by Robert Lee Camp
Words blinking on a computer screen, “Wake up, Neo… The Matrix has you…”
Thus begins the movie, The Matrix, a movie which stirred deep feelings in millions of viewers, especially those on a spiritual path. It was an allegory, a near perfect allegory, for the truth of the spiritual path. I personally was so moved by that movie that I saw it four times at the theaters. There was something about it that I found irresistible. Let’s go through the script a bit to see what it has to say.
When Neo finally meets Trinity for the first time, she puts it to him straight:
Trinity: Please just listen. I know why you’re here, Neo. I know what you’ve been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night you sit at your computer. You’re looking for him. I know, because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did.
Neo: What is the Matrix?
Ah, the Matrix. There is that word, but Neo knows not what it is. It is just a rumor, but one that keeps him up at night. Soon, he has his face to face with Morpheus, the legend himself. And Morpheus likewise goes in directly and succinctly:
Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.
Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something.
What you know you can’t explain. But you 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’m talking about?
And this is where the movie hooked me. Because like Neo, I had always felt that the life I had been given was wrong. There was something missing. Even as a child I searched for what I called the ‘key to happiness.’ At the time I didn’t know it was the search for the truth, but later that became evident. And like in the movie, The Matrix, the truth was shocking.
In the movie, it turns out that the world that Neo lived in and knew was fabricated, by machines no less, in order to harvest the energy of the human body to sustain the machines. In our lives it is not much different. The reality most of us live in is fabricated, this time by our minds, which are fixated on the past and the future. And we are simply living to fulfill the needs and wishes of these minds of ours, having forgotten our true nature.
In essence we are no more in control of our lives than Neo was. And his machines are our minds. And just like in Neo’s world, few really question what is going on or question their existence. Most are content with the life they have, not knowing that so much more is possible. Interesting in the movie that later, when Agent Smith has a conversation with Morpheus, the discovery:
Agent Smith: 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 human 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 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. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this, the peak of your civilization. I say your civilization because as soon as we started thinking for you it really became our civilization which is, of course, what this is all about. Evolution, Morpheus, evolution. Like the dinosaur. Look out that window. You had your time. The future is our world, Morpheus. The future is our time.
Agent Smith may have just been a symbol of our Mind/Ego, which began as a helpful mental tool and later became the master and we its slaves. And it has no use for a perfect world. It creates boundless suffering to sustain itself. Later, Morpheus gives us even a better description of our predicament:
Agent Smith: I’d like to share a revelation I had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we are the cure.
And we can see today that as a species we are a bane to not only the world we live on, but to ourselves as well. It would be easy to classify us as a disease or virus on our beautiful life-giving planet. We have no choice really. In the mind-identified state, we can do nothing but harm others and ourselves. Greed, murder, rape, torture and all things evil come from the mechanism of separation that is our Ego.
Even if you or I consider ourselves to be a ‘good person’ we have no choice but to hurt others. The Ego has no other way to sustain itself. It has to keep the notion of separation from others alive. It has to keep its own distinctiveness, its uniqueness, going. And to do that, it has no qualms about hurting or even killing others.
Just look at how many people have died in the last century because they were ‘non-believers’ of some religion or philosophy. To whatever extent each of us is identified with the voice in our head, to that extent we suffer tremendously, and cause suffering to others. That identification is the source of all of our suffering. All one must do is take a close look to see that this is the truth.
Nisargadatta, a famous spiritual teacher suggests that we only need to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” Are we really these voices in our heads? Are we our points of view, are we are our preferences, beliefs, the things we have learned? If we never question ourselves in this manner, question the who that we think we are, we are just like the millions of people in the Matrix, who have no clue that they are alive just to serve another entity that is not real.
For us in the real world, that entity is our false identification with the past and future, and all the mental constructions that go along with it. This is the Matrix from which we must free ourselves.
In the movie, Neo discovered that he had the power to alter the reality of the Matrix. And only much later he found he had the power to alter his own life in the real world. This is the power we all know is ours and the power we intuitively know we must attain. But to have this power we must first discard all that is unreal. We must see through the falseness that makes up our lives and start to live in the real world itself. Like Neo, we need to wake up. This means stop dreaming and be willing to see what is real.
This would seem to be the most sane choice. But it is not an easy one. And it might be the most difficult choice while living in a world that does not support it. It’s an inside job and a one man(or woman) job. Those that take it on are supported by the universe and by the truth, but not from those they are accustomed to, usually.
One must be willing to let go of everything that is not truth in the quest for the truth. And this can include loyalties to friends and family. And perhaps this explains why so few actually make the journey. But the suffering that living in untruth guarantees that ultimately we will all make that journey. We really don’t have a choice. The only question anyone needs to ask is ‘am I ready to end suffering in my life?’ Am I ready to ‘wake up?’