Avatar: The Tragedy of Paradise Lost

The following post contains a review of the movie Avatar and may potentially include spoilers. It is advised to first see the movie and then read the article.

The insanity of the collective egoic mind, amplified by science and technology, is rapidly taking our species to the brink of disaster. Evolve or die: that is our only choice now. — Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth)

James’ Cameron’s epic movie Avatar, which recently released after over a decade in the making, is nothing short of spectacular. The technical skill and innovation, in addition to the superb performances by the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, not only creates an entirely immersive experience that transports one to the beautiful and lush landscape of Pandora, but also makes a significant impression upon the audience’s psyche and furthers the goal of real and intelligent progress in an age where technological innovation if not checked by common sense, moral obligation and spiritual responsibility, can destroy not only our world, but ultimately others as well.

When we look back at our own history on planet earth up until this point, we are precisely where Cameron’s story places Pandora: On the verge of destroying not only one another, but also our very home, our mother, in an insane war against Life itself. There is a disease in the human being that if not cured, will destroy its host and its environment. One of the symptoms of this disease is blindness, the inability to see the truth, reality, as it is before it is perceptually corrupted. This then leads to violence, conflict, exploitation and the like. The source and cause of the disease, of course, is a spiritual one. It is dis-ease itself, a condition that naturally arises when a conscious being is cut off from Life itself, from its Source, God, the Creator, and is trapped in a dream world, a nightmare of separation and isolation, wherein every man truly is an island, and where empathy has been lost and fear governs.

Despite the fact that human beings were given a paradise, a reality of infinite possibility, prosperity and beauty, we have thus far been accelerating towards its opposite as we create a world based in fear, scarcity, lack, destruction and death. Humanity appears to be on the brink of utter loss as cultures that have evolved over thousands of years are made extinct and the planet itself reaches the tipping point of apocalypse in order to correct and stabilize its very ability to support life.

Yet there is hope. All is not yet lost. We can change.

Change however is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. We are rapidly reaching the precipice where we will be called to account and to responsibility, where we must definitively choose: Change, or die.

Our planet can no longer sustain the thoughtless raping of its life force, its honor and its integrity at the hands of an apparently insane species that does not realize it is killing the very womb that bore it. Spiritual evolution is now a necessity. This then is Sufism, the path through which one may return to innocence.

Avatar Movie: Lush Landscape

Paradise Lost

Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. — Jesus (Matthew 18:3)

Tradition teaches that when the Creator first created human beings, they were placed in a paradise, a world of beauty and bliss. They were given the guidance to enjoy of the bounty of a world where there was only joy and peace, and where every need would be met, but to not come near a particular tree. Yet mankind chose to eat rather than from the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge. Thus duality was born. Separation, the state where we perceive ourselves as separate and cut-off from all else, from the Universe itself, manifested. And so we became doomed to a life of struggle and toil.

It is (vouchsafed) unto thee that thou hungerest not therein nor art naked, and that thou thirstest not therein nor art exposed to the sun’s heat. But the Devil whispered to him, saying: O Adam! Shall I show thee the tree of immortality and power that wasteth not away? Then they twain ate thereof, so that their shame became apparent unto them, and they began to hide by heaping on themselves some of the leaves of the Garden. And Adam disobeyed his Lord, so went astray. Then his Lord chose him, and relented toward him, and guided him. He said: Go down hence, both of you, one of you a foe unto the other. But if there come unto you from Me a guidance, then whoso followeth My guidance, he will not go astray nor come to grief. — Surah Ta Ha (Qur’an 20:118-123)

Through perception of contrast, we gained self-consciousness, knowledge of a self, the ego, independent and separate from all else. Consciousness became localized to a finite form, a body, and we began to forget who we are and where we have come from. Having realized at a fundamental level the grave error we had made, in shame we immediately attempted to cover our forms, the most apparent manifestation of the self as separate from all else. And so began the necessity for the journey back home, for we had fallen from grace.

This same reality, inevitably, plays itself out in every birth, in every child. It seems the destiny of man to be born in a state of grace, perfection and innocence, the state of fitra, and then to subsequently develop self-awareness through which the ego grows, and so to forget, necessitating the spiritual path, the journey back to truth, presence and unity, the journey of remembrance.

