I'm making some moderate changes to how I title new episodes of Think Spiritual, so Examining the Spiritual Elements of will now become The Deeper Meaning of. I think this makes much more sense, is easier to say and perhaps it will draw more interest to my content. Always have to try new things!
In this most recent episode, I want to tackle a very, very new movie - the Netflix film Io: Last on Earth (which I just call Io). I think this was a fantastic story with a great Hero's Journey, a lot of mythological symbolism and an overall thought-provoking message.
Netflix is putting out some great content lately and today I’m going to focus my spiritual-interpretation-lens on one film that came out January 2019 - hey, check me out actually talking about a super-recent movie! Let’s look into the deeper meaning of what I think is a great sci-fi drama, Io.
Hello, Spiritual Seekers! I am your wonderful host, Mark, and welcome to yet another Examining the Spiritual Elements of Movies episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.
Examining the Spiritual Elements or should I start calling it Mythology in Movies? I’ve rechristened the YouTube channel as Movies & Mythology so...I don’t know. I keep thinking that the word “spiritual” is scaring people away from my subject matter, so I’m having some issues with my branding. Please tell me your thoughts on the matter.
Mythology in Movies makes much more sense today as I will be taking a look at new Netflix film “Io” which is a movie that very emphatically uses mythology to not only tell its story, but to also create its own mythology.
Io is the story of a young woman named Sam who is one of the last people living on Earth as the planet will no longer support oxygen breathers. She and the last few stragglers are supposed to be heading for shuttles that will take them to a massive space station that is orbiting Jupiter’s moon, Io. Sam, however, feels like she can’t leave the planet that humanity has called home since our species first developed language.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, then please go watch it or I very well may spoil the ending for you - if you care about that kind of thing. I never seem to worry about knowing how a movie ends, I always care more about how a film progresses towards that ending.
In Hero’s Journey terms, this movie really caught me off guard. The first time I watched it I was quite certain that I was watching a tragedy.
I’m not sure if I’ve brought it up before, but a Tragedy is a story where the potential Hero or some primary character completely refuses the Call to Adventure - they are roadblocked at step two of the Journey.
And that’s what I thought was happening with Margaret Qualley’s character, Sam, as she continually refused to do what everyone asked her to do: leave Earth.
It was near the end of the movie that I began to realize that the “special world” wasn’t Io, but it was the new atmosphere of Earth and that Sam’s true Hero’s Journey was to stay on Earth. She wasn’t supposed to give in to the pressure of leaving. She was supposed to stay and, mythologically speaking, give birth to God’s children. Sam was the embodiment of the Io of mythology - the mortal lover of Zeus and the mother of Hercules.
So, when I watched the movie a second time, it was with the knowledge of what Sam’s true Hero’s Journey was and during that second watching I really connected with her and truly empathized with her deep struggle to stay true to her calling. That raw need in Sam to see the mythology display at the museum of history was that huge Apotheosis moment that she needed to give her the determination to become the goddess she truly was.
Honestly, I think this is a movie that you have to watch at least twice.
Now, before we get deeper into the movie, I want to sidestep a bit and talk about what we term as “Ego”. Hopefully I can bring this back around and make sense of it all by the end of this episode.
Ego is something that there are numerous definitions for and I feel that every teacher who has ever taught on the subject has a slightly different interpretation of what “Ego” actually is. One teacher I listen to recently described the Unconscious Mind the same way that I think of the Ego.
Maybe there should be some sort of global symposium for all teachers where we can come up with some agreed-upon definitions for all of these terms.
Anyway, a basic, everyday use of the word “Ego” is that it has to do with a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
The psychoanalytical use of “Ego” is that it’s the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and unconscious. It tests what reality is and it’s responsible for your sense of personal identity.
Many teachers and thinkers and philosophers all seem to believe that the Ego should be crushed or gotten rid of entirely. Eckhart Tolle has said that the Ego may not exist at all some day. And Alan Watts said that it already doesn’t exist, so why are you bothering to try to get rid of it?
Confused? Yeah, this can be a real head warper.
Now, I’m not a psychoanalyst and I’m pretty new at wearing the teacher shoes, but here is my definition of Ego:
The Ego can’t be gotten rid of and it certainly shouldn’t be crushed. It’s a protection device. It stands between the real, internal you and the outside world. If the Ego is messed with too much or if it breaks, then we have what is called Psychosis.
I guess that’s where I disagree with most other teachers on the subject and Eckhart Tolle too. So, do I think Alan Watts is also wrong? Does the Ego exist?
Honestly, it really depends on what your definition of Ego is, but it doesn’t technically exist. Alan Watts was quite correct. If you go back and listen to my Terminator 2 analysis you’ll see that I believe that the Ego is essentially a computer program and a computer program technically doesn’t exist.
