On the contrary, a creative heterogeneity and religion-making mysticism was rampant among these groups. Examples come easily: Adam Weishaupt who sought through his Masonic order of the Illuminati, founded in , to transform German politics and society; the mysterious Comte de Saint-Germain ca. Martin , disciple of de Pasqually, who long remained an influence upon French occultism.
To these must be added the brilliant Swedish seer Emanuel Swedenborg , founder of a religious movement that touched esoteric Masonry. Separating the two is no easier for historians today than it was for their contemporaries. In summary, common threads of a specific mythos weave through these movements and societies, even if they are not of one common cloth.
In the occult inclinations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries one finds a recurrent theme of restoration: restoration of a more perfect, ancient order; of forgotten priesthood; of secret mysteries and rituals; and of lost occult words and powers. Often there mingles in the visionary fabric a practical thread: Man is intrinsically and eternally imbued with uncreated divine intelligence, an elixir by which he may alchemically transmute the dark material world—including its social and political structures—and thus restore Zion upon the earth.
It was an opus reflected in allegories, glyphs, and symbols, by a canon reopened and reinterpreted, and in ancient lost books again found: buried, hidden, golden treasures all awaiting men and women who would delve. For seers of this age the tasks at hand were personal, but by nature the inner opus was reflected outwardly: microcosmos and macrocosmos were inextricably linked.
This broad world view engendered laborers in an ancient craft, builders of a new temple—a mystical structure ordered above and below by living links of light and vision—and in the Holy of Holies of this sanctum they sought a sacred wedding of transformative union, a mysterium coniunctionis.
It was in sum a Hermetic-Kabbalistic mythos, deeply admixed with alchemy, reformed by Rosicrucianism, and conjoined with a Mason's compass and square. And at its esoteric core there shone a distant Gnostic spark. A decade ago Mormon historians were forced to confront the subject of Joseph Smith and the occult or magic world view, a confrontation caused in part by the "discovery" of the so-called "Salamander" letter.
Replete with references to seer stones, treasures, and enchantments, the letter also related that Joseph Smith obtained the Book of Mormon not from an angel, but from a magical white salamander which transfigured itself into a spirit. In the wake of these events the prophet Joseph Smith's spiritual roots came under a careful scrutiny. Ironically, investigators soon brought to the surface a wealth of unquestionably genuine material—much of it long available but either misunderstood or ignored—substantiating that Smith and his family had a variety of interactions with non-orthodox Western religious traditions generally termed "occult.
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Cast into the realm of occult history, historians tried to make sense of this "occult" Joseph Smith and early Mormonism. The general interpretation eventually adopted by many investigators structured Joseph Smith's links to the occult within the sociological context of New England folk magic and its "magic world view. In his introduction, Quinn began by exorcising the forgeries and summoning the facts:. Sources [whose authenticity are beyond question] provide evidence of Joseph Smith's participation in treasure digging; the possession and use of instruments and emblems of folk magic by Smith, his family members, and other early LDS leaders; the continued use of such implements for religious purposes in the establishment and early years of Mormonism; and the sincere belief of many early Mormons in the magic world view.
Subsequently, Quinn moved beyond these simple data. Indeed, "comprehensive" is hardly an adequate description of his survey. Magical rituals, Kabbalah, Hermes Trismegistos, Rosicrucians, Seer's stones, divining rods, Masonic lore, and astrology: Quinn binds them all, by evidence weak and strong, to Joseph. Less integrative than extensive, his study is a foundation work which—as any such work should—leaves far more questions unresolved than answered.
The subject broached by this effort demands further evaluation. A crucial correction, however, must be made to the methodology used in examining the data: the concept of a magic Weltanschauung or "world view" must be balanced with an intensive historical casting of early nineteenth-century occultism's lineages and mythos. Particularly important is a careful examination of Hermeticism and the nature of the religious vision it encouraged. Faced with a vast subject, Quinn constructed an arena for its study by circumscribing the concept of a "magic world view" within the culture of early America, and then summoning the various facts that drew Joseph Smith and other early Mormons into that circle.
The definition of "magic" came from Webster's Third International Dictionary, augmented and slightly expanded. Magic is and not to quote the whole definition given by Quinn, I will abbreviate the "use of means. Though it can be supplicative, its intent is often coercive. Nonetheless their static sociological and philological correctness partially obscures a more complex process at play.
