Monday, February 28, 2011

AstroGnostic: Agents/Angels/Archons/Aliens

These days it’s easy to forget what an astonishing feat of craftsmanship the first
Matrix film is, given how it over-exposed and over-discussed it was. The technical, thematic and visual force The Matrix packed has yet to be equaled, especially by its own utterly forgettable sequels. The film is so complete, that any sequel seems redundant (just like the first Star Wars).

It's also tempting not to write about the film at all. Maybe too much has been said about it already. But there are deeper strands of subtext in the film that might explain its incredible success, and more importantly its resonance. It has to be said that The Matrix is derivative in the extreme, and is certainly not the least bit subtle or sophisticated in its use of religious symbolism. But sometimes you have to be direct when trying to communicate ideas to an audience that is totally uninitiated in any esoteric type of thinking. In this, The Matrix had learned the lessons of the commercial failure of Dark City.

The Matrix is like most landmark sci-fi films in that it borrows (well, steals) motifs from a number of different sources. And it borrows from them promiscuously. The title itself, as well as the hip attitude and many of its essential concepts, is borrowed from William Gibson’s groundbreaking- and thoroughly Gnostic- "Sprawl Trilogy" of novels; Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988).

The Sprawl Trilogy posited a world of metastasizing corporations, samurai computer hackers, insidious designer drugs and lethal female assassins. ‘Trinity’ from the Matrix films is clearly modeled on Molly Millions (aka "Sally Shears"), the femme fatale of the Gibson novels.

Keanu Reeves, star of the Matrix films, also played the protagonist in a 1995 film based on one Gibson’s short stories Johnny Mnemonic (included in Gibson’s crucial collection of short stories, Burning Chrome), which The Matrix borrowed liberally from as well. Gibson presented his own Matrix, a so-called ‘consensual hallucination’ of endlessly streaming bits of data. But his Matrix was merely a dry run for the Gnostic slave state the Matrix films posited. And where the Sprawl novels posit a moral void, the first Matrix film offers a clear-cut dualist cosmology with good guys and bad guys.

The Wachowski Brothers also tapped heavily into the rich veins of America’s dream factory: comic books. The bullet-time and other freeze-frame effects of the film were inspired by the absolute control of time the reader experiences when reading a comic book. The Matrix was originally composed in a comic book-like volume of storyboards, and everything that was put on the screen was meticulously designed in illustrated form first.

Then there's the Gnosticism, which has been covered extensively by other writers. As most of you know, the word gnosis is greek for knowledge, specifically sacred knowledge and the term "Gnostic" has been used to describe a whole host of marginal, disparate and idiosyncratic groups who rose in late antiquity and gave the nascent Church a run for its money before being ground under Rome's boot-heel in the Fourth Century.

What did the Gnostics know? Well, according to certain texts, the Gnostics knew that the world was an illusion, created by an evil deity to trap and enslave the divine essence located in the human soul.

Gnostic cosmology is often incredibly confusing and inconsistent, but the basic gist of it is that there is an invisible and unknowable God who has split himself into a series of ‘Emanations’, expressed as lesser entities who interact with the knowable world. Fragments of these Emanations exist in the human soul.

Bowie does the Demiurge in 1999, with Christ as Serpent

Yaldabaoth, one of the lesser emanations from the Unknown God, created the known world as an inferior imitation of the Divine Order to imprison those fragments. The Apocryphon or Secret Book of John explains the nature of this impostor:
“Now the archon who is weak has three names. The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Sammael. And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, "I am God and there is no other God beside me," for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come.... “
It doesn’t take an Elaine Pagels to figure out who Yaldabaoth is. The more cultivated and learned practitioners of Gnosticism were horrified by the reductionist simplicity of the more conventional Christian sects. Another Gnostic text, the Hypostasis of the Archons (the Archons made an appearance in the original Star Trek series, which we discussed in an earlier AstroGnostic post) elaborates on the nature of this threefold god:
"Opening his eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit; and he became arrogant, saying, `It is I who am God, and there is none other apart from me.'