The nature of reality is such that it evolves and develops as we do. Even science now confirms the holographic nature of reality and the indisputable fact that our world literally emerges from thought, from perception. In the primordial state of grace, the divine experience that manifested was a spontaneous and natural result of Divine Will, which in the absence of human will, in the absence of ego, was able to emanate without resistance. Yet through the development of self-consciousness, through the arising of ego, the self, independent will also emerged, and this will when coupled with a disconnection from Reality, from Truth, from the Source, the Divine Presence, then becomes a prism through which creative energy is channeled to create other than perfection. In other words, as we remain veiled and distant from a state of Presence and Peace, we manifest a world that reflects our lack of these divine qualities. Looking at the world of men, the violence, chaos, confusion and fear is a natural result of this disconnected internal state that defines the state of most people.

It is possible to return to our natural state of grace, beauty and perfection, but to do so necessitates we return to innocence, as a newborn child who has not yet learned how to differentiate, label, judge, condemn and separate. It has no sense of self, just a pristine perception of a unified field of reality in which it is simply a happy observer, a witness. This is God in human form. And this is why Jesus, peace, light, love and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Avatar Movie: The Tree of Souls

The Power of Creation

Verily we have honoured the children of Adam. We carry them on the land and the sea, and have made provision of good things for them, and have preferred them above many of those whom We created with a marked preferment. — Surah Al-Isra (Qur’an 17:70)

We cannot help but create. Creation happens automatically, and is based on the focus of our souls. What we “see” is what we create. This is a divine honor, the responsibility of khilafat, or divine deputyship, granted to human beings. This is a tremendous power and a heavy burden. We have no choice but to now accept responsibility. And this becomes more critical with each passing day, for as we evolve, as creation progressively comes closer to its Divine Source, God, our power to create becomes greater. Ultimately, in the Last Days, which are also known as the Age of Miracles within the Sufi tradition, human beings will fully manifest their divine potential and literally be capable of manifesting thought. The question we must ask ourselves is this: What kind of world do we want? What is the noblest vision and purpose we are capable of?

In Avatar, the natural world emerged to serve the Na’vi (as does ours to serve us), yet because the Na’vi’s alignment with divine will, nature, their world emerged (precipitated, manifested) perfectly suited to honor their vision. As a result of their honoring the Divine Trust and maintaining a unity-based consciousness, their very bodies developed the instrument with which to integrate directly with the manifest world, it’s creatures and lifeforms, an antenna emanating from their cerebral cortex that directly linked and connected the Na’vi to Pandora’s creatures and lifeforms, which themselves had developed a reciprocal system to receive and serve the Na’vi.

The long antenna, known as Lekku, that the Na’vi possess is a roughly meter long appendage emanating from the base of the skull, and with it’s utility the Na’vi are able to physically connect, effectively to become one with other lifeforms. It reminds one of the first letter in the Arabic alphabet, alif, which is drawn as simply a straight line, and according to traditional Sufi knowledge represents divine honor. It is the same letter that the name of God, Allah, begins with, as well as the term referring to human beings, insan, and the name of the first man, Adam. It also denotes standing in Divine Presence, the first posture in the Islamic ritual prayer known as salah. The significance of this is that when sentient beings live in a state of divine honor recognizing their true selves and honoring divine purpose, they become angelic and divine in nature, and assume their rightful place as divine deputies within creation. The opposite of this is signified by the letter dal, which is written as a bent line, signifying the burden of the world, dunya, which begins with the same letter. One can literally picture a human being overburdened by the troubles of the world eventually becoming bent over, humbled by force rather than choice.

Now, we are in the age of responsibility. We must take responsibility for ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, our state. From this, the prism of our beings, does the world emerge. And as we, human beings, evolve and thus become more subtle and refined as a result of our progressive journey back to our Source, the Creator, so does our power to manifest advance. The recent (relatively speaking) emergence of technology, which is simply our ability to amplify our power, our will, is a natural reflection of this truth. Technological power (worldly, material power) grows concurrently with the development of spiritual power. It is in this age that the light and dark within the human soul is being made manifest, clarified and polarized.

The question we must now ask ourselves is this: What kind of world do we want? The one we have thus far created and are forcing upon the entire planet is one based in fear, isolation, loneliness and lack. Is this the world we want to leave to our children? Are greater gadgets and more innovative creature comforts really worth the stress, anxiety, despondency and depression that accompany technological progress at the cost of cultural regression?