Magic came in many forms, high and low. As discussed earlier, in Europe the medieval legacy of magic was transformed between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries by an influx of the highly refined Kabbalistic, Hermetic, and alchemical traditions. During that time magic became—at least for scholarly adherents like Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, and John Dee—something akin to religion. This view asserted the human potential for divine communication, progression to ultimate knowledge and even union or identity with God.
Certainly popular magic with its less refined concerns continued to exist; and in terms of pure numbers of practitioners it most likely dominated in the common culture. But British historian Keith Thomas notes the important distinction that must be developed between popular magic and the separate intellectual or elitist trends. Speaking here of developments in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Thomas notes:.
It would thus be tempting to explain the practice of popular magic as the reflection of the [alchemical and Hermetic] intellectual interests of contemporary scientists and philosophers.
But such a chain of reasoning would almost certainly be mistaken. By this period popular magic and intellectual magic were essentially two different activities, overlapping at certain points, but to a large extent carried on in virtual independence of each other. What Thomas calls "intellectual magic" was of course the seventeenth-century mix of Hermeticism, Kabbalah, and alchemy.
The point I am making is that magic could be more and less than "magic": whatever terms one may use to define the noun, from the sixteenth century into the early nineteenth century it had at least two different historical manifestations, each with different aspirations and lineages. Popular or folk magic with its magic world view was undoubtedly common in early nineteenth-century America.
But there had also entered into the matrix of American religion elements of this other "intellectual" Hermetic mythos. And its world view was much more complex. By the dawn of the nineteenth century the Hermetic tradition had developed sub rosa several elements characteristic of an incipient heterodox religion, including clear restorational aspirations. From this fertile bed sprang numerous occult fraternities and societies: societies Kabbalistic, alchemical, magical, and Masonic. And though they generally used a Christian vocabulary, the intentions they fostered could appear antithetical to orthodox Christianity.
Most particularly, it was a view of man and God intrinsically hostile to dour Puritan presumptions. This kind of belief underlies the [Rosicrucian] manifestoes; it is presupposed in [Robert] Fludd's works and in those of the alchemists; it reappears in the more esoteric aspects of Freemasonry. By the late eighteenth century, elements usually associated with the formation of a new religion were present in this alternative tradition: an intricate and extensive mythic framework derived from Kabbalistic, Hermetic, alchemical, and Rosicrucian materials ; an extra-canonical corpus of "sacred" texts drawn from archaic Hebrew and Hermetic sources ; a new symbol system conveying esoteric meanings ; detailed initiatory and ritual formulas; a claim to lineages of ancient priesthood; an affirmation of renewed communication with the celestial realms; and a thoroughly articulated reformative, even millennial, aspiration for a new Adamic restoration.
When I speak of the Hermetic or Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition in the early nineteenth century, I mean this amalgamation of elements along with their underpinning Hermetic mythos. Though any backwoods rodsman divining for buried treasures in Vermont in may have known about the tradition, it would be erroneous to lump him into it or to see it necessarily reflected in him. Yet here the distinction must be drawn: in this same general time and place there undoubtedly existed individuals who were deeply cognizant of Hermeticism, its lore, rituals, and aspirations.
And this group probably included an occasional associate of treasure diggers. Such individuals would have learned about the Hermetic tradition in varying degrees and from various lineages including esoteric Masonic and Rosicrucian orders , but most certainly not as a transmission of popular magic and folk lore alone.
In summary, the treasure digger's "magic world view," the supernatural method to means, must be distinguished from the more complex Hermetic vision conveyed in the mix of Kabbalah, ceremonial magic, Paracelsian medicine, Rosicrucianism, alchemical symbolism, and several esoteric brands of Masonry. And what a young Joseph Smith could have learned from a rodsman, ensconced only in a magic world view, is less important to his religious development than the kinds of ideas a Hermetic initiate might have stimulated.
In the period before Joseph Smith probably had some passing interaction with individuals knowledgeable of Hermeticism and Kabbalah. But to reconstruct the history of that exposure demands consideration of contexts and hypotheses tied to a thin heritage of fact: it is a type of connection that appears likely but which cannot be documented with certainty.
