Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pi, faith & mysticism

Watched 'Life of Pi' movie yesterday. It was a lovingly made movie, for a change!
Although the review on NYT was not very good (but many commentators felt that the reviewer was biased against 'faith').
So yes, this movie was about 'faith'. A deep faith in/ love for, Divine/ God, was entwined with the narrative.
But the story was also being open enough to say that both people who believe in either Religion or Science, go as far as their respective fields of knowledge take, and then 'both make a leap of faith' (this was in the novel although not shown in the movie). But it leaves people with the question, 'which story do you like more ?' and I guess most people prefer the one with/ about God... for it is 'The Better Story' ... more grand, more magical :)

How deeply I connected to this story, again!
Apart from this love for a higher power, which gives a sense of universal love and expansion, there was one more aspect. Five years back too I felt moved by the protagonist's hurt about an unceremonious, no-good-bye, loss (of the tiger to the jungle, in the end). And again I was moved by it... it revived some similar lack of good-byes in my life.

Later I was flipping through pages of some of the books by Scott Peck... he comes across such a wise author & therapist. Here is what he says about stages of spiritual development (copied from wiki):
  • Stage I is chaotic, disordered, and reckless. Very young children are in Stage I. They tend to defy and disobey, and are unwilling to accept a will greater than their own. They are extremely egoistic and lack empathy for others. Many criminals are people who have never grown out of Stage I.
  • Stage II is the stage at which a person has blind faith in authority figures and sees the world as divided simply into good and evil, right and wrong, us and them. Once children learn to obey their parents and other authority figures, often out of fear or shame, they reach Stage II. Many so-called religious people are essentially Stage II people, in the sense that they have blind faith in God, and do not question His existence. With blind faith comes humility and a willingness to obey and serve. The majority of good, law-abiding citizens never move out of Stage II.
  • Stage III is the stage of scientific skepticism and questioning. A Stage III person does not accept things on faith but only accepts them if convinced logically. Many people working in scientific and technological research are in Stage III. They often reject the existence of spiritual or supernatural forces since these are difficult to measure or prove scientifically. Those who do retain their spiritual beliefs move away from the simple, official doctrines of fundamentalism.
  • Stage IV is the stage where an individual starts enjoying the mystery and beauty of nature and existence. While retaining skepticism, he starts perceiving grand patterns in nature and develops a deeper understanding of good and evil, forgiveness and mercy, compassion and love. His religiousness and spirituality differ significantly from that of a Stage II person, in the sense that he does not accept things through blind faith or out of fear, but does so because of genuine belief, and he does not judge people harshly or seek to inflict punishment on them for their transgressions. This is the stage of loving others as yourself, losing your attachment to your ego, and forgiving your enemies. Stage IV people are labeled as Mystics.
Peck argues that while transitions from Stage I to Stage II are sharp, transitions from Stage III to Stage IV are gradual. Nonetheless, these changes are very noticeable and mark a significant difference in the personality of the individual.

The movie also reminded me of another novel which I read recently, 'The Castle in the Pyrenees'. A friend picked it up for me with an intuitive feeling that it was closely connected to my life. Probably true! It is a book about faith and reason ... and how two lovers drift apart, as they transition in their spirituality (one can say, they move from above mentioned stage III to IV... one of them shift few decades earlier than the other). This sounds eerily familiar ... so many of my close relationships have faded away/ vanished over time, while I moved from and through these stages. Probably something from these quotes from this book has a ring of truth in it for me too ...

" That was where the deep fissure between us lay. The conclusions I drew from what we'd experienced were quite different to yours. That was why we couldn't stay together. I immediately began to read up on spirituality philosophy. ....

...what you couldn't take was that you didn't have a faith that could match my new orientation. You saw it as a betrayal. We two had had our own sect. Now the congregation I'd left had only one adherent. 

Because it wasn't the other way round. It wasn't me who couldn't manage to live with you on account of your atheism. It really wasn't. But in the long term I couldn't put up with your head shaking rejection of my new conviction. You had no leeway. You displayed no tolerance. You showed no mercy. It was so hard to take that, I had to catch that afternoon train..."

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