Wednesday, March 02, 2011

AstroGnostic: Matrix Revelations

The Matrix has any number of pop culture antecedents, but the most significant - and by far the most well-known - of them as far as the basic plot is concerned is 'The Cage' (aka 'The Menagerie'), the original Star Trek pilot that was reworked as a two-part episode during the original series' first season. We have three nearly-omnipotent figures with the power to alter a person's (specifically, an abductee's) perception of the physical world and do so while their subjects are imprisoned.

Men wearing black, from Dark City

As in Dark City, the Talosians' motives are a bit abstract (as are all sci-fi "dying races"), but in The Matrix the illusory world is maintained to keep human beings occupied while Skynet the machine-thingies use their bodies as living batteries.

As with the Terminator franchise, The Matrix is essentially using robots as stand-ins for aliens and both series draw extensively on alien-themed sci-fi for plot points (note that The X-Files brought it all full circle with its numerous borrowings -- the bounty hunters, the supersoldiers, Robert Patrick -- from the Terminator films). More so The Matrix, however, in that the Agents are no one but the men-in-black from UFO lore and that the entire human race has been abducted.

The Agents (and the Strangers) match the visual descriptions of the MIB to a tee, even their somewhat odd, not-quite-human eyes and behavior. From
The Men in Black get their name from the fact that they like to wear, well, black. They have pale, greyish skin, and some have been reported to have blonde hair. Their clothes seem to have been made of an unknown, thin, shiny material. It seems like the stereotypical Man in Black wears a suit with a black tie and black sun glasses.
The Strangers in Dark City operate a bit differently in that they're responsible for constantly changing the landscape and people's identities, but they also make sure that anyone who notices them are dealt with, usually put to sleep and reprogrammed. The Agents act more like the Men in Black -- they are there to ensure that the Matrix hums along merrily and any human avatars that notice something's awry are dealt with, never mind any of the rebels who are trying to hack the program. Which sounds a lot like the MIBs in UFO literature:
A typical Men in Black (story) goes a little something like this; a man is out minding his own business when suddenly he comes upon something strange. He sees a mysterious object floating through the sky, followed by what appear to be military aircraft. He goes back home, eager to tell every single person on the face of the Earth about the incredible sight that he stumbled upon.

Before he gets the chance to tell anyone, he is visited by odd-looking men that tell him the smallest details about his experience, even though he has yet to tell anyone. There are reports that the Men in Black have sometimes posed as salesmen or something else not very threatening. The Men in Black will then make it clear to the witness that he is to keep what he saw to himself. Or else. They will then erase any evidence of the strange activities that have occurred, and leave.
UFO sightings are kind of like the glitches in our reality matrix, only our own Agents have trained most people to ignore them (or they program insecure individuals to do their work for them). Of course the topic is a lot less verboten than it once was, which might have something to do with the rise of digital photography and the Internet bypassing the usual gatekeeper apparatus.

Woke up with a monster

Not being totally conversant with UFO lore, I'm not sure what part the MIBs play in abduction reports. But again we see a nice analog of abduction phenomena in The Matrix. Neo wakes up and might as well be on a spaceship, and is soon confronted by an insectoid robot (a phrase often used to describe alien greys), presumably to be put back to sleep and told it was all a dream.

The Black Sun, of course.

Given the parallels I can't help but wonder if the Skynet bit wasn't originally part of the plan. We have the very strong direct parallel to Star Trek here, and all of the hardware and vehicles are familiar from any number of space operas (the most compelling parallel comes to us again from Star Trek - the Borg, Jean Luc Picard's great nemesis). By the same token, the AI villains are consonant with the strong William Gibson influence (and the general Cyberpunk trend Hollywood was trying -- largely unsuccessfully -- to mine during the 90s), but things are never cut and dried when it comes to creating these kinds of cultural phenomenons.

Even so, the parallels are there and the story resonated with an awful lot of people. And the mission of these AstroGnostic posts is trying to figure out why. Are we processing realities that we are consciously unaware of? Certainly unconscious processing is a large part of creative thinking, but why does one film succeed and the next one fail? The Matrix probably succeeded where Dark City failed because it offered a more plausible reality simulacrum and a more fashionable (though not necessarily more plausible) author of it.

I'm also fascinated in how The Matrix parallels thoughts I've had on alien abduction. I very seriously doubt that everyone who's claimed to be abducted is a liar or a nutcase. There are a number of explanations for the phenomenon, all of which can speak to trauma or another kind of extreme duress, ranging from the entirely plausible (sleep paralysis, dissociative amnesia) to the more speculative (manipulation of brainwaves through electromagnetic means).

The birth bit again, just like in Empire Strikes Back

But there's a much more important point to make here- not every significant experience takes place in Meatspace. In fact, many significant experiences that do barely register at the time and are only understood in retrospect, when the subconscious is able to process and make sense of the event. Life-changing events can come out of nowhere and take years to understand. Sometimes they are never explained, never mind understood.

As many of us evolve into a virtual life, we will experience things those on the outside will never understand. And if we can conceive an immersive virtual environment (even if we can't quite create them), it's not hard to imagine a race with a thousand year head start on us (not even a fart in the wind in cosmic time) it's also not hard to imagine them being able to broadcast these environments into random individuals through interstellar means.

