Thursday, November 20, 2008

Astronaut Theology: Let's Play a Game

I'm always looking for ways to be The Secret Sun more exciting and interactive. One of the ideas I came up with is "The Allegory Game." The point of this game is to look at a particular sequence in a film and see if in fact it's actually an allegory of something else, something not part of the external narrative. So let's look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film which has everything to do with what we've been looking at in the past few weeks -- as we will see in the very near future.

In this clip, a YouTuber has synced the "Dawn of Man" clip to one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs, "One of These Days."

So is this scene really about human evolution? Is it really about apes encountering alien technology way back in prehistory, which inspires them to use tools, which in turn eventually leads to the modern space program?

Or is this an allegory of a more recent time, another time when people were wasting time arguing over useless plots of land? Is this an allegory of a more recent encounter with alien technology, an encounter that may well have resulted in the overnight development of advanced electronics and the like? An event which some believe instantly revolutionized human communications and gave birth to a space program that created standing human colonies in space? Maybe a more recent encounter, also somewhere in the desert, similar to what we see here?

And would that have anything to do with the fact that most of the film- and certainly the sequence immediately after "The Dawn of Man" - is explicitly about an government coverup of an alien encounter?

That transition with the bone to the satellite does seem awfully sudden. And as we've looked at, the tech in 2001 still seems awfully contemporary. Disturbingly contemporary, even.

So all of you at home and at work, play the Allegory Game with me! What are we really looking at here? I'll leave you with this quote from Heywood Floyd from :
"Now, I'm sure you're all aware of the extremely grave potential for cultural shock and social disorientation contained in this present situation, if the facts were prematurely and suddenly made public without adequate preparation and conditioning."


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Great point. The common interpretation of the allegory isn't necessarily the only option.

    A Star Trek Voyager episode featured Ed Bagley Jr. guest starring as a "Bill Gates" like character who happened to be present when a Federation time ship from the distant future crash landed on his camp site. He stole the ship from the occupant and essentially reverse engineered the entire digital revolution.

    Star Trek presents this basic plot over and over again - aliens or humans from a future/alternate dimension coming to earth. If Star Trek was church you'd complain about the boring repetition of the sermons. I'd say adequate preparation and conditioning has been achieved.

    Cheers, Michael

  3. Good points, Michael. Don't forget First Contact with all of its Phoenix/sun worship imagery as well. And the Borg Queen-False Goddess iconography.

    Or all of the Freemasonry throughout the entire franchise, for that matter.

  4. What are the characteristics of the obelisk...

    (a) The obelisk is a physical object that is completely out of place with the surrounding environment. It has flat surfaces and right angles. The out-of-place object creates a fissure in the monkey people's sense of overall harmony.

    (b) The obelisk is an unmovable object that appears in the midst of the group's home. It can't be moved. It can't be destroyed. And it doesn't explain itself. Due to evolutionary forces, anything dramatically new in an animals field of vision is given a high degree of importance because it could easily be a threat, or else it could be a food / somehow useful for survival. So for most of the monkeys the sudden appearance of the obelisk creates a reaction of intrigue and fascination while at least one reacts with a burst of energetic violence (the violently drumming monkey). The drumming monkey rather than attacking the obelisk threat itself, sublimates the urge to kill and eat it, and transforms that drive into the creation of new harmonies (through drumming), new paradigms of thought that will potentially lift him and his tribe towards a fuller involvement in the larger universe (as the bone he tosses up suddenly transforms into a similarly shaped spaceship).

    (c) The obelisk stands upright in the middle of nowhere like a walled-off doorway. You can't walk through it. And yet it exposes by its very existence the flaw in a previous paradigm. So in that sense, it potentially serves as an effective doorway into other paradigms. It doesn't create the other paradigms itself. It acts as the spark that ignites the creative instinct. It causes disharmony to such a degree that an entirely new cultural song is inspired.

    That could be utter nonsense. Maybe the monkeys don't symbolize early man. Maybe the entire thing is a symbol for the mind. The rectangular obelisk symbolizes any dramatically new idea. The monkeys symbolize the sometimes irrational behavior of the archetypes of the unconscious and other aspects of self. The drummer monkey through violence and engagement with music and rhythm attempts to recreate the sense of harmony that existed before the anathema idea took hold. Does he succeed? Not really. Instead, he just begins a process that ends up wrapping himself entirely in machines (i.e. spaceships, computers, right-angled stuff and circular memory disks that eventually end up in land fills). Dang.

