Poised on the cusp of the summer season, as Hollywood begins to release it’s usual torrent of mind numbing crud, the “paranoid” observer would do well not to overlook, one of the “hidden gems” of semiotic programing that has, largely, slipped under the radar of media fanfare. “Knowing”, with Nicolas Cage, seems to line up quite nicely with the actor’s self-professed interest in the neo-gnostic theology of 17th century German mystic Jakob Böhme. The film is yet another, in a growing line of Cage movies that involve aspects of what might be called paranormal and conspiracy discourse. Others include “National Treasure,” focusing on the idea of hidden Freemasonic secrets in architecture, “Next” a film about a psychic predicting a major terrorist attack, and the 9-11 whitewash “World Trade Center,” just to name a few. Although, “Knowing” wasn’t written or directed by Cage, certain Behmenist underpinnings seem to be present nonetheless.
The theology of Böhme, to which Hegel (and by extension Marx and his myriad offspring) are partially indebted, is itself derived from the hermetic, kabbalistic milieu that permeated Renaissance Europe. Taking his cue from 16th century Jewish Kabbalist Isaac Luria, Böhme developed a theology in which creation, the Fall of Lucifer and the Fall of Man were all part of a necessary process for God and Man to attain self-knowledge. This runs contrary to the traditional Christian teaching that God is possessed of all knowledge and fulfillment, that creation is a gift from God, not something God did out of any requirement and that a fall from grace is caused by a misapplication of free will.
The plot of “Knowing” is roughly as follows: In the 1950’s a strange, young elementary school student, named Lucinda Embry, scribbles a long series of numbers on a piece of paper which she deposits in a time capsule, to be opened 50 years later.
Five decades pass, the capsule is opened and Lucinda’s paper is acquired by elementary school student Caleb Koestler, the son of widowed astrophysics Professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage). John, who has been experiencing a crisis of faith due to the death of his wife, accidentally ends up discovering that the numbers on the paper mache the dates, death tolls and GPS co-ordinance of major disasters such as 9-11. Turns out Lucinda was a psychic. Meanwhile, Caleb begins to hear voices as mysterious ethereal beings keep trying to contact him. John and Caleb, in an attempt to foil disasters on the list that have yet to happen, recruit Lucinda’s daughter Dianna and her young daughter Abby. Lucinda herself has since passed away. We also learn that John Koestler has, since his wife’s death, become estranged from his father; a Reverend.
Soon John and company learn that the final predicted disaster is an apocalyptic solar flare that will end all life on Earth. John is forced to accept that there is nothing he can do to avert it. The mysterious ethereal people who have been trying to contact both Caleb and Abby, finally reveal their true forms; aliens or perhaps angels. Seems that all along space people were angels or vise versa. We are reminded of the lyrics to Styx “Come Sail Away” as John, Caleb and Abby watch the U.F.O hover overhead. “I thought that they were angels but to my surprise they climbed aboard their star-ship and headed for the skies.” In typical “Chariots of the Gods” style it is implied that all biblical prophesy was given by these benevolent space brothers. Ezekiel’s “Wheel within a Wheel” was of course a flying saucer and it is in such vehicles that the visitors must now take Abby and Caleb, leaving the rest of mankind to perish in world killing fiery doom.
John at first resists the idea that he can’t go with his son, but the alien/angels bestow on him a special kind of “knowing” awakening his mind to a new consciousness. He knows that death isn’t the end and that he will see his wife again and he is able to accept the loss of his son and the destruction of the world. As the children are spirited away John, his faith rekindled visits his father, the Reverend Koestler. Father and son embrace as the planet is consumed by a wave of celestial fire, destroying everything. At the epilogue we see the space craft deposit Caleb and Abby in a golden field on some Eden like planet. The two children take each others hands and happily run towards a solitary tree standing majestic against the horizon.
Viewers accustomed to Holly Wood clichés will recognize the all too typical “ancient astronauts” plot device, however the undercurrents of Behmenist theology will likely be less apparent to the average movie goer. As mentioned above, Böhme seems to have taken The Fall as a necessary process in the perfection of both God and Man. Borrowing from Luria, Böhme’s God must contract himself to make room for his creation and he must create something distinct from himself to achieve self-knowledge. That separate creation must in turn seek self-knowledge by attempting to return to God, which it does through the intermediary of Christ. Though this bears certain similarities to orthodox Christian theology the over all blueprint shares more in common with the general scheme of the ancient gnostic heresies.
I would argue that it is for this reason that John Koestler, has become estranged from his father and can’t achieve reunification and spiritual fulfillment until the angelic entities induce in him a new kind of “knowing” or, if you will, “gnosis.” Likewise a new creation cannot be generated until John willingly separates from his own son, allowing Caleb and Abby to become the Adam and Eve of a new planet. This repeat pattern of Unity, Separation and Return, would later help form the back bone of Hegel’s concept of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, which would become the bedrock on which Marx would build his vision of dialectical class warfare. Though, the atheistic and genocidal tyranny of Marxist Communism was never the intent of Jakob Böhme, it is arguable that his quasi-pantheistic theological vision helped provided the philosophical segue to a materialistic March of History.
It is also worth noting, the John’s sister, who appears throughout the film, acting as a sort of go-betweener for her brother and father, is, telling, named Grace.
Besides the Behmenist subtext in “Knowing” it is likely that John’s family name Koestler, is meant as a reference to Arthur Koestler, who’s bizarre life and shifting beliefs are perhaps better described by his wikipedia biography than by me.
Hopefully this article has helped shed some light on Holly Wood’s continued fascination with the esoteric tradition, because where psycho-symbolic propaganda campaigns are concerned “Knowing” is half the battle.
See also – The Knowing predicts BP Oil Disaster!