Category Archives: The Matrix/Maya
“I would like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here.
It came to me when I tried to classify your species and then I realized that you’re not actually mammals.
Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a mutual equilibrium with its surrounding environment.
But you humans do not.
You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way that you can survive is to spread to another area.
There is another organism on this planet that follows this same pattern. You know what it is?
Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.
You are a plague and we are the cure.”
Agent Smith talking to Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix.”
I loved this monologue from “The Matrix” when I first heard it, mostly because it echoed thoughts I had already had. There was a period during my most intense spiritual practice when my thoughts were centered on humans and their relationship to this planet. I don’t think I am the only one to wonder whether the presence of human beings on this planet is actually favorable or not to the planet as a whole. I seriously wondered about this during this one period of meditation. And these types of thoughts, whether true or not, were very useful to me as a person trying to get free of fear and focus more on love. These thoughts were able to uncover and eradicate a lot of fear that I was holding.
When I brought together some of my fears of natural disasters, for instance, with my ideas about humanity as a virus or a cancer of the earth my own personal survival impulse and even the collective species survival impulse that is built into my consciousness was weakened. In other words, when I put together my own instinctive desire to survive and also the instinctive valuation of the survival of the human race with a realistic evaluation that the effect of humanity is currently having upon the fragile ecosphere of the earth (and my own cooperative role therein) I no longer was so keen on human survival (or my own, as a matter of fact). Looking closely in this way I was able to let go of some deeply ingrained fear of “apocalypse” type events that are all dependent on me valuing the long term survival of my own body or the human species as a whole. When I considered the idea that I am (along with all my other fellow humans) nothing more than a type of disease to the planet earth, I was able to let go of my fears of natural calamities and other apocalyptic type “disasters.” Why emotionally oppose something that might be entirely necessary if our planet is to go on supporting beautiful forms of life indefinitely?
Since that time I have changed my point of view somewhat, however. The problem of greed is not just with humans but with all forms of life. Originally I agreed with Agent Smith in his monologue against the human race taken from “The Matrix.” Now, however, I see some important flaws in his argument. The main one is that the human race is really not all that different from other forms of life on this planet but their current predicament is. What I mean to say is that humans may be similar to virus’s or cancers in that they “move to an area and multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way that they can survive is to spread to another area” but so is every other form of life that has been given the power to do so. All of life would act in this same manner unless intentionally restrained in some way.
A species may be restrained by another predator species, or restrained by its own limitations in its abilities to gather food or have babies, etc. It is only restraint that prevents any and all species from acting in the way that humans are currently acting. In the past the “balance” of life upon the earth described the natural system of restraint that kept any one species from over-dominating for too long. In the history of the earth it is quite possible that the dinosaurs reached such a state of over-domination before they experienced a calamity that restored some balance.
In the history of humanity it has been the self-restraint that was built into most cultures that prevented over-domination. That cultural restraint centered on respecting other forms of life. That cultural self-restraint has been eroding for thousands of years while at the same time, other natural restraints (such as limited food gathering abilities) have been dropping away leaving humans to over-dominate and unintentionally destroy larger and larger sectors of the earth’s surface. It is perhaps a natural process that low-intelligence species are always susceptible to. Without enough intelligence any species would be caught realizing the mistake only after it was too late. How many cycles like this has the earth already seen? How many periods of over-domination ending in a complete collapse has the earth already gone through?
The truth is, Agent Smith’s “machines” would probably over-dominate the earth in the same way that humans have (and are actually seeking the very thing within the movie) if they are not “self-restrained” by a central leadership or intelligence. Without that central intelligence, creating some form of restraint, any and every form of life vies for that position of over-domination despite it being detrimental in so many ways.
Why do we over-dominate? To live longer, to live without fear? Neither of those things have come with the almost absolute domination that humans have reached on this earth today. What is the point of wishing for it to go on? And if you cease wishing for the irrational and unhealthy perpetuation of the human species on this earth would you not also cease wishing for your own individual survival at any cost?
“Have you ever stood and stared at it?
Marveled at its beauty, its genius?
