::: tommy viola
Metaphilm's theologian in virtual residence takes another crack at interpreting Reloaded. Can you free your mind if the Matrix is really your own desire for salvation? ::: Click here to read the full text.
There's just too much wrong with that last post to even begin.
Socrates lived several hundred years before Christ. No connection.
Only Gnostic or NeoPlantoic forms of Christianity denigrate the body. Paul taught that believers would be given new, resurrected bodies at the return of Christ (1 Cor. 15). Christ's own physical body was resurrected, and above all that, when God finished creating the material world he declared it "good."
Neo is seen as a Christ figure because he's a savior, he died and rose again, he has "miraculous" or "superhuman" power within the Matrix (and now perhaps outside of it), but this doesn't mean that Christianity in any meaningful sense is the basis of the Matrix films' ontology. It rather manipulates a generic sequence of signs representing enlightenment, some of which are compatible or derived from Christianity, some of which resonate with a wide variety of traditions -- including the Socratic. The question, "ever have a dream so real you couldn't tell if you were asleep or awake," from the first film, is addressed in one Plato's dialogs and referenced in Carroll's Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass books, to which there were many references in the first film.
Personnally I'm a little disapointed by how narrow the discussion on the Salvation narrative has been. I think that the narative set up in 'The Matrix' is intact completely at the end of 'Reloaded'. The question is: what are we being saved from?
Most people just assume that a salvation narrative must be directly linked to Jesus. What is far more likely is Socrates, or even Martin Luther. If we assume that Neo is Jesus, why is he dating the Trinity? Jesus is 'God the Son', part of the Trinity. This is where the Martin Luther theory first makes sense. Through the guiding and support of Trinity, and she is the one that leads him to Morpheus, Neo accepts his destiny as a warrior trying to save the MINDS of people (the soul never comes up in Matrix mythos). The romantic connection between Trinity and Neo is also supported: the Bible repeatedly refers to God as a Groom coming to claim his bride. Okay, so the sexes are backwards, whoopty-smeg.
But I think that Socrates is a far more likely candidate for Neo's metaphorical ancestor. Think about it, the Oracle tells Morpheus that he will find the One. Morpheus tells Neo that he is the One and Neo doesn't believe it, so he sets out to prove that he isn't by rescuing Morpheus, but only succeeds in proving that he is the One. Then, in Reloaded, he (unwillingly) takes on a protege, Kid. Kid revears Neo as his savior and so on...
Okay, replace 'Morpheus' with 'Chaerephon', 'Neo' with 'Socrates', 'Kid' with 'Plato' and you've got a pretty close match. The romantic sub-plot could be a signification of Socrates' rejection of Greek religion (though it's unlikely Socrates was a Christian, some scholars, including C.S. Lewis, believe that he had some connection to it). All of the leather, kung fu, and techno-rock is the standard Hollywood gloss.
What can easily be mistaken for Gnosticism may be, in fact, simple Biblical nihilism: Then shall the dust return to the Earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. (Eccl. 11:7-8) Basically: nothing a human can do will last, and is therefore meaningless; the only things that last are created by God, and thus are all that matter. By Christian tradition, only the human soul will go to heaven to live forever. Hence, our bodies are meaningless and only our soul matters. That's not Gnosticism, but superficially, it's an easy mistake.
I've been hearing different people talk about the Gnosticism of the Matrix films, but I'm not quite convinced.
The first film posits a material world as the "real" world, and the mental world as the illusory world. The is the mirror image of Gnosticism. Escape from the illusory means contact with genuine physicality, rather than interaction with a virtual physicality.
The conversation with the Architect at the end of the second film did nothing to interrogate or question this structure. He even offered to let Neo "leave" with 24 women and 7 men if he would only integrate his unique insights into the Mainframe. This once again implies an escape from the mental illusion into a real physicality.
However, the second film did question the premises of the first film by undermining the salvation narrative set up in the first film. It doesn't do that by saying, or even implying that Zion is part of the Matrix and Neo and his buddies are just programs. It does this by locating the origin of the salvation narrative provided by the first film in the machine world -- it was delivered to the liberated humans by the Oracle, who turns out to have been working for the machines all along.
The undermining of the "given" salvation narrative, however, still doesn't undermine Neo's function as savior. The salvation he will be able to offer (if he isn't defeated) will be one that is self directed, rather than one provided by a predetermined narrative. I think what's being set up is a humanistic, individualist "salvation" that will be made possible via a compromise with the Mainframe made necessary to defeat Agent Smith, the antiChrist figure who threatens both the Matrix and the human world.
We will see. It's still possible, of course, that Zion really is part of the matrix. But this is a cheap out. It doesn't solve the problem of transcendence, because the machines still came from somewhere and a material world still exists. It would be a drastic failure of the WB's imagination.
