Monday, February 14, 2011

Essential Sun: Eternal Sunshine

A lot of readers tell me they love the blog but are intimidated by the sheer volume of information to wade through. I know how they feel. I'm constantly clicking on the LinkedWithin icons and discovering posts that seemed revelatory to me at the time but had been totally flushed from my overstuffed memory banks. I had planned to spend the month of December looking back on some of these posts, but had gotten sidetracked. I have a big backlog of new movie posts, but rather than continuing to pile up new information, I thought I should get started on the Essential Sun program, especially considering how the blog's audience has grown since a lot of these pieces were published.

Since one of the posts I wanted to review was the one on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I thought I'd use the holiday to kick off what I feel is a very important review of some of the more important posts of the past four years.

SYNC LOG UPDATE: The New Zealand Herald News reveals today that scientists have named the gas giant looming in the Oort Cloud "Tyche," after the daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite. Back to our regularly scheduled program..

In the ancient myths, Hermes and Aphrodite were lovers and she bore an androgynous child to him called Hermaphroditus. However, in some tellings, their son was Eros. This frieze depicts Aphrodite presenting Hermes with Eros, who is well known to us as Cupid, the god of Love. To him our modern Lupercalia- Valentine's Day- is dedicated.

It's no surprise then that Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opens on (and revolves around) Valentine's Day. But the meeting between the film's Hermes and its Aphrodite takes place in semiotically-charged Montauk, Long Island, not in Egypt. Our Hermes is Joel Barrish, played by Jim Carrey. He self-identifies as Hermes by constantly writing in his journal.

These modern mythological love stories seem to need a symbolic castration to summon the goddess of the story and Eternal Sunshine is no different. Here Joel digs in the sand with a stick underneath a cloudy sky. Much to Joel's frustration the stick breaks...

...and sure enough, in the very next second Aphrodite emerges out of the sea-foam, bringing the sunshine with her. This is Clementine, played by the luscious Kate Winslet. Take note of her orange sweatshirt, it pops up again.

The orange sweatshirt is reminiscent of the orange cloak Aprhrodite is draped in by one of the Horae as she herself rises from the sea-foam in her kteis. Unbeknownst to Joel and Clementine, this is not their first encounter.

This is, which we see towards the end of the picture. And again, Clementine is seen emerging from the surf, clad in orange.

Since this part of the story is told at the end of a reverse narrative, we see the castration symbolism after the two of them meet. Here, "Clem" takes a chicken drumstick from Joel's plate and takes a bite. Ouch.

This scene is from when Joel and Clementine unwittingly reunite after encountering each other on the beach at Montauk. Here Clementine asks Joel to show her the constellations, an act which has a precedent from Hermes and Aphrodite's reconciliation.

"Mercurius [Hermes] stirred by Venus’s [Aphrodite's] beauty, fell in love with her, and when she permitted no favours, became greatly downcast, as if in disgrace. Jove [Zeus] pitied him, and when Venus [Aphrodite] was bathing in the river Achelous he sent and eagle to take her sandal to Amythaonia of the Egyptians and give it to Mercurius [Hermes]. Venus [Aphrodite], in seeking for it, came to him who loved her, and so he, on attaining his desire, as a reward put the eagle in the sky [as the constellation Aquilla]. - Hyginus, Astronomica 2.16
Written in the stars

But castration symbolism is not incidental to this film. Rather, castration is encoded into the very title of the film itself.

The title which is taken from a line from a poem by the English Freemason Alexander Pope, called "Eloisa to Abelard," published in - wait for it- the year 1717. Yes, that's the same year the first Freemasonic lodge was officially established.

“Eloisa to Abelard” was an elegy to Pierre Abelard, another of the countless great thinkers oppressed by the Church in the Middle Ages. In fact, Abelard was actually castrated for his love for a young student named Heloise, a name not-coincidentally derived from Helios. The relationship of Abelard and Heloise is mirrored in Eternal Sunshine by the love affair between Dr. Mierzwiak and his earnest young assistant, Mary. Charlie Kaufman also referred to "Eloisa to Abelard" in Being John Malkovich, which starred Hollywood's favorite Horus, John Cusack.

That takes care of castration, now what about androgyny?

Like Andy in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Joel's androgyny is expressed through his passivity. Clem is the active initiator in the relationship. Many critics made reference to the reversal of Carrey and Winslet's traditional roles. One even referred to Carrey's performance as "maidenly." Clem often calls Joel by the feminine diminutive "Joely."

