By: Jay Dyer
Much furor has been raised over Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s “strong woman” figure in the latest Mad Max reboot: I expected some to retitle it Mad MaxiPad. Mad Max: Fury Road opened to a large box office success, and is undeniably a feat of technical and choreographic brilliance, setting a new standard for George Miller’s previous high-octane chase scene exuberance – this is George Miller on acid. While critics are lauding these (admittedly) spectacular feats of technical prowess, there are also deeper messages being conveyed that should be elucidated, especially the notions of the commodification and control of resources. Before investigating Fury Road, let’s consider the esoteric setting and context from the prequels.
Mad Max and The Road Warrior
Critics of the film’s feminist message have failed to recall that all the Mad Max installments include a “strong woman,” and in particular they function as commentaries on social structures and the very concept of “civilization” itself. In Miller’s first project, Max Rockatansky is a police officer in a near-distant post-collapse society where anarchic road gangs with occultic names like “Cundalini” terrorize the highways ritually enacting chaos and rape with religious ecstasy, led by the messianic madman, Toecutter. Even here, the “strong woman” is embodied in the trigger-happy granny, yet to no avail as Max loses all, including his sanity and faith in law and order.
In the 1981 sequel Road Warrior, nuclear war has enveloped the globe, leaving roving bands of BDSM maniacs to terrorize new attempts at rebuilding civilization on the ashes of the old. The dialectic of anarchic chaos versus the attempt at hierarchical order and social organization appears in all four films, but in the second the introduction of resource control becomes the focus. Energy is crucial from this point on, as the remnants of humanity battle for oil and gasoline. For Max, however, both civilization and the chaos of biker gangs and homoerotic road rage are unappealing, only interacting with the human sphere as need dictates.
Max’s own anarchism comes to the fore in the third installment, Beyond Thunderdome, where the series takes on a more philosophic and esoteric significance. The latest social order to rise from the chaos is Bartertown, the creation of a new Empress, Aunty (Tina Turner). Here, civilized order has taken on all the characteristics of the mistakes of the old world: economic gain is the locus of human energy, while Bartertown’s energy arises from pig shit – methane. Seeking a resolution to the energy embargos imposed by the ruler of the “Underworld,” Master Blaster, Aunty hires Max to assassinate Blaster in the gladiatorial Thunderdome. I commented previously on Beyond Thunderdome:
Aunty is the new elite class, a “nobody” who built a new world, towering above the peons of Bartertown. Aunty’s pragmatic realpolitik keeps the animal-like populace in line by providing food, sex, economic gain and entertainment. Underworld, however, is run by a retarded giant (Blaster) whose humonculous midget partner sits atop his back (Master). We have here the juxtaposition of baser bodily instincts embodied in Blaster, with reason, science and technology embodied in Master, the mastermind of Bartertown’s energy policy. Together they form a unit and represent technological power, which has survived the apocalypse. Aunty represents feminine machinations and scheming, wherein civilization is actually portrayed as a domesticating institution (contrary to many images of “civilization” wherein it is presented as a patriarchal, masculine logos structure).
Thus, immediately after the apocalypse, men fall back into their same tendencies of creating competing power structures of exploitation. This will be important because Thunderdome will present a cyclical view of history…Worth noting here is the emcee for the Thunderdome and the deadly game show: He is a Freemason:
This can be read on many levels. Aunty, as we said, represents the more covert media/control grid/intelligence community aspect of the bourgeoisie. The message here is that the secret societies continue post-apocalypse, and continue precisely as a means of control. Freemasonic hoodwinking controls the media and entertainment industry of Bartertown, suggesting this might apply in more than just Max’s fictional world. The emcee wears a “G” and a square and compass, which in Masonry contains several levels of meaning. The “G” ultimately represent the generic deity of Masonry, embodied in human reason, and more or less synonymous with the deistic, contentless “god” of Freemasonry. Here, again, reason and technology and entertainment and covert action intertwine to control so-called “civilization.”
