by the Wachowski brother”
by Richard Abibon, psychanalyste (
1. In pursuit of the white rabbit
Everything begins with the streaming of some mysterious letters on a computer screen. Then, we are literally plunged into the depths of the computer. When we re-emerge we are in front of the screen, which, this time through a series of readable letters, is telling Neo to “wake up.” He is sleeping on his keyboard, the poor guy, and he doesn’t understand why or how his computer could possibly be sending him a message, as precise as it is enigmatic: “Follow the white rabbit.”
Someone comes to buy a pirated software program from him. His clients want to take him out for a drink and party. He’s not interested, until he sees a white rabbit tattooed on the shoulder of a girl who’s at the door with the others.
In short, Neo follows the white rabbit—and thus, the path of Alice, the way of the dream, of the mirror, and of logic. Is this what he finds at the nightclub, where everyone is dressed in black? But this Alice is called “Trinity,” and she is there to warn him of a danger. What danger? The Matrix, she says.
Neo is a programmer in a huge corporation, where he is known under the name of Thomas Anderson. Like most of us, he’s yelled at by his boss for being late. And then, just as he gets into his office, the telephone rings, warning him that he must get out of there because some men have come to arrest him. He doesn’t believe it. But when the voice on the phone, Morpheus, tells him to look over the edge of his cubicle, he sees some disturbing people in black shades asking for him. The voice tells him there is only one way to get out. He must go to the window to find the scaffolding. But it’s on no less than the 37th floor. Vertigo!! “I cannot do this,” he says, before turning back. He is then arrested and led to a police car.
They demand that he collaborates. He must help the police catch the person who goes by the name of Morpheus, who like Neo himself is a computer hacker. Neo refuses. Then, the cops decide to bring out the “big guns.” Horrifyingly, Neo’s mouth is made to disappear until there is only a surface of smooth skin between his nose and his chin. Then they unveil a small object that resembles a diode—an electronic gadget which, when put onto his stomach, is transformed into a surprisingly supple sort of scorpion, which wriggles before it’s put into his belly button.
Then the alarm clock rings. He finds himself in his own bed and so believes this was all just a dream.
2. Horror or joy of the void: castration in the landscape
Neo doesn’t react like a superhero, but just like anybody else. It is very typical. He works, he’s bawled out for being late, he’s afraid of the void. By reminding us that he is above all just like any one of us, the directors thus facilitate identification with his character—all the more so in that the void is always upsetting, and the sensation of falling is more or less universal in the dreams of everybody.
The void is also encountered in waking life, in a more or less pronounced way, in the form of horror, or, more commonly, its inverse—in the attraction for the void and extremely high places. Certain people have symptoms of vertigo on flat land for entirely unconscious reasons. Others feel it as soon as a tiny incline is encountered. The immense majority are led en masse as good tourists towards the void as a “point of view,” as their guides call it. There is a certain joy or pleasure in this view, a jouissance or thrill that one gets while holding onto the edge of cliff, for example. A few others seek to give a maximum amplification to this thrill such as skiers, parachutists, etc.
Thus, the thrill of the void, the vertigo-jouissance-fright that everyone knows.
But what is this horror of the void? The scene with the diode-scorpion puts us on track, for these two scenes have more in common than a simple chronological juxtaposition (that is, the scene with the scorpion and the scene of terror at the height of the building).
Let’s continue on our way following the logic of the white rabbit, since it is the creation of Lewis Carroll who, as not everyone knows, was a logician in addition to being the creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The name of the voice at the end of the line is another clue—“Morpheus,” [the God of Sleep and Dreams --in Greek mythology Morpheus is the “fashioner or molder because of the shapes he calls up before the sleeper.”] The logic to follow will thus be that of the dream, which first establishes a relation of simple contiguity between its juxtaposed elements. It is within a structural relation, however, that we must understand them, not just through their relation of contiguity. We must anticipate where they fit into the larger group of filmic (or oneiric) elements considered as a whole. In this case, what structures these elements is the idea that this fear of the void is nothing other than the horror of castration, a horror that beauty—of the woman, of landscape—veils. Beauty is always the last veil before castration. In more mathematical terms, it is the leap from the zero to one, from the absence to the presence of the phallus.