    *Probably its just a movie though.

  5. to me its less about adequate preparation and conditioning and more about power and control. The Jews, Catholics, Christians, Freemasons, & lets not forget about the Muslim/arabs, the rich surely havent, are all vying for power and control. The rest of us are left in a vacuum trying to cling on to something. For those of us that wont get to space/mars/underground/spongebob status, its more an allegory for family/friends/work on how to deal with ourselves and each other(s). I would love to be more specific but i suck at being a people person and do not work well with others.

  6. "..yet it exposes by its very existence the flaw in a previous paradigm."

    Excellent point Palisade. This could be applied to many other ideologies like when you might unexpectedly find yourself confronted by a salivating fundamentalist Baptist, when all you want to do is go home, take a shower and get buzzed.

  7. Awesome idea this game.

    "It causes disharmony to such a degree that an entirely new cultural song is inspired"

    Exactly, it's the disturbance of the momentary and apparent order that creates a local chaos and inspires* (* The act or power of exercising an elevating or stimulating influence upon the intellect or emotions)
    the mind.

    I think the monolith is a sort of door or stargate into consciousness.

    And I think that bone signifies the very first piece of technology, we tend to think of technology as cogs driving cogs and there's a truth in that, the bone will drive the monkey to kill a bull (wich flashes just shortly when he cruashes the skull) that will drive the monkeys potentially to divide themselves among those with power to kill and those who don't have it or don't dare to defy the leader.

    Now I'll go basic on it,

    The sun goes up,
    The monkeys awake,
    The monolith is sighted,
    The first monkey makes the rest aware of its presence,
    They surround it,
    They close in and inspect,
    They feel it,
    The sun is halfway, so is the moon,
    Now the surroundings come into play,
    Monkeys starting to look what is right in their face,
    Monkey seems to be thinking about the bone and how it was once alive.
    Now, it might be thinking, "I" can use death/bones to stay alive.
    Monkey goes on power trip.
    Humanity strands on power trip in space and has to deal with a new 'consciousness', the AI.

    Now the story basically repeats but with a lot more intricacy.

    I'm curious to see what clip you will have us gaming on next.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't HAL the one saying, "Oh My God it's full of stars?" Sounds like another realization or, inspiration to me.

  8. Are we not looking at a movie screen rotated 90 degrees, albeit one that was originally filmed in 70mm Cinerama format?
    Rob Ager:
    So in the films opening and during the intermission, we are not looking at an empty black screen at all. We are looking directly at the surface of the monolith! The monolith is the film screen and it is singing directly at its audience in the same way that the apes and astronauts are entranced by its heavenly voice, not realising that they are being communicated with directly!!! For almost forty years audiences and reviewers across the globe have sat staring at this black singing screen, not realising that they are staring at the monolith. The joke is on us and Kubrick, if he is watching over us, will be laughing and cheering from beyond the infinite. This widescreen two and a half hour presentation of sight and sound is in itself the stargate and we are its subjects. Kubrick is taking us on a psychedelic ride of intellectual evolution and he is demanding that we literally think outside the box! So the term “Space Odyssey” now has a new literal meaning. It refers to the spatial relationship between the screen, the audience and the audience’s surroundings.

    Joe Bisdin:
    Monolith = Movie Screen = Human Mind

    Perhaps the single deepest insight into unlocking 2001's meaning is identifying the equivalence of the monolith, the movie screen, and the human mind. In essence, the monolith is simply the movie screen rotated by 90 degrees, and the human mind is a blank screen upon which the images of our perceptions of reality are projected.

    Once this insight is made about this trinity, many pieces to the 2001 puzzle fall into place. During The Dawn of Man, the monolith is a symbol for the primates' first encounter with their own minds. Along with this discovery comes abstract thought that allows one primate to see a bone as a weapon and allows his clan to take control of the top of the social hierarchy of primates. Fast forwarding millennia into the future, weapons of violence are replaced by affecting perception as the preferred means by which small groups of the elite control the larger population. The sacrosanct mind space of our own private thoughts can be controlled politically by others if we allow them to project their images of the truth onto the private movie screens of our own minds. This is precisely what Heywood Floyd and his colleagues do with the staged alien monolith discovery.

    Hi Chris, great choice of clip for the 1st one.