The epic movie Cloud Atlas tells the story of the creation and perpetuation of a "religion" based on a biographical novel written by a man whose brother committed him to a nursing facility because he was a nuisance.  The novel becomes a digitized movie, a fragment of which is seen several hundred years later by a "fabricant" (humans manufactured to be servants, then deactivated and broken down into food, ala soylent green.)  The phrase "I will not be subject to criminal abuse" inspires a revolution in which one of the fabricants becomes a sort of heroine/god, (after a crash video course in Solzhenitsyn) worshipped hundreds of years later by a civilization that ends up on a world far away from earth.

What if the digitized recording had been stuck on a scene from Hangover III ?

It certainly makes one wonder about our current religions.  The theme throughout all six segments of the movie is the "natural order" of things such as slavery, women's rights, gay rights, elder abuse, nuclear power, and cannibalism .  We perceive ourselves as an enlightened society, and probably very few of us have a creed of "the weak are meat, the strong do eat."

Throughout each of the six stories, one character has a significant birthmark shaped like a comet.  Although reincarnation is implied, no rules of rebirth are strictly applied.

 The most prominent slaveholder in the oldest segment is a Christian minister whose written works are widely held in esteem, and his value system is steeped in the culture of slavery.   His son-in-law's rejection of the "natural order of things, " (as ordained by god) meets with dire threats of god's wrath.  What "natural order of things" do we take for granted in our own various cultures?  Some societies still have cannibals, some still have slaves, some still oppress women and minorities.  All our Western enlightenment has not saved the world, in the name of god or any other myth.

Nuclear energy is opposed in the segment set in the 1970's, by of all entities, big oil.  Murder ensues, and attempted murder runs rampant as a nuclear explosion of epic proportions is eminent, and seen by big oil as necessary for the continuation of the "natural order of things."  How close to home does that hit some of us?  What do we believe about nuclear power, and for that matter the natural order of the military industrial complex?

Throughout the movie, the Cloud Atlas sextet, a symphony created in the 1940's by one of the comet birthmark characters (who is gay, and very bohemian in outlook, with no obvious religion outside hedonism) is prominent.    All of the later characters, "know it," or "have heard it before."

The post-industrial segment, which occurs hundreds of years after the "fabricant" revolution, is an idyllic pastoral culture, except when terrorized by war-painted cannibals on a fairly regular basis.  They worship the fabricant, SonMi 451, and follow her teachings as their primary religion.  Her teachings refute the "natural order of things," while reinforcing that the only thing that matters is staying true to a personal ideal of equality and freedom, which she got from a 20th century movie about escape from a nursing institution.

As a movie, it presents all the modern day questions that theosophy presents, in a way that appeals to the common Westerner.  It is repertory theater in that all the prominent characters are played by the same actors in various segments, implying reincarnation.

In the post-industrial segment, we are privy to the conscience of the protagonist, who presents as an entity encouraging the character to stay true to his old beliefs, and remain within his societal norms.  Our protagonist is able to overcome the promptings and his reward is a long and happy life, universes away from cannibals.

Several scenes in the post-industrial segment show a character with some extra-sensual perception, giving guidance, while also showing deliberate deception on the part of the protagonist, in order to preserve the life of a loved one.  Again, this sounds vaguely familiar in history of theosophical thought and movements.

As a metaphor, CLOUD ATLAS represents just about anything in our culture today.  It is an interesting study in mythology, and how steeped we are in our own cultural myths.  For meaning in life, the movie gives us many places to start a journey of inquiry, and challenges us to compare our inner compass with what is around us.  As we ask ourselves to investigate the mythologies that underlie our daily actions, we are prompted to study the history and sociology of our commonly held beliefs, as well as timeline of how our own beliefs evolve as individuals.  This should be the essence of the study of theosophy in our lives as well.

In the words of SonMi 451, "From womb to tomb, we are connected to others."

When asked, prior to her execution, "What if no one believes you?"  She is able to answer with unerring certainty, "Someone already does."


Where is CLOUD ATLAS on your theosophical time line?


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What parts of CLOUD ATLAS that were not mentioned were of inspiration to you?


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