The first shot of Eyes Wide Shut is Alice as the Virgin Behind All Veils--the Source of all lights.
An abrupt transition: Bill the Fool, wand and wallet in hand, now steps out and we begin the descent into the material world.
One of the principle archetypal messages of the Old World western tarot can be found in the tarot card The Fool. Typically, the card shows an individual soul, a “fool,” about to step off of a cliff into incarnation. As this old story from the Old Book is told, The Fool is stepping away from source (i.e., The Sun) and off the cliff into a physical body below. In this card, The Fool has a mission which is (depending upon your location in the hierarchies of this world) variously, to “learn,” to grow, to evolve, to strengthen, to soften, to attain salvation, to develop, to purify, to become enlightened, to become good, to clear karma, to prove worthiness in the eyes of god or authority, etc. You start off as the royal idiot, the untamed wild man, the insensate fool and only later, if you are lucky, if you pay your dues, if you pass “Judgement,” are you able to graduate and/or attain “salvation.”
The first encounter is with Victor Ziegler the Platonic Demiourgos in a party in which stars are the primary motif--souls descending from the Milky Way galaxy.
|The Milky Way|
|The Empire of Pluto|
Pythagoras thought that the empire of Pluto began downwards from the milky way, because souls falling from thence appear to have already receded from the Gods. Hence he asserts that the nutriment of milk is first offered to infants, because their first motion commences from the galaxy, when they begin to fall into terrene bodies. . . .
The soul, therefore, falling with this first weight from the zodiac and milky way into each of the subject spheres, is not only clothed with the accession of a luminous body, but produces the particular motions which it is to exercise in the respective orbs. . . . And this is the difference between terrene and supernal bodies (under the latter of which I comprehend the heavens, the stars, and the more elevated elements), that the latter are called upwards to be the seat of the soul, and merit immortality from the very nature of the region and an imitation of sublimity; but the soul is drawn down to these terrene bodies, and is on this account said to die when it is enclosed in this fallen region, and the seat of mortality.
Nor ought it to cause any disturbance that we have so often mentioned the death of the soul, which we have pronounced to be immortal. For the soul is not extinguished by its own proper death, but is only overwhelmed for a time. Nor does it lose the benefit of perpetuity by its temporal demersion. Since, when it deserves to be purified from the contagion of vice, through its entire refinement from body, it will be restored to the light of perennial life, and will return to its pristine integrity and perfection.
As soon, therefore, as the soul gravitates towards body in this nrst production of herself, she begins to experience a material tumult, that is, matter flowing into her essence. And this is what Plato remarks in the Phaedo, that the soul is drawn into body staggering with recent intoxication; signifying by this the new drink of matter's impetuous flood, through which the soul, becoming denied and heavy, is drawn into a terrene situation. . . . Hence oblivion, the companion of intoxication, there begins silently to creep into the recesses of the soul. For if souls retained in their descent to bodies the memory of divine concerns, of which they were conscious in the heavens, there would be no dissension among men about divinity. But all, indeed, in descending, drink of oblivion; though some more, and others less. On this account, though truth is not apparent to all men on the earth, yet all exercise their opinions about it; because a defect of memory is the origin of opinion. But those discover most who have drunk least of oblivion, because they easily remember what they had known before in the heavens. (Macrobius)
Bill's first encounter is with Nick Nightingale the Magician, who has already "dropped out" of the heavens. Just as the Magician always comes after the Fool, Bill will be following Nick's lead throughout the film.
Bill the Fool is as yet too ignorant to understand the intensity of this crisis; the prostitute has (he thinks) no connection to himself and thus is willing to lie to cover the nakedness of the Most High. Stanley Kubrick's bathroom is where girls go to die.
From their shared rings we are meant to further infer that Leelee Sobieski's "Lolita" character, Miss Milich ("milk"), is another double of Mandy.
2001 and A Clockwork Orange likewise depict the Light descending from Kether to the material world.
