By: Jay Dyer
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s concurrently-written science fiction novel, was a visual and technical accomplishment, unparalleled at the time of its making. Not only were the technical advances monumental, it was also a film that was uniquely philosophical. Prior to 2001, most science fiction had been relatively cartoonish, with little attention to esoteric and alchemical themes, aside from scant instances. And that is precisely what 2001 is – an alchemical slash philosophical presentation of the supposed evolutionary ascent of man from primal, animalistic ape into reborn Starchild, an initiatory process that purports to unfold through aeons of brute, meaningless time, culminating in a series of revelations associated with stellar alignments that “awaken” a new stage in the process. Along the way, Kubrick includes a host of ideas and themes that I will exegete below. Ultimately, my thesis is this: 2001 is about space, planar, pointed and linear, in a geometric sense, and the transcending of that limitation of form, into the infinite and beyond form.
In the opening sequences we witness a few crucial elements: the planetary alignment, the monkeys and the monolith. The setting is a dry, dusty landscape of sparse vegetation and tribes of apes shown in confrontation over a watering hole. The planetary alignment signifies to the viewer a new aeon is emerging for man, the so-called dawn of consciousness. Primal and savage, the apes pre-signify Kubrick’s perspective on the totality of human history, centered around resource wars. With the advent of the monolith, composed of a wholly other, angular and sleek form, it is completely out-of-place among the sprawl of vegetation and natural, geological formations that make up the apes’ environment. Kubrick uses, as many now know from Weidner’s documentary, the technique of front-screen projection, which allowed for a highly realistic way to shoot these scenes in a convincing way, and the possibility that NASA and the CIA were interested in this technique for media deception in relation to the moon landing is not without evidence.
Yet the real focus of this sequence is not the apes or the brutal environment, but the monolith. As the apes are thrown into a frenzy, the monolith stands stark and cold as something both extraterrestrial, yet inviting. The largest ape lurches forward to touch the monolith, and as a result we see the development of what Kubrick and Clark appear to conceive of as “consciousness,” correlated with techne, but not merely techne, it is technology as an extension of space and power – warfare. The bone the ape uses to bash the skull of the other ape suggests a radical “survival of the fittest” mythos in the pure Darwinian sense, revealing a radical version of process philosophy that finds commonality with Darwin, Haeckel, and Marx, and even suggests the dialectical determinism of the Eastern Bloc Marxists like Lenin, Mao and Trotsky, all of whom have explicit treatises on the metaphysical presupposition of Marxism, being perpetual flux.
Despite the common misconception that materialistic Marxism had no metaphysic, the truth is quite the contrary, the metaphysic of Marxism is the atomistic process philosophy of old, repackaged to present man as an animal, like Darwinism, that through either radical collectivism or radical Nietzschean-influenced individualism, will attain to the status of the famed “New Man.” I am not saying Kubrick is certainly some committed Marxist, his films do consistently present class warfare, elitism and oligarchic deviance and control.
Kubrick seems to fully be on board with this version of naturalistic process philosophy. Human consciousness is an evolutionary process that emerges from the deus ex machina, an apparently emergent god(s) incarnated in symbolic form in the monolith itself, the black, angular cube that appears to descend from the gods to initiate the new stage. While the monolith is extraterrestrial, it does not appear to be other than the universe, but an aspect of it. In fact, as a form of a cube, the monolith seems to embody space itself. This is partly my unique thesis – that the point, line, extension, terminus of geometrical space, which then combines again to create another point, line, plane and terminus, is the basic geometric form that represents spatial relations. In our level of reality, you”’ note that there are only 6 possible directions one can take at any point: up, down, left, right, backward and forward. These six directions are thus a geometrical box or cube, as explained by the Pythagoreans (and Platonic solids) long ago. So the cube, and in particular the black cube from outer space, is space. 2001 is therefore about this dimension, in totality, that expresses itself primarily in two fundamental ontological realities – time and space.
Mention should be made here of Rob Ager and Jay Weidner’s theses, that the monolith is also a screen, the film screen itself. I find both agreement and disagreement with Ager and Weidner, and as I argued in my Eyes Wide Shut analysis, the screen itself is being utilized as a kind of talisman through which the audience is intended to be taken on a ritual initiation process. Thus, I agree with both the monolith is also a screen, and in fact, in the original screenplay, the monolith was planned to be a screen that would project images to the apes so they could learn warfare, etc, and move on to their next stage of monkey madness. Though the TV monolith was dropped, the seeds of that idea are still present, as more than once in 2001 the viewer sees the monolith extend, grow and approach the viewer, ultimately encompassing the entirety of the screen.
The monolith also suggests an obelisk or the Islamic Kaaba stone (a purported meteorite!), and on an esoteric level we can recall the masonic obelisk, a divine phallus, and connect it to the notion of the generative principle found in sex magick and the traditional indigenous conception of the personification of the natural reproductive forces of nature embodied in a phallic or vaginal symbol or totem. This is key, as Kubrick will later link the monolith/obelisk directly to womb, semen and birth processes when we come to Bowman’s trippy space trip and Starchild. The monolith is consciously “Luciferian,” prompting man to a Promethean new aeon each time it appears, and always connected to technological advance through the “sacrifice” of warfare.
