Behind Matrixism
By Himal Kotelawala

Thou shall believe in a messianic prophecy
Thou shall perceive reality as multi-layered and semi-subjective

Thou shall adhere to the principles of at least one of the world's major religions until such time as the One returns

These are some of the main beliefs of a reported 16,000 followers of Matrixism, a religion, yes, a religion, inspired by the acclaimed movie trilogy The Matrix. The religion's official website claims The Matrix movies and the associated media are about the fulfilment of an apocalyptic prophecy regarding a messiah and his role in bringing about world peace.

Such is the brilliance of the Wachowski brothers that their films have influenced today's sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll driven younger generation to find religion; and to come up with their own religions.

The trilogy, written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski and starring Keanu Reaves as the main protagonist, is just part of an entire media franchise consisting of nine animated short films, several novels and comic books and three mainstream video games. The series tells of an extremely complex science fiction story touching upon various philosophical and religious elements including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and some aspects of Hinduism.

The trilogy tells the story of Thomas Anderson, a computer hacker who goes by the alias Neo seemingly living in the world of 1999, but is, in fact, living in a simulated world called the Matrix some time around the year 2199. The world is literally a computer simulation wired into human brains by intelligent machines designed and built by humans in the 21st century.

After a war that lasted generations, the humans, in desperation, covered the sky with thick black cloud in order to cut off the machines' supply of solar power. This did not have the desired effect and eventually the machines won and enslaved the human race by growing them in fields by the millions in order to harness their electrical power and to use their brains as computer units. Neo is unplugged and rescued from the Matrix by Morhpeus and his band of other "freed" rebels believing that Neo is the prophesied 'One' who will fight the Matrix from within and bring freedom back to humanity.

After many trials and tribulations Neo succeeds in going to a peace pact with the machines by destroying Agent Smith, a corrupt programme inside the Matrix that starts acting independent of its master programme, in an attempt to bring to an end both man and machine. In the final movie, Neo is left with no choice but to sacrifice himself in order to destroy Smith and save the human race.

Some of the more obvious references to Christianity in the trilogy include the names of the characters Neo and Trinity (Neo's love interest), 'Neo' being an anagram of 'One' which has messianic undertones, and Trinity being a direct reference to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the context of the movie, this could be a reference to Neo, Trinity and Morpheus. There is more. Cypher, who betrays Morpheus and his cause, is an obvious nod at Judas.

Morpheus himself is based on the Greek god of dreams. His dream is to free mankind from the Matrix, or in a broader sense, to release man from his slavery to his own brilliance.

Neo's journey is very similar to that of Christ – he comes in the form a 'messiah' who is foretold and later killed and 'resurrected.' This happens in the first movie, when Agent Smith shoots Neo dead and he, miraculously (or so it seems), comes back to life. What really happens is that after finally understanding his capacity as The One, Neo is able to see the Matrix for what it is: an illusion. If the Matrix, and everything that appears to take place in it, is an illusion, then logically his 'death' must be an illusion.

This is why he is able to see everything inside the Matrix as green code at the end of the movie. However, it doesn't change the fact that the scene is a direct parallel to Christ's life story.

The movies are, more or less, an adaptation of the Christian apocalyptic view, but it's not by God's doing that the apocalypse comes about, but by something else; in this case, machine, and by extension, man himself. God is never mentioned nor implied in any of the movies.

The parallels to Buddhism in the movies are more subtle. If you follow Morpheus's explanation of the Matrix to Neo in the first movie, you will notice his idea of the Matrix being a prison cell in your mind that you cannot see, smell or touch, has a striking similarity to the Buddhist belief that everything relates to your mind and your thoughts. It is man's own actions and ignorance that have led to his predicament. In Buddhism, this is called Karma. These are just a few of the many parallels between the Matrix trilogy and religion and philosophy. We have only just peeked into the rabbit hole; it goes a lot deeper. An entire analysis of the three movies, is fascinating, so maybe some other time…

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