Friday, July 28, 2017

You Are Being Initiated: The OA Revisited

That's not actually an A, is it?

I wrote about the extraordinary Netflix series The OA over the winter but something about it kept nagging at me. I was so focused on the externals of the storyline that it didn't occur to me that what we're actually seeing here is a classic Mystery religion narrative, complete with a journey to the Underworld. 

The OA has all the usual secret society tropes like death and rebirth, piercing the veil between dimensions, revelation within a cavern,  an elite vanguard separated from society, super powers, transcendence through ordeal and a lord of the Underworld kidnapping a virtuous maiden. 

All the bullet points are there. And this "OA" seems to be a symbol unto itself- it seems to be popping up in other contexts.

OA in Westworld logo

But there's a lot more to it as well.  Oh so much, much more.

Brit Marling isn't your typical Hollywood airhead of the week. She was class valedictorian at the elite's elite Georgetown University and an intern at Goldman Sachs (who later offered her a full-time position). This is an extremely intelligent woman plugged into the very upper reaches of imperial power. 

It shouldn't surprise us then that she is involved with Sir Ridley Scott, who produced her feature film The East (co-written with collobarator Zal Batmangilj) in which she plays an intelligence agent sent to infiltrate a ecoterrorist group. She also played an American enlisted to head Scotland Yard's PR department in the British miniseries Babylon (created by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle).

OA in detail from Georgetown crest

Add in her supermodel looks and you start to wonder if Brit Marling wasn't in fact grown in some CIA lab somewhere. Especially when you factor in the ever-present themes of secret societies, cutting edge science and espionage in her work. 

OA yet again. Twice actually.

And particularly when you consider that her work seems to be initiating its viewers into the esoteric world of Co-Masonry. We looked briefly at this movement in the context of Co-Mason Dion Fortune and her influence on Twin Peaks. Co-Masonry is essentially a system that allows women to become Masons but has historically followed a more mystical path than regular Freemasonry. It was particularly popular in the Victorian Era and had a lot of crossover with the Theosophical movement.

The OA is in fact an irreducibly (Co-)Masonic show, just as the new Star Trek series seems to be. I know; that sounds absolutely ridiculous. Or at least it does until you begin to break down the symbolism and place the series in the greater context of the writing team's catalog. 

And then you realize- oh wait, this really is what I'm seeing here.


The OA tells the story of Prairie Johnson, a girl born to a Russian oligarch who dies when her school bus falls into a river and is sent back to the physical world by a mysterious spirit, who is for intents and purposes a goddess. However the goddess also takes Prairie's sight away. 

Prairie is then sent to America and adopted by an elderly ouple, played by Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead) and Alice Krige (who played the Borg Queen in the ultra-Masonic Star Trek: First Contact).

OA in Star Trek: Discovery promo

After going missing for several years, Prairie reappears, traumatized but now able to see. She then assembles a small group of troubled high school kids- and an even more troubled high school teacher- promising a life-changing revelation. 

Then we see classic secret society symbolism emerge, such as when she tells the boys that they should leave their front doors open as a signal they will be joining her new lodge.

That (Royal) Arch again

The rest of the series is essentially a series of flashbacks (meaning the "reverse time" motif we've often looked at) recounting Prairie's ordeal as prisoner of a mad scientist (Jason Issacs) who is obsessed with defeating death. He has kidnapped three other NDE survivors and keeps them prisoner in his basement (ie., the Underworld), which is in fact built into a cavern.

The misfits Prairie collects are progressively transformed by her stories. In their long years of imprisonment the NDE survivors learn how to cross into other dimensions, cure terminal disease and even raise the dead through a ritual dance (called the Five Movements) which has been compared to Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity exercises.

OA symbolism- the A here is a pyramid

The symbolism is very subtle in The OA but persistent. 

Prairie travels to New York believing that she will reunite with her father there. She travels to Liberty Island, sight of the (Masonic) Statue of Liberty (who, like one of Prairie's brethren is actually transgendered). She then proceeds to Grand Central Station (essentially a Hermetic temple with a zodiac ceiling) where she meets Hap, the mad scientist. The two then dine under an illuminated arch in the stations famous Oyster Bar.

There's also the fact that "The OA" was heretofore best known as the nickname of the ultra-Masonic Order of the Arrow, who are coincidentally the same age range as Prairie's little secret society. Think hard on that fact while you digest all of this symbolism here.

The OA's lodge also meet on the second floor, or the Upper Chambers, the traditional meeting place for Freemasons. 

The Five Movements Prairie's secret society enact more than faintly resembles a recital of Masonic Degree signals, performed in sequence. More on that particular connection shortly.

We also see the recurring use of purple in The OA, which many reviewers have commented on. By some inexplicable fluke in the time-space continuum purple is also the identifying color of The Local Council of  Royal and Select Masters, also known as Cryptic Masonry, whose logo also incorporates and O and an A. 

I mean, what are the odds, right? Kooky.

There's also this scene, where the four young followers of the OA are framed in front of an Applebee's Grill and Bar. Why is this important?
Officially, the Grand Lodge of England was founded in London on St. John the Baptist's day, 24 June 1717, when four existing Lodges gathered at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul's Church-yard in London and constituted themselves a Grand Lodge. The four lodges had previously met together in 1716 at the Apple-Tree Tavern, "and having put into the Chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge), they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in due form."
That's a lot of coincidences there. Note also the framing of bees, another significant Masonic symbol, as well as the plot point centering on Saturn.

The OA is in many ways an expansion on Marlin and Batmangilj's previous explicit secret society narrative, The Sound of My Voice, whose movie poster depicts Marlin as Isis Unveiled.  

This film is similarly rife with Masonic symbolism.  The Anchor, an important Masonic symbol, is called "the sign of a Traveler." As we've seen, "traveler" is a common Masonic codeword. 

There's also the initiation ritual in which petitioners are blindfolded (or "hoodwinked") and dressed in white pajamas, exactly as Masonic applicants are. Remember that Prairie herself was blind before she was initiated into the mysteries of death and rebirth in the cavern.

What's more the entire plotline of The Sound of My Voice hinges on an elaborate secret handshake that this particular secret society uses as a form of recognition. Sound familiar?

As you see here the secret handshake is remarkably similar to the OA's Five Movements.

Note also that Marlin and Batmanglij's previous feature film is not without OA symbolism either.

That in and of itself isn't really surprising. But why are we seeing this OA symbol pop up in other places? Aside from Stargate and Westworld, the new promo poster for Freemasons in Space Star Trek: Discovery (which also co-stars Jason Issacs) has two, both in the design of the new ship and in the background elements.

Of course all three franchises are classic examples of predictive programming as well.

Then we have Chris Cornell's final solo album, Higher Truth. Maybe this will give us a clue what this symbolism actually means. Note the O and the A formed by the sun (note it has 13 rays) and the mountain. The minute I saw that artwork I flashed back to a familiar image...

Remember that compasses are designed solely to draw circles and that the "A" type shape can be created by the traditional square. Now let's conjoin the images and see what we get. 

Well, how about that?

I didn't really want to but I'd be remiss if I didn't point mention that Masonic applicants are not only blindfolded, a noose is hung around their necks, as in this Co-Masonic ritual here.

Given Marlin and Batmanglij's elite pedigree and the pervasive secret society themes in their screenplays I'd say that this "OA" symbolism is something we need to keep our eyes out for. If any of you have a definitive answer what it represents, please let me know in the comments.

As well as for the Siren, of course. This series is being produced by Disney for their basic cable channel Freeform. Note also that Starbucks just announced they are expanding further into the Chinese market.