Category Archives: Gnosticism

Contact (1997)

Generally speaking, cinematic science fiction goes one of two ways. Either it goes after big ideas and weighty philosophical questions or it goes after CGI mayhem and hot chicks in body suits. Sometimes it succeeds at both, but more often than not, a science fiction film falls into one of these two camps. Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 adaptation of the famous Carl Sagan novel, Contact, is unequivocally a Big Ideas sci-fi film which manages to pack a lot of meaty content into a popcorn blockbuster presentation. Though it does boast its own spin on the legendary Stargate scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the final act, the film is propelled almost exclusively by solid performances and a fairly robust dramatic clash between the forces of scientific materialism and religious belief. No Hollywood sci-fi film comes without an agenda or esoteric symbolism and the various ways it smuggles in its messaging is especially sly. Contact is somewhat more charitable about theism and the entire realm of metaphysics than you’ll find in just about anything secular these days, but ultimately, it is itself a work of scientistic hermetic theology. More specifically, Contact is a very clever piece of propaganda which promotes the theosophical ideas of HP Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, UNESCO, and the Lucis Trust. Virtually every component of the NWO global agenda can be found in this movie.

Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, we’ve been taught that there is an irreconcilable schism between science and faith. In both the cinematic and literary form, the modern science fiction tradition is replete with stories which dramatize this conflict. With very few exceptions, the forces of scientific progress are in perpetual struggle against the forces of religious belief. The scientists are always portrayed as infinitely resourceful master technicians who are likeable, quick witted and can kick your ass if the story demands it. By contrast, the faithful are authoritarian dolts and mean spirited tight asses. Or as The Omega Man and The Chronicles of Riddick demonstrate, they are embodied as fanatical, vampiric cultists whose sole motivations are enslavement, conversion or conquest. In Contact’s case, the religious characters include a suicide bomber, a status seeking bureaucrat, a vacuous Catholic priest, and a cross between Jeff Spicoli and Joel Osteen. In other words, yet another mostly uncharitable Hollywood portrait of religious people. Since many of the prime movers of the sci-fi genre were themselves globalist technocrats, it makes sense that we’d eventually get a film which reconciles these seemingly opposing forces into an alchemical union to grease the wheels for the dystopian hellscape glorious global techno-utopia that awaits us.

On the surface, Contact presents itself as a sophisticated science fiction story which believably posits the possibility of contact with a higher extraterrestrial intelligence. Though Steven Spielberg has given us two different versions of the benign alien visitation in E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact is following in the footsteps of the loftier speculations of Arthur C. Clarke. Instead of a kid friendly vision of Crowleyan entities you find in Spielberg, you get to watch the whole world build a dimensional portal which does real science-y shit like “folding spacetime” but is really just the most expensive VR machine ever built.

Every character represents an archetypal ideal, and the heroine of the film, Ellie Arroway, is modeled after Hypatia, the Alexandrian martyr for science. For those who remember Cosmos, Sagan lavished mountains of praise on Hypatia in the series despite having no substantial record of achievement in the history of scientific thought. This choice makes sense when viewed through a gnostic lens because she represents the illuminated Sophia. Eleanor is Greek for “shining light” and Arroway is a play on Voltaire’s last name, Arouet. Her nickname is “Sparks” to signify the fact that she possesses Luciferian flame. Right away, Sagan is signaling a connection to gnosticism, Freemasonry, and by extension, the Hermetic roots of modern science. Played with heartfelt vigor by Jodie Foster, Ellie is a paragon of determination, grit, tenderness and the passionate thirst for discovery. She is the fearless seeker who is willing to persist in her quest for extraterrestrial life despite constant rejection and doubt from all corners. She remains steadfast in her convictions when facing the ridicule of the vapid, self-aggrandizing and conniving David Drumlin. She is also the radical empiricist who demands proof of God’s existence when probing the faith of Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss.

This brings us to one of the film’s clever sleights of hand. Ellie is essentially a female version of David Hume or John Locke. In the wake of her second greatest tragedy, all her Catholic priest could offer was a few perfunctory words about how it was “God’s plan”. Pfft. Piss off, religion! She doesn’t believe in God because she needs empirical proof! Not mealy mouthed platitudes! Checkmate, conservatards! Bet you never heard THAT ONE before! Of course, this is by now an insufferably tiresome cliché. Materialism and empiricism is the bread and butter of the entire New Atheist community. For them, there is no valid knowledge outside the peer reviewed science or what can be observed in the realm of sense perception. But what the film doesn’t want you to notice is that this premise is in and of itself an article of faith! To Zemeckis’ credit, he makes this point explicit when Ellie is called upon to provide evidence that she actually did traverse the galaxy. There is no empirical evidence for the claim that all knowledge claims must be subject to empirical evidence. Furthermore, Ellie embodies a set of virtues. She is a heroic archetype. She’s tough. She’s conscientious. She’s honest. She’s principled. She’s loyal. She spends the bulk of the film asking people to believe in her quest for extraterrestrial life. The natural world has nothing to say about prescriptive ethics, duty, honor, integrity or morality. To ground an entire worldview in nothing more than a posture of skepticism and an unquestioned belief in the scientific method leads to either to nihilism or the substitution of politics for religious faith. Humans build and strengthen the architecture of morality through storytelling. We must ultimately subordinate ourselves to a hierarchy of authority which starts with the family and reaches its pinnacle in the nation state. Because we’re imperfect, we crave stories which simultaneously speak to our flawed nature yet appeal to our highest aspirations. The progressive worldview mostly rejects metaphysics. Subsequently, virtue must be smuggled through occult archetypes and esoteric metaphysics and Sagan has very skillfully achieved that in Ellie.

It is also noteworthy that Ellie is initially presented as a child with a dead mother. She eventually loses her father too, and this marks her as yet another Hollywood portrait of a child without parents whose life choices are informed in part to fulfill a longing borne of a prematurely severed connection and in part to insulate herself from the emotional vacuum at the core of her being. It’s little surprise that when she has her encounter with the “alien” species, it appears to her in the form that she would find most comforting: her father. Her life quest is wrapped in the rhetoric of scientific inquiry, but it reads as a sort of spiritual calling. The liberal democratic imperium needs atomized individuals pursuing life ambitions that advance scientific or material progress in one way or another. Preferably, it’s a pursuit untethered from family ties and religious tradition. This is entirely consistent with the professed agenda behind the mythology of extraterrestrial life as Arthur C. Clarke is on record stating in Brenda Denzler’s book, The Lure of the Edge.

