Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Exploring The Matrix Part 1: Jesus in the Matrix

The last paper I ever wrote for in my university career was regarding the religious themes in the highly popular sci-fi movie The Matrix.  I’m interested in sharing it in blog form because I know many people found this movie interesting, but I don’t feel that the form it was written is quite in order for a blog.  Some ideas I originally had left out because they may have been just too “out there” and it may have affected my grade. Other ideas were maybe just not relevant and wouldn't have fit.   So instead I’ve chosen to re-write it with all the crazy stuff I wanted to write about but just didn't have the gall to include it into the academic paper.  This turned into a multi part blog because I really love breaking down everything about this film. And perhaps if I get bored, I'll delve into (small) parts of the sequels.  I may go overboard about certain meanings and metaphors, but I ask forgiveness in advance.  Don’t take them too seriously, they’re just things to think about next time you get a chance to see this movie.  Speaking of which, since this paper goes into great detail it might be a good idea to check out beforehand.  

First off, this film is loaded with everything religious.  Themes from eastern traditions and  Christianity are found everywhere.  Its also fascinating to those with a habit of thinking about things too deeply.  It asks philosophical first premises,  What is real?  Does the world actually exist? or is it some kind of dream or simulation?

For those who don’t know or have forgotten, the main plot hook of the film is that human beings are unknowingly trapped in a computer generated simulation of reality known as the Matrix.  Artificially created machine intelligence has destroyed human civilization and is now harvesting human bodies for energy while simulating their lives in an artificial dream world that resembles normal life in our modern world.  

The film follows a computer programmer named Thomas Anderson, also a computer hacker going by the alias Neo. He lives alone and his life seems to be very bland and unremarkable. Neo/Thomas is trying to find out what the Matrix is. He is searching for a mysterious man named Morpheus whom he believes can give him the answer to his question. Morpheus is the leader of a group of people including a woman named Trinity, who have been freed from the matrix, but return to free other people who want to get out. They find each other and Neo is freed from his digital prison. It’s then revealed that Morpheus freed Neo from The Matrix because he believes Neo is “The One”. A truth Neo eventually discovers for himself at the end of the movie.

The Matrix and Christ

The religious symbolism should not be lost to those familiar with the beliefs of Christians. The One is the saviour or messiah who is prophesied to bring freedom to humans inside the Matrix. The One is an individual with the ability for transcendence beyond the laws of the Matrix’s programmed reality.  Essentially The One has divine qualities.  He plays the Christ figure.  One could also see him as a Buddha just as easily.  But I will cover that later on.    
Because Keanu Reeves is actually the Buddha.....Yeah, more on that later

So, how does Neo represent the messiah character in this film? Well for starters, lets look at his name. His name “Neo” is an anagram for the word One. The word Neo also means new or novel.  A messiah comes to change the status quo and make things new.

His name while he was plugged into the matrix also has biblical references. His last name, Anderson translated literally into English means “Son of man”. Biblically this phrase can reference a coming messiah or divine ruler.  His first name Thomas comes from the New Testament of the bible. It appears as the name of one of Jesus’ original apostles. Thomas, in its original Greek form means “twin”. In the movie, Thomas lives a twin life, one as a computer programmer and another as a hacker.  In Christianity The apostle was nicknamed Thomas the Doubter. He was the apostle who doubted the resurrection of Christ. Because of his skepticism, he was the only one to actually touch the wound of the resurrected body of Christ, referenced in John 20:24-28.
Ouch! Thomas not so hard!

Neo’s persistence to know exactly what The Matrix was, led him directly to experience the object of truth first hand.  As Morpheus says, It’s not enough to be told what the Matrix is, one has to experience it for oneself.  Thomas could not believe in the resurrection of Christ until he had seen and touched the body with his own eyes and hands.
Since Christianity revolves around the idea of the resurrection of Jesus, Neo’s transcendence into The One contains the essential Christ narrative. At the finale of the movie, Neo is pursued by the “agents” of the matrix. The agents are sentient computer programs designed to keep the humans from learning the truth. Neo is killed by one of these agents, known as Smith. Not coincidentally this occurs in the very same building and hotel room the first scene of the movie takes place, 303. Neo lies completely dead inside the matrix, while Trinity, reveals her love for Neo to his unconscious body and kisses him. Because of her love, he is brought back to life and resurrected into The One. The agents attempt to shoot him again, but he is able to stop their bullets in midair. Neo now has the ability to see through the matrix itself and witness and control the code of the reality.

Neo’s Christ references are scattered in the film. In the beginning of the film, when Neo sells some of his products of his hacking job, the customer responds with “Hallelujah! You’re my savior man. My own personal Jesus Christ.”. The film’s Judas character, Cypher, exclaims to Neo at one point “Jesus! So you’re here to save the world.”  “Jesus” is used quite often as an expletive throughout them movie.  While in a training program, Morpheus names a few urban human occupations and inconspicuously adds “carpenters” to the end of the list. According to Mark 6:3 in the New Testament, Christ’s day job was carpentry.
The third main character, Trinity has a significant meaning in name and in her role. Central to many Christian doctrines is the idea of the Holy Trinity. This is the concept of God being three united persons in The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. There are three main protagonists in this film, which can be represented accurately in terms of the holy trinity. Morpheus is the father. He is the voice of authority and knowledge. Neo is the son. The “son of man”. Trinity represents the Holy Spirit in the film. She is the person who first contacts Neo inside the matrix. Trinity is the embodiment of love, care and the feminine. She brings the heart and mind together as represented by Neo and Morpheus respectively. She is the one who breathes life into Neo for his resurrection and transcendence.

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