Spirituality precedes religion. All great religious leaders were foremost spiritual beings. The overwhelming power of their spiritual experience eventually gave birth to world religions. True spirituality is essentially about communication, between self and the wholly other. As such, Spirit is openness to a fullness of being. This openness is realized by self-communication, making the spiritual experience known. Spirit is therefore the presence of being to itself. It IS a presence that unleashes a potentiality for self realization in the world. In other words, spirituality is a wholesome openness to the unfathomable sacredness of life. It is the unraveling of a unique and personal experience of the divine, the holy or the sacred.
In the first paragraph of Genesis, Spirit is described as a sweeping wind over the waters. In Genesis II, the words wind and breath are linked together as God breathes his Spirit into man and animates him with life.
In the Bible, Spirit relates to a close and personal relationship with the divine, described in Genesis as the creation of man in the image of God. This image is not to be understood in terms of a visual portrait, but rather as a reflection of the presence of God. This presence IS eminently personal and spiritual. It is outlined in Yahweh’s historical presence compelling Moses with His word unraveling God’s alliance with His chosen people.
Moreover, the biblical Hebrew alphabet is made up primarily of consonants. In the un-vocalized Hebrew alphabet, speech is necessary to give meaning to the un-vocalized words, otherwise the letters are a meaningless and chaotic code. Only with the spoken word are the vowels uttered. By exhaling one’s breath into the letters, the alphabet miraculously takes on a life and Spirit of its own, and words finally become meaningful.
In Latin the word spiritus means breath and air: The vital principle that gives life to the physical organisms in contrast to its purely material elements. Similarly, the Greek pneuma means breath and has a similar etymological connotation. For the Greeks, Spirit animates all beings in nature, particularly human beings, in stark opposition to the physical and the material things.
In the Gospels, the angel ─or messenger─ reveals to Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. And that she will give birth to a child who will be called the Son of God. Later, Jesus is filled by the Holy Spirit and led to the desert to fast for 40 days prior to his mission. Soon after his return from the desert during is baptism, the Spirit Came down from heaven: And then there was a voice from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests with him”.
The Acts describe how the apostles, who were gathered together during the Pentecost, were startled by the sound of a violent wind, soon to be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. They were henceforth empowered to express themselves in a convincing manner and preach to the outside world. All these examples point to the Spirit as the presence of God as a means of communication.
The Spirit effectively gave the apostles the inspiration to communicate to others the Good News about the impending return of the Messiah. The rhetorical gift of preaching and baptizing allowed them to convert a greater number of followers and communities. The early churches ─meaning; assembly or a gathering convoked for religious purposes─ were mostly comprised of Jewish members with a small number of non-Jews. These early members voluntarily shared their possessions and communal duties. The “communion of the breaking of the bread” was the central rite of these assemblies.
The conversion of Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, resulted in the conversion of an increasing number of non-Jewish members. The inclusion of non-Jews and a growing number of churches also increased the tensions between Jews and the Gentiles. These tensions were eventually resolved by compromises made in Jewish dietary laws, circumcision and in cultic pagan rituals.
Paul’s theological definition of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ* is considered to be one of his most invaluable contributions to Christian thought. Body is defined as a unifying force of assembly of believers as one people, created by baptism and maintained by partaking of the bread. From its genesis, the early churches were held together in mystical unity by the spiritual gift of communication, communion and community.
The growing number of Christians throughout the Roman Empire was seen as a menace to the genius ─the spirit─ of Rome. The faithful Christians who believed in an impending return of the Messiah were considered a threat to the stability of Rome and its religion. Religio, an original Roman word, meant; all the rituals to honor the gods, while it’s opposite, superstitio, meant what dishonors them. Generally speaking religio refers to the pious cults of the gods, performed by magistrates, statesmen and the citizens of Rome. Superstitio, on the other hand, was an excessive devotion to other gods considered a potential threat to the stability of the city-state. As such, Christians were among the religions that were considered superstitious.
Despite the persecution of Christians that went on from time to time, long periods of relative calm allowed them to practice their religion freely as long as they did not participate in public disturbance. Christian martyrdom came to an end the day Constantine saw the light in the sky in the form of a cross. In 312 CE, he converted to Christianity and by the same token transformed the hierarchy of the empire into a hierarchy of the Church. The Church who represented the spiritual and mystical body of Christian believers slowly morphed into the physical and visible structure of the Holy See. The geographical reach of the Roman Empire became the theocratic reach of the Roman Church.
For the early Church the issue of God the Father, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit and the belief in One God, became a central point of debate and division. Only with the adoption of the doctrine of the Trinity was the Roman Church finally unified theologically. With the Trinity, the three persons ─or modes of being─ are defined as co-substantial in One God. The Holy Spirit retained a profane identity devoid of any gender filiation in respect to the Father and the Son, defined, nonetheless, as the Giver of Life.
As the Church grew consistently monolithic, the universal ─or catholic─ principles of the Spirit of Jesus Christ gave way to a prescribed salvation through the sacraments. Martin Luther, whose faith in God surpassed his devotion to the Church in Rome, fought for his spiritual ideals to the end. Luther’s faith was based on the principle that one is saved by faith alone, rather than by actions prescribed by the Holy See. Luther’s uncompromising faith in God’s word resulted in the most important schism in Church’s history. The consequence of which resulted in the Reformation as well as the Church’s own Counter-Reformation.
The advent of the printing press put copies of the Bible in the hands of a growing number of Protestants. People were finally free to read the Old and New Testaments without the strict monitoring of the Church. Old Testament principles of personal ─individual─ responsibility for salvation through faith spread throughout Europe. These principles and the absolute sovereignty of God were later to influence the Spirit of capitalism and the industrial revolution.
After several centuries of cultural stagnation, the Enlightenment finally brought some light on the Dark Ages and the discourse on the Spirit became the subject matter of philosophy rather than theology. It led to a profusion of debate that have enriched the course of history and given rise to a variety of notions about Spirit ─from Descartes to Leibniz and Kant. One of its most prominent proponents is the German philosopher Hegel in his Phenomenology of the Spirit.
With the expansion of the Industrial Revolution and the dehumanization of labor, the dialectics of Hegel gave way to dialectical materialism. The Spirit’s creative principle in history is henceforth replaced by “material class struggle”. The Lord-owner became alienated from his property, and labor alienated from the fruits of his manufactured work.
In the twentieth century the philosophical discourse on being eclipsed discussions on Spirit. The reason for the exclusion is that philosophers like Heidegger favored Greek metaphysics over Biblical and Christian thought. In addition, the devastation of the 1st and 2nd World Wars inspired a reactionary development of existentialism and atheism.
World War II ushered a dichotomy between genuine spirituality and cultic religion. Germany, the birthplace of Protestantism, saw the rise of Nazism and became the grounds for a national moral collapse. Theologian and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer could not reconcile the behavior of his countrymen with the message of the Gospels. He could not understand how a Christian country like Germany could illegally invade other countries and be responsible for the persecution of Jews. Bonhoeffer was among a number of Germans who stood up to Hitler and his minions. He participated in several missions to help Jewish people escape Germany and took part in failed plots to assassinate the Fuhrer. He was arrested for his unpatriotic stand and put in jail. He was hanged only a few weeks before the liberation of Germany by the Allies.
Bonhoeffer to this day stands as a true embodiment of the Spirit of Jesus-Christ. He knew firsthand TheCost of Discipleship, and what sacrifice it takes to be a Christian. He recognized the dire consequences of a country that faithfully follows a war leader. He came to the regretful conclusion that he was living in a time of Religiousless Christianity: A religious cult only by name, devoid of any spiritual content.
While in prison, Bonhoeffer recognized the signs of an impending divorce between spirituality and religion. He saw first hand how patriotism and state religion supplanted the true essence of Christianity. How religion was used by political leaders to confuse the body politic with the mystical body of Christ. As a consequence, the rest of the 20th century saw the unraveling of corporatism and communism battling for ideological attention and political supremacy.
On April 6th 1968 the cover of Time’s magazine displayed the title “Is God Dead?”. Echoes of Nietzsche’s words put in the mouth of a madman, who nobody would believe, came back to haunt post-modernity. The words of Zarathustra, and the proponents of the Death of God philosophy, were mostly misinterpreted and misunderstood. Nevertheless, the caption on the cover was taken as an affront by Christians. For Nietzsche the demise of the divine meant that the idea of God is no longer capable of acting or controlling a moral code for human conduct. The devastation of wars in the 20th and 21st centuries somehow attests to that view.
The advent of post-modernism, particularly the incursion of mass media, led to a displacement of some of the leading protagonists in the realm of the sacred. The cinematic news reel became the preferred propaganda tool that led to the rise of Nazi dictatorship. The media became the ideal tool for the subversion of spirituality, resulting in the dissolution of human communication, communion and community.
With the implantation of TV in people’s living room, the medium diverted the power of the word away from the priestly order. It displaced the temple as the center of propagation of creed and solace, juxtaposing the mall as the choice location for the congregation of fragmented solitudes. The preacher was no longer the only medium between the sacred and the believer, a gateway to the good news.
With Tele-evangelism, the medium replaced the presence of the preacher and disposed of the temple as the gathering place for the community of believers. The media became a top-down source of propagation that generates seclusion, isolation and fragmentation of being.