The situation changes a bit after During those last years of Joseph's life evidences linking him to the Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition can, when placed in context, appear substantial. In the following discussion, I will sketch some of the evidences linking Joseph to the Hermetic tradition, both early in his prophetic career and later in Nauvoo. And though the shading of fact may seem too light or dark, or in proportions skewed, this is a way of drawing Joseph Smith within his own history that I believe must be confronted by Mormon historians.
Of course a question arises that lingers as a subtext to the material that follows and must be addressed before proceeding: If Joseph Smith had significant interactions with the Hermetic-Kabbalistic mythos, did they impact his religion-making vision? While it seems to me that they probably would or did, I also acknowledge another possibility: Despite any apparent historical interactions, common patterns connecting Smith's vision to the Hermetic-Kabbalistic mythos may be entirely synchronous or parallel rather than causal.
The Matrix and Religion: Is It a Christian Film?
And if synchronous, they further could be classed as archetypal manifestations consistent with a recurrent type of "revelatory" experience such as is witnessed elsewhere in the history of the tradition or, instead, as pure happenstance. If one is inclined to look for links, deeper levels of complexity soon intrude. The Hermetic-Kabbalistic tradition not only affirmed the existence of an archetypal structure accessible to independent, personal cognition or "revelation": it sought through combined modalities of ritual, symbol, and myth to aid an individual's encounter with this core reality, a reality mirrored in the celestial realm and in the seeker's own self.
Accepting that some individuals obtained these experiences, the question of causal versus synchronous links becomes circular: One can argue that contact with various Hermetic ideas, symbols, ceremonies, and myths could at least occasionally and in the properly predisposed individual help invoke a numinous and uniquely individual experience. The experience, though personal and self-contained, might become the substratum for creative development of further intuition and insights inherently present in the inciting mythos.
Thus a tradition breeds an experience which then replicates anew the tradition.
This whole issue recalls the question plaguing historical studies of Gnosticism and its various manifestations: is the tradition conveyed through historically identifiable transmissions; are various historical manifestations of "Gnostic vision" instead creations of a reborn and independent "Gnosis" imbued with similar core insights what depth psychology calls archetypal patterns ; or are both modes of transmission, inner and outer, intrinsically coupled? To these questions I can give no answers; I offer only my intuition that they lurk behind any interpretation of evidences "linking" Joseph Smith to Hermeticism.
Michael Quinn extensively details evidences of Joseph's early contact with Hermeticism, though he emphasizes the folk magical aspect. The Truth is that I am gradually starving myself to death. The problem, then, is when my reality is not in accord with the Truth. Either I am unaware of the Truth, or I am ignoring the Truth by conscious effort. To those who cannot see the Truth, whose eyes have never been opened still in the pod , there is no choice. That is to say, the only choice available is one reality over another, one Matrix or another if you will.
Yet there can be an awareness, a searching for the Truth. God has planted within each human the desire for purpose, for meaning; a thirst for the Truth. It may not always be convenient or pleasant. It may require sacrifice and hardship. Was the truth, the real world, what Neo expected at all? If he had known what his first days in the real world were going to be like, would he have still taken the red pill?
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If he was to spend the rest of his days eating tasteless glop and running away from sentinels in underground sewers, with no other purpose than to exist as a post-coppertop, he would likely regret his decision each and every day. What kept Neo going was his purpose, his destiny as the One. Consider the Matrix of New Age philosophy; that we are all divine and that the path to immortality is whatever you want it to be.
Which reality is more appealing, that I am a lowly sinner in need of grace and redemption, or that I am god? When seeking the Truth we are often confronted with painful questions, whose answers may be just as painful. Another perspective from which the entire film can be interpreted: the AI represents the followers of science governed by logic, deduction and rigid principles ; Neo and the resistance represent the followers of spirituality governed by faith in a higher power, compassion and love.
Science has become the Matrix of choice for many. Most people will accept as fact as reality, or Truth any statement made by anyone associated with the scientific community. Why is this so?
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Because science is supposedly based on objective principles and verifiable data. The scientific method: form a hypothesis a model , perform experimentation and gather data, and evaluate the model against the results. However, to what extent can any model be proven to be a perfect representation of that which it seeks to describe? At best, the model may reasonably predict reality under certain conditions and based on a set of assumptions. Chaos theory tells us that most systems are too complex to be represented by such models.
