Welcome to the second part of my examination of the ancient astronaut epic Prometheus, the latest installment in the legendary Alien franchise. The film marked the return of acclaimed filmmaker Ridley Scott, whose brother and fellow director Tony committed suicide late last summer, to the Alien franchise in addition to his first venture into science fiction since 1982's synchro-mystic classic Blade Runner. In part one I considered the mythological figure of Prometheus and the opening moments of the film, ending with the discovery of the star map in a cavern on the Isle of Skye during the year 2089.
It is here that the viewer first encounters the figure of Elizabeth Shaw (Noome Rapace), the lead character. Shaw is an archaeologist who believes that humanity was created by a race of extraterrestrials, whom she dubs 'Engineers.' The star map that Shaw discovers in Scotland, at the Isle of Skye, is an invitation to the home world of these Engineers. As I noted in part one, I believe both the location of Scotland where the star map is found as well as the name Shaw are a subtle hint at Masonry's long standing association with the nation.
But the character of Shaw has a lot more going on than that. She is a Prometheus-like figure in her own right, daring to venture to the home of humanity's creators in search of wisdom. She is also the only identified Christian in the film, a striking stance considering her obsession with proving humanity's creation by extraterrestrials. Later on Shaw also becomes symbolic of the mysteries of birth, which shall be addressed in a bit.
Shaw can also be seen as an initiate, Prometheus being a kind of descent into the Underworld in which Shaw emerges with knowledge of the 'gods.' Incidentally (or not) Shaw is also Gaelic for wolf. Wolves, or specifically the jaws of them, are symbolically associated with initiation.
"This devourer symbolism is that of the mouth, the archetypal image of initiation, connected with the phenomena of the alternatives of day and night and of life and death. The mouth devours and regurgitates. It is the initiator assuming, according to place, the shape of the most voracious creature in that particular area --wolf, jaguar, crocodile and other animal. In Scandinavian mythology the wolf is explicitly described as 'devouring the stars...' and bears comparison with the wolf white ate the quail in the Rig-Veda. If... the quail is a symbol of light, the wolf's mouth is night, the cavern, the Underworld or the phase of cosmic pralaya. Release from the wolf's jaws is dawn, the light of initiation which follows a descent into the Underworld..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 1121)
From the discovery of the star map the film jumps to the year 2093 where the spaceship Prometheus is approaching LV-223, a distant moon that Shaw and her colleague and lover, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), believe is the home of the Engineers. Shaw, Holloway and the rest of the crew are all in stasis while the Prometheus is being over seen by David (Michael Fassbender), an android designed to replicate a human being.
David and Shaw will ultimately prove to be the key characters in Prometheus. David is easily the most compelling character in the entire film, being one of the more original cinematic takes on robots in recent years, as well providing an eerie foreshadowing of Shaw's contact with the Engineers. Of David, Prometheus screenwriter David Lindelof stated:
"Why would a robot want to be human? I think it’s more interesting if you have a robot who didn’t understand humans, or who considers emotions a huge pain in the ass. Ultimately David’s purpose in the movie was to comment on the folly of the mission as a whole – these humans are seeking out their creators and this robot is hanging out with his creators and, frankly, he’s not impressed…"In a way this sums up Shaw's eventual reaction to the Engineers as well, but more on that later. For now, let us consider the twilight significance of David. Artificial human beings have long been associated with the occult, from the golems of Kabbalahists to the homunculus of alchemy. Such creatures also have compelling symbolic associations.
"The Golem symbolizes human creativity aping God by creating a being in its own image, but only making a servile creature with a propensity to evil, a slave to its own passions. True life proceeds from God alone. In a more internalized sense, the Golem is no more than an image of its creator, or rather an image of one of his passions, which swells until he is in danger of being crushed under it. Lastly, its significance is that of the creation which passes out of the control of its creator. It demonstrates that humanity is no more than a sorcerer's apprentice..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 445)
For the most part this is an apt description of David. He is not an evil being per se, but he is driven towards evil at times throughout the film because of the desires, or passions, of his creator. That last bit about a sorcerer's apprentice will be most compelling in a moment. For now, let us consider the occult implications of artificial life. Thirty-third degree Freemason Manly P. Hall, citing chemist James Campbell Brown, described the creation of a homunculus as one of the seven goals of alchemy in The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Aleister Crowley (as quoted by Kenneth Grant) stated the following concerning the occult quest to create an artificial human:
"This is the great idea of magicians in all times: to obtain a Messiah by some adaptation of the sexual process. In Assyria, they tried incest; also in Egypt, the Egyptians tried brothers and sisters; the Assyrians, mothers and sons. Phoenicians tried fathers and daughters; Greeks and Syrians, most bestiality. This idea came from India. The Jews sought to do this by invocation methods, also by paedicatio feminarum. The Mohammedans tried homosexuality; mediaeval philosophers tried to produce homunculi by making chemical experiments with semen. But the root idea is that any form of procreation other than the normal is likely to produce results of magical character."