Her counterpart, Palmer Joss, presents a clever subversion of expectations. Just as we saw in the relationship between Mulder and Scully in the X-Files, Contact reverses standard male and female attributes. Despite the numerous studies which demonstrate a higher degree of empathy and social skills in women, Sagan wrote Ellie as the hard bitten scientific realist consumed with a need for evidence. By contrast, Matthew McConaughey’s Palmer Joss is the believer. Granted, he’s an earthy crunchy academic theologian who’s influential enough to be anointed the spiritual advisor to the POTUS. His real world analogues are establishment cucks like Rick Warren and Tony Campolo. He represents a form of toothless Christianity that’s been opportunistically coopted by the establishment to help politicize the churches and lend moral authority to political agendas. Once again to Zemeckis’ credit, Joss lands a solid blow against the edifice of Ellie’s scientific materialism when he asks for proof that she loved her father. It’s the only cinematic moment of which I’m aware when a secular rationalist is left speechless by a theist.

Contact isn’t just an apologia for scientific materialism, but a work of occult theology. When Ellie presents the decryption primer to the Security Council, she insists that the civilization who sent the message had benign intentions because it was presented in the language of science and mathematics. Unlike the dumb religious retards who follow divine revelation, the machine plans were proof of a species who had harnessed the power of science to evolve beyond their primitive tendencies toward self-destruction. Here, Sagan and Zemeckis presume that unchecked technological progress all by itself is a virtue that will elevate and unite humanity. It’s exactly the kind of belief that’s promoted by UNESCO, the UN and their theological subsidiary, the Lucis Trust. They are trafficking occult teleology. As Palmer Joss rightfully pointed out as she made her pitch, what she received was a message emanating from a “booming voice from the sky”. Sagan substitutes three dimensional engineering schematics embedded in a digital black cube of Saturn for the Ten Commandments. She wants people to believe that the construction of the machine will only edify the human race. What atheists like Sagan conveniently ignore is the simple fact that fetishizing the scientific method doesn’t capture the imagination. What does animate human spirit is the possibility that our man made ambitions might unite the world and eventually bring us into contact with a higher intelligence.

Of course, this also means that we must also deify the corporate aristocracy behind the democratic imperium. As industrial mogul, S.R. Hadden, John Hurt is the Randian übermensch who funds Ellie’s ambitions, decrypts the extraterrestrial blueprints, and subcontracts with Japanese company to build a second machine. Without rich industrialists to bankroll these moonshot ideas, we will never achieve our globalist utopia, proles. Though he is portrayed as a sympathetic character, he is another spin on a Nimrod archetype. Zemeckis wants you to see him as a benevolent old coot but as his name suggests, he is a representation of the Assyrian despot, Esarhaddon. He is more accurately seen as a David Rockefeller or George Soros. He is among the wealthy capitalists who fund NGOs, populate academia with cultural Marxists, finance every conceivable fifth column organization and function as a de facto shadow government. Throughout the film, Hadden communicates to Ellie using the most sophisticated technology and possesses more intelligence about her than you would think a private citizen can access. When James Woods’ hardass conservative proposes the possibility that Hadden has perpetrated a hoax on the entire globe, your sympathies are already with Ellie, and by extension, Hadden. Tough shit, you dumb Alex Jones loving conspiratards. George Soros did nothing wrong. So shut it.

What’s most stunning about Contact is the degree to which it blurs the line between fiction and reality. Actual footage of Bill Clinton commenting on the Mars meteorite discovery in which he stresses the importance of ascertaining “facts” has been seamlessly inserted. Actual CNN anchors are “acting” as CNN anchors throughout the film commenting on a fictitious machine which opens wormholes. A news highlight discusses a fake group of religious fanatics committing mass suicide, and it just happens to mirror the actual mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult just a few months before the film’s release. I guess it’s just a lucky coincidence that all these things happened in time for Contact’s release. All of which begs a key question. If “real” news outlets like CNN and real politicians who present themselves as the arbiters of truth are willingly inserting themselves into a fake story about a contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, why shouldn’t we assume that the “reality” they’re presenting isn’t every bit as synthetic as Contact itself?

While I disagree with his interpretation, Germain Lussier points out the ubiquity of telecommunications devices in the film. The fact that our contact with one another is now being heavily mediated, refracted and distorted through electronic media suggests this was subtle predictive programming. The internet may have brought the whole world together in ways that were unimaginable to previous generations, but the degree to which it has been a salutary force is debatable at best and detrimental at worst. I suggest that this film is tipping us to the possibility that the space program is ultimately about building and enhancing global panopticism.

Speaking of fictitious machines, Contact is basing its technological speculations on special relativity, but if we actually think about how the machine was supposed to work, it doesn’t add up. Resembling the classical model of the atom we learned in grade school, the machine was comprised of several interlocking steel rings. Presumably, with enough acceleration, the rings would convert to mass and tear the fabric of spacetime. Not to get all Neil deGrasse Tyson, but there is no known material that could withstand that kind of energy let alone an energy source to power it. But this came from the mind of Carl Sagan. A scientific mind, right? I don’t mind leaps of imagination, but when you’re presenting a speculative machine that’s linked to a very specific theoretical model that is itself unproven and unobserved, how is this different from theistic belief? Isn’t it interesting that the IMDB trivia page indicates that Carl Sagan wanted to ensure the “science” was correct and the word is bracketed in quotation marks? Isn’t it interesting that this very same visual idea was recycled in Event Horizon and instead of uniting us with benign entities, the machine in that film opened a portal to hell? Why should we presume that a dimensional portal will bring us into contact with benevolent beings as Ellie so fervently insists?

After recovering from her VR journey to the center of the galaxy, Ellie finds herself in the position of having to defend the veracity of her experience before an incredulous government oversight committee lead by a relentless James Woods. Without evidence, Ellie is forced to ask the country to believe that she traversed light years and encountered a simulacrum of her father. You should also believe that an Einstein-Rosen Bridge is legitimate science despite the complete absence of empirical evidence. Is it any wonder that Anita Sarkeesian and Christine Blasey Ford were able to weaponize #BelieveWomen so easily? The cool and dispassionate pursuit of the facts doesn’t hold when religious icons are being violated.

Ellie’s vision amounts to her burning bush moment. In that brief encounter, she was filled with a revelation of the preciousness of life that was so profound, she felt compelled to spread the Gospel of Intergalactic Gnosis with the world. As she descends the Capitol building stairs/Mt. Sinai, she passes through the pillars of Boaz and Jachin, and we behold the throngs of New World Israelites gathered together to pay homage to our gnostic savior. Having crossed the abyss on the Kabbalistic tree of life, she has reconciled the sky and the earth and attained Enlightenment. Joss’ profession of solidarity with Ellie doesn’t just signify a romantic happy ending, it’s the alchemical synthesis of science with divinity just as HP Blavatsky taught in her writings. No longer do we have to cling to the divisive notion that science is at war with faith. Scientism is an article of faith, but now, we can make common cause with religious people as long as they’re promoting a One World State God and don’t get carried away with any of that Jesus shit.