Based on the definitions of Spirit outlined above, the media does not encourage communication. The media is a content provider not open to dialogue. It does not generate communion or community. It is a remote form of control of marketable identity. It feeds itself on the consumer and brands the viewers’ with logos. Through the media the corporations created a distinct body of its own.
The corporation in the US is defined, in legal and accounting terms, as a person. And in respect to the US constitution it shares the same rights as a human person. Over time this legal person has become bundled into one political body, surpassing in power many political states in the world. One must keep in mind that although the incorporated body is comprised of human persons it nonetheless lacks the spiritual essence that inspires communication, communion and community, promoting instead corporate doctrine and trust in a moneyed and legal body.
As the Incorporated body plays an ever greater role in politics, the advent of Internet made subliminal inroads into human forms of communication. With the Internet, spirituality morphed into devoted interactivism and virtual commitments. The fragmented self leaped onto the awesome omnipresence, omniscience and all-seeing infinity of cyberspace.
The speed in which the Internet spread onto the world is unprecedented in history. It ushered a non-linear dynamic challenging the top-down hierarchies. The synergy resulted in open source operating systems and organizations of all kinds that thrive on a gravitational force to develop and organize. The Net pulled the Self into the vast otherness of cyberspace. The immediacy of the medium fostered new friendship and re-linked old ones. It expanded the nature of dating and relationships. And changed the way human beings communicate, deliberate and congregate. The new medium somewhat restored the interactive nature of communication.
To conclude, we are well aware that the childlike innocence of the early days of the Internet is long gone. The Spirit of the Net is slowly becoming asphyxiated by a hybrid media ─a merger between corporate world, advertising and the Net. Fortunately there is still plenty of room for open source interactivism to flourish and expand. And since the Net is by nature subliminal, novel tools always emerge to bypass any intrusion to the immediacy of the Net.
* The Church as the “Mystical Body of Christ” by Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Letter, Mystici Corporis
Significant other refers to a gender blind way to name the Other partner in a relationship. The attribute significant implies having a meaningful and influential effect on the Other and onto oneself. Especially if it relates to a deep and liberating experience of love. In her seminal work of Le Deuxième Sexe, Simone de Beauvoir proposed her own analysis of alterity. The Introduction of the book is such a classic that it deserves to be reinterpreted in light of her invaluable contribution to the perception of the Other.
Although Simone de Beauvoir wrote her book in 1949 it is still a major treatise on feminism and phenomenology. The introduction of The Second Sex is based on her own philosophical analysis with references to scholars like Claude Lévi-Strauss, Dumézil, Granet and Hegel. As such she was a pioneer in using pluri-disciplinary fields like anthropology, mythography, mythology and sociology in her philosophical discourse. She brings up some original observations on the importance of myth in culture in light of her concept of the Other. And to this day it is hard to deny the caliber of her intellect.
De Beauvoir was brought up in a conservative bourgeois family in Paris. Her father was a lawyer and an agnostic. Her mother was a devout Catholic. She juggled the differing influences of her parents by becoming a devoted atheist. The existence of God did not matter as much to her as the existence of Other beings “there” in her life. Especially her life long companion Jean-Paul Sartre, the famed post-war existentialist.
Sartre and de Beauvoir first met in 1929 while taking their agrégation ─a test that rates students that enable them to teach in the best schools. Although Sartre failed the first time he took the test, he was nevertheless awarded first prize on his second attempt. Whereas de Beauvoir, who passed on her first attempt, was given second place. She nevertheless succeeded in being the youngest student to pass the agrégation and became the youngest philosophy teacher in France. Following the test, the president of the jury, professor Lalande, confessed to one of his colleagues that Sartre had marked intellectual qualities, but he added, the real philosopher is “her”.
Both were to remain “essential” lovers until Sartre’s death. They both agreed to an open relationship with a tacit agreement that they would reveal everything about their love affairs to each other. These “contingent” love affairs consisted mostly of Sartre’s ongoing womanizing including several ménage à trois involving de Beauvoir. Adding her own lesbian relationships along the way. Sartre and de Beauvoir’s personal letters published after their deaths, revealed that they were making fun of the Other lovers in their love triangles. They were typically being used to reinforce their own “essential” bond .
Following the second world war Jean-Paul Sartre became the intellectual star of France. Although de Beauvoir was Sartre’s intellectual equal, she never matched his fame and popularity. She became known ironically as Notre-Dame-de-Sartre and la Grande Sartreuse. Not until after her death in 1986 was she finally considered a philosopher in her own right.
French existentialism was a direct product of the liberation of France at the hands of the Nazis. Years of countless deaths, destruction and misery were quickly swept away by a moral and philosophical liberation. God and religion had been helpless to stop the Nazis and were replaced with a post-war moral freedom, spiritual skepticism and existentialism. Years of bloodshed unleashed a joie de vivre and free love that gave birth to the baby boomers. Sartre became the undisputed symbol of that liberation.
Sartre was the eminent French proponent of existentialism. Later on, he became an advocate of Marxism, even though revelations about the gulag’s atrocities committed by Stalin were being well documented. His Marxist’s leanings might appear as a typical French arrogance towards the Anglo allies who had liberated France. However, one must keep in mind that 17 million Russians died during the war. Russian troops under Stalin had advanced quickly into Germany ahead of the allies. And they had been instrumental in the fall of Berlin and the defeat of the Nazis. As such, Marxist Leninism had made a political incursion in the ideological make-up of most European countries.
Sartre was the undisputed star philosopher of the post-war era. His fame reached an unprecedented levels, despite his lack of personal glitter or physical glamour. He was short, crossed eyed and almost blind in one eye. A drab looking fellow that paid no attention to his exterior appearance. Simone de Beauvoir was the opposite: Proper, neat, severe and conservative looking. Despite his appearance Sartre was known to be a real charmer. He had a tendency of promising the world to his female conquest, all of them pretty women. A trait that annoyed the feminist de Beauvoir.
In 1946 Sartre decided to move in with his mother, although he had become well-off from his royalties. Most of the money he made from his publications was spent on sustaining his love affairs. Sartre confessed that the reason he began writing plays was to create acting jobs for his lovers, who had no means to support themselves. Overall he was known to be generous, intelligent and charming man. Not renowned for being a warm or attentive lover.
Despite the complexities of his philosophy, Sartre managed to make existentialism fashionable. Anybody could become an existentialist, especially the young. People might not have fully understood its philosophical intricacies but could readily identify with its unabashed free love and overall moral laxity. Jazz music, Paris night life, dancing, erotic euphoria were deemed the highest expression of a post-war existentialism. Nonetheless, existentialism also exposed a spiritual vacuum about the harsh reality of human existence.
In her Ethics of Ambiguity de Beauvoir described existentialism in clear terms and made it easier to understand ─her own interpretation and tribute to Being and Nothingness. Unlike Sartre, who had the propensity of being too analytical, dense and sometimes prone to lucubration. It was wrongly believed that de Beauvoir had no original ideas of her own. And the she was merely making Sartre’s existentialism more readily accessible to the reader.
Throughout her relationship with Sartre she was viewed as his philosophical apprentice, an intellectual second fiddle. After her death, as more of her personal correspondence was made public, a different portrait emerged. The letters show her as the more dominant partner in terms of exploring new sexual experiences and relationships. She was also more passionate and more emotionally daring than her companion. In retrospect, a reassessment of her life’s work does indeed prove that the real philosopher was “her”.
In her book Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter she undertakes to disclose the “enterprise of living” in which literature is substituted for life’s spiritual and religious needs. In this book, and a few others to follow, she reveals the intellectual journey of a twentieth century woman. Disclosing a moral disconnect with traditional religion and social conventions. On the one hand, she reveals the condition of women in light of post-war existentialism. On the other hand, her novels depict fictional accounts of her personal sexual experiences with varied partners of both sexes.
De Beauvoir proclaimed herself to be an atheist. Being an atheist however, does not mean being devoid of spirituality. In Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter she describes her relationship with her mother in this manner:
At every moment in the deepest of my heart she was my witness and I could not make any distinction between her gaze and that of God.
In retrospect, her life’s intellectual journey reveals a re-enactment of the twentieth century’s history of religious thought. She was raised a good Catholic and then grew up to embody a post-war secularization of established creeds, beliefs and practices. With a consequential reassessment of traditional religion, its sacred rituals and symbols.
De Beauvoir through her profane art of writing disclosed a preoccupation with the absolute: An absolute without God. Simultaneously denounced materialism and hedonism, as flawed and lewd. And objected to the idea that you needed to redeem yourself in this world in order to save yourself for the next in heaven. Her life and her writings reveal a search of the absolute through the living experience of the Other.
It is with the publication of The Second Sex that de Beauvoir’s analytical thinking is fully revealed. In it she states the premise of her book, “On ne naît pas femme: on le devient”. One is not born a woman: One becomes one. Explaining that a woman is a cultural label dependent on her identity only as a reference to “man”. An alterity in relation to the totality implied in the conceptual ideas like “mankind”. She exposes a patriarchal vision were the feminine is belittled, censured and negated. The book quickly became a manifesto for women’s liberation. Fans were grateful that a woman had finally understood their condition. For a growing number of them she became their “symbolic mother”.
Today, many of her ideas have become common knowledge and are now part of an acceptable way of thinking. But at the time of its original publication her observations were considered quite revolutionary. When the book came out she was branded by her male critics as an “existential Amazon” who has written “a manual of erotic egotism” full of “pornographic zeal”.
