“Weird Science” – 80s Alchemy Based on Gnostic Myth
April 16, 2010 1 Comment
Although the idea that Weird Science is rife with occult underpinnings might, at first, seem a ludicrous contention to some, on closer examination of the text numerous esoteric currents begin to emerge. The film and by extension the music video make use of numerous cultural artifacts that have their origin in the western occult tradition, whether the film/video makers themselves were fully aware of it or not.
Most people will immediately be able to identify Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as one of the primary keys to fully appreciating the film. Anyone unfamiliar with Frankenstein will miss the central parody of the movie. Though the idea of Frankenstein can be reinterpreted as a critique of scientific or occult hubris, it is difficult to discern whether this was the intent of Mary Shelley herself. The novel’s protagonist Victor Frankenstein (based, to some degree on Mary’s husband Percy) starts out a vociferous reader of alchemical and occult authors, such as Agrippa and Paracelsus. After attending Ingolstadt University, birth place of the infamous Bavarian Illuminati, a fact that goes unmentioned in the novel, (serving, essentially as a wink to the knowing reader) Victor’s schoolmasters teach him that his occult heroes were full of unscientific hogwash. Despite this he swears to carry on the spirit of their great work using the tools of modern science. To this end he creates a golem out of expired human body parts, in what is a perverse imitation of both the creation and resurrection of Man. The story perfectly encapsulates the ethos of the Romantic Revolutionary, who rejected Christianity yet sought some manner of spiritual ground beyond Enlightenment Materialism.
Percy Shelley (alleged by some to be the novel’s co-author) started his career as an atheist materialist, but became an avid exponent of what could be called Luciferian doctrine with works such as Prometheus Unbound and The Revolt of Islam.
Prometheus, the Titan of Greek myth, who caused a rift between humanity and the gods, by giving Man the gift of fire, was subsequently punished by Zeus by being cast from Olympus and bound to the Caucus mountains, where he was tormented by an eagle who devoured, daily, his eternally regenerating liver. This puts the Titan in a long line of mythical figures that are, for Christians, varied retellings of the Fall of Lucifer (other examples include the Norse Loki, the Egyptian Apep and the Chinese Gong Gong). In a Christian interpretive frame work, Man’s idyllic interaction with the gods represents Adam & Eve’s prelapsarian state in Eden, Prometheus represents Lucifer (a name which itself means Light Bearer) & his gift of fire represents the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Since, in the Prometheus myth, man uses fire to cheat the gods of their rightful sacrificial offering (by giving a burnt offering of fat instead of meat) the god’s punish Man by creating the first woman Pandora, who herself, is tricked into opening a jar containing all the worlds ills. This final piece of the story (for Christians anyway) represents, Eve’s convincing Adam to eat the fruit and the subsequent entry of Death and Sin into the world.
Although, when seen through Christian optics, the Prometheus myth might be perceived as a cautionary tale, for many of the Anti-Christian thinkers of the Enlightenment, Prometheus became a symbol of the Rational Faculties of Man, deposing the so-called “superstitious” belief in God, to remake the world through the new power of science and technology. Such an attitude towards the Titan was exhibited by the German polymath (and one time Bavarian Illuminati operative) Goethe in his poem Prometheus. (Frankenstein makes reference to Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, thus showing Mary’s familiarity with the works of the German Illuminist.) The alternative title of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is, in fact, The Modern Prometheus. In the prologue to Prometheus Unbound, Percy Shelley goes as far as to acknowledge the strong parallels that exist between his titular character & Satan & praises both figures as heroic rebels. Prometheus Unbound is, effectively, a psycho-drama, (a work meant to represent the inner operations of the human mind), in which Percy Shelley prescribes, that the Imaginative Capacity of Man (represented by Prometheus), be released to depose the restrictive belief in God (represented by Jove), a constraining phantasm that, according to Shelley, the Imagination itself created in the first place. This revolution of conscience, is, theoretically, the prerequisite for the social revolution, so craved by the Romantics of Shelley’s time.
