Monday, March 07, 2011

AstroGnostic: Memento-Mirror-Matrix

There’s a metatextual sequel to The Matrix that isn't recognized as such. The film in question features two of that blockbuster’s lead characters in prominent and analogous roles, and it tells much the same type of story that The Matrix does. Only in reverse.

Mirror, mirror

Memento was the breakthrough film by Christopher Nolan, who needs no introduction around these parts. As befits a parable of a inverse-messiah, the film‘s chronology is reversed, and the converging story-lines are separated into color and black and white. The twisting and turning storyline is far too complex to recount here, and if you haven’t yet seen the movie, you really should.

Simply put, Memento is the story of Leonard Shelby, a man whose ability to form short-term memories was destroyed when he was attacked during a home invasion. Or at least that’s what he believes. And he believes his wife was killed during the same event. Or was she? As Leonard struggles to find his wife’s killer, he is accompanied by a crooked cop named Teddy Gammell (played by The Matrix’s Joe Pantoliano) who takes advantage of Leonard’s handicap by using him as his personal enforcer and Natalie (played by Carrie Ann Moss aka Trinity), a drug dealer’s moll who is using Leo in a similar fashion.

Leonard's memory is lost when striking a mirror

Memento deals with the same loss of memory issues that form the crux of Dark City, but in a far more insidious way. In Memento, memory is not merely elusive, it’s an enemy. Shelby is not only unable to form memories, he’s unwilling to. He is the Gnostic messiah from The Hymn of the Pearl in reverse- he becomes evil intentionally and uses his handicap to as a crutch to relieve his conscience.

Natalie as Agent Smith/Samael

The theme of borrowed clothes in the Hymn also plays an important, literal part in the plot of Memento as well. Joe Pantoliano and Carrie Ann Moss play their Matrix roles in reverse. Leonard comes to sees Teddy as his enemy, but in fact he is giving Leonard the emotional outlet he needs to relive his hopelessness and guilt. Leonard sees Natalie (“Christmas Day”) as his friend, but she has every reason to hate him and is using him to do her own dirty work.

And he doesn't want to.

Leo-nard is the anti-Neo. He is condemned to endless repetition, to a hell of of forgetfulness and self ignorance. In this regard, he is the ultimate Gnostic antichrist, willfully ignorant, purposefully forgetful. Like a caricature of a Fundamentalist, he surrenders himself to the written word, going so far as to tattoo his personal mythology on his skin. He trusts only the words, but the words are empty, intentionally robbed of meaning, or are in fact outright lies. He is the ultimate biblioidolater.

But that’s what Leonard Shelby wants to be. All he wants to do is go back to sleep, to return to the Matrix. In his previous incarnation, he was a heartless bureaucrat robbing people of their hope by denying their insurance claims. He was the parasitical Agent destroying the lives of the innocent victims of circumstance. If Christopher Nolan didn’t intend Memento to complete that trilogy, then Destiny surely did it for him.

I have no idea if Memento was planned as some sort of anti-Matrix or reverse Dark City, but it couldn’t possibly fill that role any better than it does. Even the seemingly mundane, non-sci fi, non-mythological aspect of the story fits the arc of our little triptych perfectly. Memento seems to say, don’t you see? Don’t you see where denying the mysteries leads you? It robs your life of all magic, of all transcendence- you become nothing but a blind tool of a corrupt system.

Or did it? It's very hard to square any kind of Gnostic message with Nolan's more recent work, which boasts an increasingly authoritarian, inhumane and collectivist mindset. Not content with the neocon agit-prop of The Dark Knight (Working) (a film everyone saw but no one remembers, as if it were all some bizarre mass hynopsis experiment), Nolan set to work creating a mind-controlling hero in the 2010 hit Inception, an anti-Gnostic Matrix if ever there was one. Or more accurately a film that champions the Matrix, since it's useful as a tool of corporate terrorism. Inception seems to gleefully inform us that not even our dreams are safe from clever, greedy thugs. So shut up and let them rape your mind already.

Before those were the cruelty and brutality of The Prestige and Batman Begins, which like The Dark Knight, starring Patrick Bateman in a glaringly blatant example of revelatory casting. One can't blame Nolan- after all, he's giving an increasingly desensitized public what it wants. But in the context of these later films, I've come to realize that maybe I had it wrong. Maybe Nolan is holding up Leonard Shelby as an example for us all to follow.
Time will tell.


