Arrival (2016) – The Film’s Secret Meaning Explained

By: Jay Dyer

Words, or logoi, form the basis of all reality.  I have written many times and even lectured on the doctrine of St. Maximos the Confessor concerning the archetypal patterns or logoi that form the divine ideas that undergird all reality.  All these logoi are one in the Logos, and ultimately give all distinct objects their meaning and unity.   The logoi become a unifying, objective metaphysical principle in the divine Person of the Logos.  This is why Genesis 1 describes God speaking and creating through His Logos.   What is interesting about the recent philosophically-focused science fiction film Arrival is that, while scratching and floundering around in the dark, it hits upon this issue – and predictably provides an incoherent, inconsistent solution, as we will see.

Arrival is a film about language and meaning, and ultimately about the Tower of Babel, with the author of the film’s story also penning “Tower of Babel.”  In modern philosophy, the dismissal of metaphysics was replaced with linguistic philosophy, where endless questions and disputes about how words can “mean,” when words are socially constructed symbols becomes a loop of circular contradictions, much like the alien language in the film.  I have written about linguistic philosophy and questions in the past, but I think the point was missed by most readers.  My point was to offer a version of the transcendental argument based on language:

“What I think follows from this [basic sentence structure] is that we see an interpersonal interaction occur with a narrative structure even in the most trivial and localized events of human experience. So what can be fleshed out from this is that numerous things must be the case for this event to occur, which everyone (even a solipsist pretender) admits occurs. There is a beginning, with the event of the concept being expressed by the communicant to the one or more receivers. There is the actual event of communication transpiring and being received and processed by the receiver(s). Then we have the contingent period of response and further communication for however long. Then, the communication act ends. So we see the narrative structure present.

Also, we can flesh out other transcendentally necessary preconditions for this interaction to occur that are crucial to the overall argument for God. We can make a list:

1. That the subjects in question are separate entities and monism isn’t true.

2. That subjects experience phenomena of the external world.

3. That the subjects are distinct selves or persons that exhibit identity over time.

4. That the subjects themselves have a certain historical narrative – metanarrative – that “explains” or gives their being meaning, as well (this is my overall argument).

5. That the given subjects experience the phenomena in a kind of time-bound sequence.

6. That the subjects can internalize meaning from abstract concepts that pass from one brain to the other.

7. That the concepts in question have some kind of universal ontological reality apart from the interaction wherein they are..participated(?) or incarnated (?)

8. That the meaning of the concepts internalized by the communicants inheres over time.

9. That the beginning –> middle –> end narrative structure, connected to the beginning –> middle –> end time structure, also subsists and recurs over time.”

In Arrival, mankind is one the brink of destruction due to the divisions caused by language – and by extension, race, gender, nation and culture.  Linguist Luise Banks (Amy Adams) is a strong, independent gal who, having done translations for military intelligence, is recruited to decipher the sound and speech of an alien squid race that have “arrived.”  Mistaking the alien coffee stain language for a giant middle finger “fuck you,”  earth goes into a hissy fit, with Russia and China threatening to launch an attack on the hovering Childhood’s End-eque crafts.  Much like The Day the Earth Stood Still, the alien race attempts to display to mankind they are their own worse enemy, not some outside force from the beyond.

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If you like this analysis, you can purchase my book full of similar articles by clicking the image.

The chief source of division, in the metaphysical, physical and cultural senses, begins with language.  Language is the embodiment of a people’s way of life and thinking in symbolic forms.  These symbolic forms, while having a degree of malleability, are not mere token sounds and forms as the nominalists have long said, but refer to real concepts and ideas – to spirit.   Given the film’s modernist presuppositions, we can thus see how it functions as globalist propaganda, as globalism’s presupposition is its war on all distinctions.

EU Tower of Babel poster.

EU Tower of Babel poster.

In the globalist-nominalist war on reality, all meaning, all concepts and all differences are themselves the source of evil.  Evil, for the long trek of dialecticians, is given form and substance in the existence of distinctions.  Since this philosophical error dates back to at least Plato, Egypt or ultimately Babel, the biblical account is here relevant.  At Babel, God separated the nations through language because the attempt of idolatrous mankind was to rebel against heaven by creating a world government.  The Nimrod State was one in which attempted to obliterate all distinction.  Since man and woman are different in biology and thought patterns, the source of all problems must be their difference – a mantra we see promoted ad nauseam in today’s globe-feminism.  Gender, it is concluded, must also be a social construct.  The same arguments are made for races, or ethnoi – the source of mankind’s ills must be we merely perceive blacks and whites to be different.

