Funnily enough, this is something I thought I had already posted. Other bloggers out there will recognise the feeling: "Wait. Did I post that or just think it?" Anyway it turns out I only thunk it.
Upon realising this, I wanted to wait until my podcast with Miguel got out, so that you have some background on how 'right thinking AAT' has the same shape as the gnostic quest (from a Sethian perspective, at least). As a result, this meant I was watching and making notes through a film called Prometheus when Chris Knowles called me to talk about the actual Prometheus. Twice. (Rude!) So I guess that means the time is now.
Speaking of now, the main reason for wanting to do this post was to correct some of the misconceptions of how Prometheus fits into the rest of the Alien franchise. I remember a lot of people being confused after its release and there was no small amount of mediocre reviews. Fortunately, it turns out the intervening years have kicked up Prometheus's Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB scores to where I think they belong.
Anyway, I never really 'got' the confusion. To me, it seemed self-evident how it fit into the Alien universe. But then I am a huge Alien nerd. I even liked Alien Resurrection. In fact, I like it -and the rest of them- better than the ostensibly most popular instalment, Aliens. What kind of a moron enjoys a James Cameron film when you can watch one by Jean-Pierre Jeunet? Aliens is seriously the weakest because Cameron is an appalling director. (I almost have to watch it on mute, so bad is the dialogue.)
Prometheus is far and away the best of the lot, assuming you have already watched the others. But then I think it is the best AAT film in decades. Perhaps ever. Big call? I'm about to make my case.
As you know, I'll regularly point out that the authors of the grimoires would have leapt at the opportunity to have access to the kinds of psi and entheogen data we have access to in the modern day. (One of the great joys of The Chaos Protocols' popularity is that this appears to be finally sinking in.) There is a variant of this observation that applies to the gnostics. They would have leapt at the opportunity to have access to the UFO phenomenon, Interventionism and panspermia data we have access to today.
Going through the film so as to cleanly stitch it into the Alien universe, I seemed to have missed just how much the film is not only typologically astrognostic, it is explicitly astrognostic. And it's done in a hugely sophisticated way. The story is originally Scott's, but it was also written by the creator of Lost. I abandoned that show fairly early on but people that stuck with it told me some parts of it approached High Strange excellence before it apparently shat the bed with its ending. So we're dealing with competent creators here. Not a king of the world or a space smurf in sight.
There is something else, something a bit spookier, that I want to flag right up front. Prometheus's origins are almost Tolkienesque. Tolkien -despite what he said subsequently- probably didn't realise that the ring Bilbo won in a riddling match was anything more than a classic northern European mythological device very common in the sort of bildungsroman he was writing at the time... until he stopped and really considered it. For Scott, the same thing happened with Prometheus. The story emerged from a question he received very often. What the hell was that thing in the chair in the crashed spaceship in Alien? (The slang for it is Space Jockey.)
For both Tolkien and Scott, proper consideration of these seemingly passing components absolutely blew up their respective universes until they reached a 1:1 scale. Such explosions tend to confuse audiences and/or readers, because they are commonly uninterested in engaging with art in a way that might make them work or think.
Anyway, so I'm going to solve Prometheus. But I'm also going to walk you through its AAT components and its astrognostic components. Then you can decide whether it is the best ever astrognostic film ever, and suggest some other contenders. (I will say that I consider Prometheus to be the dark side of the same moon that is Cloud Atlas, that other great astrognostic film which appeared in 2012/the Mayan apocalypse. Funny how these things work out.)
(Note: I have been having website gremlins all week and cannot currently embed videos. The space weather is not conducive to fixing the site, obviously. So click on the images to watch the videos and then click back.)
'Standard' AAT components in Prometheus
Obviously, we begin at the beginning. We don't yet know that these beings are the space jockeys, called Engineers in Prometheus.
A couple of points to observe.
- It's interesting that there is an entheogen motif to the consumption that 'provides access' to DNA level consciousness.