A computer’s operating system is just a giant mathematical equation that allows us to use input devices such as keyboards, mice, touchscreens and such to communicate with and manipulate the computer’s hardware. The operating system or subsequent programs that you run translate your input signals into machine code which is a series of on/off switches represented by ones and zeros.
These ones and zeros then tell the computer’s hardware what it should be doing at any given moment: the computer hardware could be likened to all the components that make up your body.
The point I’m trying to make here is that the computer’s operating system or program doesn’t technically exist: it’s all just equations and ones and zeros and that is how our Ego works as well.
We really are organic computers. We have internal, natural programming and drives that maintain our physical bodies. Input from the outside world further programs us to let us know how we should operate within our societies. This is why, as we get older, we become less and less open to change - because those changes hack away at the programming of youth and we automatically fight those hacking attempts - we put our firewalls to maximum.
And this is why I’m such a proponent of creating that internal change within yourself. Hack your programming from within, absolutely do not let the outside world program you to be a mindless automaton.
This is also why I believe that your Ego should absolutely not be crushed or gotten rid of or why it will never just “go away”. Since it doesn’t technically “exist” it can’t be gotten rid of anyway, but it can be damaged.
Remember, I said that it’s a “program” it’s a protection device: I believe an Ego should be healthy and strong and well-maintained. Can you imagine what it would be like if your Ego wasn’t there at all or had a severe glitch in it?
Well actually, yes, I can imagine what it would be like - I believe I lived like that for many years of my life. And I believe that we have a large percentage of millenials that are living exactly this way as well...yes, I’m talking about the ones that we regularly and rudely refer to as Snowflakes.
That, my dear Listeners, is a generation of people living with a lack of Ego or at least extremely weak Egos: lack of a sense of Self and lack of a sense of Purpose. The outside world breaks through their poorly-programmed Egos and attacks their inner Self directly. There’s no buffer zone. There is nothing to protect those deep, inner emotions.
There is also nothing to protect the outside world from that inner Self, so everything that is felt or thought inside, comes rushing to the outside.
Alright, I’m rambling on a lot about Ego without giving you any clue as to how this relates to the Netflix film, Io. It fits, but I’ll have to take another path for a while and come back around to it.
Overall, Io is asking a number of exploratory questions: the deepest of them being, “What makes us human?” and the film explores this and other questions through mythology.
In fact, this movie very blatantly tells you that it is mythology and that it is also creating the mythology of the fictional world within the film.
Alright, so let’s get into the Hero’s Journey aspects of Io so we can look at the deeper meaning of the movie and I’ll do my best to stitch all my ideas and concepts thus far together - and this will be my last warning about the spoilers...from here on there be dragons!
As I already mentioned, this movie pretty much plays out as a potential tragedy. Sam’s true Hero’s Journey isn’t apparent because everything and everyone (even her mentor or Supernatural Aid) is telling her that she needs to leave Earth so she won’t be alone.
But once you understand that Sam’s Hero’s Journey absolutely is to stay on Earth, it becomes clear that we are mostly seeing her on her Road of Trials - she is already well committed to the Journey.
Sam’s Call to Adventure was to stay on Earth even though most people were leaving. Her Supernatural Aid was her own father, but like many mentors of good heros, he has died and it’s up to Sam to continue her work on her own.
I have to assume that her First Threshold moment and Belly of the Whale time was while her father was sick and when he died. He was actually telling her to give up the work and leave Earth. Not because he had lost faith, but because he didn’t want his only child to be alone.
But Sam is determined to finish her work and figure out a way for humans to continue living on Earth. Sam has a very strong and well-programmed Ego - aha! I knew I’d get that in here somewhere! She hasn’t let the outside world program her Ego. Sam is listening to that deep, inner voice - her true voice - and has programmed her Ego from the inside. Sam knows what her purpose is. She absolutely knows what it is she is supposed to do and she is determined to do it and she is strong enough to stand on her own.
Sam also knows that it is not her job to go out preaching and attempting to convince others to stay on Earth as well - she leaves that to her Father by playing an old radio broadcast of his every night.
Unfortunately - and I think almost all of us can relate to Sam here - it seems like the odds are stacked against her. In true Road of Trials fashion, a massive storm wrecks a large portion of her work and research and it turns out that the last shuttles between Earth and Io are prepping for one final launch and they will never be coming back.
Up to this point, Sam has always had an “out”. She has had options. She has had time to do her work and put off leaving Earth. But now it looks like those options are coming to a close.