  1. Chris-
    I'm glad you brought up the Dark Knight film. I enjoy the Batman films ( Keaton, Bale's first) But TDK gave me the creeps, and I purposely avoided seeing it. I've seen bits here and there, but there seemed to be something about it that made even the promos seem cruel and strange, not to mention devoid of fun, adventure, and even virtue. I had NOT considered some of the elements you mentioned, I.e. Authoritarianism, cruelty, etc. I'd welcome a bit more analysis from you on how the usual fans can be absolutely turned off by this film, even on a subliminal level. Thanks for your insights-

  2. This post has made me want to watch it again.I watched it years ago,but don't remember much about it,so I've written it on my arm,so I won't forget to watch it...again.-)

  3. Memento could have some additional layers of meaning...

    Layer 1 

    What you wrote about.     

    The 2nd Layer:

    The protagonist Leonard represents the entire human race. 

    The trauma which Leonard, who represents the human race, doesn't dare to recall is (1) the historical genetic manipulation of the human species by a more technologically advanced race of beings (if all stories are THE story), (2) the "fall", (3) the "flood", or (4) the physical and psychological violence which occurred during the great shift from matriarchy to patriarchy, or (5) some literal pole shift, or (6) some other collective trauma. 

    The manipulative antagonist Teddy represents (1) "The "Powers That Be" or else (2) Western Culture.  

    The PTB manipulate and enslave all of us, but they only succeed because as a race, just like Leonard, we don't want to remember who we are and what's happened to us in the past.  Like Teddy, the PTB are not particularly smart spiritually or otherwise.   What the PTB are is more like skillful opportunists.  The PTB are just taking advantage of the human race's willful blindness / our deep ignorance about our ancient history and our resultant amazing gullibility.

    So the PTB are opportunistic assholes who only succeed once in a while because we (as a species) actually prefer to be lied to.  


    Layer 3

    Leonard's Dead Wife = his anima or his deceased feminine side.
    John G. = his shadow. 
    Leonard = his ego with its tiny little attentional window.
    Carrie Anne Moss's character = the archetypal dark feminine or the anima-shadow.


    Each of the above layers adds to the movie's peculiar resonance. 

    *Not that it matters, but John G. when written out looks a bit like JunG. Just noticed that.  Is Leonard looking for Jung for some reason? Does Jung really have the answer or is Jung the bad guy in this upside down story, offering forgetful Leonard a captivating St. Elmo's Fire to chase after endlessly?  Maybe the problem is just the obsessive quality of his search or the fact that he already experienced the answer once upon a time and yet keeps searching anyhow.  

    Another idea.... Leonard represents any given human; When Leonard wakes up, he's effectively "born" and right after being born, Teddy as western culture starts feeding him lie after lie.  Poor Leonard gets sucked into it every f**king time.  Leonard is in a hopeless predicament because when he dies, he gets reincarnated again with no memory of what happened prior and Culture (as Teddy) is just going to start lying to him all over again.  The writing on his body is sort of a karmic scarification to help him find/remind himself what his ultimate purpose is.  And his ultimate purpose is basically what he achieves in the end: No longer trusting in western culture to tell him what's really going on.  

    So that is a more positive take on the Memento story? In the end, Leonard (humanity) uses fiction (an artful lie) to finally escape from western culture's grotesque web of deception.    

    Memento is The Matrix's evil twin, true, but it still concludes on pretty much the same note as The Matrix did, right on the verge of freedom.

    Sorry if this is bizarre or wrong or hard to follow, but it's like 4 am.

  4. Nice work, Herr Knowles. I am reminded of Nietzsche's (resurrection of) Eternal Recurrence.

    In addition to being an art form so well-equipped to illustrate the incomprehensible in our search for origins and meaning, it seems to me that film is the best way to illuminate memory, even literally (upon second viewing, showing us just how much detail we'd created ourselves, for example).

    Chris, it would be very interesting someday to get your take on a film completely outside the genre of science fiction (or fantasy) - just to see how it resonates. That is, to take a piece of work without any seeming connection to the mythological and explore the level to which those connections exist nevertheless. You know, like Hannah and Her Sisters, just as an example.

    I mean, you've done a bang-up job with Rock and Roll. Why not tackle Neurotic Jewish Urbanism or Narcissistic Chauvinism or something?