Billions of people, just living out their lives, oblivious.
“Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect world where none suffered, where everyone would be happy?
It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost.
Some believed that we [machines] lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world but I believe that as a species human beings define their reality through misery and suffering.”
Agent Smith talking to Morpheus within the movie “The Matrix.”
Is Agent Smith correct that human beings can not tolerate perfect conditions in their lives and seek to either destroy or reject them when they happen to occur? Are we capable of being happy even when things are good in our lives? It is a good question to ask, not of our species but of ourselves. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what is in the way of you being happy right now?
I believe there is some truth to the accusation that Agent Smith makes. I think he’s right in that there is something fundamental to our minds that is ever ready to complain and may even define itself by its complaints. That part of our minds might not even know what to do with itself if it ever found itself without something to complain about. I think it is fair to say that this part of our minds cannot be satisfied. There is a lot of evidence for this not only in society as a whole but also within our day to day experiences. We can call to mind many examples of very wealthy people who show a continual hunger for more money. We might be able to remember a few moments in our lives when we got what we wanted and within a few minutes were looking for something more.
My experience with the internet is something like this. There is something about using the internet in any given moment that I may find interesting but it is never satisfying enough to stop and not search again the next day. Exciting discoveries on the internet most often lead, for me at least, to an even greater desire to find something similar the next day. Possibly, the excitement of some sudden discovery on the internet one day is made exciting only by the countless other disappointing searches on other days; in other words, it may be the imperfection of the internet combined with its occasional perfection that makes it so compelling. If it was consistently perfect would I lose interest completely? So then, do I somehow thrive on its imperfection? And similarly, would I reject my life if it was too perfect? Do I really want a perfect life? Do I really want enlightenment? Am I rejecting the act of “waking up” because it’s too perfect and so, not exciting enough?
Sometimes I hear people say that they are not really interested in going to “Heaven” because it sounds boring to them. Many people define their lives by their misdeeds and misadventures but is this, as Agent Smith insinuates, the same as clinging to suffering? Maybe its more like an attachment to a life where we might suffer. We don’t want to suffer but we need the possibility of suffering to allow for the possibility of excitement. The possibility of suffering, therefore, creates the possibility of excitement just like the many failed internet searches allow for the excitement of trying again, hoping for a different result. Is this the same dead end loop described by the wheel of samsara or the prison of reincarnation? Are we just going round and round on the same wheel, endlessly addicted to our complaints because of our need for even the possibility of excitement?
“Being the One is just like being in love.
No one can tell you you’re in love.
You just know it,
through and through,
balls to bones.”
The Oracle speaking to Neo within the movie The Matrix.
What does it mean to know something like knowing that you are in love? The Oracle raises a good question here and I found that the answer is not immediately obvious. I first wanted to answer that it is like knowing something with confidence but then I felt that didn’t quite answer it right. Then when I stepped into the shoes of someone who is head over heels in love I realized that there is a knowledge there that doesn’t involve anyone else. What I mean is that being in love does not require anyone else’s verification or legitimization. Being in love is, in a way, quite a solitary act in that the person that you are in love with might not even know that you exist. It doesn’t matter what the “reality” of the situation is to someone who is in love. The certainty of your exuberance is there and it doesn’t require the participation of anyone else for its existence.
Of course, we are all familiar with how fleeting this absolute feeling of being in love can be. After a while our mind starts thinking and starts to require certain things in order for it to support such an exuberance of emotion. Our mind, at some point, wants to know whether this “being in love” is in our best interest or not. Does the person love us back? Does the person, at least, like us a little? Does the person who we are in love with, at least, not hate us? And then if some of those answers are yes the mind starts in with more questions. Does this person really deserve our love? Does the person who we are in love with have the capacity to love us equally in return? Is this person free or “available” to receive our love? And so the mind clamps down or diminishes that early pure exhuberance of being in love.
That initial pure state of being in love is worth considering from the spiritual perspective. How much of that type of love do we carry towards God, our Divine Beloved, or, if we are not that type of spiritualist, towards life inself? I think this type of consideration is really what the Oracle was talking about to Neo in the Matrix. She was asking him, do you feel that type of innocence exhuberance that is totally unconnected and immune to the circumstances of your life? If so, then you are pure, you are a saint, you are a mahatma, you are the ONE.