Her assessment of the Other begins with her own insights about her own status as a women. A bright, sexually emancipated and independent human being in a world of women economically dependent on an “absolute” patriarchal system. As she explains: the relationship between the sexes involves a duality and like any duality it gives rise to conflict. Inevitably, the dominant partner will assume the status of absolute.
Now, what peculiarly signalizes the situation of woman is that she ─a free and autonomous being like all human creatures─ nevertheless finds herself living in a world where men compel her to assume the status of the Other. They propose to stabilize her as an object and to doom her to immanence since her transcendence is to be overshadowed and forever transcended by another ego (conscience) which is essential and sovereign.
Liberation, according to de Beauvoir, is based on our mutual recognition that each partners is free and alternatively Other. Lovers view themselves ambiguously as subject and object of erotic desire. Rather than being confined and defined as a cultural or institutionalized man or woman. The concept of ambiguity, a fuzzy perception of self and Other, is in love identified as an essential step in the process of transcending the oppression of patriarchy.
The erotic experience is one that most poignantly discloses to human beings the ambiguity of the condition; in it they are aware of themselves as flesh and as spirit, as the other and as the subject.
At the time of the writing she introduced some ideas that might appear as self evident today but were shocking to the more conservative population of the time. As she explained, woman was defined as an incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other. But her analysis did not only limit itself to her feminist views of patriarchy but overlapped into the condition of the Other in culture in general. It is this contribution that we would like to emphasize here.
The category of the Other is as primordial as consciousness itself. In the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies, one finds the expression of a duality – that of the Self and the Other. This duality was not originally attached to the division of the sexes; it was not dependent on any empirical fact…The feminine element was at first no more involved in such pairs as Varuna-Mitra, Uranus-Zeus, Sun-Moon, and Day-Night than it was in the contrasts between Good and Evil, lucky and unlucky auspices, right and left, God and Lucifer. Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought.
In addition to her assessment on the condition of women she also describes the idea of alterity in varied aspects of culture. She brings up the example of racism as applied to Black people as well as with Jews and anti-Semitism. All are based on a culture of master and slave and a tribal division between us and them. The outcast ─Other─ being relegated outside our mental process banned from our network of contacts, belittled and excluded from our spiritual embrace.
De Beauvoir’s idea of “man” as absolute, must not be confused with a person defined by his gender, but as a symbol of a patriarchal system. An invisible hierarchy that is over-powering and omnipresent. A top down system of control that is covert and guarded. More often than not, this power structure has been confused with God. It is intangible, pervasive and so elusive that it is deemed to be non existent.
What is usually visible about the hierarchy is the violence and terror displayed by totalitarian regimes, the war industry, hate groups and terrorist organizations. All the while, the workings of these systems remain invisible, expanding with legal immunity and impunity. Such is the enduring power of the elusive hierarchy.
The paradox is that the Other is a decoy to help reinforce the echelons of power. The Other that lays outside the system is a reminder that the hierarchy is in need of a scapegoat to be viewed as a threat so to strengthen the system.
Anybody who has experienced being excluded from family, friends, a group, a club, from people of a foreign nation, unable to speak the language, knows the feeling of helplessness from being excluded, of being the Other. This segregating experience allows us to see how the system works from the outside. It enables a solitary view of the whole scheme of which one is excluded.
Different examples of the Otherness are represented here as: the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant, the Jew, the gentile, the black person, the Muslim, the infidel, the mad, the gay, the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the sick, the unemployed, the prisoner, the handicapped…These groups signify varied aspects of human condition that are overshadowed by the majority in society. They become labeled as Other so to discount their value. Invariably distorting our mental perception of the whole human reality.
Cultural and racial boundaries between self and Other define who we are spiritually. The wider our level of affective and cultural openness towards the Other determines how developed we are spiritually. The more boundaries we raise, the narrower we become mentally. The greater denial of the Other, the more regressive and sectarian we become. These exclusions then activate a fanatical set of beliefs that are the basis for a cult: A perversion of true spirituality.
Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought
De Beauvoir’s assessment that Otherness is a fundamental principle of human thought is compelling and could easily be applied to other aspects of human perception of reality. The example of the Other as a profane reality revealed in the Catholic concept of God in the doctrine of the Trinity comes to mind.
God the Father
God the Son the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is Other in relation to the absolute implied in the patriarchal relationship between God the Father and God his Son. The gender component of the Mother is missing from the divine relationship between Father and Son. What makes pro-creation of either principles possible is “censured” and “negated”. The Holy Spirit is the Other, defined at the Giver of Life. A passive and overshadowed reality of the divine and sacred feminine. A principle that is nonetheless an essential and fundamental part of our spirituality’s dynamic.
In respect to her views about God and patriarchy, we can safely say that Simone de Beauvoir was not thrown out of the garden of Eden. She left voluntarily. Unafraid to leave behind the grip of a jealous Landlord and his overbearing generosity. A Lord who demands unconditional obedience in exchange for living in an environment of overwhelming security. She escaped with no regrets for having eaten from the fruit of the tree and revealed the secrets of the knowledge of good and evil.
The popularity of The Da Vinci Code put Opus Dei and the Church at the center of a controversial limelight. As a result it created a reactionary backlash from the more conservative faction of the Church. Dan Brown’s book made accessible to millions of readers the topic of the sacred feminine. And created a long overdue public debate on Mary Magdalene. A subject matter that had been discredited for the past two millenniums. Relegated as a profane reality by a religious hierarchy. The book rekindles a spiritually sensitive subject of Christianity that could no longer be overshadowed.
Paris and London
Dan Brown’s story begins in Paris. The heroine is Sophie Neveu, a French freckled red haired with a startling pedigree. The book was published shortly after Dominique de Villepin’s famous stance at the UN challenging the US’ right to wage an illegal war against Iraq. Shortly after, “freedom fries” became the rage in Washington and a favorite American antidote for renowned French arrogance. However, history has taught France a tough lesson with its colonial ambitions in Algeria. And decades after its involvement, it is still paying the price for its misadventure. Some of the words uttered by the main villain in the book reverberates a global concern about revenge. They will remain embedded as a reminder of the folly of grand illusions of anyone who wants to save the world and play god with history. As the Teacher asks the professor:
Are you with me or against me.
For the most part, the story revolves around museums and churches in Paris and London. The mystery begins with the murder of the Louvre curator and ends in a church’s rectory located in Scotland where the secret of the Holy Grail lies. The author keeps his readers guessing by alternating clues between famous and invaluable works of art, legends, myths, math trivia, poetry, anagrams, ancient monuments and secret rituals. Switching between the interpretation of famous paintings, the Gospels and the more complex and obscure secrets behind ornate gothic churches and temples.
The Holy Grail
The first Code is revealed with the display of the body of the murdered Louvre curator Saunière lying in the position of the famous Vitruvian Man. Saunière and Leonardo da Vinci we find out were both Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion: a secret society created to safeguard the secret of the Holy Grail. One of Christendom’s most famous and enduring legends.
In Christian mythology, the Holy Grail was the dish, plate, cup or vessel used by Jesus at the Last Supper, said to possess miraculous powers. The connection of Joseph of Arimathea with the Grail legend dates from Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie (late twelfth century) in which Joseph receives the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Great Britain; building upon this theme, later writers recounted how Joseph used the Grail to catch Christ’s blood while interring him and that in Britain he founded a line of guardians to keep it safe. The quest for the Holy Grail makes up an important segment of the Arthurian cycle, appearing first in works by Chrétien de Troyes (Loomis 1961). The legend may combine Christian lore with a Celtic myth of a cauldron endowed with special powers.
The development of the Grail legend has been traced in detail by cultural historians: It is a gothic legend, which first came together in the form of written romances, deriving perhaps from some pre-Christian folklore hints, in the later 12th and early 13th centuries. The early Grail romances centered on Percival and were woven into the more general Arthurian fabric. The Grail romances started in France and were translated into other European vernaculars; only a handful of non-French romances added any essential new elements. Some of the Grail legend is interwoven with legends of the Holy Chalice. ─Wikipedia
Harrison Ford in Harris Tweed
Who in their right mind would have thought that a professor of Religious Symbology would one day be the hero of a best selling mystery that would sell over 30 million copies worldwide. Robert Langdon is a Harvard University professor whose field is the study and interpretation of ancient sacred symbols. The night of the murder he happens to be in Paris as an invited guest to give a lecture and slide show on the pagan symbolism hidden in the stones of Chartres’ Cathedral.
Langdon is the writer of a manuscript entitled “Symbols of the Lost Sacred Feminine” yet to be published. The book deals with the history of goddess worship with several chapters on Mary Magdalene that are considered to be quite controversial. It prompted the editor to send the manuscript to a number of serious historians and art luminaries for their endorsement prior to the printing of Advance Reading Copies. Among the recipients of the draft was Jacques Saunière, who was found dead in the museum. Langdon and the curator both share a passion for the history of the sacred feminine and Mary Magdalene. They felt that the goddess’ role in the development of religious thought had been undermined by the curia.
The plot moves quickly after the discovery of Robert Langdon’s name written in blood next to the murdered body of Saunière on the Louvre’s museum floor. The professor becomes judicial police chief Bezu Fache’s prime suspect. He is saved from the constricting hold of the police by Saunière’s granddaughter Sophie Neveu, who happens to be a police cryptologist. She helps Langdon escape from the scene of the crime. Free to pursue their quest to resolve the mystery behind the murder. They begin their Harvard scavenger hunt.
