‘Dark Phoenix’ is the tale of Jean Grey’s existential crisis. As she asks, ‘Who are we? Are we simply what others want us to be? Are we destined to a fate beyond our control? Or can we evolve, become something more?‘ The simple reply is we are whoever we wish to become within the scope of possibilities. Others might try to guide or direct us, but it is we who decide, in this sense self-destined. There is a peak of spiritual evolution though — as Buddhas.
Yet to discover that, Jean struggles with being possessed by a cosmic force of destruction, named the Phoenix because it kind of destroyed her, before reviving her to be its host. The story is about the tug-of-war between Jean’s better and bitter ‘halves’, who accordingly decides to be constructive as an honourable X-[wo]man, or destructive by giving in to the Phoenix. Throughout her inner fights, the audience is left to wonder if she will finally succumb to her better or bitter version. Who will Jean finally be?
The answer is as above — Jean is whoever she sets her mind to be. Its toggling nature reflects ours, with Mara-nature on one end of the spectrum and Buddha-nature on the other. The path of spiritual cultivation is to increase our alignment to Buddha-nature — to make it permanent; no longer fickle. Jean’s case simply dramatised sliding to and fro along this line. When she is ‘all desire, all rage, all pain’, it is when she is more Mara-ish. When she is calmer and clearer in mind, she is more Buddha-ish.
As Professor X puts it, ‘The mind of a psychic is a fragile thing. It takes only the slightest tap to take it in the wrong direction.’ We might not be psychics but our minds are also fragile, easily suggestible by the Three Poisons of greed, hatred and delusion if not mindful. Out of good will, the professor had attempted to psychically suppress Jean’s traumatic experiences when young, for her to healthily grow up, but when discovered as a grown-up, it was deemed to be lying, that maddened her with hatred. Ill-equipped with compassion and wisdom, thank goodness we cannot recall our past lives!
Whether Jean would be totally consumed by the Phoenix depended on what her true nature was. The good news is that the truly lasting potential of all beings is Buddha-nature. Even Mara-nature is fleeting and unsubstantial. Though spiritual effort is still needed to awaken it fully, Buddha-nature will always win in the long run. Even if Jean lost some control once in a while, her Buddha-nature remained indestructible — ‘more invincible’ that the Phoenix itself. The path of spiritual cultivation begins by having faith in our Buddha-nature, which the Buddha discovered and declared as ever-present in all sentient beings. The rest of the path is to realise its full potential.