None of which is to dismiss meat-and-potatoes abduction phenomena. There seems to have been a cluster of abduction reports in 70s and 80s, a time that presaged some pretty profound changes on our planet- the dawn of the Information Age, the rise of the New World Order and the Warfare State, bioengineering, the human genome project, etc etc etc. Which brings us back to those other insectoid robots again...

Now if somewhere in our consciousness we're aware of the presence of another set of actors phasing in an out of our lives and lurking at the corners of our awareness, might that not explain why a sci-fi allegory of them might not resonate deeply with us? Let's take it a bit deeper into AstroGnostic territory, and look again at some old friends of ours:
AAT scholar Jason Martell notes that the Anunaki had a servant class called the Igigi, whom he believes could actually be the Greys of UFO lore. These creatures have been described as a kind of wetware, biologically-engineered androids: Today's modern UFO's and Alien Contacts being reported have a strong similarity to the Ancient descriptions of the "anunnaki" Android Beings.

When we look at the descriptions of our modern "grey alien", we can clearly see that they do not look like us, or the anunnaki. Rather, they look like the ancient humanoid depictions of Figurines. The majority of Abduction cases usually have a similar story to them in that the Aliens abducting them will perform medical examination and sometimes experiments having to do with human reproduction.

Is it possible that the Greys were created by the anunnaki as "Watchers" to oversee their experiments here on earth?- xfacts.research
Here we are again, staring at the Archons. Renegade Gnostic scholar John Lamb Lash takes up the cudgel:
It is startling to find vivid and detailed descriptions of predatory aliens in obscure texts dating from the 4th century CE, but the revelations of Gnosis are nothing if not startling. Some ancient reports of "UFO sightings" do exist, but Gnostic material on the Archons does not merely present "reports." It explains their origins in the cosmic order, their nature (inorganic, imitative, without intentionality), their appearance and tactics, their attitude toward humanity, and more. A more clear and coherent solution to "the Phenomenon" (the ET/UFO enigma) could hardlly be imagined.

The Nag Hammadi material contains reports of visionary experiences of the initiates, including first-hand encounters with inorganic beings called Archons. Gnostic teaching explains that these entities arose in the early stage of formation of the solar system, before the Earth was formed...
Remember again the AI in a very early Star Trek episode ('Return of the Archons,' no less) that acted much like the Agents, keeping people in line in a simulated reality. And here we are again in UFO lore (whatever your opinion of it), dealing with this invisible control system lurking at the edges of our vision. Lash again:
Interestingly, this Gnostic insight accords closely with the view of Jacques Vallee, who maintains that ET/cyborgs probably belong to the local planetary realm. Vallee also proposes that the ET/UFO enigma is a “spiritual control system,” a phenomenon that “behaves like a conditioning process.” (Messengers of Deception). This is exactly what Gnostics said about the Archons: they can affect our minds by subliminal conditioning techniques.
And the way humans are exploited in The Matrix also reminds me very strongly of Charles Fort's most infamous quote, one that a lot of his fans wish he never said:
"Would we, if we could, educate and sophisticate pigs, geese, cattle?
Would it be wise to establish diplomatic relation with the hen that now functions, satisfied with mere sense of achievement by way of compensation?
I think we're property.
I should say we belong to something:
That once upon a time, this earth was No-man's Land, that other worlds explored and colonized here, and fought among themselves for possession, but that now it's owned by something:
That something owns this earth—all others warned off."
Fort's use of livestock metaphors is appropriate in that humans are literally the livestock of the AI/Skynet/whatever that controls the Matrix. But who will save us from the butcher's block? It's time we look at the Maitreya of the Matrix, Keanu Reeves.

Or should I say Ki-Anu?

Aside from this many semiotically-charged roles (ranging from the Buddha to John Constantine) and his band named in honor of Sirius, Keanu Reeves' very name is loaded to bursting with AstroGnostic significance:
Ki is the Sumerian Goddess of the earth. In Sumerian mythology, she is the daughter of Nammu, Goddess of the primordial sea...she is the sister/wife of Anu, God of the sky, and mother by him of the Anunnaki, including Enlil, God of the air. Ki was eventually supplanted by Ninhursag as the Great Mother. Her name means “earth."
So "Keanu" breaks down to Ki-Anu, mother/father of the Anunnaki. What a coincidence. We also saw the links to Anu and Sirius in I Am Legend (that film's star's wife appeared in the Matrix sequels), but I'm starting to wonder if we'll find all of this lurking in every blockbuster that followed in 2001: A Space Odyssey's mighty footsteps.

So yet again, we have a film that seems to tell one story but once you peel away the surface trappings you discover it's telling THE Story. But most of us really, really don't want to hear that story and a good deal of those go out of their way to make sure that everyone ignores it and looks the other way, or at the very least puts it out of their minds. Forgets it, you might say.

One of the central tenets of Gnosticism is memory. Thom Yorke of Radiohead had this to say about his band's 2002 album Amnesiac:
"I read that the gnostics believe when we are born we are forced to forget where we have come from in order to deal with the trauma of arriving in this life. I thought this was really fascinating. It's like the river of forgetfulness."
It's no surprise then that one of the songs recorded for the sessions for Amnesiac (though released on Kid A) was featured on the next film we'll look at, as was a song by another famous rock 'n' roll Gnostic. The next film is the antithesis of The Matrix, in both theory and practice. And it's about us, or most of us. The parallels to The Matrix are so direct and potent, you can't help but wonder what the hell is really going on among the cognoscenti in Tinseltown....