Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the film Fight Club. At the onset I'd like to re-emphasize that this is a critique of the David Fincher film and not the Chuck Palahniuk novel. This author has read the novel, but not for a number of years (since at least the time Recluse was in middle school) and would not feel comfortable addressing the novel in depth. From what I vaguely recall, the Fincher film was superficially rather faithful to the Palahniuk novel, but I remember feeling that the tone of the two works was rather different. The lasting impression I have after all these years is that Fight Club the film struck me as being both more serious and nihilistic than the Palahniuk novel, which I found to be rather satirical. But it has been a while and I could definitely be wrong. But moving along.
In the first installment I noted the rather striking similarities between director David Fincher's interpretation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel and the philosophy of the Baron Julius Evola, an occultist and one of the chief fascist ideologues of the post-World War II era. The almost Manichean struggle the Fincher film depicts against the feminine and the cult of manhood Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) attempts to create is especially Evolan, as are the film's underlining criticism of consumerism and, by default, capitalism itself. Evola found capitalism and its chief pursuit, consumerism, to be an especially effeminate and materialistic aim, one of which that was incompatible with heroic virtues.
"... Due to a fortuitous set of circumstances having nothing to do with Freemasons, John J. Robinson stumbled upon compelling proof that the Freemasons had their origins with the Knights Templar, and that the Templar Order had survived in England and Scotland after the official destruction of the Knights by order of the Pope. The evidence begins with the famous Peasant Revolt of 1381, in which there was a general uprising in England against the Church and the King, which resulted in the destruction of property all over the kingdom and the murder of many high-ranking clerics and nobles.
"Robinson demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the attack was directed specifically against the Knights Hospitaler, the Templars' hated rivals since the days of their mutual origin in the desert sands of Palestine, and the inheritors of the Templars' assets when the Templars were suppressed by Papal decree. Robinson's book – Born in Blood – is a worthwhile addition to Masonic studies, even though it contains no footnotes or other academic impedimenta that would have elevated it to more lofty status among scholars; its connecting the Peasant Revolt with a 'Grand Society' operating in secret in the British Isles, a society convincingly identified with the Knights Templar, is alone worth the price of admission. Robinson also shows that Templar shrines were spared the attacks, which left thousands dead and many beheaded as the revolt wound its way directly to the Tower of London. The leader of the revolt was known only by the name Walter the Tyler, which is suggestive, since the 'tyler' is a Masonic office in the rituals of the temple. All this indicates that the Masonic society has its origins in the Knights Templar, as many historians have always insisted (albeit without the benefit of documentation)."
(Sinister Forces Book II, Peter Levenda, pg. 156)
Fight Club does not of course feature any beheadings, but there are several other obvious parallels with the Peasant's Revolt as depicted by Robinson. The Peasant's Revolt was theoretically a spontaneous uprising of the masses that none known the less seems to have been directed by a secretive command structure, a possibility made highly probable by the remarkable degree of organization this supposedly spontaneous uprising displayed. Robinson suggests a secret society founded by the Knights Templar that at the time was referred to as the "Great Society." Regardless, the revolt would inflict terrible damage to the property of the leading establishments of British society at the time, namely the monarchy, the Church, and the Knights Hospitalers.
Fight Club chronicles an "underground" revolt of the masses engineered by a secret society deriving from various fight clubs started across the nation. This secret society, under the auspices of "Project Mayhem", begins a low key terror campaign directed at the property of the ruling establishment of modern American society, namely multinational corporations. This revolt is touched off by "Tyler Durden" (Brad Pitt), the alternative personality of the nameless Narrator (played Edward Norton) whom some fans some time refer to as "Jack."
"The first indication that Freemasonry might have been related to the rebellion was the name of the leader, Walter the Tyler. He exploded into English history with his mysterious uncontested appointment as the supreme commander of the Peasant's Rebellion on Friday, June 7, 1381, and left it as abruptly when his head was struck off eight days later on Saturday, June 15. Absolutely nothing is known of him before those eight days. That alone suggests that he was not using his real name. Historians have suggested that his name probably indicates that he was a roof tiler by trade, which, based on his obvious military experience and leadership abilities, is not very probable. But if he had indeed adopted a pseudonym, why what he called himself a 'Tyler'? Freemasons reading this will already see the point. The Tyler is the sentry, sergeant-at-arms, and enforcer of the Masonic Lodge. He screens visitors for credentials, secures the meeting place, and then stands guard outside the door with a drawn sword in his hand. If the Great Society was in any way connected with Freemasonry, 'Tyler' would have been the only proper Masonic title for the military leader who would wield a sword and enforce discipline..."
