Thursday, October 15, 2009

"The Net is Vast and Limitless": An Analysis of Ghost in the Shell's Ending (Development of Film Expression Final)

Shot One
Shot duration: 48 seconds

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Shot size: Initially an extreme long shot with the Major displaced into the distant background behind a tall and imposing mound of books -- a far more ancient and analog form of media than most of what is seen throughout the film, to be sure -- the camera dollies in to a close shot of the heroine, effectively making her and her plight seem more and more significant against the wall of media.
Sound: Audibly fizzling on, the camera pops and buzzes before falling silent. Off in the distance, an EKG monitor beeps out the Major's slow but steady pulse. The noise grows louder and louder the closer we get, and there can be no doubt about the Major's continued survival.
Contrast dominant(s): For the first few seconds, the flickering white fuzz of the camera is the contrast dominant, effectively drawing our attention to its lack of stability or fidelity. Afterwards, the Major with her stark white face and dark and lacy Victorian doll's dress draw in our eyes to keep focus on her throughout the shot.
Character movement: None to speak of. As far as we can tell, the Major is completely paralyzed, and metaphorically joins in every doll's inanimate plea for life. The only movement in the frame is the fizzling camera and the space-age microcosm in Q4, effectively drawing the viewer's attention to the movement of the camera itself.
Character proxemics: Sitting upright with her head tilted and her body crooked and weight unevenly distributed, we are made to understand that the Major no longer has control over the movement of her own body anymore, but has been carefully positioned on the chair by someone else. Because the chair and environment she is sitting in is comfortable, and because she is surrounded by life preserving medical technology, it would seem safe to say that this person is sympathetic rather than hostile.
Camera movement: Sitting perfectly still for roughly 15 seconds while the camera turns itself back on, the camera starts to dolly in with slow incremental steps at an animated doll's walking pace, but increases its speed and length of its steps the closer it gets to the Major.
Camera angle: Shot at an eye-level, it is here important that we be perfectly square with Motoko so we can look into her eyes and perceive her silent plight.
Depth of field: Split into a straightforward background, middle ground, and foreground, the background where the Major is seated off in the distance remains the focal point of the shot. In this respect, the long distance, the split wall of books in the middle ground and the wooden table in the foreground act as visual barriers obstructing proper view of the Major, a problem neatly resolved by the moving camera.
Lighting: As per cyberpunk's film noir influence, this shot is lit in low key with lighting emphasizing the environment rather than the characters. With the brightest light simply falling on the floor in Q3 and Q4 and highlighting the obstructing wall of books in Q1 and Q2, the picture looks bleak for the Major. However, off in the distance a faintly angelic aura surrounds her, so it seems premature to predict her untimely demise just yet.
Color: Shot in a simulated color filter that desaturates all colors of their natural vibrancy, everything in the room is tinged in sick-looking shades of brown that make everything look lifeless, antiquated, grim, and grainy. Even the Major's face looks white and pale and her dress dark and funereal as she sits still and lifeless. Even so, by failing to film the colors with reliable fidelity, the viewer is clued in that the picture this camera gives is unreliable, and that there's more to the story.
Screen graphics/composition: An evenly balanced shot displacing the Major into the distant background the wall of literary media in Q1 and Q2 dominating the frame from the middle ground. Here the diagonal front-to-back leading lines are both stacked against the Major and draw the eyes back toward her. A compositionally static image of a lifeless room, the only developments in the frame are the movement of the space-age microcosm in Q2 and the motion of the camera.
Editing style: Making a startling straight cut from pitch-black nothingness to a new scene, the viewer is self-consciously aware that the camera is visibly being turned back on. Exiting the shot in a straight jump cut to a more reliable camera, the viewer's attention is drawn to the role of the camera in mediating the story.
Time: Given the unexplained nature of cuts, it is almost impossible to tell how much time has elapsed between them, but as the emphasis of the shot is on motionlessness, time is not as important as it would normally be.
Subtext: After her near assassination, the Major has been reduced to the doll's plight of pleading for real life. But as a cyborg living in a hyperreal world of manipulatable media technology, in a more symbolic sense this has always been her plight.

Shot Two
Shot duration: 14 seconds

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Shot size: A full shot of the Major, this shot emphasizes the whole of her being in returning to life.
Sound: With only the EKG monitor still faintly beeping, the Major is completely silent for her reawakening with only the faint rustling of cloth audible throughout. Off behind the camera, a door opens and the voice of Batou greets the Major upon perceiving that she is now awake.
Contrast dominant(s): As the wearer of a vibrant emerald dress and the brightest refractor of the desk light in Q1 in the Major remains the contrast dominant throughout the shot.
Character movement: In a move evocative of all the terror and fascination brought by timeless stories about dolls being brought to life, the Major suddenly jolts upright with a very strange and enigmatic facial expression. Slowly lowering her head and shoulders to get a good look at her current body, Kusanagi bends her hand in a position just a few feet in front of her face and inspects her palms and fingers a long time to make sure it's all real after all.
Character proxemics: Still basically the same as the last shot, here Batou's offscreen position carefully opening the door signals his role as caretaker.
Camera movement: None to speak of. Here, as in most of the shots in this scene, the emphasis is placed upon the motion of the characters in an inanimate setting. From here on, there will be no camera movement until the final shot of the scene.
Camera angle: Shot from a low angle that makes the Major seem tall and imposing, we suddenly wonder how we could ever have imagined that one of Japan's greatest cyborg hackers would allow herself to get wiped out so easily.
Depth of field: Shot with a closed and angular form that makes the distance between planes feel compressed and the shot feel claustrophobic, little movement will be possible for the Major until she mediates it.
Lighting: Illuminated by the bright glowing desk lamp in Q1, the stark contrast between brilliant light and deep shadow, the lighting makes that shot feel both resplendent and hopeful, and dark and claustrophobic. Above all, the light from above gives the Major the halo effect that makes her appear angelic. What indeed is the power and potential of a modern angel amidst a dark society?
Color: A brilliant explosion of emerald color that makes everything feel vibrant and full of life, here we are signaled that from now on the picture the camera is giving us is reliable, and that life and movement is, in fact, possible.
Screen graphics/composition: Compositionally weighted toward the right by the leading line of the tall, dark, and oblique desk, the viewer's eyes are kept in Q2 and Q4 where the Major is sitting. Tied in to life-support machines in Q1, Q2, and Q4, the relation of the Major to a technologically oriented society is here emphasized.
Editing style: After the surprising jump cut already described, this shot cuts to Batou to emphasize his presence and the exact nature of his role in her recovery.
Time: Edited with slow pacing that allows Motoko ample time to begin movement, after a chronologically ambiguous beginning the continuity of time between this shot and the next one is relatively straightforward at the pace of a normal conversation. This use of time and pacing will continue throughout the scene unless otherwise stated.
Subtext: Startlingly coming to life out of a state of inanimate existence, the Major must determine whether or not any of this is real. Having done this, she must get now used this strange new mode of being analogous to that of a living doll reborn into the world with old memories and new subjectivity.