There will always be unexpected perturbations in the system that have no apparent cause, and that drastically affect outcomes. Weather prediction is a good example of this. What is extremely ironic is the scientific ridicule of mysticism. In other words, the scientific method is abandoned and hypothesis are accepted as fact despite evidence to the contrary!
In order to justify itself, science relies on faith! Only when we allow ourselves to question science do we begin to free our minds from this Matrix. Despite an awareness of Truth, we are unable through our own powers of intellect to know or accept the Truth. Somewhere it is mentioned in the film that Neo has been searching for Morpheus for the last couple of years, while Morpheus has been searching for Neo his whole life. If we view Neo as the person rather than the One, and Morpheus as God the Father, we have a nice metaphor for the relationship between God and man. God desires to have a relationship with us, from before we were born even.
He is reaching out to us our whole lives. When we seek God, he will reveal himself to us. This was done via the computer screen when Neo is first introduced. The Matrix has you! If we do, we will enter into a relationship with the Father. See Luke 8: The Oracle knew that Neo was the One. She predicted his death as Thomas Anderson and resurrection as the One. Why did she seem to imply he was not the One?
Consider the scene when Neo breaks the vase. The Oracle could not tell Neo he was the One, for the reason that Neo would then begin to think he was the One and act like he was the One. The truth of his nature had to be self-discovered from within. The significance of the vase was to provide a parallel for this critical point. Because the Oracle told him he would break the vase, he did!
Self-fulfilling prophecy!! The role did belong to Neo, but he had to consciously accept that role all the same. Notice the frequent symbolic use of doors in the film. The list goes on. Thus, fate becomes a path which leads us through a sequence of doors; at each door we must make a decision, and each door that is opened leads to another door.
This series of doors will describe a unique path for each person, our destiny. The gift of the Oracle is the ability to see through all the open doors, and therefore know the future by knowing each decision that is made. Each of us creates our own future, moment by moment, one decision after another. I believe we have complete and unrestricted free will. As each decision is made, a path is created. At each moment of our lives we face an infinite number of choices, an infinite number of doors, any one of which we choose to open.
To someone who is able to perceive the entire trail from birth to death, my life becomes predictable, in fact predetermined if viewed from the beginning! I therefore define my fate, my destiny, to be this path. Christ, being both fully man and fully God, did possess two distinct natures and exist on two different planes. One the one hand he was a part of this world, subject to its laws and manifestations. It is interesting that Christ was considered a criminal by many, and ultimately put to death as such. Consider the scene where Neo is at the office and the agents come looking for him.
Morpheus, via the cell phone which arrives just in the nick of time, provides Neo a means of escape through the window to the scaffolding. God promises a way out. Neo had the will but not the faith. He was afraid of falling. The result was that he surrendered to the agents and experienced the consequences the interrogation scene.
What often keeps us from avoiding temptation is our own fear of falling; we convince ourselves we are not able to resist and expect ourselves to fail. We stop listening to God and concentrate on our own weaknesses, just as Neo dropped the phone his communication line with Morpheus , took his focus off the scaffolding, and turned his eyes downward to the street. I guess the scaffolding could represent the Word. If we surrender to sin, the consequences will be painful if not to our body, then to our soul.
Some have argued it is Christian; some, Platonic the philosophy of Plato ; others, Gnostic a Christian heresy ; and still others, Buddhist. This worldview, however, is diametrically opposed to Christianity; hence, any similarities between themes or characters in The Matrix trilogy and orthodox Christianity are merely superficial. The similarity of so many ideas and images in different religions is because they are ultimately diverse symbolic projections of the same physical and mental processes that are within all of us. They are magnified dreams, and dreams are manifestations in image form of the energies of the body in conflict with each other.
Campbell was a demythologizer. He deconstructed religious traditions and transcendent beliefs into their presumed origins in natural causes. It focuses on the parallels between religions while ignoring the disparities; it forces square similarities into round differences. I suggest this is also what the Wachowski brothers, Larry and Andy, have done with their cinematic Matrix trilogy. They have tapped into the ideas and images of diverse religious and philosophical views and used them as metaphors for a postmodern Nietzschean worldview of relativism, nihilism, and self-actualization.