(The Magical Revival, pg. 46)
The highly controversial revisionist historian and Holocaust denier Michael A. Hoffman has argued the modern push towards human-like robots is being driven by these ancient occult aspirations of creating an artificial human.
"They teeter on the brink of the synthesis of the darkest dream of the rabbis, a marriage frantically sought, between the E. coli bacteria from the rectal colon of man, the genome code, the power of computer automata, and the operating rooms of the medical pigsty, for the creation of the Golem, or 'hunimal,' a monstrosity more toxic and degraded than even Frankenstein."David's creator is Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the CEO of Weyland Corporations and the financial patron behind Shaw's expedition to LV-223. If David is to be taken as a homunculus (highly likely considering the abundant esoteric symbolism in the film) then that makes Weyland a kind of magician, an alchemist at the least. Another goal of alchemy was the discovery of the Elixir of Life, which in some accounts is a kind of potion that grants the user eternal life. The aging Weyland bankrolled the expedition principally to ask the Engineers for immortality, thus making the voyage to LV-223 a kind of alchemical quest.
(Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Michael A. Hoffman, pg. 95)
After a few moments of this the ship reaches its final destination. Captions appear on screen stating that the Prometheus' crew consists of 17 individuals and that shipped arrived at LV-223 on December 21, 2093. Let us pause for a moment and consider the significance of several of these numbers. The day of December 21 (along with the twenty-second) commonly marks the winter solstice, one of the chief holidays in European paganism.
"...for Midsummer and Midwinter, or, in a more technical language, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, are the two great turning-points in the sun's apparent course through the sky, and from the standpoint of primitive man nothing might seem more appropriate than to kindle fires on earth at the two moments when the fire and heat of the great luminary in heaven begin to wane or to wax... Certain it is that the winter solstice, which the ancients erroneously assigned to the twenty-fifth of December, was celebrated in antiquity as the Birthday of the Sun, and that festival lights or fires were kindled on this joyful occasion. Our Christmas festival is nothing but a continuation under a Christian name of this older solar festivity..."
(The Golden Bough, James George Frazer, pg. 736)
As noted above, the winter solstice is a celebration of the rebirth of the sun, both in Europe and other ancient cultures north of the equator. The sun is a common symbol of knowledge or wisdom.
"If the light radiated by the Sun is intellectual knowledge, the Sun itself is the cosmic intellect, just as in the individual being the heart is the seat of the faculty of knowing."Thus, the choice of setting the film against the backdrop of the winter solstice could be to subtly imply the rebirth of ancient knowledge or wisdom that contact with the Engineer would theoretically lead to. The viewer is continuously reminded of this via the appearance of a Christmas tree that is set up in the Prometheus to mark the occasion.
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 946)
As I noted in part one of this series, the winter solstice is associated with both the mythological Prometheus as well as with entheogens. Many Indo-European traditions hold that during the period surrounding the winter solstice the axis mundi between this world and the metaphysical world is thin, allowing half-human creatures such as centaurs, satyrs, elves, fairies and even werewolves (Shaw means wolf in Gaelic) easier access to our world.
This tradition may have emerged from rituals that involved the consumption of entheogens during this time. There is seemingly an entheogenic thread running throughout Prometheus, beginning with the opening sequence of an Engineer consuming an unknown liquid that has strong similarities to rituals involving the consumption of ayahuasca. From there the film takes us on a 'trip' into the origins of humanity's most sacred myths. Shortly into this trip we encounter the winter solstice, a time period in which mythological creatures abound. The crew of the Prometheus just happens to include a (were)wolf, a homunculus, and an alchemist.
December 21, in the year 2012, is also the date on which the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, better known as the Mayan calendar, ended. The date of course became a major fixture within the New Age community, especially in relation to extraterrestrials, with some believing that December 21, 2012, would witness the return of the ancient astronauts. Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof were surely aware of this association when they chose to set the arrival of the Prometheus at LV-223 on December 21, 2093, 81 years after the 2012 date. According to Crowley in the Gematria 81 is a mystic number of the moon. It can also be arrived at via nine multiplied by nine. Nine is of course a highly significant number in the occult, as I've noted before here. Apparently the original Alien was set in 2122, thus the events of Prometheus would have taken place a little less than 30 years before Alien. It will probably take a sequel to Prometheus for it to become clear if there's any significance to this.