Shot Three
Shot duration: 11 seconds

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Shot size: A medium shot of Batou as he enters the room, this shot is expositional in nature.
Sound: Initially, only the Major's concerned but strangely childlike voice requests a status report and "maybe an explanation for this body" with a tone of urgency. Closing the door behind him, the wooden door makes its characteristically solid ker-kunk. Afterwards, Batou's voice explains with a tone of resignation that "It was all I could get on the black market. Not my taste, really."
Contrast dominant(s): Wearing a bright red shirt that stands in contrast to the emerald room and occupying the position of greatest light refraction, Batou is the primary contrast dominant. The secondary contrast dominant is the thick and seemingly well-defended technological fortress concealing the Major (it's only the chair and medical equipment, actually), which is also brightly lit, and signals that he is being forced to justify his presence and actions.
Character movement: Looking to the Major with a facial expression that conveys that he is both sympathetic and friendly, Batou is holding a doorknob with his left hand, and a beer can with his right hand. Briefly turning his head as he closes the door behind him, Batou begins his explanation with a slight look of embarrassment, shrugs his shoulders, and walks off the right side of the frame.
Character proxemics: With Batou facing the Major, who remains concealed by the aforementioned visual barrier, the emphasis is placed upon the ultimately friendly terms of their relationship. Even so, the Major's recent merging of consciousness with the Puppet Master has placed distance in their relationship as it remains unknown how exactly he relates to this new being. He therefore stands a few feet away from her throughout the shot.
Camera angle: Shot from a low angle, Batou is made to feel imposing despite his good intentions.
Depth of field: With the bulk of visual data occupying the well-fortified foreground, Batou occupies the only visually remaining open space in Q2 and Q4 in the middle ground. Behind him, only a sliver of background in the room behind him is visible before he shuts the door. An angular image with confined space and closed form, this shot feels very claustrophobic.
Lighting: A fairly dark shot with deep shadows, the relative position of the characters are the areas most brightly lit, effectively highlighting their relation to each other.
Color: Against the emerald environment, the reddish hues of Batou's shirt, the rubber tubes of the medical equipment, and the closed door stand out as the points of greatest interest.
Screen graphics/composition: A compositionally dense image visually weighted toward the left in Q1 and Q4 where the Major is sitting behind the symbolic technological fortress, the viewer's eyes move over to Batou in the empty space in search of visual relief. Balancing the shot in this way, Batou's presence is made to feel warm and welcoming.
Editing style: This shot makes a straight cut to Batou sitting down to continue his explanation with the first visible shot of the Major's reactions to him.
Subtext: Batou, old comrade to the Major in Section 9, has rescued the Major from almost certain death, but has done so under conditions not entirely under his control. Now he must explain what happened during the period the Major was taken out of commission.

Shot Four
Shot duration: 26 seconds

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Shot size: A close shot of Batou with the Major in the middle ground, here it is important that we simultaneously see the reactions of both.
Sound: Throughout the scene, Batou's grave but resigned voice can be heard explaining what happened after "the incident." Beside this, incidental noises like the rustle of cloth on the table, the unbuckling of buckles, the opening of a beercan, and the EKG monitor can be heard in appropriate places.
Contrast dominant(s): Illuminated once more by the bright desk light, the Major occupies the main contrast dominant of this shot. Against this bright light, the deep shadow covering Batou creates a secondary contrast dominant.
Character movement: Taking a seat upon the desk positioned to the Major's right, Batou continues his explanation with a posture of resigned disappointment about the verdict of recent conflicts between Section 9 and Section 6. Meanwhile, the Major unbuckles the straps behind her back that tie her into the machines, doing so with a certain erotic fluidity of grace. Finishing this, the Major's eyes and face grow downcast with a look of discontent. Batou, becoming angry as he describes the irresolution of politics as usual, cracks open the beer can like it was a grenade, and looks quite irate. Raising the beer can to his lips, Batou lifts his head upward as if to put things into perspective as he slowly sips the contents until the end of the shot.
Character proxemics: Facing each other only at an indirect 90 degree angle and sitting roughly half the room apart from each other, the emphasis is placed upon the personal and communicative distance that has come between the Major and Batou. These are, after all, not easy things to talk about.
Camera angle: Shot at an eye level, the equal importance of both Batou's and the Major's emotions are here emphasized.
Depth of field: Split into a middle ground and a foreground with no real background, Batou occupies the foreground in close proximity to the viewer while the the Major occupies the middle ground at some distance from camera.
Lighting: Illuminated once more by the bright halo effect of the desk light, the Major appears graceful and enlightened while Batou is covered in shadow and remains in the dark.
Color: In this shot, the bright white shade of the lighting becomes the dominant color to emphasize the contrast between light and darkness.
Screen graphics/composition: An evenly balanced shot with Batou on the left side in Q1 and Q3 and the Major on the right side in Q2 and Q4, the emphasis of the composition is upon the equal import of the character's emotions.
Editing style: Cutting to the opposite side of Batou's face, which is brightly illuminated in directional proportion to the Major, the editing emphasizes the importance of her role in his life.
Subtext: Politics as usual is going completely nowhere, but the newfound wisdom and power attained by the Major in her synthesis with the Puppet Master creates the bright potential for her to do things that under the old paradigm could simply not be done.