We have nothing they want. Blue jeans and light beer?! — Jake Sully (Avatar)

The Prophet Muhammad, eternal light and grace upon his holy presence, taught that as human beings aligned with their divine purpose by serving the Creator, creation would in turn serve them. Yet as they allowed distance to develop between their consciousness and the Divine Presence, and as a result of forgetting their divine honor, they would be reduced to serving creation, the world. In other words, they would be reduced from the divine position of kings and queens, sovereign rulers guided by divine will, to slaves, unintelligent creatures struggling for survival.

We are more powerful than we realize. Yet our true greatness is not realized in the conscious use of our will to subjugate reality, to control and manipulate the natural world through force, but rather it is truly expressed in the divine surrender of selfish will and the abandonment of the very self from which the illusion of separation, emptiness and abandonment originates.

Welcoming the Kingdom of Heaven

Die before you die. — Prophet Muhammad

After humanity’s fall from grace, it became incumbent upon us to now consciously seek to return to the Kingdom of God, the Divine Presence, and to a life of light. While mankind chose the Tree of Knowledge from which to eat, the Na’vi chose the Tree of Life, and their harmonious lives naturally reflected pristine perfection and the sublime wisdom of the Creator. Thus, their home was “Home Tree,” a magnificent tree that shaded and supported life within the entire forest. While we live in a reality that is hostile, the Na’vi were home, a destination we as human beings continually yearn for.

It is truly a tragic and horrific sight to watch men, in their madness, fell this great tree, Home Tree, and even the most callous show remorse after the deed.

How then do we return home, to grace, peace, harmony and beauty? The path to life is through death. The death, the diminishment, of the ego is what is required for humanity either collectively or individually to return to peace and to truth. Only through the surrender of the false self that can only maintain it’s existence through war with the Universe, with Life, is freedom from it’s tyranny possible. And this is why the holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, taught, “Die before you die.”

Death is the doorway, but this need not mean a physical death. It may be considered a spiritual death, the death of the self, the ego, and it is only possible through total surrender of the mind. In his book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle says the following:

The secret of life is to “die before you die,” and find that there is no death. — Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth)

Sufi tradition teaches that in the Last Days, the earth will be renewed, restored to its original beauty, and that only then mankind will realize its true potential. Then will human beings truly carry the awesome responsibility of deputyship, khliafat, with the wisdom, grace, guidance and humility that it requires. It is to prepare human beings for this destiny that all prophets were sent. And tradition also teaches that this Age of Miracles will be a divine period in which the earth and the first heaven shall be joined, a holy honor that even prophets prayed to witness.

The Kingdom of Heaven will naturally emerge once the human ego abates, once our interference with creation is surrendered. For all good comes from the Divine. Goodness is the natural state of things, the natural state of the Universe, without the interpolation of negative intentions, thoughts, feelings, states. Through the pursuit and practice of spiritual excellence we evolve and honor our very creation. It is for spiritual growth and evolution, the progressive awakening of consciousness, that we are created.

Embracing Your Destiny

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek; and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. — Jesus (Matthew 7:7-8)

You are greater than you realize. You are more noble, beautiful and honored than you can possibly comprehend. You deserve all the joy and goodness that is your divine inheritance. Yet we all possess a disease, a parasite that poses as us and so possesses us, a non-entity that veils and covers the light and truth which is right before us. To slay that dragon within then is the purpose of the spiritual path.

By embracing the path of spiritual excellence one commits to the struggle against the self and this is known as jihad al-akbar, the Great Struggle. Pursuing this goal without the wisdom of a spiritual guide, a teacher, a qualified master who has already traveled the path, is in the words of the great mystic poet Rumi to “Make a journey of a single day into a thousand days.”

Authentic teachers still walk the earth. May you be fortunate to find one.

To your divine grace and eternal success.

