Marvel Comics and Eastern Mysticism – At Home with Disney
Marvel’s cinema hits combine elements of Western evolution with eastern mysticism. But that’s not why they are successful…
Marvel Studios has had great success since its release of Iron Man in 2008. It expanded the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a series of films that are, at this point, guaranteed hits.
It’s doing the same thing on the small screen with its Netflix-original series about small-time superheroes: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and now The Defenders, which brings these four characters together into an Avengers-Light motley crew.
Disney acquired Marvel Studios in 2009, and the arrangement makes perfect sense.
You see, Walt Disney employed occult themes in his movies from the beginning. Magic has frequently held a place in Disney films. Being perhaps more perceptive than many, or just more willing to speak in public the knowledge that more prudent humanists keep to themselves, Disney has always had a tendency to merge evolution with mysticism.
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But to the extent that Disney movies are successful, it is because of their use of the Christian themes of love and sacrifice — not the visual fireworks created by the application of sorcery.
Usually, the actions performed by the movie’s hero (or heroine) that flow from these two concepts lead to death, resurrection, and redemption. Without these elements, the movies would have no heart. They would be as dead and lifeless as an unregenerate sorcerer.
BARELY AVOIDING BANKRUPTCY
Walt Disney found this out the hard way. The original Fantasia was released in 1940, and it almost bankrupted the company. And there’s little wonder why. It contains overtly occult themes and imagery, such as the “Night on Bald Mountain” concluding segment that features a demonic conjuring that will haunt the nightmares of a child.
The longest segment in the film, “The Rite of Spring,” animates the humanistic origin story of the cosmos. This includes, in hostile contrast to the Biblical faith, the evolutionary origins of life on planet earth, which is shown as moving from green blobs to fish that become land-dwelling reptiles.
For movie audiences of 1940, this was too much. So it is no coincidence that the movie finally became profitable after its re-release during the drug-fueled, occult-laced counterculture era. Wikipedia reports:
Fantasia began to make a profit from its $2.28 million budget after its return to theaters on December 17, 1969. The film was promoted with a psychedelic-styled advertising campaign, and it became popular among teenagers and college students who reportedly appreciated it as a psychedelic experience. Animator Ollie Johnston recalled that young people “thought we were on a trip when we made it … every time we’d go to talk to a school or something, they’d ask us what we were on.”
But the more successful films that keep Disney in business usually have something more profound at their core. Their warm reception flows from Christian themes, not occult ones.
WARNING: Mild Spoilers for Classic Disney Movies Follow
EMPLOYING CHRISTIAN THEMES LEADS TO SUCCESS
In the movie Frozen, for example, Anna is told that only love can thaw a frozen heart. The audience is led to believe that this means a dashing prince must give Anna “True Love’s Kiss.” The kiss will reverse the progressing deep-freeze that is threatening to take her life, and which was inflicted upon her by her sister, Elsa’s, ice magic.
But in the end, we see something much more complex.
Anna, out of love for her sister, gives herself up in sacrifice to save Elsa. In doing so, she misses her opportunity for “love’s kiss,” and is completely overwhelmed by the curse and freezes solid. But it is this act of sacrificial love that actually “thaws” her sister Elsa’s heart, transforming herself and restoring all of Arendelle with her. Elsa’s ethical regeneration, brought about by Anna’s sacrifice, then leads to Anna’s resurrection to life.
This is a powerful moment for a simple children’s movie.
In Beauty and the Beast, we see similar events. In one scene, Belle negotiates an exchange to take her father’s place in the Beast’s prison. Christ did the same thing for his elect: He took their place and suffered on their behalf the punishment that is rightfully ours.
This lead’s ultimately to the Beast’s redemption, who is moved to give himself up in sacrifice to save Belle’s life at the movie’s end. Beast dies, but this act of sacrificial love leads to his resurrection and regeneration into a new man. His curse was lifted.
Even Hercules, which was not the blockbuster that its predecessors were, succeeded by riding on these same Christian themes. The movie’s plot, which was practically fabricated out of whole cloth because the original Greek versions are divergent and practically unintelligible (if not downright homosexual), ends on a Christian-inspired high note. Hercules sacrifices himself to save the woman he loves. He gives up everything he has in this life, all his glory, and in doing so he accomplishes everything. He saves her life, and he, himself, is resurrected into his full glory as a true Olympian immortal.
There is a risk in this, of course. For audiences who aren’t familiar with the Gospel, they may associate the themes surrounding Christ’s sacrifice with the occult. They won’t recognize that incorporating Christian themes into an otherwise occultic worldview is a logical mistake, equivalent to the in-grafting of a live branch into a dead tree.
MARVEL: EAST MEETS WEST
So, it makes sense that Disney features Marvel properties at the heart of its modern run of success. The Defenders, released on Netflix, consists of a group of Marvel heroes who have augmented powers, some from evolutionary adaptation, and others from tapping into the power of Chi through the practices of Eastern religion.
It may not seem that evolution and eastern mysticism are compatible, but when you examine them closer, they really are. Eastern religion imagines that all of creation is ultimately made of the same stuff as the cosmos — the “Tao.” Creatures are simply lesser forms of that stuff. The goal is to transcend your present state and achieve a higher existence. The closer you get to the true knowledge of the universe, the more you can tap into it and manipulate it.
This was the focus of Chinese alchemy, also called Feng Shui. Wikipedia explains that “the body is understood as the focus of cosmological processes summarized in the five agents, or wu xing, the observation and cultivation of which leads the practitioner into greater alignment with the operation of the Tao, the great cosmological principle of everything.” The Chinese alchemists were after an elixir that granted immortality. That’s why they sometimes died of mercury poisoning.
In eastern mysticism, all of creation is connected in one continuous chain of being. In evolutionary theory, so is all of life. Humans are just higher developments of primordial slime. If existence and being move from top to bottom in mysticism, from lower orders of being to higher, then they move from left to right in evolutionary theory: from lesser forms of life to higher, more intelligent forms of life.
TO HAVE EVIL, THERE MUST BE A SOURCE OF GOODNESS
Of course, the success of the Marvel universe in general depends on the battle of good versus evil. In an evolutionary world, there is no good or evil. If humans didn’t exist to impute those values onto the world, then they wouldn’t exist. The universe doesn’t care. It’s under the blind control of purposeless forces. When humans die out, so will good and evil along with them.
Similarly, in eastern mysticism, there ultimately is no distinction between things. All is one. There is flow back and forth from complimentary forces, but no ultimate goal or plan behind that flow. Logic holds no authority. Darkness comes from light. Chaos from order. Growth through stillness. There is no reason for good to ultimately triumph over evil, because evil will just again triumph over good in the endless flow of the yin and the yang.
So, Marvel must rely on Christian concepts to provide meaning to its stories, too. Only Christianity makes sense of good and evil and provides the promise and hope of the ultimate eradication of our foes.
With evolution, there are no foes, just creatures playing pretend. In eastern mysticism, even if there are good and evil, there will be no ultimate triumph. Therefore there is no hope, and a lack of hope breeds only despair.
Despair doesn’t sell movies.