    P.S. I happened upon this 'dog rising' miracle when going to yet another story about microbes in asteroids and NASA and all that:

  5. Well done. The connection with the Matrix was open. It can't really be denied because of Moss and Pantoliano. The movie is dense with meaning. One is left to wonder if anything Leonard does is for anything but psychopathic narcissistic gratification and his handicap is a perfect mask for it.

  6. You DO realize that "The Prestige" was intended as a PREQUEL to "The Shadow", right? An origin story devoid of magic before the official origin story brimming with magic, as if to say "Nevermind what happens next over in Tibet with the psychic powers and the enchanted flying daggers and everything, we've just shown you that this world is solid all the way through."

    When you think about it, this is the exact same message very subtly presented to us in Marvel Comics over the decades, with the Norse Gods being nothing more than ultra-dimensional aliens, and the Rings of the Mandarin being mere ancient extraterrestrial technology. Lucas tried the same line of bulls**t in his Star Wars prequels, saying that the Force was due to the presence of microscopic organisms.

    Methinks the Illuminati want to drain the collective unconscious of any and all magic it might have left, starting with the minds of our youth. "There's nothing mystical or supernatural in real life, kiddies, it's all perfectly rational, just some really advanced stuff left behind by aliens a long time ago."

  7. Hey Chris,

    This post is the coup de grace, to anyone who doesn't see the insight presented in your analysis of the Dark City/Matrix/Memento triptych. Awesomeness, man. Your Exegesis and AstroGnostic posts are particularly tasty, but this little trio has blown me away.

    Also, interesting comments from all so far. Leonard really is like a Gnostic Antichrist who wilfully crosses the River Styx again and again - the river of forgetfulness.

    I find it interesting that in your Dark City essay you figured Murdoch and Mr Book's epic battle of wills as a battle between Spirit and the Letter (or Word). This really struck me as a powerful observation because what are letters without the spirit behind them to suffuse them with various shades of meaning and context? They would be akin to zombies or vampires, right? Empty, soulless things turning on the magical Force that once gave them life and purpose.

    As Mr Hand states in Dark City, "We need your dead." Or perhaps even, "We need. You're dead." Because of the Stranger's needs, we are rendered dead, just like them. At least, in the context of the inhabitants of Dark City, certainly not as alive as they had once been. Creepy, creepy stuff.

    So, in tattooing the lies/manipulations/dead letters onto his flesh, Leonard Shelby becomes a walking sinister text of manipulation and control. In effect, he becomes Mr Book of Dark City - the antichrist, primary archon or demiurge of his own spiritual narrative.

    We could go so far as to say that Leonard becomes an embodiment of the Dark Night Working, that Nolan later expressed as a 'Batman' movie. The Dark Night of the Soul, where all the willows weep.


  8. Awesome trilogy. Memento is one of those movies that wants you to hate it, I think. It's like someone who thrives off of negative energy, not in an annoying way but in a disturbing, obsessive way (think Archons). In that sense, perhaps Leonard is a character whose ultimate psychological effect on the viewer is to get them to separate from the archetypes he portrays.

    I'm not convinced that the world we live in is an evil place. I think it's heavily affected by "evil forces", yes, but the way out is within, and I think as repeating fractal diodes of the world around us, our within self is the exact same as the outer self, our core (within) moving through energetic space (outside), an ever-looping exchange of energy. I could be wrong. I'm basically saying that no matter what form we take, be it Neo's transformation into "The One", all consciousness is the same essence, the sync or whatever you want to call it, the connection that links us with everything in existence, and therefore we are more "free" than we are led to believe by those who benefit from keeping us in the dark (because they can't see that they are free either). It's just men posing as gods that makes us think that there is an "evil god".

  9. I see Inception a bit differently. I don't believe that any of that movie takes place in reality except for the final scene. If anyone is trying to insert a thought in someone's mind, it is Ariadne into Cobb's. Cobb can't believe he can be a father to his children because of the unspoken animosity he's inherited from his relationship with his notably absent father (Miles is his father-in-law).

    From that perspective, the story is actually about healing. Arthur, Eames are obvious projections. Ariadne plays both herself and forges Miles, and she is the expert, but she's using the technology for its intended purpose, as Miles says, therapy.

    It is the story of illusion, dreams, being used to enact real emotional resolution. I'm not sure, but it feels very similar to PK Dick's gnostic cosmology in his essay "Cosmogeny and Cosmology."

    Dick also used the term "Empire" to connote the domination true Christians opposed. In Inception, the point of the exercise is to destroy Fischer's empire. Of course, Fischer in this, though named after a famous chess player, also represents one aspect of the Fisher King which in some stories is depicted as a sick Father king and wounded Son king.

