The metapattern of Inception- it's about movies, which are mind-manifesting, psychedelic monomyths that spillover into the real
It has been written in some circles that Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION is a metaphor for what all good films do: They create a dream world, an alternate, fantastical reality which a subject (or audience) can enter. We then fill this construct with our subconscious projections: our hopes, longings, fears- in an epic quest for apotheosis-- for resolution and catharsis.
(Though in truth, it should be noted this struggle takes place in all dimensions of subjective experience, not just movies. Even in our day to day normalcy we deal with trials and tribulations, we search for purpose and meaning, we bring our past experiences and preoccupations to every situation, we often fall, but we get back up. We all long for catharsis. We live inside this pattern.)
Much like in a psychedelic trip, we might use the term 'mind-manifesting' to describe the nature of all subjective experience; whether it be my merging with a film, entering a virtual reality environment, or literally tripping on an entheogen, we always bring a bit of ourselves to any reality unfolding before us, particularly in the realm of the hyperreal. We must understand that our experience of reality is mediated through the prism of our nervous system, and that means our preoccupations, conflicts, unresolved issues-- you name it-- will bleed through, influence and alter the unfolding plot of our subjective narrative.... Every moment of conscious experience then, is co-created by us. The "truth" inside of every movie, every videogame, every journey and mind-trip is sculpted not just by what surrounds us in that moment, but by what we project, both consciously and subconsciously, from within our minds and memories.
In an essay titled "Still in the Game": Cybertransformations of the "New Flesh" in David Cronenberg's eXistenZ," Lia M. Hotchkiss, states that “The film eXistenZ features a virtual reality game whose inferred, rather than explained, rules and objectives are designed to mimic the frequent uncertainties of life itself as an unfolding process.” Figuring out the purpose of the game ends up being the purpose of the game, and because it is run through and powered by the players' nervous systems, it is a game interface and universe whose particular gaming sessions or plots “incorporate (and hence manifest) the individual players' preoccupations”, (in other words- the virtual world of Existenz is mind manifesting, and just like a movie that sucks you in, or a psychedelic trip, is heavily influenced by the player's intent and mood, or set and setting.) It reminds us that our experience of the world is heavily shaped by the lens of our mind, our intent and our expectations.
(It should be noted, that this is no different than in our real life : we perceive what happens to us through the prism of perspective, expectation, preconception and more, and our reality is therefore tinged through the filter of our minds--- whether it’s in our normal waking state, during a psychedelic trip, in a dream, or engrossed in a film---we CO-CREATE our experience of each reality, whether we're aware of it or not, and we gravitate and long for catharsis in every context and dimension.)
The Universal Metapattern of the Monomyth:
In the end, all of us, in every situation, whether it be by suspending disbelief and being sucked-in by a great film, or by partaking in a 'psychedelic trip' , or an actual physical journey to the unknown, or even being cast as the hero in a virtual reality game-- we all follow the Hero's Journey archetype. It turns out that every dimension of experience involves our psyche answering the call and departing from 'the ordinary', dealing with and overcoming obstacles along the quest, facing a final test, becoming epiphanized by some great, ecstatic truth, internalizing this catharsis and then making the return... with the confidence of having become more than what we were-- a true cosmic hero.
Now that we understand that this pattern might be the "archetype of archetypes" for self-realization, or the ultimate map towards illumination, we can see why cinema is the pinnacle of mankind's artistic and philosophical achievement thus far: The very fact that cinema can edit and compress reality, fold time, space and distance, means that in two hours of "dream time" while watching a movie, we may experience a level of catharsis and psychic readjustment that might have required years in "Normal" reality.
Movies are perhaps the very best psychedelic trips because they are highly tuneable and controllable. Christopher Nolan is a master craftsman and he can design a shamanic hero's journey in every movie without the existential risk that DMT or LSD might entail. The level of precision a filmmaker has in "sculpting" the details of the unfolding cinematic experience, means he can cradle and carry our psyches along for the ride of a lifetime, leading us towards a place of ecstatic illumination.
So lets look closely at why cinema is the ULTIMATE TRIP:
MARK ALLAN KAPLAN wrote a magnificent article about the transpersonal power of cinema. He cites the work of Avant-garde filmmaker James Broughton on how going to the cinema is akin to a mystical experience of divine revelation, offering sacred spaces for spiritual and psychological catharsis. This is Dreamspace. Godspace.
“From this perspective, the movie theater can be seen as a sacred ceremonial space, the audience members as the participants of a religious ritual, and the motion picture screen as a holy altar,” he writes.