(Born in Blood, John J. Robinson, pg. 55)
In the context of Fight Club, the Masonic association of the Tyler with a sentry is most striking given how the film depicts the transformation of the fight clubs into a secret society. The narrator, in his Tyler Durden personality, initially procures a large, dilapidated house in an isolated, industrial sector of the nameless city in which the film begins. When the decision is made to transform the fight clubs into a full fledged secret society, candidates are invited to the house. Upon arriving they must stand outside the front door upon the porch for a period of three days before they can enter. During this time frame both "Jack" and his Tyler alternate take turns verbally and physically mocking the candidate in order to dissuade them from advancing into the society. This is very much in keeping with the duties and symbolism associated the Masonic Tyler.
"... By keeping these things secret, the Mason protects the Secret Temple itself. In ritual practice, there is a man who stands outside the temple entrance, carrying a sword. He is known as the Tyler, and it is he who knocks on the door to admit the initiate. A lowly position, it would seem, but on a symbolic level, it is equivalent of the Guardian at a Threshold. A concept character familiar to so many mystical sects the world over, and one who makes an appearance in Mozart's Masonic opera The Magic Flute, the Guardian is an obstacle that must be passed in order to reach higher states of consciousness or spiritual enlightenment. In practical terms, the Tyler has an important job to do in keeping curiosity-seekers and other unqualified persons from disrupting the rituals. He must examine the credentials of anyone claiming to be Mason before he is permitted to enter..."
(The Secret Temple, Peter Levenda, pgs. 12-13)
And this is indeed the role Tyler Durden performs initially in his secret society as well. Further reinforcing the Masonic allusions are the number of days --three --the candidate is made to wait outside Tyler's house before entrance. From there they begin their initiation, after having their heads shaved and being reborn as "space monkeys."
But here the similarities end, for the initiation Tyler Durden performs for his candidates can hardly be said to be one concerning a higher state of consciousness or spiritual enlightenment, In point of fact, it is a process of total dehumanization more closely resembling cult indoctrination, the re-education camps of Communist China or even some of the behavior modification experiments of the Pentagon and the US Intelligence community during the mid-Twentieth century. Candidates are effectively stripped of their entire personalities, save for their first names. Consider the overlap between Tyler's re-education program and the brainwashing methods used by Communist China:
"... The aim of brainwashing is to retrieve enemies and transform rather than eliminate them – either to make them exponents Marxism and then send them back home, or to turn them into edifying examples. The process, to the extent that it can be recognized, has three principal aspects:
"1. The individual is cut off from everything, from his former social milieu, from news and information. This can be done only if he is placed in a prison cell or a camp. The individual is totally uprooted. The absence of news places this man who has been used to receiving information, in a vacuum, which is hard to endure after a certain time. Complementary methods are added to this: a certain privation of food and sleep to weaken his psychological resistance, to make him more susceptible to influences (though there is no intention of exhausting him), frequent isolation and solitude, which causes a certain anxiety, increased by the uncertainty of his fate and the lack of a definite sentence or punishment; also frequently incarceration in windowless cells with only electric light, with irregular hours for meals, sleep, interrogations, and so on, in order to destroy even his sense of time. The principal aim of these psychological methods is to destroy a man's habitual patterns, space, hours, milieu, and so on. A man must be deprived of his accustomed supports. Finally, this man lives in a situation of inferiority and humiliation, aimed not at destroying him but at reconstructing him.
"2. A man placed in the above circumstances is subjected to a bombardment of slogans by radio or by fellow-prisoners, who, though prisoners themselves, shower him with reproaches and slogans, because they already are on the road to their own reconstruction. There is an endless repetition of formulas, explanations, and simple stimuli. Of course, in the beginning all this merely evokes the subject's scorn and disbelief. After some time, however, erosion takes place; whether the subject likes it or not, he ends up knowing by heart certain formulas of the cataclysm repeated to him a thousand times; he ends up inhabited by the slogans, which still carry no conviction; he does not yield to some advertising slogan, for example, just because he knows it. But it must not be forgotten that the prisoner hears nothing else, and that the incessant repetition of the slogans also prevents any personal reflection or meditation. The noise of the slogan is present all the time. The result is an involuntary penetration and a certain intellectual weakening, added to the impossibility of leading a private intellectual life..."
(Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, Jacques Ellul, pgs. 311-312)The second above described aspect of brainwashing is present throughout depictions of Tyler's indoctrination: Tyler himself uses a bullhorn to recite his anti-consumerist mantras to his disciples throughout the isolated house and surrounding property as they make their way through various stages of initiation. Older initiates are shown taking over these mantras and slogans as the progress in the ranks. Later candidate spending their three days on Tyler's porch are verbally attacked by early members rather than the Grand Master himself after a certain point.
This effectively creates a state of total dehumanization in which candidates are stripped of all but their first names and reborn as mindless space monkeys to do the bidding of Project Mayhem. Eventually the narrator inadvertently provides a way for the space monkeys to regain the full identity with which they were born with: a "heroic" death in the name of Project Mayhem. How Evolan.
Another curious Masonic allusion in the Fincher film appears about midway through when Project Mayhem has gone live. Tyler and several other space monkeys abduct a police official (?) who has begun to investigate incidents of vandalism committed by the group shortly after he has attended a keynote address at what appears to be a high society-type get together. He is dragged into a restroom at the gathering by Tyler and his minions, who are working as waiters there. The police official has a rubber band placed around his testicles and is told persuasively to "Do not fuck with us." The floor upon which this scene plays out is the infamous checkered squares frequently associated with Masonic lodges nowadays. These black and white squares have an interesting symbolism in Freemasonry and one rather appropriate to events unfolding in Fight Club at this point as well.
"In addition, the floor of the temple may be constructed or decorated in a checkerboard pattern of black and white squares, motif that is found on many Masonic documents, tracing boards, and other illustrations. The checkerboard pattern has a long and illustrious pedigree, calling to mind instantly the game of chess and its origins as a sacred game between the forces of light and darkness. Today, it might be interpreted as a grid, a group of cells called a matrix..."
(The Secret Temple, Peter Levenda, pg. 13)
This association with a matrix is especially curious The Matrix came out in the same year (1999) as Fight Club and would influence modern conspiracy culture to a similar extent. This is also apt for the terror cells Tyler's fight clubs have developed into as well.
Whether or not this Masonic symbolism is intentional or not is highly debatable. Chuck Palahniuk has been rather coy about what inspired the original novel upon which the film was based, but has floated the Cacophony Society (of which he is a member) as a partial inspiration. Robinson's Born in Blood was released in 1990 and became a hit in certain alternative media circles not long afterwards. I've found nothing to indicate that Palahniuk had read Robinson's work, but it was certainly available and had generated a certain degree of word-of-mouth by the time Palahniuk began working on what would become Fight Club. I've also found nothing to indicate that David Fincher was aware of Robinson's book, but perhaps the use of checkerboard squares in the above mentioned scene was a sly reference to the curious overlap between the general plot line of Fight Club and Robinson's theory concerning the Peasant's Revolt.
Beyond the ample Masonic references, there are any number of other aspects concerning Fight Club that should have inspired way more conspiratorial interpretations than what appears to be online. The narrator and his Tyler Durden alter ego with their grandiose plans for their secret society and Project Mayhem are in many ways the fever dreams of the Project Monarch (which is almost certainly a hoax) proponents given life. Fight Club is one of the most high brow depictions of disassociative identity disorder ever put forth by Hollywood and yet this aspect is rarely addressed by the countless Hollywood-centric Monarch bloggers (*cough* Vigilant Citizen *cough*) despite the fact that a programmed patsy operating a terror organization designed to destabilize the nation has become something of a Holy Grail in such circles.
In the wake of Fight Club the film the notion that behavioral modification techniques developed by the Pentagon and US Intelligence community had been used on individuals engaged in acts of violence and terrorism was given scholarly consideration by such works as David McGowan's Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder and Peter Levenda's Sinister Forces trilogy. Fight Club's depiction of such things is over he top enough to put it in the nonsense of the Monarch camp, but the timing of its release is curious. Such notions were also being explored by the Chris Carter-created/produced TV series Millennium (of which I've written much more on before here, here and here) around this same time. But I digress.