"When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying, `You are mistaken, Samael' - which is, 'god of the blind.'”
The role of the Messiah or Christ in Gnostic theology is also somewhat different than that in orthodox Christianity. The condemned state of humanity is to live in ignorance of its divine essence, and the role of Christ is to awaken the human soul to its true nature. This is a more purely spiritual and speculative view of Christ, as opposed to the orthodox view which was primarily concerned with instilling obedience (‘faith’ in religious terminology is a synonym for "obedience") and offering hopes of the salvation of the human soul from the fires of Hell.

The Gnostics -- or rather certain Gnostic sects -- took a less dim view of the female than did their orthodox brethren, many of whom blissfully castrated themselves in order to resist the demonic wiles of the subhuman female. The Gnostic Gospel of Philip celebrated Mary Magdalene as the tef-hotre or ‘yoke partner’ of Christ, leading to a grand tradition of esoteric speculation that culminated in The Da Vinci Code. The Gnostics also recognized the divinity of Sophia, the feminine aspect of God.

Just as in the seminal Gnostic text of self-discovery, The Hymn of the Pearl, the plot of The Matrix concerns Thomas Anderson’s realization of his true and unique divine nature. The name “Thomas Anderson” has several layers of meaning. "Thomas Didymus" is the credited author of the most famous Gnostic text, The Gospel of Thomas. "Thomas Anderson" translates into ‘the Twin of the Son of Man’, referring to the Gnostic tenet that Thomas was Jesus’ twin brother. Some Bible scholars have speculated that the origin of the ‘Doubting Thomas’ in the Gospel stories was inserted as a critique of the Gnostics’ skepticism about a bodily resurrection.

Christ symbology is all over The Matrix. Morpheus is a John the Baptist figure, a "forerunner" preaching the coming of "the One." There's a Judas character in "Cypher," (read: Lu-cifer, a lift from Angel Heart) who betrays Morpheus and his troupe to the ‘Agents.’ Neo dies and is resurrected. But this Christ is an explicitly Gnostic one - his mission is to bring knowledge to the souls trapped in the Matrix. The identity of the Gnostic trinity is symbolized by the ever present threes. Trinity is either Mary Magdalene or Sophia (or Isis), depending on which Gnostic trinity you subscribe to.

Then there are the Agents, the AI components who act as the secret police of the Matrix. They have been identified as the archons of Yaldaboath, when they are more akin to the three personalities of the Demiurge: Yaldabaoth himself, Saklas and Samael. And the opaque Ray Charles-styled dark glasses the Agents wear recall the fact that Samael is ‘the god of the blind’. In this context the ever -present police SWAT teams stand in for the more anonymous archons of Gnostic mythology.

There's also a parallel sun god metatext to The Matrix as well. When Neo and Morpheus discuss the prophecy of the Oracle (herself a solar character, in that the oracles were servants of Apollo in ancient times and Apollo was identified as the sun god in late antiquity) at her apartment, between them is a clock in the shape of the sun. And when Neo rebounds in the subway station (subways, again) in his battle with Agent Smith the word “Sol” appears on the wall behind him. The Trinity of Morpheus, Trinity and Neo can also be seen as Osiris, Isis and Horus, since Neo plays a distinctly childlike, novitiate role to Morpheus and Trinity through most of the first film. Throw in Tank the communications man as Thoth and Cypher as Set, if you like. Cypher betrays his comrades at a dinner table, vaguely recalling Set's murder of Osiris at a dinner party.

But by and large, the symbology of the Matrix films is largely based in Gnosticism and similar esoteric traditions. The checkerboard floor of the building where Neo first meets Morpheus brings to mind Masonic iconography, signaling Neo’s ‘initiation’. And the sequels throw in a grab-bag of characters with names taken from mythology and esotericism like "Kali," "Persephone," "Seraph" and "Merovignian" (and let’s not forget that in the sequels, Neo most resembles that esoteric Messiah, Kal-El of Krypton).

