Saturday, August 16, 2003
Neo in the Spoon

The Matrix: Reloaded

Jesus, Buddha, and Gödel: Unraveling the Matrix Mythos

The Brothers Wachowski are attempting the reunification of the mythologies of East and West. And other reasons the One is an anomaly.

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) ::: philms ::: ::: Read the whole thing



Well, it’s official, we might as well rename this site Matrixfilm.

Posted by bibble on 17 Aug 03 at 02:24 AM

yes. we need more non-matrix analyses.

how does one go about submitting to the site?

Posted by Fire Starter on 17 Aug 03 at 06:10 AM

Send to Send ‘em in. We have a backlog that we’re working through. Short stuff for the phlog will make it up faster than long stuff.

Posted by editor on 17 Aug 03 at 09:35 AM

Heh…MatrixFilm…very good.  You know, a subdomain might be appropriate if enough stuff comes through.

Great article.  Someone I correspond with online suggested a Godel connection to me probably two months ago, but that’s not my thing so I couldn’t even begin to pursue it.  I’m grateful to see it developed here, and the person I mentioned is probably kicking himself for not writing it himself :).

I like the emphasis on Buddhist overtones in the first film, but I think these should be placed alongside Christ imagery rather than in place of it—the parallels run too deep.  Neo is heralded by Morpheus (John the Baptist), betrayed by Cipher (Judas), loved by Trinity, has miraculous powers within the Matrix and dies then rises to life. 

I think the distinction the author of this article draws between Neo as Christ within the Matrix and Neo as Christ outside it is pretty important, though.

It was the devil, by the way, that said that those who ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil would be like God.  A positive spin on this would be very Eastern.  A negative spin very Christian.  Can the two traditions, despite their similarities in some areas, really be reconciled? 

I think that’s beyond the WB’s powers of conception, at least.

So many questions waiting for that third film :). 


Posted by Jim Rovira on 18 Aug 03 at 12:06 AM

Christ went to hell? At what point?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 18 Aug 03 at 03:49 PM

The Harrowing of Hell is a pretty old Christian doctrine, dating to some of the earliest creeds…“descended into hell” is the phrase, I think, right before “raised on the third day.”  I think there’s a reference in 1 Peter.  Some people reconstruct this as Christ descending to Hades after being crucified, preaching to the dead, then taking those who would listen up into heaven with him when he ascended. 


Posted by Jim Rovira on 18 Aug 03 at 03:55 PM

I enjoyed reading Furze’s analysis of the Matrix and Matrix Reloaded.  Unfortunately, like Campbell, he has zero understanding of Judaism and the deep mythological structures that are embedded in it.  His views are typically Christian with a hint of anti-semitism that is deep within the psyche of the western Christian mind (a fact that I’m sure he will rigorously deny).  I don’t mean by this that he has a hatred of Jews but rather his ignorance of Judaism and his embracing of the Christian (post-Constantine) twist leads him to a dismissive attitude (e.g. “the burden of the law”). 
An understanding of Judaism will show that it is the bridge between the east and the west, as Israel the country is physically.  For instance there is a powerful midrash (myth story) that relates how the world has been created and destroyed numerous times already but that this cyclic process is not infinate but will end in the sabbatical ‘cycle’.  The Zohar predicts that our existence is actually the equivalent to Friday afternoon. 

From a Jewish perspective the Godel Sentence in the system of human existence is the Jewish people itself (by the way Godel is a bilingual pun: ‘el’ means God in Hebrew).  They continuously defy the laws of the rise and fall of civilizations; they will not die nor can they be conquered and assimilated (Mark Twain expressed this fact most beautifully while the historian Toynbee fell back on his infamous ‘fossil people’ insult.)  This is exactly way so many attempts have been made to irradicate this anomally and create a ‘perfect’ system.

There is much more to write on this subject and I will not do that here except for my favorite Biblical quote that best fits the Matrix’s story line:  Psalm 126 “An Ascending Story.  When God brought the capitives back to Zion it was like a dream.”  That is ‘wake me up I must be dreaming’.  However another way to read the Hebrew is: ‘An Ascending Story, for God to bring the captives back to Zion they needed first to awake from their dream state into reality.’  That is the most accurate summary of the film that I have found.  This waking up is more Buddhist than Christian but is actually fundamentally Jewish.

Michael Kagan
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Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 26 Aug 03 at 04:26 AM

Michael Kagan—

I think you’re mistaking legitimate parallels in thought for dependence and/or influence.  I like your reading of the Matrix against the background of Jewish Kabbalah, but I think it’s a mistake to claim, “This is what it really means.”  You need to establish influence and dependence on more than one or two isolated plot/thematic elements.


Posted by Jim Rovira on 26 Aug 03 at 11:28 AM

I agree with you that one should not try to claim “This is what the Matrix really means”.  It is a work of art that is open to interpretation and in the same way that we learn Holy texts - there are no right answers just different points of view.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 26 Aug 03 at 07:22 PM

Eric Furze,

I thoroughly enjoyed your interpretation.  The discussion of the Godel sentence was particularly illuminating.  I also appreciated your predictions for Revolutions.  They were bold and original.

One statement that confused me, you wrote:

“The first movie was the hero’s journey in the Oriental mode (despite the popular, though inappropriate, identification of Neo with Christ in that movie). Neo succeeds via a transformative realization in which he recognizes within himself (in contrast to the Occidental mode) the unity of life and power of the divine.  In that sense, the first movie was about Neo awakening to become the Buddha.”

The problem I see is that Christ may also have “recognized within himself the unity of life and power of the divine.”  This is pure theological speculation, but it is possible that Jesus had to “learn” he was God, thus the first Matrix could serve as an allegory exploring this question.  What would it look like for Jesus to grow in his awareness of his own Divinity?  In that sense, I don’t see a strict bifurcation between the Oriental mode in the first Matrix and the Occidental mode in Reloaded.  Understood this way, it is quite reasonable to identify Neo as a Christ figure in the first Matrix. 

If there is a bifircation, I am more inclined to the idea that Neo operates as Buddha within the matrix and as Christ in the real world, but there are problems with this as well. (i.e. “when you die in the matrix you die in the real world,” thus Neo’s death and resurrection occurs in both the real world and the Matrix simultaneously.  This means that Neo is functioning as the Christ figure in both worlds.)

Thoughts? (other commentators welcome)


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 15 Sep 03 at 03:18 PM

Shane—I think the emphasis the death and resurrection event, along with the other symbols manipulated in the first film, makes Christ imagery not only a reasonable association but almost a necessary one.  I like your ideas about the confluence of Buddhist and Christian thought about the “growth” of Christ’s awareness of his own divinity.  This tends to be de-emphasized in western Christianity, but there are traditions that address this a bit. 


Posted by Jim Rovira on 15 Sep 03 at 03:30 PM

It might be a surprise to you but both the religious myths are oriental ie asiatic in nature. The Judeo-Christianity-Islamic tradition is by no means occidental. This was designed by good old Semitic boys.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 21 Jul 13 at 11:22 AM
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