The Philosophy of The Matrix

The Philosophy of The Matrix

As a huge fan of the movie The Matrix, I put together an epic Twitter thread a while back on the deep philosophy of the movie, exploring the many concepts embedded in the movie ranging from the simulation hypothesis and Plato’s Cave, to Zen and non-duality.

But, since most people may never find that old thread, or bother to click through every Tweet, and with the 4th Matrix movie coming out soon, I figured I’d turn it into a blog post that’s easier for folks to consume.

In the year of our machine overlords, 1999, quite possibly THE best and most philosophical movie of all time was released 😁. I re-watch this movie every year, and I am STOKED to unleash this epic thread: The Philosophy of the Matrix

The Wachowskis worked absolute magic with these movies…and while there are lessons to be learned in all 3 movies and the overarching story arc (which I’ll touch on at the end of the thread), I’ll be focusing primarily on the first movie.

Also, before I dive in…what the fuck was in the water in Hollywood in 1998/1999? The Matrix, Fight Club, The Truman Show, Pleasantville, The Thirteenth Floor, Dark City 🤯🤯🤯 The Simulation Hypothesis and Non-Duality we’re on FULL display.

Alright Mr. Anderson, down the rabbit hole we go 🐇

The very first thing to call out is Trinity’s line “it doesn’t matter what I believe”, because it’s true. Believe what you want, but Truth is Truth regardless of belief…existentially speaking.

Next, the idea of “Agents” whose job it is to police The Matrix and keep things on track is VERY interesting. If we’re in a game or simulation, something like this almost certainly exists…and to a degree, the NPCs sort of serve this function, trying to keep everyone playing.

“The name is Neo”, which means new (or revived form of), but is also an anagram of One. Layers of meaning, but not very subtle 😂

And what’s the first message Neo sees on his computer screen? “Wake up, Neo…” Neo is asleep, on multiple levels of reality. But, he’s aware enough to know his “reality” is off, and to feel that splinter in the mind that compels him to search for answers…

“The Matrix has you…” Literal and metaphorical. Whether we’re in a game, a simulation, or a dream (and I strongly believe it’s one of the three, or some semantic variant), whatever “reality” is, it’s not real, and it has us all.

“Follow the white rabbit” is again literal and metaphorical. Alice in Wonderland is a wonderful philosophical story as well.

Curiouser and curiouser.

As strange as this may sound, I’ve often wondered if Alice in Wonderland was based on someone’s awakening experience in the same way Moby Dick was…

The book Neo has his stash in is Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard (a Sim Hyp type book). The chapter he opens to is, ironically, On Nihilism 😂 Nihilism is fascinating, but radically misunderstood…maybe I’ll do a post on that someday.

Keanu actually read this book in prep for his role as Neo (a gift from the Wachowski’s I believe).

The line, “You ever have that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming?”, makes me think of Chuang Tzu:

Butterfly Man Dream Quote

Knock, knock, Neo.

When Choi says, “It just sounds to me like you need to unplug man” 😂 The word choice in this movie is 🔥

Thing is, we can ALL unplug from “The Matrix” by disattaching and living in the now, by going through the awakening process.

Wake up motherfuckers!

When Neo spots the white rabbit tattoo on Dujour 🐇, this is what some call a synchronicity. Many people swear these exist in our “reality”, and I’ve experienced a few things that seemed as such myself (though they could just be false patterns, attentional bias, confirmation bias, etc.). Might be a thread worth pulling at.

That Neo saw it, changed his mind, and followed it though…may we all do as much.

The song in the club, Dragula by Rob Zombie…one of the lines is “Dead I am the one” 😁 Appropriate on multiple levels, and one hell of a lantern for the end of the movie.

But more than that; if Zen is accurate, “you” have to “die” in order to truly wake up to your oneness. “If you meet the buddha on the road, kill him” and all that.

“It’s the question that drives us Neo…What is The Matrix?”

What is real? What is true? What is the nature of reality? = What is The Matrix?

We seem to be deeply wired to ask/seek this, but shy of enlightenment, all you’ll find are more questions.

“The answer is out there Neo, and it’s looking for you. It will find you if you want it to.” Seek and ye shall find, ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened into you. Now you know what that line of scripture really means 😉

Organized religion may be 💩, but it contains some truths (anything that lindy almost certainly has truths embedded in it).

Ahh, the Agent Smith/Mr. Anderson interactions, some of the best!

“You believe that you are special, that somehow the rules do not apply to you.”

If you want out of the cage, you MUST question it all. Authority, rules, tradition. Leave no stone unturned.

Play as if it’s all a game, you’re a character, and you can ad lib if you want to!

Mr. Thomas A. Anderson as a wage slave…mind numbing bullshit job, cubicle, dick boss. No wonder he was searching!

