Proof, Initiation, and the movie, “Life of Pi”
By Cathy Eck
The Initiation Story
The movie, “Life of Pi,” is a perfectly crafted initiation story. As a young child, Pi grows up in a zoo. One day, he pays a visit to the Bengal tiger’s cage. He reaches into the cage and holds out a piece of raw meat. The tiger approaches slowly, and Pi remains still. Pi said that he saw the tiger’s soul. But his family catches him with the tiger and pulls him away before the tiger reaches him. The father proves to Pi that he was in danger by tying an animal just outside of the tiger’s cage and forcing Pi to watch as the tiger kills the animal and eats it. He implies that this would have been Pi if they had not rescued him.
We’ve all had circumstances like this. I’ve been that child, and sadly, I’ve been the parent who plastered my fear all over my children. We’re trained that fear is normal and the world is unsafe. We need beliefs to survive. But do we?
Pi was clearly centered in his True Self as he put his hand in the tiger cage, and he was not in danger. He connected with the tiger, which caused him to feel the tiger’s soul; he had an unconditional love connection. I often witnessed this perfect security in my own children, and I had to bite my tongue and let go of my fear so they could live their life and trust that they are safe in the world.
Initiation Reverses Religious Beliefs
Religion’s motive has been to teach us that love is not enough. In the story of Jesus, there is the presumption that loving Jesus could be killed by unloving people. That just isn’t the truth. The initiates knew that, and Jesus was certainly an initiate of his time. But if you know the initiation protocol, you recognize that Jesus was facing his biggest fears in the crucifixion. The fear of a wicked government and false religious system were plastered into his mind just after birth when he was whisked away to Egypt for safety. Just like us, when our old childhood fears arise, we lose our power. But Jesus didn’t die, which is why he resurrected, passing the final initiation test, which often took place in a cave for three days.
It is said that initiates had tigers and lions for pets. The story of Daniel and the Lion’s den in the Bible is such a story. Initiates were often portrayed as special, magic, or God-like in the Bible. They were not supernatural; they were initiates. Initiates were trained to let go of fear; so lions did not harm them. It wasn’t a mystical thing, but it seems mystical if we can’t let go of our own fear.
Our fear acts like a magnet and attracts problems. But we don’t see that we are the cause of our own problems. We don’t realize that we can let go of our fear by letting go of the beliefs that generate it. We pull what we fear into our lives. But our mind often lies to us and tells us that our fear is keeping us safe. Initiated taught that animals only became dangerous when man lost his unconditional love and replaced it with fear.
Pi grew up and his false self grew along with his body. He slowly borrowed the fears and beliefs of his family, just as we all do. He created his own unique false self, which he must defeat if he wants freedom. He tries out every religion looking to find God. And he gets more and more advice from his father and mother. His false self just keeps growing and growing.
We All Have a Pi Initiation Story
We all have a story like Pi. We have a pivotal moment when we began to cover our True Self, which is always safe, with beliefs that the world is unsafe and chaotic. After that moment, our mind sees what we believe; and we take that as proof that our beliefs are true. Our mind holds on even tighter to our beliefs thinking that it is our beliefs that will keep us safe. But it is wrong.
Pi’s desire to find God and his wound of fear implanted that day with the tiger formed the false self that he must defeat to find himself and return to the innocent, free youthful Pi. The rest of the story is about him battling the tiger, the sea, and all kinds of other crap (he is tested and tested) until he finally lets go of his false self. You’ll have to see it yourself for the rest of the story.
The Hero’s Journey Versus Initiation
Initiation is the pattern of life, set into place through stories told in ancient initiation schools. Joseph Campbell called this the hero’s journey. In story, there is always a quest or a battle with evil or a major challenge. The hero wins the challenge, and achieves mastery. They have reclaimed their power. Stories need drama to be interesting. We probably wouldn’t go to the theater and watch the sun shine for two hours.
But initiation was not about outer drama. The successful initiate was not a hero — they were free. Drama occurs when we battle our shadow in the outer world. We win or lose the battle, but we don’t achieve true freedom in outer battles. We are always fighting our own projection. When change occurs only on the outside through force and will, the shadow remains and will grow in power again in time.
