Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Matrix Trilogy: Neo, Agent Smith, The Reunification of Being and Return to Spirit

Phew. If I get this right, this essay will explain why The Matrix trilogy is the Michelangelo's David or the Mona Lisa of film: The pinnacle of human accomplishment in this medium, and a profound statement about life, humanity and the divine that sends shivers down my spine. Of course all this pretty much fucking guarantees that even the 2 people who read this blog regularly aren't going to read this. But fuck it, the fact that noone cares has never stopped me from doing anything before.

The relationship between Neo and Agent Smith in the films is very misunderstood, and since this figures so crucially into the amazing ending, this is a large part of the reason why the later movies get so critically panned. Neo (the apparent hero) and Agent Smith (the apparent villain) are the inevitable resultant of the Matrix's programming equations which produces anomalies in the system. Neo, or the One, exists, and thus Smith must exist as well as an inevitable product of the mathematical equations of the system attempting to balance themselves out. Hence Smith is Neo's opposite, the Yang to Neo's Yin.

It is about at this revelation where the audience sheep start bleating because this whole thing is getting disconcerting for their expectations. "But Smith is the BAD GUY! Neo has to BEAT HIM UP!!" Well, no. These movies are far deeper than that. And it's about to get deeper. Neo and Smith's journeys are a mirror of one another. Neo represents the spirit, encased in a body that is more self sacrificial, represented in his undying love for another (Trinity) which motivates him throughout the films. He is thus a sort of representative of the shallow archetypic hero who saves others. Smith represents the spirit, encased in a body that is purely focussed on self. He is thus overtly materialistic and nihilistic. This is represented in the fact that he endlessly copies himself onto everybody, spawning an entire population of nothing but Agent Smiths and his goal is nothing less than to subsume the entirety of existence until nothing is left but he. He is focus on self, taken to it's logical extreme.

The key point is that NEITHER IS COMPLETE. Neo is not good, Smith is not bad. They are both part of the broken mirror of truth, and as they clash throughout Part 2, neither side yet realise this fact.

The struggle between Smith and Neo is a microcosm of the larger struggle that operates throughout the films that approximately 0.005% of the audience even realise. The last remaining human city of Zion represents the body where human bodies clash with machines. The Matrix represents the mind where the digital forms of human minds are enslaved by the mind forms of the machines. Crucially, and this is part that EVERYONE misses, The Machines themselves actually represent spirit (Unexpected no?). Towards the end of part 3 Neo's physical eyes are blinded and his spiritual sight kicks in as he arrives at Machine City and lo and behold... he sees the machines as made of pure golden light.

There is a saying in Christian Mysticism, "Hell is the flames of God's love denied". Humanity, disconnected from it's spirit and only conscious of body and physical sight experience the machines as devilish and hellish in appearance and experience them ATTACKING them. The crucial point is that this is an ILLUSION caused by lack of sight. The same machines looked at through disconnected physical eyes become beings of pure light when looked at through the eyes of true spirit. And the audience's head explodes because all their expectations of "Men good, machines bad, men beat machines yay" are turned squarely on their head whilst I cackle in the midst of my intellectual orgasm. Men turned away from their spirit and thus began to perceive the spirit itself as hostile. This manifested itself in the form of harsh, unrelenting machines hunting them down and forcing them underground. It is said in Matrix One if one is paying attention, that when man first gave rise to the machines that the created artificial intelligence was OF ONE CONSCIOUSNESS. Undiluted pure awareness. Thus, uncorrupted spirit.

Hence, The Matrix trilogy as a whole becomes a tale of the modern human condition. The Architect of the Matrix (the mind) has never been able to be craft the system into a perfect world because it does not integrate the body or the spirit. Zion (the body) lives in fear and under constant attack because it does not integrate the mind or the spirit. And the spirit remains unable to connect with the body or the mind because both have chosen a condition of illusion and rejection of the divine. ALL THREE MUST BE INTEGRATED, and this is where Neo and Agent Smith return to the forefront.