Complacency is a trap. To wake up, you have to want to burn it all down, to escape no matter the cost. That’s what drives the transformation process at the heart of Zen.

Agent Smith talks to Neo about his 2 lives. “One of these lives has a future, and the other does not.”

I see Thomas Anderson as the inauthentic character, the role the Matrix shoehorned him into, but not who he sees himself as.

Neo is actually his true, authentic self. Who he chooses to be…or at least who he wants to be. This is key!

Moving along.

“Listen to me copper top” 😂 Switch just called Neo a battery, lol. But what is a battery? A store of energy, made to be used by something or someone. A functional component of a system. A resource.

Spot on.

To “the system”, we’re all just batteries to be used and discarded. Replaceable. Interchangeable.

“You have been down there Neo. You know that road. You know exactly where it ends, and I know that’s not where you want to be.” Fuckin A.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled

Enter Morpheus 😍

In Greek mythology, he was the son of the god of sleep, and was responsible for sending human shapes to dreamers within dreams. Quite a fitting name for his role in this movie. His role is that of a guide, someone who has awoken, and helps others to do the same.

“I imagine that right now you feel a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole.” This is what it feels like, deep in your gut, when you finally awaken *within* the dream. You KNOW things aren’t as they seem. The illusion is cracked, and there’s no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again even if you want to…so be careful where you start poking around.

“You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically this is not far from the truth.” 👏

When the cracks in the illusion appear, and you realize it’s all false…yep, exactly this.

“Do you believe in fate Neo?

No.

Why not?

Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my own life.”

Free will is probably an illusion, but nobody wants to accept that…and frankly, that feels like a boring way to operate.

The most entertaining would be to assume it’s a single player game, and PLAY!

“You are here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind.” 🔥

I’ve literally felt this way my whole life. You?

Morpheus’s description of the Matrix 🤯…”it is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you to the truth”.

In Zen, they would call this Maya.

“What truth?”

“That you are a slave Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch, a prison for your mind.” THIS. This is true on multiple levels if you can only open your eyes to see.

My book Screw the Zoo was ALL about this.

“Unfortunately no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. Nobody can wake you up. It’s a one-way, solo journey.

And if you can’t yet see it, this entire thread will probably sound batshit crazy 😂

“This is your last chance, after this there is no turning back.” The Red Pill vs. Blue Pill scene is 🔥 We all have a choice, painful truths, or comforting lies. Most will choose the lies. The rabbit hole goes DEEP 🐇

Unpleasant Truths vs Comforting Lies

The line about disrupting Neo’s input/output carrier signal…if we really are in a simulation or game (possible/likely), something like this makes sense. We’d each have a unique object identifier, to which our location, memories, etc. would be attached. Hmmmm…

“Have you ever had a dream Neo that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world, and the real world?”

How indeed.

Are you *sure* you’re awake right now? Can you ever be sure?

With the bio pod scene where Neo gets flushed, Neo has finally exited the Matrix…or has he? Is he now in base reality? Or has he just moved up one level in a nested simulation a la Thirteenth Floor or Inception? We’ll come back to this idea later, but strange things are afoot at the Circle K 😁

Not a philosophical point at all (more of an aside), but looking at the level of technology available to the machines, and knowing how inefficient humans are at energy conversion, there’s no way machines would have used humans as a power source 😂

They’d have just put solar panels in space, or at least above the cloud cover…or fusion, or fission…that they’d *have* to have access to the sun to run (much less human batteries) is fucking absurd.

“There’s nothing I can say that will explain it for you Neo. Come, see for yourself.”

As Joseph Campbell would say it, this is Thomas Anderson’s call to adventure.

Can you imagine how his life would have played out if he didn’t take the leap?

TAKE THE FUCKING LEAP!

Having just come out of the Matrix, Morpheus takes Neo right back in to experience it with eyes wide open.

Chop Wood Carry Water Quote

“Residual Self Image” is an interesting concept. While the movie uses it physically, we are what we believe ourselves to be, and our mental image of self is the what shapes our reality and our experience of it.

What happens if you change that core self image?

Give it a try!

“What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

BINGO. We only experience a mental interpretation of reality, not actual reality. We experience the map, not the territory.

Ahh, the whole “AI as the bad guy” routine 😡

This is such a common trope in Sci-fi that it’s become rooted in the human psyche. And it’s absurd.

Why?

Because *everything* is illusory, artificial, lol. Quantum physics indicates that we don’t live in a material reality, and that that we may be in a virtual reality.

If so, then WE are AI 😂

“Fate it seems is not without a sense of irony.”

You have no idea! If we exist purely as a form of entertainment for someone/something a level up, then it makes sense that anything that can happen will happen.