Joel is so passive that Clem at first is unsure of his gender preference. When he tells her he lives with "someone" she asks if someone is a man or a woman. The non-specific pronoun motif becomes important later in their relationship.

Viewers unfamiliar with the courtship rituals of geekdom might wonder what Clem sees in the child-like, shrinkingly-passive Joel, but I've seen similar couples at conventions and Ren-faires. It used to baffle me as well, until I figured out the mechanics of Jung's anima/animus archetypes. Most guys are attracted to vivacious boho chicks like Clementine (especially if they're as adorable as Kate Winslet), but girls like that often prefer passive men who won't challenge or upstage them.

Clem's own androgyny is expressed in verbal hints strongly suggesting a casual or opportunistic bisexuality. Here Clem and Joel break into a summer home in Montauk belonging to "David and Ruth Laskin." Clem announces that that will be their identity and asks Joel which of the couple he'd like to be. She makes it known her gender identity can be flexible, which is consonant with the Boho neologism "heteroflexible."

We're then led to believe that Clem is indiscriminately promiscuous - or that Joel at least believes she is- and the conversation dealing with her suspected infidelities uses ambiguous pronouns in relation to gender. Their last argument before their split took pace after Clem returned home drunk at 3am and was over whether Clem f**ked some-one, not some "guy."

And true to form, Joel infers that Clem uses sex to get "people" to like her - again, a gender non-specific pronoun. Joel later expresses his fear that "she'll sooner or later go around f***ing everybody." Joel is irritated that she was out late but doesn't seem too shocked by the prospect that she'd be out having sex with a stranger. Perhaps he assumes it's a woman.

Another of Clem's personality traits is her drinking. This is reminiscent of the Egyptian version of Aphrodite, Hathor (or Athyr). It's this writer's opinion that the name Katherine (ostensibly meaning "pure" in Greek) is ultimately derived from "Hathor."

Katherine can be broken down to Ka-Hathor-Ein or Ka-Athyr-Ein -- ein being the Greek suffix mean "to have" or "to be," and Ka meaning spirit or life force. Ka-Hathor-Ein would translate into "To Have the Spirit of Hathor." Saint Catherine is identified with the Sinai, which also housed the Cave of Hathor. The name "Kate" is the diminutive for Katherine.

Kate Winslet's middle name is Elizabeth, a name of ultimate Egyptian origin. It's ostensible translation is "My God is My Oath," but could also be a contraction of Eloah-Isis-Beth, meaning "House of Isis the Goddess."
But Egyptian word puzzles bring us back to Montauk, which is either an Indian tribe name or a convenient, crypto-Masonic codeword meaning "Montu the Hawk." The logo there is from a rollar coaster ride at Busch Gardens, but Montauk itself is ripe with portent.

One thing that other researchers have noted about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the centrality of Montauk in the storyline. Most people will have no idea why this is significant. As someone whose spent more time than I probably should trying to parse the Montauk "mystery," I can say that the setting is indeed significant to the film. Eternal Sunshine is primarily about the transcendent power of the Dreaming Mind when confronted by technological mind control interference.

I've been reading about the whole Montauk thing for over 10 years now and I still have no idea what is supposed to have actually happened there. It's one of these things that's gone totally meta- as in metastasis. Adam Gorightly tried to sift through all of the various Montauk literature and came away as perplexed as I am:

But as much as the Montauk Mythos seems naught — to many observers — but a pile of happy horses**t, it continues to attract serious researchers and spiritual searchers into its endless stream of mysteries. As Montaukian Investigator/Experiencer Chica Bruce related to me: "What I've come away with is that everything is true and that nothing is true… Any story (not just about Montauk - EVERY story) is ultimately irrelevant and useless to me outside of what it can teach me about Creation and the empowerment of humans via insights about how reality works. To this end, the study of the wacky world of Montauk has been extremely useful…
But Gorightly also seems to think that the fact that so many major memes in the world of high weirdness- ritual abuse, UFOs, mind control, time travel, interdimensional physics- seem to have grafted themselves on to the Montauk mythos is evidence of some sort of convergence of some kind of energy:

“It is cosmically humorous to me that a story so full of seemingly deranged allegations does contain many valuable, penetrating truths about consciousness and the nature of reality. The Montauk mythos is repugnant to current consensus world-views and it puts off mentalities that are fundamentally invested in conforming with the hegemony.