Entirely within the realm of possibility, but one I'm willing to forestall for the moment.
Is double posting allowed - anyway, while insightful and illuminating neither this interpretation nor the previous one makes enough of the tripartite structure of the whole ‘piece’. One of the things Read’s original metaphilm review pointed out was that the Matrix 1 was an attempt to do a philosophical disquisition in the mode of an action flick. If we carry this insight on, one of the basic structures of much philosophical discourse is it comes in three parts: thesis, antithesis and then synthesis. If it works for Aquinas and Hegel, why not the brothers Wachowski?
Thus Matrix 1 posed the question (albeit in an overly Gnostic form for my tastes) of whether there really is a supersensory world outside or beyond this one, a world which intrudes upon our reality: real and imagined. Reloaded sets up the antithesis: there is no supersensory world – only a material universe from which there is no exit or salvation, we must make of it what we will. The crucial scene is Neo’s conversation with the Architect – this both proposes the antithesis and presents the options within that argument. These options come in the form of the two doors Neo has to choose between, which are in effect a choice between two forms of Darwinism/materialistic determinism: if there is no supersensory dimension then the choice is between a Richard Dawkins ‘Selfish Gene’ type view in which Neo opts to perpetuate his genes as the dominant ones in the human species or we have a Steve Jones-type argument in which even though we live in a closed material system love/altruism and freedom of choice are still a possibility.
I await Matrix: Revolutions to see what the synthesis will be – the final scene of Matrix: Reloaded is ambiguous. Anyway, all of this is to say I don’t think it’s a ‘bait and switch’ – perhaps the Matrix is still holding to its original direction…we shall soon see.
Honestly...I had problems with that very thing the first time I saw the first film. I tried working it out a couple different ways...but couldn't. It doesn't work. Kill innocent eople to free innocent people? It doesn't work -- for any reason other than well choreographed, cool fight scenes.
I have disagreements with your statements on the Matrix/Zion relationship, but we won't make any progress until 'Revolutions' comes out, so I'm not going to pursue the point any further, at this time.
I have absolutely no qualms with acing agents, and in the context of a battle between a freed-mind and an agent, I can give a certain level of forgiveness for collateral damage and civilian casualties. But the free-way scene, where the freed-minds are just running from the agents (and the Twins), that stuff begs some serious questions. But it's actually the scenes with the security guards is most troubling. In both films, a lot of security guards are killed so that the freed-minds can have free access to the building. The scenes, especially in the first, are very exciting, but the casualties are not under the direct orders of the agents. This isn't like the Vietnam war where the women and children were directly part of the war effort, this is a hidden war, very few people know about it. If I have one complaint with the Wachowski's story-telling is that they copped out on some really tense scenes of the freed-minds sneaking in, avoiding the security guards, to have nicely choreographed, but otherwise unspectacular fight scenes.
This is a question I've been struggling with since the first film:
"What makes the lives of freed-minds more important than those of un-freed minds? Are they less human? That's something I've wondered about, the question of the sanctity of life in 'The Matrix' films."
In the first film those whose minds were free were known as "terrorists." Neo learned that Agents can inhabit anyone trapped within the Matrix at any time, so every person was a potential Agent and could potentially become very dangerous. Thus, they once alerted to their presence, they had to be killed.
But that doesn't make the killing right. The reasoning seems to proceed from the notion that killing a few people is alright if we free a whole lot more. It also proceeds from the notion that the people aligned with Zion are "at war" with the Matrix, and those caught within the Matrix are all possible combantants. This is very much terrorist reasoning -- even women and children shopping in a mall are seen as "just" targets for Palestinian terrorism, for example.
This is all very disturbing. The quesion is...do they really have a choice?
Red Pill said:
"If we assume that Zion exists in the real world, than Neo must be as human as Trinity and Morpheus, because a computer
program cannot exist outside of a computer."
Yep, that's the assumption I've been working with. I think you still may be working with an idea of "proportional" humanity -- that to the degree you're a program, you're less human. Everyone trapped within the Matrix is fully human. While in the Matrix, their consciousness takes on the characteristics of a computer program and their physical existence helps a computer(s) survive. They are fully human, but are _serving the functions_ of a computer program and a power source. The one doesn't detract from the other at all.
"However, we must remember that the Architect said: "Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation
inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, I
have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision."
This makes Neo sound like a program. But the Architect also says that Neo is human. But now the Architect has made
Neo sound like both program and human."
You're confusing yourself :). Yes, Neo is both program and human. Everyone attached to the Matrix in any way is both program and human. Fully both. One role doesn't interfere with the other -- and you have to see the "program" part of human existence as a role that humans play in the Matrix, not a thing that they become. Remember, their minds are hardwired into the Matrix, so that humans' physical, biological minds are extensions of a vast computer program.