As shows like Netflix’s Maniac demonstrate, Hollywood is pushing the public closer to the idea that pharmacologically enhanced VR is going to provide people with the transcendent experience unavailable in our mundane existence. Even pop culture figures like Tom Delonge are going to great lengths to mainstream the existence of UFOs. Burning Man already has a cosmic temple to prep us for the new Cosmic AI God. Grimes has already written the first transhuman cyberpunk pop anthem. Science fiction films which posit the possibility of alien intelligence are a key component of this agenda. And Ellie Arroway was certainly among the most indelible characters of the modern era to illuminate the path.

Mandy (2018)

If you liked Panos Cosmatos’ retro-futurist sci-fi/horror mind trip, Beyond the Black Rainbow, you’ll absolutely love his follow up film, Mandy. Even if you didn’t, Mandy is for you if you want the cinematic equivalent of a Black Sabbath collaboration with Lustmord. Equal parts surrealist Lynchian fever dream and low budget Clive Barkeresque phantasmagoria, Mandy is a heavy metal laden tour de force of postmodern pastiche. Its status as a modern cult classic is guaranteed. When a film features “Starless” by King Crimson over the opening sequence, you know you’re watching a movie that’s swinging for the fences.

Plot wise, Mandy is a fairly straightforward revenge fantasy that’s a grittier arthouse analogue to the gothic industrial urban fantasy portrayed in The Crow. Similar in tone to the foreboding mysticism of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising, the effectiveness of the film lies in Cosmatos’ expert pacing, psychedelic visuals, brooding soundtrack and ever escalating aura of cosmic doom. Like his prior film, Mandy is also loaded with esoteric symbolism.

As Red Miller, Nicolas Cage adds yet another iconic performance to an already eclectic and celebrated body of work. Is it his best? I don’t know, but it’s a supremely entertaining performance and he inhabits it with all of his Cagey charm. As he shared in an interview with Empire Magazine, Cage will go the extra mile to ensure that a performance has the right….spirit. There are at least a couple scenes which belong on a Cage career retrospective highlight reel. Miller is a lumberjack somewhere in what we presume to be the Pacific Northwest who lives a peaceful life of seclusion with his girlfriend, Mandy. In the titular role, Andrea Riseborough channels an equally iconic metalhead chick who is both an accomplished illustrator and avid fantasy novel reader. In her two pivotal scenes, she’s wearing a vintage Mötley Crüe pentagram shirt and Black Sabbath shirt from the Never Say Die period. Like Quentin Tarantino, Cosmatos is both attentive to detail and explicit about his sources of inspiration.

I wonder if Nic Cage is into the occult.

The film contains a lot of occult symbolism, and one of the most significant ideas is revealed during an intimate moment between Red and Mandy. Mandy asks Red to name his favorite planet, and he confesses that Saturn is his favorite. This foreshadows Red’s supernatural rampage to come and casts the overall story arc in a distinctly Gnostic light. Within the Western esoteric tradition, Saturn has a myriad of associations with Yaldabaoth the demiurge, the Lord of Time and Death, the black cube, the devourer of children and the dominion of this world. Even the bedroom in which they sleep resembles a black cube.

Mandy is also reading a book called Seeker of the Serpent’s Eye. It’s a fake book, but it sounds like something that could have been written by Michael Moorcock or Robert E. Howard. As we hear Riseborough’s voice over, the film cuts over to an animated segment that’s a double layered reference to the 1981 classic, Heavy Metal. We see a naked woman who extracts a green orb from the corpse of some fallen creature. The green orb is the Serpent’s Eye, but it’s also a reference to the mysterious Loch-Nar that was the embodiment of all evil in the universe. I suspect this also ties into the reference to the demon Abraxas that will occur later in the film.

Under the crimson primordial sky a wretched warlock reached into the dark embrace. His fist closed around the serpent’s eye, strange and eternal. It glowed from within, strange and eternal.

Miller reads as a Gen X-er who has chosen a simple life over the materialistic rat race that was ushered in by the Reagan administration. As he drives home from a job, we hear Reagan delivering a homily which extols traditional American pieties. Miller promptly switches off the radio. I believe this was meant to be read as a boilerplate rejection of American conservatism and strip mall Christianity, but given how the rest of the film unfolds, I think the film can be interpreted more broadly as Gen X meting out a brutal vengeance against the false utopianism and plastic idealism of the Boomer generation.

Their life is torn asunder when a hippie Jesus freak cult discovers Mandy taking a walk through a normally untraveled country road. As the leader of Children of the New Dawn, Linus Roache’s Jeremiah Sand is a captivating amalgam of Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and David Koresh. Using a perfect combination of slow motion, colored filters, and a doom laden soundscape, Cosmatos imbues this meeting with a menace and dread that you don’t encounter often enough in contemporary horror.

Though they are properly viewed as a representation of cults like the Children of God, the Process Church of the Final Judgment, or the Branch Davidians, Children of the New Dawn will be seen simply as a proxy for all of Christianity for most viewers. For the average person who watches Mandy, they’ll see no distinction between Jeremiah Sand, Pope Francis, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham or John Hagee. At the end of day, the theological distinctions between these individuals may be negligible, but the fact that this film can present such a lurid caricature of Christianity and get away with it says quite a bit about how effectively Hollywood has both hastened and capitalized on the decrepit state of the Christian church in America.

Jeremiah is obsessed with claiming Mandy as a new concubine/disciple so he summons Ned Dennehy’s Brother Swan to his side. “You know what to do,” he says as they exchange a knowing look. Sand asks if he has the Horn of Abraxas and Brother Swan offers a smile of reassurance. He sends Brother Swan on his way and then summons the mind controlled Sister Lucy to his room for ritual abuse.

Brother Swan drives to a clearing in the forest with his dimwitted lackeys in tow. He walks into the field and pulls out what appears to be an ocarina. With a name like the Horn of Abraxas, you expect something like what Tibetan monks play, but the ghostly melody that emanates from the instrument is sufficiently creepy. Up until this scene, Cosmatos has been skirting the edge of reality, but this is the point when it tips over the edge into madness. After Brother Swan admonishes his dimwitted lackeys to shut up and wait, a demonic biker gang that looks like leftovers from the Hellraiser universe emerges from the forest. Astride very loud motorcycles and ATV’S and decked out in infernal, post-apocalyptic bondage gear, you just know some bad shit is going down. Their entrance alone is one of the film’s best scenes and reveals Cosmatos’ visual panache. Upon their arrival, Brother Swan offers a jar filled with a gelatinous substance that’s some kind of highly concentrated LSD paste which will figure prominently in subsequent events.

Mandy is abducted and Red is bound with barbed wire. Before she is brought before Jeremiah, she is dosed with LSD and intentionally stung with some nasty looking giant insect. In a parallel of Beyond the Black Rainbow, Mandy presents a charismatic hippie-esque cult leader who uses drugs to seduce and control his subjects and to artificially enhance his promises salvation and spiritual liberation. I believe both films open a window of insight into experiences and events which shaped Cosmatos’ worldview. Since drug induced mind control is a prominent theme in both films, the question over whether these experiences involved mere observation or his own trauma and emotional distress is an open one.

