Friday, 4 March 2011

Dark City and The Matrix - The Desert of the Real - UPDATED

Over on the Secret Sun, author Chris Knowles has recently begun writing a series of reality-questioning essays that focus on some very intriguing movies; Dark City, The Matrix, and Memento. This following essay is composed of comments, thoughts and speculations that were originally posted on the Secret Sun blog – with special focus paid to these movies that present themes of indeterminate reality.  I thought that turning these inchoate musings into a semi-formal essay might be fruitful and fun.  With this as my preface, let’s get down to it.

Prima Materia

I have little doubt that the human brain/mind is capable of infinite possibilities, and this statement is not intended as hyperbole.  Since I was a child, the notion has plagued me that we are intended to be entities capable of infinite creativity, and I mean that in the most literal sense.   It's a notion that has followed me my entire life, almost drove me insane, and informed almost everything I believe - screaming through all my inner faculties so that virtually all the knowledge I've gained in my life has been a process of retro-fitting information to this single idea. 

we are the spark - we have to be
It's what led me into mysticism, Gnosticism, quantum physics, conspiracy research, etc. I suspect that not only are we intended to be infinitely creative (with all that it implies) but that we were so once before, in our current understanding of linear time.  If humanity has fallen somehow from this infinite creativity, did we jump or were we pushed? With such speculations we step into a grey conspiracy/metaphysics/mythology area concerning ideas about Ancient Astronaut Theory, demiurges, archons, spiritual prisons, etc.  The idea that an extraterrestrial or interdimensional force has had a hand in human affairs and evolution.  I don't claim to know the truth about any of these things. All I know is that I'm a guy who's been obsessed with a single idea for his entire life.

As depicted in the movies Dark City and the Matrix series, I too have felt the presence of what I can only describe as very dark forces in connection with the whole metaphysics/conspiracy continuum.   Now whether that darkness is of a moral kind, or simply the darkness that comes with my limited interaction with something virtually incomprehensible, I can't say.  However, I think we should allow the possibility that certain hypothetical non-physical intelligences might be a little less than warm and fuzzy.  I think if there is any truth to these ideas of darker entities interacting with us, I think the bulk of their meaning will be found in the numinous, non-temporal realm.  

I feel like I've approached something truly alien a few times in my life, and it left me with a feeling that co-mingles joy, terror, expansion, humility, anger and pure unadulterated intensity.  After all my searching and questing I've come to the conclusion that I've been staring into the depths of my own mind/soul the entire time. Does this personal realisation prove or disprove my original notion? I honestly don't know, in any logical reasonable sense - but in my gut my intuition screams at me that it's all true. We've been visited, manipulated, helped and hindered by SOMETHING, all for some meta-context that is part of a narrative that would appear incomprehensible to us.  Ultimately, what I'm trying to say is that I think we're all intimately enfolded throughout our own stories and mythologies - in a way would make gods or fools of us all.

I just hope the little light of current humanity isn't snuffed out before we realise this en masse. It's entirely possible to me that the end of our evolution is our material destruction and not our apotheosis. I hope it doesn't come to that, but even that is preferable to someone like me than this unending rape/slavery that is business as usual in our world. 

Distortions and Ontology

There does seem to be a very disturbing element to some of my own personal metaphysical 'contacts', but I'm perfectly willing to concede that such experiences were with more primal aspects of my own psyche - and not the actions of some predatory non-physical intelligence in the vein of Dark City’s ‘Strangers’ or The Matrix’s ‘Agents’.  So, what can we glean from movies that question the ontology of ‘reality’?  Dark City is a deeply personal film for me and occupies a weird place in my own personal mythology. I’d forgotten how much so until Christopher Knowles’ recent Star Wars posts.   He maintains that Dark City is an AstroGnostic parable, and I completely concur.  

I’ve got a theory about the movie's protagonist, John Murdoch, that is basically just another way of figuring him as the solar king, as suggested by Chris Knowles – that is, Murdoch is the Ego of Man. Or rather he is an expression of infinite creation that broke away from the Source and became an individuated consciousness.

A kind of ‘Fall of Man’ interpretation, whereby a holistic spiritual perception is fractured through some trauma or distortion (a la The Strangers/Archons) and a persona or mask of ego is born as a coping mechanism.   We could figure Murdoch as an aspect of the divine feminine/dark goddess herself, an aspect that was ultimately born from her as an individuated ego, or sun god – a birth triggered by the overreaching distortions of The Strangers.   Isn’t there some resonance here to Set, and Osiris being scattered across the deep black Nile? The Feminine puts the pieces back together – but the ritual-drama of the movie is about his transition from a newly made man into a solar king.

