Spirit Daily

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'Matrix' Just One Of Many Manifestations As Hollywood Bares Its Spiritual Roots

By Michael H. Brown

Yesterday I was on the air with a Catholic radio host named Dom Lettieri (I'll be doing a seminar for him near Philadelphia early next month), and one of the very first questions from listeners was about The Matrix Reloaded, that new movie that seems to have everyone talking. After the show, I decided to go out and see it. Is it as spiritual as people claim? Does it have hidden meaning? Is it full of symbolism?

The basic premise of the story is that evil machines have taken over and refashioned the reality of earth while a small band of humans whom some see as symbols of the early Christians (led by a savior-like hero named Neo) attempt to defeat the inhuman enemy. I found all the commotion to be a bit puzzling. There are troubling aspects of the movie, to be sure; there are gnostic symbols; there is an "oracle." And there is what makes Hollywood work: sex, action, and violence. There is also the requisite use of God's Name in vain (usually, when that happens, except when I need to view something for professional reasons, I walk out).

But overall I found this movie, which is undeniably engaging (a reggae version of Kung-Fu and Star Wars), to be just another in a long train of products from Hollywood that reflect a confused spirituality -- mixing goodness and heroism with the occult. In this case Neo flies about supernaturally and uses other magical powers.

Can we not say the same about Star Wars -- wherein half-human and half-bestial entities preside as gurus and there is something that instead of being called "God" is called "The Force"? Can we not say the same about Harry Potter -- a "hero" who uses witchcraft? Was there not a heap of the New Age in movies like Close Encounters?  

This is part of the Hollywood dream: a fantasy world that delights viewers but unfortunately opens the door -- if at times only a crack -- to the occult. As one website (http://www.greatspiritualbattle.com) points out, such should not surprise us. "After all, that is what their 'star-making' machine is all about. It is why we call those who are 'stars in the movies 'idols.' And it is why the reward of these 'stars' is totally earthly ó the kingdoms of this world:  fame, fortune, power, sex. While most people donít realize it, the name of Hollywood has its roots in the 'magic wand' of the 'wizard' Merlin. The wand consisted of a piece of holly wood that enabled this fabled character to 'cast' his spells."

Now, I don't want to go too far with this, and I fully realize that we can overextend the dangers of such fantasy. There has always been such fantasy. What about even Walt Disney!

But by the fruits you will know them and many movies have had some bad fruits. Already Matrix has been linked to violent crimes. When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold attacked Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, killing 13 people and themselves, investigators said the killers evoked Neo, played by Keanu Reeves in both the original Matrix and now the sequel Matrix Reloaded. Another 19-year-old obsessed with The Matrix shot his parents to death. In San Francisco a 27-year-old man dismembered his landlady after he told police he had been sucked into The Matrix!

That movie, of course, is hardly alone. In fact Hollywood has been brilliant at conditioning us to the acceptance of the occult as beneficent  and the demonic as cuddly. On television are so many examples of witchcraft infiltrating cartoons, dramas, and even sit-coms that they are beyond our ability to synopsize. In case after case our children are exposed to magical powers that have nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with Merlin. Let me say this boldly: I don't care how good the theme is, anything that uses occult images can bring an occult power with it (unless it is to show the absolute defeat in the Name of Christ of that occult force).

Add to that the "games" to which our kids are exposed. Have you looked at the images on any of these new card games? They obsess our youth too. Often, they are subtle. There are things like Pokemon. That means "pocket monster," and seems harmless enough. Haven't we always been entertained by monsters? The difference is that monsters these days are much closer in resemblance to what is described in actual demonology and in some cases evoke the names of pagan gods or even fallen angels. If holy cards bring a good spirit, what kind of spirit comes when our kids have images like those in the new Yu-Gi-Oh cards, which bring Egyptian "gods" into our homes. "Yugi unlocks the secret of the ancient Egyptian Millennium Puzzle that releases a powerful spirit of an Egyptian King, Yami Yugi," promises the official website -- perhaps more accurately than it realizes and sounding as esoteric The Matrix. There are also much more sinister games like Magic: The Gathering that use the actual names of demons as used in sorcery.

Harmless? Just for fun? Paranoid to worry about?

I try not to go far. I even let my kid have those Yu-Gi-Oh cards for a couple weeks. I had little choice: he was the only boy in his class (at a Catholic school) without them, and was feeling left out. I let him have them only after dousing them with Holy Water and making him say a Rosary.

But let me tell you, you could feel the spiritual tension, the grit, whenever those cards were around, and they ended up in the trash. The Matrix? A concern in some ways, yes, although I can think of a lot of other things to fret about. I'm amazed we allow stuff like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I can't wait to see what Mel Gibson produces in the way of that new movie on the Crucifixion of Christ: Perhaps a few movies like that will begin a cultural exorcism.

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