“Do not try to bend the spoon.
That is impossible.
Instead only try to realize the truth.”
“That there is no spoon.
Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends,
it is only yourself.”
conversation between two “potentials” within the movie “The Matrix”
How many of us have witnessed at some time or another that something in our life changed on its own when we changed our attitude? Quite a few I believe. How many have observed that our attitude shifted after we stopped some type of behavior? Maybe just as many.
Recently I was trying to get an appointment with a specialist doctor on Long Island where I am currently staying. In order to get the appointment I had to go through one staff member at a local health center. For some reason she didn’t answer her telephone and she didn’t return my messages. After a few weeks I tried to go around her, thinking that she just wasn’t interested in helping me. I tried working with other office staff members at first and then I tried getting to her through other staff members of the clinic but they all redirected me back to her voice mail saying that she was the only way that I would get an appointment. A part of me wanted to panic, thinking that I was trapped. The only person who could help me didn’t like me for some reason. Almost four weeks passed with me leaving maybe 20 voicemails in my most pleasant voice, begging her to at least acknowledge that she had gotten my messages. No response.
My mind wanted to get angry, to storm the walls of the bastille, so to speak, but I remembered this lesson that I had used in the past: you want different results then just change your attitude. So I banished any negative feelings and started to flood the image I had of this staff member with love, sending her flowers and chocolates in my mind. I forced my mind to imagine meeting her and showering her with an expression of my gratitude and love. It was weird how easy my mind started taking to these visions of appreciation. So, soon I was generally feeling love for this person I had never met. My mind developed a certainty (from where I don’t know) that she was truly a very special person.
Within a few days of my noticing that my heart had really gotten on board with this forced re-programming I got a call from the staff person. She was all apologies, making up all kinds of excuses for not calling me back (for almost a month) and sounding super nice. She then immediately set up an appointment for me and was very responsive the next few times I had to work with her.
I had a very eery feeling that I had created the person that had helped me so much; that she wasn’t “real.” It seemed impossible how nice and caring she sounded only a few days after I had developed genuine heart feelings for her (in my imagination). She had changed suddenly, impossibly. She was my spoon but it wasn’t like she had bent, it felt more like she had been turned into gold.
“You’ve been Living in a dream world, Neo.
to the desert
of the real.
What is the Matrix. . . ?
The Matrix is a computer generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into an ordinary battery.”
Morpheus speaking to Neo within the movie “The Matrix.”
Science fiction, right? A conspiracy theory, for sure. We’ve heard all this before: one small group is controlling and dominating a larger group using indoctrination and manipulated systems of education. Not possible, right? Or is it worth considering.
There may not be an unseen group of people or machines that are feeding off of us as a species but is this model familiar to us on another level? Are we, as humans, similarly feeding off another species in a highly controlled and manipulative manner? The industry of providing food for humans in the form of animal husbandry is just that, no? A large scale system in which one species is bred within controlled conditions in order to be the food of another. Is there a similarity between what the machines are doing to humans within the movie, The Matrix, and what humans are doing to animals on planet Earth?
What supports the animal farming industry? Ignorance, largely. The public, who eat the meat of caged and drugged animals, do not see how their food is prepared. What percentage of humans would stop eating most meats if they experienced first hand how that meat was created? I would guess a high percentage only because I believe that human beings are inherently sensitive, caring creatures who don’t like to see anything suffer unnecessarily. But what they don’t know, doesn’t affect them. Could this type of hidden truth be The Matrix of our world? In other words, just as the machines of the movie The Matrix don’t let people know about the background to their lives because they wouldn’t be willing to participate in it if they did, aren’t the industrial forces of meat production keeping humans in the dark about the background story to their products because people wouldn’t buy it if they knew?
In this way, the idea that The Matrix introduces, that our world is not “real” in the way that we think it is, is relevant and worth considering. Not so much science fiction when we look at it in this light.
