Lecture 2 – GASB30 21 September 2011
About readings for the week:
Paragraph 19 - dynamics of myth making
Read from the top - may help you with your term papers!
Culture cannot be explained through theories, it has to be lived and experienced
Can culture be explained? Or told through movies?
Hollywood movies influenced by Asian religious thoughts:
The Star Wards; The Matrix; Avatar; Inception; The Legend of Baggar Vane;
Through movies, Asian religious customs enter the minds of western people. The
ideals of the Asian religions that are depicted in the movies reaches a western
audience and they have an understanding of the ideals.
Ex. The Asian Religious notion of Karma
Ex. The Asian Religious notion that there is one force that governs you from
one life to the next
Ex. The Asian Religious notion that you do not just die, but you are reborn as
Ex. The Asian Religious notion that your fate will be determined by what you
did in a past life
Movie Ex. Star Wars (Phantom Menace, Revenge of the Sith…)
- Have lots of references to Eastern Asian religions
- The code of behaviour of the Jedi (is like the behaviour of a Buddhist monk
or like that of a Hindu Priest)
- The importance of mindfulness as a part of the Jedi training (comes from
- The understanding of death
- The idea of "the force" and that the force has both positive and negative
sides: there is no concept of "The Force" In Western Religions
A tidbit of information:
- Youngsters in the UK were asked about their religion and 38%
answered that their religion would be Jedi, meaning that they would want to live
like a Jedi
Movie Ex. The Matrix
- Neo: is like the chosen one; like Jesus
- Morpheus: is like John the Baptist
- The movie is also under the heavy influence of the eastern religions
- Has the idea of Samsara: (the cycle of living that everyone goes through)
Ex. You don't remember dreaming about Samsara until you have achieved
Neo is supposed to have achieved the wisdom Movie Ex. Avatar
- Avatar means: descendant/ a manifestation
( Dictionary definition of Avatar: Manifestation of a deity or released soul in
bodily form on earth; an incarnatedivine teacher.
An incarnation, embodiment, or
manifestation of a person or idea.)
- Hindus believe that their deities will have certain avatars which come into the
world to help people who are in need of help.
- One of the reasons that John Cameron chose this title for his movie is
The title draws your attention to how you position the human race in
comparison to other forms of life in our universe:
Whether you really see yourself as superior.
Just because you are able to travel to other planets, does that make
you superior? Does that make you an avatar?
Movie Ex. The Legend of Baggar Vance
- About the sport, golf on the surface
- But Zen experts have reviewed the movie, and have determined that it is a
very Zen movie - the spirit of the movie is very much Zen
(Even though Zen is never discussed in the movie)
Movie Ex. Inception
How does this simple spinning top reflect religion and culture in Asia?
- Spinning top is used as a symbol in the movie Inception to remind themselves if
they are in the dream or not (and if they are in a dream, not to take things too
- The spinning top in the movie inception was just as important/significant as a
symbol of the Buddha, or Cross would be in Buddhism and Christianity,
- The cross as a symbol itself:
- As wood, it does not carry any magical power
- Rather, the cross reminds the practitioners of the sacrifice of Jesus;
- Before the time of Jesus, crosses still existed in the Roman Empire but
they were not meant to be a religious symbol - they were meant to be used as a
punishment tool where people were hung upon and killed upon as punishment:
This made it a symbol which was used to remind people to follow laws in their
own society! (It was a legal symbol)
- If you believe in the religion, in the Bible, then the symbol of the cross will
have a religiously significant meaning for you. Thus, to create an association
between you and the symbol, you must have faith. It is you who makes the
symbol religious - without faith, the wooden cross has the potential to be
meaningless. - Liberation, Wisdom, Moksha = all mean liberation from the "dream" of Samsara
- In Indian religions, Samsara is considered to be a dream - thus everything that
you do in your Samsara is not real so there is no point in having attachments.
Your behaviours determine your life. This idea of Samsara is echoed in the
movie, The Matrix. Where, by the end of the first movie, Neo realizes that
samsara is all 0's and 1's and thus insignificant.
Image books and Movies:
A dynamic interplay of continuous condensation and elaboration of
- What is a cross? You make the cross religious. And if you are a follower of
Christianity, just by looking at the cross, you are reminded of many things.
Images are something that can condense a rich variety of meanings. Just by
showing you a spinning top or cross, that unto itself (that vision, that sight)
already conveys all that you should be reminded of in a Christian religious
understanding/belief. Symbols conveys meanings into a simple representation.
Over time people may write about these symbols, and these elaborate
explanations are later on condensed into other symbols which then people
decide to make a movie about. Things like this go on and on!
- The Dalai Lama is actually also a symbol/an image.
- He's the symbol of the highest authority of Tibetan buddhism.
- Also the symbol of the leader of the Tibetan people
- Also the symbol of peace, happiness, of the Tibetan government exile against
Chinese communist government.
(And so, as you can imagine, throughout time, we develop a different perception
of how the Dalai Lama is portrayed!)
- The Dalai Lama was first seen in the 1960's as fleeing Tibet and running a
government in exile. That time, he was the symbol of an important religious
- Then in the 1980's when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he was seen
as a symbol of peace!
- Being able to see him in many different views makes him an even more
dynamic and important religious symbol.
Religion according to Peter Berger focuses on how religion is formed in a society
and the interplay between religion and society. (How religion transforms a society
and how a society transforms a religion) An essential idea to always have in mind
is that a religion is never separate from the politics, societal, educational,
financial interplays of a society!
There are three major steps in the formation of a religion in a society: 1. Externalization
- A process through which we project our conceptualizations not the world
ex. how you make a cross religious
It's religious because you project your views of religion onto the symbol.
You give meaning to the things around you.
- The stage at which you see the externalized reality as an objective reality
- You begin to believe that you have nothing to do with the meaning of the
- The symbol has always been like that
- You did not create the meaning
- You falsely believe that the meaning of that is objectified and then you
internalize this objectify the really
- "Social order is a human product, or, more precisely, an ongoing human
production. It is produced by man in the course of his ongoing externalization"
We provide meaning to a social order
What is right what is wrong - it does not exist apart from humans
It is humans who create this order
Ex. Is having pork a sin?
Yes, in Islam. No in Christianity
Ex. If having Beef a sin?
What is ethically right, wring? What is being polite, rude? What is success,
All of these things are measured by our hu