In Arrival, this is made evident with the film’s portrayal of the Eurasian nations irrational and reactionary hatred of the aliens because they are different and misunderstood.   Likewise, the Eurasian rejection of the aliens sparks a reaction against the West, and communications are cut off.   Enter Amy Adams as the new incarnation of the goddess, the gnostic pistis sophia who mystically overcomes time-bound relations to see within the alien language the transcendence of time.  Surprisingly, her book is even titled the same as Leibniz’s famous Characteristica Universallis, where Leibniz proposed the creation of a logical language that could be universal.  Leibniz’s language, which would be formative in the development of computers, is based on a Platonic metaphysic –  Amy Adams’ mystical experience of seeing linguistic references beyond their temporal and spatial settings is also Leibnizian, yet attempts to solve the question of time through dialectics.

In other words, when language is viewed as a limiting factor (and it is), the assumption is that it is limited because it is a temporal phenomenon that is applied to something distinct from something else.   The author’s Asian pedigree is evident here, insofar as the Far East has always sought to overcome dialectics of this nature through the destruction and dissolution of distinctions, because distinction is presumed to imply division – when it does not.  In Orthodox Theology, the one and the many are not in tension.  There is no metaphysical primacy to the one, over against the many, or vice versa.  This is because, as many Orthodox theologians explain, there is no ultimacy in God of the One over against the Persons, nor are the many logoi lesser because they are one in the Logos.  Since ultimate reality in most Far Eastern philosophies is impersonal and wholly other, there is no reason for being itself.  In fact, our world must of necessity be some mirage or illusory manifestation of some false reality or dream state.

Ikons retain the historic features of their subjects.

Ikons retain the historic features of their subjects.

The attempt to blend all of reality into a nonexistent dream state or maya is the ultimate attack on the goodness of God’s creation, that the world of time, of matter, of differences and distinctions, is not healed or saved through the dissolution of all individual persons or identities.  In Orthodox icons, the historic experiences – even to the point of race, gender, and idiosyncrasies  – are preserved in the holy art.  Jesus is never portrayed as black or Asian because he wasn’t black or Asian – he was a Hebrew man, and his glorified body retains those characteristics – even to the point of retaining the wounds on His side.

Orthodox Icons are a kind of language, a window into heaven and the heavenly realities and show man his words and concepts are not so divorced from spirit and the divine as to be meaningless.   For the film Arrival, words and meanings for humans are themselves evils in some sense, because they are mirror reflections of the differences of races, cultures and genders – and as a rabid piece of globalist propaganda, they must be obliterated.   That is the message of the film.  However, just like at Babel, all of mankind’s attempts to build a world government on these monist assumptions will be frustrated precisely because they are alien to man.  The source of wars, enmity, hatred and evil is not difference and distinction, it is the choosing against the good, against God’s Law.  Language itself is a transcendental, an indirect argument and proof for both God and the spiritual realm.

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19 Comments on Arrival (2016) – The Film’s Secret Meaning Explained

  1. It’s a common and crafty gambit on Gnosticism’s part to rig the conversation from the get-go, and it says a lot that it has in many, many cases fastened onto our linguistic defaults. To speak of language as a ‘limiting’ factor implies that, without language, we otherwise linguistic beings could/would be limitless, whatever that might mean. (Capable of doing/being anything, Nirvana-Brahman ‘pawn crossing to the end of the chessboard and becoming a board-surfing queen’ style?)

    In reality, however, language is an enabling factor, and without it, we could/would do nothing. Same for the body: conceiving of it as a cage or limit ignores the fact that the Gnostic’s body is what enables him/her to view it as a cage or limit. So, the issue isn’t language and embodiment; it’s the decay, pain, and death plaguing them that artificially hold them back from their true essential-energetic ‘limits.’

  2. It’s interesting that in the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet Edward Morbius is phonologist a student of languages. Arrival seems to harken back to this along with the original Day The Earth Stood Still at least in that film it’s the West that the trigger happy idiots more truer to reality.

  3. “The attempt to blend all of reality into a nonexistent dream state or maya is the ultimate attack on the goodness of God’s creation, that the world of time, of matter, of differences and distinctions, is not healed or saved through the dissolution of all individual persons or identities. ”

    Break out the Dramamine Drip, as Van Schithead recounts his experiences with Post-VR-Depression-Syndrome:

    View story at Medium.com

    The bitter irony is said author incapable of recognizing the fact that he’s already living in the virtual reality of modernity.

  4. Jay,

    Have you looked at the work of Bernardo Kastrup?
    I’d recommend checking him out.

  5. Jay, I have not seen the film yet. I did read the short story on which it is ostensibly based some time ago. As I recall, the story had far more to do with time, and how the aliens language permitted them to see non-linearly in time. This is hinted at by their physical description – cylindrical creatures with eyes in all directions. Did you read it and if so does it make any difference to your analysis of the film?