Shot Five
Shot duration: 5 seconds

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Shot size: A wide closeup of Batou, this shot is chiefly concerned with his own feelings about recent events.
Sound: As Batou lowers the beer can, it makes its characteristic sound of liquid flowing on aluminum. Starting out in a whisper, Batou remarks upon the perceived missing status of the Major's cyberbrain in a tone implying that he will keep her presence a secret.
Contrast dominant(s): Illuminated by bright light shining from the Major's direction, Batou's face is the contrast dominant throughout the shot.
Character movement: Looking upwards with the beer can still pursed to his lips, Batou seems to be looking at things from a higher perspective that allows him to let go of the anger. In the narrative context of the film, this makes sense because in an earlier scene in the film, it was revealed that cyborgs like him and the Major metabolize alcohol in seconds. They drink alcohol, therefore, not so much for its recreational value, but because it's something that links them back to their basic humanity. Releasing the anger, he slowly lowers the can and lowers his head, turning directly to the Major to reveal her perceived fate.
Character proxemics: Still sitting at the same literal and figurative distance, some of the communicative distance is bridged by Batou turning his head back in the Major's direction.
Camera angle: Shot at a low angle, Batou's role is again made to seem imposing to the Major despite benevolent intentions.
Depth of field: Split into a straightforward foreground and background, Batou occupies the foreground in Q2 and Q4 while the wall of books occupy the background in Q2, Q3, and Q4.
Lighting: Brightly lit by light coming from the Major's direction, Batou's face appears bright and resplendent with only a few shark shadows creeping across the surface. In this, the Major's role of being a source of light within his life is emphasized. The wall of books in the background, meanwhile, appear dark and imposing, practically disappearing into the shadows.
Color: Filled with dark and almost phantasmagoric colors of black, brown, and pale green, the bright light accenting Batou's skin tone emerges quite vibrantly, and seems to emphasize the connection with his humanity.
Screen graphics/composition: A shot balanced to the right where Batou is sitting in Q2 and Q4, the sole emphasis of the shot's composition is placed upon him.
Editing style: Cutting to a shot of the Major as she is sitting, the emphasis of the editing is placed once more upon her feelings.
Subtext: Batou, a determined and faithful friend, refuses to allow the burden of his anger to dehumanize him, but instead looks at things in terms of the bigger picture. Faced with hostile elements that would be disastrous for the Major if she were discovered, Batou can be relied upon to keep a secret, but is a bit imposing and presumptuous about the Major's own decisions in these matters.

Shot Six
Shot duration: 23 seconds

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Shot size: A close shot of of the Major where she is sitting, this shot places the emphasis back on the Major and her feelings.
Sound: Initially, only Batou's voice can be heard gently asking the Major "Okay with you?" After a silent pause, the Major excitedly remarks with her childlike voice upon her admiration for the house's decoration (the Japanese tend to dislike direct conflict and confrontation, and may suddenly change the conversation to avoid one). Courteously inquiring whether this is Batou's safe house so as to place the compliment directly upon his shoulders, Batou responds with the equal compliment "You're the first person I ever brought here." Extending the generous offer "If you want to... You can stay as long as you like," the Major responds with her own adult's voice in a tone of heartfelt gratitude: "Thanks, but I'd better go."
Contrast dominant(s): Returning the colors back to their initial bright emerald state, the Major resumes her position as the contrast dominant for the same reasons given in the second shot.
Character movement: Sitting perfectly motionless in the same downcast and discontented position she was last seen in, it's difficult to tell what exactly is going through the Major's mind, but whatever it is, it's really intense. Remaining still for quite some time, the Major lifts up her head to glance around the room with bright eyes as she admires the decoration. Turning her eyes toward him with an ambiguous look at word she is his very first guest, she turns an open and receptive face in his direction as he begins to extend his invitation to stay. Lowering her face in the same position as before, this time her eyes show melancholic gratitude as she politely declines the offer.
Character proxemics: Still looking away throughout most of the shot, the communicative distance between the Major and Batou remains unbridged until she chooses to bridge it.
Camera angle: Shot from a high angle, the Major is made to seem pushed down and imposed upon partly by Batou, but mostly by a hostile society that would destroy her if it could.
Depth of field: With only a foreground, this shot feels tightly confined and claustrophobic. In this, the shot emphasizes society's confining pressure upon the Major, resulting in a lack of space for life and movement.
Lighting: Lit in a comparatively high key with vibrant lighting and the halo effect, the few shadows that creep across the surface of this shot are quite striking. While definitely a dark shot, its darkness comes more from the camera angle than the lighting.
Color: Returning to the emerald explosion of the second shot, the colors remain just as vibrant, which strikingly contrasts with the gloomy and downcast feeling throughout the shot.
Screen graphics/composition: An evenly balanced shot with closed form, the tight composition of this shot adds to the feeling of claustrophobia and confinement.
Editing style: Cutting to a shot of the Major standing up to walk out the door, the editing style of this shot shows the Major to defy her own confinement in bold willingness to face a hostile world.
Subtext: In contrast to Batou's sense of resignation, the Major is painfully aware of the great injustice that has been done to her, and of her own confinement within a hostile society. Nevertheless willing to show gratitude to her generous host, she is still compelled by the nature of her eternal quest for truth and of her own state of being to leave in search of something greater.

Shot Seven
Shot duration: 5 seconds

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Shot size: A medium close shot of Batou and the Major as she stands up and begins to walk out, the emphasis of the shot is placed upon Batou's lack of either resistance or reaction to her efforts at departure.
Sound: After the abrupt clip-clop rustle of the Major quickly rising to her feet, the only audible noise is the determined tapping of her footsteps upon the floor.
Contrast dominant(s): Occupying the position of greatest illumination, Batou remains the primary contrast dominant throughout the shot despite his lack of movement. Second to Batou, the glowing bookcase in Q1 and Q3 occupies the secondary contrast dominant, effectively foreshadowing the Major's decision to merge with the 'Net. The third contrast dominant is the Major herself, whose emerald dress appears as the darkest subject in the frame.
Character movement: Swiftly rising to her feet, the Major walks directly forward in the direction of the exiting door with eyes and pacing of resolute determination. Batou, by contrast, continues to sit motionless in the same position with an expression of wistful resignation throughout the shot.
Character proxemics: Facing each other only at an indirect 90 degree angle, Batou and the Major are shown to be moving in different directions from each other, and hence are now at cross purposes.
Camera angle: Shot at a straight angle, once more the emphasis of is placed upon the feelings of both characters.
Depth of field: Split between an on-screen background and middle ground and an off-screen foreground, the Major occupies the foreground, Batou occupies the middle ground, and the bookshelf in Q1 and Q3 occupies the background.
Lighting: Lit in a very low key, even the light issuing from the desk light now seems very pale with the Major's departure. Now shadows creep encroach upon almost everything in the frame, giving it a dark and phantasmagoric appearance.
Color: Amidst the now dark and pale emerald room, Batou's red shirt is the brightest color in the frame, but even that appears quite pale. This is indeed a dark and serious moment.
Screen graphics/composition: An evenly centered shot balanced to the left where the bookshelf is standing in Q1 and Q3 and Batou is sitting centered in all four quadrants with his weight shifted to the left (his right). As such, the emphasis of the composition is placed upon the Major's eventual destination and Batou's role and feelings in relation to it.
Editing: A relatively swift cut compared to other cuts in the scene, the editing style of this shot emphasizes the abruptness of the Major's departure. Cutting to Batou's more vocal reaction after she has walked past, it is emphasized that he finally found the courage to say something.
Subtext: Determined to leave in order to continue her quest and make good use of her newfound abilities in spite of a hostile society, the Major quickly rises to leave, and Batou is not going to stop her if she does not wish to stay.

