“Dude, man, let’s like, start a revolution, maaaaan…”
The Matrix, as I’ve joked many times, is one of those perennial topics in philosophy 101 classes that tends to evoke the most inane and mindless “philosophizing” by the mind-warped morass of modern morlocks. Yet still, it is a film that is packed with esoteric symbolism, philosophy, “predictive programming,” and all other manner of poppy culture engineering. In this analysis, we are going to go elucidate themes, motifs and symbols missed by other sites, as we consider one of the system’s principal works of self-flattery. Interestingly, of all films to analyze in the way sites like mine do, this the most obvious seems forgotten in the haze of the now umpteen hundred Eyes Wide Shut analyses.
The Matrix begins with a computerized image of the Warner Bros. logo, a phone ring, and a conversation between Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) about watching “him” (Neo, Keanu Reeves), and whether the line is secure. The implication is that the communications are all surveilled (think of how few knew of the mass NSA surveillance that existed at the time the film was released). The viewer sees the screen morph into 1s and 0s and the now-famous green screen code. From the outset, this is to signify that the audience, as with Eyes Wide Shut, is in the dark. It is the movie going public that is about to enter into the videodrome “matrix,” as they step into the theater to see what will be a largely CGI Hollywood production. The audience is not only stepping into the matrix of the videodrome, but as the overall message of the film will convey, lives out lives occupied almost entirely in an engineered world of simulated reality. In this regard, The Matrix will operate on multiple levels, from the conspiratorial/geo-political, to the psychological, to the metaphysical.
In the first scene, the viewer is shown a motel called “Heart O’ The City,” where bumbling police enter room “303.” Numerology does play into the film, especially since binary code is the very heart of computers. “303” is the equivalent of 33, and Trinity is caught trying to dial into the “real world” to escape her inner-matrix watching of Neo. Alchemy and numerology place a high value on the number 33, being the highest degree of Scottish Rite Masonry. Manly P. Hall speaks of 33 as highly significant for alchemy because 3×3=9, the number of the emanations from the One, and conversely as the number of initiation. We can therefore speculate that, given the many examples of masonic and occult symbols and referents in the film, this is very likely the paradigm from which the film was crafted. The heart is also crucial to alchemy, inasmuch as the heart and intellect must combine to produce balance. “Trinity” is also a triadic symbol and name, so the usage is not accidental. Trinity will function as the feminine principle to Neo’s masculine principle, as they join to complete the alchemical mystical union in the trilogy of Matrix films. Trinity here is not used here in the common Christian sense, it is meant in the sense of a gnostic feminine principle, sophia.
Agent Smith and his cronies quickly arrive and exemplify jurisdictional control over the local police: In terms of actual politics they represent the shadow intelligence establishment. The Matrix will operate on one level as an allegory for this intelligence world. The Agents are controlled by cold, calculating numeric logic, with no empathy or emotion. Through an “informant” (Cypher), they had intercepted the transmission and are on the case of tracking down this “Neo.” In the next scene, we see Neo and some interesting images appear on his computer screen in his apartment. An image of “Morpheus,” said by “British Intelligence to be an international terrorist” on the run from authorities. Given the hints at 9/11 that are in the film which premiered in 1999, we can surmise this was intentional as another key to unlocking the multiple layers of meaning and “programming.” Morpheus is shown as wanted by Arab news sites like An-Nahar, giving the impression Morpheus is a bin Laden-esque “terrorist.” On a deeper, esoteric level, the establishment was weaving into the narrative hints and clues to 9/11, especially with the infamous date on Neo’s file.
Neo is asleep listening to Massive Attack on his headphones, and the lyrics are “Feels like something I’ve done before….” This will be meaningful later in the film, as the narrative the trilogy presents is one of cyclical history. Neo is not the first “Neo,” but one among a series of avatars and Neos that had previously come before. On his screen appears a sudden message telling him to wake up because the matrix has him. This is “waking up” in the Buddhist sense of “enlightenment,” as the film will also be filled with ideas from far eastern philosophy. Neo’s apartment is shown as “101,” the very image of binary code, and he is instructed to follow the “white rabbit,” a reference to Alice in Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland is also a classic allegory for both the intelligence world, the conspiracy world, mind control and the psyche and its journey, as well as having other esoteric connotations that fit perfectly with the interpretation presented here. Neo then meets visitors who pay him for his hacking skills and invite him to a skanky goth bar. Neo opens Baudrillard’s book Simulacra & Simulation to the chapter “On Nihilism” where he hides his stolen data and sees the rabbit tattoo on his friend’s shoulder. He decides to “unplug” and go out to the goth bar and there meets Trinity…