The Fountain is one of Hollywood’s more difficult esoteric films: The failure of the film to achieve at the box office can be chalked up to this heavily mystifying plot and symbolism. To decode the film requires some familiarity wth cabalism, alchemy, Mayan mythology, Genesis and creation and Zen philosophy. Combining all these motifs in a menagerie of metaphysical midrash, as with most Darren Aronofsky films like Noah or Black Swan, the key is found in the speculation of the cabala.
The film opens with Genesis 3:24, that man was banished from Eden by a Cherub with a flaming sword, sending the fallen couple East of Eden. As a result, death and corruption entered, not just the human race, but the entire created order became subject to corruption, decay and death (Romans 8). In our film, the narrative takes place in three time periods, each some 500 years apart, with the oldest being Hugh Jackman as Tomas Verde, a Conquistador in love with Queen Isobella of Spain (Rachel Weisz), imprisoned within her own palace at the behest of a Spanish Inquisition in league with Rome and hell-bent on seizing power from the cabalistically-influenced Queen.
Isobella is regaled in tree-like dress, encased in her throne room behind a tree-like fence, hinting ahead of time she is mystically linked to the Tree of Life (understood here in the cabalistic sense as the metaphysical structure of creation). Tomas, commissioned by Isabella and a Franciscan, is told to seek the source of immortality within the Mayan Legends that also foretell the story of the Tree, which Isobella understands must be united with the power of the Tree of Knowledge. These two trees will make up one of the important themes in the film – the unification of logical, analytical and left-brain masculine reasoning with intuitive, emotional, right-brained feminine approaches. This is why modern-day Tom (Jackman) finds himself consumed with a different quest to save the life of Izzy (Weisz) from cancer. As a cutting-edge neuroscientist, Tom is on the verge of curing cancer by synthesizing an extract from a tree in Guatemala – the same tree mystically linked to Izzy and the Tree of Life.Under the veils of Roman Catholicism and Mayan religion, the esoteric philosophy of the film slowly emerges: the ancient Mayan priest’s flaming sword that beheads Tomas is a re-enactment of the ancient Edenic tale of Adam and Eve’s banishments. Now, the secrets to both immortality and life are under the guardianship of a pagan priesthood of death. The religion of human sacrifice and cannibalism, which is likely why the images of hair and flesh appear in reliquaries. In other words, Roman Catholicism is interpreted to be a cover for the perennial philosophy of cabalism, now veiled by the symbols of various religions and cultures. The dark secret, however, is buried within the darkest path of black magic and sorcery, including the “enlightenment” purported to come from the astral realm of “Shibalba,” the Mayan Underworld. Tom is also seen 500 or so years in the future traversing the galaxy in an enclosed bubble craft that also contains the tree where Izzy was buried (that mystically links with both Izzy and the Tree of Life) in order to deliver this tree to Shibalba, which we learn is a dying star. The Mayan religion was an astrotheology which linked the stellar heavens with various regions and locales on earth. In fact, the actual entrance to the Mayan Underworld was actually discovered to be the source of a vast system of underwater lakes and streams, called “Shibalba” by the Mayans. The Guardian explains:
“The director of archaeology for the National Institute of Anthropology and History, Pedro Sanchez Nava, said the theory makes sense in light of other pre-Hispanic peoples such as those who lived at Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, where another water tunnel was found.
“In both cases there was a water current present,” said Sanchez Nava. “There is this allegorical meaning for water … where the cycle of life begins and ends.” The dig began in 2012, when researchers become concerned about underground anomalies detected with geo-radar under the area in front of the pyramid’s steps.”