The number of crew members onboard the Prometheus is 17. Regular readers of this blog will remember that the number 17 has much occult significance, as I've noted before here. In brief:
"The Ancient Greeks regarded seventeen as standing for the number of the consonants in the alphabet, successively broken down into nine (the number of mute consonants) and eight (the number of semivowels or semi-consonants). These numbers are also closely related to their theory of music and to the harmony of the spheres.
"... seventeen and seventy-two are first the sum and second the product of eight and nine. Furthermore the sums of the digits comprising these two numbers give eight for seventeen (1 + 7) and nine for seventy-two (7 + 2). Nine and eight constantly recur in Ancient Greek numerological speculations, whether it be on the planes of grammar, of music (the ratio nine to eight is represented by the median chords of the lyre), of prosody or of cosmology.
"The Ancient Romans seem to have regarded the number seventeen as unlucky since an anagram of the letters of which it is composed (XVII) gives the word VIXI, I have lived."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 867)
Thus, we see another subtle manifestation of the number nine, among other things. Certainly the expedition proves to be rather unlucky for the 17 crew members. But more on that later. For now, let us consider Christopher Knowles' thoughts on 17:
"In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was killed on the 17th day of Athyr, the third month of the ancient calendar. Though not acknowledged, 17 seems to be a very meaningful number in the Mystery traditions, sort of equivalent to the Cross in Christianity. It symbolizes an unjust death and the promise of rebirth. Incidentally, Lazarus, whom many Biblical scholars believe was an adaptation of Osiris (Lazarus coming from El Ausur, Hebrew for "the god Osiris") was raised by Jesus in John 12:17. One of Lazarus’ sisters was named Marta, which means ‘mistress of the house’, the exact meaning of Nephthys."Rebirth and resurrection is a reoccurring theme throughout Prometheus. Weyland wishes to be reborn into a younger body (or at least something that will keep him alive), Fifield (Sean Harris) is 'reborn' as some type of creature, David 'resurrects' one of the Engineers from stasis, etc. In a way all 17 crew members of the Prometheus are reborn upon arriving in LV-223 in the sense of illumination, as they gain direct knowledge of their creators.
Finally we come to LV-223. L is the twelfth letter the basic Latin alphabet while V is the twenty-second. Both numbers have much esoteric significance. We shall start with 12.
"The number twelve frequently occurs among ancient peoples, who in nearly every case had a pantheon consisting of twelve demigods and goddesses presided over by The Invisible One, who was Himself subject to the Incomprehensible All-Father. This use of the number twelve is especially noted in the Jewish and Christian writings. The twelve prophets, the twelve patriarchs, the twelve tribes, and the twelve Apostles --each group has a certain occult significance, for each refers to the Divine Duodecimo, or Twelvefold Deity, whose emanations are manifested in the tangible created Universe through twelve individual channels."
(The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hall, pg. 439)
|the 12 Apostles|
So much for L and V. Finally, we come to the numbers 223. Of course there's another appearance of the number 22 in this sequence, but their significance goes deeper than this. There's also an appearance of the number 23, a favorite of Forteans everywhere. It was the great Robert Anton Wilson who popularized the engima of 23. Of it Wilson wrote:
"In conception, Mom and Dad each contribute 23 chromosomes to the fœtus. DNA, the carrier of the genetic information, has bonding irregularities every 23rd Angstrom. Aleister Crowley, in his Cabalistic Dictionary, defines 23 as the number of 'life' or 'a thread', hauntingly suggestive of the DNA life-script. On the other hand, 23 has many links with termination: in telegraphers’ code, 23 means 'bust' or 'break the line', and Hexagram 23 in I Ching means “breaking apart”. Sidney Carton is the 23rd man guillotined in the old stage productions of A Tale of Two Cities. (A few lexicographers believe this is the origin of the mysterious slang expression '23 Skiddoo!'.)
"Some people are clusters of bloody synchronicities in 23. Burroughs discovered that the bootlegger 'Dutch Schultz' (real name: Arthur Flegenheimer) had Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll assassinated on 23rd Street in New York when Coll was 23 years old. Schultz himself was assassinated on 23 October. Looking further into the Dutch Schultz case, I found that Charlie Workman, the man convicted of shooting Schultz, served 23 years of a life sentence and was then paroled...
