Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Science & Religion in Harmony

 

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Hello Spiritual Seekers and welcome to another episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts!

Yes, once again it’s Mark, your host, your friend, your spiritual-teacher wanna-be, the guy talking into a microphone in an empty room and with probably only his parents listening once this is completed and uploaded…hi Mom, hi Dad!

Okay, yes, I know I’m being very silly and quite self-deprecating. That’s really my humour style and something I haven’t shared very much on Think Spiritual. I’m always so serious.

And, yes, I am late getting this episode out. Last week was a little rough as I was down and out with a cold and was actually feeling quite stressed out with all the effort I have been throwing into this podcast.

I really want to keep doing it. I think it’s important, for myself, to keep it up. I just have to keep learning to listen to my body and my emotions and not let myself get worked up about how fast it’s taking off or whether it’s taking off at all. I keep saying that this project is ultimately for my own benefit…I’m just not sure if all parts of myself are happy with that idea or not.

But, at the moment I’m really having fun in my new podcast room and with my new EV RE320 microphone connected to every piece of gear that I have…wow…this is a fantastic microphone. I really like it and I’m loving my room setup. If you want to have a look at the room I have some short videos on YouTube about putting it together and I’m hoping to be able to get into some live-casting…maybe…I don’t know. That feels like it’s going to be a lot of work and especially so if my parents are the only listeners. That’s one of the things that’s stressing me out: am I doing things because I want to do them or because I feel like I have to do them?

Anyway, this is Examining the Spiritual Elements #3 and today it’s all about Star Trek and specifically about one of the more disliked Star Trek films…the first, the original, the 1979 epic, The Motion Picture!

I actually almost put off recording this Star Trek examination a second time. I delayed it last month because I wanted to get Thor: Ragnarok done first. And then I watched another movie that I started writing a script for and the further I got into it, the more mired down some of my ideas got, so here I am back to Star Trek. This script has been finished for some time, but I keep modifying it bring it in line with other ideas I’ve been expressing on Think Spiritual.

The examination of this movie will be a little different from the previous two. Why? Well, Soldier and Thor: Ragnarok are very linear in terms of how each spiritual element is presented. It makes it very easy to describe the plot and explain each detail and meaning of the concepts being portrayed.

On the down side, it does take longer to run through all the concepts in such a linear fashion.

Not so with the the very first Star Trek film. The concepts I’m about to present to you are spaced widely throughout the movie and the broader concepts are more of a “feeling” than something presented to you on a plate in specific order.

If you’re not familiar with the movie, here is the general plot:

A gigantic “cloud” (nearly 300 million kilometres in diameter) has been detected hurtling towards Earth and Enterprise is the only starship in range to intercept it. The “cloud” does have weapons and has destroyed ships and space-stations as it journeys onward. When the Enterprise reaches the “cloud”, the crew manages to contact what is inside of it just before imminent destruction. They enter the cloud to find a colossal vessel (100 kilometres or more in length) at the heart of it. Enterprise is pulled inside this vessel only to discover that they are inside a living machine called V’ger that is looking for its creator. If V’ger doesn’t find the creator, it will wipe out humanity.

And I know that this next part may not seem necessary to mention, but this is the movie’s tagline: The human adventure is just beginning. I will tie this in with my primary points as we move along here.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I should warn you that I may give away certain things that you may not want to know. I won’t give away the primary reveal of what V’ger actually is though, I enjoy that moment in the movie and feel it should always be relished.

Many Star Trek fans and moviegoers in general feel that this movie is ultimately terrible. It is slow-moving and padded with long scenes that are strictly visual in nature. I agree to some extent, but my love for this story completely outweighs any negative feelings I have towards the cinematic pacing. I am always looking forward to the next poignant scene or bit of humorous dialogue.

The overall theme of this film is the same as for most of the other Star Trek films: self-sacrifice. However, this is not the theme that I wish to explore. I have two alternate themes to present instead instead:

The first theme is this: human science and human spirituality need to be in harmony with one another.

I could say science and religion to put it in terms that you might understand more readily, but religion and spirituality are not one and the same: religion is structured and generally explored as a group, while spirituality is unstructured and generally self-explored.

To put it in simplest terms: Science is about understanding the physical universe and physical existence, while Spirituality is about understanding the internal, intangible universe of the individual person.

V’ger is the epitome of this theme of bringing together science and spirituality. V’ger is a being of pure logic. V’ger has all the knowledge in the known universe, but V’ger has no “soul”. V’ger has no emotions, no imagination and requires both these and other human qualities to evolve further. V’ger must embrace the other, the unknown, something that is not necessarily tangible. V’ger has to join with its creator in order to comprehend its own existence and purpose.

And here is the most interesting part: the creator must also join with its creation in order to reach beyond its current potential. Man created V’ger, thus man must join with V’ger. Man must embrace knowledge and logic in order to also become all that he/she was meant to be.