The mirror(shades) of love

Lastly, The Matrix's vision of differs greatly from Dark City. In their real world incarnations, the heroes and heroines of The Matrix are androgynes. Males and females dress the same and act the same. When incarnated in the Matrix, their outfits and attitudes are decadent and fetishistic. There's a distinct air of gender transgression, whichis essentially shoved down your throat in the two sequels (Larry Wachowski himself skirts gender boundaries to such an extent that rumors had circulated he'd undergone gender reassignment surgery). Dark City, on the other hand, presents distinct gender signifiers. And the 1940’s setting of the film reveals an inherent conservatism vis a vis sexual identity. The women are lush and fertile and the men are stoic and aggressive.

And then there's the alien question. And therein lies the crux of the matter....


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AstroGnostic: Dark City, or Crucified by Time

Although only one of the films would break through to the mass consciousness, starting in 1998 the high priests of Hollywood would weave a triptych of films that on an mundane level seemed unrelated, but on an esoteric level tell the same story. Alex Proyas' Dark City, the Wachowski Brothers' The Matrix and Christopher Nolan's Memento look at dying/resurrecting savior mythology from three different perspectives: Sun God, Gnostic Messiah, and Antichrist.

The first was Dark City, written and directed by Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Knowing), born September 23, 1963 in - of all places- Egypt. Proyas was somewhat of a prodigy and would direct his first film in 1980 at the age of --wait for it-- seventeen. In 1994, Proyas would score his first hit with the cult smash, The Crow, yet another of the ritual dramas derived from the comic book dream factory.

The Crow
was somewhat of a watershed for pop culture. The then-underground streams of Goth culture and occult-themed comics would ride The Crow’s coattails and become major influences on youth culture in general. The film also boasted a hit soundtrack with tracks by altrock acts like the Cure, Helmet, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine. Like The Dark Knight, the film swept like a tidal wave when it's young star was killed before the film's release (note also that the Crow character also used Jaz Coleman's Jester makeup).

Proyas leveraged the success of The Crow to make Dark City. Proyas tapped the young British actor Rufus Sewall to star as John Murdoch (read: "Oannes Marduk"), the man who would bring the sun to Dark City. Murdoch is a man who wakes up in a bathtub with no memories. He lives in a 1940’s era city trapped in permanent midnight. A voice-over by by the expository Doctor Scherber (played by Keifer Sutherland) sets the stage: a race of aliens called the Strangers had mastered time and the physical world, but were dying because they did not possess souls. They needed the vital essence of spirit, so had created this simulacrum of a world to imprison and study the human soul so they could become one with it.

Like the earlier Talosians from Star Trek (above) and the later Agents in The Matrix, the non-individuated Strangers were the direct descendants of the Archons of Gnostic mythology, prison wardens of an illusory world. The Strangers look like a cross between Nosferatu and the Borg, and dress like the ‘Men in Black’ from 60’s UFO lore.

Murdoch is simultaneously born and baptized as the Solar Redeemer. He is awake while the whole city is asleep (at the Strangers’ command). His rebirth in water recalls Oannes’, and his first act is rescue a goldfish, whose bowl Murdoch inadvertently knocks over. Fish and ocean imagery will later play a prominent part in Dark City (both Oannes and Marduk are strongly connected to water). In the apartment where Murdoch stands lies a dead woman with spirals cut into her breasts.

More symbolism- the spiral is connected to the moon, water, the vulva and shells, according to Chevalier and Gheerbrant's authoritative Dictionary of Symbols. The Strangers are murdering the very source of what they're searching for.

Murdoch doesn’t know it yet, but he is being framed for her murder. Murdoch then receives a strange telephone call, warning him that the police are coming for him. This exact event would be repeated in The Matrix the following year.

As Murdoch escapes the apartment to the city streets below, he is pursued by the Strangers, but discovers he has the power to alter reality, which he uses to make his escape. A classic fugitive dream-story follows with Murdoch pursued by the Strangers, Doctor Schreber and a mild-mannered yet relentless homicide detective named Bumstead (played by William Hurt, of Altered States fame, significantly). Bumstead is also concerned with his former partner Walenski, a man who has woken up to the same reality Murdoch has, but is powerless to do anything about it and is subsequently going mad.