As she is escorted into their inner sanctum, she’s wearing the 44 jersey we see on Miller in the film’s opening. IMDB claims this is either a reference to Reggie Jackson, Mark Twain or serial killer, David Berkowitz, but I suspect it’s a Crowley reference. In chapter 44 of the Book of Lies, there is a ritual called the Mass of the Phoenix. The ritual calls for the consumption of a “cake of light” which includes bodily fluids. Nothing resembling this cake is eaten, but I suspect Mandy herself is the cake of light. Both Miller and Sand represent two different but pure expressions of the Luciferian ethos of Do What Thou Wilt. This above all else appears to be the film’s overriding message.

Sand is modeled after Manson, and like Manson, Sand is a failed musician who uses music as a method of mind control. In yet another Cosmatos masterstroke, Jeremiah pulls out a vinyl record of his own music which features an original folk prog track called “Amulet of the Weeping Maze” that sounds like an outtake from Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow. Sand hoped that the drugs and the music would elicit the feelings of ecstatic reverence that it apparently inspired in his flock, but Mandy’s reaction was not the one for which he hoped. For the transgression of humiliating Sand, Mandy is subjected to a horrific execution while Red is forced to watch. Cage channels a level of emotional anguish that’s pretty wrenching.

From this point forward, Mandy takes on a supernatural, post-apocalyptic fantasy horror vibe. The film suggests that the drugs aren’t just tools for mind control, but are a simultaneously a portal into other dimensions, a source of superhuman strength and a conduit for demonic hallucinations. After Sand and his minions leave him in his state of despair and trauma, Miller frees himself from his barbed wire bondage and sets out to exact his revenge. He takes on the quality of a superhuman, Saturnian dark avenger.

Red seeks out the one man who can supply him with the weapons of vengeance he needs, and that man is named Caruthers. He is played with the slow burn gravitas of Bill Duke, and he evinces the steely cool of a man who is completely comfortable with the idea of taking a life. It’s a vibe that one gets from quite a few actors in Hollywood, and it makes you wonder whether or not it’s acting. After acquiring a crossbow from Caruthers, Mandy goes completely batshit as we suddenly find Miller in a metal forge. In what is by far the film’s greatest scene, we are treated to Nicolas Cage in mirrored shades making a battle axe by hand from molten steel. This scene is worth the price of admission all by itself. Besides being an utterly outrageous weapon, it’s also intentionally shaped like the ‘F’ in the Celtic Frost logo. Since Celtic Frost famously featured Giger artwork on their album To Mega Therion, I believe this is another meta-reference to Crowley.

Armed with his mythical Luciferian battle axe, Red ingests the LSD paste and sets out on his quest for retribution. We’re treated to some brutal combat scenes mixed with dollops of black humor. Just when you think the Celtic Frost battle axe couldn’t be topped, Cosmatos scores another victory of sheer excess by giving us a chainsaw duel. After dispatching the demonic bikers and delivering a gruesome comeuppance to Brother Swan, Miller’s bloody trail of corpses finally leads him to the Temple of the Children of the New Dawn.

The Order of the Trapezoid.

The film concludes with the inevitable confrontation between Miller and Sand, but Cosmatos sets it up with a long march through torchlit tunnels and grinding doom fanfare that is completely epic. You’re rooting for Miller, but what Cosmatos is ultimately serving up is just another serving of black hearted negation and nihilism. The Luciferian dark avenger vanquishes the corrupt Jesus cult leader. The penultimate vision of the film is seeing the chapel crucifix burn as the triangular A-frame is engulfed in flames. It’s tempting to think Cosmatos was showing us that the god of the Children of the New Dawn was actually Satan in first place. But I don’t think that’s what he was saying. There’s a vague sense of cosmic justice being delivered, but it mostly feels like he wants to revel in the smug satisfaction of watching his Christian straw man get crushed and burned. There’s nothing wrong with art that’s a descent into the abyss, but when that idea comprises most of the messaging coming out of Hollywood, it feels a tad malevolent and misanthropic. Don’t get me wrong. This film is among the finest of its kind, and if you have any appetite for what Cosmatos is serving, this film is unparalleled.

The author wishes to thank Eddie for offering his deep insight on the symbolism contained in this film.

Marina Abramović: The Cleaner – Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze

Self-portrait

If you know who Marina Abramović is, you probably already have an opinion about her. Chances are you aren’t neutral or lukewarm about her either. This is understandable because Abramović has actively courted controversy throughout her career, and the controversy certainly isn’t limited to her artistic output. Though I’m someone who’s spent his artistic career on the modern and avant garde end of the spectrum, my own familiarity with Ms. Abramović prior to this exhibit was limited to the controversy surrounding her secretive exploits with ruling elites rather than her public artistic output. While I realize that making a distinction between her public art and the darker clandestine activities may be a dubious proposition, I initially hoped I could set aside all allegations pertaining to the dark underbelly of her work for the purpose of this review. After seeing this exhibition, I’m not sure that distinction can be made between these two spheres of activity.

The Cleaner is a career retrospective running at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy. Her appearance at the Palazzo Strozzi is partially due to the fact that the early years of her career were spent in Italy. I must confess that after taking in so much classical beauty in Florence, the content and fanfare surrounding this exhibit was jarring when stacked up against the city’s numerous treasures.

The exhibit features her earliest visual works and performance pieces up to her present works which invite participation from the audience. At the most superficial level, Abramović belongs to a well established “tradition” of provocative performance artists that runs the gamut from Annie Sprinkle to Chris Burden up to rock agitators like GG Allin and Marilyn Manson. The notoriety she’s received as a performance artist provocateur is noteworthy because her visual works reveal no deep artistic skill whatsoever. This is, of course, a critique that has been leveled at avant garde artists since the beginning of the modern era. Since she doesn’t aspire to classical standards, it’s unrealistic to expect them. Like all of her predecessors, Abramović is not aiming for any kind of classical conception of beauty or objectivity. In the text that accompanies her piece Art Must Be Beautiful/Artist Must Be Beautiful she openly confesses her intention to “destroy the image of beauty”.

Fuck beauty, man!

Abramović aims to provoke, upset, shock and challenge the audience. This urge to negate, agitate, disrupt, invert and dismantle is the quintessentially Luciferian/Gnostic impulse that animates the modern age. This is precisely why I believe Abramović performances are correctly viewed as rather explicit occultic invocations and ritualistic workings despite her contention that it is art.