Shot Eight
Shot duration: 9 seconds

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Shot size: A full close-up of Batou with the Major in the walking away in the middle ground, this shot emphasizes his resolution to preserve some semblance of the relationship, or at least understand why she is leaving.
Sound: Speaking with a tone of urgency that stops the Major in her tracks, Batou inquires about what the Major and the Puppet Master had talked about (preferring to communicate with the Major alone, the A.I. used his hacking skills to cut Batou out of the feedback loop), and whether he is "still there, inside of you."
Contrast dominant(s): Illuminated very brightly, Batou's face is the primary contrast dominant of the shot. The Major's emerald dress, meanwhile, continues to stand out vividly against the dark terrain in Q1 and Q3, so she is the secondary contrast dominant.
Character movement: Looking both concerned and genuinely interested, Batou remains in the same position as before with his head tilted downward, but shows more nuance of expression while he speaks. The Major, meanwhile, only has time to walk forward one pace in the shot before stopping abruptly to listen.
Character proxemics: The Major, now with her back turned to Batou at quite some distance, does not display interest in continuing their relationship, but is nevertheless willing to stop and listen. Batou, meanwhile, is still facing her at an 90 degree angle, so they are still at cross purposes.
Camera angle: Shot at a straight angle, the importance of both Batou's and the Major's feelings are emphasized although the Major's motivations remain unclear.
Depth of field: Split into a foreground, middle ground, and background, Batou occupies the foreground in Q2 and Q4, the Major occupies the middle ground in Q3, and is walking toward the door in the background in Q1 and Q3. In this the emphasis is placed upon Batou's proximity and the Major's increasing distance.
Lighting: Illuminated by the bright and radiant light of the halo effect that practically radiates off him, Batou's apt questions come across like a sudden epiphany. This realization of the Major's true significance is deeply reminiscent of Peter's realization that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13), and the appearance of Jesus to the two pilgrims on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection (Luke 24:13-32) all combined into one. Otherwise, the lighting is as shadowy and low key as a Rembrandt painting.
Color: As in shot five, the emphasis of the color is placed upon the effect of the light upon Batou's skin tone, and has similar significance. Now it is apparent that Batou will retain both light and humanity even after the Major's departure. Otherwise, the colors of the room are as dark and phantasmagoric as ever.
Screen graphics/composition: Compositionally, this shot is balanced toward the right where Batou is sitting in Q2 and Q4 to emphasize the gravity of what he is saying. The left half of the screen where the Major is standing in Q3, meanwhile, is both open and unobstructed, allowing her fluid freedom of movement.
Editing style: Cutting to a rather striking shot of the Major with intense and unnaturally powerful eyes, Batou's questions prove to be more apt than he knows.
Subtext: Finding the courage to ask the Major about her newfound identity before she leaves forever, Batou discovers the resolve to retain his humanity after her departure in the realization of her full significance (and, by implication, his as well).

Shot Nine
Shot duration: 30 seconds

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Shot size: A wide close-up of the Major with Batou sitting in the middle ground, this shot emphasizes the Major's face and expressions as she responds to his query.
Sound: Speaking in a tone of soft-spoken anticipation, the Major asks Batou to remember "the voice we heard on the boat that night." The voice in question was the disembodied female voice of the Puppet Master, who in an earlier scene startlingly interrupted a philosophical conversation about technology and the desire to transcend the human condition by quoting 1 Corinthians 13:12. Referring to the preceeding words in 1 Corinthians 13:11, the Major quotes them in a tone of solemn exhilaration. The entire passage of scripture referred to is as follows:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:11-12 English Standard Version)

In this passage, the apostle Paul teaches that the effect of the final resurrection upon human consciousness will be deeply akin to growing up, the inherent limitations of the human condition overcome in humanity's elevation to see the world as God sees it. In this and other passages, Paul strongly hints at the doctrine of apotheosis, an idea that has since become widely accepted in the Orthodox church and other Christian denominations. Well, says director Mamoru Oshii, perhaps the effect of the Internet and other information technologies can be deeply akin to this, the inherent limitations of geography and institutionalization upon human consciousness overcome by central networking. Of this promise, the Major is the firstfruits that promises a much larger crop. As the Puppet Master himself earlier predicts, "After the merging, you will bear my offspring into the net itself." For this reason, the Major goes on to boldly conclude in an excited tone: "Here before you is neither the program called the Puppet Master nor the woman that was called the Major." By saying this, the Major has effectively declared her reborn status.
Contrast dominant(s): With her vivid white eyes, deep black hair, and vivid lighting, the Major is the primary contrast dominant of the shot. Second to the Major, the spinning lime microcosm in Q3 is the secondary contrast dominant, effectively signaling that that what has happened to the Major is a microcosm of what will happen to the world. Batou, meanwhile, in his dark and contrasting colors is the third contrast dominant.
Character movement: Looking straight into the camera in overt violation of the fourth wall, the Major's eyes and face are slightly downcast as she recalls the incident on the boat and remembers the scripture she is reciting. Lifting her eyes and face to reveal their true glory and intensity, the Major declares her own rebirth. Behind her, Batou continues to remain motionless, effectively signaling that he does not feel personally threatened by her.
Character proxemics: The Major, looking toward the camera with unnaturally intense and powerful eyes, has discovered an incredible source of power and dominates the frame. Batou, meanwhile, occupies the position of power as the tallest subject in the frame, which makes sense considering this is his house. In this, the potential conflict of power between the Major and Batou is signaled, which explains why she must leave.
Camera angle: Shot at a straight angle, no additional support from the camera is required to make these two look very powerful.
Depth of field: Split into a foreground, middle ground, and background, the Major occupies the foreground in close proximity to the camera in Q2 and Q4. Batou and the microcosm, meanwhile, occupy the middle ground in Q1 and Q3. And in the background is the wall, desk light, and medical equipment in Q1 and Q2. In this way, the depth of field ranks subjects in importance by their proximity or distance from the camera. By positioning such a powerful being in close proximity to the camera, the viewer is made to feel threatened by the Major and her presence.
Lighting: Lit in a low key with deep shadows and eerie light, the viewer will have no trouble finding the ghost haunting this Victorian household in Q2 and Q4.
Color: Filled with dark and shadowy shades of emerald, the colors of this shot make Batou look out of his element and the Major deeply in hers.
Screen graphics/composition: Balanced to the right side of the frame, the composition of the shot lends extra weight and gravity to the Major in Q2 and Q4. The open spaces surrounding Batou's region in Q1 and Q3, meanwhile, make his presence seem light and unimposing, a technique emphasizing that he is making no effort to coerce or restrain her.
Editing style: Cutting to a shot with the same mise-en-scène as the eighth shot in this scene, the editing from this shot emphasizes Batou's bemused and sympathetic reaction to what he has just been told.
Subtext: Having merged with the Puppet Master, the Major has attained a leap of consciousness that could very well change the course of history and what it means to be human. She must leave, therefore, to pursue this course of action wherever it may lead her.

