4875.  Avatars, Nefilim, and Computer Games

What really is an 'avatar' ? Is this perhaps something I should spend my time and money on?

The Sanskrit (Indian) word 'avatar' is a compound from 'ava' (away, down) and 'tarati' (to cross, to come to pass). 'Avatarati' thus can be translated as 'to fall down', or, using a more graceful expression, as 'to descend'.

As a noun, it then 'someone who has fallen down', or 'a descended one'.

It is obvious from the foregoing that several quite different views on this are possible, depending on the interpretation of the character of the 'fall'.

In today's world the term 'avatar' has an exclusively positive notion, possibly because of the usage in Hindu mythology, as explained below.

The name 'avatar' is trademarked 39 times at the time of this writing, for products ranging from insecticides, cologne, video cameras, and education to computer software and Fax paper.

Ironically, the name actually makes a bit of sense for herbicides and insecticides (TM registered by E. I du Pont de Nemours and Company),  considering that the weeds and critters are 'falling down' after the poison has been applied.

In any case, the word 'avatar' has quite a history in India, and to shed some light on it, let us look closer at the origin of the word even at the risk of boring you.

'ava' (away, down) is an Ancient Vedic word and 'tarati' is a 'regular' Vedic word. 'Vedic' denotes the holy language of the Vedas and the original form of Sanskrit, which in turn is an early form of an Indo-European language that is very strongly related to today's Romanic languages such as Italian, for example, and which is also very much related to the German language and therefore ultimately to English.

There is quite a difference between Ancient Vedic and later forms of Vedic, not so much linguistically but rather semantically and philosophically but an in-depth discourse on this difference and its peculiar history would go far beyond this little article.

In a nutshell, the choice of Ancient Vedic for the prefix 'ava' instead of the later Vedic prefix 'o' can be either seen as emphasizing the 'down' or 'away' direction of the movement (as in a *heavy* fall) or it could be interpreted as being a part of a holy, important, or god-borne action (as in the 'descent' of [a] God).

The regular Vedic verb 'tarati' has its stem in the root 't*er', (to cross, to pass) and this root is preserved in today's English word 'to tear'.

This choice of verb supports the interpretation of a not-so graceful action and  would rather suggest a translation of 'to crash'.  Thus, in the extreme, 'avatar' could even be interpreted as 'outcast' or 'offshoot', depending on the context.

For example, in Early Buddhist literature many characterizations of existences in the Hell-Worlds (Niraya-Loka) are starting with the prefix 'ava' (down). Whether these poor devils are being hung head down (ava-.nsira), dipped down in hot oil (ava-gaaheti), thrown down even further (ava-sajjati), or being put off altogether (ava-harati), the prefix 'ava' is common to nearly all names for these unpleasant experiences. In this Pali-Buddhist context, ava-tar could therefore be translated as 'someone torn down'.

For a detailed low-down on these practices see Dante Alighieri's Inferno descriptions in his eternal classic, called 'The Divine Comedy'.

Now, in the Hindu religion, God Vishnu, when incarnated within a lower world, is called an 'Avatar' because he 'fell down from the Heavens onto Earth' and in this way the word probably became a synonym in the Western world for something that is "really great".

For the modern heretic the translation 'falling down from the heavens' certainly triggers the parallel of the 'Nefilim' in the Old Testament. And there are indeed astonishing parallels. One could even say that Zecharia Sitchin would have a much better and more documented case for his arguments if he were to use the Sanskrit texts and Indian art.

As an example for the latter, in Indian art the blue-blooded Gods that fell down from the Heavens are painted as having a blue skin, the original inhabitants of Earth as having a dark skin, and the Half-Gods, created through the amorous and/or scientific adventures of the Gods, as having a white skin. (This is a quite racist view of things,
of course, and I trust the reader will want to transcend the human condition as a whole to begin with).

In this line of thinking, one could as well view the revered 'Bhagavad-Gita' as a well-formulated rhetorical speech of airplane Captain Krishna to his crew which ultimately convinced the Half-Gods to kill their own family members in a cruel war that admittedly only had a minor strategic importance for the Gods themselves.

More moderated is a Buddhist view on avatars: they are just humans who once were Gods and who sank into the oceans of the worlds of lust and rage because of prior misdeeds. In other words, one should rather exert compassion for the pitiful loss of Godhood and work on one's own and other's *ascension* rather than to revere a Being that fouled up and lost its benefits.

In this cosmology, every human *is* already an avatar - someone who fell down from the higher realms of existence - because every Being was dwelling in the lofty abodes at one time or another already.

There are spiritual/psychological movements that are using the word 'Avatar' in the sense of achieving the restoration of innate God-like qualities in common man. From a linguistic view, as shown above, this is very much like calling someone a 'convict' because he did some time in prison in the past even though that someone would now be fully reinstated in society.

As can be observed, the true believer recognizes with absolute and  infallible certainty that his avatarian guru has both Godhood and humanhood  at the same time and gladly hands over all his money for this worthy cause.

At no time it seems to occur to the true believer that, if this avatarian guru would really have God-like qualities, this guru wouldn't have to impoverish his devotees to make a living.

There is hardly anything more pathetic than a God thirsting for devotion.

Equally disturbing are some attempts of attracting fallen Gods as inhabitants of new-born babies. The most famous of those was perhaps Jack Parsons' ill-fated moonchild project which got him into a lot of trouble,

In any case, in Sanskrit, the opposite of 'ava' (away, down, low) is 'ut' ('up'), and a human achieving Godhood would then be an 'Uttar'.

Of course, this doesn't sound that enticing, at least to the Western ear, and nobody would rush to put this name on a trademark application.

[Editor's note: the inhabitants of the Uttar Pradesh region in India may think otherwise. This region to the Southwest of Nepal, by the way, encompasses the former roaming grounds of a certain Gotamo Siddharto, now known as the 'Buddha'.]

But let's come to the fun side: in modern computer games an 'avatar' is a representation of a human role player in cyberspace. This is indeed an excellent namesgiving since there is an interesting analogy between the human playing God in a 'lower' realm, namely in the artificial virtual reality of cyberspace.

Of course, there are quite a few who would claim that this reality is in fact a 'higher' realm and there are indeed many interesting philosophical aspects of computer gaming in general (cp., for example, the chapter "453. The Profound Wisdom of a Computer-Game-Junkie" in this 'Little Purple Notebook..'.)

There is also a sizable number of players who forget and neglect their 'real' lives as humans, becoming addicted to role-playing in cyberspace and sooner or later are forced to join their local chapter of AA (Avatar Anonymous) or whatever they call it these days.

But who could honestly throw the first stone on any of these poor creatures?  Are we not all avatars, fallen Gods who struggle to ascend to their original power?

Copyleft © 1999, 2000 by Maximilian J. Sandor