- The implication is that the Engineer remains conscious on a DNA level.
- Also, for X-Files fans, it is interesting to note that if said panspermia consciousness is retained at a DNA level, it is shown as 'black goo', which can/is shown as weaponised later in the film.
Then, of course, there is the full-blown 'classic' AAT storyline to accompany this. I think the 'conscious' DNA thing is implied by the recurrence of the Engineers and planet LV-223 across human cultural depictions.
Where I think we see filmmakers who have done their homework is not only in a fairly competent version of the AAT storyline, but also in the reaction of the 'mainstream' scientists in the audience. The dialogue specifically calls out the story as one that stands in 'promethean opposition' to the dominant narrative of Darwinism. It's actually really well played... I loathe the two scientists and their condescension on sight and -like the rest of the audience- thoroughly enjoy their comeuppance. And, in real life, directed panspermia is the begrudgingly-admitted hypothesis for how the alleged process of Darwinism got started here in the first place... implications be damned.
For me, the next part is when we really know these guys know their UFOlogy. Scott was very sophisticated about this. But then, Fincher was very sophisticated in his portrayal of private prisons. Firstly, he shows a 'breakaway' component of the ship, Prometheus -complete with breakaway medical technology- and then calls out two things that are real-world useful:
- How little the fulfilment level of Deep Private actually cares about these clandestine projects. They think the beliefs are silly but they are just doing their job.
- The sense of ownership of any research deemed useful. Theron calls the protagonists -allegedly independent scientists- 'employees'.
In a real sense, all the Alien films are about the privatisation of space (and its weaponisation). This just goes to show some proper thinking and/or research has gone into it. They're demonstrating an awareness of the hypothesis. You see this explicitly in the abject failure of the asshole scientists to even begin to deal with the implications of what Dr Shaw finds. It's impressive... like a little microcosm of actual science on earth, right down to the bullying and belittling of Dr Shaw.
There are other, perhaps more sophisticated AAT components that are implied in Prometheus, such as
- That the act of Creation/panspermia may not necessarily have been 'nice'. More on that below.
- An implied military disaster in previous eons, reminiscent of Dr Brandenburg's evidence for nuclear weapons being used on Mars in the distant past.
With the basic pieces of AAT in place, they kick it up a notch by doing something a lot of AAT detractors miss. They don't use the data as an explanation, they fold the data and its implications into a wider view of reality. They go proper astrognostic.
Astrognostic components in Prometheus
Chatting with Miguel, he mentioned -as he regularly mentions- that the gnostics were writing their own myths. They riffed off Old Testament and later Jesus stories; repeating some components, combining others, inventing new ones. The act of doing so appears to have been some sort of mystic ritual.
Prometheus does the very same thing. It combines and recombines Creation and 'birth of God' motifs. I'm surprised there isn't more discussion about this, to be honest. They literally hang lights on this intention at the outset... the adventure starts on Christmas Day:
At the film's conclusion, Dr Shaw uses the words 'in the year of Our Lord' and calls out that the whole adventure was a death cycle, then concludes by referring to it as New Year's Day... ie a new beginning. There is something faintly Egyptian to this interregnum. It is reminiscent of those days of chaos before the civic calendar of Ancient Egypt reset.
As for the tree, that comes in mighty handy as a background identifier in one of the more obvious gnostic/Luciferian dialogues (below). But first, one for the Star.Ships fans, we return to our old friend, the Cult of the Head... John the Baptist in space... encountered on Christmas morning and retrieved by the goddess. (Shaw says the Engineer has been dead "for two thousand years, give or take.")
Inside the weapons/head chamber we have the Engineer's head at the doorway, then a giant statue of a helmet-free Engineer's head, and behind it a changing mural of the fully developed xenomorphs familiar from the other Alien films. More on them below. But you have a 'beginning to end' motif in a room with the canisters of black goo bioweapon. So cosmic initiation is in play.
