Why are so many movies going Gnostic? |315|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, May 17, 2016.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Why are so many movies going Gnostic? |315|
    by Alex Tsakiris | May 17 | Spirituality

    Miguel Conner explains why movies like Snowpiercer and The Lego Movie rely on Gnostic themes.

    [​IMG]photo by: Bong Joon Ho

    Today we welcome Miguel Conner to Skeptiko for another round of Skeptiko at the movies. Miguel is the host of one of my favorite must-listen-to podcasts,Aeon Byte Gnostic radio where he explores all manner of Gnostic related topics, and in a broader sense, and this is the real hook for me, all topics related to the “how can this be” question.

    So, with Miguel as our guide, we tackle two movies with strong Gnostic themes. And while Snowpeircer and The Lego Movie certainly resonate with Gnostics, they also resonate with the rest of us. Why? Before this interview, I almost challenged Miguel to refrain from using the word “Gnosticism” when explaining how and why these stories speak to us in a deep way, but he decided we didn’t need any gimmicks to demonstrate how familiar we have all become with the concepts and themes at play in a Gnostic worldview.
     
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  2. Buggy713

    Buggy713 New

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    Cause I think at a deep primal level... we feel were are not getting the truth about our history, who we really are and what's going on from any of our "mainstream" outlets whether
    it be science or religion.
     
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  3. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's questions at the end of the interview:

    Why are these gnostically-themed movies so popular? What are they tapping into both in us and our culture? What do we need to listen to and know about the message they're sending us?
     
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  4. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    I'm rather ashamed to admit that I wasn't really sure what gnosticism meant, and so off to Wikipedia I went: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism.

    And thence to the meaning of the words demiurge, and gnosis, not to mention the Nag hammadi library, and so on. One bit from the article on gnosticism is interesting:

    Demiurge

    A lion-faced deity found on a Gnostic gem in Bernard de Montfaucon's L'antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures may be a depiction of the Demiurge; however, cf. Mithraic Zervan Akarana

    The term Demiurge derives from the Latinized form of the Greek term dēmiourgos, δημιουργός (literally "public or skilled worker"), and refers to an entity responsible for the creation of the physical universe and the physical aspect of humanity. The term dēmiourgos occurs in a number of other religious and philosophical systems, most notably Platonism. Moral judgements of the demiurge vary from group to group within the broad category of Gnosticism — such judgements usually correspond to each group's judgement of the status of materiality as being inherently evil, or else merely flawed and as good as its passive constituent matter allows. In Gnosticism the Demiurge, creator of the material world, was not God but the Archon.

    As Plato does, Gnosticism presents a distinction between a supranatural, unknowable reality and the sensible materiality of which the demiurge is creator. However, in contrast to Plato, several systems of Gnostic thought present the Demiurge as antagonistic to the Supreme God: his act of creation either in unconscious and fundamentally flawed imitation of the divine model, or else formed with the malevolent intention of entrapping aspects of the divine in materiality. Thus, in such systems, the Demiurge acts as a solution to the problem of evil. In the Apocryphon of John (several versions of which are found in the Nag Hammadi library), the Demiurge has the name "Yaltabaoth", and proclaims himself as God:

    Now the archon who is weak has three names. The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Samael. And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, "I am God and there is no other God beside me," for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come.

    "Samael", in the Judeo-Christian tradition, refers to the evil angel of death, and corresponds to the Christian demon of that name, one second only to Satan. Literally, it can mean "blind god" or "god of the blind" in Aramaic (Syriac sæmʻa-ʼel); another alternative title is "Saklas", Aramaic for "fool" (Syriac sækla "the foolish one").

    Gnostic myth recounts that Sophia (Greek, literally meaning "wisdom"), the Demiurge's mother and a partial aspect of the divine Pleroma or "Fullness", desired to create something apart from the divine totality, and without the receipt of divine assent. In this abortive act of separate creation, she gave birth to the monstrous Demiurge and, being ashamed of her deed, she wrapped him in a cloud and created a throne for him within it. The Demiurge, isolated, did not behold his mother, nor anyone else, and thus concluded that only he himself existed, being ignorant of the superior levels of reality that were his birthplace.