The most obvious examples are three of her most notorious performance pieces, Rhythm 10, Rhythm 5 and Rhythm 0. Whether the text was written beforehand or afterwards is not clear, but they sound very much like the rituals one would find in Thelemic scripture or the Babalon workings of Jack Parsons. I suggest that even the numbers and performance durations contain occulted meaning. All involve self-inflicted injury or the possibility of extreme harm. Whether ingesting prescription drugs to induce seizures or subjecting herself to various forms of self-mutilation, Abramović repeatedly tests the limits of her own physical stamina and the boundaries of the audience’s patience. Because she is able to affect (channel?) an air of detachment, she invites a ghoulish and sadistic fascination. In the case of Rhythm 0, she seems to be actively encouraging the audience to drop their inhibitions and violate her. Apparently, that’s exactly what happened when it was performed in Naples in 1974. It’s difficult to imagine Rhythm 5, a piece in which she lies in the center of a burning 5-point star, as anything other than a magickal invocation of some kind. It was supposedly a “challenge” to her parents and her communistic upbringing, but if that’s what she really wanted, she’d have converted back to Orthodoxy like her grandfather. That would have been genuinely transgressive. The notion that this piece is a challenge to any state or religious institution is laughable.

On a side note, I couldn’t help but think that the knife trick scene performed by the replicant Bishop on Bill Paxton’s character in the 1986 film, Aliens, bore a similarity to both Rhythm 10 and the Ulay/Abramović collaboration AAA AAA. This may seem like a leap on the surface, but given the Crowleyan overtones of the Alien series, I suggest it’s not as far off as it may seem. In Rhythm 10, Abramović lays out 20 knives and proceeds to stab the knife between her fingers as fast as she is able. Through the course of the performance, she records the rhythms of the knife impact while ignoring the bloody cuts to her fingers. A similar ritual involving the blood of goslings and cats is outlined in The Key of Solomon, an ancient grimoire designed for the conjuration of 72 demons. Abramović performed this piece at age 27 which is an inverse reference to the number of entities summoned.

The Lips of Thomas

The piece that perhaps best embodies this combination of lurid allure, occultic invocation and pretentious twaddle is the Lips of Thomas. Inspired by the androgyny of Swiss artist, Thomas Lips, this is a piece which begins with Abramović consuming a kilo of honey and then a liter of wine. She proceeds to carve a 5-pointed star on her abdomen just above her pubic area. Naturally, she carves the shape in such a manner that her navel appears as the All Seeing Eye atop the bloody flesh pyramid. She lies down on a crucifix of ice blocks with a heating lamp placed above her body sigil. After some time, she then proceeds to flog her numbed backside with whips until the audience cannot stand it any longer. The piece is meant to last seven hours, but I simply can’t imagine that people would actually submit themselves to that kind of experience. This reinforces the proposition that Abramović is making the audience unwitting participants in a ritual. She is actively seeking the obliteration of the self and to bind herself with the audience in an alchemical union.

It was like an electric current flowing through my body, as if the audience and I had become one. A single organism. The sense of danger in the room had united the audience and me at that moment: we were here and now and nowhere else. – Marina Abramović : Autobiography (2016)

The merging of opposites into a transcendent unity is not just a recurring theme in her work, but it’s the animating principle behind most of the Western esoteric tradition. This was a very explicit theme in her numerous collaborations with artist and former lover, Ulay. In addition to the video screens projecting vintage performances of the various pieces from their peak period, there were two naked performers recreating Imponderabilia. In this piece, the two performers form doorposts between which the audience members are asked to pass while choosing one subject on which to gaze. The relentless ululations of Abramović and Ulay leant an air of ritualistic ardor that was somewhat disquieting. Is this a reinvention of the Masonic symbolism of the pillars of Boaz and Jachin with Abramović and Ulay standing in as living manifestations of the male and female divine principle? I suggest it is. The ideas of duality and symbiosis fusing into an alchemical whole is the recurring theme throughout her work. Many of the textual explanations of the pieces make aggrandizing references to the authorities shutting down the performances. Ironically, I was instructed not to video anything while I was exploring the exhibit. Obviously, she’s proprietary about her work, but I find it funny that she affects a pretense of flaunting authority but expects her audience to respect the authority of the museum staff and follow the rules. You’re such a rebel, Marina.

Transcendence and portals into the world of the spirit seem to be the themes unifying most of the installations and performance pieces from the recent decades. The usage of crystals and stones has a longstanding association with followers of New Agey hokum, Wiccans and practitioners of witchcraft, but Abramović takes the idea to a whole new level. The Cleaner featured several installations involving crystals that people were invited to use. If crystals are meant to either channel energies from higher realms or invite entities from other dimensions, Abramović left no doubt that this was the purpose of these installations. Video footage from her 1997 spirit cooking “performance” indicate that these stones were a critical component of this “exhibit”.

While I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this exhibit and judge her work for myself, I also left having the distinct impression that Abramović had achieved her purpose. In other words, her ideas already permeate the culture. Maybe I’ve become so inured to the omnipresence of these ideas that none of it felt transgressive or shocking. In fact, much of it felt juvenile, pointless and stupid. Whether it’s the Crowleyan grotesqueries of Fecal Matter, the sadomasochism of the Genitorturers, or the overt references to Satanism and witchcraft that fill the mediasphere, Abramović’s work feels hackneyed and redundant even if she played a seminal role in mainstreaming the ideas. Given the fawning adoration she receives from the celebrity class, the fact that her work is regarded as a method for spiritual development, and her close proximity to the highest echelons of the power elite, there is little doubt that Abramović was given a sanction to blur the line between ritual and performance art. But the truth is that Abramović’s work should be shocking because she’s dead serious about this shit. This isn’t some pimply faced adolescent goth buying a votive candle from the occult bookstore to light while reading HP Blavatsky. This is someone who gets celebrities to eat cakes shaped like humans. And given that this is someone who paints the walls with pig blood for the public, who the fuck knows what’s in that cake? You wouldn’t have charismatic Youtubers like Jaclyn Glenn happily chirping about the benign virtues of crystals and witchcraft without Marina Abramović blazing the trail first. Occult ideas are so commonplace, very few think twice about them. It’s increasingly bound together with the gauzy platitudes of contemporary SJW piety. And for that reason alone, Abramović and her work should be regarded with skepticism and contempt.

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The joke’s on you, proles.

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

2001: A Space Odyssey has inspired numerous analyses over the years, but considerably less attention has been devoted to its successor, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Following up Stanley Kubrick would be a difficult task for any director, and Peter Hyams deserves more credit than he’s been given. Written, directed and produced by Hyams, 2010 is completely worthy follow up to Kubrick’s 1968 landmark film. Set 9 years after the events of the first film, 2010 portrays the US and USSR simultaneously engaged in a race to recover the Discovery from Jupiter’s orbit and unlock the secrets of the monolith while trying to prevent Cold War geopolitical tensions from escalating.

Just as 2001 could be described as the first significant Masonic evolution allegory with transhumanist overtones, 2010 touches on all the same core ideas. It distinguishes itself by placing greater emphasis on the globalist and scientistic ideology through which these more esoteric ideas are transmitted. The Luciferian spiritual implications of the story are considerably more explicit in this film as well.

2010 features the incomparable artistry of Syd Mead.