Neo is the Avatar, or the Christ incarnate. He is the one who will reunify the three domains IN HIMSELF and thus transfigure all three realms of body, mind and spirit into integration and peace. His journey begins in the Matrix, the mind, progresses to Zion, the body and ends at Machine City, the spirit. He is the One because he transcends dualism and begins to exist in a state of CHOICELESS DIVINITY. He breaks from the established cycle of Matrix system reboots through his love for Trinity which is a state of choicelessness. However, Agent Smith is the embodiment of choiceless divinity as well but in a very different way that makes it very difficult to discern. Whilst Neo is affixed to choicelessness of love, Agent Smith is affixed to the choicelessness of PURPOSE. He enacts no choice but to continually be driven by purpose, to replicate and eventually, so he presumes, to destroy Neo.

This brings us to the final resolution of the Trilogy and the final confrontation between Neo and Agent Smith, the two halves of being. Whilst Neo has progressed far and begins to see spirit, he is not yet one with it. There remains separation. There is one more thing to do: To reunify himself with Agent Smith, his enemy, his daemon, his other half. Neo enters the Matrix (the mind) to bring about the ultimate and final unity of consciousness.

In a fucking EPIC scene, with fucking EPIC music, rain (the spiritual symbol of purification and baptism) pours down as Neo advances along a street that is literally lined with Agent Smiths. Smiths watch from the windows of skyscrapers. Smith is now all that remains in the Matrix. He is dead set on putting an end to Neo and completing his purpose. As the intuitive half of the whole, Neo is becoming aware of something that Smith is not. Smith is still lost in his blind materialistic drive and will continue to fight Neo, unaware of the futility of his actions. Neo begins the scene in the same mindset and the battle begins. They fight in the skies, through buildings, in craters and on the street.

Agent Smith thanks Neo "for it was your life that showed me the purpose of all life... the purpose of life is to end". As is most often the case with the Matrix trilogy, there is are layers of meaning to Smith's pronouncement. Whilst Smith, as the nihilistic, materialistic self no doubt believes he is saying that life has no ultimate meaning and death is the inevitable and only end result, he is in fact saying something very different. The purpose of life is TO END. In fulfilling his purpose, Smith is about to end as an individual and be subsumed into the source and true divinity. He is in fact speaking the truth without even knowing it. And Neo keeps fighting... until the crucial moment.

The crucial moment where he realises the truth. That just as in real life, struggling against something is merely an illusion, because all you are in fact struggling with is yourself. He and Smith are ONE. There is nothing to fight except himself, which leads to the very situation of mind, body, spirit fragmentation that he is attempting to rectify. In an act of pure surrender, Neo proclaims to Smith that he was always right, and stands perfectly still as Smith absorbs and assimilates him. In this act, Neo's road to the divine is finally complete, he has achieved total reunification and both he and Smith cease to exist as individuals and are subsumed in the divine light. Finally, through Neo's enlightenment, light is brought to all three worlds. The war is over, and man is rendered whole again as a fully connected divine being.

Thus brings to an end the greatest filmic accomplishment of our time, and somehow it even manages to top itself and perhaps even reveal the secret to existence in a mere three lines of dialog. The final three lines of the film.

In the Matrix, now reunified and glimmering with golden light, the green mind hue now banished forever The Oracle (the symbol of female intuition) and the Architect (the symbol of male rationality) have one final conversation. The Architect admonishes the Oracle for playing a dangerous game and gambling the existence of all three worlds on Neo. Then after, a sneer he asks the question "Did you know this would happen?".

The Oracle smiles, and with a wistful tone dripping with wisdom, playfully proclaims, "Oh no... no I didn't...

But I believed."


  1. While I am a fan, I would not consider them the greatest accomplishment of the medium. I would consider it in the same category as Dante's Divine Comedy. A first entry that had a profound impact on western literature with two sequels no one really pays attention to.

