Fourth Way Perspectives

Film Review
The 'Esoteric' Flick
The Matrix

Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski

(#) Parentheses indicate footnote number

Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from the dream, Neo? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

The Matrix, Keanu Reeves, Gurdjieff, Fourth Way, Ouspensky

The Matrix, part film, part movie, and with a large part flick,* is part of a new genre—the esoteric flick. If God is dead, according to Nietzsche, He is being reborn in a bastardized surrogate celluloid form of power, violence and esoteric 'knowledge'—a dangerous and cultish mix, for which one only has to look to Nazi Germany and the Russian Bolsheviks for a prequel of where fanatic utopianism can lead. Nevertheless, if the esoteric sells, Hollywood is ready and able. (With Carlos Castenada now gone—he refused to have his books made into movies—how long before local cinemas show The Teachings of Don Juan and Journey to Ixtlan?)

Humans as Energy Crop

That said, when it is good, The Matrix is very good—good enough to become a cult classic. The Messiah story set against a post-Armageddon world; the ancient Essene prophecy of the battle of "the sons of light" against "the sons of darkness" has already been fulfilled here, though not as man-against-man but man-against-machine. In this archetypal war man believes his only hope is to "scorch the sky," that is, cause a catastrophic perturbation that will diminish the world's solar energy, source of the machines' power. The machines—fifth-generation artificial intelligence marvels, having enough backup energy to complete their domination of men—find themselves masters of a world hidden in darkness and turbulent cloud cover. Energy-dependent, they turn to "farming" humans. An eerie scene shows acres upon acres of babies asleep in their dreams in incubator-pods, the ripe ones being machine-harvested for their heat and energy; this, of course, is a binary update of Gurdjieff's story of the magician and the sheep.(1) Humans offer no resistance because the AI machines have developed the Matrix, an artificial intelligence virtual reality illusion, a kind of cyber opium den, that allows each human his or her own personal and collective dream. Only a human being known as "the One" can save them.

The Whole Truth

Enter the messiah-to-be as computer hacker Neo Anderson (Keanu Reeves). Neo, certain that something unimaginable and sinister controls his life, seeks to learn the truth about the Matrix, something about which he has only heard whispered rumors. The intensity and sincerity of his search brings him to meet Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), a black skinhead in—yes, of course—a long black trench coat, who knows about the Matrix. He tells Neo that the Matrix is omnipresent, that he is asleep, a slave to the Matrix, "a neural interactive simulation." To Neo, these are just words. He has no referent, no material with which to comprehend what Morpheus has told him. Morpheus offers him the chance to wake up, to see the truth, offering Neo a choice of taking one of two pills—red for the truth, blue for forgetfulness and dreams. Neo takes the red pill. An explosion of special effects follows. Neo, awakening from his AI dream of himself sees the reality of his situation—he is imprisoned in a pod among vast dark towers of billions of like pods all awaiting harvest. Awakening to the stark truth, he is immediately grabbed by a spider-like machine and flushed down the pod's drain into a sewer. Revived on Morpheus' hovercraft, Nebuchadnezzar, he hears Morpheus say:

"Welcome to the desert of reality, Neo."

"Why do my eyes hurt?" asks Neo.

"You've never used them before," answers Morpheus.

Neo now meets the unusual crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, a motley band of rebels, who only share one thing in common—they have all chosen the red pill. Among them is Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a black-leather-clad woman he has met earlier and Cypher (Joe Pantoliano). Though Morpheus, an updated John the Baptist, has found the One, or Jesus, in the wilderness of ordinary life, Neo, the former dreamer, has no notion that he is the One. By flick's end he earns and accepts his destiny, his true identity. In the meantime, he and his crewmates battle the sinister morphing agents of the Matrix, AI machines in human guise, suited and in dark glasses. The AI agents are programmed to hate the smell of human beings and their sole mission is to keep the human harvest from waking up from their dream of life.

*Note: The reviewer categorizes serious motion pictures as—films; less serious—movies; and pure pandering no-brain entertainment—flicks.


(1) P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p. 219.

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