2001 would give a little insight into my metaphysical interests... I'd be very surprised if the universe wasn't full of an intelligence of an order that to us would seem God-like. I find it very exciting to have a semi-logical belief that there's a great deal to the universe we don't understand, and that there is an intelligence of an incredible magnitude outside the Earth. It's something I've become more and more interested in. I find it a very exciting and satisfying hope. (Stanley Kubrick)
|Every man and every woman is a star|
Behind every man alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth. Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man and woman who has ever lived, in this universe there shines a star. (2001: A Space Odyssey Original Cinema Program)
The question then arises, seeing that the soul's descent into matter is universally described as a "death" (thus the frequent cavalcade of Dead Girls in our modern media), as to why anyone would do it in the first place. This is given a possible answer by the films Nancy Drew and Mulholland Drive, showing that the gulf that exists between what has been deemed High and Low Art is wholly illusory. (You thought this was going to be an Eyes Wide Shut post, didn't you?)
Some see in Nancy's adventures a mythic quality. Nancy often explores secret passages, prompting Nancy Pickard to argue that Nancy Drew is a figure equivalent to the ancient Sumerian deity Inanna and that Nancy's "journeys into the 'underground'" are, in psychological terms, explorations of the unconscious. ("Nancy Drew")
The beginning of Nancy Drew shows her, as we saw with Alice in Eyes Wide Shut, in a beatified state--still dwelling within the mystic Church (the Pleroma, as it were) and depicted as the literal Virgin Mary. This scene, we will see, clearly does not take place in our world, but the spiritual world.
Immediately after the scene in the Church, we see Nancy, as the undefiled soul, fall off of the roof, in a scene obviously meant to parallel Vertigo. Alice down the rabbit hole.
|Something in the air (Kate Beaton)|
Nancy represents the Nefesh Elokit of the Kabbalists, who, being in a state of perfection, will voluntarily descend into the material world.
The . . . Nefesh Elokit [soul] . . . is described by Job as “a part of G-d,” and exists both before its descent into the body and after the ascent from the body. The Nefesh Elokit in itself is not in need of rectification; rather its descent into this world is to refine the base and the animalistic nature of this material world. (The Key to Kabbalah)
In other words, Nancy has chosen to enter into Matter and Death in order to fully participate in the Mystery. The original Murder must be rectified.
Now, in Mulholland Drive, we witness our wide-eyed protagonist Betty win a jitterbug contest in an unreal world of flashing lights and colors, before descending into the underworld of Hollywood, where she hopes to become a Star.
Most people forget about the opening of Mulholland Dr. because it does not seem to fit with the rest of the film. It elevates itself from the remaining soundtrack by assertively frisky dance music (Jitterbug). We watch dancing couples superimposed on a magenta, impermeable background. Some of the dancers become transparent and disappear. Out of a sudden, we see a bright silhouette that soon gets into focus: Betty wins her jitterbug contest in Deep River Ontario and emerges with the old couple at L.A. airport. . . .Conversant here with the idea of the world itself as "Hollywood" is the notion that souls are "cast" as dramatis personae to act upon the Mystery Play of existence. This supremely important point should be contemplated at length. And this spiritual world, too, exists in a time-warp, a perpetual 1950s where the horrors of the modern world have not intervened.
The jitterbug scene marks a stage before the protagonists step into the dream world of Hollywood. And most notably, this phase of pre-entering the story seems vague and unreal. The reason for this prestage to be placed ahead of the entire film is, that it is meant for all protagonists. I see those dancers as souls in the underworld [?]. The latter is kept in magenta, somewhat similar to the blue box that forms its entrance. Before entering a body, those souls do not have a concept of life. They dance away without rhyme or reason. When a role needs to be cast, they get picked up by soul guides in shape of two elderly. This time it is Diane to be called into living, but it could also have been Betty or anyone else standing in line.