Ah, but then, Micah, played by Anthony Mackie, shows up and Sam is finally Meeting With the Goddess...or the God in this case: if you go to my Meeting With the Goddess Hero’s Journey episode I talk about how this stage of the Hero’s Journey is about meeting with your other half.
In this case Sam, the goddess, meets Micah, the god: Micah’s name quite literally means “Who is like Yaweh?” or “Who is like God?”. Given how convoluted the Hebrew language actually is, we could remove the question mark from the phrase and say that Micah’s name means, “one who is like God”.
So, mythologically speaking, Micah is Zeus coming down out of the heavens to be the lover of Io or Leda - depending which one you want to refer to Sam as - Io makes more sense in regards to the movie’s title and the idea of Sam’s offspring being as strong as Hercules, but the movie makes more references to Leda who was also one of Zeus’s conquests.
One other option that Sam has always had is Elon. This is her lover or boyfriend who is currently living on the space station and I think Sam believes one of three things will happen between her and Elon: 1 - that Elon will come to Earth to stay with her out of sheer love for her. 2 - that she will go to Io and convince Elon to go back to Earth with her. Or 3 - she will go and be with Elon for a short time and come back to Earth pregnant and continue her work.
Again, in typical Hero’s Journey fashion, Temptation now rears its head and tears these options away from Sam when Elon informs her that he has volunteered and been selected for a deep space mission to Alpha Centauri. With all of her options torn away, much of her work destroyed, and facing a life completely alone it’s really no wonder that Sam just says, “Okay” when Micah essentially tells her that he’s going to force her to go to the last shuttle launch with him.
I can imagine how easy it would have been for Sam to give up entirely at this point; how easy it would have been for her to just give in to Nihilism and believe that all of her work was for nothing. But, like I said, Sam has a strong and properly programmed Ego. She may have some moments where she feels like giving up, but that bullheaded determination within her will always find a way to turn things to her advantage.
Which she does while the winds are unfavourable to take Micah’s balloon in the right direction and then, as fortune would have it, the launch location is abruptly changed. These changes give Sam the time she needs to decide what she is going to do...and step one is bedding Micah and allowing the “god” to impregnate the “virgin queen”.
Again, this is the perfect conjoining of the masculine and feminine, but I think it’s also Sam’s Atonement with the Father moment - her desire to stay on Earth holds the most power over her - I think all along Sam believed she could be Mother Eve of a new generation of human beings that could live in Earth’s toxic atmosphere.
As viewers we don’t know this for certain yet and perhaps it’s not fully clear to Sam either. I think this is why she has this compelling need within her to see the mythology display at the museum of history in the city she scavenges for supplies in.
She’s never been to the museum because it’s further into the “zone” than she’s ever gone before. Do you see the symbolism here? We have truth and understanding and knowledge within ourselves, but we have to constantly dig it out and there are always places within ourselves that we haven’t gone into yet because they are further than we’ve ever gone before. Once we go to them, we can’t go back and we can’t un-know what we have learned.
I think Sam knows that when she sees the mythology display that it will forever change her - it’s her Apotheosis moment - and this turns out to be the truth. It is here where she decides to take the biggest leap of faith of all - it’s practically another First Threshold moment, but it’s really the attainment of the Ultimate Boon.
Sam removes her breathing apparatus and helmet and the screen goes black. Dead or alive she is determined to stay on Earth.
Micah leaves her the same way he arrived. God ascends back up to the heavens.
We don’t see most of the Return stages of Sam’s Hero’s Journey onscreen, but we do see that Sam has become Master of Two Worlds. She can live in the toxic atmosphere. She has survived and she has thrived and she is not alone. Her child, the Christ child, Hercules of old, son of a god and goddess joins her on the beach where she stands while she encourages Micah and others on Io to come and be true human beings with her on the planet where they were born.
And this is what all the spiritual teachers are trying to tell you: come and live with us in this strange new world! It’s actually the same world you’ve always lived in, but it’s deeper and wider and darker and brighter and more confusing and more amazing than the surface existence you’ve been living all this time.
And there we have it, Dear Listeners, my interpretation of this deeply moving and very profound sci-fi drama, Io.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on my interpretation of the film and I’d love to hear your views as well. You can comment below or send me a direct message or e-mail if you prefer a more private conversation.
I have been your host, Mark, this has been a look at the Deeper Meaning of - oh, yeah, there we go, that’s what I’m calling this series from now on - this has been a look at the Deeper Meaning of the 2019 Netflix film, Io and I know that if you build your Ego strong, are determined in your mission, and are willing to dive deep within yourself that you absolutely will change your Self and become the Mother of God’s children who will ultimately change your world.
I will see you on the next episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts!
Change your Self; change your World.