Trinity leads Neo into a car and shows him a curious instrument used to explore his navel. She has figured out that he’s brought a bug with him. This is the diode-scorpion that was inserted into his navel in his “dream” of the night before. It is the other side/other face of speaking of the anguish of castration—a phallic organ cut from the body becomes a living, autonomous being, and comes back into the body to penetrate it again. Here, this organ shows its logical value, for what is an electrical appendage if not a purely human product, and even more precisely a pure product of the Symbolic? This is just another version of the eternal myth of a creature who, having taken its autonomy from its creator, turns back to persecute him.
Moravia has given us a charming version of this entitled “Him and me.” Who is this apparently autonomous other with whom he talks? His phallus, of course. The phallus, representing the function of representation itself, the fundamental Other without which there would be no subject.
3. Phallus, logic of language, logic of the computer
As a being that functions in a purely automatic manner, the insect is a good image to which everyone is sensitive as an emblem of fear. Also, there is a real dimension to these “bugs” if what one means are computer “bugs,” most notably the 2000 bug, which is the form that millennial terrors took. Because of their automation, machines risk going crazy and creating catastrophes.
The scorpion in particular was always associated with the phallus in a good number of old cultural sources.
An ad for the journal “Psychologies” shows what is at stake with the human navel—as in maps of the city, a red circle around a navel reads “You are here.” To orient oneself, nothing works like knowing who one is, which is fundamentally related to the inscription of an origin. The Matrix shows us how this trace on the body is fundamentally correlated to the question of sexuality.
Thus, with her beautiful phallic apparatus, Trinity, the woman, removes the scorpion from the stomach of man. In this part of the film, it is a healing for Neo and at the same time a removal of the threat of the “bug,” as Trinity calls the diode-scorpion. From a Freudian perspective, this scene presents a kind of formal inversion of a very common phantasm of castration by the woman. And in effect, it is after having seen the sex of a small girl or woman that the small boy deduces, if he has been threatened with castration, that he risks losing the same thing, the proof of which he has just seen with his own eyes. In computer terms, she has simply taken a virus from him. A “virus” is what one calls those purely symbolic “creatures” (that is, a pure combination of logical functions and letters manipulated as objects by these functions) who can eat their way inside and live alone in the “guts” of a computer.
A “bug” is also something made to surreptitiously steal someone’s voice, their speech. And thus, to take from them a certain degree of freedom. That is what the sequence where Neo is deprived of his mouth shows us. All of this leads us to the way Lacan defined language as “a parasite on man.” Laurie Anderson takes this up without knowing it in her song “Language is a Virus.”
Trinity next brings Neo to Morpheus, the man who those who follow him believe will free them. But liberate them from what? From the rule of the machine. This next sequence explains the myth of the eternal conflict between man and machine, creator and created, the death drive and life drive.
4. Between man and computer, which is the cruelest? Which is more the machine?
Who are these people who surround Morpheus, “Morphée,” Sleep? Apart from Trinity, there is Dozer, the one who naps; Cipher, the code, the one absolutely necessary to understand dreams; Shift, the gap or shift, the one who allows exchange, passage from one space to another. Linguists call a “shifter” the element in a sentence that represents the one who speaks, in general the “I”. Switch, the only one wearing white in this world where everyone wears black—the passage, a little like Shift, but also the light switch, the one who allows light to come in, to illuminate the computer; and Mouse, who orients the pointer on the screen. Then there is Tank, the vehicle of assault, engine of combat, certainly, but also a reservoir of energy and of thought—of that which will become memory.
In the end it is Cipher who will betray the men to the machines. He is too attached to the virtual reality that he finds more pleasant than the reality of the world in 2199. Often men are thus victims of their memory which they cling to in order not to have to confront the future. Note the humor of the film—in virtual reality, Cipher is named “Reagan.”
Thus, if all these people are elements of a computer, do they themselves together make a computer? The conflict between man and machine is far from being a simple battle between the creator and the created. Neither of the two can be posited as first in relation to the other because if man and man alone has created machines, that’s because he himself has been made by the Symbolic, by the automatism of repetition that is found in mathematical entities such as matrices—catalogues of rules that allow the reproduction of a complex series of operations.
