Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Magic in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Bajoran Prophets of Yesod...

Inside the Bajoran Wormhole: abode of the Prophets

It is an interesting endeavour to rewatch my all time favorite Star Trek series Deep Space Nine with my spiritual training in the back of my mind. Science fiction, like all good storytelling, does rely on the imagination, which is also one of the cornerstones of magical practice. But in Star Trek, magical concepts and ideas are often dealt with in new and surprising ways. And as Deep Space Nine may be the most spiritual of all Star Trek series, interesting correlations are bound to be found.

Take for instance the pilot episode “Emissary”. One of the key features of that episode is an encounter of Commander Benjamin Sisko with “wormhole aliens”, who the Bajoran people know as their “Prophets”. These creatures are presented as “non-corporeal” and do not live in our own “space-time continuum”, but in another higher form of being. They possess no fixed shape but communicate with Sisko while borrowing faces from people from his present and past, and continuously shifting countenances as well as the surroundings. All this happens in Sisko's mind, because we, the audience, see what's really going on: he is stuck in what looks like a white limbo, a “sea of milk”. And on an even lower level we know that his “runabout” is somehow stuck inside the Bajoran wormhole.

Sisko's encounter with the Prophets

What are these “Prophets” in our own magical terms? The Bajorans consider them as gods, but do we agree with them? The way these aliens are portrayed offers a key: they show themselves in a wide variety of guises yet their true form is somehow not perceivable. This “shapeshifting” reminded me of the next higher plane relative to our own, which is known in Kabbala as the Sphere of Yesod. This is a Hebrew word meaning Foundation, but more importantly for this discourse, Yesod is also -and more commonly known as the World of Dreams.

Tree of Life diagram: Yesod is indicated by the purple sphere,
our material world is the green sphere at the bottom

It is a “world”, where images abound and these images are often illusionary and fluid as the waters or the sea. As fluid as the faces of the Prophets Sisko is encountering! Mark also that these aliens in Bajoran religion are called “Prophets” and not “Gods”. A “prophet” is someone who speaks on behalf of (a) God and not a god him- or herself. So, one starts to wonder who are the real gods of the Bajorans and whether these can be found higher up in the Tree of Life.

A Prophet wearing the face of Sisko's deceased wife, Jennifer

The concept of shapeshifting as shown by these Prophets is often considered a trademark of a “higher being” in Star Trek. Later in Deep Space Nine, a race of shapeshifting Founders also proclaim themselves as Gods, also tapping into the power of the realm of Yesod. The same can be said about Q, the “omnipotent” nemesis of Captain Picard who resides in a realm called the Continuum which is equally fluid in its appearances. And many more examples may be given from all the various Star Trek shows. It seems that the makers of Star Trek did not want to deviate too much from the familiar states of being when portraying the nature of “advanced” beings. The World of Dreams, called “Yesod” in Kabbalah is quite close to our own experience (we all know dreams!), so that's where we see most of these entities operate. It will be interesting to test these ideas in future episodes dealing with the Prophets and assorted beings!

I also spoke about the power of Imagination, and in Season One of Deep Space Nine there are at least two episodes that make an interesting use of this: The Storyteller and If Wishes Were Horses. More about that in a next blog!

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