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The Real Life of "The Matrix"

The Reality behind the Appearance: a serious look at the philosophy of "The Matrix"

"Wake up, Neo.
The Matrix has you."

The Philosophy of The Matrix

Seriously, man. It's kind of like The Force, except it's tricking you, and imprisoning you, and sucking your life out. So really, it's not all that much like The Force.

Your chosen LiveReal Agents,
in our ongoing mission to understand the world today . . .

. . . or at least, what seems to be the world today . . . .

(LiveReal Agent's Note: This review deals only with the original "Matrix," not the sequels. Why? It is because that is how it must be. Or because of a choice. Or we don't really know. Either way, it just is. Unless it isn't.)

So, what is "The Matrix"?

A seriously cool action flick. Stellar visuals. Game-changing special effects. Gnarly fight scenes. Carrie Anne-Moss. Really twisted story. Leather.

But that's just the surface, the appearance of the movie. That's all it seems to be.

But there's something more going on here.

After all, The Matrix movies seem to have a deeper effect on people than that of just another sci-fi flick. . . .and weren't the Wachowskis, really digging through some serious philosophy or something, before they made it?

Is there a deeper philosophy of The Matrix that exists in the real "real world" (meaning, the world outside of the move)?

What is it about this movie that seems to be speaking to people on such a deeper level?

Maybe there is something there to explore.

The Inner Meaning of "The Matrix"

Some quotes from the movie:

"You're here because you know something.
What you know you can't explain.
But you feel it.
You've felt it your entire life."

"That there is something wrong with the world.
You don't know what it is, but it's there,
like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad."

"What is the Matrix?

It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."

What truth?

That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else
you were born into bondage.

Born into a prison
that you cannot smell or taste or touch.
A prison for your mind.

Unfortunately,
no one can be told
what the Matrix is.

You have to see it for yourself."

"You've been living in a dream world, Neo."

"The Matrix" - in one sense - is a really entertaining adventure movie, with far-out psychological twist. Nothing more.

Keanu, the everyday guy, living the normal life as a computer software programmer, is faced with a harsh truth: he's been living a double life; one by day, another by night. He's forced to choose which is the "real" him.

From there, and once he makes a few more key choices, practically everything he believes about himself, his world, his place in the world, fundamental assumptions about him and his identity . . . unravel.

Pretty interesting movie, pretty interesting fantasy, but that's all it is.

. . . or is it?

Some views from "The Real World"

Consider this:

G. I. Gurdjieff

First of all, from Peter Ouspensky, the 20th-Century mathematician and author of In Search of the Miraculous, in which he quotes philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff:

“If men could really see their true position and could understand all the horror of it, they would be unable to remain where they are even for one second. They would begin to seek a way out and they would quickly find it, because there is a way out; but men fail to see it simply because they are hypnotized.”

“You do not realize your own situation.  You are in prison.  All you can wish for, if you are a sensible man, is to escape.  But how escape?  It is necessary to tunnel under a wall.  One man can do nothing.  But let us suppose there are ten or twenty men – if they work in turn and if one covers another they can complete the tunnel and escape."

". . . Furthermore, no one can escape from prison without the help of those who have escaped before . . . if a man in prison was at any time to have a chance of escape, then he must first of all realize that he is in prison.  So long as he fails to realize this, so long as he thinks he is free, he has no chance whatever.  No one can help or liberate him by force, against his will, in opposition to his wishes.  If liberation is possible, it is possible only as a result of great labor and great efforts, and, above all, of conscious efforts, towards a definite aim.”

“If a man could understand all the horror of the lives of ordinary people who are turning round in a circle of insignificant interests and insignificant aims, if he could understand what they are losing, he would understand that there can be only one thing that is serious for him - to escape from the general law, to be free. What can be serious for a man in prison who is condemned to death? Only one thing: how to save himself, how to escape: nothing else is serious."

- or consider the following from Indian spiritual teacher...

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

“Thus is created the world in which we live, our personal world. The real world is beyond the mind's ken; we see it through the net of our desires, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes. Look at the net and its many contradictions."

Or consider the following from...

Plato

“'And now,' I said, 'let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: behold human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players put in front of them, over which they show the puppets.'

'I see.'

'And do you see,' I said, 'men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.'

'You have shown me a strange thing, and they are strange prisoners.'

'Like ourselves,' I replied; 'and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another..."

Or consider the following from philosopher...

J. J. van der Leeuw

"Our life is like that of the prisoners in the cave; we too see only the back of the cave, the wall of our own consciousness on which dance the shadows, the images cast there by the reality which we do not behold.

We have come to know the play of these shadows so well that we have been able to build up an entire science concerning them. This science is right in so far as the shadows have a vital relation to the reality that casts them, but it is ever doomed to find itself confronted by mysteries which in the world of shadows never be solved, unless some who have seen the real world introduce into these sciences a wider knowledge. But we are impatient and incredulous when anyone would tell us that the world upon which we gaze is not the world of the Real, but only our world-image.

Yet among us too evidence is not lacking of men, who, throughout the ages, have found freedom from their bondage, who have conquered illusion and discovered that world of Reality of which this world of ours is but a shadow or image, cast in the cave of our consciousness..."

(quoted from The Conquest of Illusion, 1928)

Or consider this from Vishnu-devananda, a teacher and writer of...