I further contend that 2010 is an overt nod to Russian Cosmism; the ideology that appears to be the forerunner to transhumanism as it’s currently being promulgated. Aside from sci-fi films that were made in the USSR, 2010 is perhaps the only film I can recall which takes place on board an advanced Soviet spacecraft. The name of the spacecraft is itself a reference to Soviet spacewalker, Alexey Leonov. This serves two purposes. It portrays the socialist USSR as being technologically superior to the US despite the opposite being true. Second, it makes you sympathetic to the Soviet crew and their thirst for knowledge while eroding the stigma that was built up around communism throughout the the Cold War. Don’t listen to those dumb conservatards who bash communism, proles. They’re just aping the fearful, warmongering douchebags in the GOP who have no empathy for human progress! It lends credence to the possibility of the entire Cold War dialectic being at least partially engineered. In other words, communism and capitalism are just two sides of the same ideological coin which have been pitted against one another for the express purpose of creating manufactured global tensions. It could very well also suggest that these two national space programs were part of the same global psychological operation from the start.

Besides being the more technologically advanced society, the USSR are also portrayed as being more advanced on gender equality. As Captain Tanya Kirbuk, Helen Mirren plays the steely but vulnerable feminist archetype we continue to see portrayed in film and television ad infinitum. This is arguably the one time we’re seeing feminism so explicitly connected with its socialist roots. Kirbuk is also Kubrick in reverse, so it’s also one of two overt references found in the film.

Fake Time magazine cover featured in the film. Art imitates life.

The opening scene sets up a perfect visual metaphor for the entire film. Roy Scheider’s Heywood Floyd is working atop one of the radio telescopes located at the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. Dana Elcar plays Soviet scientist, Dimitri Moisevitch, and approaches him to discuss the US efforts to retrieve the Discovery. Floyd is symbolically sitting atop the lofty perch of presumed technological and political superiority of the US talking down to the dirty commie scientist from the USSR. Mirroring the US geopolitical stance of opposition, he is reluctant and initially refuses. Reminding him that they both have higher allegiances to scientific discovery, he offers to meet him halfway up the tower. Floyd assents to his overture and agrees to two minutes of truth telling. Moisevitch informs Floyd that USSR will reach the Discovery two months before the Discovery II. Subsequently, the Leonov crew will need the expertise of the Americans in order to make the journey worthwhile. After offering to allow an American team passage on the Leonov, they proceed to speculate about how they must sell the proposal to the politicians to whom they’re beholden. Complicating the entire mission is a Cuban Missile Crisis-type entanglement which carries the threat of total nuclear annihilation. Where politicians routinely engage in rhetoric veiled in dishonest platitudes, bellicose posturing and vacuous pronouncements, scientists must fearlessly seek truth wherever it may lead! Once again, we’re presented with space exploring scientists as the vanguard of discovery, bravery and enlightened, cosmopolitan virtue.

Like 2001, transhumanism plays a very significant role in 2010. As Dr. Chandra, Bob Balaban is the AI specialist who is conscripted for the mission to reactivate HAL and discover the reason for his apparent malfunction. Mirroring the plot device we saw in Ridley Scott’s Alien, we learn that HAL did not malfunction. He was assigned to hide the fact that the NSC programmed him to go after the monolith at the expense of the crew and simply had the AI equivalent of a mental breakdown trying to reconcile conflicting protocols. At a crucial turning point in the film, Chandra is himself emotionally distraught over the prospect of explaining to HAL that he and the Discovery may very well be destroyed in order to make their accelerated launch window. After all, AI’s have RIGHTS, you know. While the idea of according rights to an artificial intelligence is now somewhat commonplace in media and entertainment, this was certainly one of the early examples of this phenomenon in film. In Arthur C. Clarke’s book, we learn that HAL’s “soul” joins Dave Bowman in the presumed elevated realm of consciousness to which he has ascended.

The full title of the film is 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Since most major films contain pieces of predictive programming, with what exactly were Hyams and company predicting contact? One of the big moments in the film was the discovery of chlorophyll on the surface of Europa. Some unknown energy surge conveniently destroys the ship logs and, ironically, the crew are expected to take their observation as an article of faith. It oddly mirrors the recent revelation that the original moon landing tapes have been mysteriously “erased”. Obviously, we didn’t discover a monolith or travel to Jupiter, but lo and behold, there were claims of possible microbial life coming from NASA. I suppose the launch of the space shuttle Discovery was also another coincidence. Though it was launched in 2011, the Juno mission also seems to dovetail into this narrative.

Perhaps this quest for contact wasn’t limited to the possibility of alien life. Maybe it was an encoded reference to the search for the infamous God particle being carried out by CERN.

Other pieces of predictive programming include Roy Scheider’s Apple IIc home computer and the biometric scanner in Chandra’s corporate office. Another oddity is the inclusion of Floyd’s two pet dolphins. While this could be a reference to John C. Lilly’s LSD experiments or the militarization of dolphins, it could also be an early step in the normalization of interspecies “love”. It is also noteworthy that Scheider went on to act in the Spielberg produced SeaQuest 2032 which featured a genetically engineered dolphin.

The fact that this was released in 1984 shouldn’t be overlooked either. The film was extrapolating a mere 26 years into the future, but was speculating about astronomical leaps in technology and space travel. Like many early works of futuristic sci-fi, 2010 presents a future of unbounded scientific progress. In comparison to the neverending conveyor belt of dystopian hellscapes to which we’re routinely subjected, this film’s optimism does seem refreshing. That said, I also believe it was presaging the world of total information awareness in which we live. Just as feel good cinematic messages can mask nefarious agendas, feel good political legislation can be passed in order to advance the goal of full spectrum panopticism.

Above all else, 2010 is presenting another Luciferian spin on man’s origins and destiny. In 2001, humanity was raised up from primordial ignorance by the material manifestation of a higher intelligence. This allowed Dave Bowman the ability to achieve his transhuman gnosis. In 2010, Dave Bowman is both a reincarnated transhuman Jesus and Yahweh. Bowman appears to Floyd/Moses like a holographic burning bush and instructs him to leave Jupiter’s orbit and return to Earth in two days. Filled with gnostic revelation, he disregards the diplomatic sanctions placed between the crews and boards the Leonov. Once again, the hard bitten scientists are faced with knowledge that transcends the material and enters into the realm of the spirit. Should the Russians forego the political tensions in which their earthbound compatriots are embroiled and trust the Americans? As ascended beings who are engaged in their own communion with the cosmic infinite, they agree to heed this seemingly miraculous message from the Beyond.

As they blast off, Jupiter begins to implode. Just as they reach safety, Jupiter ignites into a new sun which bears the name Lucifer! As in, Lucifer the light bearer. As they witness this miracle, the instructions from Yahweh/Bowman appear on the monitor screens on the Leonov and everywhere else on Earth. The voice of Yahweh will come to you too through the television screen or the computer monitor, proles. We will learn to unite as One World just like the crews of the Discovery and Leonov.