Shot Ten
Shot duration: 15 seconds

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Mise-en-scène: This shot uses the exact same setup used in the eighth shot of the scene, only the actions are different.
Sound: Batou, bemused perhaps by the subversive potential of his friend toward a a stagnant society, lets out a small laugh with his nose. Taking a deep breath to speak with the greatest enthusiasm, Batou tells the Major that "You'll find a car key in the left pocket of that dress." Offering her whichever one she likes (yes, Batou is a car fanatic), before he he can tell her the code, the Major interrupts with "2501", the project name of the Puppet Master. At that, the Major sincerely adds "Let's make that our password, for when we meet again."
Character movement: Making a smile that clearly shows his bemusement, Batou's head tilts downward as he laughs in contemplation of the sheer potential of the thing. Lifting his head in radiant joy, he proudly makes the offer of one of his automotive treasures without a hint of reluctance or unhappiness. After all, some sacrifices are definitely worth it to see a matter through to a greater outcome. The Major, turning her head 90 degrees back in Batou's direction, thereby shows her sincerity in her promise to meet Batou again after she leaves.
Character proxemics: Still essentially the same proxemics as the eighth shot, by turning her head back in Batou's direction, the Major bridges some of the communicative distance between them.
Editing style: Cutting to a shot of Batou's safehouse from an outside view, the emphasis of the editing is placed upon the reality of the Major's departure.
Time: Because the Major is not shown opening the door, stepping down the steps, and so on, the transition between this shot and the next one compresses the time of her departure.
Subtext: Having gained a certain measure of understanding about why the Major is leaving, Batou's reaction is very sympathetic, and he extends her a very generous final gift at their parting. The Major, meanwhile, promises to meet him again, so it seems likely that she will continue to watch out for Batou in the future.

Shot Eleven
Shot duration: 17 seconds

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Shot size: Initially a wide exterior shot of Batou's safehouse, this shot is a set-up for a close-up of the Major as she walks on screen from Q4 to Q2 and Q4.
Sound: Throughout the shot, the sound of chirping crickets can be heard. Speaking in a voice of quivering trepidation, the Major wonders out loud "And where shall I go now?" With the beckoning call of the wind blowing through the air, the Major answers herself in a tone of confident resolve "The net is vast and limitless."
Contrast dominant(s): Brightly lit against the dark backdrop surrounding her, the Major is the contrast dominant of the shot.
Character movement: Walking forward with a look of anxiety and trepidation evocative of "Hansel and Gretel", the Major pauses and lowers her head to audibly ponder her present course. Feeling the wind rustle through her hair, she lowers her head even further with a facial expression of confident resolve as she remarks upon the vastness of the net, and stays that way for the rest of the shot, her hair fatefully blowing in the wind.
Camera angle: Shot from a low angle emphasizing the Major's power compared to our own, when the Major looks frightened, the viewer feels frightened too. When her expression changes to confidence, the viewer feels confident about her prospects as well.
Depth of field: Split into a foreground and a background, the Major occupies the foreground in close proximity to the camera, while Batou's safe house is distant behind her in the background.
Lighting: Lit in pale and ambiguous sunlight that could mean either early dawn or late sunset, the Major's lighting remains bright and crisp amongst the hazy landscape of uncertainty.
Color: Against the pale colors of her environment, the vibrant colors of the Major appear striking and vivid.
Screen graphics/composition: Compositionally, the balance of this shot is weighted to the right where the Major emerges from the direction of the dark and looming trees in Q2 in Q4. In this way, the shot makes visual reference to "Hansel and Gretel", a story about lost children whose values become insecure upon leaving home and entering a dark and haunted wood.
Editing style: Cutting to a shot of the Major standing on a tall precipice overlooking the information age metropolis, the editing style emphasizes the Major's discovery of security in her values and her mastery of the technologies it is built upon.
Subtext: Leaving Batou's safe house in a state of anxiety and trepidation as her values are brought into conflict with a hostile and uncertain world, the Major's plight is deeply reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel as they leave home and enter the dark and haunted wood. Realizing that the net is a vast and limitless domain she can gain mastery over, the Major determines to merge directly with the net in an act of mythic apotheosis.

