In the last episode of our Eyes Wide Shut analysis, Part 5, I said that might be my last blog post for a while since I’m really struggling financially. Some people seem to think books get written in the following manner from Misery (1990):
Not saying they can’t. But as we’ve discussed extensively, the means must equal the end. If you want a creative effort at the end, then you can’t restrict or make anyone a prisoner. Or else the work at the end will reflect those limitations.
If you’re interested in the details, I’m looking to make a couple of videos about my adventures (and lessons learned) in Thailand which will include practical talk about finances. Hopefully, those will have broader appeal in order to fund some of these other projects. So, make sure to check on those.
One of the things I also wanted to do with those videos was kind of summarize, or as Carlos Castenada phrases it “recapitulate”, not only things we’ve covered so far analyzing these movies, but also a lot of ideas and concepts discussed in my first book.
The connection between the two books may be a little obscure with the first one appearing to be about spirituality or “miracles and immortality”, and the second “movie symbolism”. But as we’ve seen, the topic of religion does seem up for debate in these films. Although more in an implicit than explicit manner.
And so, that’s kind of what I wanted to continue with in this intermission (and upcoming videos). To try and point out, or make explicit, some more of what I feel the symbolism is implying. (And the opposite with the Thailand videos – to show what is being implied with some “explicit” stories).
For those with a scientific bent, you can read much more than you probably ever wanted about an implicate/explicate order of the Universe with physicist David Bohm’s theories. However, in this intermission I wanted to do our summary or “recapitulation” by taking a break from Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut, but still continuing with movies (and not quantum physics or math equations).
So, to cleanse the palette a bit before diving back into Kubrick (when resources allow), I wanted to do our “repetition” here through a mini-analysis of David Fincher’s Fight Club based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk.
There is a connection to Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut though. I said in the upcoming part 6, we were going analyze the ‘party’ sequence which I believe Kubrick uses to symbolize the 9/11 attacks, and in the first title card for this blog post that screen is taken from 9 minutes and 11 seconds into Fight Club. “Dark and silent and complete” with mourning and an American flag in the background. Coincidence?
This also seemed like a good place for an intermission because while there is no final commercial form for this content as of now, I have a feeling we’re somewhere around the halfway point when looking at word count and number of images.
And a lot of times during an intermission music gets played. And “repetition” in music can be another way of “recapitulating”. Often times there’s a theme or motif or melody that gets repeated louder or softer, faster or slower, more instruments or less, different arrangements, etc., as in the Second Movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (click the image):
So, what we’ve been doing with Kubrick’s work is looking at his symbolism and trying to figure out what explicit concepts that imagery is implying. Of course, we noted the many references to religion in Eyes Wide Shut. We also even touched on the AA or religious symbolism in A Clockwork Orange.
I know. You’re thinking, “Jason, you said we were taking a break from Kubrick, but you’re still talking about him? And what in the world does this have to do with music or Fight Club?”
Well, I said we would be recapitulating or restating certain ideas. And it’s fairly clear one of the ideas repeated in Kubrick’s films is religion. So, what I’m proposing is an interpretation of Fight Club where we see religion as a theme repeated heavily there as well, although in somewhat of a different “musical arrangement” if you will.
And I would go so far as to say that arrangement is not even implied, but explicitly stated as you see in the following collage where the word God (or Christ or Jesus) shows up directly in the dialogue no less than 40 times.
That is a lot for a single word to appear. The movie Scarface set a record on release in 1983 for using the expletive ‘fuck’ 207 times. This not all the frames below, but enough to get the message across:
Still somewhat connected to Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange, a couple more sequences from recent movies I feel also deal with religion in a more symbolic or implied way.
While on the surface this may seem just a humorous take on reverse psychology from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), we again see the Lord and His work explicitly referred to. By itself this could be coincidence.
However, taking into account our previous mention of the AA symbolism in A Clockwork Orange and their 12 religious steps to freedom, this could easily be Thompson making a deeper or “implicit” symbolic commentary on belief systems.