Sounds like utopia, doesn’t it?

National Treasure and The Masonic States of America

I was dismissive of Disney’s National Treasure when it was released in 2004. It seemed like a more sedate remix of The Da Vinci Code for a Disney audience, and neither the premise nor Nic Cage’s cinematic charms were enough to make me care. Art hits you in different ways at different times in your life, and I doubt I would have been attuned to the significance of National Treasure’s subtext at that time. Time passes and perspectives change. National Treasure is exactly what I sensed it would be and succeeds as a light espionage/action mystery thriller. But there’s a lot going at the symbolic level that’s very explicit and warrants a deeper examination. Because this was a Disney production aimed at a young audience, I suggest this movie’s pro-Freemasonry message is kind of a big deal from a cultural programming perspective.

I’ve been paying more attention to the architecture of morality and the ways in which it interacts with the belief apparatus. This has led me to examine the sturdiness of the underpinnings of the Enlightenment and American republicanism. Despite being largely perceived as a turn towards secularism and scientism, one of the hidden hands behind these revolutions is in fact an occulted spirituality of another kind: Freemasonry. Though “occult” broadly refers to esoteric spirituality of every kind, it also means “hidden”, and in the case of Freemasonry, it is certainly applicable. The fact that this film is linking Freemasonry to America’s foundations is intentional and borne out by history. While there’s certainly dramatic license taken in the details, the underlying truths are noteworthy all by themselves.

National Treasure is basically a variation on Raiders of the Lost Ark with overt references to Freemasonry instead of encrypted ones. As Benjamin Gates, Nic Cage is a adventurer/historian who’s dedicated his life to unraveling a mystery that was revealed to him by his Mason grandfather, John Adams Gates. As the elder patriarch, Christopher Plummer spins a fantastic tale of the Knights Templar and the untold riches they kept hidden from the Muslims and the British. The Knights managed to conceal the treasure in America, but the map is encoded in disparate objects and letters that are only decrypted by initiates of Masonic mysteries. Fast forward to the present, and Ben Gates’s quest has taken him to the arctic regions of the globe to unravel the mysterious message he uncovered that fateful day. Once the object is discovered, it unlocks another clue which points them towards a hidden map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Sean Bean’s Ian Howe gets greedy and the race to acquire the Declaration is on. Accompanied by trusty sidekick, Riley Poole and sexy museum curator, Abigail Chase, our heroes scramble to outsmart the dastardly Howe and his goons.

While the conspiracy community is awash in theories over hidden Masonic messaging in entertainment and the Illuminati conspiracy it conceals, National Treasure is one film that isn’t hiding its symbols or their connections to Masonry. They’re front and center. The controversy is whether these symbols are benign or malevolent, and the conclusion you reach will depend completely on your moral, ideological and spiritual frame of reference. National Treasure clearly wants you to see them as benign. Not only that, it wants you to equate Freemasonry with the Founding Fathers and American values themselves. This isn’t far off the mark, either.

American republicanism is seen as the fulfillment of the Enlightenment consensus enshrined in the formation of a new nation. For the first time in history, religious morality was mostly decoupled from the state, and compulsory religious practice was expunged from the law. Religious pluralism, secular reason, the scientific outlook, radical egalitarianism and democratic cosmopolitanism would be canonized as the gods of a new civic religion. This collection of presuppositions formed the basis of what we now simply identify as the pillars of classical liberalism. Depending on your point of view, it’s a set of ideas you want to see conserved for posterity, consumed in a brand new revolutionary conflagration or rejected as a Gnostic heresy.

How does Freemasonry have anything to do with classical liberalism?

While I recognize this isn’t a popular thesis amongst the woke intelligentsia, I’m inclined to believe that the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the underlying ideals of American republicanism are Masonic in nature. Freemasonry doesn’t officially call itself a religion but it asks its initiates to accept the existence of a Supreme Being. Not unlike the deism for which Thomas Paine advocated in The Age of Reason. A single, infinitely mysterious, divine monad which unites all religions, creeds and races and can never be fully understood by the human mind. Though his status as a Mason is unconfirmed, older editions of Paine’s Age of Reason even featured an essay on the origins of Freemasonry. Most people don’t self-identify as deists or take the same view towards spirituality that Paine did, but his worldview prevailed. The deistic universalism for which he advocated can now be found in the Christian ecumenical movement, New Age spirituality, Buddhist hipsters, and the various manifestations of UN-affiliated, syncretistic Blavatsky lite which also includes Freemasonry. This spiritual mindset came bundled with all of the presuppositions that accompany classical liberalism. Paine’s deism was repackaged and continues to be sold as a perpetually revolutionary set of American ideals with new labels like “liberty”, “democracy”, “equality” and perhaps most importantly, #TOLERANCE . These lofty ideals mask the Promethean promise of a very seductive spiritual truth: apotheosis of the individual.

The fact that these words occlude their Masonic origins is consistent with its nature as as a secret society and a “peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”. Throughout the film, Ben Gates has to decode various ciphers, messages, and hidden cryptograms. While this makes for lots of intrigue for the viewers, this is a bit of revelation of the method. Masonic symbols are hidden in plain sight and embedded in every corner of the culture, but invisible to the profane masses due to their ubiquity. Whether they’re used in corporate logos, rock band album art, or the infamous All Seeing Eye that adorns our Federal Reserve Notes, these symbols are imbued with meaning and work at the subconscious level.

Because humans are wired for belief, the question merely becomes one of the awareness of the belief mechanism and the direction in which its pointed. If you are atheist, agnostic, an occultist or subscribe to any non-Orthodox Christian or Islamic faith, the mysticism of Freemasonry is probably no big deal. From an Orthodox Christian or traditional Catholic perspective, this is probably seen as another example of pop culture trafficking a Luciferian doctrine packaged as family entertainment. Freemasonry, or Gnosticism, was challenged as heresy first by Saint Irenaeus and much later by Pope Leo XIII.

However, herein lies the film’s and Freemasonry’s great sleight of hand. Conservatives proclaim the belief that America was a Christian nation while progressives generally claim that it is secular and pluralistic society in which American propositions supersede proper religion. I suggest that the progressives are fundamentally correct. Conservatives may grouse about the erasure of quasi-Christian norms and traditions in the public square, but the ideals of American republicanism were departures from traditional Christian theology in the first place. The Christianity that took root in the early colonies was mostly Puritanism which in turn gave rise to increasingly atomized denominations. Add in Roman Catholics, Baptists, Unitarian Universalists, atheists and a dozen different versions of Protestantism and the idea of a unified Christian body politic becomes an increasingly untenable proposition. Subsequently, progressives are constantly able to capitalize on a fractured conservative constituency by painting themselves as the pious majority and their opponents as callow hypocrites. Perhaps America’s true national religion is the Cult of the Individual smuggled into the psyche through veiled Masonic euphemisms and symbols. Perhaps Freemasonry’s great triumph was that it swapped out religious orthodoxy in favor of a doctrine of radical individualism divorced from ethnicity, history or an abiding national identity. 231 years after the ratification of the Constitution, Disney decides the time is ripe to canonize Freemasonry with a family friendly action movie which blurs reality and fiction sufficiently well that the public likely remains anesthetized to the possibility that they’re unwitting vessels for a spiritual worldview that goes unquestioned.