    In Inception, his father's "empire" is the inheritance of absentee and hurtful fatherhood that Cobb believes makes him an unfit parent.

    In the anti-Gnostic category, though, note that the enemy of the story - the cause of Mal's death - is an idea: the belief that the world is an illusion.

  10. In some ways, Nolan's work is anti-Gnostic, but his later work was far less violent about - though more violent in some ways that Memento.

    In Batman Begins, the Gnostics are the shadow army who want to destroy the evil empire of Gotham. Bruce agrees with them as far as the corruption of Gotham goes, but he does not want to obliterate the innocent with the guilty.

    Note - in The Matrix, we are told that it is not only all right but necessary to kill innocents since they could be used as tools of the agents. In The Dark City, the Strangers conveniently take over dead bodies instead of possess the living. However, Murdoch is not above torturing Dr Schreber to make him take them to Shell Beach.

    In the Dark Knight, the Joker has no earthly origin. He is some kind of Tulpa or perhaps a spirit possessing some poor insane shell. Again, he is gnostic in the sense that he is out to awaken Batman and Dent to the true evil - this meaningless random and cruel existence.

    It could be taken as a story about how not to proceed toward waking. Violence and antagonism, warfare, are the tools of the enemy and not something the original gnostic believers would have advocated.

  11. hmmm. how bout inclusion/analysis of philip pullman's work, dark materials; golden compass? if we're not wading in gnostic waters there...color me unintuitive.

  12. John Henning-
    Interesting point in bringing up the recent Batman films since David S. Goyer is the writer for both films and Dark City. He was also the executive producer of Threshold which dealt with alien invasion, but not the kind we're seeing in movies today but more along the lines of what Chris is talking about, the unseen invasion. As an added bonus, he is also working on the new Superman movie that's being directed by Zack Snyder. Snyder's upcoming film, Sucker Punch, has an essentially Gnostic story. Taglines: Reality is a prison.
    Close your eyes. Open your mind.

    Link (talking about Neo): "He's doing the Superman thing."

  13. One more interesting connection - Alcon, the WB owned company that has the rights to make another movie set in the Blade Runner world, places Nolan at the top of their list of directors for the job.

    Obviously, with the notion of memories implanted in slaves to control them and the presumed emerging emotional revulsion at their condition as well as the limited lifespan to keep rebellion out of reach, Blade Runner (as well as Moon which uses the same exact strategy) fits into the amnesia related stories like these.

    Ironically, though Ridley Scott insists that Deckard was always intended to be a replicant who's been implanted with the memories of the other Blade Runner shot in the beginning of the movie, Harrison Ford insists equally strongly that that was never an idea that came up until long after the film had been released.

  14. I can't remember. Does Leonard remember that he doesn't remember?

  15. Anon- That previous attempts at Batman prior to TDK completely failed to highlight the fact that the character is always played as a neo-con wet-dream in cinema (from Burton to present) is more problematic than the obvious revelation of the same. TDK shows exactly what Batman has always been presented as in film: a vigilante billionaire, a shadow power that considers itself absolutely necessary, imposing on the world from the dark.

  16. It depends how you mean. Before his own accident, Leonard as an insurance adjuster ("Adjustment Bureau?") handled the case of Sammy Jankis who coincidentally and conveniently suffered exactly the same kind of amnesia - Karsakov's syndrome - that Leonard supposedly suffers. Note, that in real life, this syndrome is very rare and often the result of alcoholic poisoning.

    Since he can remember perfectly everything that happened before the accident, he luckily has the Sammy Jankis story in mind to help him realize what is going on. As a result, he can infer that he's using the same coping mechanisms that they tried and failed to get Sammy to use. Like the tattoos and the photos and post-it notes.

    However, in the movie, it is made clear in the Jankis story that this condition can be either physical, Karsakov's, or a psychological delusion. Personally, I feel there never was a Sammy Jankis and Leonard's subconscious has manufactured this story as well as his apparent amnesia.

  17. For a little more background on the personal history that Nolan may be using when formulating his narratives, take a look at his brother Matthew's extreme history:

    "Matthew Nolan's story -- financial scams, check-kiting schemes, an attempted jailbreak, an accusation of murder -- has been hashed over in a 6.27 London Sunday Times piece by Christopher Goodwin .