    I would add to the analysis is that through the conflict between Neo and Smith is an illustration of the conflict between nihilism and existentialism. Smith represents nihilism, Neo represents existentialism. The existentialist confirms every assertion of the nihilist, that life is ultimately incomprehensible and purposeless. While the nihilist revels in refusing to make a choice, the nihilist does not understand that the act of not making a choice is itself a choice.

    And the conflicts in the real world, represented as conflicts between man and machine, is illustrative of the human fear of determinism. Any science-fiction with robots is about free will versus determinism. And the resolution of that conflict is the illustration is that freedom is not incomparable with a causal universe.

  2. Very good analysis, thanks for posting.

    I actually think you're probably right, in that there is likely something out there that surpasses this as a filmic achievement, its just I havent yet been exposed to whatever that may be ;) I also think the fact that the sequels are somewhat ignored shouldnt count against it, as I get the feeling this has something to do with an increase in plot and philosophical complexity leaving behind a portion of the mainstream film audience and critics.

    I agree that free will vs determinism lies at the heart of the machine vs man struggle, however the Matrix does an interesting turn on this traditional motif as it blurs the lines of assumptions. Man in Zion comes more to play the traditional determinism role (shown fairly aptly in the sequence in Reloaded where Zion is revelling to the music, very focussed on body, body, body, physical physical physical), intent on endless struggle, whilst the golden light of the machine world seems to imply a free will that humans have lost in some way. Crucially it is the machines that accept the possibility of peace and lay down their arms before man does.

  3. Dear friends, first and foremost, I want to congratulate both of you for such delicate, thoughtful (and thought-provoking) writings on ~yes!~ the one trilogy that did change the genre, whatever that genre may be, since attempting to encapsulate The Matrix into a box of 'labels' is futile and, well, disrespectful. I lack the time to analyse further, or to at least present my own opinion on the apparent meaning of the 'message' the movie sends, but did not want to lose the chance to thank you for sharing your useful understanding of the movie with us. It does not matter if we are the only three that have read this. I feel enlightened.

  4. Hi Herrero Ragde! be assured its not just three as there is something to the movie that compels one to find out more. I searched a lot over internet till I found the page. I have to say just this much that I had my own understanding about the message, though I wanted to know if there are some other people who feel the same way.
    Movie is remarkable. I have difficulty in putting my thoughts into words when I use English, so I can't really say what I felt when I saw the machines accepting the proposal for peace or the Smith asking for the reason of Neo's persistence or the same way Neo's submission to the Smith.
    I liked the moment when Neo started realizing his ability to understand the matrix that's when bullets stopped. ( You can call this thought too narrow but this what I felt)

  5. I've just discovered this blog and let me tell you I agree 100% with you! :-)

    And not only in that, also in the posting things that the only 2 readers of the blog won't read it because it's past their range.

    Thanks for posting it anyway and I'm gonna re-post it in my blog (Spanish - Catalan)

  6. I believe you would like the film - The Fountain. With Hugh Jackman. Check it out, write another review.

  7. My thoughts exactly... When Neo lost his sight he was living in the 5th dimension but not yet fully connected with it. When he saw the Machine city he saw the light and thus the concept of the "ghost" in the machine as well. Consciousness and awareness. Life takes on all forms we have yet to overstand and yet and still philosophical minds such as ourselves can critically tap into the very understanding of our own being through the power of art and expression.

  8. WoW!
    Really a mind bursting perspective.
    Incredible Wachoswaki Bros as well as your explaination.

  9. I can't believe someone else came to the same conclusion I did. I agree the trilogy is maybe the most underrated thing ever and tells is secrets that many aren't ready to hear. It combines world mythologies seamlessly while being ambiguous enough to come away with multiple conclusions.

    The machines city is the kingdom of God and we last see neo and that ferry machine appearing to us as both a Seraphim angel with Neo as man and the Machine as wings, and the Buddhist lotus flower with Neo as the inner jewel , a brilliantly layered double symbol for those looking for it.