Yoga

"The Veils of Illusion: Brahman, Absolute Consciousness, has neither name nor form. It is infinite, unqualified, and undifferentiated . . .Maya is the veiling power of Brahman. It creates the idea of limitation, an illusion that the world is different from Brahman . . . Until realization takes place, man is wrapped in avidya, which is ignorance or nescience (Editor's Note: - which some say is the root cause of anxiety . . . ). Avidya is the multi-layered veil that lies over knowledge of the Self, which is the only true knowledge. Ignorance is erroneous identification with limiting adjuncts . . . Man's present miseries and sufferings, his pains and limited pleasures, births and deaths, are all due to his erroneous identification with . . . the physical body, the astral body and the causal body . . . With Self-Realization, the world-illusion disappears and all is experienced directly as the unchanging, unlimited Brahman."
(quoted from Meditation and Mantras)

Or consdiern this from the Upanishads, the principle text of...

Hinduism

"This whole world the illusion-maker (mayin) projects out of this (Brahma).
And in it by illusion (maya) the other (the individual soul) is confined.
Now, one should know that nature (prakriti) is illusion (maya)."
(Svetasvatara Upanashad, IV. 9. 10)

Or considern this from Chuang-tse, teacher of

Taoism

"Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will even interpret the very dream they are dreaming; and only when they awake do they know it was a dream. By and by comes the Great Awakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or peasants."
Chuang-tse (ch. II)

Or consider the following from a description of some early "unofficial" Christian sects (before folks had decided what "official" Christianity was), otherwise known as...

Gnosticism

(Gnosticism is a term that refers to a series of different schools of thought that were influential around the time of the origin of Christianity. Some folks claim that Jesus was a member of a Gnostic sect called "The Essenes.")

". . . gnosticism taught that we are souls trapped in a prisonlike material world by an evil divinity, kept unaware of our plight by its carnal seductiveness. Only those with the occult knowledge (gnosis) of the true state of affairs can transcend this prison and enter a higher reality. The good divinity dwelling above this evil realm aids the lost souls by sending a messenger of truth to reveal the deception. Replace archons with agents and magic with machine guns, and "The Matrix" is a virtual (get it?) point-for-point retelling of the gnostic myth."
- Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis, Flower Mound, Texas

Or the following from a famous writer (who is quoting the Christian poet Novalis)...

Jorge Luis Borges

"The greatest magician (Novalis has memorably written) would be the one who would cast over himself a spell so complete that he would take his own phantasmagorias as autonomous appearances. Would not this be our case?"
I conjecture that this is so. We (the undivided divinity operating within us) have dreamt the world. We have dreamt it as firm, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and durable time; but in its architecture we have allowed tenuous and eternal crevices of unreason which tell us it is false..."

Or the following from modern spiritual teacher...

Roy Masters

"The real identity of each of us exists as a potential not yet realized, buried somewhere within us, but prevented from expressing itself and unfolding . . . your soul is under a prison of conditioning... "

Or the following from two somewhat mainstream...

Psychologists

"The average person is unaware that he or she is living out a negative destiny according to his or her past (childhood) programming, preserving his or her familiar identity, and, in the process, pushing love away. On an unconscious level, many people sense that if they did not push love away, the whole world, as they have experienced it, would be shattered and they would not know who they were."
- Robert W. Firestone and Joyce Catlett

Or the following from everyone's token smart guy...

Albert Einstein

"A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Or the following from the virtual headquarters of modern science...

Scientific American

"Our innate perception that the world is three-dimensional could be an extraordinary illusion . . . results suggest that our universe, which we perceive to have three spatial dimensions, might instead be "written" on a two-dimensional surface, like a hologram. Our everyday perceptions of the world as three-dimensional would then be either a profound illusion or merely one of two alternative ways of viewing reality . . ."
- from "Information In the Holographic Universe" by Jacob D. Bekenstein,
Scientific American, August 2003

Free Bonus!
Is this a very similar core message as The Truman Show? Westworld? Jacob's Ladder, Cube, Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, Waking Life, The Wizard of Oz?

- and if this idea keeps showing up, again and again, in different ways...

- doesn't that indicate that there might be some sort of truth behind it?

"It is not until you awaken
that you will realize that
you have been asleep,
dreaming that you are awake."
- Leonard Jacobson

And If You Want To Go Deeper Down the Rabbit-Hole...

It's pretty safe to say that the vast majority of people who see The Matrix movies will more or less enjoy them, have a fun couple of hours or so . . and move on with their lives, and that's it. Good flick.

Another, smaller group of people, will go see the movies, and afterwards, think about the movies, talk about them, and kick around a few deeper thoughts and theories about the underlying message and philosophy that pervades the movies. They'll take it to a slightly deeper level, and get intellectual about it.

. . . In a way, they will be like dreamers in a dream who dream that someone told them they were dreaming, and they talked and thought about it in the dream.

And yet another, much smaller group, will go even further.

They will see the movies, dig them, work to understand the deeper message that pervade the movies intellectually . . . and then they'll get to work.

After all, if the movies strike such a chord with people because there's some truth to them . . . well, there's some work to do.

Because if we actually are, in some way, living in some kind of illusion, and we're more or less "cut off" from love, or God, or happiness, or reality or "IT" or whatever you want to call it, and this is why we suffer, and we are here to to combat all kinds of deception and overall fix this situation...

- then well, then there's a lot of work to do.

And if there is some truth behind the "machines" that we created becoming the enemy that enslaves humanity...and if somehow that parallels the "ego" (which we created and which supposedly enslaves us)...

- then working to free ourselves from the grip of the ego and actually find "The Truth" is what a small band of freedom fighters will be up to.

...which means, among other things, that this group will probably be studying and practicing certain exercises...and work with others to help them win the battle...

...and then, maybe one day, wake up.

To Be Continued . . .

If you liked this, check out:

Spirituality for Skeptics

10 Existential Riddles That Life Asks Each Of Us

The Search for "IT"

Why Are We Here?

The Spiritual Arena: The Quest for Reality

Who, or What, is "God" - for Real?

7 Practical Spiritual Experiments You Can Run Yourself

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