    At the end of the article Goodwin writes about "how eerily the mystery about Matthew Nolan's true identity, and his descent into a paranoid world of aliases, crime and murder, mirrors his brothers' dark and bloody filmmaking obsessions."

    Goodwin also notes that the actions of Leonardo DiCaprio's character in Inception seem to contain reflections of Matthew Nolan's misadventures.

    DiCaprio "plays a conman who steals valuable secrets from people's minds while they sleep," he reports. "When he is embroiled in a deadly blackmailing scheme, he becomes an international fugitive whose dangerous secret life costs him everything he has ever loved. The film's disturbing catch-line is: 'Your mind is the scene of the crime.'"

    On top of which is was pretty hard not to think of the jailed-Joker plotline when it was reported last November that Mathew Nolan had attempted to break out of Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center using "31 feet of rope made from bed sheets, a body harness, a clip that would have been used to unlock handcuffs and a razor."

    Matthew's blog (Walls of Deception):

  18. Take Side One of Meddle, and start at exactly 2:03:05 in Inception. Wear headphones, and light up right after you push play. Watch. Repeat, this time with subtitles. Discuss.

  19. what is a zombie? a zombie is someone, person, damaged to the point of no return. unknown is whether a consciousness is embedded within the decaying flesh, struggling to re-animate.

    zombies and the soulless vampires so prevalent in pop culture these days.

    according to the bleak models of materialism, we are zombies to begin with, having no free will, believing we are in charge yet merely illusory observers of non-existent selves.

    this is the reality that is being pushed. forgetting is easier and easier. we won't need to cover our hands with writing when our memory is the internet.

    Who wants to remember they don't exist.

    Dang. Now I've got to watch memento again.

  20. To me memory plays a vital role in the human experience, because it is what we (think we) are. What you think is yourself, your identity is but a mix of an enormous amount of information put together linearly (time) by the mind/brain: experiences, trauma, pain, pleasure, conditioning, preferences, learning etc. I feel the experience of Gnosis is very much related to the issue of memory, because that's when we realize the illusion, the trap of time. The voice in our heads, thought, the thinker, is always using memory and perception in order to justify its existence, to make sense of this hallucination we call reality. So our minds are always occupied (traped) by thought which is a movement of memory (information) combined with perception, and a willingness to hold on to concepts and notions of past, present and future, in other words, our reality, personal and external, and make them "alive" and "real". We hold on to them because that's all we think we've got. We have no more inputs into our brains except the senses, thought and memory. If that is taken from us what are we left with? But in reality the past is dead it never existed, it's only information. What we're left with is a knowingness of the present, a presence. So to me Gnosis is experienced when there is a abandonment or surrender or let go to all this, in other words, it's a kind of self-induced amnesia.

    "Can I look at the movement of life without all those accumulations, which are actually the `me', the `I', the `ego', the self-centred entity. That is the question, isn't it? Can one die to yesterday and be new, fresh, innocent today? It is only innocence that can see very clearly, isn't it?"
    "When the mind is utterly still, that which is sacred can take place."
    J. Krishnamurti

    I think that Memento tries to demonstrate metaphorically someone who just experienced Gnosis, or is about to, and who is in a state of mental breakdown, paranoia, trying to hold on to what he was, his former self, as it is being taken from him.

  21. This lifetime is the period at the end of our sentence, it's hyperspherical shape and uniformity unites us all in selfless identity. It is the particle period that finally gives meaning to the tidal wave of words, and ultimately brings both death and life to the expression. Memento, rearranged to E Moment, past Eve and Atom's.

    The children in Inception are named James and Phillipa, allusions to Joyce and PKD. The totem, a hypersphere, spins like the tornado that awoke Dorothy into the hologrammattic realities of JJ/PKD. Leo Dicaprio = Coda Pile Rio, a heap of conclusions that ends in rio, to begin
    the whole damn cycle again.

    The fact that Side One of Pink Floyd's Meddle serves as the hidden soundtrack to the final act brings echos of
    Kubrick into the party.

  22. Nice point about Inception. I was watching it wondering; how the Hell is it moral to go into somebody's mind and make them do something for a corporate competitor? Oh your little girl. How convenient. Inception really was rather disturbing to me; like the Agents from the Matrix, he could manipulate reality but his reasons for doing so were deeply questionable.