    The Gnostic myths describing these events are full of intricate nuances portraying the declination of aspects of the divine into human form; this process occurs through the agency of the Demiurge who, having stolen a portion of power from his mother, sets about a work of creation in unconscious imitation of the superior Pleromatic realm. Thus Sophia's power becomes enclosed within the material forms of humanity, themselves entrapped within the material universe: the goal of Gnostic movements was typically the awakening of this spark, which permitted a return by the subject to the superior, non-material realities that were its primal source.

    And so to Alex's questions:

    Why are these gnostically-themed movies so popular? What are they tapping into both in us and our culture? What do we need to listen to and know about the message they're sending us?

    First, I ask myself if these movies really are gnostically-themed. I mean by that whether some directors are consciously exploring gnostic themes, or whether they are simply producing films that, after the fact, people like Miguel Conner are connecting with gnosticism. Well, if you google "Is the matrix gnostic?", "Is the the movie Lego gnostic?, "Gnosticism in modern cinema", you'll find a certain amount of agreement--but also disagreement. The last mentioned Google search took me here: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls050422304/, where it says:

    Gnostic Movies


    by rapidcerebral created 23 Nov 2012 | last updated - 7 months ago


    These are movies that have a slight glint of Gnosticism. In a nut shell Gnosticism is the belief that the material realm is an illusion that was created by a demigod(Jehovah, Yahweh, Yaltaboath, Demiurge, etc.), and human bodies were created by archons (lords of the universe), the souls that inhabit some human bodies were breathed in by the most High, and are greater and more powerful than the demigod that created the universe and his Archons. For this reason he has a great hatred for mankind well maintaining a complete ignorance of whom he was created by. The Logos, (Yeshua) who came in human form, came forth from the 'most High' which is an unknowable source outside the material universe, and the 'Christed' one comes to break the (worthy)humans from their shackles and bring them into the new world...

    Listed in random order...

    Followed by a list of no less than 64 purported gnostic movies such as Prometheus, The Truman show, the Matrix trilogy, The wizard of Oz, The holy mountain, and so on.

    I don't know. To me, a film with true gnostic connections would be more explicitly about gnosticism. What I'm getting is a hodge-podge of vaguely weird themes being pursued by a film industry that is a little bit bored of standard genres. There might be some awareness of gnosticism in some directors, but as to whether they consciously seek to explore gnosticism, I'm unsure.
     
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  5. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but my approach going in is Hollywood milks any genre that has proven successful with an audience. If it's Harry Potter expect a raft of magical schoolchildren films, if it's The Matrix get ready for a bunch of cyber-reality flicks. The literary and film genres already exist, it's simply that producers are in the business of following the coin.
     
  6. The materialists disinformation campaign against religion, new age beliefs, and unaffiliated beliefs in God and the afterlife have succeeded in fooling many people. But materialism fails to fulfill their basic human spiritual needs. The only thing left to satisfy their spiritual yearning is fiction which is "permitted" to materialists because it is known to be false and therefore not a threat to materialism.

    That the movies are propaganda intended to oppress the viewer with false beliefs just as the victims in the plots of the movies are oppressed. If you want to understand reality you have to look at the empirical evidence such as NDEs, fine tuning of the universe for life, etc. Fiction is the opium of the materialists because for them, the evidence itself is heresy.
     
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  7. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Very true, Jim. I've noted before that sci-fi, role play, fantasy fans are hugely over represented among the ranks of noisy atheists. It's as though two competing claims have to be satisfied, the necessity for realities inconsistent with the material realm, and the absolute denial of those realities as containing meaning. Hollywood supplies alt-religion (Star Wars et al) to the masses knowing religious re-tellings are too potent and divisive for the blockbuster market.
     
  8. Alex

    Alex New

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    well put.
     
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  9. Alex

    Alex New

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    great post... thx for the background.

    re "true gnostic connections" what resonates with me is the extent to which a Gnostic worldview (in the general sense) if a better fit for what I observe than a materialistic science worldview.
     