Neo, as The One, has a special meaning/function to the computers outside of his direct connection to the Matrix. He represents the very nature of the anomaly that gives rise to Zion time after time after time. That's why the Architect wants him to integrate with the mainframe, so the computers can integrate that particular anomaly into their programming and gain that much more control.
Thanks, I understand where you're coming from a lot better now.
"I'm still not clear on why you believe that Neo being a computer program makes it impossible for there to be a world
where the machines do not exist."
I didn't say anything about there being a world where "machines do not exist." I said there had to be a segment of the real world where the computer was not in complete control -- which as the films have led us to believe, is our current, physical world decimated by wars and still very much populated with machines.
"Truth: 99% of humans accept the Matrix program if given a choice between it and 'The Real World', even one they aren't
aware of. (Recall the scene from 'The Matrix' when Neo has that little pow-wow with his boss.)"
That wasn't what the Architect said. He said that humans just needed to be given a choice, even an artificial one. It doesn't have to be a specific choice to accept the Matrix over the real world, just a choice of any kind. Given that choice, they are more able to accept the programmed reality of the Matrix as the real world.
"Truth: Neo has abilities nside the Matrix that no one else can touch. (i.e. "The Superman thing")"
"Truth: At the end of 'Reloaded', Neo disabled a pack of Sentinels by sheer will in 'The Real World'."
Yep. That is problematic for what I'm saying. It needs explanation, and I think was intended to need explanation since it was placed at the end of the film. I suspect it'll have something to do with Agent Smith having a conscious existence outside the Matrix, and with Neo having met the Architect. But these are just guesses.
"It is also possible that what we refer to as "The Matrx" is the sixth version of 'The Matrix', which the Architect
refers to, and that the world of Zion is the remains of Matrix 5."
You're confusing different versions of the Matrix with different versions of Zion. There were previous versions of the Matrix that were colossal failures. We don't know how many. The Oracle was created and a stable version of the Matrix was developed with her input. This stable version of the Matrix had a 1% flaw, though -- 1% of those trapped within it kept waking up, rejecting the program. These people, 5 previous times, have banded together and created Zion, which has been destroyed 5 previous times. But the Matrix itself wasn't destroyed and recreated with it, just Zion.
A moral question based on that ever so cool freeway scene. It was brought up by the love of my life in specific reference to the lobby scene in 'The Matrix', but it is the same question. There were a lot of explosions and car crashes on the freeway, inevitably a lot of people were injured and most likely killed, not to mention the collateral damage. How do you justify that? Sure the matrix world isn't real, but it is inhabited by real people. Real people, people who had no intentions in regards to Morpheus, Trinity and the Keymaker, were killed and those who weren't are going to have a really diffacult time explaining what happened to their insurance company. Also the opening scene (which happened for real later on) where all of those security guards were killed. That's families who now don't have fathers, possibly incomes. What makes the lives of freed-minds more important than those of un-freed minds? Are they less human? That's something I've wondered about, the question of the sanctity of life in 'The Matrix' films.
I'm still not clear on why you believe that Neo being a computer program makes it impossible for there to be a world where the machines do not exist.
Truth: 99% of humans accept the Matrix program if given a choice between it and 'The Real World', even one they aren't aware of. (Recall the scene from 'The Matrix' when Neo has that little pow-wow with his boss.)
Truth: Neo has abilities nside the Matrix that no one else can touch. (i.e. "The Superman thing")
Truth: At the end of 'Reloaded', Neo disabled a pack of Sentinels by sheer will in 'The Real World'.
If we assume that Zion exists in the real world, than Neo must be as human as Trinity and Morpheus, because a computer program cannot exist outside of a computer.
However, we must remember that the Architect said: "Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision."
This makes Neo sound like a program. But the Architect also says that Neo is human. But now the Architect has made Neo sound like both program and human. If we assume that Zion exists in 'the real world', then we can also assume that the Architect considers all humans as programs, just programs with differant purposes. If we assume that Zion is part of the Matrix (created to satisfy the 1% of humanity that didn't accept the regular Matrix program so that they don't have to be killed and thus their body heat remains accessible to the machines), than Neo is simultaneously Human and Program, much the same way Jesus was Human and God. But this does not make freedom from the Matrix impossible, just a lot harder. It is also possible that what we refer to as "The Matrx" is the sixth version of 'The Matrix', which the Architect refers to, and that the world of Zion is the remains of Matrix 5. Three possibilities, and as I've said before, I believe that 'Revolutions' answers that question, making it an irrelevent discussion at this point.
I think that the reason 'Reloaded' was less philosophical is that there was so much already established. The plot of 'The Matrix' was Cypher betraying Morpheus and Neo and Trinity rescuing him. 'Reloaded' was about rescuing the Keymaker.