I really don’t see Murdoch’s ‘tuning’ powers returning to full strength as the height of his apotheosis. He’s still seeking to rejoin with the divine feminine represented by Emma/Anna. Like through a glass darkly, ‘Anna’ backwards is ‘Anna’; a fitting name for a goddess.

Since I believe that everything in any meaning-system is fundamentally interconnected, it makes me further suspect that some version of a more psychological interpretation to these huge themes is 'true' - and yet that a more external interpretation is not necessarily by extension 'untrue'.

I think maybe this is where we touch upon the idea that haunts me, that figuratively speaking there is only ONE race in the universe: the DNA race, and it is an infinite shapeshifter that has a staggeringly sophisticated relationship with sound and light.

If this DNA premise is even partially valid then morality and cognizance becomes even more complicated. And any dark interaction between alien races (or even synthetic Archons) becomes at best familypolitik and at worse parricide.  I've often had the perhaps baseless intuition that this star-system alone is filled with unimaginable secrets. Even if I don't trust the actual information in my own intuitions I trust that their intensity is usually trying to tell me something of import.  I really don't think humanity as we currently understand it was the first to traverse and investigate this little dominion of Sol. I suspect this star-system has a deep, deep history to it.

the realm...

 Third Rock from the Sun

The Stone of Foundation
I think the film Dark City has some oblique connections to the Foundation Stone of abrahamic faiths, at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.  Further still I think there are resonances with Jacob's Ladder, which is also mythologically connected to the Foundation Stone (and is also a dark little film about indeterminate reality).

Here's a quote from Wikipedia about the Foundation Stone:

"In the days when Selichot are recited, in the days leading up to Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur, the supplications include the following references:

You carried us and placed us on the [Holy] City’s height, You settled us on the Patriarch’s rocky peak.

Upon it lying the stone from which the foundation was hewn…Who gives ear from which the waters flow (i.e. the foundation stone "from which flo
w all the waters of the world").

It's the place where the Holiest of Holies was kept; the Ark of the Covenant (or the (D)ARK city?). It's where Muhammad ascended into heaven (Murdoch-Muhammad?).

From the Qur'an: Glory be to him when he decrees a thing he only says be, and it is." (Quran:19:33–35)

Apparently this is an inscription in The Dome of the Rock, but it fits John Murdoch quite well.  Another quote from Wikipedia on the Foundation Stone that might elucidate my speculations:

"According to the sages of the Talmud it was from this rock that the world was created, itself being the first part of the Earth to come into existence. In the words of the Zohar:“The world was not created until God took a stone called Even haShetiya and threw it into the depths where it was fixed from above till below, and from it the world expanded. It is the centre point of the world and on this spot stood the Holy of Holies.

"According to the Talmud, it was close to here, on the site of the altar, that God gathered the earth that was formed into Adam. It was on this rock that Adam—and later Cain, Abel, and Noah—offered sacrifices to God. Jewish sources identify this rock as the place mentioned in the Bible where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. The mountain is identified as Moriah in Genesis 22. It is also identified as the rock upon which Jacob dreamt about angels ascending and descending on a ladder and consequently consecrating and offering a sacrifice upon."

It seems to me that Gnostically-themed parables are essentially love stories; protagonists seeking to free themselves from illusion by reuniting with a greater truth often symbolised by a romantic love interest.   In Dark City it is Emma/Anna, in the fim Memento it is Leonard Shelby's wife ( Shel-B? Shell Beach?), and in The Matrix it's Trinity's kiss that resurrects Neo (Thomas Anderson - The Twin Son of Man).  With regards to the characters in Memento, the name Shelby exists phonetically in the words Shell Beach anyway, i.e. Shell B-Each. Shelby Each?

The name Shelby means ‘a place where the willows grow; sheltered’, or ‘a willow grove’, or ‘Willow; from the ledge estate’, or ‘a sheltered town’. 
Apparently, the Gaelic words for willow are ‘shellach’, or ‘suil’.  In the Rede of Wicca the tree is a psychopomp that helps guide the dead to The Summerland (Shell Beach again).   The Willows deep roots made it very associative with fertility across cultures. Apparently in Greece willow branches were placed in the beds of infertile women, in the hope of enticing pregnancy, or in the beds of Native American newlyweds for similar purposes.

Others say the weeping willow weeps due to man’s inhumanity to man, and that it will right itself again once a new age of peace and kindness arrives. I truly hope so.


“Hecate the powerful Greek goddess of the moon and of willow, also taught sorcery and witchcraft, and was 'a mighty and formidable divinity of the Underworld'. Helice was also associated with water, and her priestesses used willow in their water magic and witchcraft. The willow muse, called Heliconian after Helice, was sacred to poets, and the Greek poet Orpheus carried willow branches on his adventures in the Underworld. He was also given a lyre by Apollo, and it is interesting to note that the sound boxes of harps used to be carved from solid willow wood.”

