UPDATE: For a more comprehensive version of this theory that brings up a few more points, as well as addressing some of the problems with this particular post, go here: The "Eywa" Theory - Tree of Souls - An Avatar Community Forum But now, the original post:
Please excuse the post length, but....
After viewing the film a second time, I've come to a feasible theory about how the "Eywa" entity is NOT A DEITY... at least, not a real god that exists. Sure, it may be as real a deity as any god is to anyone, whether it be Jehovah, Allah, Shiva, Zoroaster, etc. But just to clarify, we're talking about whether or not Eywa is an actual, spiritual goddess that really exists as a god. We already know the Na'vi worship Eywa, so by default "Eywa" is a deity.
To many, "Eywa" is portrayed as a goddess... basically Mother Nature of Pandora, if you will. This is the primary reason for the low rating among many Christian communities across the web, as well as most of the Christian critics.
However, I've developed a theory that might put to ease many Christians' abhorrence of the use of this "goddess worship." Although this is completely unrelated to James Cameron and what he might have or might have not intended for what "Eywa" meant as an entity, this has never really been discussed (to my knowledge) as far as the god-factor plays out.
I contend that the "Eywa" entity, in the reality of that world, is not a "goddess" but rather an incredibly evolutionarily advanced plant system that possesses a physical mind and psyche like we do. We must take into account the world of "Avatar" to be the truth, which states that evolution is true, though there are those who'd disagree with it. This is a necessary compromise. Every film contains a "truth" to it, in that "in the world of this movie..." so-and-so is true by default. Like, "In the world of 'Lord of the Rings', the god of Middle Earth exists and is called 'Eru'." Or, "In the world of 'Star Wars', there exists a binding force that Jedis use as their source of power."
Now that the "in the world of" principle has been established, we can clearly understand that certain properties of the "Avatar" world are automatically "fact" when you watch it for what it is. However, not every ideal is totally decreed by the filmmaker. This includes "Eywa." Certain elements and events in the film can be cited to disprove my theory. These include:
1) Dr. Grace Augustine claims that she "sees her", referring to "Eywa", when at the brink of death.
2) Jake Sully prays to "Eywa" by linking his queue to vines of the "Tree of Souls", which Neytiri later confirms his prayers were answered ("Eywa has heard you!").
3) Voices can be heard when linking up with the vines of the trees of voices.
4) Several woodsprites (seeds of the Tree of Souls) "choose" to land on Jake Sully, which Neytiri sees as an omen. Later, the foretelling of his significance is proven true.
5) Jake Sully is actually able to have his consciousness permanently embedded into his avatar body by way of "Eywa".
These are all I can think of at the moment. If there are any other examples, please show me so I can ponder more about this and possibly come up with answers (this is a relatively young theory in my head, so there might be some flaws).
1) Grace was in a state of limited mobility and weakness, and possible hallucination from the nature of the wound and how long it had settled in her. To top it off, the vines of the Tree of Souls planted themselves on (possibly in) her spinal cord to make the transfer of her mind to her avatar body. I, as a mere viewer, have no idea what that must feel like, but I'm assuming she had a moment of incredible ecstasy as the vine attatched itself to her.
The moment she says, "I see her" she was probably experiencing that wonderful feeling, because the camera shows us a view of what she's seeing, and it isn't anything but a bright, white light. That light, combined with her immense sensation from the embedded vines would probably create the illusion of some "goddess-like" entity taking her, though she never actually saw anything. The fact that she calls it a "her" is from hearing the Na'vi calling it by that pronoun, and because she's studied what they believe, she's under the impression of the deity label slapped on "Eywa" because of her current mental near-death state.
2) The fact that "Eywa" heard him might mean exactly that, but not necessarily because Eywa is an actual deity. If Eywa is rather just an extremely biologically advanced plant that can think like humans (possibly read minds when hooked to), then the "hearing of prayers" could just be an reaction of what information it has received. Since everything on Pandora is connected by way of an internal linkage system, including its inhabiting animal life, then this system can be notified and possibly commanded to preserve itself from death. In an article by Erkki Haukioja entitled "Plant defenses and population flucuations of forest defoliators: mechanism-based scenarios" talking about birch tree defense,
Sounds a bit technical, but in so many words, birch trees possess a defense system where once one of the trees is attacked (preyed upon) by an insect, a chemical compound is released from the birch that the other birches pick up. This "warning scent" causes the other trees to "toughen up" their defenses with a toxin that'll ward off other insects. Two words: self-preservation. This is exactly what the Tree of Souls might've done. The difference is that this tree had connections to all other forms of life on Pandora, so a "warning" might've been sent to all about how the humans were about to destroy them. That's how the ikrans and angtsėk knew when and what to attack. Again two words: self-preservation."Plant defenses against herbivorous insects can be traced to three broad classes of plant compounds, and to the mechanisms which produce variations in their concentrations (Haukioja 2005)... The most recent explanation, still unfamiliar to many field ecologists, is that plants share few broad-scale but versatile defense cascades which orchestrate defenses, including the toxicity of secondary compounds, against numerous biotic and abiotic challenges."
3) The voices and communication between the Na'vi and their ancestors can only occur when a link-up between the Na'vi queues and the Tree of Souls (and other trees like it) is made. These vines were said to contain "memories" of the ancestors, not the ancestors themselves. The fact that they could "communicate" with them could be that the naturally occurring response given by the loved one could be what they hear when speaking with them, like the technology depicted in "Superman" and the sequels, where Jor-El has pre-programmed responses to any question, dialogue, or reaction given by his son.
The voices heard from the vines could be like sound bite recordings on any personal computer, only these voices could just be downloaded data from the brains of those who've passed on.
4) Like the Tree of Souls, these seeds could also possess a smaller, yet still advanced mindset. They could've landed on Jake because they knew he was a human in an avatar body, probably by the difference in DNA, physical features, and mind. Of course this begs the question: why didn't they land on the other avatars?
Well, my theory is they couldn't because they weren't in wide enough space for them to accumulate like they did with Jake, who was on high ground with wide open space all around him. Neytiri isn't an avatar, which is why she might've not had them land on her, because she is native-born. If they were in wide enough space, they might've not been seen by other Na'vi natives; Jake might've been the first avatar that had this happen to him with another native present. In other words, the "significance" of the woodsprites landing on Jake might've been not-so-important in the reality of the Pandora world, and they only landed on him because he was in just the right place at the right time for it to happen.
5) If the Tree of Souls is indeed a biologically advanced form of plant life with a physical mind like us, this feat could easily be explained by just that fact. The tree was "told" by the Na'vi shaman (through a queue link-up) to transfer Jake's consciousness. The tree performed the duty and all was well.
If "Eywa" is not a deity in the actuality of the "Avatar" world, and rather just a creation, then any other god could fit perfectly into this scenario. The fact that neither the Bible, Koran, Vedas, nor any other acclaimed holy book/religious writing denies that there might be some other form of life in the universe further reinforces that the god of any religion could've created Pandora and its Tree of Souls. The only reason why the Na'vi worship this "Eywa" is because this is all they've known their whole lives, and we don't know the origin of Pandora anyway, so the worship of this entity might just be a distortion of what was originally called "the work of the Lord."
I know this is really reaching, and there's no proof that this theory is what James Cameron intended, but as far as we know there's no proof that this isn't true to a certain extent, and it could ease the minds of those who're in conflict with the worldview as they might've seen it.
I also understand this could've been summed in far fewer words, but I just wanted to cover every point the movie made about the subject. Any thoughts about this "Eywa" and whether or not it's really a deity (by deity, meaning an actual, spiritual god-entity that exists)?