by Philip Coppens
The Matrix trilogy stands as one of the classic movies that
redefined film-making, both technically and script-wise. It
carefully played and transformed symbolism, hiding it behind a layer
of “kung fu fighting”, which at the same time made it more
accessible to an entire generation of filmgoers.
The Matrix film was launched as the movie of 1999.
It became a
trilogy in 2003, when part 2 and 3 were released, as The Matrix
Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. Specifically the first movie caused
a major impact and was defined as an important metaphysical event
for Mankind – that should be those who only visit cinema theatres
and don’t read books on metaphysics.
Still, it is true that the trilogy is steeped in symbolism, whereby
the first part symbolized birth, the second life and the third
death. The Matrix has thus been described as a “Shamanic Journey”,
carefully crafted by the enigmatic
Wachowski brothers: Andy and
Some have compared it to Alice in Wonderland, but where the
message is hidden in the dramatic filming of the fight scenes –
which in 1999 were one of the major inventive contributions of the
movie to the industry. The fighting sequences, however, are so
surreal, that it adds to the surreality of the entire offering: that
the Matrix itself – life – is a dream, not possible.
And it are not
only the actions of Neo and co. that prove this – the actions of the
agents is proof of this also.
The Matrix (1999) - Birth
The hero of the story is Neo, “new”. It is clear that his archetype
is no-one else than Jesus, a man who will “awaken” and who is
predestined to change the world. However, it is not to change “the
world”, but “the dream” – the Matrix.
In truth, humans are bred and fed intravenously with the liquefied
remains of the dead. This is pure occultism and goes into the murky
realms and veiled nightmares of
H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein,
Carlos Castañeda et al. with their accounts of “the
labyrinth of the penumbra”, the inorganic entities that have
enslaved humanity and turned it into a food source.
Aboriginals believe we live a dream, the movie equally argues
that reality is a dream, controlled by secret forces to enslave us.
Like Neo and the other slaves of the Matrix, these doctrines – which
exist in Western Europe in the old concept of temple sleep and
conscious dreaming – need to be broken down: we need to awaken…
become enlightened – an illuminatus.
The movie therefore maps the transition from Thomas Anderson into
Neo, a man who learns to fly like the shaman and realize that if he
accepts the Matrix as a fantasy, he will not – cannot – die. He will
be able to bend reality, like the children being taught by the
Oracle can bend spoons – Uri Geller like.
Neo, like the others,
learns that the spoon does not require bending.
“Do not try and bend
the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead... only try to realize the
truth. There is no spoon. Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon
that bends, it is only yourself.”
Anderson works for a computer firm – Metacortex, aptly named after a
part of the brain. His secret life as a hacker has put him on the
trail of a mysterious “Morpheus”, identified as a terrorist. Via
Trinity, a meeting is arranged with Morpheus – in mythology the king
of sleep, but for Neo soon to be the man who will awaken him.
His engagement in the game begins when he is at work and receives a
call from Morpheus, warning him that “they” are after him. Following
intricate instructions from Morpheus, Neo is led into an empty
office, told to make a leap to safety. It is more a leap of faith –
and Neo fails. In the remainder of the movie, the “leap of faith”
and the ability to fly will become required steps to map Neo’s
progress in his ability to meet his destiny – change the matrix, by
refusing to believe that he can die in a world that is purely
Morpheus and his crew are unique, in that they are truly awake.
Still, they can enter the Matrix at will, through – what else –
technology. As they are the ones that understand that it is not
real, they are superhuman – not subject to its laws, though it is
their mindset which often makes them believe the “reality” of the
Matrix. At the same time, some of his crews realize that living a
nice dream is better than the horrible nightmare of having to sneak
through underground cavities in advanced craft, constantly on the
run and never at ease.
In what is both good Hollywood tradition and powerful symbolism, Neo
But Trinity, firmly persuaded at last that he is
and that the Oracle told her that she would fall in love some day
and that it would be with the One, she whispers in his ear,
must be the one, because I love you.”
The truth, represented here in
perhaps the most simple and stirring poetic image there is – the
lovers’ kiss – resurrects Neo to his new life. It sets him free. He
is raised up, reborn. It echoes the great legends of the past, such
as that of Osiris and Isis, with Isis raising Osiris from the dead,
and making him reborn.
Neo may not learn how to bend spoons, but he applies the message of
the spoon bending when he is “reborn” and learns that death inside
the matrix is an illusion: he is able to stop bullets with his mind…
as they do not exist. It is his purpose to show the others caught in
the Matrix that such supernatural feats are proof of the fallacy of
the Matrix – with the hope that many will follow him, creating a
paradigm shift in which those caught by the Matrix learn the truth,
and are liberated – causing the end of the Machine World and
Neo is not only able to stop bullets – he has also realized that he
cannot conquer evil – identified as Mr. Smith and his legions – and
later copies. Evil can only be defeated by incorporating it, which
he will do both in the first movie and in the finale of the third
movie, where Mr. Smith realizes than his “victory” over the Oracle
was in fact a huge deception: the Oracle let him consume him, so
that she could destabilize him from within.
Neo’s encounters with the Oracle have been described as the best
scenes. She acts as a genuine oracle, playing with the minds of
those who come to see her. She is there to push those who wish to
destroy the Matrix, to upset the balance. However, the illuminati’s
mindset – and specifically fear about the Matrix – is her biggest
hurdle to take, and so she gives specific messages to specific
people, such as Neo, Trinity and Morpheus.
We thus learn that she
occasionally has to trick her pupils, to believe that the outcome
has been predestined; as the illuminati still possess fear, she uses
the concept of predestination as a tool to guarantee they will
conquer their fear – rather than inform them that the paradigm shift
will only occur if they have reached sufficient belief. In the end,
this is the difference between Morpheus and Neo: Morpheus believes
in the Oracle – Neo does not; Morpheus awaits the final outcome to
“happen”, Neo actively works towards “making it happen”.