“The projection of the cinematic image by means of a beam of light cast through a darkened space can also be seen as an archetypal and visceral representation of the symbolic interplay between the light of divinity and the darkness of illusion that is often referred to in the sacred stories and myths of many of the world’s cultures and traditions”
He quotes James Broughton directly:
"For the moment, look at cinema as a mystery religion. Going to the movies is a group ceremony. One enters the darkened place and joins the silent congregation. Like mass, performances begin at set times. You may come and go but you must be quiet, showing proper respect and awe. Up there at the alter space a rite is about to be performed, which we are expected to participate in. Then comes the beam of light out of the shadows: the Projector, the Great Projector up there behind us! Turn out the little lights so that the big light can penetrate the darkness! Ah, behold the unreeling of the real reality of practically everything: our dreams, our idiocies and raptures, our nativity, passion and death.". (Broughton, 1978, p. 19–20)
Broughton continues by saying the cinema does more than just reflect reality... it is “both a mirror and ever-expanding eye. It creates what it sees and destroys what it does not see...[it] is a lie which makes us see the truth”
Broughton relates this ability of the cinema to construct and communicate meaning and truth with the spiritual quest of seeking the light of enlightenment because cinema has the capacity “to make visible the invisible, express the inexpressible, [and] speak the unspeakable”....
The filmmaker is “willing to sacrifice a naive realism in order to achieve realism of a deeper sort, like a poet who, though less factual than a journalist in describing an event, may nevertheless reveal truths about it that find no place in the other’s literal grid," wrote Philosopher Alain De Botton.
According to Russian filmmaker and film theory pioneer Sergei Eisenstein, "the conscious manipulation of a type of ‘sensory synchronization’ allows the filmmaker to converse with his or her audience on higher, deeper, and subtler levels of communication by more closely replicating the multidimensional sensory stimulation of actual lived experience."
Eisenstein postulated that only the unique nature of the cinema produces a form of transcendent aesthetic arrest, a "synchronization of the senses” through the “integration of word, image and sound, [that serve] to construct perception, meaning, and emotion"...
In Techgnosis Erik Davis wrote that the language of cinema allows poets to "use letters as objects of ecstatic meditation, recombining them in their imaginations to engender alphabetic rapture,".
The cinematic experience 'inspires' by "opening up vistas of meaning and interpretation that further unfold the self."
In the words of Walter Benjamin, when we watch films, "All sensations have a steeper gradient... the intoxicated subject is carried along in a punctuated flow of perceptions- perception is more stratified and richer in spaces".
James Broughton (1978) declared that “the secret name of cinema is transformation” (p. 20),
In other words, a form of synesthetic ecstasy.
This is a vicarious experience for the audience of a very real Campbell-esque departure from the ordinary and eventual apotheosis--- a simulated Hero’s Journey that breaks through the screen and spills over into the real: “The audience is able to experience the ephemeral and transformative emotions involved in the physical and spiritual struggle for glory.”
WE might go ever further in speculation by meditating on the fact that everything we see at every moment, is, in many way, hallucinated, or "filled-in", you might say, by algorithmic brain software. We see so little and yet see so much, as Futurist philosopher Ray Kurzweil explains:
“Although we have the illusion of receiving high-resolution images from our eyes, what the optic nerve actually sends to the brain is just outlines and clues about points of interest in our visual field. We then essentially hallucinate the world from cortical memories that interpret a series of extremely low-resolution movies that arrive in parallel channels”
What implications does this have towards how to live our lives? Well, on the one hand it can empower us by helping us recognize the importance of our creative and linguistic choices and how these choices literally architect our own personal matrix. There is a wondrous exhilaration upon perceiving the radical freedom we have to compose our lives.. Leary called this 'internal freedom'... yet this freedom can be dizzying-- it can cause a sort of vertigo--- what to do?
In Techgnosis, Erik Davis reveals our hidden longings to mold and facet reality with our magical technologies:
"When Renaissance intellectual Pico della Mirandola famously proclaimed "what a miracle is man" in his groundbreaking humanist screed 'Oration on the Dignity of Man', he was announcing the revolutionary conviction that human beings were the arbiters of their own fate:
"Man was to be a magus, blessed with the access codes of cosmos and mind, making himself up as he went along."
We have a unique role to play here: “We must never forget we are cosmic revolutionaries not stooges conscripted to advance a natural order that kills everyone’ - Having invented the gods, we can turn into them”... says Alan Harrington.
Rich Doyle wrote in Darwin's Pharmacy that “It is, as always, the challenge of the artist to decide how we want to customize reality once we know that we can.”
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