After seeing “Contact” for the (at least) fourth time, i have once again to admit what deapht it has.
It possesses Mystery in the true sense of the word.
The movie is after Carl Sagans story and stars Jodie Foster as Dr Arroway.
Cooks, scientists and religous people
One interesting thing is how it is fully clear that you can exchange the experiences of the characters with eachother.
Arroway is supposedly the one representing science at first (or on surface rather) as oppose to Father Joss (Matthew McConnaughey) representing faith but by the end of the movie, though officially being a scientist and empiricist she rather represents the Mystic (the one with direct experience) as oppose to Father Joss being the one with learning within a particular Theology.
The rather militairistic charachter by James Woods might seem like the champion of rationalism and empiricism but takes on a role just as much in tune with the inquisition.
Arroway even ends up in a trial, expected to prove her experience or at least explain it.
This seems to be the fate of those who believe in non official truths as well as those disbeliving in sanctioned ones through history.
In short, at first Arroway must defend herself against faith, “Do you consider yourself a spiritual person”, “We dont even know if they [the extraterrestials] belive in God” only to at the end have to defend herself against empiricism.
Symbolism and connections
I have sometimes, as an ancestor venerating Heathen, wondered about me asking the psychopomps of my ways to bring those that has gone before me to me what these people would say, considering that they must have been of different or no religions.
Will they wonder or cry out in outrage at Odin or Freya showing them the way to the shrine or do they percieve something else (like Archangel Gabriel or a relative) guiding them?
Before you say anything, i´m fully aware that the question is only relevant within a metaphysical and cosmological field connected to my myths and rituals. Whether there are any psychopomps or ancesteors at all doing anything is another question.
It still leads to religous, cultural and personal symbolism.
When Arroway finally end up in Lira (?) she does so in a place looking like Pensacola, met by her late and much missed father.
One might ask how much of our experience, not only religous, mystical or emotional but even “empirical” that is actually a form of myth, saturated with symbolism.
Near death experiences often have dead relatives greeting and leading the person.
Religous symbolism is usually at least somewhat connected to culture.
Our culture detirmines a lot of how we percieve our “everyday and ordinary” world and interactions in it.
If a more intense experience takes on a “look” of familiarity to make itself accessable (whether a deliberate act of its own or an effect of us being us) i am not at all surprised.
That all of the experience seems to take place in the vessel of Arroways transportation makes it very much a symbol of the cirle that a ceremonial magician can relate to.
The whole thing is a bit “holodeck”, with the landscape being much bigger than the locale in wich it is experienced.
I guess in a way it is just as symbolic of the temple, sweat lodge, synagogue, mosque or any other place wich in itself is very finite but has an infinate experience within it.
Fittingly the vessel is spherical (magical circle) with circles around it making it look like an atom (a symbol of the Atheists) thus in a sense placing Arroway in the center of both myth and science.
Relative or absolute…and does it matter?
The question is not wether Arroway had a mystical experience (she cant prove or share it with anyone) or a physical one (the vessel and whole operation being based on science) or even wether reality is a relative or absolute experience.
The story is about the awe of existence and how we relate to it differently depending on place in life…but at the same time depending on time, personal experience (in a sense mystery and initiation) and view point how the people are exchangeable and thus relative.
That is, some reactions might be more human than connected to what we react to (in a sense the creationists are the heretics of today).
Not only is myth often based on history, history is often based on myth as well.
That is, all being questioned and a true skeptic questioning even empiricism and skepticism itself, life becomes less absolute.
If we knew truth, why would we have to search for it?
Can we search for truth if we do not know what it is?
The humbling answer must be that relative or absolute, absolute knowledge will always be relative.