Max ends up banished to the desert, like Moses, to wander into death. Almost dying from lack of water, Max is almost miraculously rescued by a monkey and a band of innocent children, likened in many ways to the Lost Boys of Peter Pan. The children live in an Edenic, virtual state of “pure nature” as envisioned by some Enlightenment empiricist. Not that I accept that view, but that is the idea that seems to be presented. The children subsist on the basis of harmony with nature and belief in an elaborate myth they have created surrounding various mundane artifacts that survived a plane crash with them.
Brilliantly, they read into images from a Viewmaster toy a story about their origins, as well as their coming Redeemer, whom they call “Captain Walker.” In liturgical fashion, they re-enact their story when Max arrives, believing him to be their deliverer. So Max takes on this role of Moses/Christ, who is a deliverer to a people who are a kind of innocent faith community grounded around an elaborate myth. They are the opposite of Bartertown, which subsists on greed, technology and lasciviousness. Max fits in here, because they also embody the noble savage myth, and Max is a rebel and enemy of “civilization.” Max’s Captain Walker hat is the key to understanding this mysterious scene, as well as the entire film:
The image is the upper half of a Yantra, the triangular symbol believed to convey thought forms through sound resonance, representing deities or cosmic powers. This is a fascinating inclusion, as this scene focuses on the children’s mythology of the “sonic,” and old record they have discovered, and the “tell,” the makeshift television. The meaning appears to be that their telling of the Tell, which they refer to specifically as a liturgical enactment has summoned Captain Walker.
It’s also significant that throughout the series, Max “has no name.” He’s just a “raggedy man,” the “man from nowhere,” and “nobody,” because naming a thing is a way to control a thing. Naming a thing implies knowledge of and an attempt to encapsulate and categorize a thing into a thought form. The lost children believe they have sonically called forth Max (Captain Walker), which suggests that Max is a new avatar, a new messiah around which an entire mythology has been built.
It is also important to note that Max appeared to be dead when the children find him, and when they stand over his body, he is covered in ash as if he were a corpse. When he awakes, they recite the Tell, and hand him his crown, which is the seat of rulership in terms of the chakras, as well as in the cabala (Keter). Also take note that in the lower left of the Yantra there is an All-Seeing Eye (which is overly emphasized in pop film analyses nowadays, but here it is relevant).
Walker’s crown is his “new name,” the crown of Keter, the new avatar of the new religion – which Max inadvertently does take on, as the new civilization the lost children found tells the oral tradition (cabala means tradition) of the new avatar, the new Moses, the new Logos, the sound-form whose tradition is to be passed on in the Tell, having been named. The same Yantra symbolism is also seen in the rafters in the final scene during he Tell, which shows this is intentional, since Yantras are also a feature of sacred architecture. Wikipedia explains:
“Yantra function as revelatory conduits of cosmic truths. Yantra, as instrument and spiritual technology, may be appropriately envisioned as prototypical and esoteric concept mapping machines or conceptual looms. Certain yantra are held to embody the energetic signatures of, for example, the Universe, consciousness, ishta-devata. Though often rendered in two dimensions through art, yantra are conceived and conceptualised by practitioners as multi-dimensional sacred architecture and in this quality are identical with their correlate the mandala. Meditation and trance induction that generates the yantra of the subtle body in the complementary modes of the utpatti-krama and sampana-krama are invested in the various lineages of tantric transmission as exterior and interior sacred architecture that potentiate the accretion and manifestation of siddhi.”
It is worth mentioning that in Masonry, the “Name” is said to have been lost, and just as the children decide they don’t need the “knowing” (gnosis), Walker will function as the means by which they will obtain the elderly Master, who has the knowing, and rebuild their world. The Name hearkens again to cabala, as well as the biblical texts, as the High Priest wore the Name of God on His crown/forehead, and as the Apocalypse describes in relation to the Churches (a fitting reference, given the post-Apocalyptic world of Max):
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Apoc. 2:17)
Continuing the theme of resource war, the commodification of all aspects of life take on a more radical character in the post-apocalypse of Fury Road. A new, religious imperial order has arisen similar in form to Aunty from Thunderdome, yet far more degenerate. The patriarchal tyranny of Immortan Joe, a radiation-mutated messianic “redeemer” who possesses a fantastic harem of super models who function as his breeders. Sitting atop an unreachable green plateau, Immortan doles out niggardly supplies of water to his groveling, troll-like subjects. Viewing Immortan as a god, the religion of Joe promises Valhalla to his pale pack of “War Boys” that ride with him to death in battle on Fury Road. Imagine Fast & Furious: Albino Drift.
