Monday, November 09, 2009

AstroGnostic: You're a Nine

SPOILER ALERT- this post contains spoilers

I'm one of those weirdos who likes to listen to director's commentaries on DVDs. I've listened to all of the X-Files commentaries, which usually seem to be focused on the technical aspects of production and not so much the stories, which can be a bit frustrating.

Chris Carter's commentaries are mainly devoted to thanking and citing all of the people who worked on the show, which is probably great for them, but not so interesting for X-egetes.

But the commentary track for 'Improbable' is something else entirely. On it, Carter goes into great detail about understanding the nature of God through the use of numerology, Synchronicity, probability, pattern recognition, theoretical physics and the like.

He speaks on those topics with fluidity and ease, showing that he's spent a lot of time working it all out. The episode and the commentary are equally interesting - and useful- in and of themselves. I also strongly suspect that both Kevin Smith and David Lynch were influenced by some of Carter's surreal production numbers for their own in Clerks II and Inland Empire, respectively.

The conceit of 'Improbable' is that God (played by none other than Burt Reynolds) is not a passive cosmic bystander, he's constantly throwing clues at us for us to decipher. The only problem is that most people don't bother to try. Rather than the whole 'drama' metaphor you might see in some traditions, the theme in 'Improbable' is the game. Which leads to this fascinating exchange:
SCULLY: Look, Agent Reyes, you can't reduce all of life, all creation, every piece of ... of art, architecture, music, literature... into a game of win or lose.

REYES: Why not? Maybe the winners are those who play the game better. Those who see the patterns and the connections, like we're doing right now.
It's interesting that nine is the magic number in the episode, and that DNA Ka-Hathor-Ein Scully is herself a numerological "nine." Given DNA Scully's identity as the Alien Isis, there is also the Nine symbolism of Star Trek: The Next Generation (and more importantly, our President). The link between the two? One Neal McDonough, who played Agent Comer in The X-Files and Lt. Hawk in Star Trek: First Contact, as well as a Bill Gates-like character in Robin Cook's Invasion.

If all that weren't enough, he also played the Tin Man in Syfy's post-modern spin on The Wizard of Oz and also appeared in Minority Report. Quite a resonant fellow, our Mr. McDonough. He also figures into my own bizarre synchronicity/prophetic dream pertaining to the ninth episode in that ninth XF season.

But the Nine/ Reynolds link brought me back to another Reynolds "playing God" (which David Duchovny did as well with Angelina 'Nephthys' Jolie), and that's Ryan Reynolds in The Nines, an AstroGnostic classic.

 Like 'Improbable', The Nines deals with Synchronicity in the context of number mysticism, and also presents a scenario in which symbolism and coincidence allow a trapped divine being to escape his meat-prison. In this context, Synchronicity is a tool of liberation.

Ryan Reynolds' character in The Nines is different than Burt's in 'Improbable'- at first blush, Ryan seems a kind of Neo or John Murdock*. But he doesn't want to rearrange the furniture in Babylon, he wants to get the hell out (similar to how Scully and Reyes are trapped in the basement in 'Improbable', a blindingly-obvious metaphor if ever there was one).

In this Ryan is more like the prince from The Hymn of the Pearl, my favorite Gnostic text of all:

I forget that I was a son of kings, and I served their king;
and I forgot the pearl, for which my parents had sent me,
and because of the burden of their oppressions I lay in a deep sleep.
But all this things that befell me
my parents perceived, and were grieved for me

* Note that Christopher Nolan's Memento shows us a mirror image of Neo et al- Leo doesn't want to remember or know the truth. He prefers the self-serving lie. I used to think this was a critique, but in light of The Dark Knight I'm not so sure anymore.