Da Vinci and Saunière
Saunière was a devoted Leonardo da Vinci expert. Both were Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion. Most of the clues in the story revolve around Saunière’s use of da Vinci’s interpretation of paintings and crafts that point to the nature and identity of the elusive Holy Grail.
Langdon weighed his words carefully. “I was just thinking that Saunière shared a lot of spiritual ideologies with Da Vinci, including a concern over the Church’s elimination of the sacred feminine from modern religion.”
As a former Grand Master of the Priory of Sion Leonardo da Vinci’s works hold the key to the secret society’s reverence for the sacred feminine. He shares with Saunière an ongoing duty to preserve the secret of the tomb of Mary Magdalene and the documents that hold the truth about the divine feminine. As the story nears its final code we find out that the word APPLE is the key word that opens the precious keystone.
The symbol of the fall of the sacred feminine.
At this point we would like to alert the reader to one of the more popular and enduring misconceptions regarding the symbol of the fall. And to the fact that there is no mention of an apple in Genesis III. Eve simply eats a “fruit from the tree”. The popular misconception is so embedded in our psyche that it made its way into the logo of a famous brand of computers. The discrepancy shows how myths evolve and become intertwined with reality and become part of our acceptable way of thinking.
One explanations as to how the confusion occurred, and not necessarily the correct one, is the following: When the Bible was translated into Latin the word malum ─meaning evil, implying Eve’s doing─ became identified with the words pyrus malus ─meaning apple tree. It might be added that the confusion was not dispelled by the Magisterium and seems to confirm our heroes distrust about the Church’s motive in maintaining Eve’s guilt in the fall of mankind.
The killer of Saunière is an albino named Silas. He is a member of Opus Dei ─a powerful and secretive order established as a personal prelature by Pope John Paul II. Silas is a protégé of a misguided Bishop named Aringarosa, who commands the albino to blindly obey the Teacher’s directives. He is told that his unconditional obedience will save the Church. Silas is unknowingly being manipulated by the obscure Teacher to find a mysterious keystone in the possession of the Priory of Sion, of which Saunière was the last surviving member and Grand Master. The Teacher’s goal is to take possession of the keystone with the intention to reveal to the world its secret content and the identity of the Holy Grail. A secret so startling that it could destroy the Roman Catholic Church.
The Teacher who single-handedly plots to destroy the Church is non other than Leigh Teabing an expert on the Holy Grail and former British Royal Historian, a peer of Robert Langdon. He has vowed vengeance against the Priory of Sion for having rescinded on their promise to reveal the secret of the Holy Grail at the end of the millennium. Having said this, we should not be surprised to find out that the Teacher, with his evil intentions, is deliberately spreading inaccurate facts about early developments of the Church and its canon.
The following are among a few of the many discrepancies outlined by the Teacher:
Jesus Christ’s life was not “recorded by thousands of followers across the land”. Scholars now agree that none of the writers of the Gospels new or ever met Jesus. These account were written in koiné ─Greek, roughly between 70 to 100 AD, more than 30 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. They were written by Jewish scribes who were living in a culturally Hellenized Palestine under Roman occupation. In all probability Jesus spoke Aramaic ─part of a northwest Semitic group of languages which includes Hebrew. And in all likelihood Jesus did not read or write. The same applies to all of his apostles, who were for the most part mere fishermen and peasants. In ancient Judaism, reading and writing was a closely guarded craft and privilege held by the scribes and priests.
There were not “eighty” gospels that were considered for the New Testament as stated by the Teacher. And Constantine did not commission a “new Bible”. The New Testament –twenty seven book canon─ as we know it today, was first documented as a list of books that were felt appropriate to read, and put together by Athanasius the bishop of Alexandria, circa 367 CE.
The Dead Sea Scrolls ─also known as the Qumran documents─ were not “found” in the 1950’s but in 1947. They were not among the earliest “Christian records” but were a description of rules of conduct of an early Jewish community, most likely the Essene. This community was primarily made up of single celibate men who dedicated their lives to spiritual purification in preparation for the impending “end of time”. A time when God would intervene to overthrow the forces of evil and reward the righteous. Some scholars have surmised that Jesus had a similar apocalyptic world view as the Essenes and might have shared their rule of conduct. Consequently, contrary to Teabing’s assertion, Jewish custom did not forbid men to be unmarried.
There is no scholarly evidence or proof that Mary Magdalene was connected to the House of Benjamin or that she was a descendant of King David. Even less so that she was pregnant at the crucifixion.
Moreover, Q is not a book written by Jesus. And it is not a surviving source being secretly guarded by the Church. Q ─an abbreviation from the German word quelle meaning “source”─ simply refers to a hypothetical “source” of Jesus sayings that scholars have found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
And lastly: The Gnostic Gospels does not refer to a collection of the Nag Hammadi and the Dead Sea Scrolls documents but is the title of a book written by Elaine Pagels.
As it happens these discrepancies do not interfere with the book’s core premise about the fact that some of Leonardo’s clues about the feminine mystique highlight the overshadowed and discredited Mary Magdalene…
Although Jesus speaks consistently of his absent Father, it is his mother that is present at the most crucial moments in his life. First and foremost, she gives birth to Jesus. As his mother she is responsible for his education that will eventually prepare him for his divine mission. She is present at the wedding at Cana when she asks Jesus to perform his first miracle instigating his public ministry. She is present in the background following her son throughout his preaching. She has the painful fate to witness her son’s humiliating crucifixion under the hands of the Roman occupying power. Having said that, it is another Mary, and none of the 12 apostles, that has the privilege to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1)
In 1969, shortly after the conclusion of Vatican II, the Catholic Church officially disclosed that the enduring belief that identified Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was not based on any factual or scriptural evidence, henceforth clearing her name. The magisterium also asserted that Mary Magdalene should not be confused with Mary the sister of Lazarus, from the town of Bethany. Mary Magdalene should be identified with a person from a town called Magdala located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
There is no scholarly consensus as to the origin of the surname Magdalene. The Church’s position is that it refers to a place named Magdal ─meaning tower or fortress. However, such a place on the banks of the Sea of Galilee no longer existed at the time of Jesus. In the first century such location was overtaken by the prosperous Greek city of Taricheae.
The surname “Magdala” ─Hebrew Migdal = tower, fortress; Aramaic Magdala─ should be viewed as a symbolic attribute in terms of “fortitude”. Similar in fashion to John who was also known as John the Baptist. Or Simon who was given the metaphorical name the “rock” by Jesus and became henceforth known as Peter ─meaning rock.
During Jesus’ ministry, a number of women followed their teacher but typically stayed in the background of the 12 male apostles. In Mark (15:40-41) and Luke (8:1-3) we find out that these women, including Mary Magdalene, provide financial support to Jesus’ ministry. And in break with tradition, Jesus (Luke 10:38-42) encourages Mary, sister of Martha, in her decision to attend his teachings rather than stay home to take care of her household duties.
At the time, women were regarded as the property of men, or as being under their jurisdiction. The only exception were women of wealth. In that era men and women worshiped in separate places. And as part of their morning devotion, men were thankful to God for not being “born a woman”.
Early on Jesus cures Mary Magdalene of her possession of seven demons. Possession was a term used to imply an illness for which there was no known explanation or cure. Somehow this is still valid today.
The Gospels recounts that in the town of Bethany a woman with an alabaster jar anoints Jesus’ feet with “very expensive ointment” ─some estimate the value at one year’s wages. The description of the scene is to say the least very sensuous. At Jesus’ request she is told to keep the remainder of the “costly” oil for his burial. And the woman that will be present with the ointment at the burial turns out to be Mary Magdalene. The apostles however, are scandalized by such an act of devotion and waist. They question why so much money should be spent so frivolously instead of feeding the poor. Furthermore, it is considered a disgrace for a woman to touch an unmarried man. Jesus tells them to leave her alone, because she has done for him a good work. And Jesus probably knew better than to argue with a wealthy Jewish woman. The surprising part about this episode is that it is recounted in all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Only three other stories are shared by the four Gospels: the baptism of Jesus, the multiplication of loaves, and the crucifixion.
The Hebrew word messiah means anointed. In Jewish tradition the anointment is typically performed by a priest during the sacred coronation of a king. The story about Jesus’ anointment in the Gospels is starling to say the least. One could interpret the passage as the anointment by a woman of Jesus the Messiah. A symbolic act of total devotion and respect. It is not performed by any of Jesus’ twelve male apostles who considered the act as scandalous and against Jewish tradition.
In the eight times a list of women is mentioned in the Gospels, on every occasion except one Mary Magdalene’s name appears first. Only at the crucifixion is Mary the mother of Jesus mentioned first and Mary Magdalene last. The Mary whose womb gave birth to Jesus is present at his death. Whereas it is Mary of Magdala who discovers the empty tomb that is a witness of the risen Christ.
In all four Gospels, the women that accompany Jesus during his last week are also present at the crucifixion. They alone remain present until the end, whereas all male disciples flee. It is also stated that the female followers were the first to witness that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. In the Gospel of John it is Mary Magdalene alone who acknowledges the empty tomb. While in the other versions it is Mary Magdalene accompanied by other women.