This time around, human civilization has reverted into the most primal, tribal forms of primitivism, where religion is a prop for the polis to prop up its new mythos. Joe has convinced his underlings he is immortal, telling his acolytes their sacrifices will result in the eventual elevation to the top of the plateau. The lush green plateau offers delights only to Joe, of course, and this time around Max and Imperator Furiosa form an unwilling partnership to unseat Joe and free his harem.
The insight here concerns realpolitik, as we saw with Thunderdome. Religion is the tool of the state more often than not, serving the whims of some petty tyrant. Fury Road is an even more apt description of our own world than it is a fictional dystopia in this respect, where all aspects of life are portrayed as a controlled resource market. Even sex, which is more recreational in our day, is here presented as a crucial means for the furtherance of bloodlines. Breeding and eugenics are key, as those in control understand a chemically lobotomized populace with no access to necessary resources are unable to continue into the future.
In spite of the faulty conceptions of the masses, the actual elite of the planet are, like Immortan Joe, concerned with the furtherance of their own lineage and the dysgenic destruction of the rest of the populace. In this paradigm, harems and concubines make sense, where the “royal art” of alchemy is ultimately about the transformation of the individual and the world into one’s own image. Hermetic alchemy focuses on this transformative process, and encompasses everything from the biosphere to breeding to the inner psychological process. Groups such as the Golden Dawn proffered hermetic alchemical secrets and it is my contention that Mad Max: Fury Road picks up with an alchemical version of chaos magick, where Thunderdome left off with Kabbalah and Tantrism.
Everything in the world of Fury Road has been inverted and is controlled, particularly basic necessities of life. Joe controls bullets, breeding, travel, energy and food – all that is necessary to run his patch of the bleak globe. While critics of the film are highlighting the portrayal of patriarchy as the source of all evils is only partially correct, what was far more prominent in the film is the deeper message of the seed. Both Joe and Max become concerned with the preservation of seeds – in Joe’s case, breeding children and a dynasty that are not mutated by radiation, and in Max’s case, his blood is the life-force for both the War Boys and Furiosa. The “life is in the blood,” Leviticus 17:11 tells us, and Max appears to continue his quasi-Christ status from Thunderdome.
Fury Road is therefore a representation of a nominally Christian redemptive history, yet the outcome is inverted. Instead of a divine Savior who rescues man as the Promised Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3), Max is a purely human savior as Thunderdome portrayed. The seeds of life that will continue into the future do not rest on the “lie of hope,” but on fixing the present world through technology. As we saw with Thunderdome, the “Knowing” of the secrets of technology that only remain in the religious appellations given to the “Holy V8 Engine” (like Brave New World’s “Year of Our Ford”) point to a Masonic conception of religion as a cloak for rationalism’s scientific secrets. Alchemy is concerned with the union of opposites into a synthesis and in Fury Road, the union of male and female into a supposed new order of living is manifested on the earthly plane in an atheistic, communist revolution. The synthesis, so the mythology goes, can only be achieved by the dialectical collision of opposites and cyclical process of inversions of inversions of inversions, in a left-hand path of sex, death and orgiastic oblivion – chaos magick.
In essence, Fury Road is an alchemical presentation of the royal deception, rather than the royal art, where more often than not, in history we do find the polis co-opting religion for the purposes of human control. The ultimate form of control is that of breeding, and determining whose seed will continue into the future, and through the new Max revolution with his feminine counterpart Furiosa, the implication is that by opposing the older patriarchal forms of power with their dialectical opposite, the “clans of the mothers,” hope can return. Let’s be realistic here – if the older patriarchal forms of religion are lies, as the film’s narrative suggests, then we are to believe the introduction of a feminine, Gaia-based egalitarian communist order is somehow workable and real? Is erecting a feminine-based order with the dismissal of Joe’s Golgotha plausible? Nothing is more absurd, nonsensical and mad.