Shot Twelve
Shot duration: 26 seconds

Beginning frame

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End frame
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Shot size: A wide shot of the Major overlooking the information age metropolis, this shot emphasizes the Major gaining mastery over its technological domain.
Sound: With the tolling ceremonial bells and the beating of ceremonial drums in the rhythm of a solemn procession, the final images on screen take on a more somber tone. Throughout Ghost in the Shell, a series of haunting choral wedding songs filled with deeply mythic imagery symbolic of the union of the Major and the Puppet Master are played in the background, and this is the beginning of "Chant III - Reincarnation", the third and final song in the series. For Japanese audiences, this song continues to play on through the credits, effectively emphasizing the film's mythological elements. American audiences, meanwhile, are treated to "One Minute Warning" by The Passengers (an electronic side project of Brian Eno and Bono of U2) at the end credits. An introspective IDM track, this song places the emphasis upon the film's technological elements. Throughout this shot, the sound of electronic beeping noises used in all kinds of consumer technologies can be heard off in the distance, sonically signaling the flow of information and commerce throughout the metropolis.
Contrast dominant(s): As the darkest subject in the frame, the the Major upon the hill is the primary contrast dominant, while the metropolis below is the secondary contrast dominant. Once the camera tilts in to pull the Major out of sight, the city is so visually saturated with information that it is almost impossible to identify the contrast dominant.
Character movement: Standing aloft overlooking the city with her left hand on her hip, her right hand resting upon her skirt, and one foot forward, the Major never moves, but keeps the view throughout her time in the shot.
Character proxemics: Placed in the position of power overlooking the technological metropolis, the city is shown to no longer be any threat to the Major, but rather, by way of its information technologies, it is her domain.
Camera movement: Slowly tilting in from a shot of the Major in Q1 and Q3 to the vast city skyline, the emphasis of the shot is placed the Major's immense domain by way of the net.
Camera angle: Shot at a high angle that makes the viewer see the city as the Major is currently seeing it, we too can sense the immense feeling of power and exhilaration that comes with such a scenic view.
Depth of field: Split into a foreground and background, the Major is standing in the foreground in Q1 and Q3 and is overlooking the vast city in the background in all four quadrants. In this, the emphasis is placed upon her distance from the city and the hostile society it represents, which is no longer able to harm her.
Lighting: Against the pale sunlight, the lights of the city appear bright and vibrant, pulsing with visual information. The Major, by contrast, is lit in a low key that makes her appear as the hidden shadow lurking above.
Color: Making extensive use of pale but glowing shades of purple, blue, green, and yellow, the colors of this shot emphasize the city's dense and pulsing saturation with information and the relation of city light to the sunlight of the rising or setting sun.
Screen graphics/composition: Compositionally, this shot is balanced toward the right, with leading lines moving in a diagonal down to up left to right motion. In this way, the viewer's eyes are prepared for the final frame of the shot with tall skyscrapers off in the distance. An incredibly dense shot saturated with visual information, the buildings of the technological metropolis arranged like a giant circuit board, the relation of the city to the net is thereby emphasized.
Editing style: Gradually fading to black into the credits, the editing style emphasizes the enduring nature of the city before the viewer, which will continue to linger on long after the credits have faded.
Subtext: Having overcome the threat of a hostile society by way of her merger of consciousness with the Puppet Master and mythic apotheosis onto the net, the Major stands aloft upon the towering precipice to look out upon her vast domain, an immense technological metropolis pulsing with life and information.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On "Smashing Economic Idols"

The following was posted in response to an article by Julie Clawson titled "Smashing Economic Idols" (link). Apologies for repeating the same words in a single sentence, I tend to make this mistake in less formal writings.

While I sympathize with your general intentions in this post, I'm afraid your statements "I'm a capitalist. I'm not anti-globalisation. [sic]" create an irreconcilable textual contradiction to the contents of the targum of Romans. The first rule of capitalism is that it must expand or die, and it is precisely this imperialistic "narrative of growth" that the latter critiques. So the host of the radio show on which you were interviewed expresses concern with your ideas believed to express "that people [should] stop or lower their consumption." This is understandable, since it is precisely within the transfer of commodities that capital, resources, and sign-values are redistributed within capitalist society, a fact obscured by the process of commodity fetishism and its tendency to obscure the nature of relations between producers and consumers. If your mircrocosmic actions of eschewing consumerism are applied on the macrocosmic scale, either by way of the categorical imperative, or by the apt maxim "the personal is political", then you have already implicitly posited another means of wealth redistibution for which you must account. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

I understand you are a feminist theologian, which is a very good thing to be. On that note, I am reminded Simone de Beauvoir's brilliant arguments in The Second Sex, in which she ultimately traces the dialectical oppression of woman as the Other to the "imperialism of human consciousness", itself rooted in the human quest for transcendence. Naturally, this tendency toward patriarchal oppression of women in the name of imperial transcendence comes at a stiff price (pun intended), insofar as it constitutes an enforced misrelation of the sexes that obscures their true nature. Within this framework, it is man's dialectical act of propping himself up as the Subject and woman as the Other within personal and social relations that constitutes this misrelation. Now, if we trace Beauvoir's reasoning back to Soren Kierkegaard's "The Sickness unto Death" by way of Sartre, we realize that this oppression of the Other is a state of despair (and hence sin) insofar as "despair is the misrelation in the relation of a synthesis that relates itself to itself." Applying Kierkegaard to give a whole new dimension to Beauvoir's line of reasoning, it is shown that man's quest for empire-building as the Subject of history ultimately leads to false transcendence and despair, insofar as he has tried to upstage God as the true Subject of history, the One who can grant ultimate transcendence. The Christian, then, should challenge any imperialistic framework by which people are denigrated as the Other as a form of idolatry, because Jesus recognizes no one as the Other, but as one of God's children. Whence then, this failure to criticize the institution of globalized capitalism when its naked apparatus of corporate degradation and exploitation of Southern peoples as the Other in the name of imperial transcendence stands right before your face? Shall we neglect our brothers and sisters in the global South, the current epicenters of Christianity, in the name of Northern propriety? I urge you, therefore, to put long hard thought into the macrocosmic implications of your political and theological ideas.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Cosmic Movie Screen: On the Central Themes of Hinduism (Comparative Religions Homework)

Hinduism is an ancient religion that has had a lasting cultural influence on the Indian subcontinent. While it is difficult to date the origins of Hinduism with any certainty, its influence may begin as early as about 1500 B.C., or as late as the between the 6th or 4th centuries B.C., depending on one's view of the relation of the Vedic period to Hinduism proper. Even so, Hindu scholar Arvind Sharma points out that "If the term is used to denote the beliefs and practices of all those people who now consider themselves Hindus, then Hinduism might turn out to be older than civilization, as Negrito and proto-Australoid elements can be identified even in present-day Hinduism. If Hinduism appears uncivilized at times, it is because it is older than civilization." [1] Whatever one's views of Hindu origins, its lasting and pervasive influence over Indian culture is indisputable. Beyond India, Hinduism has gradually rippled Westward ever since copies of Indian scripture began to surface in Europe in the 18th century to enthusiastic response. This enthusiasm would reach its height in the 1960's as religious seekers and counterculturalists looked to the East as a source of mystic spirituality, which has traditionally been eschewed by mainline Protestantism and the Enlightenment. Since then, Hinduism has had a subtle but pervasive influence upon the Western religious landscape. Whether looking Eastward to consider the predominant religion of a rising global economic power, looking Westward to trends in contemporary religion, or simply chatting with an Indian friend on Facebook, it helps to have a good working knowledge of Hinduism.