  23. Hey Chris,

    Just wanted to share an excerpt with you, from an unpublished occult thriller I've written. It's available online at

    Admittedly this is a bit of a lengthy excerpt, so feel free to delete it once you've read it, but I think it might provide flavour and context to the Dark City, Matrix, Memento themes you've covered recently. Here it is:

    There were times in her life when she thought she’d seen beyond physical reality, to some awesome power that seemed to speak in symbols and associations.
    Whether this power was Christ; the Lord Almighty, like her mum had believed, Celia didn’t know. Her reason told her that all religion was myth, created because people needed something to believe in; an axis for their brief but painful existence.
    But she had at least felt the presence of this power, seen evidence of it at times, like now. It went beyond science. Sometimes she feared it went beyond love.


    She turned the page. There was large pen & ink drawing, intricately detailed. A tall man dressed in a Victorian overcoat, his face turned slightly, shadowed by the brim of a top-hat. He had talon fingers and razor teeth. Under his right arm he held a bundle.
    Celia squinted and realised the bundle was a baby. The tall man was disappearing into a stone archway. Beneath the drawing was the word ‘Dollman’.
    She looked again at the image. It was perverse and gleeful. She read the text that accompanied the drawing.

    "The Dollman was a very popular myth, amongst Victorian schoolchildren and academics alike, a Bogeyman that was said to live in ancient tunnels deep beneath London. His particular delight was abducting and murdering naughty youngsters. He preyed upon adults too, but for more specific reasons; terrifying and slaughtering children was his first pleasure. The Dollman could often be found in the ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ of the late nineteenth century. The infamous Whitechapel Murders of 1888 were often portrayed as the handiwork of the Dollman, in the more lurid fictions of the time. The mythologies of various Bogeymen have their origins in Germanic and Scandinavian fairy-tales, where non-human beings preyed upon children and lost travellers."

    Celia glanced up, feeling cold. Eventually her eyes returned to the page.


    "These Bogeymen evoke fears of castration and violent death. Their genesis can be ascribed to primal terrors in both the young and old alike; fears of sleep, dream and imagination. In the modern scientific age the prevalence of these ancient fairy-tale predators has declined. Now we have reason, to banish the shadows – and electric light, to illuminate the dark corners."

    Celia looked up from the page again. She laughed suddenly, glancing at Louise. Her eyes were closed.
    Celia lit a cigarette and took a deep pull. How could something be both real and unreal? It stretched her reason, trying to embrace it.
    On an intuitive level she grasped it irrationally. There was a halfway place between fantasy and reality. Somehow they were using mythology to give themselves form, cloaked in old stories.

    She frowned, looking through the hotel windows at the night sky. What was Truth? Did it even exist? Celia felt the spectre of Madness near her shoulder, like a Bogeyman itself.
    The line between the real and unreal could be removed briefly, for artistic and poetic insight, but to remove it forever was schizophrenia; a complete fragmentation of the psychological system. Perception was everything.


  24. Dammerung: Chris Nolan doesn't make films about good people.

  25. "I think that Memento tries to demonstrate metaphorically someone who just experienced Gnosis, or is about to, and who is in a state of mental breakdown, paranoia, trying to hold on to what he was, his former self, as it is being taken from him." - Bruno Tarrana

    You might be right Bruno. There is definitely some risk to one's sanity associated with coming into gnosis-town too early or without sufficient preparation beforehand. As I understand it, there are two types of people that experience gnosis:

    (1) Those people who have received training beforehand via mystery schools or some kind of one-on-one human mentorship (an example of a positive and helpful mentor would be Morpheus); people who are intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually prepared; people who can calmly stay open to the experience.

    (2) Those who've had basically no training to speak of; people who are unprepared, even resistant, or just sort of inadvertently swept up into it suddenly often in a panicked state or after a physiologically stressful or otherwise traumatic situation (Like Leonard Shelby's traumatic impact with a mirror); people who are desperately attempting to hold on to pieces of the ego, pieces of what they were (sometimes getting puffed up with pride or experiencing so much fear that they dissociate, again like Leonard may have done); people who lack a suitable physiological environment and/or a suitable conceptual framework for grocking what's occurring and dealing with it successfully.

    Type 1 is Thomas Anderson / Neo
    Type 2 is Leonard Shelby

    Leonard's situation is even worse than that actually because he's not just lacking training and a proper guide. Leonard is lacking training plus he has to deal with the opposite of a guide, Teddy, who is essentially a guide-impersonator. Teddy is an obsessively guileful and materialistic sort of salesman who is actively using Leonard's baby-like naivety and gullibility against him. Why? #1 Because he can, and #2 Because he wants to secure a fortune for himself and/or needs to make a living somehow.