The deliverance of the tree to the dying star will presumably bring life to the dying system, as Tom’s synthesizing of the tree extract will save Izzy and as Tomas’ reaching the tree of life atop the Mayan Temple. In each era, Tom’s selfish choice based on attachment and prolonging life results in the cycle starting all over again (presumably). This is why the film consistently shows circular and cyclical imagery, until the climax.It is only at the end of the age, when Space Tom finally decides to embrace death, recalling the words of Isabella that death is the path to immortality and eternal life. Here, as with the astrotheology and reincarnation, the film links to Platonism (and cabalism), in presenting Tom’s “enlightenment” as flashes of memory of his past lives. Recalling Isobella’s words of acceptance of death, the Tom of each age determines to choose differently, accepting death. As a result, each Tom reaches the Tree, and understands the mystery, eventually transforming into a new, “spiritual” Adam (and Izzy, a new Eve). Reunion with Izzy, however, can only be achieved in the final stage, when Space Tom can actually travel to the astral Shibalba, and offer both himself and the tree in death, with love overcoming death. Zen ideas are obviously present, such as detachment from life and possessions, while Tom’s full enlightenment is revealed to be apotheosis – by reaching the star gate to the Underworld, Tom becomes “First Father,” and recreates a world in his image from a point of light. A new world is born, as Tom achieves a mystical marital union as Father with Sophia, his feminine principle. Thus, a Zohar-style cabalistic narrative is the key to decoding the entire film, with an alchemical wedding of masculine and feminine principles, of inner and outer worlds, and reason and intuition, of myth and scientific fact. Mystically, it is the Americas that are the source of the secrets of immortality, which come through scientific gnosis and the eventual overcoming of the limitations of time and space (much like Starchild in 2001: A Space Odyssey). In fact, the choice of Spain was consciously done, as 13th century Spain is the origin of the cabalistic works known as the Zohar, which specifically treat of this gnostic doctrine of divine union, where the male and female archetypes of “god” are fragmented and need to be re-unified. Professor Israel Shahak in his Jewish History, Jewish Religion writes:
“From the First Cause, a first male god called ‘Wisdom’ or ‘Father’ and then a female goddess called ‘Knowledge’ or ‘Mother’ wee emanated or born. From the marriage of these two, a pair of younger gods were born: Son, also called by many other names such as “Small Face,” or the “Holy Blessed One,’ and Daughter, also called ‘Lady,’ ‘Shekinah,’ ‘Queen,’ etc. “
Shahak goes on to explain various secret sexual rites that would go on to influence various occult orders, including the perversions of Crowley and Kenneth Grant in the notion of the Nightside of Eden. For The Fountain, Tom must eventually write the “Divine Words” that complete Izzy’s story which is actually her past life as Queen Isobella. Man becomes the new creator, and Thomas becomes God the Father. Like the Renaissance cabalists and Neoplatonic magicians, all the way back to Egypt, the doctrine of pantheism and reincarnation (aspects of cabala) are found to be the hidden meaning of the pseudo-biblical traditions and teachings. Man’s apotheosis is the Gnostic secret doctrine, and man his own God and Savior. The key to this mystery is revealed to be sexual magic and transhumanism, all of which have their modern origins in medieval cabalistic doctrines of scientism and the transfiguration of “dead matter.”While the Fountain is a fascinating presentation of symbolism and imagery unheard of in most films, the unfortunate doctrine is essentially Luciferian. The enlightenment offered is that of salvation through the scientific attainment of immortality through scientism and occult mythology, combined with the left-handed path association of taking on all possible evils and defilements. As a result of this occult version of dark theosis, one comes to the Abyss of the galaxy (as Tom does) and if successful in crossing and not going mad, one returns divinized. Just as the Serpent promised in the Garden, if man would partake of the Tree of Knowledge, he would attain godhood, apart from God. Instead this brought death, but in the film, death is presented as merely a stage in occult initiation, indeed as the very embodiment of the alchemical philosopher stone project (hence the golden imagery at the close of the film). Isn’t it odd that the occult realm will posit all manner of esoteric possibilities about Genesis and Eden, God and even the possibility of Man incarnating God through sorcery, but never the actual presentation of Genesis or the Incarnation of God as Man. It’s almost as if there is a plan to mock the biblical message as ridiculous, yet at the same time take a philosophy far more outrageous and inane and prop it up as the highest enlightenment.
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