It would be no surprise if the “police” (or as remarked in Part 2, the recovery “zombies” who have attacked or will attack everyone) came after or “targeted” HST because of his high-profile affiliation with illegal drugs the same way Chappelle was targeted for the content of his art which also featured illicit substances.
Not to mention of course the long-standing and numerous rumors of Hunter Thompson involving conspiracies and secret societies. My bet is there is much more being implied here than one might realize. And while HST frames his philosophy as a joke or “comedy”, this could actually be solid advice to live by. Don’t submit to a “higher power”. Don’t admit to having a problem. Minimize problems. Focus on solutions instead.
A similar scenario in the following scene from The Royal Tenenbaums (2001):
Below is a frame from a movie discussed previously, Whiplash (2014), which could also feature a symbolic or implicit allusion to religion with a Phantom of the Opera reference. At the end of that play Christine, heartbroken, tells the Phantom that it is his soul that is deformed, not his face.
Getting back to Fight Club though, this topic of an “anti-hero” undermining the status quo with a Project Mayhem is highly interesting if we relate it to prophecies again, not Nostradamus this time, but Seth and Jane Roberts talking about a 3rd personality of Christ in Seth Speaks (1970):
“The third personality has not in your terms yet appeared, although his existence has been prophesied as the “Second Coming”. Now these prophecies were given at the current culture at that time, and therefore, while the stage has been set, the distortions are deplorable, for this Christ will not come at the end of your world as the prophecies have been maintaining. He will not come to reward the righteous and send the evildoers to eternal doom. He will, however, begin a new religious drama. A certain historical continuity will be maintained. As happened once before.
However, he will not be generally known for who he is. There will be no glorious proclamation to which the whole world will bow. He will return to straighten out Christianity, which will be in shambles at the time of his arrival, and to set up a new system of thought when the world is sorely in need of one. By that time, all religions will be in severe crisis.
He will undermine religious organizations not unite them. His message will be that of the individual in relation to All That Is. He will clearly state methods by which each individual can attain a state of intimate contact with his own entity; the entity being to some extent man’s mediator with All That Is. . . .
By 2075 all of this will be already accomplished.”
Longer excerpt of this prophecy here.
Now, I’m aware everyone and their dog has given an interpretation of Fight Club ranging from homoeroticism/homophobia to feminism to nihilism to consumerist culture. However, this is only going to be a “mini-analysis” of the religion theme as mentioned, and I want to throw my opinion on the pile for several reasons.
First, we’ve gotten into some pretty dark material going through Eyes Wide Shut, and I thought it was important to try to give an explanation for how people end up as “fanatics” or what some might term “monsters”. And I feel Fight Club is a good avenue to do that since many people believe it’s about nihilism or chaos.
However, I will attempt to show that’s only a surface appearance and the real issue is beliefs. Which is what religious organizations (and secret societies) are structured around. Here is the title card where I feel this is stated explicitly again:
The second reason as mentioned, I wanted to try to tie in stuff we’ve been talking about all along through a somewhat different arrangement. So, while there are many interpretations available, I don’t feel mine is redundant if people want to take bits and pieces to augment their understandings as I’ve taken bits and pieces from various movies to create this work.
So, the following scene is the one people usually point to when making the nihilism argument. Clever is not working out for him so he just blows it at all up. However, what we fundamentally do as humans is create. This is just the “crisis point” where Jack starts creating something new.
Clever has become a problem. It’s not getting him anywhere. So, what he does as we all know, is summon his unconscious (Tyler Durden), and shuts off reason and logic. “Intelligence” (as we label it) has been minimized.
A lot of people are already familiar with and associate theories of the unconscious with Carl Jung. He also has another theory of the anima and animus that is a little less well known that I believe is also represented in this film with Marla Singer.
Our friend Seth again comments on this at length in The Eternal Validity of the Soul saying the anima and animus are both part of our overall entity explaining how we reincarnate as females and males:
“The reality of the anima and animus is far deeper than Jung supposed. Symbolically speaking, the two together represent the whole self with its diverse abilities, desires, and characteristics.”
