BUGS – Something’s happening here. Something important.
There’s Tom, working as he should in his cubicle.
The end, right? This is the end. There’s really nothing more to say. We get a shot of Tom at his desk, his past accomplishments, his accolades, and some sense that everything we knew about the previous films was bogus. It was all a Matrix in itself. Warner Brothers has had us. The end.
There’s Tom’s hands on the table. Obedient.
But no. No! Wind back. That’s not where this movie starts. We don’t begin at the table of obedience. We start with Matrix code going up instead of down. We start with Bugs and Sequoia doing what they’re not supposed to be doing, breaking the rules, which is the entire subject of what I’ve said before. Of course they’re breaking the rules, and of course that’s where we begin. It woudn’t be the Matrix anyhow else.
And you know what, Tom isn’t in his cubicle anymore. More like a corner office, high up, in a tower. We can see the cityscape, and he’s running code that he’s not supposed to be running. So not entirely obedient after all, is he? He’s been breaking the rules too.
He’s also been veering asympotitcally toward full-blown fucking crazy. Staring vacantly at an array of monitors, in a kind of ready-crazy we’ve seen before, in the first film, Thomas starting at his monitors. There’s something wrong with the world and he can’t put his finger on it. It’s the rabbit and Alice. But this world, Inception-like, is like the old episodes of Star Trek where they have holodecks within holodecks. I mean, it’s not really that but it references that. Everything you expereinced was itself a Matrix, or a game, or a hallucination. Whether or not that’s true, and it just doesn’t matter if it is, what is definitely present is that he’s losing his mind over this.
So, breaking this down one element at a time we have this: Tom’s office is amazing, which means he’s in a special place, and a special place means in mythic language “sky” or “heaven.” So he has some sky (air) energy still, which is his Vishnu self. Secondly, he’s doing things – dare I say inventing things – that are not in his job description. He’s disobeying orders in order to make something new. That’s dirty, sulphuric work in the ashes, down below. And third, he’s clearnely broken.
In mythology there’s this character called Hephaestus Amphiguels. I don’t remember where I picked up the epithet for this guy: Amphiguels, all guiles, all crafts. (I somehow want to attribute that epithet to Guerber.) I’ve already talked about him plenty. In any case, the deal with Hephaestus is that he is deformed, in some accounts hideously so, and that some shit went down and he got himself kicked out of heaven (sky), and when he landed on Earth his leg got bashed up and never healed. This left him lame forever afterward. Lame in mythos is code for fundamentally damaged — something’s wrong with him that can’t be fixed.
Which…kind of sounds like Tom, doesn’t it? Fundamentally damanged. How long has he been going to therapy and taking meds? Well, ever since he was kicked out of his ascendency in the Machine City. The process of being ripped out and sent back “down” left him messed up. Okay, so Tom’s broken. He’s also liminal. Liminal means going bewteen. Hephaestus was originally in the realm of Sky and transited to Earth and then, later, transits back to the Sky. That is, he goes between realms. Like Persephone. And like Neo. Neo also goes between realms. To an extent all the heroes of The Matrix films are liminal gods, which is why they all have god-names. (Not to mention the ships, which are god-chariots.)
So then a broken, liminal god. Hephaestus, taking stock of his brokenness, kind of shrugs, says “Alrighty then,” and builds a forge in a volcano, a place where things come up from Hell. In this volcano he made a lot of extremely cool, wondrous things. Similarly, there’s Tom, who according to Jude, is “considered by most to be the greatest game designer of our generation.” We have now the broken inventor, in his special tower (a volcano? the company logo looks like fire to me, plus it’s literally called “God Machine”), like a god, creating…what?
We see the accolades of his prior inventions, all good. But what is he inventing right now? It’s called a modal. This threw me off at first, because modal means something mundane in design work. Here is a modal:
But then I started to think about what a modal does. It does two things. First, it interrupts a program. It takes a program out of its usual state and puts it in a suspended state. The program’s not doing any of its usual work while the modal is there. The second thing a modal does is wait. It’s by nature loop, so when Bugs and Sequoia talk about how it’s looping, that’s normal. What a modal waits for, what it loops for, is a choice.
Are you saying Yes or are you saying No?
The choice, though, is an illusion. You’ve already made it.
So I wrote some previously about liminality and liminal gods. The ones that go between. Here is some more. The word liminal comes from a word that means “threshold.”