Most people would shrug this off under the presumption that there’s nothing to question in classical liberalism. It gave birth to America, so what’s the problem? That’s a reasonable question, but I’m dubious on where the classical liberal framework is leading us. While those who claim a stake in the so called “intellectual dark web” are attempting to tend the breached walls of classical liberalism in order to forestall the continued advance of neo-Marxist identity politics, the #EQUALITY goalposts move further and further into the Twilight Zone of pure insanity. Classical liberalism has begotten postmodern identity politics. Classical liberalism has created a marketplace for Marxist academics, feminist hacks, despotic technocrats, racial demagogues and globalist sociopaths like George Soros who engineer social unrest, capitalize on the chaos, and then fund the fifth column organizations who work to unravel society even further. It’s the freedom to accept a marketplace for depravity, degeneracy and perpetual revolution. It’s the freedom to be mocked and demonized for even suggesting that there are traditions that are worth conserving. Progressives like to see themselves as uniquely empathetic and attuned to the suffering of the underdog, but somehow, this empathy can only be realized through neverending political protest, language policing, and exerting absolute dominion over the cultural dialogue. The subsequent result of this worldview has been an atomized population, moral relativism, postmodern subjectivism, and the radical quantification, automation and commodification of life itself. We’re at a point where the simple desire to marry someone of your own race is considered a shudder inducing rallying cry of “white supremacy”.

Paul Revere. Grand Master Freemason.

By the film’s conclusion, Gates uncovers an enormous treasure of what appears to be Egyptian artifacts and relics. The film ties Freemasonry back to its pagan and polytheistic Egyptian roots. Since these artifacts were of incalculable value to civilization, both Gates and the Freemasons come out looking like heroes and stewards of ancient mysteries that would have been destroyed in different hands. Regardless of how much dramatic license is taken in the details, the mere fact that our very first president, George Washington, was himself a Freemason lends weight to the myth. America’s list of known Freemasons who’ve occupied the Oval Office, worked in powerful federal agencies or scaled the heights of pop culture success lends even more gravitas to the claim of Freemasonry’s widespread influence in American life and thought. When Harvey Keitel’s Agent Sadusky flashes his Masonic ring, we are to understand that the Brotherhood extends to the highest echelons of power throughout the nation to this day. Naturally, Gates is exonerated from criminal charges because his higher service to mankind is recognized by the Brotherhood. Besides, laws are only for the peasants anyway.

Ben Franklin. Freemason.

As is often the case with Hollywood films, the fictitious veneer often masks a reality. The film propelled the heroes through the National Archives, Independence Hall and culminated in a church in lower Manhattan. Gates had to uncover secrets from historical documents and objects hidden within the buildings. Three years ago, when the Massachusetts State House politicians hosted a ceremony to unearth the time capsule buried by Paul Revere 220 years ago, the Freemasons were the ones who were entrusted with the task. Just like the film, the contents were passed to the Museum of Fine Arts staff. Not exactly a roomful of Egyptian artifacts and relics, but of significant historical value nonetheless.

In a manner that was very similar to the film, Freemasons are present at the unearthing of a significant piece of American history and their connection to our national heritage is cemented into to minds of the public. Freemasons are woven into the fabric of American leadership, history and ideas in ways that, prior to this film, go mostly unrecognized. On the surface, it seems pretty benign and even downright noble. That’s certainly what Disney wants you to think. But Disney is in business of manufacturing symbols that create new realities. You could say it’s a kind of magic. They say Disney is “the most magical place on earth.” Something tells me their fascination with magic makes them natural allies with Freemasonry. I’m just not sure it’s as benign as they want you to think.

Ayn Rand: Anthem

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After going many years not having read Ayn Rand, I am increasingly convinced that the degree to which you are able to enjoy her as a writer depends a lot on your overall receptivity to what she is laying down philosophically.

While I can appreciate that folks find the single minded and self-righteous implacability of her worldview repellant and impossibly self-centered, I have concluded that these criticisms are both right and wrong.

Thematically, this book is exactly what I expected. It portrays a future society in which the will of the individual has been completely subjugated by the will of the collective. The protagonist eventually escapes from society and reclaims his individuality and as a result, makes some revelatory pronouncements which certainly validate the view that Ayn Rand is a one dimensional harpy dispensing scorn and condemnation toward all collectivist impulses and sentiments. Love and respect is to be earned and not freely given. The pursuit of achievement is its own end and whether or not it is of any benefit to mankind is not the point. “We” can only be invoked voluntarily and if invoked in the context of political power or social activism is corrupt and evil. And so on.

No surprises.

On this front, the critics and haters are correct. As Whittaker Chambers so eloquently put it in his 1957 National Review piece, it’s the tone that dominates and the words are shouting us down. It’s clear that Ayn Rand wanted this book to carry the weight of a Biblical parable. The protagonist claims the name Prometheus and his invention is a light bulb. Despite her claims of atheism, Anthem seems very explicitly gnostic. Both the character and his invention literally bring the light of illumination to the enslaved masses. Rand undoubtedly sought to impart a religious certainty of the validity and veracity of her revelations to the reader.

With a worldview so rigid, the laws of physics take hold and the caustic, inverse reaction is inevitable. How could anyone really hold such a narrow view of the world and regard that as unassailable Truth?!

There are many possible lenses through which to view people and the world around us which are seemingly unaddressed by the Randian view. There are some people for whom voluntary charity and giving is a genuine expression of themselves. Some derive great satisfaction from knowing that their contributions are making a material difference to others. Some are edified and filled with joy by freely expressing love to others regardless of whether it is earned. Some are willing to place trust and faith in others to find their own self direction instead of relating out of the default assumption they are looters. The key of course being whether or not these actions are taken voluntarily versus being carried out by a state bureaucrat.

The punch line, however, is that Ayn Rand didn’t care about the haters. She wrote what she wrote and if you don’t like it, move on.

Where the critics and haters are wrong is simply a failure to fully appreciate the importance of individualism and self-interest. The key to happiness and self-fulfillment lies within each individual. You are your own best guide for navigating the challenges which life presents. Even if there have been worthy achievements made by the State, the placement of too much faith in the power of the State to rectify social ills is misguided and potentially toxic. I agree wholeheartedly that the freedom of the individual has lit the flame of progress for humanity throughout the ages and there are passages in this book which testify to the spirit of individualism and burn with a righteous fire.

Anthem is both a worthwhile read and a completely worthwhile addition to the dystopian SF canon.

And hey, just remember this. Any book which inspired Rush’s 2112 can’t be all bad.