While we’re on the unconscious, here’s some of those homoerotic images other people have mentioned. We also discussed Drive in the last article and some people might not be aware the scorpion symbol on the infamous jacket is originally from a movie called Scorpio Rising, but also in gay culture scorpion tattoos are sometimes used to indicate HIV positive status.
As far as how fanatics are created though. The first thing to know is everyone starts off as an idealist. Nobody is born wanting to mass murder civilians like what took place with 9/11. What happens to some people though, they get so frustrated at how far the world actually is from what they imagine it can be they resort to a “whatever it takes” belief system. This “whatever it takes” approach was discussed along with the movie Whiplash in Videocast #4.
And the reason why Fight Club is not about nihilism is that Tyler Durden actually has a plan or a set of beliefs in order to reach his end. Life does have meaning. And the reason for the big drama when Bob dies.
“The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide” – sure sounds like minimizing problems to me. On the other hand, the “whatever it takes” people are maximizing problems. They see everything that’s “wrong” with the world compared to their ideals and start doubling down on the negative in order to reach their goals (as I’ve talked about in my “double negative” theory).
You can see this “whatever it takes” philosophy at work in the explosive new religious movement of Santa Muerte death cults or death worship. To these people life has become meaningless. So, they’ve doubled down on death as a means to achieve a fulfilling life. (Which as we’ve pointed out is never going to happen – literally impossible, like violating a law of physics).
And the reason why so many people are interested in this and why Fight Club is so popular probably has to do with the Seth quote above about “all religions will be in severe crisis”. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to turn. Nobody is giving out good advice. Or as they say in Good Will Hunting (1997) “Any port in a storm”, or Derailed (2005), “I got affiliated”:
I’m guessing the popularity of Santa Muerte is also due in part to the exclusive tendencies of most other religions as this Vice article cites:
“There is no racial, religious, or language barrier to her. One of the few forces I know that does not criticize you for what you are, what you look like, or what you do for living.”
You can also see this “whatever it takes” belief in Scientology’s Fair Game policy. Their goal is to rid the world of crime, war, and insanity – yet they’ve double down on crime, war, and insanity as the means:
“SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”
And there’s more whatever it takes in the AA religion we brought up at the beginning. You can’t “progress” until you’ve admitted there’s a problem. Instead of minimizing problems, there’s a doubling down again. Not only are people forced to focus on problems, but these are problems they were apparently born with. Original sin all over again. People have made a lot of money throughout history with this sales pitch – you’re flawed, but I can fix you.
On a mundane level this misguided whatever it takes approach manifests with pickup artists who “neg hit” girls and point out flaws in order to attract them. Sure, they’re attracting girls. But what kind of girls? I’m guessing ones putting out the same amount of negativity they are. Misery loves company, law of attraction, means = end, take your pick…
The reason I bring these examples up is not to focus on problems. Rather, it’s to make people aware of what they’re up against in this “Spiritual War” Tyler Durden describes.
I can’t find the specific blog post where I talked about this “double negative” observation, and I’m not sure I want to get into a full discussion of it here. What it boils down to essentially is an abundance vs scarcity mindset.
People somehow become convinced there’s not enough of what they need – love, money, time, beauty, intelligence, freedom.
At its core though, this abundance vs scarcity viewpoint is just another belief like the “whatever it takes” it often leads to. As pointed out in the conclusion for Part 4, people get what they look for. And some have been persuaded only certain forms beauty are “acceptable”, or time only works in a linear manner, or intelligence only expresses itself through math, or movies are only entertainment – and so they literally stop looking for these things they desire.
However, when it comes to energy (oil, gas, money, etc.) you can see how this “there’s never enough” perspective could be carefully cultivated propaganda by parties with vested interests. (The Seven Sisters is an interesting conspiracy to familiarize yourself with, and I believe Kubrick gets into oil politics when we eventually get back to Eyes Wide Shut).
So, one last thing about the importance of beliefs in general before getting into our mini-analysis of a key sequence in Fight Club from a symbolic/religious perspective.
