Gray Matters Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

Although there is very little explicit reference to religion in Gray Matters, the system that has been set up for the advancement of cerebromorphs can be understood in religious terms. The primary religious model for the depository system is Hinduism. The levels of the depository resemble the Hindu caste system. There is tremendous prejudice against those on the bottom level and an expectation that few of them will ever make it to the top. As in Hindu belief, there is a prescribed dharma, or rule of conduct, for each caste for each period and circumstance in life. In Hindu religion, these codes are described in the Code of Manu (dating from the first century c.e.) and in the Bhagavad-Gita. In the first book of this holy text for the Hindus, the warrior Arjuna learns from the god Krishna that there is action in inaction and inaction in action. In other words, there are actions that have no consequence because they do not advance the soul toward the liberation of the body. These actions are mere illusion. There are also periods of inactivity, such as meditation, that really are action because they advance the soul.

The same principle applies in Gray Matters, but the prescribed code is bureaucratic and technocratic in nature. Cerebromorphs spend their time reviewing computer files of their past memories and of the stored wisdom of the human community. They spend a prescribed amount of time in meditation each day. All this activity is closely monitored by the auditors, who spend much of their time writing reports, memos, and regulations. In Hindu religion, the ultimate goal of the enlightened soul is to be free from the body and become one with the Brahma, the over-soul that is the origin of all human souls. In an ironic twist, the cerebromorphs are already free from their bodies and are part of the “one soul” made up of the collective consciousness of the depository. The goal of the enlightened soul is to be restored to an individual body and to become free of the past self, the individual that is destroyed by the cerebrectomy. The enlightened soul is reborn in a new body that may be of a different race or gender from the old.