All human operations aim at improvement by the assimilation of the good and the rejection of the bad or the evil. It is always a question of a division, producing a remainder that is never irreducible. This elimination of evil…is it not itself…an evil act?
In a long monologue, Morpheus explains. Neo thinks it’s 1999, when in fact it’s 2199. He believes it is New York, when in fact it’s a field of ruins. The machines have taken over from humans. They have found out that human beings produce a certain electrical energy, and that it was easier to take it from them than to go through expensive campaigns to get it from nature. They have pushed this logic so far as to cultivate humans as plants in immense fields in order to harvest their energy.
The images which accompany his story belong to an imaginary of insects, of an anthill or beehive, with automatic gardening nurses resembling horrible animals made from antennas and segmented feet moving in quick jerking motions. They cultivate humans like larvae, an inversion of the age in which humans relied on the cradle of the first computers. The horrible image of a baby grafted onto the ends of a kind of piping recalls how data processing links up with medicine to give a vision of humanity completely enslaved to machines.
The machines, or better, the programs that animate them, do not forget they need to “water” their human plants with fantasies, that is, with the Matrix. Surely, because all they need from man are his biological components, this “watering” is unnecessary… But this is exactly what Morpheus insists on. This is the central thesis of the film. Humans are in fact nourished by the phantasms that are programmed into them. Everything that Neo believes about himself and his work in 1999 is nothing but a program, one of these virtual games that allow adolescents of our time to live fantastic adventures in moving universes (Shift), programmed by computer science.
5. The Logic of the Dream vs. The Logic of the Machine
A new and fundamental inversion of values occurs in the film in that what’s real is now the imaginary, while the imaginary—the fictional scientific imaginary which Neo unveils—is now the real. The Symbolic rules as master in the form of automatic machines and insectoformes. The real is a ruin, a waste of the previous world, a trashcan of history, a remainder of the division man-machine, becoming an impossible world. In this sense, it is necessary to distinguish this real from the reality that Morpheus and his friends try to live in their ship, concealed in the sewers of this programmed world and surrounded by menacing machines resembling bugs. This reality is a remainder of the waste made from passing through the reversal of the terms of the division. In a certain way, they have returned to a primitive époque where man was hidden in his caves, trying to live in a hostile environment. Except that here the “hostile environment” is the purely human production of the mechanical autonomy of the Symbolic.
The police who track Neo in the world that he thinks is real are themselves pure programs. They are anti-viruses put in there by the machines to combat the human rebellion led by Morpheus. They do not have bodies maintained in a vegetative state, like Neo and all the other virtual inhabitants of the planet from which the machines suck their energy. They have no bodies at all, since they can easily insert themselves into any of the “human programs” and change their appearance to follow their destructive work in any space where they find themselves. This is another inversion of values: these purely symbolic creatures, computer viruses, are now tracking man as a virus of functioning! From these they hook up with Lacan’s definition of language as a parasite on man.
Many particularly painful scenes end in images of Neo waking up. He finds himself in bed, and so he can convince himself “It was only a dream.” But as the next sequence where he is awakened begins to confirm the truth and “reality” his dream, he is led to a fundamental doubt. What is reality? Or better, which reality should he believe in? The psychic reality presented here as virtual reality? The one that which Morpheus speaks about, which is nothing but a story? A story is also a symbolic production, even if it is clothed in the imaginary.
Thus, the logical sequence that starts with the scene of the scorpion being inserted into his belly button is ended or concluded by the scene of his awakening. We have all experienced those moments of nameless terror from which we are woken up, in order the better to go on sleeping in reality. Waking up is at times the only solution that appears inside the dream to have the power to deal with the dread of castration. This is why certain people lose sleep or cannot sleep—better not to fall asleep than to dream of such a thing!
In the opposite way, to do an analysis is to be woken up from the world of sleep. It is to confront the scorpion that imaginarizes the anxiety of castration.
Morpheus, sleep, as an analyst, comes to give Neo a choice. Between a blue pill and a red pill, one will send him back to sleep in the dream of the human programs, to just furnish energy for the machines; the other will awaken him to the world of his own body of flesh that must be reintegrated in order to live the life of a man, with a soul in a body.