As alluded to with physicist David Bohm’s theories of the implicate and explicate order of the Universe, this premise of beliefs as the foundation of reality also seems to carry over to the scientific world. And we had talked about this a little in Videocast #2 with Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
There doesn’t appear to be a way to ever actually “prove” anything. Looking back through history, how the world works seems to be the best argument “wins”. Scientific “facts” aren’t really facts at all, but a “story” we collectively decided we liked the most, and was worth pursuing or investigating further.
Now, this is the scene where Tyler gives Jack the chemical burn. As you see in the first image this healed wound is a bit of a Rorschach test. If you’re looking for homoerotic imagery I guess it could somewhat resemble an anus, or since it’s elongated like a vagina a feminism interpretation works just as well. Or even sexual imagery in general as in a pair of lips. Note the dialogue about “half-asleep” dream state or reference to the unconscious.
So, I want to remind people I’m only trying to interpret from a religious angle here. And even limiting to that, I have no illusions of it being complete – which I think the creators would actually encourage – stop worrying about things being perfect.
These next two frames are the start of the burn sequence. Jack’s first instinct is to use the guided meditation from cancer support groups to minimize the problem.
This is good though, right? We just talked about minimizing problems isn’t that what he’s doing? So, why does Tyler get upset and say, “Don’t shut the pain out?”
And here’s where it starts to get a little complicated. So, I’ll let an expert speak on the subject and quote what Seth has to say about Buddhism (this is from The Early Sessions Book 4):
“I may say that Buddhism does indeed come closer in essence to reality than other religions. However, the Buddhist either have not gone far enough, or have gone too far, according to your viewpoint. If they have gone too far, then they have been so concerned with inner reality that they have become too tolerant of physical disease and disasters. If they have not gone far enough, then they have not followed through sufficiently so that these physical disasters could truly be suffered without pain.”
I’ve really piled it on my plate here because now I’m trying to interpret Seth in addition to Fight Club.
But I think what he’s getting at with the “gone too far into inner reality” is we all kind of know that guy who’s “ungrounded”. People might describe them as having their head in the clouds or on a “natural high” all the time. Not real concerned with what’s going on around them (There’s a joke here about DUI, DWI, and DWA – Driving While Asian).
So, you can see how that person who’s too disconnected isn’t going to be making very much of an impact in the physical world. Which is kind of one of the reasons we incarnate physically. I mentioned fundamentally we create, but we could do that in a non-physical environment. We’re learning how to handle energy and one of the “stages” is a physical world.
Anyways, the “not gone far enough” to suffer without pain, I think Seth also gets into this somewhere talking about animals and what we project as a “predator/prey” relationship. We watch those nature documentaries where the zebra gets chased down by the lion or whatever, and project our own feelings about what a “disastrous” position it is for the prey. So, a person that had “gone far enough” would understand what’s really going on in that dynamic and not see it has a disaster or a “world of hurt”.
This also ties into the next two frames:
Some people see “drama” as a bad thing. Maybe you’ve read roommate wanted ads where the text says something like “no drama”. Well, drama as a tool has been around far longer than people might be aware.
Without drama we would have no “heroes” as Tyler mentions. Sorry to bring up Seth again, but in the passage I quoted at the beginning talking about the third personality of Christ he said, “He will, however, begin a new religious drama.”
Well, the last drama Christ produced is still being talked about (although with heavy distortions as noted). And one of the reasons is like Tyler says, “Without pain or sacrifice we would have nothing.” Seth also comments elsewhere on the first Christ drama involving a crucifixion saying Christ knew ahead of time what was going to happen, but signed up anyways.
What’s also interesting is Tyler Durden sells “soap” to fund his mission. And as mentioned, this return of Christ is supposed to involve a new religious “drama”. Soap operas got their name because they were “dramas” sponsored by soap companies. So, Tyler is selling drama (soap).
