The trailer of the new movie “The Master” perfectly captures the tragedy of the human condition, how we separate ourselves from the rest of nature and the animal kingdom, and how this attempt at superiority inevitably brings about our downfall.
The movie is said by many to be a take on Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard, and there are certainly some obvious connections. But that’s more because Hubbard and Scientology are classic manifestations of the human condition taken to an extreme – as is Lancaster Dodd, the title character in “The Master.” It’s all summed up in Dodd’s insistence that:
“Man is not an animal. We are not a part of the animal kingdom. We sit far above that crown, perched as spirits, not beasts. I have unlocked and discovered a secret to living in these bodies that we hold.”
That’s certainly what Hubbard wanted to believe (or at least to have his customers believe). But, honestly, isn’t that the claim of just about every religion or cultural phenomenon? They all want to tell us that we are not animals … that we’re something greater … superior … exceptional … we should take dominion over the other animals … and that while they die and return to dust, we go to heaven or are immortal in some other way?
This is the tragedy of humankind: that our relatively large brain size and capacity for self-awareness and self-consciousness give us the ability to reflect on our past and imagine our future, leading inevitably to the terrifying knowledge that what lies ahead for all of us is simply our own death.
And so we turn self-awareness to self-delusion, creating an alternate reality in which telling ourselves and each other that “we shall not die” and that if the fate of all animals is to die, then we cannot be animals; we must be something else.
But as long as we cannot accept our own nature, then we cannot accept nature itself and will always be fighting it. And as long we fight nature and try to destroy it, we are fighting ourselves and destroying ourselves. And that’s a battle we can only lose.
Here’s the trailer from the movie: