Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Another problem some viewers had with this film is how easily the crew was "brainwashed" or "blissed out" by Sybok. (Though Sybok sometimes fits the role of a fundamentalist televangelist, Shatner said the model for him was LSD guru Timothy Leary. ) But if the spiritual dimension is as least as mysterious to humanity as is outer space, the exploration of the spiritual is largely unacknowledged.

There are all kinds of reasons for this in contemporary western society, but one is the rise of science and technology, which historically battled clerics of various churches for the correct explanations of realities in the outside world. This clash of religion and science is symbolized by the Catholic Church's oppression of the astronomer Galileo (which coincidentally or not, is the name of the Enterprise shuttle used in this film) and later, even today, the Christian churches opposing Darwinian evolution.

In our technological society, science has won the copyrights to external realities, while spiritual matters deal only with the inner person, and are considered private matters. In some ways, science and technology (and in our time, consumerism) have virtually become religions for many people. They rule both outer and inner life.

But some schools of psychology say that elements of our psyches that are suppressed or repressed, become all the more powerful when they are finally released. And some psychologists and other social scientists will point out that when a person or a society lacks knowledge and experience in a certain area--when their knowledge is unsophisticated, and their skills in dealing with this area are simple and undifferentiated--- they are apt to be easy prey to simple but powerful ideas that a more knowledgeable and sophisticated person would see through. And this vulnerability is emotional as well as in the realm of thought.

As a technological society, we are much less sophisticated in the spiritual realms we don't know a lot about, but which were very much part of the thought and everyday life of our ancestors of the seventeenth century or even of many thousands of years ago. This seems to be true of the technologically dependent society---especially of Starfleet personnel dependent on and responsible for such a machine as a starship---in Star Trek's 23rd century. Or more to the point, in our own present day technocratic society.

So this is the answer to why the Enterprise crew was easy prey: because they are technological and scientific sophisticates, and spiritual innocents. They act like children because in spiritual matters, that's just what they are. (This can also be a contributing factor to how contemporary people are absorbed into cults, or a partial explanation for the surprising cases of people whose extreme beliefs suddenly change into the opposite extreme.)

All of this was controversial then, and strangely perhaps, is even more controversial now, with feelings on these matters rather intense. Of course, science and the spirit are not necessarily at odds, and that's also true on the Enterprise, where the science officer is the only person shown meditating. That the logical Vulcans meditate is another intriguing if undeveloped suggestion that mind and spirit aren't opposed. These scenes of Spock's meditations are another indication of Star Trek's fleeting, sideways, elusive attempts to reconcile the spiritual with the technological future.


Zarm said...

An excellent article, and a great point about this film and the crew's 'spiritual childhood' that I'd never considered before. However, I do take offense at your characterization that opposal of Darwinian Evolution is an issue of 'The Church vs. Science.' I for one am a devout Christian who has no problem believing that God could have created the world via Darwinian Evolution if He wished- I oppose the theory of Evolution based on it's SCIENTIFIC shortcomings- the many areas in which evidence fails and conclusions drawn by the theory are contradicted by real-life scientific evidence. In other words, I disbelieve Evolution because of it's scientific unfeasability, not because my religion makes me incompatible with science. And there are a great many other people of faith who think likewise.

Captain Future said...

I think it's factual that historically and today, some Christian churches have considered Darwinian evolution as contrary to their interpretation of Genesis, and therefore have opposed it.

I can't dispute what your beliefs are or what you base them on, yet I find a contradiction in your assertion that you oppose Darwinian evolution on a scientific basis and that "a great many other people of faith (who) think likewise." Or is it a coincidence that these people of faith all happen to agree that Darwin is unscientific?

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.