Fight Club is also ripe for the "science" of "predictive programming". As with many of the more sophisticated notions of modern conspiracy culture, this premise seems to have been pioneered by the fanatical traditionalist Catholic and Holocaust denier (and likely fascist sympathizer) Michael A. Hoffman II. Hoffman alleges that this technique was incorporated into modern media by Aleister Crowley and his Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) initiates as part of their occult agenda.
"OTO initiates authorized mass market stories, especially science fiction, with subliminal, occult themes published in popular books and magazines. Among the most influential of these were Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, A.H. White's Rocket to the Morgue and the after mentioned Arthur C. Clarke's 'The Sentinel' and Childhood's End.
"Clarke had been a leading member of the British Interplanetary Society, a London-based group of elite thinkers, engineers, British secret service assets and 'sci-fi enthusiasts' who were 'devoted to laying the groundwork for the space age.' Their patron saint was the Fabian Socialist futurist/inevitabilist, H. G. Wells, who script, a.k.a. 'science-fiction novel,' First Men on the Moon gave the correct lift-off location for the first manned flight (Cape Canaveral) decades beforehand...
"By means of the newly burgeoning genre of science fiction, the OTO was able to shape the vision of America through predictive programming, which forecasts an 'inevitable future,' thereby influencing everything from the architecture of our cities to the design of our automobiles and conceptions of what constitutes 'progress and liberation' in the future...
"... Predictive programming works by means of the propagation of the illusion of an infallibly accurate vision of how the world is going to look in the future. This fraud has had a not inconsiderable impact on our reality. Aleister Crowley, in a statement to OTO initiates concerning one of his books, describes the underlying epistemology behind the glamour and enchantment which causes the occult con-game to become the weird reality we inhabit in America today:
"'In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth, and the Paths, of Spirits and Conjuration; the Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether they exist or not. By doing certain things certain results follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.'
"Here Crowley admits that the OTO is a vehicle for imposing an artificial reality based on nothing but lies and promoted by liars initiated into the art and science of illusion. Matters have gotten 'darker than you think' in the years since Crowley's death in 1947. In Jack Williamson's sci-fi tale Darker Than You Think, aliens conspire against humanity under the leadership of the 'Child of Night,' a Parsons character who is 'the result of a magical prodigious birth.'
(Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Michael A. Hoffman II, pgs. 205-206)
Then of course there are Fight Club's curious parallels to the 9/11 terror attacks. The ultimate objective of Project Mayhem is revealed to be a plot to blow up a series of banks in an unnamed, major American city so as to eliminate all debt. Besides the fact that one of the more iconical images from the film (namely the shot of the Narrator and Marla Singer [Helena Bonham Carter] with their backs to the camera, gazing out of the top floor of an office building as two skyscrapers collapse across the street from a series of explosions) eerily foreshadows the collapse the Twin Towers, there's the curious method Project Mayhem employs to bring down the buildings: controlled demolition. Conspiracy culture had of course are already developed a keen interest in controlled demolition at this point thanks to the Oklahoma City bombing, but such notions would go into overdrive in the wake of 9/11.
Masonic allusions galore, subliminal messages, alternative personalities, secret societies, controlled demolition --this is surely a gold mind for conspiracy bloggers, and yet one that has rarely been tapped. This is in no small part due to the fact the Fight Club has had an enormous influence on post-9/11 conspiracy culture, especially within the patriot movement. Project Mayhem's defining event --the destruction of various financial institutions and the elimination of debt --is no doubt the fever dream of any number self-styled anarcho-capitalist/libertarian revolutionaries out there right now.
But Fight Club is ultimately a smarter film than the overwhelming majority of its audience, and wisely fades to black shortly after the buildings have been blown up. Otherwise the filmmakers would have had to depict the fall out of Tyler's actions, and they likely would not be especially romantic. Less than two years after the film's release 9/11 would put on full display the type of blatant power grabs made possible by major terror attacks, even those directed at major financial institutions.
Would Americans have woken up in Fight Club's aftermath with a glorious debt-free revolt against the banks in full sway, or would they have woken up to find their bank accounts and life savings frozen until further notice? And if the later scenario was the case, would such circumstances touch off a revolution or simply further entrench the powers that be? The funny thing about Tyler''s revolt is that, despite a few juvenile pranks against elites, his final plot for fomenting revolution would have almost surely caused far more suffering for average working stiffs than CEOs.