At present, there are four main schools of Hinduism, Absolutistic Hinduism, Theistic Hinduism, Activistic Hinduism, and Militant Hinduism. Absolutistic Hinduism is a deeply contemplative tradition heavily influenced by Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), who "while yet in his teens, underwent a spontaneous mystical experience; as a result of it, he finally left his home and spent the rest of his life on what is known as the hill of the holy beacon, from which he never descended." [2] Employing ascetic renunciation of the body and mind, Absolutistic Hinduism seeks knowledge of the essential unity of the self with the Absolute or Godhead, and remains extremely popular among Hindu intellectuals. Theistic Hinduism, by contrast, is an intensely devotional school whose major figure was Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886), a mystic "who experimented, with dazzling versatility, not only with various forms of Hindu theism but also with Islam and Christianity." [3] Emphasizing devotional worship of both God and Goddess as a path to union with the Divine, the mode of Theistic Hinduism is more experiential than intellectual. Teaching the essential unity of all religions combined with a strong catholicity of outlook within Hinduism, Ramakrishna's views of Hindu inclusivism have become a highly influential voice on the subject.

Where the previous two schools tend to emphasize mystical practice over social action, the next two schools place keen interest in the social implications of Hindu belief and practice. Activistic Hinduism is a school of Hinduism championed by Mahatma Gandhi "characterized by nonviolence, courage, faith in God, truth, ecumenicism, self-sacrifice, social service, and a whole constellation of similar virtues pursued for the good of all or savodaya--to use Gandhi's expression." [4] Apparently having taken very good notes from Leo Tolstoy's classic The Kingdom of God is Within You, Mahatma Gandhi organized some of the most successful movements of nonviolent resistance in history, effectively playing a crucial role in gaining India's independence from the British empire, and inspiring other like-minded movements. For the Activistic Hindu, the work of striving for, and implementing, a just society through social activism is itself a path to God-realization. Militant Hinduism, by contrast, shares in Activistic Hinduism's concern for social activism, but not in its commitment to nonviolent methods. Operating with a praxis emphasizing religious nationalism above universal tolerance, Militant Hinduism is perhaps best exemplified by the debate between Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gandhi over whether the martial setting of the Bhagavadgita should be taken literally (the position of the former) or allegorically (the position of the latter) in relation to Hindu activism. In 1992, Militant Hinduism reached a head with the destruction of a mosque believed to have been built upon the site where Lord Rama (of the epic Ramayana) was born, an event Arvind Sharma likens to Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon. [5] On the extreme end of Militant Hinduism is fundamentalist Hinduism, which holds that the Indian constitution unjustly favors minority groups above Hindus, and that toleration of non-Hindu religions must be earned by conformity to its standards rather than given. Like most fundamentalisms, fundamentalist Hinduism walks the razor's edge between postcolonial resistance to globalized capitalism, and putting the Other in their place, that is, the place chosen for them.

Hitherto, two consistent strands run throughout these very different schools of Hindu practice, binding them together in common belief. The first, and most important strand is that human life is a quest for the realization of the essential unity of the self with the Divine, because the Divine is within all things. Where we are conditioned to regard ourselves as separate and distinct from others, the cosmos, and the Divine, these distinctions are ultimately illusory because the Divine is everything. As Arvind Sharma puts it, "The successful culmination of this quest leads to the realization that we ourselves, in reality, are the ultimate ground of the universe on which the drama of creation is being enacted, like a movie on a screen. We are like the screen but have wrongly identified with the characters on it; because of this wrong identification, we seem to undergo the experiences of the characters with whom we have identified--the empirical self." [6] Because of this illusion, our lives are bound up in false desires that keep us imprisoned within samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. The final and ultimate telos of a human being, therefore, is moksa, the attainment of liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth to become fully at one with the Divine, free from the limitations of subjective constitution. Of course, this way of looking at things stands in marked contrast to the Abrahamic religions, in which the image of the transcendent creator God is imprinted within all human beings, granting them God's moral attributes and the capacity for relationship with God and others, but none of God's ontological attributes (i.e. omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience). Within these religions, the saving acts of God take on the prime importance, and final salvation comes when God raises the dead to life body and soul as fully constituted subjects in eternal right relationship to God and others. The problem, therefore, is relational in nature, with the introduction of sin causing the image of God to tarnish, so that the glory of relational connections have become distorted and obscured. What these differences illustrate is that how we define the problem of the human condition plays a crucial role in how we define its solution.

Which brings us, then, to the second strand of common belief among these four schools of Hinduism, that of pluralistic inclusivism within Hinduism and toward other religions. In practice, this means that there is no one set path toward the ultimate goal applicable to everyone, but rather that there are many paths to the Divine. Whatever is said about the beliefs of one Hindu may not hold true the case or another Hindu, but neither is any less Hindu than the other. Conversely, there is no real reason to assume that adherents of other religions are any less far along in this quest than Hindus are, or that Hindus should distance themselves from their beliefs. Consequently, syncretism is a common tendency within Hinduism even as the beliefs that arise from such a synthesis may not ultimately resemble those of the parent religion. Throughout its history, India has been conquered by various empires who introduce foreign religious and cultural elements. Faced with the challenge of such cultural and religious groups, Hinduism has historically adopted a strategy of accommodation and synthesis to assimilate the invader into the fold. Unable to accomplish this in the case of Islam during the medieval period (ca. 1000-ca. 1800), a period of immense culture shock ensued, resulting in a rigidified caste system, longstanding rivalry between Hindus and Muslims, and an efflorescence of intense devotional poetry. Later, with the British empire's subsumption of India (ca. 1800-1947) came Christian missionaries, who sought to introduce Christianity on a much larger scale than previously attempted by the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala (a community which may date as far back as the apostolic period of the first century). While the idea of imperialists for Jesus is really embarrassing in my book, the cultural and religious legacy of British colonialism is deeply ambiguous, producing more ambivalent reactions. In any event, Muslims and Christians pose a distinct challenge to Hindu inclusivism insofar as they prefer to remain the Other rather than opt for full inclusion in Hindu religion and society. This may be seen, for example, in clashes between Muslims and Hindus, or the ongoing persecution of Dalit and lower-caste Christians by Hindu fundamentalists. Over the next century, Philip Jenkins expresses grave concerns of escalating religious violence in India as Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity make inroads among Dalits, lower-castes, and tribal groups at the fringes of Hindu society, a trend which has already brought violent backlash from Hindu nationalists. [7] Such developments in the foreseeable future will surely test the limits both of Hindu toleration, and of its reputation for such abroad.