The idea of reincarnation, and that is what it is probably called, is based on the assumption, that no soul emerges and no soul is going to waste. Even if you do not subscribe to this, admittedly, daring interpretation of the opening scene, to my mind it is rather obvious, that there is only a limited number of 'dramatic persona' allowed to act on the story's surface. (Frank Wittchow)
The risk is in forgetting one's identity and purpose after moving "to California." Nancy Drew has been warned that she will get "amnesia" when she enters Hollywood; the soul will forget her first estate and wander in the darkness.
Before its descent to the world the Nefesh Elokit is taken on a heavenly tour. . . . It is made clear to the soul that it is embarking on a perilous journey full of distractions and enticement. The soul is made to take an oath that she will remain righteous, and even if persuaded by those around her that she is perfect, she should always deem herself in need of improvement. The soul is provided with all the spiritual sustenance that it will require on its journey and is satiated with enough spiritual energy required to transform the Nefesh HaBehamit [the unredeemed Animal Soul] and its portion in the world. (The Key to Kabbalah)
In Mulholland Drive, immediately after the jitterbug scene we see a pillow: Betty "falls asleep" as she enters the underworld of material life.
Plato represents the lower or inferior part of man’s nature as dragging the soul down to the earth, and subjecting it to the slavery of corporeal conditions. Out of these conditions there arise numerous evils, that disorder the mind and becloud the reason, for evil is inherent to the condition of finite and multiform being into which we have “fallen by our own fault.” The present earthly life is a fall and a punishment. The soul is now dwelling in “the grave which we call the body.” In its incorporate state, and previous to the discipline of education, the rational element is “asleep.” “Life is more of a dream than a reality.” Men are utterly the slaves of sense, the sport of phantoms and illusions. We now resemble those “captives chained in a subterraneous cave,” so poetically described in the seventh book of The Republic; their backs are turned to the light, and consequently they see but the shadows of the objects which pass behind them, and “they attribute to these shadows a perfect reality.” Their sojourn upon earth is thus a dark imprisonment in the body, a dreamy exile from their proper home. (Cocker's Greek Philosophy)The consistent theme of Eyes Wide Shut is the need for Bill Harford to awake from his sleep. Plato's Cave is the movie theater; the play of light and shadow that constitutes existence is the greatest (and worst) motion picture show of them all--the Videodrome.
This Kabbalistic understanding, while at the heart of the Mystery of both Nancy Drew and Mulholland Drive, may be overly charitable; for if we refer to Emma Roberts' other film, It's Kind of a Funny Story, we see that she plays a suicidal girl in a mental ward. (The descent into darkness being seen as a "death" for the soul--a form of suicide, if voluntary.)
In Videodrome, the masochistic Nicki Brand (Blondie's Debbie Harry) is a latecomer to the world; she thought it would be fun to get tortured in Videodrome for a few cycles, just for kicks--but TV isn't girl-friendly.
|Entering the Wheel ("you're waiting for a train . . .")|
Now that Nancy Drew and Betty have "fallen," THE NEXT STOP IS HOLLYWOOD because THERE ARE MYSTERIES TO SOLVE.
|Check-in at the Bates Motel|
|(The house in question being the dark tenement of the body)|
The Mulholland Drive parallels with Nancy Drew continue. Betty encounters her darker half when she enters the bathroom; Nancy and her father encounter the ghostly apparition of Dehlia Draycott (a thinly-veiled Natalie Wood). In both cases, the woman in question is played by Laura Elena Harring. To understand how Harring can be dead in one film and not dead in another, it is necessary to go back to the beginning of Mulholland Drive.
The first shots in Mulholland Drive are of a car crash--the lightning flash of spirit and matter . . . followed by a shot of two cops representing the Twin Towers. Laura Harring stumbles from the wreckage. It is here seen that her character represents the Original Death when Sophia fell from the Pleroma.