Murdoch is rescued from the police by a gorgeous prostitute, and discovers that he has a beautiful wife (played by the young, buxom Jennifer Connelly), who works as a torch singer in a smoky nightclub (remember that Hathor/Aphrodite is the goddess of sex and music). The eternal power of the Feminine is also signified in Murdoch’s Grail Quest for the mythical Shell Beach, a childhood refuge which Murdoch visits repeatedly in his mind.

The importance of the erotic power that fuels this quest are portrayed when he defeats a powerful band of Strangers on a catwalk below a Shell Beach billboard. The billboard features a motorized animated bikini bombshell, beckoning Murdoch to join her and revel in the mysteries of fertility. The shell is associated with the birth of Aphrodite, the Greek analog of Hathor who rose from the sea on a shell. The shell was a symbol of the female genitals to the Greeks, and the Greek word Kteis means both ‘seashell’ and ‘vagina.’

The immersion into the power of the Sacred Feminine gives Murdoch his power, which is in direct contrast to the Strangers, who are entirely male. The Strangers are always working: creating false memories (rewriting history, in other words), changing the shape and form of the city, moving people from one life to another (note that all of these methods are being used on us all of the time in the real world). The Strangers assemble regularly in their lair to perform the ‘Tuning,’ the telepathic ritual that maintains their control over this world. Pretty heady stuff hiding behind the veil of sci-fi.

The sight of the assembled Strangers resembles a gothic version of the Roman Senate or a Vatican conclave (note also that their street clothes look remarkably Hasidic as well). But they symbolize pure thought devoid of experience, which is inherently denatured and unbalanced. The all-male Strangers have the power to create a world, but cannot save themselves, because they lack the feminine - and natural- virtues as balance.

The Strangers are parasitic. They are constantly changing the world to keep people confounded and enslaved. By depriving people of the certainties of home, family and environment, they are defeating their own purpose. The denizens of Dark City have no souls either, because it is only though the certainties of history and sense of place that the soul can thrive. The Strangers have an aversion to light and water (the essence of life and therefore of the soul) and can only survive by inhabiting discarded corpses. In actuality, they are small, Lovecraftian squid-like space-things.

The true nature of the Strangers is revealed to Murdoch in the subway, a common symbol for the revelation the Mysteries in these ritual dramas (we saw a repeat of this motif in Proyas' Knowing). Again, underground chambers were common meeting places for Mystery cults in antiquity, a tradition that the Christians would appropriate when they held meetings in Roman catacombs.

In this particular resurrection story, Murdoch is trying to get to Shell Beach, and is confronted by the deranged Walenski (shades of ‘Wachowski’, strangely enough) who reveals the illusory nature of Dark City and the power of the strangers. In this story he is like the biblical John the Baptist who initiates the Solar messiah and when his function is served, he throws himself in front of an onrushing subway train. Murdoch goes to visit his Uncle Karl at Neptune’s Kingdom. Neptune is the Roman name for Poseidon, the father of Orion ( the latter is identified with Osiris in Egyptian astrology).

Murdoch is then arrested by Bumstead using Emma as the bait. But in one of those archetypal prison phone booth scenes, Emma’s fecund womb inspires Murdoch to smash the glass separating them, signaling once and for all the source of this Sun God’s power. Bumstead interrogates Murdoch who challenges the detective to tell him how to get to Shell Beach. Murdoch and Bumstead then travel with Scherber by boat to the Beach’s location and find only a poster advertisement for it. Together Murdoch and Bumstead smash at the brick wall the poster adorns and discover that the city is in fact a spacecraft. The Strangers arrive and abduct Murdoch, and bring him to their inner sanctum.