“What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer generated dream world, built to keep us under control, in order to change a human being into this. (holds up battery)” 🔥🔥🔥

I think about this a lot.

The economic engine runs on human fuel, and if too many opt out, what happens to the engine?

“I can’t go back, can I…

No, but if you could, would you really want to?”

This is the thing with waking up, there is no going back…and some people really wish they could, because the first step brings a HUGE wave of nihilism with it.

That first step is a doozy 🤣

For some, the nihilism is overwhelming, and they end up giving up, going insane, or committing suicide. They want to be plugged back in.

For others, they realize that a world with no defined meaning can be a fantastic playground or amusement park, and so they take it for a wild ride. Rick Sanchez style 🥳

“We have a rule, we never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age.”

This is very interesting…the younger you are, the less egoic cruft has built up, and the easier it probably is to dissolve your self without the necessity of trauma. Things rings true to me.

The story about the first One, a reincarnation story, is interesting. I don’t believe in reincarnation in the strictest sense (“you” coming back again, karmic cycles, yak yak). But in the sense of the finger puppeting you later swapping in a different puppet, then sure why not 🤣

The training sequence…gotta say, of everything in this movie, this is a technology that I would most love to see. Being able to just download knowledge and muscle memory into your brain…gimme 😍

It also makes me wonder though, if we’re all interconnected in some way (part of a single “system”), could there be a way to do this already? Hmmm.

The Morpheus Neo fight scene! 🤜🤛

“You think that’s air you’re breathing now?” LOL.

“Stop trying to hit me and hit me” is actually quite deep. Trying implies conscious thought. Peak performance requires Mushin, No Mind. Fully in the here and now.

“I’m trying to free your mind Neo, but I can only show you the door, you’re the one that has to walk through it…you have to let it all go Neo, fear, doubt, and disbelief.”

Frankly, you could skip all other philosophy courses and self-help books, and just watch this movie.

“I thought it wasn’t real.

Your mind makes it real.”

The mind constructs our “reality”, literally. Whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, you’re right.

Ok, next up, the “woman in the red dress” training scene. So many bomb quotes and deep thoughts in this one! (No, this pic is not from the actual movie, it’s a joke based on the boyfriend meme.)

Neo Matrix Woman in Red Dress Meme

“The Matrix is a system Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you are inside, you look around what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters, the very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and them makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

“If you are not one of us, you are one of them.”

The difference between someone who is “asleep” and someone who is “awake” is night and day, and it’s close to impossible to communicate and relate across that gap.

If you are awake, to the sleeping mind you will appear insane.

“Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill.”

Ahh, Cypher. Even though he’s a dick, I kinda feel bad for him.

Sorry dude, there is no going back from waking up. It’s a one way street.

You could try to distract yourself from reality via booze or drugs, but it’s a band-aid at best. Better to just embrace it and find a path forward.

“I know this steak doesn’t exist…ignorance is bliss.” In a way, yes.

Many people poke at reality because they are looking for some greater meaning or purpose. Well, there doesn’t actually seem to be one. And if you can’t handle that, then yes, stop poking and go back to sleep.

Funny enough, apparently the Wachowskis have said that given Neo’s choice (red pill blue pill), they’d take the blue pill 😂

I also think this scene with Cypher is an important look at what you’ll run up against if you awaken. The people closest to you probably won’t like it, and they may do things that seem mean or cruel…just remember, it’s not even about you, but about them. No malice, just fear.

“To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.”

This is interesting. On the one hand, the ability to overcome our base wiring seems a key strength.

On the other hand, being inauthentic leads to misery.

Paradox? Hmm…

The trip to the Oracle, where Neo is looking out at the “real” Matrix for the first time since unplugging, and he feels both a sense of shock/awe and nostalgia.

When you wake up in the dream, it really feels that way. It’s weird as fuck, and took me months to acclimate.

“Try not to think of it in terms of right and wrong…she’s a guide, she can help you to find the path.” Nobody can tell you your path, but some can help nudge you towards insights that will click for you.

Spoon boy 🥄 “There is no spoon…then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.” Your perception defines your reality. The sooner you grasp this, the better.

The Oracle 😍 This whole scene is great, but I love the Temet Nosce bit (Know Thyself) because it’s the key to everything.

It has layers of meaning, depending on your level of awareness. Also, makes me want cookies, lol.

“It looks like you’re waiting for something…your next life maybe, who knows.” While it may not be canon, I maintain that Neo wasn’t always The One, but only *became* The One once he believed it himself. Our characters aren’t written in stone, and we CAN change them (or maybe we can’t, who knows).

On the subject of becoming something, think of this like a sculptor. You have a block of stone to work with…what do you create? Do you create whatever you want? Or do you chip away to find what’s already hidden inside? 🧐

Perhaps a bit of both.

