Dr Strange is a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch who’s a former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
No this is not a Doctor Strange Movie Review, you’d find dozens on the internet. This is a look at Doctor Strange from the eyes of a Seeker. Who’s a Seeker you might ask? Well, let’s just put it as one who sees’s life from a higher or more expansive perspective than most, one who has a purpose set higher than himself. Sounds ambiguous? Sure and yet inspirational.
This is look at Doctor Strange from how the movie represented him to the wider audience (and not the comic book). What I loved is the journey that is shown which is very akin to all of us who go from smaller narrower egotistical perspective to a much wider understanding of the world, from the external to the internal. That’s exactly what Doctor Strange showed us and what we are looking at, scene by scene, chronologically.
The Ancient One: He couldn’t walk, I convinced him that he could.
Dr Strange: You aren’t suggesting it is psychosomatic?
Modern medicine loves to look at the mind and body separate. Sure for study/understanding, it is good to compartmentalise it to make it easier for the mind to grasp, however, in reality, it there’s no separation. Psychosomatic is such a limiting word, look at it this way, everything moves from subtle to gross physical matter. Mind, emotions are subtler than the physical, physical is like the final print out. Any problem of the body can be traced back to the deeper causes which are always subtler. If the tree has a disease, stop looking for answers in fertilisers, you must question what got the tree to that state and more often than not, it is the way the tree lived/was taken care of that lead to its current state.
Beyond Physical Medicine
The Ancient One: When you reattach a severed nerve, is it you who puts it back together or the body?
Dr Strange: It’s the cells
The Ancient One: And your cells are only programmed back together to reattach back in very specific ways.
The Ancient One: What if I told you, that your own body can be convinced to put together in all sorts of ways?
The Ancient One: I know how to reorient the spirit to better heal the body
So hard to believe, but it is true. This does not mean that hard physical hard science is nonsensical, it just isn’t complete by itself. Simply put, a patient’s mindset/emotional is equally important if not more for the process of healing to take place. Correct? Now try energy healing/medicine/science alongside with physical and you’ll see the miraculous healing taking place at multiple levels. Magic!
The Ancient One: Each of those maps were drawn by someone who could see in part but not the whole.
Dr Strange: I spent my last dollar getting here and you are talking about Healing through belief?
Interestingly, this is the beginning of true learning. Only when you are willing to give up your physical clinginess to things which appear to give you power. Dr Strange’s power was his money and his intellect. Money, the grossest power he believed in disappeared and he felt helpless while he clung on to his intellectual prowess-ness, which of course is dealt with later. One thing at a time.
Expanding Your Consciousness/Mind
The Ancient One: You are a man looking at the world through a keyhole and you’ve spent your whole life trying to widen that keyhole. To see more, know more and now on hearing that it can be widened, in ways, you can’t imagine. You reject the possibility.
Dr Strange: We are nothing but matter. Just a tiny momentary spec in an indifferent universe.
The Ancient One: (Wonderfully answers) “You think too little of yourself”
A typical conversation between one who is stuck in his/her perceptions of the mind and trying to figure things out but at the same time ironically rejecting all that which does not fit into “their little narrow perspective”. Which is what s/he is trying to move out of. Do you see the irony, the stupidity and yet the beauty in it? Transition phases are always troubling when the mind is trying to break out of old patterns, thoughts, attitudes.
Dr Strange: What did you do to me?
The Ancient One: I pushed your ancestral form out of your physical form.
The Ancient One: For a moment you entered the astral dimension. A place where the soul exists apart from the body.
When the mind opens to other possibilities, it isn’t ready, this is shown really nicely in the film. Thankfully it isn’t as visually dramatic nor as stunning but yes a lot of thoughts come crashing down, old beliefs are questioned, new questions arise, the mind is still trying to make out heads or tails of things. Disorienting is a mild word depending on how deep your connect is or the rabbit hole is. Visually this is well shown with the roof braking, him flying uncontrollably etc. This movie is quite a visual spectacle no doubt.
The Ancient One: You seem to know how the world works. You think that this material universe is all that there is. What is real? What mysteries lie beyond the reach of human senses. At the root of existence, mind and matter meet. Thoughts shape reality.
Scary images, as imagined by a horror film director/writer (Scott Derrickson) no doubt. It could’ve been shown visually in a pleasant way and yet it gets the message across. Strangely when negative images/thoughts/actions are placed before us, it sticks on longer.
The Ancient One: This universe is only one of an infinite number. Worlds without end. Some benevolent and life-giving. Some benevolent and life-giving; Others filled with malice and hunger.
Dark places, where powers older than time lie…ravenous… and waiting.
Who are you in this vast multiverse?
The eternal question for which we scamper around to find the answer. Who Am I? If you have found that answer or at least know the direction, welcome then Seeker to a whole different world, externally the same, internally fantastically different
The Ancient One: Have you seen that before in a gift shop?
You gotta love the writing in this movie. Superb!
The Demons in Us
Mordo: You gave me the power to defeat my demons. And to live within the natural law.
The Ancient One: We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them.