Avatar Movie Fan Poster: A New World Awaits

One day the Earth will be changed to a different Earth, and so will be the Heavens, and (mankind) will be marshalled forth, before God, the One, the Irresistible. — Surah Ibrahim (Qur’an 14:48)

Comments 21

  1. Well done – I think the young folks are “getting it.” Few of the older generation, indoctrinated into the world of the bourgeoisie, the temporal, are unable to change; blindness of pride, the “Sanctified Greed” of Western culture. But, they will be gone soon. Perhaps the first major evolutionary leap for humans was self consciousness and now, post temporal consciousness; beyond the limitations/constructs of local “time.” Cosmic consciousness. One reality with singular purpose.

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  3. Very fluid and smooth article that got me immersed intensely just as watching the Avatar movie itself. You have unveiled the true meaning of Avatar and extracted the juice. May we all drink from that juice and wake up to a new beginning.

  4. I agree with Ziad. Your article is absolutely enlightening. I have not seen the movie yet. Heard some negative comments earlier, hence was not going to see it. But having read your absorbing comment, we intend to see it as soon as possble. thank you for this post. Ameen!!! to Ziad’s comment too!!!

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  5. Ihsan, we saw the movie yesterday. We both agree, that it is a movie not to be missed. Certainly is one of the best, I would say, it is the best. So reminded me of The Sufi Path. When Jeff Sully was told he had too much baggage, and virtually, to come with an empty cup…… this is what i struggle with most of the time. Jeff’s strugle, reminded me of my struggle, and then finally, he was broken open. Amin!!! So mucj in the movie that reminded me of The Sufi Path… sooo wonderful! amin!!! Thank you for sharing this with us, if not for you we would have missed one of the most wonderful movies. My husband so enjoyed it too. The initiation of Jeff, was so much like The initiation to The Naqshbandi Tariqa. Wow! i know nothing about James Cameron or any of the people who did this movie. I only saw Sigourney Weaver and The captain, i forget his name, on The Daily Show ( Jon Stewart)Who is the script writer? Endless Blessings to all who were involved in this Movie.Ameen!!

    Peace and Endless Blessings to you and family ! Ihsan, Thanks again !
    Fatima

    ps. I intend to share this on my profile.

    If i may, your write up about this movie is so enlightening, I wish to share this on the haqqani fellowship, too, if htis is alright by you !

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      So happy you enjoyed the film. Yes, there are many beautiful parallels with the Sufi way, and with the spiritual path in general. I chuckled when I saw them chanting (essentially performing zikr) in a large group much like the students of a Shaykh do.

      By all means, feel free to share this post.

      My best regards to you and your loved ones!

  6. Mashallah i love this i take this as’a sohbet..like my SPiritual guides..Shk Muhamma Nazim QAS) and Shk Hisham an his Bro Shk Adnan QAS)’s….Speak on theee EXACT same THings…Mashallah i love this!! Keep it up we want MORERERRRRR!!!! May Allah SwA) Bless us all to see with Night vision Gogles to see thru the dark spot on the heart..an recognize this dragon an TAKE HIM OUT as Allah swa) ALlowed Sayyidina MUhammad swls) to do so AMIN!!!!

  7. Makeing CONTINUSOU ZIkrullah and giveing eating drinking, reading Qur’an an The sunna of Rasulullah slws) an practiceing it in the way of ALlah swa) is the key to controling ones thoughts,feelings,states..emotions… thus a Merical in it self..an the key to surrendering ..”die(ing) before you die” and.. to be emotional tourd an for Allah swa) an his Rasull slws) ..Words of SUFI masters __Shk nazim qas) and Shk Hisham qas)….that “we” wish to remeber an help one another remember…! ONELOVE GODbless u all!!!

  8. Asallamualeikum ya sadi, long time since I saw you last. How are you and your family? Allah preserve us all and shed his endless mercy. Congratulations on that brillant review of Avatar. You really went deep. I also felt there was something in that film that was almost intangable yet left me in a state of euphoria for days. I went thinking that it was just going to be a corny flick with good special effects, which on one level it was, but I think that there was something else almost profound going on. I completely missed the paradise lost part, but I think that you hit the nail on the head. Nice work and inshallah will see you soon again. Sallams Omar.

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      Thank you for the kind comments Sh. Omar. Indeed it was a beautiful film that touched many. Happy Rabi ul-Awwal, and Mawlid Mubarak!

  9. Amazing insight and makes want to see the movie again. Now, with open eyes. Thank you for putting up this website. Jazakallah. May peace reign.

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