Jesse Walker wrote in his book The United States of Paranoia about several films that came out in the late 90s containing Gnostic narratives. The underlying themes to movies like Dark [
WorldCity], The Matrix, and even The Truman Show presents the world we perceive around us as a false and possibly malevolent illusion. For me, coming of age in the late 90s, that Gnostic vibe was everywhere. Gnostic elements also played such a key role of the story in The Invisibles. Then 9/11, and everything surrounding it, seemed to push this Gnostic narrative in pop culture underground again. Do you think that perhaps we may be [about to] see another surge in a Gnostic narrative infusion into our culture after a seventeen to twenty-three year hiatus?
The Gnostic narrative is still valuable and relevant because it concerns itself with what we can call the Matrix, the idea that we live in a simulation of reality that enfolds and engages us, while blinding us and concealing from us the true reality of our existence – the Gnostics were the first to build whole cosmologies around the idea that the universe is somehow fake or counterfeit, the half-assed, broken effort of a jealous, self-deluding demiurge.
I think there’s a kind of truth there but the attempts of the Gnostics to express it were naturally stuck in their times. We have computer metaphors now and the understanding that, yeah, we’ve proved you can simulate universes now. You can play games that have become increasingly more complex and ornate; something like Grand Theft Auto, to me that’s like the Sistine Chapel – that ordinary people collaborated to make something so beautiful, so intricate, where even the pigeons on the ground are doing stuff. I mean you can find peyote plants in Grand Theft Auto and if you can take them, you experience the game as an animal, or a bird. It’s not important to the gameplay, it’s just an amazing little detail that adds to the immersive effect. There are ghosts and UFOs hidden in the game. To me, the intricacy of that creation is astounding – you know so, obviously if we can already create simulations that good, it’s easy to imagine that we could also be living in a higher-order simulation created in some barely-imaginable super-computer.
And that’s also kind of what I experienced when I had the whole thing in Kathmandu, when I was convinced I’d been stripped off the surface of the space time continuum and shown the universe from “outside”. From my point of view, our universe was very definitely contained inside a bigger, more “real” continuum with more dimensions but it wasn’t like we were a simulation – the universe was created naturally as part of an organic process but there was no doubt that our lives were just small slices of something with more angles.
It’s possible to trigger states of consciousness where these higher spaces and times seem like undeniable facts of reality. These states of consciousness were available to the Gnostics and others but, as I say, they didn’t have the computer metaphors we use to imagine a simulated universe so they expressed it in these religious terms.