This is psychoanalysis: to leave destiny and be given the chance to make choices.
Furthermore, Morpheus tells him, Neo is the One (the “Chosen One”). He is the one who has come to liberate all humans from the empire of machines. To be the One is to be rediscovered within a destiny. All the art of the film script will be to show how to make a true choice out of this destiny.
6. In pursuit of the origin
Here, the film knots references to the Bible and Lewis Caroll while integrating numerous sagas of science fiction and heroic fantasy. The refuge of Morpheus and his friends is called Zion, the promised land of the Jews, which is here extended to the mass of humanity and reduced to the pure object that the Nazis made of it—a pure source of energy. The waiting for a Messiah who will come to save his people is a myth as old as the world. It recalls another myth that has been around as long as there have been couples—an infant will come to us who will realize what we could not. He will be rich, he will do his studies, she will marry a good man, she will not be left trapped in marriage, she will be independent. From out of these forms of disappointed dreams, he or she will realize their dream.
Neo, he will be a superhero.
If it’s a question of anything in psychoanalysis, it’s of rendering account of the force of the death drive that you complain about. Because why would anyone come to an analyst if not to say, “I cannot go on making the same errors. The same things keep happening to me, as if I were programmed like a computer. I have made many attempts to try and do things differently, yet I always fall back into the same impasses, the same real.” Here again it’s necessary to underscore the difference between this real (of the death drive) and the reality of the breast in which it’s possible to live while all the while cultivating one’s “beautiful soul.” In this reality, it’s always the world that is horrible because of others. I do what I’m supposed to so the world is sweet and livable, but I’m continually being thrown back against the wall of other people.
The step of finding an analyst is the one of saying to oneself that at last one is there for something, in place of this impossible. In the same way, Morpheus tells Neo that man is there to put something else in place of this world of machines producing the pseudo-reality which, until this moment, he used to believe in.
Because if the film continues to situate evil in the other, which allows it stay in a sort of classic scenario of good and evil, it also maintains that evil is a human production, even in this false world comprised of nothing but programmed fantasmatic nourishment. After all, where do the machines get these fantasies to nourish their human larvae if it’s not from the programs of which they are made? And where did these programs come from except from the humans who made them?
The question of the origin is thus linked to the problem of fault, responsibility. If one asks, “Whose fault?” then one is seeking a cause, which shows that one is still in a frame of mind that could be called causalist—which, while being the most universally common, is not the only one there is. The Matrix is a meditation on the origin. It’s here that the meaning of the title, the “Matrix,” becomes so important, for a “Matrix” is something that engenders. It engenders the computer universe that one mistakes for reality, but it also engenders the new human bodies that are only of service as surplus energy.
Choosing the red pill, Neo wakes up all sticky with an artificial amniotic fluid, in the “real” part of the Matrix, one of millions of artificial incubators where humans maintained in a vegetative state are submitted to the terrifyingly good care of insectoid machines. This is his true “birth” in the strong sense of the term, when he is expelled from the Matrix.
It is one of the oldest debates in psychoanalysis, which Freud treated in his “Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety” —the “birth trauma,” according to Rank is no more valid than the initial trauma of the hysteric. It is the other side of the interrogation of the origin. Freud gave a serious punctuation to the debate in his invention of the formula of the “après-coup”: the trauma only becomes traumatic after the fact, when a second event comes to recall the first. This response thus anticipating the Lacanian definition of the signifier: the signifier represents a subject for another signifier, just as a trauma only represents a subject for another trauma.
Neo lives his birth as a moment of total, terrifying incomprehension. It is a moment in which he nearly drowns.
But he doesn’t get out right away, since a phallic insect takes him by the throat, again echoing the scene in which the diode-scorpion enters his belly button. In that first scene he is penetrated mechanically in the place of his birth, the belly button. In the second scene a mechanical other grabs hold of him at the exact time of his birth.
