The Gospel of Illuminism
Cloud Atlas (2012) was an interesting film on several levels. Fans of both the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer will quickly recognize the fingerprints of all three, especially philosophical elements of the Matrix trilogy. From the perspective of moral assessment, there is much in the film that I object to, but artistically speaking, I think it was excellent. On a deeper, symbolic level, the film also has a wealth of beautiful imagery that alone made it worth watching, while on an even deeper, esoteric level, it is clear as to its meaning: metempsychosis and gnostic deification. The history of western esoterism has long been obsessed with the notion of reclaiming lost knowledge and technology, all the way back to Plato’s Timaeus, and its legends of Atlantis.
Though I have not read the novel, I can divine its meaning from the film. While audiences the land over appear to be bewildered, the knotted yarn can easily be untangled. Early on, we are clued into a reference to Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence,” a shooting star birthmark that recurs in characters over different generations, and a highly significant musical piece being written, known as the “Cloud Atlas.” In total, six different time periods with a handful of reincarnated persons all interconnect, leading from 1846 to 2346. The other element that stands out is that each of these periods includes some system of oppression. The first, 1846, involves slavery and human trafficking, with a good Christian man helping save the life of a good-hearted slave. In the next, a Cambridge University gay couple battles the system of post-Victorian era “sexual oppression,” which leads to one of the two writing the “Cloud Atlas” musical piece.
From there, a hot 1970s journalist Halle Berry interacts with one of the gay lovers who has documentation to expose a large nuclear facility that is planning on a false flag event to make nuclear power look bad, for the benefit of big oil. Next, we are introduced to a publisher in 2012 London who engineers an escape from an old folks’ home, and from there, we move to a dystopian Korean future where a one world government known as “Unanimity” rules with technocratic iron fist. In this timeline, Sonmi-451 is a genetically engineered clone that works as an acolyte in the religion of the future: Fast Food. From there, we move to a post-apocalyptic unknown continent that has been destroyed by what appears to be a nuclear disaster or war of some kind, in which the future future Tom Hanks must guide a future future Halle Berry to the location of a Sonmi “temple,” which is actually the technology to go offworld.
Without getting bogged down in the details of the non-linear narrative, and exactly how they connect, the viewer should understand that the story is told in a non-linear fashion to associate the viewer with the idea of eternal return. The narratives are non-linear like the philosophy: each character is thus reincarnated into different roles and forms, based upon the decisions and roles made in the last life. Death, as Sonmi-451 (the film’s prophet-philosopher), explains, is just a doorway to the next life. The decisions you make in this life, determine the birth in the next, she explains. This is metempsychosis, and the ancient transmigration of souls taught by Plato and the Eastern mystery religions. The wheel of birth and death can only be transcended by enlightenment and right living, the general philosophy goes, which will lead to the recovery of the lost gnosis, or in this case, and in some of western esoterism, lost technology. Continue reading