Initiation was considered a shortcut, whereby human beings could reach the nirvana of the end times without waiting for the clock of evolution to turn. It was the superhighway of life.
Along with the initiates in the ancient world, there were people called occultists. Occultists generated power through ritual, dance, prayers or invocations, and symbolism. They relied on the power of group energy. They were highly superstitious. The occultists were much more like modern religions or the New Age movement as they used ritual and group membership to create power. These people were considered evil by the initiates because they used their power to change outer conditions and overpower others instead of changing their own mind first. They had a win-lose attitude.
We see the occult in religion when people pray for a desire or to win over another. But were not aware that this was evil to an initiate like Jesus. In initiation, the prayer would be to let go of the belief that stands in the way of their perfection. They never prayed for outer results.
The occultists saw the initiates as evil because they couldn’t beat them. The occultists appeared powerful until an initiate proved them fraudulent. Jesus, as an initiate, warned of the false prophets or the occultists. Today the world is full of them. The initiates were the powerful ones because they came from truth and a win-win spirit. The worked on the inside, and used the outer as feedback.
Pi behaved like an initiate. He often had to back off to safety where he changed his mind, searched for answers, faced his inner fear, and battled his inner demons. Then he took outer action to see if he had really changed.
Initiation stories were often focused around the tests that the initiate had to defeat — again the stories were told as outer experiences. But initiation was not really about the test because if the initiate had properly let go of his restrictive beliefs, the test was simply proof of his new level of power.
The best initiate would experience a test like we would experience a walk in the park. If normal life is a continuous adding of beliefs, which we then see in our life experience; then initiation is the opposite. As we remove beliefs, our life looks less challenging. The tests become very easy to pass.
Initiation was about losing the false mind so that you don’t have life threatening challenges. A True Self has no enemies, no battles to fight. Placed in a situation which would be horrific for us, they remained calm and peaceful.
Imagine the difference between running and playing with a tiger versus fearing for your life. People are sadly so used to drama and the occult fixing of effects that they often think life is dull without it. But when you have no fear, you become creative and powerful. Your God moves from outside to inside. Your True Self takes over, and you are always safe. This was the promise of initiation if we stayed with it to the end. But as you see with Jesus and Pi, the tests often get harder requiring a more completely transformed mind.
The Making of the False Self
Just like Pi, our false self is composed of the voices of the authority figures in our life who made a lasting impression on us. It becomes a composite voice in our mind. Ancient cultures, prior to religion, labeled this voice the Gods. They understood that it was a composite voice and was made up of their ancestor’s beliefs and voices. Later they merged the voices into one punishing God.
The creator God, however, was the still small voice in our mind. The creator God was a feeling, not a voice. The Creator God was described with words like beauty, unconditional love, joy, peace, and of course, faith. To have faith in the Creator was to have faith that this part of you had all the answers and no opposition, the True Self.
Over time, the collective false self voice grew louder and louder. As people evolved, we acquired more authorities in our lives. Everything Pi battled was his own mental projection. The initiates said something that was very appealing to me. They said, that you can battle your false self in the world, or you can let the false self go and live your life from the truth with no opposite. A key point of initiation was to let the false self go in your mind before you had to battle it in the physical world.
While initiation sounds wonderful, it could be boring to watch if it weren’t for the tests. We’ve become a world of watchers. We want to see a good story, and that keeps us hooked in the illusion where people waste their lives fighting imaginary enemies and demons. We applaud the hero and love a good battle. The person who sits quietly and lets go doesn’t make the news. This can be a huge obstacle if we want fame, power, or money over freedom, peace, and joy.
Having lived the inner life for more than two decades, I tend to look dull on the outside except for those moments where I’m tested. Inner work goes largely unnoticed until you do something extraordinary. But there is nothing dull on the inside when you choose this path. The battle is intense and exhausting at times just like any outer battle.
I know Pi — not because I’ve battled the sea and tigers in my life but because I didn’t battle them in life. I battled them in my mind. And when we live life in this way, we defeat another layer of our mind and then we go do the laundry. In the end, it all looks like nothing more than a good story that only really existed in our own minds. We learn that life is but a dream.