David also ends up headless at the end… a talking head that points the way to Paradise, no less, and is carted about by the goddess herself. (Scott said the film was very briefly going to be called Paradise, before he realised the action wasn't set on the Engineers' home planet.)
We return to a slightly-clunkily dialogued scene of Prometheus/Lucifer wondering at Creation. There are a number of gnostic purposes to this scene, not least of which is to set up the fractal nature of the gnostic quest. Robots wondering at their makers' wondering at their makers wondering if there are makers above them. The audience arrives at the grim possibility that (physical) Creation may not have been a nice or a purposeful act.
The Christmas tree is in the background. So we have a divergence of mainstream theology into gnostic theology. In particular, as we shall see, into The Reality of the Rulers. David infects one of his makers with the weapon of their makers at the behest of his fake father, a dying demiurge figure we encounter again. He's very much that esoteric Lucifer/Jesus combo, which is called out later in the film.
Also, I like that Dr Holloway toasts with "here's mud in your eye" as it feels like an echo of Babylonian creation myths of humans being made from mud and the blood of the gods... which he then drinks.
Speaking of Creation... how bout that painful act of Creation when Sophia gave birth to Yaldabaoth? Its birth is a little more sedate in Reality of the Rulers:
And the great angel Eleleth, understanding, spoke to me: "Within limitless realms dwells incorruptibility. Sophia, who is called Pistis, wanted to create something, alone without her consort; and her product was a celestial thing. A veil exists between the world above and the realms that are below; and shadow came into being beneath the veil; and that shadow became matter; and that shadow was projected apart. And what she had created became a product in the matter, like an aborted fetus. And it assumed a plastic form molded out of shadow, and became an arrogant beast resembling a lion. It was androgynous, as I have already said, because it was from matter that it derived.
I love this scene. There's a cluster of esoteric symbols, followed by a discussion of what Creation means and who can do it... the Pleroma is all but namechecked. (Sorry for the lack of title for this video. Honestly, you try writing about stealing fire from heaven during Mars and Mercury retrograde. I have done more than a little yelling at my laptop this week.)
So there's incense burning for some reason on a spaceship with finite oxygen supplies. And it's burning in front of all Dr Shaw's AAT/Annunaki god dollies, arranged respectfully around the side of her room. Then an actual rose is offered to her. Then she has a very gnostic version of divine impregnation.
And then she gives birth to Yaldabaoth. And it's really gross.
In an odd way, Dr Shaw's barren impregnation reminds me of the PIMP hypothesis, given that hybrids struggle to breed without direct intervention(ism).
After expelling the space squid and realising what happened, as well as what the implications are, she gets in an argument about faith and Creation. With God/Lucifer/Prometheus and his son, Jesus/Lucifer... seen here washing actual feet in case you didn't get the message. God/Lucifer/Prometheus wants the power of the gods, the fire from heaven, for his own salvation. "You convinced me that these things made us. Perhaps they can save us? Well, save me, anyway."
The ‘sin’ of arrogance/ambition echoes up and down the chain from David to the Engineers. Dr Shaw, who admits her horrific mistake, is chastised for "losing her faith". The sin of the Demiurge is distributed aeonically across the universe of Alien.
In the end, Prometheus in the title refers to the name of the ship. Not only does it travel the stars in search of the fire from heaven, it also saves us from the wrath of the gods/archons via its sacrifice, colliding with one of the Engineers' warships as it takes off.
With all of that awesomeness out of the way, let's actually solve Prometheus, let's put it back into the rest of the films. Here's what you should know:
- Prometheus happens in 2093. Alien happens in 2122.
- The planet (actually a moon) from Prometheus, LV-223, is a completely separate planet from Alien, which is LV-426. That helps right away, and is expected when you’re dealing with a multi-planetary race of archons/engineers. So that's why there are no eggs or whatever. Separate places.