True that, we always think that our demons/negativity goes away. Master’s have repeatedly said, they don’t go away, you can’t make negativity disappear. It’s like saying there should be no darkness in life, but light and dark are two opposite poles of the same energy. Just increase your positivity and the negativity in comparison will reduce. That’s the key. It is like a good photographer, keep the subject – positivity in focus and negativity would automatically be out of focus.
Dr Strange learns Humility
Dr Strange: Don’t shut me out. I’ve nowhere else to go…(When he is let in) Thank you.
This is when Strange actually learns to release his hard ego self and actually thanks for letting him in, agonising about whether he’d be let in. It is like tasting the honey/truth a bit and wanting so much. Curiosity is a good thing (in this case curiosity doesn’t kill the cat but elevate it), asking questions is a fantastic thing. It means that the seeker in you is ready to receive and learn things higher than what you knew before. This almost means that you need to let go of your hard ego self little by little.
Moving Beyond Language
The Ancient One: The sorcerers of antiquity called the use of this language “spells”. But if that word offends your modern sensibilities, you can call it “program”. The source code that shapes reality.
The beauty here is that it is very typical for an old language not to be accepted/misinterpreted by newer generations. More than the actual understanding/energy, many people/minds just get stuck with simple things, presentation/language/drawings/depictions and the like. Dear PPT/social media generation, learn to look beyond, deeper. That is why Masters find newer ways to communicate to younger unaware minds.
Lifetime(s) of Learning
Dr Strange: But… even if my fingers could do that, my hands would just be waving in the air. I mean, how do I get from here to there?
The first mistake we always make is to look at the physical elements of things and assume physical is the entire picture. The Ancient One demonstrates this in the movie, how it is not the hands but the man/being behind it that matters.
The Ancient One: How did you get to reattach severed nerves, and put a human spine back together bone by bone?
Dr Strange: Study and practice. Years of it.
Exactly. Anything worth really doing, always NEEDS us to move, change, and rethink our old ways of thought, behaviour, attitude and belief. And something like the real truth behind things requires years of study and practice.
Caution, though – It is not the years that matter, but the amount of concentrated energy you put into it to understand the subject matter that you are studying. And if you indeed are studying deeper truths, then you’d almost always need not just years, nor a single lifetime, but several.
Why? Simple, you aren’t studying just the science of music, or science of astronomy or science of spells in this case. You are actually staring down/studying infinity itself and don’t know about it.
The reason why it “appears” to take so long to study (years are merely human calculations), is because it takes us so long to shed the silly limited unawareness in us, often called the Human Ego, better and more accurately put by my Guru, the Artificial self.
It’s Not in the Physical
Mordo: All you need to do is focus. Visualize. See the destination in your mind. Look beyond the world in front of you. Imagine every detail. The clearer the picture, the quicker, and easier, the gateway will come.
As this has been discovered and talked about in the current generation (Dwapar Yuga) by almost every life coach, self-help book out there. “You create your own reality”, “Laws of attraction”, The Secret…sound familiar?
Dr Strange: My hands.
The Ancient One: – It’s not about your hands.
Dr Strange: How is this not about my hands?
The first thing we always get enamoured and therefore stuck with is – The Physical aspect of it. How many times have you seen/tried something new and gone wow about it and then immediately resolved that you wanted to do it as cool and then figured that it isn’t as cool as you thought because there are a lot of inner workings/hardships that go behind getting it at that level. Well, that reminds me of the old adage “All that glitters is not Gold”. In this case, Dr Strange is stuck viewing it from the physical angle of it only, he obviously fails to understand the inner workings, the inner strength he needs to overcome himself to let the energy flow. Not too different from everything else we do in real life that is worth mastering.
The Ancient One: Master Hamir. (Master Hamir demonstrates without hands) Thank you, Master Hamir.
A wonderful way only a true teacher shows the inner workings. Dr Strange since viewed life from a very physical/material aspect with a very active ego/artificial self, the only way a master can get through at first is to connect to the student’s level of consciousness. In this case, the physical level which really appealed to the student and he instantly understood.
Extreme Ego/Artificial Self needs Extreme Measures
The Ancient One: You cannot beat a river into submission. You have to surrender to its current, and use its power as your own. I… I control it by surrendering control?
Whenever we approach a thing from afar, from a base level of understanding i.e. without depth, you will almost always see your Artificial Self butt-in and ask to “Control it”. Experts in any field know it is never about control but actually about going with the natural flow. You’ve heard of “everything in its own time”, “Don’t think, feel it”, these quotes indicate towards this wisdom.
The dark side (Your own Artificial Self) loves to control the outside (of itself), the light side loves to control in inside. Inside of what? Of whom?…Of yourself, of course, silly.
Dr Strange: That doesn’t make any sense.
The Ancient One: Not everything does. Not everything has to. Your intellect has taken you far in life. But it will take you no further. Surrender, Stephen. Silence your ego and your power will rise.
Interestingly, left brain thinking helps but only so much, otherwise it leads to “analysis, paralysis” and only gives rise to a narrower ego-self that thinks far too much of itself. When The Ancient One says “Not everything has to”, she is indicating towards lessening the overly left brain thinking, lessening the Artificial Self talk inside one’s head which prevents the flow.