  10. Alex

    Alex New

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    point taken... but again, it's interesting to see the contrast between what is jammed down our throat from the atheist/science communities and Christian/religious communities and what people resonate with. both of these groups have done everything they can to stomp out this Harry Potter kinda magical worldview, but it still resonates.
     
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  11. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    Great show - I'm a kind of "natural born Gnostic" so I was in familiar territory :), but I have a question for Alex (and/or Miguel, if he's reading this).

    I have been wondering throughout the show which of the two situations you were actually implying/referring to:

    1) our souls are "trapped" in this dimension and a lot (most?) human beings are *unwittingly* helping the "Archons-that-be" :) to maintain the status quo - so they are acting like "kapos" in concentration camps, cooperating with the Demiurge, but simply out of ignorance (their "divine spark" would still be there, buried beneath the material needs & distractions keeping them in chains; so there's hope - for them and for mankind in general);

    2) a substantial amount of people side with the "bad guys" out of convenience/selfishness/opportunism because for them there's nothing more to life than making the most of it (these would be the truly bad "kapos" in that they would be happy to cooperate with the Demiurge to their own advantage), and it's all about getting as much material pleasures as possible. In that case the divine spark would seem to be absent. Or extinguished. In any case, irretrievable.

    In fact I believe not all Gnostic sources state that each and every human being has a divine spark, but I'm not a Gnostic scholar so I can't say this for sure. And anyway I know that Gnosticism is a pretty general concept and certainly not a structured doctrine. (Incidentally I'm not implying I do have that spark and I'm oh so special - I feel ALL of us are cogs in a big materialistic machine anyway, and extricating us completely from it is practically impossible....at best we can aim to be "conscious cogs" as long as we inhabit our material bodies....and after death, if there's a way out to a better place, great; if not, well, it was nice to have a dream while on death row :)....)

    Anyway if you believe in option 2 there's not much that can be done, right? I look forward to your reply. Thanks again for another brilliant show!
     
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  12. Hurmanetar

    Hurmanetar New

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    Its been a couple years since I saw the LEGO movie, but it instantly became one of my favorites and I watched it twice in the theater. I'm amazed that so much esoteric truth was packed into a "kid's movie". LEGOS (very close to LOGOS) are the perfect vehicle for exploring truth because as I discovered after reading "The Trickster and the Paranormal," all reality is about patterns, structures, and boundaries. The LEGO universe has various realms thinly bounded to the highly controlled and highly structured "consensus reality" which is the Demiurge's attempt at perfection.

    Emmet, the reluctant hero / generic trendy unoriginal construction worker: his name is a homophone for "I'm it." Vitruvius tells him the world depends on him... because he is IT. Initially he finds acceptance by following the rules, trying to be trendy like everyone else, and generally being an air-head. Every day he and his co-workers follow all instructions and engage in the same construction projects and at the end of the day Lord Business's military industrial complex flies in to destroy their work. Emmet eventually decides he is not "the special" and sacrifices himself for those he loves and considers to be the real "specials" thereby saving the world from the judgment of the demiurge - thus through his sacrifice he becomes the most special of them all.

    Lucy, a.k.a. "Wild Style": obviously short for Lucifer (light bringer). With Pink and Blue streaks in her hair and a black outfit she is a boundary crosser and anti-authority anti-structure figure. Emmet religiously follows all of his instructions until one day he catches a glimpse of Lucy. Love and curiosity about the beauty compel him to take his first ever deviation from the rules which lead him to fall down a bumpy tripy rabbit hole landing near the "Piece of Resistance" which is the cap to the "Kragle" which is "Kra-- Gl--e" (Krazy Glue). Emmet touches the Piece of Resistance and has a psychedelic/NDE/OBE/mystical experience of the greater reality and thence forward the Piece of Resistance is stuck to him compelling him (often against his wishes for simplicity and comfort) to become involved in a greater adventure - the "animating contest of liberty."