The Black Sun, yet again

The Strangers have decided that Murdoch is the one who will help them individuate, and to save themselves they must become one with him. Wielding symbolism as subtle as a baseball bat to the kidneys, Murdoch is crucified. On his cross, Murdoch awaits "insertion," here in the form of a syringe wielded by Scherber that is meant to extract his essence for consumption by the Strangers. But Scherber has betrayed the Strangers and imbues Murdoch with an alchemical elixir designed to help him realize his full divinity.

Murdoch steps down from his cross, and he is risen as the Sun god. With the powers of his mind, he begins destroying the Strangers and their sanctum, and then the city itself. Soon he is joined in battle by "Mr. Book," the leader of the Strangers. His name is appropriate, for this is also a battle of the Spirit versus the Letter. Mr. Book is defeated, and Murdoch’s first act is to create a vast ocean encircling the city. He then restores all the bricks and stones of the city, like some cosmic master stonemason.

Murdoch then reaches the summit of his apotheosis and creates a sun and an ocean. His next act is to create Shell Beach, with the obligatory obelisk (in the form of a lighthouse).

Then he walks down the pier he has seen so many times in vision. At the end of the pier awaits Emma. In this incarnation her name is Anna (read: "Inanna," goddess of the sky and Sumerian counterpart to Hathor and Aphrodite) and she doesn't remember him. And together they walk to Shell Beach.

Cosmic insemination

All this blindingly obvious Solar and fertility symbolism begs the question: what (or where) is Dark City? What does it represent? Who are the Strangers? Why do they loathe water and sunshine, the basic necessities of life itself? Who is Murdoch? Does he represent an idea or a person (or group of persons)? Is this pure Gnostic parable like the later Matrix or something else entirely? The Matrix doesn’t go near these elemental themes, it concerns itself solely with more abstract ideas.

Dark City
is rife with the celebration of fertility and the feminine principle. This is like ritual drama at its most distilled- there are heroes and villains here. There is an apocalyptic struggle played out against the backdrop of specifically Solar fertility symbols. Shell Beach is the object of a grail quest- one in the purest esoteric sense. The fact that that the Strangers are killing prostitutes parallels their aversion to water and light. The whore was often identified with the Great Mother in antiquity, and by killing a whore they are symbolically destroying the womb of creation.

Another precursor to Dark City et al:
"A Feasibility Study" on The Outer Limits

Stripped of its meaning as an elemental parable, Dark City makes very little sense. It’s never explained who Murdoch is and why he has these powers. It’s never explained what these powers even are. It’s never explained how he came to be. The only way he makes any sense at all is as an AstroGnostic Sun god. That is the key that unlocks all the mysteries of Dark City. The connections to Proyas' Knowing are tantalizing in relation to Dark City, in that our own planet becomes the prison, the Sun the executioner and the Strangers become the saviors. Is Dark City in fact our own planet, and are we the prisoners of unknowable Archons of indeterminate origin?

More to come.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Essential Sun: The Pink Star of the Sea

More seriously Sirius mysteries from the archives. Well-worth another look and well-worth further study and meditation. Watch the original video in its entirety here.

And don't forget to join the discussion on The Secret Sun Facebook page, updated constantly.

As I said on William Henry's show in December (and here as well) we need to be on the lookout for water symbolism this year, as well as mermaid/mermen and other symbols associated with Sirius in esoteric lore. The recent Serious Mysteries posts explored these memes in depth, particularly as they relate to James Cameron, who is obviously very deeply obsessed with both aliens and the oceans (and Gus Grissom, strangely enough).

Well, much to my surprise the Grammy Awards turned out to be a motherlode of these 2010 memes. Though Cousin Beyonce and Lady GorGon went out of their way to steal everyone's attention (as usual), it was Pink who came through with the hardcore symbolic booty. And this wasn't the kind of garbled, rudimentary, pseudo-Masonic tedium that's being tossed lately by artists like Jay-Z or Rihanna- no, this was something else entirely...

The performance opened with the stage done up in a deep, blue, undulating oceanic motif, almost as if Pink were under water (like a mermaid). As she made her entrance, a bright light flashed like a star, as if she were emerging from it.