“You’ll remember you don’t believe in any of this fate crap. You’re in control of your own life.”

I wonder about this still…do we have free will? To what degree? Is determinism legit or bullshit? Fatalism?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

“What was said was for you, and you alone.” The exact same words given to two different people could be interpreted in wildly different ways. Thus the whole “the Tao that can be told” dealio again.

However…is the Oracle foreseeing the future? Or crafting it cunningly? (I’ll answer this later.)

“A deja vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix, it happens when they change something.”

I’ve wondered about this. Same with the Mandela Effect.

Are there updates, rollbacks, modifications?

If we’re in an artificial reality, who’s to say?

“If you’d have told us the truth, we’d have told you to shove that red pill right up your ass.”

This is probably true for most people.

Read some Jed McKenna…if you can’t handle that, then yeah, take your blue pill binkie and go nite nite.

“Billions of people just living out their lives, oblivious.”

If we are in fact in a game, then I’m guessing most of humanity are NPCs, playing out their narrowly scripted parts. Most people ARE oblivious 😂

Hell, are there really ANY player characters?

I’m not sure…

“I believe that as a species, humans define their reality through misery and suffering.”

Smith’s dialogue in this scene is 🔥

It’s true though, humanity seems wired to focus on the negative over the positive. I actually don’t think we could handle a utopia.

“Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.”

Agent Smith’s virus analogy is spot on. We do in fact behave more like a virus than like the other animals on our planet.

The question is, why? And must it be that way? Can we find an equilibrium?

“I hate this place, this zoo, this prison.”

This line is actually why I named my book Screw the Zoo 😁

“There’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.”

The Tao, the “way” or “path”, has to be walked.

Alone.

Just knowing it’s there is insufficient.

“He’s beginning to believe.”

Once again, your belief shapes your reality.

This is why I think Neo wasn’t the One, but *became* the one. He came to believe it, and thus made it so.

And the effort of others led him to that point…he wasn’t a “self-made” One.

“My name…is Neo!” Damn straight.

Outside forces can have an effect, but nobody defines your character but you if you so choose. Like Batman became the primary identity of Bruce Wayne, Neo became the primary identity of Thomas Anderson. You choose how to play your character 😁 (Maybe, depending on the nature of reality and free will.)

The scene where Neo “dies” and then comes back to life, able to see the code underlying the Matrix…I *think* this is meant as a representation of enlightenment. No mind, effortless action, pure awareness. Buddha Neo 😉

“I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries…a world where anything is possible.”

Now, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions…frankly, I didn’t find these movies anywhere near as deep, BUT, there are some nuggets to take away, so here goes…

First, there are multiple indications that Zion and the “real world” are in fact just another layer of the Matrix, and it’s clearly stated that Zion was designed as a holding pen for minds that reject the standard Matrix experience. 🤯

Agent Smith taking over a human in Zion, Neo stopping machines outside the Matrix, Neo being able to see Matrix code outside the Matrix after being blinded.

All of these lead to what’s known as the Matrix in a Matrix theory, the idea that everyone who thought they were unplugged were in fact just in a sub-routine within the Matrix for troublesome code. (I’m really hoping this gets addressed in The Matrix 4.)

Thing is, this may be the case for our world as well. A lot of “spirituality”, where people feel they’re becoming free, in fact represent just another layer of trap, a distraction…a holding pen.

How else could people spend a lifetime meditating and pursuing Zen only to never awaken?

It's a trap

Maya is a fucking onion.

And even if you attain “enlightenment,” if such a thing even exists, there’s no telling what’s really up a layer.

One thing we learn in the 2nd and 3rd movies is that everyone in the Matrix, even Neo, was a puppet, and the Oracle was the grand puppeteer 😂 She wanted an end to war and the cycle of reloading of the Matrix and wiping out Zion, and she played everyone to make it so. Why though? We never really find out…

You think you’re free, making “your” choices? Are you sure? 🧐

Lastly, Love. Neo’s first core driver was truth and freedom. Later, his love for Trinity took over. The Oracle used this.

Love is also a key driver in our reality. What is love?

Love is attachment, and there’s no enlightenment while attached.

Do with that as you will.

In my mind, The Matrix is a movie that tackles both the Simulation Hypothesis, and the idea of Non-Duality, all rolled into one. It’s one of those movies that you can watch again and again, and always find something new.

Anywho, thanks for reading! Good luck breaking out 🤣

Jed McKenna, one of my favorite authors (even if it is just a nom de plume) just released this…since it’s Matrix-relevant, here ya go: https://www.wisefoolpress.com/free/the-matrix-revelations/

Sam McRoberts

Author of Screw the Zoo. CEO of VUDU Marketing.