Those who feel a need to bash the Montauk story are failing to understand what it is really about and are revealing their unflagging allegiance to certain stodgy mind patterns and core beliefs…”

What I think Gorightly is trying to say- and what I would agree with- is that the Montauk lore is significant because of the significance that so many individuals have invested into it. This brings us back to Jungian territory again- the Dreaming Mind component of conspiracy research. When a constellation of anxieties takes form in a complex (many would say convoluted) group of beliefs and suspicions about governmental black magic, Montauk becomes a sigil of sorts- a symbol triggering associations of an eternity of occult malfeasance by our so-called leaders.

The kernel of evidence behind the Montauk Project began with an actual series of radar invisibility experiments aboard the naval vessel the USS Eldridge in 1943. According to the legends, the experiment didn't work but the tests allegedly produced a sort of superweapon that alternately could drive enemy soldiers insane, bridge dimensional gateways, enable time travel, etc. etc. etc.

Most of this work on this superweapon was allegedly done at Camp Hero, a military base in Montauk. It’s worth noting that the word ‘hero’ is almost certainly derived from Heru, the Egyptian rendering of Horus, and that Montu, the hawk-headed Egyptian god of war, came to be identified as an aspect of Horus in Egyptian religion. Which is kind of a no-brainer when you look at the two of them.

The Mystery school synchromysticism doesn't end there. There was an actual radar station in Camp Hero, which was operated by the 773rd Radar Squadron. The station and the 773rd were both deactivated on July 1, 1980. Interestingly, the sum of 7+7+3 is 17. And July 1st is notated as ‘1/7’ outside of the United States. The full name of the ship involved in the Montauk Project was the USS Eldridge DE-173. The “173” recalls the day of the death of Osiris, which occurred on the 17th day of the 3rd month of the Egyptian calendar, Athyr (named so for Hathor, of course). The Philadelphia Experiments began in 1943. 1+9+4+3 equals 17. It’s also worth noting that the word ‘Eldridge’ is roughly homonymic with ‘Eldritch’, a term referring to the supernatural powers of Elves.

The alleged time travel properties of the ‘Montauk Project’ were fictionalized into a book in 1978 and then a film in 1984, both called The Philadelphia Experiment. It's all a hell of a story- I'd love to believe it. Unfortunately, even as far as conspiracy theories go, there's hardly a speck of evidence for any of it. But these things don't need to actually be true to make an impact on the Dreaming Mind. In fact, it often helps when they aren't.

The mind-erasing properties of Dr. Mierswiak’s device and the ‘reversal of time’ motif used in the storytelling of Eternal Sunshine tie in too neatly with Montauk Project and mystery school lore to be coincidental. I'm thinking that Kaufman ran across information on the Philadelphia Experiment and Montauk, and thought a memory-erasing mind control machine would be a great plot device in a romantic comedy. Which sounds pretty typical for Kaufman, come to think of it.

Either that or the CIA spooks who he encountered while writing Confessions of A Dangerous Mind fed him the inside scoop for this movie as well. I'm open to all possibilities when it comes to these films.


  1. erudite,educational & entertaining.
    i have come to expect nothing less.
    well done. thanks chris.

  2. So "weird". I literally had the inclination to watch this movie a couple of nights ago and then reviewed the old post (this exact one as a matter of fact) on it afterward...... Like I said a few days ago, we are plugged in to the same cosmic data streams. Woogidybooogidybooogidy!

  3. Oh yeah.... Synchronicity... Pay attention!!!

  4. on the exopilitic subject to visit blog

    thank you

  5. hey chris,
    joseph farrell writes one of the most non-conspiratorial books on the P-Experiment. he likes his science quite a bit, and the book is almost too full of this, but he traces military logs and physics papers where the working theories of the alleged tests come from...

  6. saw the news last night, but didn't realize tyche is related to nemesis... google-d it and all kinds of things popped up.

    enjoyed re-reading the ESSM. funny how more meaning is gained when re-reading your posts...

    thanks much!
    ~aye aye



  9. Great stuff as usual, Chris. I'm really glad to see you writing about ESSM again, it's easily my favourite movie. I will definitely be watching again after reading this. Hopefully I'll be able to find some more synchromystic aspects - I figure there has to be more for this movie to be so significant to me.

    Keep up the good work, and I hope to see some more ESSM stuff in the future!

  10. Great work Chris, I too, am pleased you are writing about ESSM, as it's one of the those kind of films I never get tired of. A lot of layers.

