Marvel Comics narrative of Dr Strange transferred to the silver screen hints at so much of the astral worlds, the higher dimensions and the grasping mind locked in sensate reality: the mind, the body, the senses, the grasping ego that wants more, more, more. This movie presents something of a spiritual boot camp which bears further reflection, despite the myriad journeys into absorbing, overpowering worlds of astral projection and sorcery.
Dr Strange opens with the logo of Marvel Comics and the viewer is left to understand that this character has many years of comic history and has recently made it to the silver screen. Dr Strange (neurosurgeon) loses the controlled use of his hands (they shake) in a motor vehicle accident. After repetitive surgery, he seeks out a man who healed a spinal cord break and journeys to Kathmandu to find the healer responsible for this.
Kathmandu is breathtaking in its scenery and ugly in its crowds and attendant thugs who seek to take Strange’s elegant watch away from him. It is smashed before he is rescued by one Mordo, who leads him to his quarry, who is called The Ancient One, an androgynous, timeless Master of the higher energies.
This encounter instantly challenges the foundations of time and space as The Ancient One gives Dr Strange a good hard push and sends him out in his astral body to universes and vistas of his own making, including a sterling scene where Strange becomes encapsulated by hundreds and hundreds of hands. Well, this neurosurgeon with the shaking hands has hands on his mind.
He returns to his reality, seeking healing. He is shown even more, and frustrated, he demands to know how he might be healed. Strange is told to ‘surrender’ to the world of spirit, something he vehemently denies exists. He is thrown out the front door of the monastery, ignominiously. Finally, he is allowed to enter and become a novice.
Strange learns of his ego, surrenders to the world of spirit and progresses slowly. He is taken to a cliff nearby a mountain peak (Kailash?), and returns himself from a ice and snow-blown peak to the monastery. Once advanced with ‘spiritual’ skill, Dr Strange continues to advance in reading and learning until he learns of the mirror dimension and the dark dimension of the sorcerers who seek to hold control of the earth in a timeless warp of eternity.
In the dark dimensions, Strange and his amulet gain mastery of time and he engages in repetitive bargaining with a spirit not unlike the repetitive Groundhog Day of the TV weatherman Phil Connors. Strange wins out, returns injured to his once lover and pops in and out of the astral body, startling her while she is operating upon his wounded heart. She saves him only to witness sorcery in the wards.
After besting the sorcerers, the Ancient One is wounded. Strange is now Master Strange, a title he rejects. He takes The Ancient One to his hospital for surgery, however, his hands still shake. He cannot operate and the Ancient One leaves time and space, they have a conversation about what he must do in the future and the Ancient One passes over.
Strange accepts his new destiny, leaves the mirror world and re-enters the world of the monastery and further spiritual development. He must now seek out Mordo to balance spiritual energies.
Spiritual Boot Camp?
Older people, light workers, are viewing this movie and one wonders why, what is the purpose of all command of the elements and sorcery? The CGI of the mirror worlds, sorcery and personal astral travel are both revealing as they are mesmerising. Some say there is a specific spiritual message here but it is felt that the inner discipline – spiritual and otherwise – is poorly presented through challenges to Dr Strange to bypass doubts and command the energies. While others can create whorls of energy and walk through them to their destination in the mirror world, Strange is left with sparks and limp fizzes, even while wearing the talisman of power on his hand. Time is the master in the world of the mind, the body the senses. As the image above shows, Strange eventually proceeds, after much frustration.
It is often said that medical school is not unlike army boot camp in its demanding discipline of time, talents and resources. Neurosurgery would demand more of the same. This is inner discipline, pure and simple. One submits to a discipline in order to achieve the goal. This disciplining of the self based on the senses, the body, mind, is at the heart of spiritual disciplines in many religions and monastic traditions. The confrontation of this discipline with the film’s viewers, we suspect, might open a doorway to considering an inner spiritual discipline not based on grasping, attachment nor infatuation of any kind.
Is this film a good example of the spiritual journey? We suspect not, for it stops short of total detachment and inner transformation and enters into a fundamentally Gnostic space, a realm of spiritual powers, both good and evil, engaged in a relentless and never-ending struggle. The great Dr Strange – who has rejected the title of Master Strange – is still Dr Strange, besotted with his accomplishments on the astral and spiritual realms. And the basic game is the learning of spells and incantations—secret-gnosis—that will enable one to manipulate the higher powers to a good purpose.
These movies are like an enquiry, a journey, a discovery of the light and dark side of The Force. There is more to learn, of human feeling and emotion, the place of consciousness in the Universes and the relation to the Creative Source of the All. There is much to learn and much to leave behind. The Dr Strange at the end of this movie is conscious of dimensions, principalities and powers, and is not the Dr Strange of heroic surgery removing bullets from brains, an elegant collection of watches and fast cars driven carelessly.