The Ancient One: Great. But you will likely go into shock within the first 2 minutes. (Mount Everest scene)
Dr Strange: What?
The Ancient One: Surrender, Stephen.
Dr Strange: – No, no!!! Don’t! (Portal closes, Dr Strange must make his own portal on his own in the extreme climate)
Sometimes extreme measures are needed to shake up the seemingly unshakeable. Dr Strange had far too strong an ego/Artificial Self that he was not willing to let go of.
Balancing the Left and the Right Brain
The Ancient One: Once, in this room, you begged me to let you learn. Now I’m told you question every lesson, preferring to teach yourself.
Dr Strange: Once, in this room, you told me to open my eyes. Now I’m being told to blindly accept rules that make no sense.
The Ancient One: Like the rule against conjuring a gateway in the library?
An excellent conversation between the two indicative of the balance one must keep between the left and the right brain. The logical, follow the rules, must follow the textbook and the other go with the flow, break the rules. One needs both, one needs a balance of both. But one must remember these are always done in the light of never to harm another. Breaking the rules not out of spite, or out of the Artificial Ego Self to show off or to feel better, Dr Strange did it to learn, to become better but never to harm another. He didn’t want and neither did harm the librarian, yes mild annoyance is to be expected, but not harm to cause harm. There’s a huge difference between intention and the action. Most confuse the action.
Ego/Artificial Self ALWAYS Shows up in Hidden Ways
Dr Strange: When I became a doctor, I swore an oath to do no harm. And I have just killed a man! I’m not doing that again. I became a doctor to save lives, not take them.
The Ancient One: You become a doctor to save one life above all others. Your own.
Dr Strange: Still seeing through me, are you?
The Ancient One: I see what I’ve always seen. Your overinflated ego. You want to go back to the delusion that you can control anything, even death, which no one can control. Not even the great doctor Stephen Strange.
This is typical banter when the Artificial Self is asked to move from its comfortable status quo position. Arjun had similar banter with himself and Shri Krishna as to how he can kill his own cousins, uncles, whom he called teachers and guides in the battle of Kurukshetra. It isn’t about the forms that a thing takes but the darkness that one must prevent from spreading.
It is Never Outside of Us
(Last Fighting scene with The Ancient One)
Kaecilius: I trusted you to be my teacher, and you fed me lies.
The Ancient One: I tried to protect you.
Kaecilius: From the truth?
The Ancient One: From yourself.
Kaecilius: I have a new teacher now.
The Ancient One: Dormammu deceives you. You have no idea of what he truly is. His eternal life is not paradise, but torment.
This is as true in this story as it is in real life. Our own Artificial Self always thinks paradise equals something outside, eternal life, eternal happiness. It is always outside. Dormammu represents that deception, the darkness which is actually within appears or “glitters” to be the eternal life of happiness and paradise but is quite the opposite. In darkness there is no calm, no serenity, that is what light is made of, calmness, serenity, exactly opposite of what tantalises the senses, the mind. That is why it is looked at as boring by a casual onlooker. But quite the opposite. Do read Meditation is Boring.
What is the Future?
(Towards the end of the film)
The Ancient One: Do you wonder what I see in your future?…I never saw your future. Only it’s possibilities.
Absolutely true and beautifully put. The powerful science of Astrology is an actual science of reading the energy of possibilities. When connected to the right expert, s/he can read where the energy has come from and where it can go. Sometimes there is only one way it can go as you may have already made that choice, other times it can go in various ways, as the choice has still to be made.
It’s Not About You
The Ancient One: You always excelled, but not because you crave success, but because of your fear of failure.
Dr Strange: It’s what made me a great doctor.
The Ancient One: It’s precisely what kept you from greatness. Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.
Dr Strange: Which is?
The Ancient One: It’s not about you.
Beautiful lessons of a lifetime(s). It is not about you, not at all. The arrogant Artificial Self always makes it personal, everything is done to it, isn’t it? It stands innocently by like a victim and people, circumstances come and disturb s/he or trouble it and therefore it gets annoyed, angry, hates and takes revenge even. Isn’t that always the story? The story of stories.
Cause and Effect
Mordo: The bill comes due. Always. A reckoning.
(“The bill comes due” has been used twice in the movie.)
Well, this is what is called “Karma”. A spiritual cause and effect to put it simply (source Wikipedia) which is tied to rebirth. To keep things simple just understand it is as a boomerang, “as you sow, so shall you reap”, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” (Newton’s Third Law).
Mordo uses it as a warning as a reckoning, it isn’t like that. It isn’t The Judgement Day (Arnie would say otherwise). It is actually a basic understanding of the principles of life. If you understand the game, the purpose of the game, you’ll simply align yourself better to it.
In the Yogasutras, the Masters talk about performing actions with correct intentions, their cause and effect and finally learning how to perform actions without any cause and effect after you learn to master the art. Interesting isn’t it? It really is super interesting and even more challenging to practice but certainly worth the effort. Unfortunately, Mordo doesn’t understand it and sees it as a painful thing/from the veil of pain and not from a clarity of Wisdom (Sattvic).