The play, at first, appears to be merely atheistic in character (Karl Marx seems to have co-opted its symbolism, as did later atheists pundits), however a more thorough assessment seems to unearth the presence of a specific spiritual strain of thought in the play. The narrative of Prometheus Unbound, bears striking resemblance to the cosmogonic myths of some early Gnostic sects.
In certain Gnostic scriptures, our universe is seen as the last and most imperfect in a series of worlds emanating from a supreme, unknowable God. Each emanation is an aspect of this God & comes in male/female pairs, which, by merging with each other, return to the supreme source while, at the same time, give rise to the next emanation. Through some error, the pairing of Christ (male) & Sophia (female), failed to unite & instead Sophia generated this botched realm of matter on her own (Most Gnosticism is typified by a revulsion for the material world). Our lowly material universe, claim the Gnostics, was then given shape by the Demiurge, a blind, bungler god, unaware of the higher realms above him. Though he made our bodies out of the corrupt substance of this world, our souls came from the higher realm. Various Gnostics had the blasphemous notion that this bungler deity was one in the same with the God of the Old Testament. They believed he placed Adam & Eve in Eden to distract them with physical pleasure, preventing them from realizing their true nature & rising out of the flawed corporeal world. Further, the Gnostics identified the Serpent as an agent of the higher realm and the Fruit of Knowledge, as a symbol of gnosis (the secret knowledge that frees souls from the prison of the body) However, due to their attachment to their bodily natures, Adam & Eve’s ascent was not fully realized. In Christianity, Jesus’ adoption of a physical body and His death and resurrection are integral to Man’s salvation but in Gnosticism, Jesus is perceived, like the Serpent, as an agent of the higher power, his body being merely illusionary, since he would not lower himself to be trapped in matter. Consequently, his crucifixion was also an illusion. This Gnostic Christ, came only to teach men about the higher realm that lies above this flawed cosmos created by the Old Testament God. The reunification of Christ and Sophia, in this gnostic model, will forward the escape of souls from our world of decay. Not only does this heretical presentation of the Genesis account, attempt to resell the initial false promise of Satan, “you shall be as gods”, but it also seems to match the structure of Prometheus Unbound.
The play stresses that the deep truth of reality is an unknowable source, represented by the being Demogorgon. Prometheus, (really the human psyche) is held in bondage by the power of Jove, (Our belief in God, which shapes our view of the world). When Prometheus realizes the saving power of Love, his bonds are broken and he is reunited with his lost female counterpart Asia. This deposes Jove (i.e. the belief in God is erased from the Minds of Men). This event triggers a sort of Apocalypse that renews the world. Man’s imagination is set free to practice perpetually improving science, thereby ending Death & making the world a Utopia.
All this, effectively, takes the aforementioned gnostic paradigm and makes it a purely internal, psychological event. Jove, represents the Demiurge, who, though he is blind to it, is a creation of a higher power, which is, in this case, the human imagination. In gnostic terms, Prometheus’ bondage represents Man’s entombment in the physical body but in Shelley’s psychological gnosticism, it represents the mind’s self-imposed imprisonment in the Christian worldview. Prometheus as Man’s imaginative faculty represents Man’s soul or true self that must escape the body. Prometheus & Asia as a pair are stand ins for both Adam & Eve and Christ & Sophia. Prometheus’ revelation about the power of Love, which happens simultaneous to Asia’s discovery of the deep unknowable source that precedes Jove, is representative of the reunification of Christ & Sophia & the subsequent escape of souls from the realm of the Demiurge. In converting Gnosticism to the cognitive realm Percy Shelley preceded Carl Jung by over a century. The repackaging the Gnostics & Shelley attempt with the Serpent of Genesis & Prometheus, are both in the end nothing more than veiled forms of Satanism.