I have seen the Lord, and he said these things to me. (John 20:18)
Mary Magdalene is the first to witness the risen Lord. She is also chosen as a messenger to spread the good news ─ gospel. As it happens, the root word apostle in Greek means messenger. Therefore, Mary Magdalene and the other women are to be equally considered apostles.
The Metaphor as Code
The whole premise of The Da Vinci Code is the quest for the Holy Grail : the legendary cup at Jesus’ Last Supper. Alternatively described as a holy cup, royal blood or holy bloodline. Brown’s mystery has proposed some controversial ideas about Mary Magdalene and the meaning of the Sangraal.
We would like to introduce at this point the role of the metaphor in terms of symbolic significance that might hold the key to the Holy Grail:
I am the door ─gate (John 10:9)
I am the way (John 14:6)
In other words, Jesus in the Gospels uses the metaphor to reveal his message.
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my community ─Church. (Mat 16:18)
Jesus tells Simon that he is a rock ─peter literally means rock─ and he will be known as the rock on which Jesus will build his community. An additional indication that the metaphor holds a vital role in the meaning of the Holy Grail.
The last supper is where Jesus shares his last meal, breaks the bread and drinks from the sacred cup. The scene is the center of the whole Catholic faith. And the Eucharist is a sacrament that faithful Catholics partake in Church with the holy communion. At the Last Supper Jesus shares the bread and wine with his apostles and says these words.
This is my body…This is my blood (Mark 14: 22-24)
Again we would like to stress the importance of the metaphor as the great code that offers additional clues as to the secret of the Holy Grail.
The metaphor is a figure of speech that implies a shift in meaning and a spiritual code. A break in the normal use of language. Simultaneously breaking with the normal social conventions and religious practices. Simply put, the metaphorical interpretation of the Gospels could be considered as a keystone behind the last supper and the Holy Grail. What the cup holds is not wine but the metaphorical sacrificial blood. It could be added that the metaphor is a stark contradiction to the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Furthermore, if Simon is the metaphorical rock on which Jesus will build his Church, is Mary Magdala, who was the first to witness the risen Lord, to be considered the metaphorical tower that will be built on that rock ─foundation. In addition, the name Madgal-eder also appears in Micah (4:8-10) and refers symbolically to a tower or stronghold of the flock. Mary Magdalene then, will stand on the rock as the stronghold for all future Christian communities.
The quest for the Holy Grail is the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one.
(1) I would like to emphasize that my interest in the subject does not stem from my personal beliefs in or devotion to the sacred feminine, but is based on the observation that the goddess principle has been overshadowed in the Judeo-Christian sacred narratives. This leads me to conclude that our so-called western civilization lives by some type of perceptual scotoma ─a blind spot in a visual field of reality. This cultural and religious trait is part of my ongoing study and interest.
My interest also stems from the fact that Pope Pius XII, in the dogma of the Assumption, refers to the Mother of God as the Heavenly Queen. And in the Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women, dated June 29 1995, Mary is referred to as the Queen of heaven and earth. In several passages of the Old Testament we can readily find a goddess named Ashera who is permanently chastised by a jealous God. Ironically, that same goddess is also known by the title of Queen of Heaven.
Diana Spencer was launched onto the world stage when it became known that Prince Charles chose her to be his wife. Who can forget a first sight of Diana stretching her long legs out of a Mini Austin, her body unfolding in front of a horde of cameramen lying in wait. A slim five feet ten inches tall blond with a wry smile, instantly made the headlines news around the world. In retrospect, who could have conjured a more tragic story than the one about her short and luminous life.
The fairy tale began when Prince Charles, being of a certain age, was feeling the pressure from the Queen to finally settle down and provide the kingdom with an heir. There were several prospects among the eligible ladies. For his choice the Prince had to abide by certain requirements. He could not marry a Catholic. She would have to be a Protestant, preferably a member of the Church of England. The bride to be was expected to have aristocratic background. And she would also have to be a virgin. Diana Spencer met all of the qualifications. Once the requirements were met he would need the royal court’s approval.
They married at St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29th 1981. The ceremony was viewed by a global audience of close to a billion viewers. It turned out to be among the most watched religious ceremony ever broadcasted.
From her obscure life as an aspiring ballerina, and later a part-time aide at a nursery school, Diana was swiftly swirled into the limelight. Lifted out of lonely anonymity, and cast into the royal intrigue of Buckingham Palace. Ironically Diana would eventually be baptized with the nick name Lady Di, a homonym that spelled out the omen of her tragic destiny. Unaware that she would be irreversibly ensnarled in the abyss of fame, the victim of her own popularity.
To this day it is hard to determine whether Diana was lonely girl or solitary woman. Either might have been due to the fact that she had been a motherless teenager. This may explain why she then dedicated her life to search of a knight in shining armor. Not an uncommon trait among teenage girls. She did find one eventually, to the envy of millions of women around the world.
Part reality show and part Sleeping Beauty, the stage was slowly being set for a most enduring postmodern fairy tale. A rivalry between a beautiful and stylish young princess and a severe Queen mother-in-law. Both competing for the attention of a prince and favorite heir. Unbeknown to them that Charles was in love with another woman. The discovery of the love affair would eventually spark all around feelings of betrayal and recrimination.
From the start Diana indulged in the fame game. Faced with the infidelity of her husband, she used the media to her own advantage. She deliberately courted the paparazzi when she felt abandoned by the royal family after her separation. How else could she stand up to the most powerful woman of the land. Although she used the media she also blamed the paparazzi for the lack of privacy she sought. The ambivalent quest for fame and privacy would eventually lead to her tragic death.
Lady Di had a knack for cultivating her image of accessibility and vulnerability that charmed her devoted fans. Her increasing popularity and openness made her an outcast from the royal family who were sinking in popularity in the eyes of their royal subjects. The humorless, orderly and sheltered images of the royal life where no longer popular and remnants of the past. While Lady Di was portrayed as passionate, fun loving and vulnerable. A star quality that led to her adoption by the media who crowned her with an aura of fame.
Diana embodied the dual nature of a saint and sinner. Saint, to the great majority of world fans who were devoted to her. Sinner, to the aristocracy who shunned her for her public spotlight and personal disclosure. The upper crust is known to be a conservative lot. They believe that royalty should behave properly by setting a good example of stoic composure and stiff upper lip.
A Postmodern Celebrity Cult
It was with her tragic death on August 31st 1997 that Princess Diana was consecrated as a popular icon. In her essay Lady Di et Mère Teresa, Christine Pina makes a persuasive analysis of the funeral ceremony of Diana viewed by billions of spectators. She sees the event as a rediscovery of a cultic practice in a post-modern world. These observations according to Pina, point to a “media” induced form of religiosity. What Jacques Ellul described as the shifting nature of the sacred that morphs into other modes of cultic expression.
Among the noted dignitaries attending the funeral service, was a visible Prime Minister Tony Blair, an emotional Elton John and Diana’s brother who vented out his frustration in an eulogy full of reproach in front of an applauding crowd. A service that included readings from the Bible, prayers and moments of silence. All viewed by billions of viewers who participated in a service typically reserved for an intimate few. Making the ceremony one of the most viewed religious service in history, surpassing the Princess’ wedding ceremony.
The broadcasting of people, some in tears, some visibly moved, laying their bouquet of flowers over a huge floral display in front of a gated Kensington House, are visible signs of heartfelt sorrow, a viewers’ communion of sort, a novel brand of religiosity. What to say about the bridge of Alma in Paris, where Diana’s car fatally crashed in its underpass, which by some twisted turn of fate is the Latin word for “soul”. A place which has since the accident been a popular shrine where devoted fans congregate to commemorate the death of their beloved princess.
The princess’ trademark of walking among the lepers, aids patients, holding maimed infants with a passionate embrace rekindled the old English tradition called “touching” the sick. The practice was associated with the king’s magical healing powers over his subjects by laying a hand on them. He being the earthly representative and the embodiment of divine power. The practice dates back to the medieval times and went out of fashion at the turn of the 19th century.
All the while, the drama is unfolding under a Queen’s reign who happens to be the head of the Church of England, a similar role as the pope in Rome, blurring the separation between the temporal and the religious.
Barely six days after Diana’s tragic death, Mother Teresa passed away on September 5th 1997. Worn out by years of humble service dedicated to the outcasts in the slums of Calcutta. The overwhelming popularity of Diana’s tragedy overshadowed the death of an old and exhausted nun. Unable to compete for attention, the funeral had to be postponed for three days. Prompting a local journalist to write that there were hardly any tears left for a little and unassuming nun who died in silent anonymity. In stark contrast to a life at the Ritz, a speedy car chase and the violent death of a young and rich princess, a world away from the glitter and hordes of paparazzi.
Shortly after her death, Mother Teresa was beatified by John Paul II, the second step towards sainthood. The nun was known to be a staunch Roman Catholic with an uncompromising position on abortion. She faithfully submitted to the teaching of the Church with a stoic acceptance of poverty and the established order. These positions raised criticism about the real nature of her missionary work that were seen as a promotional flagship for a Church mired in sexual scandal and declining popularity. As for the people of India, they were weary of a Catholic nun displaying to the world the slums of Calcutta as if there were none in other countries.