  11. My favorite posts in this blog are the movie "reviews" and this one starts out great, but I feel like it needs a part 2 or 3.

    The signifiers are laid out expertly and convincingly and the post touches on a subtext of androgyny and the disintegration of gender definitions, but I feel the significance is lost in the divergent discussion of what isn't directly connected to the film - the Montauk mystery. At first it felt like a minor or tangential breakaway, but the post never really finds its way back to the central spine analyzing and examining the film and its super-narrative.

    Signifiers without significance is a good definition of paranoid delusions, I think. What is going on with these ancient rituals playing out in contemporary entertainment? How intentional is it? Can it even be intentional without feeling false or forced?

    Recently, I read an interesting idea on fiction. Basically someone said that literature consists of both a murder and an imposture. The story inside the reader's mind murders the one on the page and then takes its place. This is why so many people were convinced that they saw Rosemary's "baby" the first time and then that it must've been edited out in later viewings or on the video. In truth, the baby was never shown, but everyone seems to remember his goat fur, red eyes, tiny horns and/or little hooves.

    But there is something to be said for the story in one's mind that exists even before you read or see a story play out in front of you. People are amazed when someone can play the piano or guitar without any training. When they can just pick it up "by ear." However, why is this so amazing? Music existed before the instruments used to play it. The piano or guitar was fashioned as an idea in the mind, therefore, why should it be so unexpected that minds could use these inventions to express the music within?

    In the same way, these rituals may be generating narrative plots the same way emotions provide the underpinning of complex ideas. What I'd like to see more of in this are the connections.

    In Greek myth, the waters of the Styx grant absolute forgetfulness so the dead do not suffer the underworld by remembering when they were alive. However, in the film, it is clear, the living suffer by attempting to remove painful memories. In the end, because they cannot remember the past, they are doomed to repeat it. For me, the end of the film was not hopeful.

  12. Hey Chris,

    Eternal Sunshine is one of my favourite films. For me and my girlfriend it occupies a special place in our own personal mythology, as I'm sure it does for many couples.

    Great insights into the film, and I like what you had to say about Montauk. More than anything, the Montauk stuff is mythology, potent mytholgy. Most of it is flakey in the extreme, and endearingly convoluted, but potent nonetheless.

    And you're right, there's almost no evidence whatsoever for its validity (or even a consensus on what occured), but since when did that ever stop something from having truth or power to it?

    In my opinion, truth isn't always fact. For that matter fact isn't always fact either.

    Since I recognise that myth/psyche/symbol can have trans-temporal qualities and effects, I'd wager that all bets were off if I tried to be all reductionist and grown-up about what 'actually' happened, if indeed anything happened at all.

    Like you point out, the Dreaming Mind is Prima Materia - and it's this substance that seems to be at the acausal nexus of the Montauk mythology, IMHO. I mean what are wormholes, time travel, magic, spontaneous manifestation, etc, if not the fictive excitement of the dreaming mind?

    Also, being a geek, I just love reading about that freaky sci-fi/sci-fact shit.


  13. I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed your talk on Gnostic Media's podcast about your current book.

    You say a few times some of your ideas are laughed at but that's the laughs of those gladiator lovers. hehe

    You set a good balance to the show as I find Jan to be a very dry and emotionless interviewer, but he's got a good gig goin on there and has had many great guests and was happy to hear about where you're at as I've followed a similar path.

    Bumped into your blog before, and to admit, I have not even read the post I'm commenting in, which is shameful as you put a lot of work into. hehe. Peace from Vancouver Island

  14. Thanks for posting on Eternal Sunshine, my most favorite of modern films.

    The script was considered 24th best out of 100 that the Writers Guild determined to be best ever made in the US.

    I spoke with people for months after seeing the film, and never did castration, or themes like it, come into the discussion. I even contributed to the movie's FAQ on IMbd, so I would've remembered that.

    About Montauk, Charlie Kaufman wanted to visually show the most remote place that both his characters could go on the map, a place of hopelessness emotionally as well. It's where they find each other, and KEEP finding each other, since the original idea was to show the couple erasing their minds through their entire lives. But that idea existed first in the movie's first draft.

    But I never caught the sexual ambiguity of both characters until you emphasized it. Congrats on your approach overall...seems to be working fine.

    I hope you post more about the film.

  15. Chris, I just saw What Dreams May Come the other day, and I was struck by the similarities to ESSM. If you haven't seen it, I definitely recommend you check it out - you'll see what I'm talking about