We can all imagine our entry into the world like this, since it is just like this that we enter or grab hold of language, with its rules of grammar and syntax. Language will function as automatically as a robot if one does not seize hold of it in order to speak, and thus produce language at the same time that it produces you. To only be seized, as Neo is, is to stay passive—it is to remain an object of language and an object of the automatisms that make any verb call forth a subject and an object. Notions of time, kind and number also find their matrices in these conjugations.
If we only consider the story chronologically we remain stuck in a linear and dichotomous logic of good vs. evil, lawyers vs. rebels, cops vs. criminals, etc. To approach it in a structural manner, however, is to adopt a circular point of view in which one myth of origin follows another, without being able to discern a primary cause. Every effect engenders a cause in order to satisfy reason. The myth of the origin, for that matter, never stops following a myth of the end, the dream of an ideal society, which can only ever be a society that is dreamed of. Morpheus recalls, for example, that at the beginning of the creation of the Matrix, the Matrix had included an ideal virtual world called “Lio,” but that this ideal world did not work. What did work was a world where failures are possible, even if it stays virtual.
The cinematic storyline here recalls how Freud in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” had to render account of the fact that certain dreams never stop producing traumatism (something that could in no way be understood as the realization of a desire), after he had defined the domain of the dream as wish fulfillment—the realization of desire, and thus a world approaching the Ideal. Some small children, like the one of the “fort-da” game, endlessly reproduce a sorrowful event, the separation from the mother. In these games and in these dreams, pleasure cedes to the repetition compulsion, the domain of the death drive that Lacan would assimilate to the Symbolic. In the repetition of failures, the subject is at least assured of his existence.
In the film, the primary cause seems to be Neo’s arrest—an event that recalls the massacre of the
innocents or the ruin of the Oedipal infant in the
desert. An oracle has named “the One” the savior of
his people, and the tyrant seeks to find and suppress
him. Or, an oracle has designated the destroyer of his people (because it is
the crime of Oedipus that brings the plague on
This reversal is found again or mirrored in the nature of the subject who is produced by and through this structure. As the One, Neo is good, but at the same time he is considered evil by the anti-virus cops. And as a representative of humanity, he belongs to those who are responsible for putting this world of machines in place. He belongs to the users of language, which includes the repetition compulsion. And so in this sense he himself is part of and belongs to the machine.
It is himself that he pursues, as the consequence pursues the cause, as in a dream one is pursued by an implacable force. And surely it is not by chance that the directors show us the mirrored reflection of Neo de-doubled in the black sunglasses of Morpheus many times.
7. How the One reads the oracle
Neo “pursues himself” because he does not know that he is the One. And he ignores the fact that he is other, that he himself is evil. The other, to say it again, is himself, since it’s a question of the symbolic of language becoming autonomous. It is only when he truly assumes it, after his initiation, that he feels good, with only small inklings of doubt until the final assumption. This is exactly how it is for Oedipus—it’s only in so far as one believes in the oracle that it comes true. In the case of Oedipus, one must go back to the belief of his parents, until his coming of age when the Pythia repeats the prophecy to him and he finds himself believing it, this precipitating its coming true.
On posters of The Matrix, the sub-title of the movie is “Believe in the Unbelievable.” The most unbelievable thing is not so much the inversion of values regarding exterior reality, but rather regarding interior reality. For Neo, the recollection of his birth is only the beginning of an initiation in which Morpheus, who believes that Neo is the One, plays the role of master. The problem is learning how to comport oneself in a world that one knows is virtual. To learn the techniques of Kung Fu for example means to assimilate the corresponding program. But not alone: the master, Morpheus, is involved, especially as he wants to bring to realization his own conviction that Neo is the One.
In the virtual world, Neo is brought to meet the Oracle, a strong mother-type baking cookies in an oven in the most banal way possible. What is there to say about this scene? Is it simply meant to shock by introducing something radically heterogeneous into this science fiction environment? Understood in another way, what it’s showing us is the revelation of our own personal destiny. The Oracle—that is, your mother!
She offers him a cookie, which is also the shifter, the exchange by which a “strange program” is introduced into your machine.
