Moon; our true desire is to realise the goddess
When an individual has achieved all that is possible on the physical plane: shelter, food, family, material security, he or she realises there still remains a deeper, unfulfilled desire. The psychologist Maslow described this in his theory of the hierarchy of needs: when our basic physical needs of day to day existence are fulfilled there surfaces a desire to realise higher truths, the meaning of life or “self realisation”.
C.G. Jung suggested that this can happen on a collective level so that large demographic chunks of our society become preoccupied with seeking the meaning of life; hence the New Age movement.
Bearing this in mind we see in 2001 that humanity has reached a technological peak. Space flight and colonisation of the moon have been achieved. One can presume that many of the mundane problems of human existence may also have been solved. Despite such heights of achievement humanity still desires to expand and seek further horizons in this case the rest of the solar system. C G. Jung suggested that at this point humanity will realise that it has achieved so much and yet so little for the universal quest for meaning has not yet been fulfiled.
The monolith first appears on earth but later on the moon. The moon traditionally represents desire and emotion.Indeed the moon is also symbol of the Goddess, an aspect of the cosmic Mother. Jung established the moon as symbol of the feminine: A long neglected aspect of the psyche in our patriarchal civilisation that has, in his analysis, become over masaculminised.
Note that the monolith greeted prehistoric ma on earth with the simple gift of tool-use. Yet on the moon he was given the intensely painful radio impulse and directed to Jupiter.
Was mankind being punished for the lopsided and materialistic development that brought him to the moon and yet perpetuated his ignorance of the greater cosmos? As the astronauts posed around the lunar monolith their pride was lanced by the radio signal: as if to chastise man for thee go driven space conquest that brought him to the moon. Yet the monolith, buried 40 million years ago, had waited patiently for them in cosmic and omniscient expectation that man would arrive there.
Symbolically the cosmos knew that humanity would not find fulfilment in technology alone.
Jupiter; the guru planet
Does Jupiter, to which the monolith points as it chastens the astronauts, represent the potential source of their true fulfilment? We see the Avatar-like role of the monolith. It has again appeared, at the brink of humanity’s entry into a new era of history.
The seeker, having satisfied himself in all aspects of the material plane, realises that he still lacks deep fulfilment. In this state of spiritual dissatisfaction the seeker begins a personal search, an odyssey, for truth that ultimately ends in self realisation.
In the ancient Eastern tradition such a seeker entreats the help of one who has already crossed the void of spiritual ignorance, and has sufficiently perfected their self-realisation such that they can facilitate the spiritual evolution of others. The Indian term for such a mystic is “guru” (teacher and master).
Is it not remarkable that Dave travels his own perilous journey in a ship called the “Odyssey” to Jupiter: a planet traditionally described in India as the Guru?
It is in the orbit of the guru planet that Dave again encounters the monolith (Avatar) and is launched into a bizarre individual journey. Initially an awesome and psychedelic catharsis which seems to be a sort of purgation of his very consciousness. Then of the second birth and the full fruition of his spiritual awareness as divine child of the cosmic mother.
An important, fundamental lesson in Eastern mysticism is taught in this metaphor: That the Divine principle is experienced by those who have been prepared, tested and purified; and that the path to the Godhead is best travelled under the influence of the mighty guru. The guru has the mandate of the Godhead itself to cultivate the seekers in the final steps of their spiritual evolution.
Mind as enemy of truth
The seeker’s journey to the essence of the guru (Jupiter) around which even the Divine (monolith) respectfully circumambulates (in Jovian orbit),is perilous too.
Dave must survive the lethal vacuum of space. That void of ignorance and emptiness that surrounds each of us when we choose to exist in the absence of absolute, cosmic awareness, say the mystics, is even more lethal. There is, they say, a greater enemy than even this; it plagues the seeker more than demons, beasts or physical peril. It is more cunning and subtle than we could begin to imagine. It is the human mind represented in 2001 as the Hal 9000 artificially intelligent computer.
Very few of us question the perception of our mind. Like the crew of the odyssey (and all of earth) we are taught to assume that the mind (Hal) is perfect. Indeed Hal. like our own mind, was quick to remind the crew of its own infallibility.
Inevitably Dave on his journey to the guru, discovers that Hal is an unexpected but efficient enemy that resides within the space craft itself. Like our own minds Hal is deluded and confused. Its voice and rational logic is reassuring but its true agenda is to prevent Dave from achieving his destiny at Jupiter.
In the great tradition of all seekers of mystic knowledge Dave, by sheer courage and determination, disconnected Hal. Ergo the seeker overcomes his greatest obstacle in Zen like tradition by dissolving the mind and thus escaping from the trap of subjective thought and perception
Odyssey is the seeker’s body
The odyssey itself is heavily symbolic.The entire spacecraft has an uncanny resemblance to the human skull and spine.
Throughout the ancient world, in many different cultures, the mystic experience of self realisation is described as a tangible one: An experience that ultimately involves all five senses and beyond, say the ancient Indian gurus. More so in ancient India the means of attaining the experience is said to be by awakening of the Kundalini energy. This is an energy that exists at the base of the spine (within the sacrum). Its awakening causes it to rise through the seven vital energy centres that exist in the spinal cord and brain.
Since it potentially involves all the senses the process of self – realisation must be, in the Indian tradition, one that involves an actualisation of a mechanism within the central nervous system. (brain and spinal cord). So it is remarkable that the Odyssey should, with its long, multi segmented body and spherical command centre, so closely mimic the human skull and backbone that protectively encloses the central nervous system.
The Odyssey is symbolic of the seeker’s body. Hal is the seeker’s mind. Dave is the soul of the seeker. The stellar space through which he travelled is the void of ignorance. Jupiter is the guru who facilitates Dave’s Divine union with the monolith which is a messenger, instrument and aspect of the Cosmic Mother.
There are a few other parallels worth noting. Dave’s personal meeting with the monolith requires him to leave the Odyssey. Hence at this time he has not only mastered the mind by disconnecting Hal but has now also become detached form his body (the Odyssey).
Monolith as shivalingam
The monolith is a large perfectly formed rectangular black prism. It represents the distillation of the cosmic evolutionary power/Avatar/Godhead in physically perfect form. Its featurelessness emphasises its symbolic, iconic role. Interesting that it should be so similar to the ancient Indian tradition of the Shiva Lingam. The Lingam is a black featureless cylindrical block used to represent the presence of the Godhead. The Divine is all pervasive, omniscient perfect and therefore impossible to represent directly. The lingam serves as a symbolic representation of this otherwise indescribable cosmic principle.
Are we reading too much Indian imagery into the film? Not when one considers the heavy influence of Indian culture on its author, A.C.Clarke. He has lived in India for much of his later life and professes a certain sympathy with Indian culture.
Prophecy; our destiny
The first tool – using ape-man was not to remain unique. The entire tribe followed in his wake until all of humanity exercised the capability of that first pioneer.
Similarly Dave, by his individual journey of self realisation, will ultimately be followed by the rest of humanity.
Perhaps this is the most poignant thrust of 2001. A.C.Clarke and Stanley Kubrick are indeed making a prophecy. They are suggesting that the next evolutionary step is not technical but spiritual. Humanity’s destiny at this point in time relies on each of us to undergo the inner transformation of self realisation.
The meta modern era, then, will not be a techno-utopia but a spiritual golden age. The key to our evolutionary destiny is universal en masse experience of self realisation. The wisdom of the ancient East offers this hope to a civilisation mistakenly seeking to define itself and its meaning within the confines of material illusion.
Dr. Ramesh Manocha