That means a boundary, a crossing-over. Now we can talk about boundaries. There are a few of them we’ve seen, like the boundary between life and death, and the crossing of it in both directions. We saw that in the first film, Trinity reaching across to pull Neo back. This is reflected again in the Merovingian and Persephone narrative (although strangely, and disappointingly, we don’t see her again in Resurrections).
Then there is the boundary between disbelief and belief. This is what Morpheus does, crossing that boundary for not only Neo but for everyone else. Looking back, what’s said about this?
TRINITY – I think Morpheus believes.
RHINEHART [to Neo] – You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson. You believe you are special, that somehow the rules do not apply to you.
MORPHEUS – Do you believe in fate, Neo?
And yet again:
MORPHEUS – I did what I did, because I believe we have been brought here for a reason, Neo.
NEO – I told you I don’t believe in fate.
MORPHEUS – But I do, Neo.
Belief itself is a liminal crossing-over, a way of bridging what’s here and what’s there, what is and what could be. There’s the body of the here and now, and there is the what could be. The middle ground of existence we’re in, and the the outer fields of what we can become. You can’t get from Middle Earth to Valinor by simply sailing West. It takes a change inside to get there. A belief.
There is also liminality between Yes and No. Or maybe between No and Yes. The boundary between people. The train station that crosses between worlds and Ramachandra’s role. The boundary between the blue and red pills.
And of course there is the “world above” and the “world below.” In Matrix terms this is the machine city and Io. (Let’s talk about Io for a minute. Io is tied to Prometheus, and Prometheus is the inventor-god, i.e., Hephaestus. From the union of Io and Prometheus comes heroic energy and the overthrow of gods. So there’s that.)
Back to above and below: You know how Jesus grew up as a carpenter? That’s the story anyway. The carpenter does holy work because trees are cross-over entities. The roots of trees go deep in the ground (which is a sacred domain) and their branches go into the sky (which also is a sacred domain). There’s the figure of Yggdrasil, the world-tree, which is exactly this. So the trees themselves are liminal gods, and this is why there used to be a worship of gods like Asherah. The deep underground is the realm of the dead, and the tree pulls energy from there, and the sky is the realm of eternity, and the tree pulls energy from there too. And from them both it produces a body on Earth.
The carpenter, who works with the dead body of this liminal god, becomes an integral part of that liminality — an agent of that liminality — by “getting his hands dirty.” The blacksmith is identified with the soot, the fire, and the metal. The carpenter is identified with the tree.
So we have:
- Morpheus, the bridger and messenger, like Mercury, the link between what is and what might.
- Smith, the agent of change and of crossing over, the divider and maker.
- Neo/Tom, the broken inventor-god who transfers energy from the sky into the earth.
And gluing them all together and propelling them forward, this trinity, is…Trinity.
In Reloaded, when Neo is in Zion and can’t sleep, he’s visited by Councilor Hamann. They take a walk down to the engineering level, which is code for taking a look at how the magic operates, looking behind the curtain at the Wizard’s machinery. (They don’t talk near the apartments, where all the doors are painted red.)
“Hardly anyone comes down here,” Hamann says. “They don’t care how it works, so long as it works.”
This means ritual. For most, the ritual is what matters. Put up the boughs of holly, the Christmas tree, and put blood on the door (red doors, remember?). These are all methods of invoking the magic of the gods, but without understanding it. If you want the result, you perform the rituals of invocation, and you get the result.
This is a modal. This is a loop. You paint the doors red every year. You put up the (Asherah) tree every year. Mow the grass. Pay your taxes. Over and over. There might be a story behind it , like the the story of Christmas or Diwali or Ramadan, and that’s what you tell yourself but it’s still the treadmill. Smith says it directly.
SMITH – That’s the thing about stories, they never really end, do they? We’re just telling the same stories we’ve always told, with different names, different faces.
Trinity breaks all that. She breaks the loop.
TRINITY – I wish you would fucking stop calling me [Tiffany]. I hate that name. My name is Trinity and you better take your hands off of me.
She does this. No one pops a pill in her mouth. No one comes for her like Morpheus comes for Tom. No mirrors or portals. She just absolutely does this on her own. Like Athena, she doesn’t have or need an impetus – just shows up and drives a Ducati.
And what does she say at the end?
TRINITY – We’re on our way to remake your world.
Like, okay, she’s talking to the Analyst, but she’s also talking to us.
 – Certainly didn’t list all of them, but I hope you get the point. Religious festivals are, prima facie, circular treadmills. You do the thing on the the certain day and (I guess) get the result. But then you have to do it again. And again. And again.