This strange program is to what she said of you, what she wanted for you. Like everyone, you find yourself in the position of having to believe or not believe in this prophecy guiding you. It can be a negative prophecy like the one of Oedipus, “this baby will never amount to anything,” or positive, “you will be a great man, my son” while going through all the equivocations, all the imprecisions and ambiguities that one could want, including combining a thing with its opposite. Anything is possible, since one is in the domain of the wish, of the dream for the future of someone else. One is in science fiction.
In this sense, the “Matrix” is your mother—the one who engenders by her speech what you are called upon to become.
8. The Initiation: how to produce language at the same time that it produces us?
Here is where the questions of prophecy and belief are knotted to castration. The film begins with the ordeal of the void, which Neo does not dare to confront. Then, the episode of the scorpion, that is the return into his body of the castrated organ that took life. Then the rebirth as the return of the first confrontation with the void. The basket from which he is born is found suspended with many others on the vertiginous face of a sort of tower, like larvae in the midst of a hive.
Next, the initiation. It is carried out in the world of great American cities, the virtual world we take for reality. Knowing that it is only a virtual world, Neo is invited to leap across the enormous void that separates two skyscrapers. It’s not his physical capacity that’s in question but only his faith. Does he believe in himself enough? Does he believe enough in what the oracle said of him? Can he confirm the choice to awaken that he made by choosing the red pill?
Ah well, no—he doesn’t have sufficient faith, he falls. And all the others who watch him are disappointed. The same thing happened to all of them the first time, too. They were hoping that the One would be different. But, well, no, the One is like all the others. Later, after his terrifying fall, Neo is not hurt at all. We are not told this, but it is an experience that can only strengthen his belief in the virtuality of the world, and thus, in Morpheus.
This not simply a kind of play on chance, but a test. It is necessary to understand the pervasive fear of falling metaphorically. When, at the beginning of the film, Neo is bawled out by his boss for being late, one senses that he is already on the edge of a precipice. To fail in his profession, to fail in love, that is to fall. And to experience disillusionment, that is to fall from a very great height.
To be someone, is to be some One. It means stopping being taken for a zero, like Neo, who is basically a neurotic, and to dare the leap of this incommensurable space that makes zero into one. Incommensurable because you can put as many decimals as you like between zero and one, and it will always be necessary to jump the irreducible gap between one decimal and another, that returns us always to the gap between zero and one.
But there is more—if the fear of castration is anxiety for the phallus, this organ that becomes horizontal from a vertically erected body, then it is also the vertigo felt for our own bodies becoming horizontal in death. From one situation to the other one passes from the problem of being (the phallus) to having (the phallus.) To be ordered around by one’s boss is to risk losing “career advancement:” one is in the register of having. One step more and one is made to ?? yirer: one is in the register of being.
Thus one sees that the phallic question cannot be dissociated from grammatical questions—in other words, from language. The automatic functioning of the Matrix demands that the passive voice uses the auxiliary verb “to be,” while the past lays claim to the auxiliary verb “to have.” And if each language possesses different rules, each between them is nothing less than an automaton. And without language, how can the world speak? From one subject to another, nothing can be communicated at all without words. The fundamental fantasy of Neo is thus the same one as all of us. It is suspended between the risk of being penetrated by language, symbolized by the scorpion, and falling from a vertical height which constitutes the extreme border of language. This border is comprised of artificial incubators, of windows looking into offices of the research departments that make this world.
9. The encounter with Alice’s mirror
The perception of space criss-crossed by three dimensions is not a neutral given that is simply a pure product of the physiology of the sense organs coming in contact with a world that occupies the place of honor outside, in the independence of a “real” posed as prior to its perception. The horizontal-vertical crisscrossing or mapping we have already described as a phallic problem. To that is added the right/left mapping that is brought up in the mirror. This is not a simple reference to the Alice of Lewis Caroll since, after having followed the white rabbit and taking the pill of awakening, Neo sees that the surface of the mirror is liquid and that he can penetrate it with his fingers.
The mirror is thus a simple machine. One can decode its laws, its automatic functioning. It inverses two dimensions on three: front/back and right/left. The only dimension that stays unchanged by this traversal is the dimension above/below, the same one that constitutes the initiation for Neo, that is, the leap between the skyscrapers. But still, even before coming to this test of the void, in which he puts into play his aspect of being the phallus, he tests the dimension of depth, the one which inverses front and back, inaugurating the dimension of having. The difference between men and women is itself tied to this fundamental dissymmetry of back and front, which is translated as having or not having the phallus.