I'm still not really clear how Neo being a computer program "explains everything." I think it may be possible to come up with a coherent reading of the film that explains this idea, but it really only works if the world we take as the "real world" is also a simulation - remember that whole thing where he "woke up" in the first movie.
If you assume that, though, you create a whole bunch of problems, such as...why bother? Why have these people wake up to just another segment of the Matrix? Why not just kill them? Some real escape must be possible -- some place where the computer isn't in control -- but the assumption that Neo is a computer program makes this impossible. The thesis causes more problems than it solves.
You don't really understand my expectations of "Reloaded." I didn't have any. I also thought it was a very entertaining film and saw it more than once. The car chase scene is certainly among the best filmed, if not the best filmed, and the fight scenes hardly disappoint either. That doesn't mean I'm not critical, though. I didn't expect the second film to "leap over" the first film. But comparing the two, it is much less dense philosophically -- and even on the level of plot -- than the first film. In previous comments I partially chalked this up to it being a middle movie, for good or bad.
So I don't think my opinion of the film really has anything to do with our disagreement. It's certainly irrelevant to your thesis.
PS I'd agree that Christ's nature is far more complicated than we can imagine or express, but to the extent that orthodoxy has been defined we should try to understand it. It's never a matter of any proportion between humanity and divinity -- it's always fully both.
I believe that Zion was created as a computer simulation to satisfy the minds that didn't accept the original program. And the Architect's speech certainly doesn't contradict that. However, I think that the Sentinels and the Machines that fight Zion are just another part of the simulation in order to maintain control. But, as I said before, that is entirely a question for 'Revolutions'.
As for Jesus, I'm a born and raised Conservative Christian (Non-Demoninational), and I know that Jesus existed simultaneously as God and man in equal proportions. Whether his body was man and mind was God, or some other balancing of the two, I don't know for sure. Although, I'm willing to bet that the true relationship is such that the human mind can't actually understand it. But I still hold that Neo is as much a computer program as Agent Smith and the Oracle. I am convinced of this because it explains everything. I am going to agree, though, that Neo probably will die at the end of 'Revolutions', it seems only logical.
And regardless of meaning, communicated ideas, or any other thing along those lines: I found 'Reloaded' extremely entertaining and I had a lot of fun watching it. I think this may color our debate. You, as far as I can tell, didn't like 'Reloaded'. I think you expected it to leap higher than 'The matrix', but instead, it look a left at a slight incline. Unfortunately, I don't think any movie could be more of a mind-blower than the original 'Matrix'. You may, however, want to see 'Dark City'. The thing is overflowing with philosophy. Even the ending, which ticked me off, was fitting with the build-up. Anyway...
As regards my personnal interpretation, I try to see the film through their eyes. I've read interviews and such that pertain to the Matrix and their thoughts and feelings. I do not presume to have their full thinking on it, but I do know that the Wachowskis have said "good fiction asks the big questions". So I look for the big question in the film and their thesis to it. To be very clear, I believe that 'Reloaded' is a question about fate and free-will, anything else I say is simply counter-point to what other people are saying. I believe that the 'fate v. free-will' debate has roots, or at least affect, in theological debates, but I do not believe that there is any inherant theological debate within 'The Matrix' or its sequels. As to my 'overstating my case', when in a discussion I simply cannot take seriously anyone who talks in only 'possibilities' and 'liklihoods'. I am well aware that I cannot speak with any particular authority about 'The Matrix', I can however speak very authoritatively about my opinions and I assumed that it was a given that we are speaking in opinions, thus making reiderations about the fact that we are speaking in opinions seemed like a waste of time.
My points about seeing the film through the Wachowski's eyes came from your comments which seem completely unconcerned with the Wachowski's intent. I must disagree with your statement: "It's a very big mistake to think the meaning of any work is primarily determined by authorial intent." I believe that a film can communicate more than it was intended to, but not 'mean'. 'Reloaded' communicated a great deal to me, including the relationship between socialism and communism, but the film does not mean the struggle of capitolism versus communism. A lot of people read the Chronicles of Narnia as a Christian metaphor, but that isn't what it meant. C.S. Lewis' own interviews say that he was simply writing fantasy stories. Because of his 'Sense of Life', as Ayn Rand would say, Christian morality and a certain amount of symbolism snuck in. But C.S. Lewis was very frustrated that nobody saw the books for what they were: pure fantasy for children.
Now, I do want to add this:
When you suggest that "Zion is as much a part of the Matrix as a good old power plant," I think this is certainly true in some ways but untrue in others.
If you're suggesting that it's a virtual world of some sort, then I disagree.
If you're saying its presence is the product of the system of control, but it does have a physical existence independent of the mainframe, then I agree to an extent.
Again, it's all in point of view. To the Computers Zion is just a system anomaly. To the human beings, though, it's an independent counterculture.
Why do you think the machines are right about this and the humans wrong? How do you know at this point?
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