By 2007 Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity resulted in a ministry that included approximately 450 brothers and 5,000 nuns worldwide, operating missions, schools and shelters in over 120 countries. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work. A remarkable accomplishment for a tiny nun born in the obscure town of Skopje in the Republic of Macedonia on August 26th 1910.
The two funeral ceremonies revealed two worlds, literally poles apart. The first in London, the center of the British Empire of old, the second, in a former British colony. The princess’ Anglican ceremony was all glitter and mass appeal and was televised to a good portion of planetary viewers. On the opposite side of the globe, a Catholic mass attended by 15,000 people at Netaji indoor stadium in Calcutta. Two funeral services each with their own religious historical backgrounds. Both exhibiting a comparable postmodern media induced form of religiosity.
The funerals reveal two distinctive Christian displays of ritual expression. A simple and rudimentary example of the difference between Catholics and Reformed can be illustrated by the symbolism of the crucifix and the cross. The figure of Jesus-Christ typically appears on the cross for Catholics whereas for the Reformed the cross is in some cases bare and absent of an agonizing body. The first stresses sacrifice, suffering and the surrender to God’s will. The second suggests an absent body of Jesus who has conquered death and heralds a resurrected body of Christ. The former entails an acceptance of suffering and submission to fate. The latter implies redemption and the glory of the risen Lord.
Two different mediated forms of salvation suddenly come to the fore in succeeding funeral services: In one, an exalted princess presented in all her glory. Reigning on a global audience, crowned by the media with a halo of fame. The other, images of sacrifice and poverty, a visible imitation of Jesus’ presence among the powerless and outcasts.
Both heroines point to a postmodern reinterpretation of sainthood. The term saint typically refers to an individual whose motives and actions reflect the will of God. One who possesses some powerful divine attributes. A person who is a model of religious behavior. Miracles attributed to the candidate after his or her death is an important criteria for sainthood. It reveals the saint’s ongoing saving presence of God. This is especially valid in the case of a martyr or someone who died a tragic death.
In a postmodern sort of way we can make an analogy of Diana’s posthumous miracle in terms of the influence she had on the British parliament on the favorable outcome of banning land mines. Also, soon after her death, the Parliament refused to cover the expenses of the royal yacht Britannia paid for by the commoner’s taxes.
As for Mother Teresa, the Vatican is currently reviewing the instance of a miracle that occurred with her intercession. The healing of a tumor of an Indian woman named Monica Besra, who attributes her cure to the application of a locket containing the nun’s picture.
Since her death, Mother Teresa’s personal letters became public and revealed a person with a deep sense of doubt about her faith. Disclosing long periods of longing to feel the presence of Jesus Christ. A presence she sought more than anything else. The letters reveal moments of “darkness” and “loneliness” which she could not dispel. In the end, these doubts did not alter her dedication and commitment to God’s will embodied by her presence among the poor and outcasts.
Sacred Media & Profane Audience
One can narrow the meaning of religion, or religio as the Romans called it, as the cultus deorum (the cults of the gods). Defined as the scrupulous performance of prescribed rituals to the gods. They include a rigorous separation between what belongs to the gods and the mortals. All implemented by a strict juridical boundary between the sacred and the profane. This separation is illustrated by the boundaries set by the templum or the pomerium (religious boundaries). A boundary that the mortals cannot cross or transgress. Any transgression is enforced by the vengeful wrath of the gods. And is also implemented by the unforgiving punishment set by the law. Additionally, sacrare signified to segregate what belongs to the sphere of the humans in order to be consecrated to the gods.
This key aspect of the separation between the sacred and the profane can be found in most world religions and agnostic beliefs. In a postmodern world, the arbitrary separation between the sacred and the profane is seen as being imposed by the media’s technological boundary. This separation is even more radical than the one imposed by the Romans through mythical or juridical means.
As Pina points out, the funerals would not have been omnipresent without the help of the media. As a result, the media has juxtaposed itself onto the world as the gateway to the sacred. A self-ordained tele-vision of religiosity. And in the process transformed the home into media controlled sanctuary. Keeping the separation between the sacred icons and the profane audience complete. Making the sacred physically inaccessible to the profane viewers that lay outside its boundaries.
True religious experience is lived by a process of communication between the human and the divine. And is based on a set of sacred instructions and ritual practices inherited by historical tradition. Spiritual experience can only be authentic if communication, community and communion are present. With the broadcasting of the funeral services, the media has displaced traditional religions as the purveyor of ritual. As a result it has fragmented the idea of communication, community and communion.
As such the media is a quasi-religious content provider. Quasi indicates a genuine similarity, without sharing religion’s ultimate spiritual goals. Whose credo can be summarized in “seeing is believing” (there is something to be said about how the experience of seeing that could be construed as a true religious experience).
A Media’s Icon
Tony Blair who is a gifted politician, referred to Diana as the “people’s Princess”. He recognized in Lady Di a talented ambassador to England. The glamor, the fashionable image and the paparazzi promoted an ongoing fairy tale. She became the greatest national export since the Beatles and other British rock bands that followed.
The Prime Minister interceded on behalf of Lady Di’s fans in the showdown about the protocol of lowering the flag at half-mast at Buckingham Palace. The public showed a similar impatience in respect to the Queen’s long awaited TV address. Signs of remorse and grief were finally seen in Prince Charles’ tears and the Queen’s visit at the floral display at the gates of Kensington House.
Since Diana’s death the movie “The Queen” was released absolving the royals. Tony Blair has since left public office. He is working as a public relations person for some of the biggest corporations in the world with a multi-million dollars a year compensation.
To conclude, it seems that Diana would have been content in being a passionate wife and loving mother. Her discovery that Charles was in love with another woman shattered that legitimate dream.
It turned out that the adulation of her fans made her an outcast of the royal court. Perhaps because no matter how much status or money one has, it cannot buy you grace. It’s a gift. Keeping in mind that Diana came from a sheltered background. She hardly had to work in her life. Her charity work was largely a product of circumstance rather than character. And in her ordeal with the Royals, she was left with a generous settlement. And because she was married to a royal, she was able to meet and date the son of a billionaire.
Diana was sacrificed at the altar of the established order. She was guilty of temporarily blurring the lines between the aristocracy and the commoners, the sacred and the profane. A separation that must not be breached.
Since the tragedy, Prince Charles married his former lover Camilla. The Queen is still among us. She rules alongside a sovereign media who inconspicuously dominates as a quasi-religious medium. Relentlessly searching for another disposable victim to be sacrificed at the altar of ratings and advertising.
Superman’s power originated from being born on an alien planet. Spiderman’s prowess was the result of being bitten by a genetically modified spider. Batman’s power revolves around being the heir to a huge fortune inherited after the tragic death of his parents. Despite the difference in the origin of their power, these super-heroes typify the prominence of Hollywood’s pantheon. A medium’s celebration of American mythology and an ongoing tribute to true Americanism. Batman Begins recounts the genesis of a Paradise Lost. A hero’s loss of innocence, his journey through a painful path of redemption and coming of age. Visible on the movie’s official web site is a poster of the masked hero seen standing prostrate in the twilight. An appropriate reflection of a nation undergoing a period of soul searching.
Batman is the alter-ego of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. He was first introduced to the public in Detective Comics 27 in May, 1939. Wayne took up his role as Batman after the traumatic experience of witnessing his parents’ murder. Following a painful soul searching he decides to adorn a mask of a bat in order to instill fear upon criminals: and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful.
In Detective Comics 38 in April, 1940, Batman was joined by his crime fighting partner, Robin, the Boy Wonder. Batman and Robin were later joined by their faithful butler, Alfred. The team of Batman, Robin and Alfred became the nucleus of the Batman success since the 1940’s. Over the years Batman & Robin’s endless battles against an assortment of villains got increasingly favorable ratings. Prominent among Batman’s arch enemies include Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Two Face and Catwoman.
Contrary to most other super-heroes of his era, Batman has no supernatural powers of his own. He relies instead upon a superior training and intellect. He also uses expensive and sophisticated crime fighting gadgets that our hero is able to afford due to his enormous wealth. The best known are: The utility belt, the Bat-cave, the Bat-mobile, the Bat-plane, the Bat-cycle, the Bat-boat, the Bat-Signal, and all other array of high-tech contraptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city. To help him with his hi-tech devices, he relies on the help of a Wayne Enterprises’ tech expert, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Similar in many ways to British technical advisor Q in James Bond’s movies.
In Batman Begins, our hero is a loner who travels the earth to redeem his soul. He finds solace through hard physical training and discipline under the supervision of his newfound mentor, Ducard (Liam Neeson).
However, when Batman comes back from his journey, Robin is no longer our hero’s companion of choice. Alfred the butler is. Previous Batman movies have starred mostly American actors. Batman Begins’ leading cast are from Britain. They include Christian Bale (Batman), Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman, (Lt. James Gordon) and Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone). And British born Chris Nolan is the film’s director. The fifth Batman sequel, with England’s prominent acting contribution, is a sure recipe to be a “bloke”-buster of the year.
Batman, a “Masked Crusader”
Batman Begins clearly reflects a post 9/11 environment. The movie’s main themes of tragic loss, fear, anger, revenge, justice and moral responsibility reflect a current national disposition. Even some of the villains in the movie are made to appear like terrorists.
