Monday, December 21, 2009

Matrix - Review

Summary of the Plot

The first part of The Matrix series was released in the late 90s and has captured the hearts and minds of moviegoers with a penchant for explosive action mixed with futuristic science fiction. The movie itself is loaded with several New Age themes including some close parallels to some elements from the Bible and is packed with mind blowing and innovative action sequences unparalleled in the history of Hollywood movie making.

The central character in the movie is played by Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson, who works as a programmer for a software firm. He is representative of an average silicon valley software professional. Anderson assumes the role of Neo in his time after work and spends most of his time as a hacker involved in all possible cybercrimes. Neo appears against the backdrop of ‘The Matrix’ which is really a simulation created by artificially intelligent (AI) beings who use humans as their power source. The time this occurs is in the year 2199 AD. Man’s quest to reign supreme and his faith in technology led to the creation and dependence on machines, the culmination of which was the artificial intelligence. The revolt of the AI beings against mankind led to a war between them and mankind. The AI creatures (Sentient Agents) were originally designed to use solar power believed to be a long-lasting source of energy, but a nuclear winter changed the situation. The AI forms adapt by using humans as batteries. To this end, they create an elaborate hoax known as the matrix, where the humans are bred and raised to believe they lead existences as if nothing ever happened. Neo is being sought after by the leader of a band of rebels (Morpheus played by Lawrence Fishburne) who escaped the matrix and seek to redeem mankind. For the same reason, Neo is also sought after by the Sentient Agents. Led by the Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving), the Sentient Agents are intelligent programs within the matrix that act to reinforce the AI control of earth's populace. Since everything in the matrix is an illusion, all the action is really a metaphor for a battle of wills. Neo is the one capable of inflicting damage on the AI system and free the people who have their minds enslaved.

In the second part, Neo having discovered that he is indeed ‘The One’ through his last encounter with Agent Smith, continues to help the rebels free more people from the clutches of the sentient AI while learning of a plot by the machines to invade and destroy Zion. They take the battle to the Matrix itself. In this part, Agent Smith is now able to clone himself.
In the final part, Neo takes the sacrificial path of killing himself to defeat the AI system and liberate human beings from them. Interestingly, the last scenes also depicts him as coming back to life.


The movie raises several issues chief among them being ‘What is reality?’ It plays satire on man’s quest and dependence on technology with today’s modern/postmodern world tending to place a lot of faith on technology to redeem mankind of all ills. Man has advanced in his engagement with technology trying to wrench out solutions for all of man’s problems purely using technology that he is now far removed from reality and becomes enslaved in a pseudo world created by the very machines that he originally designed himself. In addition, the movie extrapolates what the world would look like when the effects of ecological and environmental disaster that awaits us because of our poor handling of resources comes to fruition.
Another parallel theme that runs through the series are allusions to several New Age themes including that of Christianity. In this sense, the movie has truly identified the presence and rise of religiosity even in the advanced techno culture, where man might have to fall back on should technology fail to redeem him. Deeply entrenched in the story line are close parallels to Christian icons and Hindu philosophy. Morpheus, Neo and Trinity could possibly remind a Christian audience of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in some sense (with Neo even dying and coming alive at the end). However, at a philosophical level there are explicit narrations (particularly by the character Ramakrishna – the original name of the proponent of advaitic Vedanta) of Vedantic philosophy that equates the matrix to Maya and even touches upon transmigration of souls and cyclic birth and rebirth and some esoteric themes involving the Oracle to which Hindu and New Age audiences could identify themselves with. Interestingly the last song is a mantra from the Upanishads shown below reflecting the above.
“asato ma sadgamaya (lead me from nontruth to truth)
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya (lead me from darkness to light)
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya (lead me from death to immortality)
Om shanthi shanthi shanthi (peace peace peace)”*
In conclusion, the synthesis of the plot of The Matrix series closely captures the various ingredients of today’s modern/postmodern world with man seriously engaging technology on the one hand to make the world a better place to live and the rising suspicion and lack of trust by others in such a realization who turn to back religion.

* Quoted in ‘Diana L. Eck, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993, p.117.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The truth about TRUTH

(Abstract of the talk given on October 20th, 2008 at Stanford Religious Center)


Truth has been one among the perennial quests of man. Sages have sought after it. Philosophers have debated it. Scientists seek to find it. All this is because truth matters. It affects our faith and actions.

But what is the essence of truth? How can truth be described? Is it merely a construct of the mind? Is it an experience that ought to be sought after?

Science and Truth

In today's world Science has been hailed as a 'bastion of truth' and all God talk has been relegated to the sphere of myths and superstition. In trying to understand how Science has attempted to discover truth about the 'physical world' around us people have come up with three theories:

- Verificationism - only that which is verifiable is true
- Falsificationism - only that (hypothesis) which is falsifiable is true
- Kuhnianism - truth is progressively discovered through 'paradigm shifts' involving people within a group

Even today many Scientists use one or more of the above methodologies either consciously or unconsciously to discover truth in their own fields of expertise. Each of the above methodologies possess inherent limitations in the extent to which they could be applied to all fields of knowledge and reality.

Science does not deal with the whole of reality. It only deals with the tangibles. It cannot address questions that deal with non-tangible aspects of life such as the purpose of life, life after death This is where Religions come into play.

Religion and Truth

Religions attempt to teach the truth about these signifcant questions of life such as
- who I am?
- where do I come from?
- where do I go?

For most of the eastern religions truth is an elusive, impersonal entity (eg. 'Brahman' in Hinduism) that can only be 'experienced'. Most of the western religions attempt to reduce truth to a set of propositions.

What is truth?

There exists a relationship between truth and the source of truth. We tend to believe truth that is communicated by those we can trust based on their character and capability in our day to day lives.

An astonishing claim about truth was made by Jesus Christ who said, 'I am ...the truth'. While making such an extra-ordinary claim about himself, he lived an impeccable life that attracted both followers and opponents. He performed extra-ordinary miracles demonstrating his divine attributes. In doing so he became the embodiment of truth itself, by displaying both the character and capability substantiating His claim for truth.

As the popular adage goes, 'Truth hurts'. When someone points out our faults, it can hurt us. In the same way, Jesus pointed out to the people the truth about themselves - that they fall short of meeting God's standard of perfection and are in danger of punishment despite their religious, moral and cultural heritage. His perfect life exagerated their anger that culminated in nailing him on the cross. However, he rose again on the third day to authenticate his life and message just as he had told them.

Anyone who desires to know the truth can do so now by seeking to have a relationship with Jesus Christ who is 'the truth'. Once we acknowledge that we are not perfect and attempt to connect with Him, we can begin to understand the truth about us, the world, the present and the future. What he said about life, death, you and me has the power to change us and help us become like Him. And life will never be the same again.

Do you want to know 'the TRUTH'?

About the Speaker: Jeyaprakash Samuel (Jp) completed his Ph.D. at IIT-Madras and University of Freiburg, Germany. Subsequent to a post-doctoral stint at Stanford University (Dept. of Chemical Engineering) he joined Lam Research in Fremont where he is now part of the 'New Product Development' research team.