I am reminded here of the paleo-technology idea in writers like Dr. Joseph P. Farrell, who posits a kind of “technology of the gods” possibly possessed by ancient man from which the myths of the “golden age” descend. I have written elsewhere concerning the fact Homer’s Iliad does, in fact, present Achilles’ magical shield as a kind of TV screen with moving images that presents the entire history of the Greeks. This connection is not tangential, as Homer also recorded the oral tradition of Odysseus, and it is Odysseus who will be the primary literary source for the film’s title and later protagonist in astronaut Bowman. Bowman will be a new Odysseus, who traversed the underworld and back, as Weidner correctly notes, who will go on a journey like none other. With Ager, his analysis leaves out many of the esoteric elements, while aptly expositing the more technical and cinematic features, and in Weidner, there is a lack of criticism of the process philosophy, simply adopting Kubrick’s “alchemical” presentation as if it were the next Shakespeare, and subject to no naysaying on the part of the incoherencies of the nonsensical philosophy presented as reality.
At this juncture it is worth again highlighting the failures of Neo-Darwinian process philosophy I mentioned above. Darwinism, and its philosophical corollary in figures like Hegel, Marx, Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin, are simply assumed as a given, with absolutely no critique allowed, and it should be noted that Hollywood presentations like 2001 were central in helping to solidify this mythology as an orthodox dogmatic given. As I’ve related many times, the masses get their worldview from movies and music, not books and bureaucrats, and nothing helps to solidify a paradigm in the minds of men than a big blockbuster sci-fi flick. And there is no question that 2001 unquestioningly and uncritically adopts the Darwinian mythos into its story narrative, but this is highly illustrative. As I have argued for many years and in many articles, what you see in 2001 and figures like Teilhard de Chardin is the propagandist indoctrination of perpetual flux, process philosophy. And on top of that process philosophy is a dash of alchemical and occult mystery wherein man will ultimately obtain apotheosis (which will be detailed below).
There are some problems, though with perpetual flux philosophies, the most notable of which is the fundamental contradiction of such systems of philosophy being entirely anti-systemic. In other words, to construct an abstract philosophical system composed of invariant conceptual entities (ideas), that one believes describes a world of perpetual flux, is a glaring contradiction. Indeed, we may simply ask why the supposed invariant logical concepts and ideas that make up the descriptive system are not subject to constant flux? If they are, the “process philosophy system” is immediately made nonsensical, and even if there were a justification for how this might be, the secondary problem is just as devastating – how do these abstracted concepts and ideas apply and “stick” to objects in the world that are perpetually in flux?
The dualism cannot be reconciled, and is made incoherent before it can even get off the ground as a viable system. I have highlighted this elsewhere as what I call the lack of a unifying, objective metaphysical principle and Dr. Philip Sherrard has critiqued this same notion in his essay on Teilhard. This is interesting, as the mistake many make is to place the film in a scientistic scheme of rationalistic, natural process, when as we will see, the presentation is far more occult, where it is the planetary gods who are leading man through his planetary ascent to apotheosis through technology.
This is not to say the film is transhumanism, per se, though that notion is lurking below the celluloid surface. As the monkey’s bone ascends into the air, Kubrick bypasses the totality of human history into the space age, where we see what he termed the “machine ballet” of floating space stations and ships docking onto great wheels that recall the Hindu “Wheel of Time” or Ezekiel’s “Living Wheel” Cherubim. The cyclical ballet will evoke Nietzsche and his “eternal return” as later in the film we will hear “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” the work in which he presents this doctrine. The doctrine of eternal return is the classical western perspective that history is cyclical and destined to repeat its events with fatalistic certainty.
Is Kubrick saying that man has already experienced all he has experienced on the karmic wheel of time, and the destiny of the gods mandates that this process will culminate in a transmigration of souls resulting in a star child that is now the god of its own kosmos, which is merely a projection of its psyche? I think this is a very possible reading of Starchild and the Genesis sequence at the close of the film, where the galaxies and God himself becomes, as I said, merely a deistic entity subject to the temporal alterations and flux the rest of the universe undergoes. While this is likely, I will also present another possible reading below.
Upon the station, we learn about the mysterious loss of communications through a nod to Cold War dialectics that Kubrick extends into the future. Curiously, the nation states are not eliminated, as the US and Russia still remain dominant players. This suggests Kubrick did not conceive of the future as one where international communism would succeed in eliminating nation states, yet the geopolitical chess game of nations has now extended into the galactic, as the US base at Clavius on the moon has gone dark. As a cover story, the US government has concocted the old favorite – a bio release pandemic, leading to “quarantine.” In actuality, the lunar explorers have uncovered the monolith, this time submerged intentionally for the precise time that man would advance in his technology to reach the moon and discover….
There rest of this lengthy analysis is now found in the Best Seller, Esoteric Hollywood.