"Adolf Hitler was initiated into the Vril Society (which many consider a front for the Illuminati) in 1923. The Morgan Bank (which is regarded as the financial backer of the Illuminati by the John Birch Society) is at 23 Wall Street in Manhattan. When Illuminatus! was turned into a play, it premiered in Liverpool on 23 November (which is also Harpo Marx’s birthday). Ken Campbell, producer of Illuminatus!, later found, on page 223 of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a weird dream about Liverpool, which Campbell says describes the street intersection of the theatre where Illuminatus! opened (Jung, of course, was the first psychologist to study weird coincidences of this sort and to name them synchronicities). Campbell also claims that Hitler lived briefly in Liverpool when he was 23 years old, but I haven’t found the reference for that."
|RAW and 23|
"...James Joyce had five letters in both his front name and his hind name, so he was worth looking into. A Portrait of the Artist has five chapters, all well and good, but Ulysses has 18 chapters, a stumper, until I remembered that 5 + 18 - 23. How about Finnegan's Wake? Alas, that has 17 chapters, and I was bogged down for a while...When 223 is reversed it appears as 322. The number 322 is of course closely associated with the notorious Yale secret society Skull and Bones, of which much has been written upon in conspiracy literature and websites.
"...but there it was again, 23 and 17. Maybe something omportant is going to happen in the year 2317? I couldn't check that, of course... so I went back to 1723, and stuck golden apples. That was the year Adam Smith and Adam Weishaupt were both born (and Smith published The Wealth of Nations the same year Weishaupt revived the Illuminati: 1776.)
"Well, 2 +3 = 5, fitting the Law of Fives, but 1 + 7 = 8, fitting nothing. Where did that leave me? Eight, I reflected, is the number of letters in kallisti, back to the golden apple again, and 8 is also 2ᶾ, hot damn."
"The society... exists only at Yale, and only fifteen juniors are selected by senior members to be initiated into the next year's membership. Each fortunate initiate is gifted with $15,000 and a grandfather clock. Skull and Bones is not your typical beer-swilling, goof-off fraternity. The initiates' vows have to do with support of one another in the achievement of worldly and highly material success after graduation...
"The 'Tomb' was constructed in 1856. It is the same vine-covered, windowless brownstone hall where Skull and Bones still holds its mysterious occult rites. Almost from the very beginning, a mystique grew up around Skull and Bones, as might be expected in a university community that suddenly within its confines a 'secret society.' Professors objected because of its secrecy in a nation that prizes its recognition of equality and its contempt of elitism. As early as 1873 a New Haven newspaper published an article that condemned the society as an 'obnoxious, deadly evil,' with an increasing 'arrogance and self-fancied superiority.'"
(Conspiracies and Secret Societies, Brad Steiger & Sherry Steiger, pg. 437)
Skull and Bones has spawned Supreme Court Justices, captains of industries and even presidents --the 2004 presidential election famously featured two 'Bonesmen,' President George W. Bush and challenger John Kerry, running for the office. As for the number 322 Alexandra Robbins, a journalist and former Yale graduate, wrote the following of it:
"The story of Skull and Bones begins in December of 1832. Upset (according to one account) by changes in the Phi Beta Kappa election process, a Yale senior named William Russell and a group of classmates decided to form the Eulogian Club as an American chapter of a German student organization. The club paid obeisance to Eulogia, the goddess of eloquence, who took her place in the pantheon upon the death of the orator Demosthenes, in 322 B.C., and who is said to have returned in a kind of Second Coming on the occasion of the society's inception. The Yale society fastened a picture of its symbol -- a skull and crossbones -- to the door of the chapel where it met. Today the number 322, recalling the date of Demosthenes' death, appears on society stationery. The number has such mystical overtones that in 1967 a graduate student with no ties to Skull and Bones donated $322,000 to the society.
"(The number 322 has also been a particular favorite of conspiracy-minded hunters for evidence of Skull and Bones's global connections. It was the combination to Averell Harriman's briefcase when he carried classified dispatches between London and Moscow during World War II. Antony C. Sutton claims that 322 doubles as a reminder of the society's mother organization in Germany; the American group, founded in 1832, is the second chapter -- thus 32-2.)"
Finally, there was a recent and gruesome real world occurrence of the number 223. During the recent Newtown school shooting the gunman, Adam Lanza, used a Bushmaster .223 to kill all 26 of his victims. Upon rewatching Prometheus recently I was particularly struck by the appearance of 223 in association with the moon on which they Engineers were thought to reside. In a recent post I argued that the 2012 hysteria that had been building around the end of the Mayan calendar in both the New Age and conspiracy communities may have contributed to Lanza's rampage via an apocalyptic fever that has been gripping the nation of late. As noted above, theories concerning ancient astronauts have very much become a major part of 2012 lore. Prometheus was very much trying to tap into this zeitgeist. If the Newtown school shooting was also a part of this zeitgeist, then it is most striking indeed that the number 223 would appear in Prometheus in such a significant place.
And it is here that I shall wrap things up for now. Stay tuned for the next installment.