I'm looking forward to watching Cloud Atlas tomorrow -- the most recent offering from the Wachowski siblings. 

Here's a recent article about the movie in the New York Review of Books, featuring a discussion of ... Ken Wilber!

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Theurj -- Interesting, the previous comments about "belief in the great Perhaps" vs "belief in the great Certainty." For me, mysticism is a kind of unknowing and a trust in the great Perhaps; and it has little to do with certainty. I mention this because you seemed bugged by the film's notion of some "mystical Whole that connects us all." For me, because the Mystery is never fixed, clear, or  definable (but nevertheless connecting), it remains more "perhaps" than "certainty."

My understanding of what she needed to find at the mountain top was confirmation that the old ones had indeed established off-world colonies, and that this lotus-structure was a means of communicating with those colonies.  So, when she turned the machine on and fired a blast, I think she was sending a message to the off-worlders and hoping for a response (which came, though long in coming; hence the scene at the end, where she and Hanks were on another planet, looking up now at the Earth twinkling in the sky.)

I spoke to Jack Petranker, one of my TSK teachers, about the film today.  He felt the film was a little heavy-handed compared to the book, but still enjoyed the visual spectacle.  One thing in particular we discussed (in the context of our class this morning) was the role of time in this film, and TSK's challenge to a linear, continuum view of time.  One view of time offered in the TSK is that every moment has a past, present, and future, but the link 'between' moments can never be confirmed; that from one moment's vantage, we can trace a past 'sustaining' or 'substance-bestowing' lineage and sense an 'arriving' or 'becoming' future, but present moments are not necessarily linked in a linear way (*--*--*).  Instead, present moments do not directly touch, and moments we experience 'near' each other may not each have the 'same' sustaining past or beckoning future*.

In relation to this discussion, I brought up some remarks from a paper on Cloud Atlas (the book version) that I came across this morning:

Exposition:  the working of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event well known to collective history, such as the sinking of the Titanic.  The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave.  Yet a virtual sinking of the Titanic, created from reworked memories, papers, hearsay, fiction – in short, belief – grows ever “truer.”  The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + and ever more problematic to access + reconstruct:  in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent (Mitchell 392).


* The visual I get for this is a kind of meshwork of possibility.

Interesting ideas on the "actual" and the "virtual" past!

So who are the off-worlders? Are they the upper class from Somni's time who escaped during the underclass revolt? And is Meronym part of the off-worlders, given her high-tech ship? If so, did she get stranded on the planet that she'd have to re-establish contact with her people? Or what? She re-established contact and her and Zachary end up on another world, but are my questions answered in the film and I missed it?

Since Zachary and Meronym spoke in a new dialect of English (did you notice that they made "fuck" apparently a part of ordinary, polite vocabulary?!), it was hard to follow everything they said, so I might have missed things, too.  But from the clues I picked up, my impression was that she was from a part of the world that still maintained some continuity with the collapsed civilization, while on the more remote island of Zachary, the people had returned to more primitive levels of society (Zachary's people holding on to Blue, while Hugh Grant's tribe had regressed back to Red).

Roger Ebert has seen the movie twice and his advice: Forget the questions, for there are no answers to all the holes. At least in the film. Especially the story with Zachary, for him the "most impenetrable" of the six. I'm guessing there is more explanation in the book. Ebert decided that "what was important was that I set my mind free to play." And that is what I did on my first viewing, and it was highly enjoyable. Ebert really liked it, gave it 4 stars.

Actually I thought the clearest example of that was the story with Hanks as part of a tribe and Berry as part of what?


That was the same story that I was referring to when I mentioned the lotus structure on the mountain, the devil whispering in Hanks' (Zachary's) ear, etc. 


About whether the Wachowski siblings believe in one final superview for all, that could be the case, but fortunately that didn't really come through in the movie.  The reincarnation theme highlighted threads of deep relation that run beyond those we normally anticipate, and suggest a kind of hidden wholeness, but Sonmi's Declaration speech (where she talked about the uniqueness of even fabricant, despite all being grown from the same stem and cultured in the same wombtank), and also the thread in several stories of a given worldview being taken as the "natural order of things" and then getting challenged or transformed in some way, suggested to me an emphasis on openness and irreducible particularity in and alongside the theme of hidden (karmic) relations.

The review in the first post 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."

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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