The genre of science fiction seems well suited for the postmodern suspicion of reality. Modernism experimented with ways of seeing and saying the real; science fiction experimented with forms of reality themselves. The Matrix has reshaped the sci-fi genre for our postmodern era. How do we know that we are not deceived in our perceptions? How can we ever escape our inherent subjectivity? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? Neo soon discovers that what we all think is the real world is actually an illusion, a virtual reality created by artificial intelligence that has conquered the human race and turned it into an energy source for machines.
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Morpheus explains to Neo that the Matrix is a ruse to keep us from realizing that we are all blind and are born slaves. The Christ symbolism woven into the story also is obvious. My own personal Jesus Christ. These similarities, however, are only superficial. In this sense The Matrix is not so much a Christian myth as it is a Gnostic gospel.
Gnosticism is a religious tradition with many different schools, from the ancient Manicheans and Hermetic schools to the modern Mandeans and the New Age movement. It is a worldview with roots in the first century and a more organized following and corpus of manuscripts emerging around the second century.
The Matrix is a Gnostic Christ myth. It mixes together elements of the Christian messianic narrative with the pagan Hellenism of Greece, and it throws in a little Orientalism to spice things up. The essence of Gnosticism is syncretism , a parasitic reimagining of Christianity by melding it into pagan mystical musings. To this extent Gnosis is a product of Hellenistic syncretism, that is, the mingling of Greek and Oriental traditions.
Table 1 compares the Christian, Greek, and Buddhist ideas that were blended together in the first Matrix film to produce this Gnostic hybrid. In the sequel, Reloaded , Christian symbolism seems to submerge into Gnosticism. Zion, it turns out, bears more resemblance to a pagan polis than the holy city of God. Their erotic rave dance, however, intercut with a scene of Neo and Trinity fornicating, portrays elements of a Dionysian orgy rather than the holy church of Christ at worship.
The names of people, places, and things in Reloaded bear a greater Greek influence, although other influences continue to be evident see Tables 1 and 2. Osiris — The Egyptian god of the dead whose annual death and resurrection personified the vitality of nature. Persephone — A daughter of the Greek god Zeus who was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld.
In Revolutions , most of the characters are carried over from the previous film, and little is new philosophically. We see Neo struggle with his identity through the entire first movie. The biblical Messiah, however, knows exactly who He is. He was attacked precisely because of the clarity of His claims to be the incarnation of God Himself John — Poor Neo may not have known who he was, but Jesus sure did.
When Neo finally is enlightened, he is endowed with supernatural abilities of manipulating the Matrix as well as overcoming the powerful sentient gatekeeper programs. Neo is redeemed from his imperfection of ignorance and can now redeem others. Another aspect of the Gnostic redeemer myth in The Matrix is the notion of Christ as merely a model of self-salvation.
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The Gnostic redeemer, like a Buddha, can only show the way of enlightenment; he is not himself the way, the truth, or the life. Salvation through self-knowledge is from within, not from without. This is emphasized forcefully in Reloaded when a grateful boy praises Neo for finding him. You found me. Jesus was adamant that redemption came from outside a person, not from within John ; cf. The biblical Redeemer saves sinners who are helpless and cannot save themselves Rom. Finally, the contemporary Gnostic notion of Christhood is that it is an office filled by many individuals rather than the distinctive title of only one individual, namely, Jesus.
For he who created it wanted to create it imperishable and immortal. He fell short of attaining his desire. For the world never was imperishable, nor, for that matter, was he who made the world. To this end, the Father sends his son Christ that he may show the fallen aeons the way to their origin and to rest. This is tantamount to the dissolution of the cosmos. In The Matrix , the redeemer is a role played by multiple people who provide cyclical creation and destruction in order to maintain equilibrium.
Creation, fall, redemption, new eternal creation — Genesis to Revelation presents a history of the cosmos that is linear rather than cyclical. Revolutions recycles the Christ imagery, but with a reloaded definition. He lays his body out in the form of a crucifix in the real world, as he dies battling Agent Smith inside the Matrix.
The similarity, once again, is superficial. The theme of the first Matrix film is the questioning of our understanding of reality.