What if we apply the idea of The Matrix to other areas of industry? If people experienced or witnessed how the objects in China are made would they buy things “Made in China” with such enthusiasm? Probably not. If the American public could see or experience the lack of free speech within China and the violent governmental suppression of any criticism of itself that happens routinely there would they be so enthusiastic about sending it all their hard earned money? A few of them might even think twice about buying that bag of 1000 disposable plastic dishes, all made in china, for their next dinner party and look to use something else instead. They might actively seek out substitutes that are made somewhere closer in values to what the U.S. stands for.
“This isn’t real?!?”
“What is real? How do you define real?’
If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste, what you can touch, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
conversation between Neo & Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix”
We’ve heard this debate go back and forth between so many groups. “The world is an illusion,” “The world is real,” “The world is a dream,” “This world is the only world”, and so on. Is there a point to this kind of question, this type of debate?
In the movie the Matrix the world that Morpheus rescues Neo from is an illusion; it is a computer generated program, it is “virtual-reality” not “reality.” But then in the conversation quoted above Morpheus goes further and questions the “reality” of all experience, everywhere. He alerts Neo to the fact that perception is a matter of chemical signals being interpreted by the brain. The truth is that the brain has no actual direct knowledge of the outside world. It is trapped, or protected, within the confines of the skull. The sense organs are like machines that send morse code signals to the brain that get turned into a picture, a smell, a sound, etc.
This debate is an old one within the world of philosophy and maybe within human thought itself. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, spoke about our “reality” being just shadows cast on a wall inside a cave which we have mistaken for some type of direct experiencing. Many others have written and debated this throughout the intervening centuries. The arguments have gotten quite complex both in terms of very convoluted spiritual thought and also very scientific studies of the mechanics of the brains and its neurons.
What of all this really concerns spiritual seekers? For Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita it was enough to learn from Krishna that everything was mechanical (ruled by the causes and effects of natural elements there called the “gunas”). From that simple teaching Krishna expected him to let go of his attachment to his situation and even his life itself. In fact, most great spiritual teachings include the idea of letting go of the clingy ownership to our body and our stories (our pride in our accomplishments). But how many of us have found that easy to do?
That is why any type of thinking that leads us to reject the clingy ownership to our body and stories has value for the spiritual seeker, including the dramatics of movies like the Matrix. If we can step into Neo’s shoes and suspend judgment just long enough to say “what if this is true?” then we may develop a little revulsion towards our petty self-importance. It doesn’t really matter what’s “real” or “not real” to the spiritual seeker. The feeling of renunciation is all that counts. All we need is a little help to fake the feeling of rejecting ownership of our body and our stories just long enough to gain a little distance. “Fake it till you make it” my guru has said many times and what better than a hollywood movie to fake it with? So, even for just one day, convince yourself that you are living in a computer simulation created by entities in order to draw all your energy out of you; that the illusion of “you” is allowing something to feed upon you like a vampire. You never know, it may actually be true.
“Unfortunately, no one can be told what Maya is —
you have to see it for yourself.
This is your last chance.
After this there is no turning back.
Take the blue pill — the story ends — you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
You take the red pill — you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Remember, all I’m offering is the truth,
Morpheus speaking to Neo in the movie, The Matrix
Many spiritual seekers I have met have expressed resentment, even anger, towards the spiritual path and the teachers/Masters that have brought them to it. They feel cheated, some of them feel tricked. They feel as if they were promised the world in order to lead them to engage in spiritual exercises only to end up losing everything that was formerly dear to them in life. They found themselves a sadhu, a seeker, with nothing left from the conventional world and yet, not feeling like they have gained anything in the spiritual life. They are filled with angst and if they have really tried hard in their exercises maybe they are able to laugh about it. Sometimes they are able to laugh at the impossibility of the predicament that the spiritual life has put them in. If they are lucky. Otherwise they may remain choked with bitterness.
Morpheus, like all gurus, sees this in advance. Whether we remember it or not, all authentic masters only promise the truth.
Maya. . . .