    In western civilization, people who are going through a psychedelic emergence often end up in the care of mentors or guides like Teddy (rather than Morpheus), guides who are "naive materialists," or atheists, or "fundamentalist religious literalists," or who don't actually know what the hell they're doing. The psychiatric profession concludes they've just got bad brains and the religious literalists concludes they've just got bad souls, but really it's more like their culture has completely failed them.


  26. Continued...

    If you're interested, there's an excellent presentation about "Psychedelic Emergence" and about how best to help untrained, unprepared, and/or freaked out people to benefit from such experiences. Here's a few quotes:

    “The psychedelic state isn't necessarily something to be medicated away and sedated for the physician's convenience and comfort. The psychedelic emergency is actually a growth opportunity...”

    "So, I mean... Look, I'm really preaching to the choir, you guys understand that psychedelics are really medically, are basically safe, that they're not toxic physically. We also know that there's a real, there's a unique window of opportunity here for real growth and real change to emerge from this altered state, and the emergency room psychiatrist should be on the look out for these windows because they're very rare in the lifetime of a patient. A patient in a psychedelically induced crisis, they're in need of empathy and connection, you know not just reassurance it's going to end soon."

    - Julie Holland, M.D.

    "So the enlightened instructions for handling a psychedelic emergency are that the real way to handle it is by: listening, being present, and making space for whatever's coming up. You know the patient's opening up like never before, and they're vulnerable to the influence of those people around them, so you want to really pay attention to what sort of psychic stimulus they're getting. You know it's nice if it's sort of a well-lit room, not a dark room, not too much noise, some privacy, but people are very vulnerable to the psychic energy of other people when they're tripping, and that's something I feel like the average doctor doesn't really know about. But shuttling them into a corner and waiting for the sedation to take hold is not making the best use of the situation.”

    - Julie Holland, M.D.

    Leonard Shelby is an extreme case, but many many many many people have experiences that "scarred their souls", buried traumas that they might have to process (or at a minimum, unpleasant experiences which they might need to re-frame) before they can properly individuate and/or before they can arrive at gnosis. To watch the whole video, search for "Julie Holland" on Vimeo.

  27. It is a great observation that Len's amnesia is caused by slamming into and breaking a mirror. It symbolizes both shattering one's identity and being shattered by encountering one's double.

    The Doppelganger myth is usually negative. One's double is one's death.

  28. Another interesting comparison between the three films:

    In Dark City, John Murdoch never learns who he was before he was kidnapped by the strangers.

    In the Matrix, Neo had no real life before he woke up. His was not a story of amnesia per se.

    In Memento, Leonard only knows who he was before the attack. He has no memory of what happened between the attack and the present moment except for the clues left behind by an "unreliable narrator" i.e. himself.

    What was the Dana Carvey comedy where he played a detective who lost his memory every night?

  29. Joe Pants: "Will you help me find my keys?"
    Pierced Guy: "I have Keys. But where do they fit?"

  30. You guys seriously need to check out "following," Chris Nolan's first film. I don't want to ruin it so i will say nothing more regarding it but it is well worth the viewing.

  31. I'd like to suggest to you guys a mini-series called "The Prisoner" from 2009, based on the old series from 1967. This new mini-series I think deals exactly with the same issues Chris touched upon here.

    With James Caviezel playing the role of "The One" (who also played Christ) and Ian McKellen.

  32. Hey again, Chris

    These last few posts have felt extremely powerful for me personally, and touched upon the core of my interests in a very synchronistic way. Sweet.

    I just wanted to say that I think these myths about ancient fairy-tale predators (the fictional dollmen of my previous comment/excerpt) are deeply intertwined with our psyches.

    I often compare and contrast horror or dark fantasy fiction
    with studies in abnormal psychology, because I think the insights gained are interesting.

    I suspect that these fairytale predator stories are more than just our survival anxieties, or monstrous metaphors that encapsulate our basest fears - though this is definitely part of the phenomenon. But there's something frighteningly literal here, IMHO.

    I'm not sure if it's wise to make such a bold claim, especially since I think Psyche and its interconnectivity underpins all manifest experience. However, these tales of Strangers, Archons, Agents, etc all seems to have an odd thematic consistency that feels weirdly significant to me.

    I'm really not a good judge of these things though, since every damn thing feels weird to me. But these sinister gatekeeper characters are lurking in various forms of fiction - but fiction is often the best place to tell an unbelievable truth.