Secret Sun readers are well familiar with the star Sirius and its identification with Isis, and that visual juxtaposition reminds us of Isis' title as the Stella Maris, or 'Star of the Sea', which sailors used to navigate by in ancient times. Later this role was assumed by the Virgin Mary, as we see in this dramatic illustration.

As she emerged, we saw that Pink was dressed in a white robe and veil, reminiscent of the one Beyonce wore when standing at the foot of the Sphinx at Giza (which brings us back again to Isis). Note also that in Greece and Rome, Isis had absorbed Hathor's sistrum and her role as patroness of music, appropriately enough.

We then see two lights above Pink. As every Secret Sun reader is sick of hearing, Sirius is a binary star system. But this may also have a double meaning, as all potent symbols do.

But it's right here that we get our money shot- the goddess descending the Stairway from Sirius. It doesn't get any more explicit than that.

And here it is again- the Stairway, the Blazing Star, the goddess. Note that the three stage lights correspond to the Sun, Sirius and the Moon in the tracing board iconography.

But we're just getting started...

...because Pink then removes her veil and her robe, revealing a costume not only highly reminiscent of Leeloo in the The Fifth Element, but also of this famous statue of Isis-Venus. (break out your "Isis Unveiled" jokes now). Of course, Pink is also distinctly androgynous which may earn some extra symbolism points as well.

Pink is then suspended from midair with three other women, where she continues to sing while performing some pretty damn impressive acrobatics. But what part could the three women be playing in this apparent symbolic drama?

According to Wikipedia, "The Belt of Orion" constellation in Latin America is called as Las Tres MarĂ­as (The Three Marys). I suspected as much. But if that's so what's the connection with the three women at the top and Pink suspended beneath them?

Note again the cluster of lights behind this performance- again we see a kind of star effect... it meant to correspond to this?
Wiki again:
Orion is very useful as an aid to locating other stars. By extending the line of the Belt southeastward, Sirius can be found...additionally, Rigel is part of the Winter Circle. Sirius and Procyon, which may be located from Orion by tracing lines, also are points in both the Winter Triangle and the Circle.
Note how the angle linking Orion to Sirius corresponds to the shape of the strap (or belt if you prefer) which is holding Pink aloft.

Here's the grand finale- Pink is drenched then pulled back into the air where she spins and sprays the audience like some kind of baptism. Given the obvious water symbolism and the Isis parallels, I couldn't help but think back to this...

...from December 17. Remember that red granite pylon from the Temple of Isis? This was part of the big finale of the Stairway to Sirius, Revisited series, which kicked off with the aerial anomaly over Norway. Kind of brings everything full circle, doesn't it? What are the odds?

Funny thing about Egyptian red granite, though- it's more what you'd

I won't sit here and tell you what it all means. But I will go back to what I said after the 2008 Election, when we first began exploring this enigmatic iconography. After looking at the history of secret societies, I confessed that years of studying some of the well-known Masonic and occult texts had left me completely baffled as to what all the fuss was about:
I've been studying this dilemma for several years and none of the secrets these groups supposedly kept were even all that interesting, never mind profound (Morals and Dogma will bore you to the point where you pray for the sweet release of death). I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in the last year or two I became convinced that there had to be something else. Perhaps something lost in time that we could only figure out by reading the symbols and metaphors these groups couched their secrets in.
Something else, indeed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And She's Buying the Stairway to Sirius

Note the Pleiades (aka the Subaru) surrounding the Moon

The second hour of my Stairway to Sirius talk with Thomas Malone is up here on BlogTalk Radio now. In it, we puzzle over the paradoxes of Symbology and what it can and cannot tell us. If you missed it, the first hour is here. And don't forget to check out this chat with Ted Torbich in which we cover the strange undercurrents in Star Trek, the Blue Beam hoax and much, much more. I'm going on a podcast sabbatical for a while, so stock up on your Secret Sun podcastery while supplies last.

In the meantime, ponder these mysteries...