“Do you want to know WHAT IT IS?” That’s the only promise. The guru knows the price is high. The guru knows we must invoke an almost superhuman effort/strength in our spiritual practice and that we must undergo tremendous hardship, as the scenes that follow the above conversation in the movie THE MATRIX depict very well, in order to realize the truth. And the guru knows that once we truly begin the journey towards truth there is no turning back. We can’t go back to our old life, to our old dreams, to the old lies we told ourselves to keep us distracted from the deep sense we had that there is something fundamentally wrong with all of that.
Something compelled us to take the red pill. Which brings us back to the question of karma & fate? Is it possible that at some point in a soul’s journey its number comes up and it is compelled to begin the search for truth? How much free will is really involved?
Certain spiritual seekers drown in that bitterness that they feel for thinking that they have been tricked into the spiritual path. They may never recover from that feeling in this lifetime. Others can begin to laugh, to begin to let go of that natural heaviness of the mind, of the ego. What is the difference between these two? Has one done more meditation and yoga? Has one ate better foods? Does one have a stronger guru? Does one have more of God’s grace? Who is to say? Can these types of questions be answered?
If it is just a matter of cause and effect (karma) and not free will, maybe it is all luck? Or maybe it is all God’s grace and we were born to either get stuck under some bridge on the road to the truth or we were born to decide to take a different road at the very last instance and so are able to keep making progress?
“Do you believe in fate?”
“Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.”
“I know EXACTLY what you mean.”
This interplay between the characters Morpheus and Neo in the movie, THE MATRIX, may be deeper than it at first appears.
What is Morpheus asking about, here?
Is Morpheus talking about karma? Is he talking about the notion that what happens to us (even what choices we make) is simply the product of a long line of events that have gone before (many that we don’t know about)? Does Neo’s rejection of “fate” mirror our own?
Do we believe in fate? Do we believe we have “free will?” Does modern science support the idea of “free will?” If science tells us about how atoms interact to form this and that material, is this a description of ourselves as well? Are we more than a very complex series of chemical reactions happening in and around a leather-enclosed petri dish?
Is “life” fundamentally different than matter that is not alive? If science tells us that cause and effect determines the world of inanimate life are we, as something “alive,” exempt from this? Does our awareness of things change the rule of cause and effect in our life? Does our “free will” give us the possibility of experiencing something that is not a direct result of our and others’ actions?
The head starts to spin considering this issue and we have only just begun. Why is this issue so difficult to think clearly about?
Can we read even deeper into this dialogue between Morpheus and Neo and consider whether there is something that we don’t see, we don’t know about, that is blocking us from really knowing what’s going on?
Is there some part of our mind that is furious over the possibility that we might not be “in control” of our own life? Is there some part of our mind that refuses the very notion of fate and karma, insisting that we are more than that? That we are somehow many orders of magnitude greater than a rock, a cloud or even the sun?
The Matrix leads us to consider not only the question of fate/karma but also the deeper issue of illusion and delusion. Are we really aware of where and who we are?
“Let me tell you why you’re here.
You’re here because you know something.
What you know you can’t explain but you can feel it.
You’ve felt it your entire life: that there’s 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.
It is this feeling that has brought you to me.
DO YOU KNOW what I am talking about?”
–Morpheus from the movie, THE MATRIX
This is a guru interviewing a potential disciple. Are you a spiritual seeker? DO YOU KNOW what I am talking about?
Are you discontent with your own viewpoint on life? The way that you have been taught to see life. Do you sense some fundamental flaw in this way of seeing yourself and what happens to you? Do you sense that you and everyone you know (except the guru or Master) is missing something when they look around and talk about what they see?
Are you unwilling to live a life along those socially constructed lines? Are you unwilling to define success according to conventional standards? Do you refuse to fit in to the categories that your family and neighbors hold dear? Do you squirm and sometimes seethe over these conventional values and ideas that are being constantly pushed upon you?
DO YOU KNOW what I am talking about?
That there is something wrong with the world and it’s something that is unclear. In fact, it’s unclear whether you will ever be able to see it. Sometimes you despair of ever getting free of its oppressive weight.