- LV-223 is a weapons storage planet… it is Edgewood Arsenal in space. We may assume that the Engineers posted there had some kind of Jurassic Park incident and were killed in their attempts to control it or escape around two thousand years ago. That's what you see in the recording that freaks out the mainstream scientists. The other Engineers may not even be aware that LV-223 has suffered this fate... or they may simply not care and just show up whenever they need more bioweapon.
- It is interesting that the bioweapon is a very X-Files style ‘black goo’... that breaks down DNA in organic matter and rebuilds it into monstrous forms. We infer that it has specific morphic programmes that give it an approximate end shape that it builds toward… consider, for instance, the ‘proto-facehugger’ in the Head Room
- And the Cthulhu/Yaldabaoth facehugger that kills the Engineer at the end:
- Also the Giger-style mural in the Head Room shows fully-developed, recognisable aliens, which indicate the Engineers knew what their goo would grow into in its fully weaponised form. But that's why none of the xenomorphs in Prometheus look like the xenomorphs in any of the other films. They're not there yet... the whole point is to demonstrate the Engineers' archonic mastery of physical matter and the insidiousness of a bioweapon that interacts with local genetic material, forming and re-forming on its way to a broadly similar lethal end form.
- But even on its own, the goo is extremely dangerous, as it infected one of the Prometheus crew and turned him into a mutated, super-strong, vicious monster.
- So no, that alien at the end isn't the alien queen. I mean, it could be, if some other Engineers came and picked it up for some reason in the ship from Alien, then crash landed on LV-426, whereupon it escaped, laid a load of eggs and died. But it doesn't need to be, at all. LV-426 could have been an entirely separate accident that could have occurred before or after not only the action of Prometheus, but even the catastrophic event that killed the Engineers on LV-223 in the first place.
- The ‘aliens’ from the franchise are a bioweapon, not another culture or space-faring civilisation. That’s why the eggs were in the hold of the crashed ship in Alien. With the Engineers being big on panspermia and such, it stands to reason that their methods for dispatching a population on a planet would also be bioweaponry.
- The ‘unevolved’ form of face huggers shows a genetic technology that ‘plays out’ or ‘unpacks’... it’s the other side of the story to Alien Resurrection. We want to connect the species from Prometheus to the other films but, in a way, it’s far scarier to consider that they aren’t connected at all, and that space is filled with hundreds, perhaps thousands of these arsenals of bioweapons.
- Humans are built from the Engineers own DNA, which suggests we were either built for a purpose that has since been achieved (or the moment to achieve it has past) or we were an experiment -presumably one of many on many worlds- that didn’t pan out… and so in Prometheus we see that there were plans to rinse out our petrie dish, so to speak.
- It’s also possible that the Engineers foresaw that we would ultimately destroy them somewhere further along the timeline and were thus taking measures to prevent that. If that’s so, the cosmic irony is that it is precisely attempting these measures that triggers their destruction… assuming Dr Shaw finds their home planet and unleashes their bioweapon.
- It is unlikely that the crashed Engineer ship on LV-426 was the first accident... ie the Engineers encountered the xenomorphs somewhere in their natural environment but suffered an accident when they were transporting them. Just wanted to flag that as I've seen it around the internets. There’s a line in the first Alien script that described a glossy urn with markings on it beside the body of the Engineer/Space Jockey. So it’s probably an accidental mid-flight infection from their own toys.
Some films fall into what Chris Knowles calls 'telling tales out of school'. I strongly suspect that is the case for most of Kubrick's films. Prometheus isn't quite that. Seems to me that Scott is using art for what it is supposed to be used for: to make us think about our world, our metaphysics, and so on. This isn't insider tattle-taleing to me. It's a hugely competent director saying "let's think about the implications of panspermia in a universe that also contains/is created by God." (Perhaps because there are some shadow state types who already are thinking about this.)
Let's think about astrognosticism. Let's think about space shamanism. The story is Promethean in the best sense. Olympus may belong to the Engineers, but the fire belongs to God.