When the Enterprise crew discover that Man is V’ger’s creator, the ship’s Executive Officer, Will Decker, jumps at the chance of great adventure. Will becomes one with V’ger when he keys the code sequence that begins V’ger’s evolution. Will and V’ger vanish in an explosion of light and energy leaving the Enterprise and her crew floating in space.

The assumption is that the new Will/V’ger entity traveled to another dimension, but it is ultimately unknown and I am not certain if any other Star Trek media ever explored what did happen to them. I often wonder if V’ger was disappointed to discover that the answers to its questions most likely just led to more questions. Did V’ger discover that the meaning of life is in the journey, not the destination? Did V’ger discover that life is a series of journeys?

I truly believe that this imagery of a harmonious blending of science and spirituality was Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek and his hope for humanity’s future. Science hurtles humanity towards a technologically advanced future, while Spirituality keeps humanity grounded in what makes us human. I feel that Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Will’s and V’ger’s joining was Roddenberry’s vision specifically stated.

The second theme I wish to explore is wholeness or oneness of being. While V’ger and Will Decker certainly become whole and one entity, the character I really wish to focus on here is Spock.

In the Director’s Cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there is an early scene of Spock on his home planet of Vulcan. In this scene Spock is about to complete the Kolinahr: the Vulcan ritual of purging all emotion and attaining pure logic. Before the ritual is complete, something calls to Spock from outer space. Pay attention here: something calls to him from beyond. Once again we have the hero’s journey motif, the Call to Adventure, with a character that is reluctant to take this path.

Spock is half-human, half-Vulcan and this thing from beyond sings to his human blood even though Spock is in the process of renouncing that part of himself. The Kolinahr is halted and Spock is left feeling rejected and at odds with himself once more.

The point here is that Spock is at war with himself. He is looking for answers, but he is ignoring the fact that he already knows. He wants to follow the path of logic so he is not deemed as different from other Vulcans, but his Human half demands that he not purge the emotions that make up such a huge part of who he is as an individual. He is not meant to just be part of the masses. He is unique.

Nearly forty minutes of screen-time pass before we see Spock again and this time he is back aboard Enterprise and its very clear that he is not happy to be there. He is convinced that the entity that called him from space has some kind of answer for him and that is the only reason he has accepted this Call to Adventure.

When Spock eventually encounters V’ger it is a shock to his system in more ways than one. V’ger is everything Spock has always wanted to be: a being of pure logic, but Spock discovers that V’ger is barren and cold and is desperately seeking answers to the same questions that Spock is asking, “Is this all that I am?”

Spock eventually comes to understand that logic and knowledge are not enough. He realizes that he has the answer within himself: acceptance of all parts of himself. The wholeness of his Vulcan logic and his Human intuition and emotions.

When Spock comes to this understanding, he actually weeps for V’ger. Spock can relate with the alien. He knows what V’ger needs and Spock is grateful that he has within himself the capacity to understand his emotions and derive a sense of purpose.

Perhaps Star Trek fans were perturbed by Spock’s tears, but you have to understand that Vulcans do have emotions, they simply suppress them. Spock’s half-human physiology will not allow him to continuously suppress his emotions, just as we are not supposed to. We have emotions because we need them. Our emotions tell us when things are right or wrong, when it is time to fight or back down, when we need to talk and when we need to listen.

Problems arise when we do not heed our emotions.

Problems also arise when we do not heed our logic and reason.

Do you see the connection here? I have laid out two themes, but they are ultimately one and the same.

Our logic and reason is science. Our emotions are spiritual. Only the harmonious balance of the two can bring about wholeness or oneness of being. This is true whether we are talking about the world as a whole or in reference to an individual person.

These are themes that are presented to us over and over again in all types of media formats and in countless stories, but most people are still not grasping the concepts. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979, but we are struggling even harder with the barriers between science and spirituality almost 40 years later. What will it take to get the message through? Will Gene Roddenberry’s vision for a balance between science and spirituality ever come to fruition?

It is possible, but to do so we must face our inner Self and truly become whole and complete individuals. Perhaps that means becoming one with our creator: whatever we deem that to be. Or perhaps it means accepting all parts of yourself: especially the parts you don’t like.

Spock is proof that it is possible. V’ger is proof it is possible. Todd from the movie Soldier proves it is possible, Thor proves it is possible. I, myself, am proof that this vision is possible. Whatever your situation is, you can face yourself and your circumstances and become something new and different. You can take the Hero’s Journey. You can take the left-hand path. You can venture into the true Final Frontier. Let the human adventure begin with you.

And there we have it. My interpretation of the spiritual elements of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In spite of its slow pacing, this movie actually is one of my favourite Star Trek films and one of my favourite movies in general.

How do you feel about my conclusions. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments or send me a message. Let me know what movies have great significance in your life. I have been your host, Mark, this has been episode 3 of the Examining the Spiritual Elements of Movies series, and I know that if you change your Self and delve into the final frontier of your soul, that you will absolutely change your world.

I’ll see you on the next episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

Change your Self; change your World.

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