There’s tonnes more quotes like this all over the net at various sites.  So, in Memento, Leonard and his dead wife are both ‘Shelby’s’; literally and figuratively – they are both sheltered Willow groves with spooky significance.  And in Dark City, Shell B-Each is perhaps indicative of Murdoch and Emma/Anna – two halves of the same mystery-play.

Isn't it strange the themes of light and darkness portrayed either directly or obliquely in the previous three movies? In connection to this, I think that Shell Beach can also be figured as Sheol Beach. Here's another Wiki quote about Sheol:

"Sheol (pronounced "Sheh-ol"), in Hebrew
שְׁאוֹל (She'ol), is the "grave", or "pit" or "abyss".

In Judaism She'ol is the earliest conception of the afterlife in the Jewish Scriptures. It is a place of darkness to which all dead go regardless of the moral choi
ces made in life and where they are "removed from the light of God" (see the Book of Job). She'ol is a concept that predates the Christian and Muslim ideas of judgement after death and also predates, and is different from, Heaven and Hell. It is unclear whether Sheol was to be considered a real place or a way of describing the unknown status of a person's conscious being.

The word "hades" (= underworld) was substituted for "sheol" when the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek (see Septuagint) in ancient Alexandria around 200 BCE (see Hellenistic Judaism)."

Through the veil

It's tempting to look at the divergent Gnostic literature out there and draw paralells to the dualist cosmologies of mainstream religion, disregarding the demiurge/archons as satanic 'enemies' of spiritual freedom, much like the religious binary of the abrahamic faiths.

Is the wild collage of Gnosticism little more than a reaction to life's harsh insanities; deifying such insanities as a scapegoat 'demiurge' in order to make sense of the rage that results from living in such a harsh realm?

I have no answers to these questions, but I look around me and see prisons everywhere - both literal and figurative. I see sinister architects of those prisons. I see planning, malign intent, and truth be told I see a dark genius that is constantly 'improving' the literal and figurative prisons around us.   The trans-nationalism and cold-bloodedness of human exploitation is so extreme in our world that we often dare not see the orchestration behind it - such insight is often too much to bear.

Rather we would view the exploitation and domination as something that 'kinda just happened' without anyone being responsible or complicit in such horror - something that continues to 'kinda just happen' every day.

But I say, 'As above, so below'.

If there are prisons in the microcosm of human experience, perhaps there are prisons in the macrocosm also. Perhaps putting a face/personality/agenda to such possibilities can seem just too terrifying.   It's a hard thing to speculate that we might all be living in a cosmic P.O.W. Camp, but such a possibility isn't implausible to my way of thinking.  We must allow the possibility, at the very least, to cultivate insight into the subtleties of the human experience.

After all, every one of us has our perceptual filters - our subject/object thresholds.  And mine are admittedly psychological.  I always tend to look for movement of the psyche in extraordinary experiences, or when musing on extraordinary material. In that sense I think of myself as a 'realist'. Not because I'm searching for a materialist reason to explain the truly mysterious, but because I'm searching for a psychologically truthful one.

This being the case, I can't help but suspect that some aspect of a demiurge-as-pathology interpretation is true. Yet the opposite is not therefore by extension 'untrue'. Boundaries and thresholds blur. I can see truth at both ends of the spectrum.

I see interconnectedness and interdependency everywhere, and I suspect that the limitations we place on the psyche are figurative at best. Therefore, I don't really see a complete separation between my Self and the Dark Unknowable Other (be it Archons, Strangers, Agents or whatever).

To me, Gnosis is often not about 'fact', it is about 'truth' -and truth is often simply the wisdom to admit that much of our knowledge is discerning speculation at best, and that shutting ourselves off from such fluidity of mind is a prison in and of itself.

I find it interesting that there seems to be a sub-theme of colonisation in both The Matrix and Dark City - colonisation of the human mind and the human imagination. I see the same theme in much modern sci-fi; colonisation/appropriation under the guise of advancement, whilst somehow making the thing in question actually less than it was or should be. You find this theme in every sci-fi dystopia or questionable utopia narrative - and I think with good reason.

Colonisation, to me, is primarily about reducing your target psychologically, spiritually and socially, thus making them more malleable and easily led. The conquistadors did this to the 'New World', America and Europe did it to Africa, and Globalist government is doing it to all of us right now.

Conquering becomes colonisation becomes liberation - bringing Demo-crazy to the poor, ignorant peoples of the Earth. When you can sell enslavement as liberation, and folks will do the impossible mental gymnastics to make this seems plausible to themselves, then you're really on to a winner.

The Devil is in the details, as they say.

One of the commentators on the Secret Sun blog post AstroGnostic: Agents/Angels/Archons/Aliens mentioned Constantine (another favourite comic/film of mine). In the film version I find it amusing that Peter Stormare plays Lucifer not as some suave, byronic vampire-like entity - but as a sick, banal asshole.

