Monday, May 5, 2014

The Illuminati, Before They Were Famous - Part 1

Incorporating occult symbolism into popular culture has become more than a cliché these days, and consequently no longer holds the same sense of mystery as it once did. There is of course still an ongoing "debate" about why these symbols have become so common, but there is no doubt that a lot (or most) of it is simply thrown out there to provoke and create publicity. On the other hand, there are of course countless examples of celebrities being open, and apparently sincere, about holding various "alternative" beliefs that would explain this heavy usage.

Of all the occult symbols that have appeared in movies and music videos during the last couple of years, the "All-Seeing Eye" (The Eye of Providence/Eye of Horus/Eye of <insert here>) has been the most popular and widespread. There are so many variations and interpretations of what this eye represents, and how exactly it connects with anything we can remotely call The Illuminati, that I can't go into it here. Discussing The Illuminati, either as a real organization or more as a concept, is in itself a challenge that I don't feel up to at the moment. But it's important to note that until recently, it was very much an American phenomenon, specificallly connected with the religious culture of the USA.

All this changed in the wake of 9-11, particularly after the launching of YouTube and other large streaming services. During this period, hundreds of old and new conspiracy themed videos became readily available to millions of viewers across the world, where before they were underground and shared among small communities of users. 

The obnoxious semi-reflexive, tongue-in-cheek approach to using occult imagery, was epitomized by movies such as last year's Now You See Me, which uses eye symbols to such a degree that its not even funny anymore. As a result, analyzing the why's and who's in relation to movies that incorporate "Illuminati symbolism" these days, is not particularly interesting. But only a few decades ago, symbols such as the All-Seeing Eye were still relatively obscure, not appearing in movies except on rare occasions. Or...  

Has it always been there, watching us?

One can in fact find many examples of eye symbolism in many different movies throughout the 20th century. Some of these are fairly well known and obvious, but i will try to present a few here that haven't been re-posted to death already. Whether all of them have their basis in deliberate, conspiracy-oriented ideas, is uncertain. But considering the themes of the movies they tend to show up in, it's hard to believe that there wasn't some element of esoteric awareness behind their use. Was someone putting the imagery out there to mess with our minds? To condition us for something in the future? Or was it more of an inside joke, even back then?

Years before The Matrix, Dark City and other, less succesful gnostic-themed "simulation" movies, there was Rainer Werner Fassbender's German sci-fi tv-drama Welt Am Draht (The World On A Wire), based on the novel Simulacron-3 by Daniel Galouye (which also influenced the 1999 movie The Thirteenth Floor). The story in Welt Am Draht revolves around a government institute of computer research and future studies, which has developed a virtual world similar in almost every aspect to the "real" world. When a series of people start to mysteriously disappear – not only physically, but literally with their histories getting erased from official records and memories – from the "real" world, the protagonist starts to suspect that he is already living in a simulation.

Below is a clip from the opening scene of Welt Am Draht, where we are shown the entrance to the IKZ (Institut für Kybernetik und Zukunftsforschung) as well as the main protagonist, arriving by car:

In this scene we are also presented with a long shot of the image of an eye inside a triangle, on a flag blowing in the wind. One would assume that it is the IKZ logo, but as far as i have noticed this is actually the only time that it appears in the movie. In any case, it seems quite clear that it was intended to be interpreted as something ominous. It is also obvious that, especially The Matrix, got a lot of inspiration from Welt Am Draht (although Grant Morrison has claimed a large a stake in influencing it too), not just regarding the plot, but also the whole presence of "Men In Black" (a few of these can be seen at the end of the above clip). These figures play a large role as "reality enforcers" throughout the movie, just like Agent Smith & co. in the Matrix Trilogy. Another constant element in Welt Am Draht is the constant use of women and sex as distractions.

The next example comes from one of the lesser-known post-nuclear scenario movies of the 1980's, Testament (1983). In it we follow a suburban California family during the aftermath of a nuclear attack on San Francisco (and other American cities), as their once harmonic neighborhood starts to detoriorate. One by one, citizens die from radioactive fallout, while the social order falls apart even faster. The first scene where we see the authorities involved in establishing control of the situation, a group of people are standing outside a public rationing area:

The symbol somewhat less prominent here, and it has been pointed out to me that what we in fact are seeing, is a variation of the American Civil Defense logo. This makes a lot of sense, even if the letters are joined almost beyond recognition, considering who has been put in control of the situation. I personally still get associations to an eye seeing this sign, and I think that the way that the scene is shot, placing the head of the passsive-aggressive, curly-haired woman right in front of it, is meant to add some visibility to the symbol. So take away from that what you will.

Part 2 is now up here.