As the Soul of the World, the dark-haired girl is a survivor; she's been knocked around for untold aeons. But she has suffered an identity crisis.
Betty, it is seen, has drunk more of Oblivion than Nancy, and still operates under the illusion that her Aunt Ruth is alive. Nor was she aware that she would be forced to confront the crisis in the World Soul.
Nancy has no such illusions; she has full knowledge that her Mother is the totality of the Mystery.
Nancy is from River Heights. Betty is from Deep River. This is probably the most unlikely coincidence of them all and why I have to write this down to keep from going insane. The Milky Way was referred to as a "river" in the heavens by the ancients, showing that both Nancy and Betty have their origins in the stars.
River Heights is not "the world" but distinct from it . . .
While other students build birdhouses, Nancy builds a Church. The Nefesh Elokit is an overachiever in all things.
The Nefesh Elokit also has its own infrastructure of pleasure, will, intellect, and emotions, but they are focused on the Divine rather than on the self. When a person is born, the Nefesh Elokit is juxtaposed with the Nefesh HaBehamit and they both operate and express themselves within the thinking mind. The two souls live locked together for their lifespan, both trying to gain control of the thinking mind.
|Matter, Spirit, and Soul|
[T]he Nefesh HaBehamit . . . animates the body. This soul is complete with an infrastructure of soul powers ranging from pleasure and will to intellect and emotions. Common to all the soul powers of the Nefesh HaBehamit is that they all wish to fulfill the base needs, passions, and desires of the body. Essentially the Nefesh HaBehamit is self-centered. (The Key to Kabbalah)
This Nefesh HaBehamit has a younger brother, toad-like in appearance, who represents the alchemical prima materia that Nancy will need to refine and transform.
Nancy's Father (giving this story a slight Gnostic twist) actually forbids her to solve any Mysteries (exit the Garden), but the Call to Adventure proves to be too much for her to resist.
Nancy is forced to become a participant in the Mystery Play, and (as with Cliff breaking through the wall of the movie) asks the Question during the Grail procession.
It follows, however this may be, that there is a heavy cloud on the Sanctuary, and if the symbolism belongs simply to the official Church, it has the Words of Life, but is still, after some manner, inhibited; it must be challenged before it can speak and it must communicate before it can be healed. The Quests are so far external that they involve transit from place to place, as a pageant passes through a temple; but the question is an intellectual research. (Arthur Waite)Nancy has seen through the artifice of the Hierophant. It is always pre-1962 in Hollywood, where the Death has been forgotten.
Like Parsifal being informed of his heritage to the throne of the Grail King, Nancy is offered the possibility of directing--the man in charge is an "idiot."
In Mulholland Drive we have another parallel scene. Here the director is actually named Adam, communicating the essential fact that he represents the Old Man--but he is not fully in control of his own production--the shadowy and impersonal forces of Fate operate behind the scenes. Adam, too, is directing a movie set circa 1961.
Directly prior to this, we were treated to one of the most memorable scenes of the film. The male actor in Betty's audition is clearly meant to resemble Charlton Heston--Moses in The Ten Commandments. This is the key to the scene: "Chuck" is Moses and Betty is the Shekinah, leading him to Mt. Sinai (the Dark Tower of Shutter Island) where her Father Jehovah will kill them both. Identical scenes take place in Eyes Wide Shut and Shutter Island, right down to the 'masquerade' aspect of the performance.
|Entering Room 237|
|Vertigo, or: Mission: Dolores|
|Calling your Self|
"[T]he character of Betty Elms is clearly inspired by many of Hitchcock's noir heroines. She even wears a dress suit that looks exactly like the one worn by Kim Novak in Vertigo."
|The Golden Girl in the Dark Tower|
(Adam the Director lives in Room 16, the Tower . . .)