The movie plot begins when Wayne must deal with the physical and spiritual vacuum left by his parents’ death. He must also face the premature responsibility of being the heir to his family’s Empire, who’s headquarters just happen to be located at the very center of the city ─the center being a prevailing symbol in mythology. All the strength that he has built up during his journey will be useful when Bruce finally returns home to his castle. He finds Gotham city ruled by criminals and his own Wayne Enterprises in disarray.
Bruce Wayne faces enormous obstacles upon his return. He realizes that Wayne Enterprises is slipping out of his control. Disillusioned, Bruce Wayne undergoes a dramatic change and a metamorphosis into the Masked Crusader occurs. The hero is undaunted by his foes. He spares no means to fight for justice. However, there are many people who don’t like his plan to clean up the city. Among them, a stereotyped mobster named Carmine Falcone, Scarecrow and the League of Shadows.
The Masks of the Gods
Masks have been used among different cultures all through the ages for a variety of purposes. Generally, masks are adorned to honor the departed spirits of the ancestors. They have been used by shamans to ward off evil spirits. Masks have played an important role in rituals to cure illness or drive disease demons from entire villages or tribes.
Masks have been worn in holidays, festivals and masquerades like Halloween and Mardi Gras. In carnivals, masks are used to hide the identity of the wearer allowing him to break everyday rules that he or she would not normally break in an ordinary environment.
Wearing a mask in war was meant to instill fear in the enemy. Masks were also used to protect the dead by frightening away malevolent spirits and scavengers. In ancient Greece and Rome masks were worn by actors to make the gods manifest, thereby giving birth to drama.
Mostly, masks are adorned by secret societies, generally made up of men. They are used in rituals of initiation and rites of passage, introducing the teenager to hierarchy; the system that establishes social order.
Recently, we have seen the resurgence of masked men like the KKK. The Klan’s reappearance brings back images of cross burning and memories of lynching. As we have said, masked men like to instill fear onto the non-members. They like to hide their identity to avoid exposure and personal condemnation by the world that lay beyond their control.
Most super-heroes wear a mask as part of their persona. Bat-man is a perfect example of its veiled significance:
The mask in a primitive festival is revered and experienced as a veritable apparition of the mythical being that it represents ─even though everyone knows that a man made the mask and that a man is wearing it. The one wearing it, furthermore, is identified with the god during the time of the ritual of which the mask is part. He does not merely represent the god; he is the god…In other words, there has been a shift of view from the logic of the normal secular sphere, where things are understood to be distinct from one another, to a theatrical or play sphere, where they are accepted for what they are experienced as being and the logic is that of “make believe” ─“as if.”
The Masks of God, Joseph Campbell
What are we to conclude about the hero? One can draw a number of conclusions from the movie and its masked message. One that comes to mind is the allusion to an American semi-god sided by a British butler in an alliance to fight villains. Promoting acts of revenge to distract from any problems within the system and by making the enemy the focus of all the anger; a scapegoat.
What about the message that only a billionaire is able or can afford to fight crime? Whereas the non-elite masses are merely powerless spectators.
The name of Dark Knight also brings forth an interesting analogy in respect to the knighted celebrities. Dark Knight is the owner of an “empire”. He lives in a castle that will eventually be destroyed by flames. All these images suggests an induction of a new form of corporate feudalism. A New World Order where mega-corporations have become the new kingdoms, favoring the workers inside its perimeters with overwhelming providence.
Olympian religion is essentially a religion of the successful, comfortable and healthy ruling-class. The downtrodden peasant harassed by the necessities of keeping body and soul together in a naturally unfruitful land, crippled by debt and social injustice, asked something very different of his gods: The Olympians bore a discouraging resemblance to his oppressors.
Mythical and Allegory in Ancient Art, Roger Hinks
We conclude with a last reference in regards to the setting of the movie. According to the Shorter Oxford dictionary; Gotham was the name of a village proverbial for the folly of its inhabitants, who were also referred to as simpletons.
The title refers to our previous article, Superman: A mythical American. Spider-Man is another attempt on our part to delve into the popular American mythology, as portrayed by what is referred to in Hollywood as, “the Industry”. At the outset Peter Parker states the premise of the film:
Who am I?
Are you sure you want to know?
The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody told you I was just an ordinary, average guy, not a care in the world! Somebody lied. But let me assure you. This, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl. That girl…the girl next door: Mary Jane Watson. The woman I loved since before I even liked girls.
From the start these questions are entertained: Does the movie relate to the angst of a teenager’s identity crisis or is it an ultimate love story?
The Spider-Man’s persona has some universal appeal as it flatters on one hand, a young male’s “ego” and his sense of superiority and on the other hand, women’s romantic feeling of abandonment. Girl meets inaccessible man to be eventually turned down by the super hero. Ordinary men would normally fall prey to their luxurious feelings and sex drive. A noted shortcoming among men, which women exploit with great talent; not Spider-Man.
The movie is foremost a tale, mythical in many respects. Like all myths, it is about super-beings, super-heroes and gods involved in the lives of ordinary men and women. Like most mythical stories it can be divided into a thematic sequence:
The setting…….New York city
The hero………..Peter Parker
The quest……….Mary Jane
The adversary…Green Goblin
The mentor……..Ben & May Parker
The Spider-Man movie is set in a working class neighborhood of New York City. The first movie was released in May of 2002, less than a year after the tragic events of 9/11. The Big Apple, the archetype of the 20th century metropolis, is the setting for the story of our mythical hero.
Prior to its release, the film attracted immediate response when an trailer showed Spider-Man spinning a web on New York’s Twin Towers to catch a helicopter full of crooks. A favorite scene that drew cheers from preview audiences in the United States. However, the terrorist attacks on September 11 had forced a re-evaluation of this scene and all images of the Twin Towers were eliminated.
Unlike Superman, who came from another planet, Peter Parker is a working class boy. Both heroes were adopted. Both have a double identity. One of an ordinary being, the other of a supernatural hero. The former is a journalist, the latter a newspaper photographer. In the 1930’s, the original Superman’s prowess was limited to leaping from tall buildings, similar in many ways to our hero. As time and technology progressed, so did Superman’s powers. Peter Parker in the original comic series was bitten by a “radioactive” spider whereas in the movie he is bitten by a “genetically designed” spider. He becomes “genetically modified”, so to speak.
The character is the brainchild of Stan Lee who introduced his colorful hero in 1962. Soon after, Spider-Man became one of the most popular American icons. Unlike other super-heroes of his day, Peter Parker is a regular guy with “real” teen problems living in a “real” city. A nation-wide poll conducted among college students in 1965 by Esquire magazine revealed that Spider-Man ranked among the top of their favorite idols.
The movie begins with the portrait of a young man running after a school bus that he has missed yet again. Inside is the girl next door Mary Jane with her bully boyfriend, Flash, who entertains the mob inside the bus by making a mockery and an outcast of our hero, the nerd next door.
As the story develops our hero meets his best friend Harry. The rich son of Norman Osborn who owns OSCORP, a research company in nanotechnology doing business for the military. They’re on their way to the museum on a scientific field trip. In one of the labs they are visiting, 15 spiders have been “genetically designed”, one of which is reported missing by Mary Jane. Shortly after, it is seen descending from above to bite our ordinary guy on the hand. As a parenthesis, the Latin word for “super” literally means “above” or “over”. The image of the critter looming over our hero is a forceful image of the “super-natural”.
Back home, Peter Parker is undergoing a mutation generated by the spider’s bite and develops some unusual powers. Meanwhile, aunt May visibly worried, is seen outside her nephews’ bedroom and inquires about any notable changes in him. Peter looking through the window at Mary Jane in her bedroom next door and down at his genitals, replies to his aunty with a smile, that yes there are “big changes” going on.
Peter Parker is undergoing big changes. Some are due to his “raging hormones” and some are genetically designed. Some are related to his infatuation with his neighbor who doesn’t know he exists. Fortunately, he soon gets her attention when his uncontrollable powers get him in trouble with Flash in the school cafeteria. He finally beats up the bully to the ground, to Mary Jane’s surprise and admiration.
Aunt May tells Peter that he’s overreacting and doing too much.
Do you think you’re Superman?….
When you were a child the first time you saw Mary Jane when she first moved next door, you asked me, is that an angel?
But aunt May she doesn’t know who I am?
That’s because you don’t let her. Would it be so dangerous to let her know that you care.
Like any teenager, he needs money to buy a car to impress Mary Jane. He decides to enter a wrestling contest. The prize is $3,000 for whoever withstands 3 minutes of beating from the house villain. For the occasion Peter draws his first ideas for a costume. The night of the fight he introduces himself as the Human Spider but is introduced by the MC as Spider-Man. In the circus on steroids he beats his opponent. However, he is only given a $100 reward since the fight lasted less than a minute.
On his way out of the promoter’s office a thief walks in and robs all the cash. Peter lets the thief walk away as a way of getting even with the manager for ripping him off. He repeats to him what he had been told earlier when he was shortchanged: ‘I missed the part where this is my problem”.
The army is expecting good news from OSCORP and its “human performance enhancer”. A drug to make a superior warrior. Unfortunately for Norman the drug is not ready. The formula has some bad sides effects that result in violence, aggression and insanity. The military are not pleased and inform Osborn that they are thinking of giving their contract to his main competitor QUEST.
Shortly after, Norman Osborn finds out that the board of directors of the company he has created plans to get rid of him in a merger. As a last resort, he decides to test the drug on himself. Following the intake, he develops an evil alter ego and the Green Goblin literally takes over his personality. From then on, the Green Goblin will seek revenge on the board of directors for their betrayal by planning an attack on the company’s corporate merger celebration.