    Vitruvius: name harkens back to the Roman engineer who studied perfection in architecture and human form. Later Da Vinci painted the famous "Vitruvian Man" based on the works of Vitruvius. The Lego Vitruvius is the sage arch-mage who is blind but has developed his psychic sense to such a degree he sees better than with real eyes. When the Piece of Resistance is lost in his battle with the demiurge, Vitruvius offers up a prophecy, "which must be true because it rhymes" which assists in Emmet's development and the recovery of the Piece of Resistance. The flippant prophecy is symbolic of religion which is... kinda of true, but also a bit hokey as the truth is only made evident when a person uses the lens it provides to see themselves in a new light - as a "special" - Emmet --> "I'm it."

    Lord Business: the demiurge who is the president of Octan corporation. Octan is obviously a play on Octane (allusion to fuel/energy/big oil) and also evokes the tentacles of an octopus having a hand in everything from over priced coffee to rigged voting machines, the media, and politics. He represents over-structure. The fun of LEGOS is that destruction and creation can happen over and over again. Lord Business wants to end all destruction by whipping the inhabitants of the Lego world into a frenzy of perfect happiness through government handouts on Taco Tuesday, and then glue them all together with the "Kragle" freezing them in their state of perfection forever. But when there is no longer any destruction there can also be no creation. Nothing is more hellish to a living being than being frozen in rigid structure for eternity. In real life (in the movie) Lord Business is the Father who has gotten too strict and structured in his old age and needs the youthful playfulness of his son to soften him up and decide not to judge the world with the Kragle. The son intercedes with the Father as an advocate for Emmet and the rest of the Lego characters.

    Unikitty: the shallow new-agey, non-dual, oneness kitty tries to meditate and breathe deeply and focus only on positivity and neglects her polar opposites - yet her body is ironically shaped like a horseshoe magnet reminding us there will always be poles and opposites no matter how much we try to repress the negative. She lives in Cloud Coo-Koo land which is the ridiculous yet happy land of anarchy, creativity, and absurd structures where all the free-thinkers congregate for a while. One by one, Lord Business abducts the free thinkers and imprisons them in his "think tank" where he steals their ideas for his own nefarious purpose. After they are freed in the final apocalyptic battle, Unikitty displays incredible strength and aggression as all that pent up negativity explodes onto her enemies.

    There's so much more symbolism but that's all I've got time for. :)
     
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  13. iPsoFacTo

    iPsoFacTo New

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    There was this rather silly sounding album of spoken word eastern spiritual blah blah blah all with India style background music that I heard way back in the 70's that had one bit that stayed with me.
    She said why is it that we are all so fascinated with movies and the reason is because instinctively we know movies are but two dimensional representations of the three dimensional movie we all are acting in. <shrug> :D
     
  14. iPsoFacTo

    iPsoFacTo New

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    Speaking of movies to this topic, has anyone seen a movie titled "The Nines"
     
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  15. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    I don't know what the authors intended, but I should note that the themes and character tropes in this movie are also pretty familiar to the fantasy novel genre: young naive boy (or girl) is visited by mysterious old man (usually a powerful mage), who tells him he is the savior fortolled by prophecy to defeat some great evil (often another equally powerful mage, but evil, or a deity-like being). He sets off on an adventure against what seems at first to be overwhelming odds, where good must defeat evil. He departs with a small group which slowly grows as he meets others (sly thief-life characters full of mirth and wit, stocky dwarf builders, elegant elves, a romantic interest or two, etc.).

    It is no surprise that these kinds of stories draw inspiration by various mythologies, no doubt including gnostic ones. Regardless of the truth of their content, there is a reason certain myths persist to this day: they make compelling tales.

    I listened to a gnostic lecture someone posted a week or so ago who described the basic gnostic structure of yaweh the demiurge, with the more fundamental being behind it. Again, regardless of the truth of the matter, I found it to be a compelling story, and quite enjoyed hearing about it.