Interestingly, this same Gnostic myth has been disseminated in a number of recent films & books such as The Golden Compass series and its first film adaptation (by Philip Pulman, an atheist after Percy Shelley’s own heart), the widely popular Matrix Trilogy, the infamous Da Vinci Code series and Jim Carrey’s Truman Show just to name a few. Science fiction has proven especially fertile ground for neo-gnosticism, a noteworthy fact, given that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often hailed as the very first true work of science fiction.
Just as her husband’s Prometheus Unbound applies the gnostic model to the idea of utopian revolution, so too does Mary Shelley’s Modern Prometheus. Like the gnostic Demiurge, Victor Frankenstein creates a sort of Adam made of inferior parts. This Adam rebels against its creator, yet it cannot elevate itself from its brutish nature & instead sets down a path of destruction. There has been some academic speculation that the monster represents the perceived failure of the French Revolution. Despite the social alchemy attempted by the Revolution’s intellectual leaders, the unwashed lower classes were not transmuted into perfect men & the march towards Utopia quickly collapsed into the bloodbath of the Terror. This ultimate failure convinced many Post-French Revolution Romantics that social revolution must be preceded by a revolution of the human spirit for the occult power of Love to bind all peoples. In Prometheus Unbound, this internal transformation succeeds with the coming together of Asia and Prometheus, in Frankenstein, however, the reader is shown the causes of a failed revolution. Victor refuses to provide the Monster with a female counter part, thus the creature cannot rise above his base conditions.
In the Western Occult Tradition, that encompasses both alchemy and gnosticism, the coming together of Male & Female principles was a central symbol of completion and perfection. Likewise Esotericists believed the Imagination to be the means by which the soul ascended the confines of the body. The highest point of this assent was conceived as Love, facilitating an absolute union with God. Though this, at first, sounds like a pious pursuit, it contained in it a danger. The occult origins of such a practice, went beyond the bounds of the Christian relationship between Man & God, by confounding the desire for spiritual union with God, with the idea of Man becoming one in the same with God. Though early Renaissance Humanists such as Ficino and Pico, were themselves well-meaning Catholics, they drew from numerous pagan sources & in doing so laid the ground work for an occult revolution that would eventually lead to such calamities as the French Revolution, Marxist Communism and all modern dreams of secular utopia. While it is true that the ecstatic union they sought was driven by Love, it was not Agape, the Christian notion of Love of God, but rather the Platonic concept of Eros, a frenzied longing for the never fully attainable divine ground. When merged with Christian eschatology, this produced a desire to build the Kingdom of God on Earth, a quest in direct opposition with Christ’s teaching that His “kingdom is not of this world” (at least not until the Day of Judgment). Much of this occult “underground river” would pour into such loosely knit, secretive organizations such as the Rosicrucians and Freemasonry.
In Christian Theology, Christ: God who became Man, is the bridge that unites the human to the divine. He is the infinite that stepped down into the finite in what is an act of completed love. Eros, however is a longing for the impossible act of the finite to step up into the infinite. Lacking the bridge of Jesus Christ it always remains incomplete & in a certain state of madness. Left unchecked it either transforms into an utter rejection of God as something impossibly distant (leading to Atheism or Deism) or it seeks to make the divine presence something immanent in the finite world (leading to Pantheism). All these possible conclusions lead to the delusion of Man becoming God, the false promise of Lucifer so cleverly conveyed in the Promethean politics of Percy Shelley. If one is discerning and listens closely enough, they might almost hear the words of the Serpent whispering through the mouths of the Enlightenment thinkers. Like the Devil they attempt to paint the Laws of God as restrictive & set themselves up as advocates of Liberty.
This hubristic occult spirit moves beneath the surface of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and, consequently, all the works that have sprung from it, even films as utterly silly as Weird Science and Danny Elfman’s music video adaptation thereof. It is also worthy to note that the computerized woman produced by the film’s protagonists is referred to as a genie. A genie or djinn is the Islamic equivalent of a fallen angel.