Otherworldly Travel and "Inception"

I saw Christopher Nolan’s latest film “Inception” with some of my tribe on Friday.  It was an amazing film complete with an intricate and fascinating plot, gasp-worthy special effects, and a riveting soundtrack*.  One thing that kept striking me were the similarities between the concepts of traveling into dreams in the film and the beliefs/teachings/experiences Pagans and such ilk have in meditation, trance, astral travel, and/or lucid dreaming.  I’ll just bullet a few.

  • The characters in the movie had personal totems that only they held and touched.  The intimate knowledge of the totem would help its owner determine whether or not they were in the dream world.  Many people who try to “cross the veil” have totems, charms, or talismans for protection, the facilitation of psychic abilities, a connection to “reality,” etc…
  • “Inception” used architects, or highly imaginative, visual, and spacial thinkers who constructed dream worlds.  This is similar to the belief of many that safe houses/circles/groves/etc can be constructed in the Otherworld, or that your will can manipulate it with enough focus.
  • Dreams are dangerous places.  In “Inception,” a person’s subconscious projections or memories can become hostile.  There are dangers in the Otherworld too.  Some Pagan authors, like Paxson, even suggest a practitioner go through therapy before beginning to trance** due to possible projections.
  • Cobb, Arthur, Ariadne, and company travel into dreams together as they all have a job and there is strength in numbers.  I’ve heard of people astrally projecting together, into other people’s dreams and the like.  I’ve never experienced it or tried it myself but the concept is there.  The casts’ teamwork also reminds me of spiritual teachers or guides.  Working with and developing a relationship with one is supposed to make your Otherworldly travels safer, perhaps even easier.
  • There’s one dream scene, when Cobb is first training Ariadne*** at a cafe.  He reveals to her that she’s in a dream and things start to fall apart.  Cobb tells her to relax, but the dream shatters. I’ve never been able to dream lucidly, but everything I’ve read about it speaks of the practitioner realizing that he or she is dreaming and using that knowledge to manipulate the dream, to seek inner information, or to connect with Otherworldly beings in the dream world.
  • As many of us already believe, and as is evident in the fictional world of “Inception,” the dream world and what happens there is incredibly influential on this world.
The film has me thinking more about the concept of the Otherworld.  What exactly is its nature?  Is the dream world the same as the Otherworld?  Are they connected so that one can lead to the other?  Could people who achieve states of insanity or coma be stuck in such a place?  If the Otherworld is really the dream world and we can manipulate it and create places there, are the fairy realms people stumble into something people made, Gods made, or the fairies made?  What came first?  Are we really just another island in the Otherworldly land of dreams?  Interesting and complicated questions.  They are the essence of many Pagan festival discussions, that’s for sure!

* The song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” by Edith Piaf is featured which was amusing because the actress who played the French chanteuse in the biopic “La Vie en Rose,” Marion Cotillard, played Mal in “Inception.” 

** I think anyone who has had the usual ups and downs of life should be fine, especially if ones talents are average and one has minimal danger of getting in over one’s head.  If something really nasty showed up in trance, then perhaps…  but unless you have an unsettling background, I wouldn’t worry.  That’s just my belief.  As long as people can differentiate one world from the other and lead a productive life, things are peachy!

*** I loved Ariadne’s character and the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the director drew on the original myth.  

(The photos are scenes from “Inception.”)

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

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