    With such an arena as a comfort-zone, perhaps the collective/creative mind can be a bit more honest or vivid in its output.

    It's a tricky thing I'm trying to describe here. You would probably agree that if genetic or collective memory exists, it might find arenas of fiction the most appropriate place to express its content. Especially if there is some trauma or distortion connected to it.

    What I'm saying here is that I think there's an inherent paradox - these Stranger-Agent-Archons are fiction, but it's almost like we have to tell little untruths to reconnect with the powerful significance of such a memory/myth.

    We have to dress it with our own scary outfits so that the details build up enough for us to recognise the soul of the thing - the memory allows us to remember the trauma but at a distance and with certain artistic liscence.

    Why does the soul of this thing have such power, even if it's purely symbolic? You follow me? Others have probably said this idea way better, and with fewer words, but I hope I'm understood.

    I mean, let's not fuck around here - these archons and strangers and agent characters are rapists, right? They're ALL about control. Not only are they often physically defiling their prey, but their main goal/method of control is spiritual rape on a scale that is practically beyond our comprehension.

    If there is any truth to Gnostic interpretations, literally or symbolically, then perhaps the boogieman in all his fictional incarnations is the closest that our collective memory will let us get to the actual rape that began our pathology. And humanity has become a race of broken, pathological creatures. All the violence and exploitation around us cannot imply otherwise.

    Here's the crux of the matter though- in a world of deep, deep interconnections, did we simply rape ourselves? My careful answer would be, "Not at first." With this as my honest opinion, I'm totally willing to consider a whole host of projection/metaphor/fantasy intricacies intertwined with such archon/predator characters - and an open-minded about the subtleties of their ontology.


  33. "i need some meanin i can memorize, cuz the kind i have always seems to slip my mind."
    - Bright Eyes, from the cd 'Lifted, or the story is in the soil so keep your ear to the ground.'

    I caused myself trauma by doing stuff that led me to be paranoid for going on 7-8 years which then led to this gnostic stuff, and i'm not talkin about drugs even tho i was on them so i was that much more paranoid. Anytime i hear something i think, "is that juss complete bullshit." It permeates everything i do and leads to thoughts of violence, like, "damn, should i shoot my boss?"

    Crazy that you introduced the idea of Leonard being a model/example to all follow. I try to resist the violence and illegal shit but the rest of it is often hilarious and meaningful. Haha(in autotune)

  34. Nolan includes Batman insignias in both Following and Memento. A nice touch.

  35. the matrix and terminator were stolen from sophia stewart...she sued and they tried to settle for a million...check out her original story 'third eye'

  36. Here is a link that I feel anyone reading this simply MUST visit.

    This youtube clip is profoundly important!

  37. And then there's Leonard Nimoy, whose memory rings in Liv.

  38. I don't know if you have heard of Red Dwarf my favourite episode...

    Back to Reality: The crew investigate an alien vessel and are exposed to a hallucinogenic substance which induces extreme dispair. They wake up to find that they have been playing a computer game, called "Red Dwarf".

    They weren't actually on a spacecraft as they thought, if that was reversed they would wake up on a spaceship and find that Earth was just a game.

  39. Mike,
    That YouTube video "The Matrix Vs. Carl Sagan" is a riot.
    And as a side note,I ordered Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" at X-mas time,because it was reduced from $150 to $39.95,but it only just got to me in the post 2 days ago.
    I remember "Cosmos" being on,when I was growing up,but I never watched it.Mainly because the way Carl talked bugged me...just like the way Mr.Smith's voice bugged fact exactly like the way Mr.Smith's voice bugged me.

  40. If a movie is trying to wake us up to what's really going on, and what's really going on is VERY unpleasant, does that un-pleasantness make the movie - or the movie-maker - evil?

    For example, I LOVED The Prestige. Yes, the truth revealed at the end is very unpleasant (heart-breaking), but the movie beautifully illustrates how easy it is to manipulate the perceptions of even intelligent, educated people. If you don't know anything about the behind-the-scenes, you have no chance of correctly interpreting your perceptions. They do it with (4th dimensional) mirrors!

    My only problem w/TDK was at the end, when he tried to pretend he could lie in the service of the good (no can do); Ledger perfectly portrayed just how insane and evil the psychopath really is (and there are millions of them IRL). Maybe that was why he was killed; the vampire hates its reflection.


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