I wanted to come back to explore Sisko’s meeting with Kai Opaka because Bajoran spirituality is such a significant theme of the whole DS9 series, and likewise figures highly in my life.
“Have you ever explored your pagh, Commander?” – Kai Opaka
I was raised with a certain set of beliefs and ways of thinking, so certain and sure that our way of seeing the world was the only true one. Honestly I don’t know what I believe now, not with any absolute certainty anyway – whether any of it is true, or even that objective truth can be known.
I prefer the term ‘spirituality’ to religion – being on a journey of discovery rather than arriving at the point of full knowledge and certainty. Having moved from a fairly fundamentalist Christian background, into Reform Judaism and back to Anglican Christianity through Messianic Judaism, I now view the whole concept of religion in a love-hate relationship, aware of the problems in organised religion, but also conscious of how good and useful and helpful spirituality can be, especially viewed as metaphor to help us understand and explore real life.
“A Bajoran draws courage from his spiritual life. Our life-force, our pagh, is replenished by the Prophets.” – Kai Opaka
Sisko’s relationship to religion is far more simple in a way – he is not and never has been a ‘believer’, and does not feel the need for any kind of ‘spirituality’ to grow as a person or any of that nonsense!
But somehow, for me, living with an agnostic/ atheist/ sceptic has been my biggest catalyst for change. He has forced me to question my assumptions, modify my speech and behaviour (have I mentioned being a red-headed Celt? A raging ball of untamed fury?), in short, to become a better person. It is as though the Prophets have used him as their tool for shaping me.
“Ironic. One who does not wish to be among us is to be the Emissary.” – Kai Opaka
Sisko and Opaka argue back and forth about uniting Bajor, Sisko insisting that Opaka must do her part to unite the people, Sisko only seeing the one dimension, the practical side of avoiding civil war. Opaka on the other hand, sees things differently, looking at the root causes of hostility, and seeing spirituality as the answer.
“You are correct that Bajor is in grave jeopardy, but it is the threat to our spiritual life that far outweighs any other.” – Kai Opaka
But then she says something cryptic and insightful:
“I cannot give you what you deny yourself. Look for solutions from within, Commander.” – Kai Opaka
This is repeated during Sisko’s Wormhole experience, by one of the Prophets in the form of Opaka, but it is never explained what is meant by it, unless it is to do with Sisko’s grieving process – he can’t really move onto anything else until he has resolved it.
“I can’t unite my people till I know the Prophets have been warned.” – Kai Opaka
This reminds me of the film Avatar, where Jake tries to communicate to Eywa the nature of the threat Pandora is facing and begs her to help them, to take sides against the invaders. Neytiri tells him that she doesn’t take sides, only protects the balance of life. It is the difference between a view of the Prophets being a ‘blind watchmaker’, who merely keeps the cogs in motion, oblivious to the creatures and their joys and pains, and the view of the Prophets as concerned, caring and inherently involved in our affairs.
And then Opaka makes another cryptic pronouncement that resonates through the whole series.
“You will find the Temple. Not for Bajor, not for the Federation, but for your own pagh. It is, quite simply, Commander, the journey you have always been destined to take.” – Kai Opaka
I can’t speak for my Sisko. I would love to be able to share my journey with him. The idea that we are on separate journeys heading in different directions (and don’t get me wrong, I am NOT talking about heaven and hell here! Rather, I am talking about being able to understand each other. A marriage is primarily a meeting of minds and hearts. We can be as different as anything but still be ‘soul-mates’. Is that possible when a couple have a completely different worldview?
The Tears of the Prophet
“Nine Orbs, like this one, have appeared in the skies over the past ten thousand years. The Cardassians took the others. You must find the Celestial Temple before they do…Tradition says the orbs were sent by the Prophets to teach us. What we have learned has shaped our theology. The Cardassians will do anything to decipher their powers. If they discover the Celestial Temple, they could destroy it.” – Kai Opaka
Memory Beta, the non-canon database which includes references from Star Trek novels, lists the orbs:
Orb of Contemplation
Orb of Destiny
Orb of Memory
Orb of Prophecy and Change
Orb of Souls
Orb of Time
Orb of Truth
Orb of Unity
Orb of Wisdom
And then the tenth orb: Orb of the Emissary
STO also mentions a new Orb known as the Orb of Possibilities.
And then there’s another, alternate list:
Orb of Contemplation
Orb of the Emissary
Orb of Peace
Orb of Prophecy
Orb of Realms
Orb of Thought
Orb of Mystery
Orb of Time
Orb of Wisdom
I love the idea of Orbs from the Celestial Temple, and I love the idea of the Wormhole (or the Ocean in my case) as the Celestial Temple, or for me a spiritual entity. There are few people, atheists included, who could fail to be moved by the awesomeness of the Ocean. It is inherently ‘spiritual’ as something larger and more powerful and outside of ourselves.
But the idea of something concrete and tactile – not necessarily as evidence of the Prophets but rather as a way of connecting us in some real way to the Prophets – is so appealing. It is why, I suppose, that religions use physical objects, such as crosses, prayer shawls, rosary beads, and historical relics, why Chakotay uses his Medicine Bundle to enter into the zone. We’re not good at faith only as a metaphysical exercise, we need something to touch, feel and see.
“The Orbs represent a tangible, tactile, physical proof that there is something beyond Bajor with a power greater than ours, a power to shape reality, to destroy, and to create.” – Vedek Solis Tendren, DS9 novel, Cathedral
I might come back to these at some later point as there’s lots of potential for exploration. And needless to say, spirituality will undoubtedly be a recurring theme for me as this blog evolves.