At the “World Unity Festival” our hero and the villain meet for the first time setting the stage for a pyrrhic battle carried to the end. The adversary in any story is at the center of the hero’s own identity. It is the villain that triggers the hero’s appearance. It is he who forces Spider-Man to measure up and become the idol that he is. The “struggle” with the adversary is at the core of every hero’s identity.
After his first encounter with Spider-Man, Green Goblin traps our hero and offers him to join him in his efforts to destroy and to terrorize the people, telling him: “One thing that the public likes more than a hero, it’s a hero that fails.” Our hero refuses to go along creating his mortal enemy in the process. Knowing that Spider-Man is a forcible opponent, the Green Goblin plans to hurt the ones Peter loves in order to get to our hero.
Back home, the changes in our hero is affecting the relationship with his uncle who senses that he is loosing his beloved nephew to a higher calling. Uncle Ben who just lost his job, complains that “the corporations are downsizing people and upsizing profits”. Looking through the classified ads for a job, he observes that even “computers need analysts”.
With great power comes great responsibility
Ben tells Peter on his way to the wrestling match. Our hero who is not in the mood for a speech reminds his uncle that he’s not his real father. Unknown to Peter is that the fleeting thief that he lets go after the wrestling match will hijack Ben’s car and murder him.
No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, the ones I love will always be the ones who pay…
During the attack by the Green Goblin on the “World Unity Festival” Peter Parker finds out that Mary Jane is Harry Osborn’s new girl friend. Our hero comes out full swing to save the day and Mary Jane. Prompting her to ask him:
Who are you?
You know who I am.
At the hospital while visiting aunt May, who was badly injured by the Green Goblin, Mary Jane tells Peter that she’s in love with somebody else. She asks Peter if he knows Spider-Man. He tells her that he knows him since he is his official photographer. She asks if the hero ever mentioned her. Peter replies:
Spider-Man did ask what I thought about you.
And what did you say…
I said…A great thing about Mary Jane is when you look in her eyes and she’s looking back at yours, everything does not feel quite normal. Because you feel stronger, weaker at the same time. You feel excited and at the same time terrified. The truth is you don’t know what you feel, except what kind of man you want to be. It feels like you reached the unreachable and you were not ready for it.
You said that?…
In the final scene Mary Jane is in danger yet again. In the darkness between the bridge and the deep waters below, the Goblin threatens to kill a tram filled with children and our heroin. Divided between the sadistic choice of saving Mary Jane or the children, the super-hero saves both.
That’s why fools are heroes. Misery, misery, misery…That’s what you have chosen.
In the final battle Norman pleads that it is not he but the Green Goblin who is responsible for the evil doing. Osborn’s brief sense of sanity is short lived and he succumbs to the “violence, aggression and insanity” a final time. In his last unsuccessful attempt to kill Spider-Man the villain is killed instead.
At Norman Osborn’s funeral, Harry swears revenge for his father’s death and tells Peter that he is the only family he has left. Unaware that he is confiding to the Green Goblin’s killer.
In the final scene Peter turns and faces Mary Jane as she reveals to him:
There is one thing I have been wanting to tell you when I thought I was going to die. There was only one person I was thinking of and it wasn’t who I thought it would be. I kept thinking, I hope I make it through this so I could see Peter Parker’s face one more time. Really there’s only one man who’s always been there for me, who makes me feel more than I thought I could be. But I’m just me and that’s OK… I love you…I love you so much.
As they kiss we hear Peter Parker talking to himself.
All I wanted to tell her was how much I love her.
Tell you that everything ─ and there is so much to tell.
He tells her instead:
I want you to know that I always be there for you, to take care of you. I promise you that I always be your friend.
Only a friend Peter Parker.
That is all I have to give.
As he walks away from her she begins to cry. Then she touches her lips remembering her kiss to Spider-Man.
Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words;
With great power comes great responsibility
This is my gift this is my curse.
Who am I.
Our hero is seen on top of a skyscraper with part of the US flag visible swirling to the wind high above the city.
The Medium is the Message
Myth is the medium through which the super-natural is revealed. The language of myth separates the words and actions of the super heroes from the ordinary world. Myth creates a different setting and separates the boundaries between:
the extraordinary vs the ordinary
the celestial vs the terrestrial
the supernatural vs the natural
The separation between film and the audience is what the Romans called the sacrum, or the sacred. No contact is allowed between the sacrum and the profanum, the profane. Similarly, there is a technological partition between the screen and a mesmerized crowd. With the film, the visionary display is located “above” the masses of people located below. The separation is likened to the dichotomy between the super-hero and the ordinary Peter. In an interview with Le Monde, Sam Raimi relates his first experience with the 16mm amateur movies his father made as a child and how they were responsible for his fascination with movie making. Revealing; “I thought movies were supernatural, a gift from the gods. I never got over the wonder that I felt back then.”
Typically, mythical stories come in the narrative form. Before the alphabet and the text were predominant, myth was passed down orally from generation to generation. Changing with each story teller, adapting to the new social an cultural realities with the passing of time. With the advent of the myth as narrative, the story became self contained and carved in stone, so-to-speak. The story became immutable, not open to any changes.
With the movie, however, myth has gone through some technological mutations, in part due to the nature of the medium and in part due to the magic of special effects. Contrary to myth, the film industry is mostly an economic endeavor. Ratings and profits are central to “the Industry”. Consequently, to make a movie more profitable a sequel follows to increase its box office returns. As a consequence, the nature of the medium and the sequel is shifting the message and the ending, postponing the outcome of the story indefinitely.
In the beginning Peter explains that the story is about the girl next door: A love story. At the end our hero has second thoughts about his love for Mary Jane. He succumbs to the love of his own image as a super-hero. His quest for power and responsibility finally overshadows his desire for MJ. As a result there is a reshuffle the in thematic sequence proposed at the beginning:
The setting……..New York city
The hero………..Peter Parker
The quest……….Great Power and Great Responsibility
The adversary…Green Goblin/Mary Jane
The mentor……..Ben & May Parker
In the scene where Mary Jane is stalked by a band of young thugs on a rainy night Spider-Man appears again to save our heroin who wears an enticing wet tee-shirt. Shortly after, he appears in a close-up upside down, his masked face opposite to his girl friend’s. She removes Peter’s mask just enough to allow for a kiss.
Is the image of Spider-Man upside down facing Mary Jane suggests some kind of opposition to the thematic sequence described in the beginning of the movie? The image of our beloved heroes opposing each other in such a way brought back some vivid memories about the symbolism of opposing forces.
Several years ago I visited Coba, an Mayan city locate in the Yucatan area of Mexico, not too far from the paradise setting of Tulum and the better known city of Cancun. During my excursion I climbed the main Mayan pyramid and reached the top. At the peak of the monument stood a small room, in all likelihood an altar, about the size of closet. Above the door of the entrance stood a sculpted image depicting a god falling from heaven to earth, head first.
The image reflects the idea of a plunging god as the sole power in opposition to the rest of pyramid below. The monument represents the world pointing to the heavens to the falling god against its peak. Two opposing forces; one from above coming down and one from below pointing up. A symbol of the supernatural against the natural, an eternal and divine struggle.
The image of the opposing actors suggests a struggle in our hero’s super-natural calling. In order to become “who he is” our hero must give up his carnal desires for Mary Jane and become celibate. She has become an obstacle to Peter’s identity. The girl next door is now an impediment to Spider-Man’s quest for “great power”.
As we have seen in the movie and described above, our hero’s power and responsibility are all focused in the defense of his loved ones from his own calling. As he states at the end; it is his gift, his curse. One interesting point about the comic books saga is that Mary Jane eventually marries Peter. She also supports him financially so he can continue to “serve” the people of New York. So why this concern with sexual abstinence in the movie? Conservatism?? Unfortunately we have no answers except to say that MJ is protected from physical harm and Spidey’s sexual touch.
Raimi’s depiction of our hero’s angelic qualities brings back memories of a cinematographic Paradise Lost. Similar to the themes of It’s A Wonderful Life depicted in Franck Capra’s idyllic movies of the 30’s. Where the US stood at the highest of its moral character, with decades of bright economic future ahead. Unchallenged in its political leadership and respected throughout the world.
To conclude, aren’t we all a bit like our hero, nerds who believe that we are super-men. A well kept secret, never willing to admit to it. Always in search of the opposite sex to impress. And in the course of our search ending up with a woman who will listen to our dreams and see us for what we are. Mere mortals living between fantasy and reality. Childlike or childish in our quest for greatness. As we grow, we transcend our idealized self through the “otherness” of the loved one. Faced with the prominent presence of the “other” in our lives, we become compelled by the reflection of our own true self and destiny.
I cannot help making a last analogy between Spider-Man’s and the Internet users. Leaping from web site to web site interacting together in the other-worldliness beyond our monitors. Fighting the battle against a symbolic Green Goblin, represented by war, fundamentalism, secrecy, control and censure.
By the time this article was completed, Spider-Man 2 was released. The sequel has basically the same thematic sequence as the first movie. Except for the ending where Mary Jane abandons everything for the sake of Peter, taking control of his life, ending our hero’s indecisiveness. Making MJ the ultimate quest, mentor and outcome of the story.
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