Monday, March 23, 2009

Indiana Jones and The Lost Tracing Boards of Gnosis

At this point, I think I could do an entire blog on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I've written about the film before (here and here) but there are so many layers of symbol and double-meaning, I don't feel like I've even scratched the surface. This post has been several weeks in the making - months really, it was supposed to be part of the WFC series.

It all started a while back when doing the Stairway to Sirius posts, and really got socked in the jaw by the whole angels descending a staircase imagery. I also found a variation on the Third Degree board that just struck me in a funny way. The standard board depicts a closed coffin...

...but this version depicted the coffin as open, and shows us the blazing five-pointed star of Sirius above it. But for some strange reason the image reminded me of this notorious scene from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull...

...where Indiana Jones escapes nuclear annihilation by hiding in a refrigerator that then is shot like a cannonball across the desert. Look at the rays emanating from Sirius from the tracing board- very similar to the blast of light from the mushroom cloud. And those evergreen branches you see on both sides of the fridge resemble the branches you see in Third Degree tracing boards (and at Masonic funerals). Looking at this image, it's hard not to see a man rising from his coffin, with some bizarre transmutation of base matter-type theme thrown in.

But what about the other tracing boards? We're starting at the Third Degree, is this yet another example of "reversal of time?" I looked at the Second Degree board. There are different variations on the board but you usually see a waterfall and a staircase.

Which instantly reminded me of the three waterfalls in Crystal Skull, which we see sometime after the atomic refrigerator scene. This too was one of the sequences in the film that put some people off for being too far-fetched.

So there's the waterfall, but what about the staircase? Or the pillars?

Here's another version of the staircase and waterfall. Note also that some Second Degree boards frame the staircase between Boaz and Jachin, the famous pillars of Solomon's Temple.

After Indy and his crew escape the waterfalls, they ascend a staircase towards an obelisk, which unlocks the door to the tomb of the gods (right after entering a chamber where the film's theology is explicitly spelled out, of course). Note the top of the stairway is framed by two columns, similar to the first Second Degree board we looked at. Interesting.

When the adventurers finally enter the tomb of the gods, we see yet more Masonic parallels. Cate Blanchett's character refers to the 13-piece variation on the Trinity, in that they are 13 figures who combine into one when revived. Very strange motif there (and we all know the importance of 13 in the Templar/Masonic tradition). Note also that the alien gods sit atop ziggurats. Stairs seem to be a very important motif in this film.

Cate also refers to them as a "hive mind," which recalls the Masonic beehive icon. These quotes from the 1724 tract, The Craft and Its Symbols, explain that particular symbol:

What Modern Masons call a Lodge was for the above Reasons by Antiquity call'd a HIVE of Free-Masons, and for the same Reasons when a Dissention happens in a Lodge the going off and forming another Lodge is to this Day call'd SWARMING.

The bee definitely is industrious. He works hard and tirelessly, not for himself, but for the swarm. He has a strength and knowledge of materials that cannot be duplicated. He works in complete cooperation, and without dissention, with his fellow bees.

Hmm, so there were two pretty interesting parallels to the tracing boards, some 13 action and the hive. Well, there are a lot of things going on in this movie- could this just be a coincidence? The way "Ox" (read: Serapis) carried around the skull caught my attention, as did the way the guardians of the tomb of the gods venerated it. Right there I'm thinking Templars and Baphomet. But then it got even better...

John the Baptist is a central figure in Freemasonry
(the first Grand Lodge was established on the Feast of St John the Baptist in 1717), as well as other esoteric traditions. No less a luminary than Pope Pius IX called John "the Father of the Gnostics" and identified John as the messiah of the Templar and Masonic "heresies." Note that Masonic iconography clever conflates the two Johns- the Baptist and the Evangelist- as one.

In the Bible, the villainess Salome had the Baptist killed against the wishes of King Herod. And since we are looking for reversal-of-time imagery here, it's fascinating to note that the villainess in Crystal Skull returns the decapitated head of the 13th alien, symbolically reversing an historical trauma.

And even still, this reverse-Salome dies a horrible death for her trouble. Pretty potent stuff here, almost like the payback of a long-held grudge. Interesting how the whole Cold War motif and the crazy action sequences distract people's attention from this blatant symbolism.

So we all know what happens after that, the aliens reconstitute and their ship takes off for the dimensional rift. Now, I suppose Freemasons will see Hope and Faith and Virtue descending to this mortal realm from the spiritual planes, offering enlightenment and awakening and fine feelings and all of that jolly rot, but I still see aliens descending from the solar system of Sirius. I always like to use this version of the board, since it looks like an old 50s sci-fi pulp cover of aliens deplaning off a glowing spaceship.

Once the aliens get ready to split, Indy and his family then ascend a staircase away from them, which really drives home that reversal motif. Note also that water is closely identified with Sirius in the UFO lore.

Veneration of the Alien Osiris, crucified on the Solar Cross

The reversal motif seems to show up a lot in symbolic narratives, but in reversing the Masonic icon-cycle, the message seems to be that the esoteric systems themselves are just a faint echo of the original revelation, which Crystal Skull makes crystal clear was alien contact.

Pretty potent stuff for the multiplex, brought to you by the two most powerful creators in Hollywood. And presented in such an outlandish way as to not be taken seriously by the masses.

Hmm, kind of like the old stories about the Men-in-Black in that regard...

NOTE- I decided to finish this post (I have dozens of posts in one stage of completion at any given point in time) after watching the History Channel's Von Daniken smoochfest, Ancient Aliens. It struck me that as we learn more of all of the megalithic sites - the enormous size of the stones, the incredible construction methods, the celestial knowledge encoded in them- that perhaps these structures were created precisely that future generations would realize that they were indeed built with the aid of an extremely advanced technical culture. How interesting when we then make that connection between these structures and the basic iconography of Masonry, free or otherwise, in this film and so many others.