Extras, Walk-Ons, and Bit Players in the Cosmo-Drama from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob
Theo-drama cannot be understood in the absence of mission. You might say that mission is to action -- or to the horizontal -- what intellection is to thought or to the vertical. Mission is a further extension of meaning. In any drama, the action is dictated by a meaning-fueled mission of some kind. For example, the other evening I watched Bergman's The Seventh Seal. It is about a disillusioned knight who has returned from the Crusades to his plague-devastated homeland, and is in doubt about the existence of God. He then encounters the figure of Death, who informs him that his days are over. However, he strikes a deal with Death, challenging him to a game of chess. So long as he can keep the game going, Death will give him more time -- the time he needs to try to find God.Thus, the film would mean nothing if the knight's mission weren't our mission...
In Vedanta, there is the concept of the vibhuti, which is something between a man and an avatar, the latter being an incarnation of God. The vibhuti is here with a divine mission, but it needn't be a strictly religious one. It can be political, aesthetic, scientific, anything that advances the Cause.
Often we may detect a vibhuti by their own strong sense of divine mission, combined with an ability to surpass themselves in mysterious ways; when they align themselves with their mission, they partake of powers that are not their own. Thus, they may appear powerful, but in reality must humbly submit to their mission. Their courage is in their submission. One thinks of Abraham Lincoln, or Winston Churchill, or Saint Paul, or the founding fathers, by no means "perfect men," but protagonists of "perfect missions," so to speak. The sense of "ultimate mission" allowed each of these men to risk their lives in their diverse actions.
Here is how Aurobindo described the vibhuti in a letter to a disciple: "A Vibhuti is supposed to embody some power of the Divine and is enabled by it to act with great force in the world, but that is all that is necessary to make him a Vibhuti: the power may be very great, but the consciousness is not that of an inborn or indwelling Divinity.... "
He adds that "the Vibhuti need not even know that he is a power of the Divine. Some Vibhutis, like Julius Caesar for instance, have been atheists. Buddha himself did not believe in a personal God, only in some impersonal and indescribable Permanent."
I'm not necessarily suggesting that Aurobindo is correct, I'm just "throwing it out there." Of course, for the Christian, there has been only one avatar, but that needn't imply that there hasn't been an abundance of lesser vibhutis. Indeed, I would suggest that the theo-drama is incomprehensible in the absence of the vibhuti principle, i.e., those vital supporting roles such as Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, et al. These were hardly bit players in the theo-drama.