While Hindu religious tolerance seeks to be comprehensive, it would be a mistake to assume by the same token that it is an 'anything goes' religion. Guiding Hindu practice are the twin concepts of karma and dharma. Karma is the "principle that explains the experiences that befall one... the doctrine of karma... states that actions produce consequences commensurate with their moral quality, which may fructify over several lives. The individual involved in this cosmic process is called the jiva, a ripple in the cosmic ocean of samsara." [8] At some stage in the game, the doctrine of karma became linked to one's birth and standing within the varna system, which ranks classes from highest to lowest as "the intellectual (brahmana); the warrior and administrator (ksatriya); the farmer and trader (vaisya); and the laborer (sudra)." [9] In addition to these four varnas are the Dalits ("the downtrodden"), a group of "outcastes" comprising some 15-20% of Indians traditionally relegated to the realm of abjection to carry out labors regarded as ritually polluting. [10] While the three leaders formerly mentioned were strongly opposed the institute of untouchability, [11] and the Indian constitution and The Prevention of Atrocities act provides formal legal sanction against political and economic violence and discrimination against the "scheduled classes", the widespread persecution of Dalits remains a serious concern in contemporary India, particularly in rural areas. Whereas the tendency of the medieval period was to rigidify the caste system in the wake of the Muslim threat, today the opposite development is to soften the boundaries between varnas under the influence of modernity. But while one's varna may no longer bind their destiny, the irresistible influence of karma is held to operate throughout.

Closely related to karma is dharma, which may be defined as "the guiding principle one identifies as one's own specific duty as a member of a particular class (varna); in a particular stage (asrama) of life; and in pursuing a particular goal (parusartha) consistently with one's humanity (sadharana dharma) as expressed in universal values such as charity, purity, and so on." [12] Where the philosopher Immanuel Kant would ask "What ought I to do?", dharma seeks to answer precisely that question. In the traditional mode of Hinduism, one's dharma depends upon one's varna, so that a brahmin has a brahmin's duties, a vaisya a vaisya's duties, and so on. For better or worse, here there can be no doubt as to one's identity or what is expected of them. However, as the caste system fades, a particular passage outlining a set of dharma binding upon all varnas grows in importance. "Duties common to all castes are patience, truthfulness, restraint, purity, liberality, self-control, not to kill, obedience toward one's gurus, visiting places of pilgrimage, sympathy, straightforwardness, freedom from covetuousness, reverence toward gods and Brahmins, and freedom from anger." [13]

If every Hindu is to reverence the gods, then what are the gods like, and how does this relate to the quest for oneness with the Divine? Like the projected drama of the human condition, the drama of the gods plays out on the screen of the cosmos. But unlike those unfortunate humans that identified with the illusions onscreen, the divine actors and actresses are fully aware that they are the screen, and that they are distinct neither from each other's performances nor from the Director. The scenes and acts will come and go in their due time, but they will give their all to the show. The four principle manifestations of deity are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer, and Shakti the Mother-Goddess and divine-feminine principle. These deities in turn may hypostatize and sub-hypostatize into thousands of gods and goddesses which the Hindu may worship as they have an affinity for. For example, while the present author is not a Hindu, he admits a certain affinity for Kali, whose dreadful countenance, accessories including "a strange skull-topped staff and... a garland of human heads", terrifying mannerisms, and stylish demon-slaying win her major Goth-cred. As it so happens, the cult (ritual worship) of Kali is going very strong, and is much more benevolent in praxis than the late-blooming, slave-driving, human-sacrificing Thuggees of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But for those not inclined to the dark passion and maternal love Kali embodies, there's always the ever-popular Krishna and Lord Rama. But the big secret of all this, which isn't really a secret at all, is that there really is only one God, because the real is one. This is made explicit in a dialogue between the Hindu sage Yajnavalkya and Vidagdha Sakalya. Answering Vidagda's query as to how many gods there are, Yajnavalkya starts with 3,306, and counts down to one.

Finally, every observant Hindu reveres the Vedas. As a rule, direct attacks on the Vedas, and iconoclasm of the symbols of the Vedas (i.e. the cow), are the domain of religious rivals of the Hindus such as the Buddhists, Sikhs, and Muslims. As Arvind Sharma puts it, "One can... trace the destiny of Hinduism with the Veda first as its integrating, then its organizing, and then its legitimizing principle... A Hindu may not denounce the Veda, but he or she can renounce the Veda." [14] In the literal sense, the Vedas are a group of four Sanskrit works, of which the Rig-Veda is the most important and influential. In its final form (ca. 1200 B.C.), the Rig-Veda is a set of songs of sacrifice to the gods of the Aryans, who obtained victory over the Dasyas with the help of the war-god Indra, culminating in the development of "cosmic speculations that search for the oneness of all being." [15] Of course, most Hindus do not know Sanskrit, and because the highly oral culture of the Hindus holds the work to only retain its holy power in its original spoken language, the average devout Hindu may hear many very powerful and holy things at a recitation of the Vedas, but these likely have little to do with what is actually written down. Hence, the Vedas as text are of far less importance than the "Vedas" as the Hindu symbolic, and it is under these that Hindus unite in common identity amidst their many differences.


1. Arvind Sharma, "Hinduism" in Our Religions: The Seven World Religions Introduced By Preeminent Scholars From Each Tradition edited by Arvind Sharma p. 36
2. Ibid. p. 14
3. Ibid. p. 15
4. Ibid. p. 17
5. Ibid. p. 55
6. Ibid. p. 14
7. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity p. 182-185
8. Arvind Sharma, "Hinduism" in Our Religions: The Seven World Religions Introduced By Preeminent Scholars From Each Tradition edited by Arvind Sharma p. 22
9. Ibid. p. 25
10. Robert E. Van Voorst, Anthology of World Scrptures: Eastern Religions p. 45, commenting on the Laws of Manu 10.51-57
11. Arvind Sharma, "Hinduism" in Our Religions: The Seven World Religions Introduced By Preeminent Scholars From Each Tradition edited by Arvind Sharma p. 17
12. Ibid. p. 25
13. Institutes of Vishnu 2-1.17. cited in Robert E. Van Voorst, Anthology of World Scrptures: Eastern Religions p. 45
14. Arvind Sharma, "Hinduism" in Our Religions: The Seven World Religions Introduced By Preeminent Scholars From Each Tradition edited by Arvind Sharma p. 17
15. Robert E. Van Voorst, Anthology of World Scriptures: Eastern Religions p. 28