After having been penetrated by the scorpion, and thus by the language-machine destined to steal his words, Neo, like Alice, actively penetrates the mirror with his finger. But, contrary to Alice, he does not follow with the whole of his body. He observes his finger getting wet with the liquidy mirror-substance, and notes that the mirroring surface is crawling up his body little by little. As one says of the insane, it is not that he mistakes himself for his image, it is that his image takes him passively and totally envelops him. A terrifying trial of narcissism. Our introduction to this rite of passage is successfully made if we end up being able to say: this is not me, it is only my image. It is through what we are able to put into play of negation, that is to say, the void, the dimension that separates us from our image and through which we find ourselves returned, face to face with ourselves.
The mirror-machine, or image, as you like, ends its work of enveloping Neo’s body through a void, the mouth. Neo cries in terror, and the liquid mirror pours into the opened orifice. The corollary and no less important theorem is that the three dimensions of space, such that we experience them, only have value to the degree that we accomplish or operate this fundamental cut between inside and outside. The cut that is organized around the orifices of the body. In order to be situated in the void that structures three dimensions, it is necessary that I distinguish myself from it—I am not space, I am there, inside, constituting space as outside. Is it a coincidence that the companion of this initiation is called Trinity? To be constituted as an inside, in a space of three dimensions, is nothing other than to be confronted outside with the other sex, by the cut of the anxiety of castration.
Neo’s body gets out or is rescued from the wall of incubators, after a vertiginous fall into a sort of subterranean lake (the first trial of the liquid mirror, where someone like Narcissus would always drown himself). He is rescued by a mechanical pincer that leads him to the light across a hole in the ceiling. In other words—and these two scenes lead us back to the ones of the scorpion and the incubators—he is extracted from the mirror through a hole, after having penetrated the mirror by a hole.
The relationship of these two scenes, their articulation across three dimensions, is thus made around the question of the cut between inside and outside, the fourth dimension, putting in play the void, the hole as such, the function of separation that one can imagine however one likes: birth, cutting the umbilical cord, castration, falling from the surface of a wall, encountering the woman, the Trinity, the three dimensions of space, the mirror, etc…Expulsion from the Matrix as mother, but as this mother which is none other than language fundamentally putting to work this forming of the void, in act, which is called negation.
I am only born into this world if, letting myself be grasped by the machine of language, I return in order to grab hold of myself, and, as a created being, make in my turn a work of creation. I will only appear in three dimensions of space when, peeling myself off this illusion of the mirror which says to me, “It is I,” I return to say, like Alice behind the mirror, “This is not me, it is only my image,” which puts to work the cut in the void of the fourth dimension.
The disillusionment that makes something fall from up high. The illusion, however necessary, to preserve the value of the ego. Here is why the initiation, the test that was designed to create self-confidence, can be imagined as crossing the mirror, rebirth, castration, going into the void between zero and one, asking the oracle, psychoanalysis…What is the question of the oracle if it is not to put to the test whatever it tells us, the image of ourselves in which we are passive, for becoming active, choosing to believe or not, is what puts to work the labor of negation. Even if, in my turn choosing the image that the Oracle gives me, I put the words in my mouth myself and this affirmation say “It is no longer you who says it, it is I. Doing this, I put into play the zero as a function, in order to become a One who counts.”
10. The leap into the void: the impossible but structurally necessary encounter, of the 0 to the 1
The Oracle, the old woman, finally asks Neo whether or not he believes in her prophecy that he is the One. At this time, Neo says that he doesn’t believe it, and the Oracle doesn’t refute it. As he says later: “The Oracle only said what I wanted to hear.” That is to say: she said only what I was capable of saying myself. The double reflections of Neo in Morpheus’s sunglasses are echoed here, in this exchange with the Other. I only say what the Other sends back to me in the form of my own speech. But it is through Morpheus, the mirror of dreams, that I hear this other voice which is mine and which speaks to me of my deepest desire. It is through the mouth of Morpheus, the dream of Neo, that speaks the desire of being one, the One, the desire that he does not dare to hear and which he denies/drowns in his wish of being the zero in which he falls, between two buildings.