    This is not to say that authors don't sometimes have specific intentions to promote a certain mythology (think C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia series). But I would be cautious in assuming that just because certain themes find their way into movies and books, that it is because the authors intend to acclimate their audience to such ideas in an eventual attempt to attract converts.

    Often I think they just want to tell a good story!
     
  16. Heh, I was waiting for Hurmanetar to comment when I saw the Lego movie. :)

    Curious, has anyone read Secret Cinema: Gnostic Vision in Film? In my wish list for awhile now...

    I think Gnosticism is popular because it tugs on that suspicion/hope/fear that there's more than our mundane conception of reality from both a political and metaphysical view. We've come to see the flaws in divisive religious assertions but the core mysticism which indicates a convergence still intrigues. That said I do see some division between the Joseph Campbell play-by-play of Star Wars versus the Norse Pantheon of Avengers being aliens....thankfully Marvel gave us Guardians of Galaxy and the defining ADC in that movie.

    Miguel made an interesting observation- there were some great Gnostic movies before 9/11 - Truman Show, Dark City, 13th Floor, The Matrix, Existenz. I don't know if 9/11 really drew us away from the fantastical though, I mean the New Atheists were out there but we also had Harry Potter take the world by storm. (For a Gnostic take on Harry Potter's purpose see Mike Carey's The Unwritten.)

    And 9/11 made us more gnostic in our concerns about power structures given the aftermath that still haunts us and will likely to continue to haunt the succeeding generations. This anti-establishment sentiment has obviously started something, but what exactly is unclear.

    The interest in fantasy, in spirituality without religion combined with a sense that Someone is getting the better of us, makes Gnosticism a natural fit for where we are today.

    Finally people interested in Gnostic ideas might want to check out the Gnosticism thread. I've set that link to go directly to Miguel's interview about Gnosticism on Runesoup.
     
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  17. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Well some do, and some of it is media led, and some is fundamentalists happy to conform to the media representation. There are undoubtedly belief systems, including Christian ones, that see any representations other than their preferred literalist views as demonically inspired, and equally there are political forces that are happy to hijack religion to their own ends. Look at the Catholic Herald or Michael Voris's Church Militant site to see hardcore Neo-Conservatism with a religious twist. The entire lexicon is political, liberal vs conservatives, bad guys vs good guys. Control the language and you control the thinking - to those who see everything through a political prism, everything is political.

    Fortunately the majority see Harry Potter for what it is, a morality folk tale written by a self-professed Christian where good triumphs over evil. This is not a J. K Rowling apologetic incidentally, I got thirty pages into Harry Potter and thought my brain would melt, but my kids enjoyed the books and the films. Children's entertainment has always been an ideological battleground.
     
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  18. Bucky

    Bucky Member

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    Probably not all Christians got that, though. :) Former pope Joseph Ratzinger didn't quite saw it under that light... as he's been one of the most vocal opponent and critic of the novel.

    I enjoyed it in my early 30s! :D :D
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2016
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  19. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    I enjoyed the potter books as well!

    I suspect the people who think there is something unusual or sinister in Harry Potter do so because the Harry Potter books were their first exposure to the fantasy genre as well. The great battle between good and evil had been a hallmark of fantasy since the first series of the genre: the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I don't believe it was a stranger to its antecedents either be it various myths, fairy tales, etc.

    These are popular themes that get people excited. They make for great rollicking tales that bring the reader into fantasically imagined worlds.

    Again, I'd suggest that anyone who has read a lot of fantasy isn't going to be too surprised by anything in these books and movies. Not to take anything away from Harry Potter or Lego movie (I'm a fan of both)- but these stories did not really break much new ground! And other authors have far more elaborate political and religious structures set out in their books! As well as more developed big bads!
     
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  20. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    The question is did he read it, or were the grizzly bits pointed out by his henchmen? I'm betting the latter. Being outraged vicariously is not exactly uncommon.

    Hypocrisy is rife, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe doesn't come in for the same flak, and that contains magic. I thought Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials was very good of its type until it turned into an atheist polemic and the storytelling disappeared under a rant. Hobby horses rarely make for compelling fiction.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2016
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