot reconcile themselves to systems that at their core, consider all outside that system as spiritually compromised or even doomed.
Serendipity: "You people don't celebrate your faith; you mourn it."
Where are we headed with the divisions between us?—divisions that are quickly morphing under the effect of a new age where the ability to communicate has reached a level unknown before.
PA Announcer: (at hospital) I repeat: this is not a drill. This is the Apocalypse. Please exit the hospital in an orderly fashion.
How do we embrace whatever true faith means or doesn't mean to us while, hopefully, keeping the door open to each other? Speaking of systems of philosophy and belief—I would like to mention a version (and there are many) of a passage attributed to Lao-tzu that perhaps offers some unusual but worthwhile perspective as we go along.
A great seeker hears of The Way—begins following wholeheartedly.
An average seeker hears of The Way—takes in some, loses some.
An inferior seeker hears of The Way—laughs with ridicule. Without that laugh—it would not be The Way.
Bartleby: The lesson must be taught. All are accountable … even God.
Supposing for a moment that a primary, supreme intelligence—in an inexplicable way—daunting to fathom, is absolutely accountable; is doing Its part.
How about us?
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