You can see a character named Noel practically begging for a crucifixion in this scene from Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead (1999):
There’s also an interesting tie in with Bringing Out the Dead and a Virgin Mary image that appeared in an office building in Clearwater, FL in 1996. (Patricia Arquette’s character’s name is Mary – this building was also only a couple of miles from where I lived):
Back to our burn sequence in Fight Club though:
The gloves are coming off now. And this is the “anti-hero” that undermines Christianity (and all religious organizations) we talked about. Tyler says, “Don’t deal with it like those dead people”. Most churches and organized religions almost always have artwork featuring important historical figures from their past that are now “dead”. The frame on the right is also very suggestive of the paintings and art we see in many religions of the past.
So, he seems to be saying. Don’t look for answers from the religions of old. Or as Seth would say, and what seems to illustrated in the frame below, “The moment of power is in the present”. Deal with what you have in front of you right now.
Well, if Tyler is saying don’t look to religions of the past for help who are we supposed to turn to for answers? If we do a little addition with what he just said about dealing with the present or what’s right in front of us, who is always around with us? Ourselves. He’s saying everything you need you already have. “We don’t need Him”.
This looking inside was actually a teaching of Christ that seems to have been misunderstood in, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Religious organizations (not teachings) have a hard time getting by without patrons. (The pyramids in Egypt are filled with teachings and no “governing body”). Seth also explicitly states this in the prophecy above: “His message will be that of the individual in relation to All That Is.”
I also think he’s being a little harsh with the God does not like you line. He does say “possibility”. But I think the point he’s trying to get across is it can be a cruel world sometimes and the need to know your enemies as mentioned (Note the hand synchronicity).
Some people may complain, “Well, what am I supposed to do in a cruel world where my enemies are much stronger”? And I think the following scene from Man on Fire answers that. (Keep in mind though if you want peace, training for violence won’t work):
So, that about finishes up the burn sequence in Fight Club. This is a pretty long article as is, so I’ll save discussion of some of the other symbolism for another time or maybe squeeze it into an “unrelated” post as I like to do.
These are the last two frames I did want to comment on though. But I think it’s just repetition of stuff already mentioned above. Which I guess is another synchronicity since one of the main points of this intermission was to try to approach concepts we’ve already covered from a different angle or arrangement.
The first slide we have discussion of water for healing. And the religious symbolism here should be fairly obvious as a reference to Holy Water. But of course, you have smart-ass Tyler again saying, “You could use those old methods or go back to the old way of doing things or…”
We could use new knowledge. And apply things we know now our religions didn’t know back then.
There is one very last thing I did want to comment on. If you’ve read a significant amount of my writing, you’ll probably notice I’ve brought up or discussed two characters who people will associate with Christ when they appear.
We have the Great Genius prophecy from Nostradamus who describes him as, “It will be like the return of Christ”. And then Seth who explicitly says there will be a return of Christ. Now, that seems to be a bit of a crowded table considering the world is still reeling from Christ’s last dramatic production.
And I’m a little confused myself as well. The only way I can make sense of it is if we take Seth literally again when he says, “However, he will not be generally known for who he is.” And this could have to do with how Seth describes him further:
“This personality will refer to the historical Christ, will recognize his relationship with that personality; but within him the three personality groupings will form a new psychic entity, a different psychological gestalt. As this metamorphosis takes place, it will initiate a metamorphosis on a human level also (emphatically), as man’s inner abilities are accepted and developed.”
So, Seth is saying the previous three personalities people knew him as – John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul – these three personalities are going to merge or recombine to form a “new psychic entity” or “psychological gestalt”.
Maybe that’s why Nostradamus is reluctant to actually call this person by the name Christ since this “new psychic entity” will be so different from what people associate with that word? And also, why Seth says he won’t be known for who he is?
For people who don’t know much about St. Paul – he was actually very militant or zealous before his conversion experience. So, this “anti-hero” we discussed undermining all religious organizations instead of uniting them could be that part of the Christ personality when it forms this new “psychological gestalt”.
Like I said, I’m probably as confused as you and just guessing a little here without further information.
And finally, it can’t hurt to repeat one last time:
(Remember that’s his unconscious. Saying, there’s much more to you than you realize and it also has intelligence and knows what it’s doing. So, maybe stop beating yourself up so much.)
Part 6 of the Eyes Wide Shut Analysis Continues Here