Her exact role is explained in the second and third installment,
whereby we see that her destabilizing force is countered by that of
the Architect, whose principal role is to balance out the matrix.
She strives to bring upset the balance, have good win over evil, by
creating “positive chaos”; it is the role of the Architect to
readdress the lost balance.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003) – life
In the first movie, agent Smith explains to Morpheus that the “first
Matrix was a perfect human world,” that Artificial Intelligence
originally created a surrogate reality of earthly bliss, a return to
Eden, but that humanity rejected it out of hand, that “no one would
accept the program”.
In the second movie, we begin to learn why even though the Matrix in
the first movie claimed it was 1999, it was in fact closer to two
centuries later: the system has been running repeats – Neo realizes
that his challenge to the Matrix is not the first time; he has been
here around, acting largely in the same manner as before. But the
question is whether Neo will this time behave differently, and will
be able to change the balance.
The establishment of the “New Jerusalem” is aptly used in the movie:
the last human settlement is however not located in Heaven, but in
the deepest bowels of the Earth: Zion, where there are humans who
have never been subjected to the Machine World.
Zion – a name for Jerusalem – is common enough, but it is in the
second movie that imagery from “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and the
Rennes-le-Château is introduced: a mysterious French
operator, known as
the Merovingian, who seems to possess advanced
knowledge – all attained by very human means – on shortcuts and key
individuals that sit within and on the edge of the Matrix. He knows
the Matrix is a fallacy, but decides to stay within it and “operate”
it to the best of his – all too human – abilities.
It is in this installment that the Oracle’s counterpart, the
Controller, the Architect, is introduced, explaining to Neo that he
has lived many incarnations before. This underlines the essence of
the movie: it is rather “bland”, but then so is life.
traits are present within this storyline, from the Merovingian to
the everyday struggle. It is a necessary prelude for death. It is
here that the movie cannot excel – by design: whereas life for
humans is the ultimate experience, for the illuminati it is less
exalted; their focus is birth and death, which they know are greater
mysteries than life.
Their outlook upon life is different, and they
experience it differently… for them, it is getting “in there” and
“doing their stuff”: working within the confines of Reality, inside
the “materialistic world”, with its strict rules and unliberating
Matrix Revolutions (2003) – death
The Controller balances good and evil.
The more “good” there is, the
more “evil” will be created, to balance it out. The oracle is there
to upset the balance. She is there to aid those who will aim to
ascend. And like in mysticism, the question of Ascent to God is
asked at the moment of death. The question whether Neo will be able
to ascend not merely in the Matrix but also against the “God” of
Artificial Intelligence is the final challenge.
The movie starts with Neo being in Purgatory: a world that is
neither the Matrix, or “real life” or death – he shows brain
activity, but does not show up on any program. He is lost, like
the souls of those who are in Purgatory. The train driver thus takes
on the role of the ancient ferryman, who would ferry the souls out.
All lessons learned in the first movie are now repeated, but need to
be applied on a larger scale. Like Neo, “evil” has grown in force.
Though this should cause more fear in Neo, Neo throughout the movie
realizes that fear is unimportant: he was victorious over Smith in
the first movie, and as both have grown at the same rate since, he
should win again.
The God of the Matrix knows this: he requires Neo’s help, as it is not Neo, but Smith that has made the program
go out of control. A system collapse is imminent and for the Matrix,
self-survival is paramount. Hence, it has to honor Neo’s
conditions: stop the conquest of Zion and allow those who want to
awaken, to awaken in peace.
He thus negotiates a status quo in which
active oppression and terrorist activity on the part of
Illuminati is substituted with an “entente cordial”, in which both
parties agree to let things take it course: peace.
Various religions have different outlooks upon life.
The Cathars in
medieval Europe saw Earth and life as a prison, created by the
devil, disallowing Mankind a heavenly life. These and others saw
life as enslavement. Other philosophies see life as a school, a
training ground. The name “matrix” itself is Latin from “womb”,
showing the nurturing quality of the mother, which in the movie has
been negatively interpreted as the womblike conditions to which
humanity has been subjected to: battery pills.
Throughout the movie, a self-created matrix is used by Neo & co. as
a training ground – specifically in the first movie. It suggests
that a neutral environment for protection or learning had been
recreated to become mankind’s bondage.
Morpheus is not wrong when he assures Neo that “reality” – the world
experienced by our senses – is but electrical impulses in the brain,
and that as such it may indeed be simulated by artificial means.
Science and technology has established this. Perhaps we are holding
back, out of a lurking fear that, should we realize what is
possible, we may also realize that it is equally inevitable - that it
has in fact already happened.
This, of course, is the message that
quantum physics is slowly but definitely telling us:
universe as it is created is as much in the mind as it is out there…
and that it seems to have been constructed according to rules which
seem to hint at “Controller” behind the scene, but also that “the
mind” is able to excel it.
Materialism is just that: the perception of reality – the matrix of
our mind – as the death trap it has become, whereby some are offered
the blue or the red pill. The lesson of materialist scientists is
that life is the finality – the lesson of spiritual scientists is
that life needs to be explored, but seems to feature in a bigger
whole, which gives meaning and ethics to life.
The Matrix suggests that this materialistic view at some point needs
to be replaced. There are the passive expectations of some
religions, such as the Second Coming of Christ, as well as the
passive hope for a
paradigm shift in the “2012 AD” scenario, whether
it is adherence to
Mayan prophecies or the TimeWave Zero derivation
But the message from the Matrix is that
want to have an alternative future, we will need to fight for it…