It's also interesting in a demiurge kind of way that Constantine's devil is dressed in a white suit (the typical depiction of a good angel or God himself), and that his first appearance is of his feet coming from above and touching down on the floor. He doesn't rise up from the depths; he descends into shot from above the camera angle.

In fact, one of my cousins didn't get it and asked me if Peter Stormare was playing some fucked up version of God. I remember laughing at this.

The whole white-suited Demiugre/Lucifer/God confusion can be seen again in the Matrix sequel with the 'Architect' character; a blatant asshole spouting gobbledygook and balderdash.
In The Matrix, Agent Smith is the primary Archon, an entity that develops a strange personal relationship with Neo. This theme is turbo-charged in the Matrix sequels when Smith becomes a self-replicating sentient intelligence with a curious hard-on for Neo.

I find this theme echoed in Dark City in the relationship between Murdoch and Mr Hand - a mirroring, as John Henning suggests above. I could almost imagine a sequel of Dark City where Mr Hand is resurrected as some newer, more powerful version of himself - through his link to Murdoch.

Agent Smith's role in The Matrix and more so in the sequels becomes like Metatron - the voice (or hand)of God, an angel of indeterminate origin and function. He's also a bit of a usurper and a threat to the stability of the Matrix itself. 
Hugo Weaving as Smith in this role has linguistic resonance too.   The name Hugo is suggested to mean 'bright spirit, inspiration', or 'heart, mind, spirit'.

So, Spirit Weaving playing the primary Archon of the Matrix - an illusion generated primarily for using human energy as a food source. Interesting, I think, in a creepy kind of way.

Spirit Weaving...

The Liberation Grail

Here's my highest hope, phrased as a question: What if it's not the hard tangibility of the physical universe that's the illusion-prison - but it's the universe's apparent causality?

Essentially I'm suggesting a world at times as hard-edged and real as this one, but with added ESP, synchronicity, psychokinesis, teleportation, time travel, less physical pain and no neccesity for food. If we could all really 'tune' like John Murdoch, tune all our neccessities, would that not be a liberated state of being?

We need a context of contrasts in order to perceive ANYTHING, but contrast is not the same thing as the unimaginable violence that seems encoded into nature and physics. Planets can be shattered by foreign objects, stars can go supernova, or expand and swallow all the sentient life that it hosts. Perhaps the unavoidability of this violence is the prison.

I have a basic working grasp of contemporary physics and I do understand the reservations to such madcap theorising. But what if we were once more dream-logic creatures than discreet tangible entities? What if we were eventually mechanised somehow by linear causality, physical pain and physical neccesities?

If we really are energetic beings in some sense, connected to the infinite source - then it makes sense that the first thing an Archon would want to do is close down that open energy-system. If true, this has massive implications and untold resonances.

If ancient astronauts fucked around with our DNA, our tree of life (or THE tree of life), it's possible that the tree was originally far more paradoxical and powerful than we currently understand. What if the tree's roots were once planted in the numinous, intangible realm (in sci-fi speak the human individual was a zero-point system, eidolon, or ghost) - and the ancient astronauts planted the tree in the Earth itself. The dream-logic magic of its essence became chemical chains of deoxyribonucleic acid.


What if they tethered us here, and terra is more an adoptive mother rather than a strict birth-mother? Just my speculations, but we humans are as much poetry as prose. There's some kind of powerful secret connected to that fact - I can feel it.

Truth doesn't have to be fact (whatever facts are), but it does have to be psychologically resonant somehow.

I find little jewels of truth/insight all over the place, and if you're open you can often feel it when you come across it - regardless of how fictionalised, confused or prefaced as speculation it might be.

I'm really open to this kind of thing, but it's a really personal process and requires a brutal self-honesty (which I fail at too often). If you work with it though it can offer all kinds of wonderful insights, cross-collaboration and short-cuts.  I just try to honestly listen to truth if I hear it speak. And I try to strike up a conversation with it, in whatever form/context it appears.

That way I usually don't fall into the trap of trying to make my truth someone else's truth - and yet I can connect with them, and myself, on a fairly intimate level. Which is what I guess we're all trying to do.  I would humbly suggest that questioning all aspects of our apparent reality helps to make us more inclusive, compassionate individuals. 


Chris Knowles' recent post AstroGnostic: Memento-Mirror-Matrix is the coup de grace to anyone who doesn't see the insight presented in his analysis of the Dark City/Matrix/Memento triptych.

I find it interesting that in Knowles' Dark City essay he figures 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 Strangers 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.

So, in tattooing the lies/manipulations/dead letters onto his flesh, Leonard Shelby of Memento 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.

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