(. . . But Self is in Room 17)
In Mulholland Drive, our Betty and Veronica duo travels from Room #12 (the Hanged Man) to Room #17 (the Star) in search of Self. But to do so they must encounter the Tower, and what they find there is the full comprehension of the original Murder. It is Betty herself who lies dead in the bed.
This is the Shutter Island paradox.
And in Eyes Wide Shut, Bill witnesses the Mysterious Woman (Mandy, whom we saw at Ziegler's party) perform the primordial sacrifice and give her life for Dr. Bill. (But this, too, is artifice.)
|"Father, take this cup from me . . ."|
|Betty and Veronica|
|Encountering the Sun of Tiphareth|
The Qabalistic teaching is that Malkuth—The Kingdom—The Animal Soul—THE FALLEN DAUGHTER must be RAISED through the Office of the SON—Tiphereth —The Sun—Harmony and Beauty, to the Throne of the MOTHER—Binah—Understanding . . . This is the Mystery of Redemption and of the Great Work, the Uniting of the Microcosm and the Macrocosm—Man with God. (Frater Achad)
|Turning Veronica into Betty|
And here, again, Betty endeavors to transform the Fallen Daughter, and they enter into an overtly literal sort of coniunctio.
|Nancy rides with Death|
Just as Betty turns up dead in the symbolic Tower, Nancy also suffers grievous damage.
|Bye bye, Miss American Pie?|
In order to penetrate the Mystery, Nancy must watch all of Laura Harring's movies. This seems to be something of a meta-comment on synchromysticism.
Anyways THE WHOLE POINT OF THE MYSTERY is that just as Betty is searching for Laura Harring's identity, Nancy Drew must find her TRUE WILL. Literally, a last will and testament that will override the "false" will that is enforced by her lawyer (this is also the plot of Inception). The Will is in a specifically Chinese box, showing that she will need to unite Heaven with Earth (Assiah = Asia) in order to discover it.
She—the Animal Soul of the World—while directed by the lower will or intellect—has within her not alone the possibilities of redemption, but of taking her rightful place upon the Throne of the Mother if brought to Understanding the Higher Will . . . (Frater Achad)
And in Mulholland Drive? The Will is also in a box.
To discover the True Will, Nancy has--how else?--to "make the dragon bow" and harness the powers of the Kundalini.
(Voices of the dead)
In Mulholland Drive the fundamental truth learned in Club Silencio is that the reality they thought to be real was not so at all. The girl has collapsed, but her recording goes on playing. Fittingly, in Nancy Drew, Nancy must escape from a Theater in which she has been imprisoned--breaking free from Plato's Cave.
After the coniunctio, Betty awakes from a life lived asleep, and is given a new name--Diane Selwyn, a Diana of the (Holly) Wood. But Laura Harring has now become one with the Empire Blonde. Diane wants to be the star of our Mystery Play, but someone else is calling the shots with Herr Direktor (the King of Holly Wood) instead . . .
On the other hand if under the influence of the lower will she is allowed to seduce man from his aspiration, do that he fails to discover his True Will (which is one with Destiny and the Will of God and which alone can direct him in his proper course) she ruins him and at the same time loses her own chance of redemption. He is then doomed to wander in paths of illusion having no comprehension of the true Purpose of his Being or hers. (Frater Achad)
The fate of Laura Harring in Mulhollad Drive shows the Animal Soul of the World when it still operates under the influence of the lower will (Adam as the Demiurgic Ego)--Diane, her own redemption now at stake (it is ultimately her versus a fallen world), is thus forced to put out a hit on her. The mysterious hitman is Christ himself.
|A Middle Pillar|
Nancy Drew, meanwhile, fully penetrates the Mystery and restores the True Will to the Daughter, overthrowing the Father of the Law and wrapping up everything in a neat little package.
|"This is the girl."|
Because you do not fuck with Nancy Drew.
Mulholland Drive fittingly ends with Betty--having accomplished the great sacrifice--being assumed, along with her Veronica, into heaven. The rest is Silence.