    This is solely from memory, but in the written story the linguist’s perception of time is forever (whatever that means) altered by her learning the aliens’ written language – the tangential story, where she comments on her daughter’s entire life, is written while her daughter is in utero. By learning the alien language, the linguist was able to see time non-linearly. As far as I recall, the short story had very little to do with globalism, etc … It had everything to do with time.

  6. I understand that, but let’s say I was reviewing the film The Magus. I would probably discuss the book on which it was based.

    In any event, I encourage you and everyone else to read the short story underlying the film Arrival. It’s online for free I believe.

    • The point is that the film is about globalism. I’m glad the story is about time. It’s not humanly possible to read every book a film is based on – and I do discuss the magus novel in my book btw.

      • I just, unfortunately, watched this Chinese “Globalist” propaganda film tonight. It was a shameless allegory of how pitiful mankind is, in reaction to cataclysmic events that are out of our control. Global Warming Anyone? At present, according to the film, we are Idiot Nationalist Humans, ultimately helpless, even when working together as league of nations.
        However, perhaps, the only enlightened White American Woman in the world and of course the Chinese President, representing the collective wisdom of the entire Chinese Government, can prevent World War 4.

        Brilliant Propaganda, slow clap.

        The real problem for the film, besides the globalist narrative… I cared not, for the characters and their reasons for living. On a scale of 1-10, I cared ZERO.

        Welcome to the future of Hollywood’s Major Film Studios being owned or influenced by Chinese Apparatchiks.
        Creativity and Soul, Good Luck.

  7. I always notice that these movies always prop up the mainstream media. Of course, you can count on the mainstream television news to keep you informed. At least they had a Rush Limbaugh type guy on for a minute, but I was hoping somebody would listen to the Hoax Busters Call in the movie. “You really think that the 1500 foot egg in the middle of Montana is real? Gimme a break! That’s freakin’ CGI”

    Also, it’s a given that you gotta get pumped full of vaccines to deal with an alien. You just know that those things from outer space probably have the measles.

  8. The heroine’s decision to have a child whose unpleasant fate she knows is also an adoption of Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence and amor fati themes. Personally, I felt the film was a poor rip-off of much of ‘Interstellar’.

  9. God, Denis Villeneuve has really sold out. His French language films from Québec are pretty good too.

  10. Ironic, the “modern” woman would have simply aborted. But not our hero.

  11. Really interesting approach, most things mentioned I haven’t put together the way you did. What about numerology, the 12 spacecrafts which to me relate with the way 12 sperms align during fecundation in order for a 13th to come forth and seed the ovule. That related to the title of the movie: “the arrival”, but the arrival of who really? And the way these aliens act from the shadows to manipulate Louise (a medium) into putting together the pieces to bring forth this 13th element, timelessness. A deconstruction of our understanding of being.

  12. Thanks for your analysis Jay. My roommate kept telling me to watch this (since I have a reputation for things ET) and after much hassle, I finally did see it, to my great disappointment. What I found interesting is that there is usually two camps: The Interstellar folks (myself included) and the Arrival. And the two don’t mix well.
    All beliefs aside, what was more disappointing to me was, after all the build-up of expectations (war?Co-existence?) the movie literally ends with a fuck-you-love-story ending. I felt betrayed, and further, wondered whether the message here, don’t even bother with aliens, just keep calm and make babies here on earth. I dunno, but I found it very patronizing and discouraging of any attempt to harmonize with ETs.
    Of course I do factor-in the possibility that malevolent ETs may visit us with intention to harm (and I would argue we already are in that situation) but this is just blatant propaganda. Anyways, I came here from the THC episode you just did. Great show, thanks for your insights!

    • Komal kamthe // March 2, 2017 at 2:52 am // Reply

      Yes you walked into the wrong movie it wasnt a pure science fiction, but philosophical,the concept of aliens was just a cover to explore the language philosophy, the very importance of communication, also the movie doesnt end at lets make babies, like the alien logograms which starts from both the ends and completes its sentence in the middle so is the story, the baby girl is the future, the storys starts with beginning and the end and progresses towards the center.

  13. I was wondering if you would consider putting some of your ideas together, and maybe include some of today and yesterday’s more intriguing movies…sort of a mash up dealy bobber, and write a book? I’m an idea man so don’t get overwhelmed at my ‘out of the sock’ thinking. I see myself as a Barney Fife type of figure. You know, laid back, smart, ready to nip things in the bud; with need for only the one bullet in my shirt pocket. I hope you consider my novel book idea. Analysis is a humorous last name…just thinking again. 🆗

  14. So then, the Globalist agenda is to transform the entire world into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)?

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