Morpheus becomes imprisoned by the anti-virus when he is out in the “world” consulting the Oracle with Neo. The Oracle had said to Neo, “There is something which will block, cause an obstacle.” The voice of Morpheus stays imprisoned within shame, within shyness, which is the anguish, the anxiety of castration. It is necessary to free it, to deliver it. Neo goes back, returns, with Trinity. He has reached this place, succeeded, of course, because he has found a certain confidence in himself. A marvelous sequence where Neo leaps into the void between helicopter and building, to meet up with Morpheus. He has had this curious intuition: “It’s not going to happen.” No, the voice of Morpheus cannot be freed until he, Neo, has made a path towards it. The zero is made in the meeting with the one, and they are both suspended under the blades of the helicopter piloted by Trinity, showing, in the void, in the trinity of dimensions of space, what it is to be the phallus of the mother. The zero joins up side by side with the one……The helicopter, injured by the anti-virus cops, loses altitude. Trinity takes care to make sure of the birth of this masculine pair before she ejects herself.
Then, Neo reverses, inverses the situation: assuming his passage behind the mirror, assuming his meeting with the one, his identity with Morpheus, it is he who holds onto the helicopter, since Trinity is still attached to it with a cord. Trinity who, in her turn, stops being a double for the Matrix, for the mother, in order to become a woman. In this sense, man too is engendered: he constitutes or makes the woman by his desire, letting fall the helicopter-mother who goes to crash into the side of a mirrored building. This becomes liquid at the moment of impact, as the mirror that he crossed, between Real and virtual. The illusion of a mother who has the phallus is destroyed at the same time as the one of being the phallus of the mother. Here is the liberation of that which blocks, and which keeps Morpheus (the voice) prisoner.
11. I love the one who loves me, and I believe in the one who believes in me
Everything culminates in the moment when, surprised by an anti-virus cop, Neo goes down into a subway station. But, who? Which “Neo?” Only the program that he is in the virtual world. His body stays inside the refuge of the rebels, with Trinity. This reminds her of what the Oracle told her—that she would fall in love with the One. Thus, she accepts this prophecy, she believes it…She says to Neo’s body, which stays behind with her: “I love you.” And Neo, in the virtual world, is relieved of his virtual death.
It’s not enough to believe in yourself. Someone else has to believe in you. But not just any other-- a small other who is made to support the big Other, language. And there is no relation to the other without libido.
Thus Neo finally sees the reality of virtuality: he sees the surroundings, the décor, as a simple streaming of letters on a screen. In other words, thanks to the love of a woman, he is capable of seeing the Matrix naked and face to face, the sex of the mother for what it is, denuded of its imaginary trappings. Facing this Zero, thus pure letter, he can definitively assume being the One.
Neo becomes someone capable of stopping bullets with a single movement of his hand, since he knows now that these are only letters. And again, reversing the situation, he dives headfirst into the body of the anti-virus who shot him the step before. He penetrates language, occupies it, clothes himself with it. This image again echoes the scorpion’s penetration: it is exactly at the level of the stomach, the belly button, that Neo enters the body of this Other which is a pure program, a body without flesh.
Then, on the screen of the Matrix the phrase “System Failure” appears: in other words, the automaton which is without fault, without a “crack,” is revealed in front of the division which is its own proper foundation, since it is a product of humanity, and thus—fallible. Neo leaves from a phone booth, in this world which is ours, populated with telephones which are like soldiers in the fight against incommunicability. He leaves it, this world in which “communication” is often held out as the solution, the panacea, for tomorrow. He is now in the presence of the 3-dimensions of the space of reality: Trinity, the woman, as it is necessary that he sees himself (her?) as castrated—and space, as limited.
He wants now to become what the Oracle said of him—the One who must open the eyes of all those who sleep. But it is he who says it, according to the formula of Freud—“There where It was, I must come to be.”
One hopes that he is not transformed into a preacher, and that this adventure will allow him to continue to ask himself, in other words, Who am I? And what is reality?