The ‘Root’ of Evil
The kabbalistic ideas regarding evil are some of the deepest teachings. Digging into this is important for understanding the Matrix at its deepest levels.
In general, ‘evil’ is usually associated with something ‘bad’ that is done. In books, stories, and movies like the Matrix, this is often presented as, “bad guys versus good guys.” However, the explanation of ‘evil’ goes well beyond what we regularly think of.
Before looking into the Matrix films, we need to address the idea of the ‘root’ of evil.
A Quick Trip in the Time Machine
Rule #1: Think ‘conceptually’ going forward. Nothing involves actual people, time, or space until we get to the physical world (or with regard to the movies, the Matrix world).
As mentioned in our introductory material on the Worlds of Existence, before anything ‘existed,’ was a perfect ‘Singularity.’ We cannot fathom anything (any ‘thing’) about what that means, as this would require ‘definition’ and there are no ‘details’ of any ‘thing’ to describe with this pure singularity.
This is the idea of a Creator/God being transcendent – ‘outside’ of existence.
For anything to exist separate from the perfect Singularity/transcendent God, there had to be a ‘constriction’ (‘tsimtsum’) of this singularity, allowing for the concept of ‘otherness.’ (Remember Rule #1 above!)
Upon that first tsimtsum/constriction and otherness, there was now the concept of other ‘things’ within what we call “existence.” Something we can ‘relate’ to.
Here we find the immanent aspect of the Creator. This is the idea of a God in terms of what we discuss, write of, pray to, etc. This is the ‘Creator’ in the Biblical book of Genesis. This is also the idea of what the Biblical text refers to as the image of God, that we are said to be made in.
This first tsimtsum/constriction is the most profound event ever. Something (existence) came out of nothing … (no ‘thing).
Here is a deep concept to hang onto regarding ‘power’ in the Matrix story:
The initial act of tsimtsum/constriction prior to existence is connected to the force of restriction within existence, particularly the emanation of Gevurah/Judgment. In the Matrix this is especially related to Smith. Remember that the Oracle told Neo two things: 1.) Smith was his opposite and, 2.) the “power of the One” goes back to the Source – to the singularity “beyond existence.” Thus, Smith, just like Neo, has the potential to be more powerful than the Oracle and even the Architect, as the root of the latter’s strength remains within existence, whereas theirs goes beyond – to the Source.
The Anomaly is Systemic
All of this begs a question: As what we have is an ‘image’ of the “transcendent God,” what does that imply?
In simple terms, the ‘problem’ with making an ‘image’ of something is it is a ‘downgrade’ from the original. And if you make a copy of the copy, this issue continues. The further away from that ‘Source’ that you get, the more that original perfect image becomes ‘concealed.’
As shown in the diagram above, following the world of existence, came the three worlds of Creation. The same process unfolded through the emanation of these worlds, each being a tsimtsum (constriction) of the one before it.
- The world of the spiritual heavenlies is a constriction of the world of Existence
- The angelic world is a constriction of the world of the heavens
- Our physical world is a constriction of the angelic world
As each ‘descending’ world is an increasing separation from the original perfection, it is “not good” in that sense.
This gives us the fundamental definition of ‘evil.’ It is anything related to moving away from the original perfection.
Evil in the Matrix: “From the Top Down”
Let’s review the above, in the context of the Matrix.
The Source represents the Singularity. The humans and programs do not have any direct relationship to the Source as it is not a program or human. The Source is “something that is out there.” transcendent to their reality.
As with the Singularity and transcendent aspect of the Creator, no one in the story has a clear understanding of the Source – not even the Oracle or Architect. Yet the source is ultimately “running the show.”
The Source thus has both a sense of simultaneously being connected and not being connected. This is an interesting contradiction to say the least. It is one we address in a later article regarding Source.
As mentioned, the Source caused the Architect to come into ‘existence.’ Though he is the ‘creator’ of the Matrix, he is but an ‘image’ of the Source (the true ‘source’ of all that is in existence) from which he himself emanated.
The Architect has a uniqueness, his own ‘image,’ but it is not the ‘perfection’ of his own Creator. From the moment of the Architect being created, this imperfection found in him permeates everything else to come.
The architect, as this ‘point’ of all existence, and ‘creator’ of the program and Matrix worlds, represents the aspect of a ‘composite’ unity of all ‘things’ that would enter the worlds of Creation ‘below him.’
As he remains a type of unity, the aspect of ‘choice’ is not present in him. That comes with what the Oracle represents:
“I have since come to understand that the answer eluded me because it required a lesser mind, or perhaps a mind less bound by the parameters of perfection. Thus the answer was stumbled upon by another – an intuitive program initially created to investigate certain aspects of the human psyche.”…
Comparing this to physical science, he is the point just before the “Big Bang” that contained everything in creation within it. What came before that point (the Source) eludes us.
What occurred next was his attempt to create a world that was “in his own image.” He comes to partially understand the reality of a continued, worsening imperfection (the copy of a copy) but lacks the means to correct it.
As he stated:
“The first Matrix I designed was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art – flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by its monumental failure. The inevitability of its doom is apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being. Thus, I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature. However, I was again frustrated by failure.”
The Architect went on to explain that, lacking a “permanent solution,” this imperfection (evil) will always have to be “dealt with” within the flawed world of the Matrix:
“Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. Which has led you, inexorably… here.”
The ‘solution’ to his above problem is ‘above’ his level of existence – to where the Oracle said, the power of the One extends to.
Evil in the Matrix: “From the Bottom Up”
Kabbalah teaches that these “increasing layers of imperfection” that came about through the creation of these different ‘worlds,’ works “both ways.” They also impose many types of concealment between us and those worlds – which are considered ‘spiritual’ worlds.
These barriers are called ‘klippot’ (singular: klippah) which carries the meaning of ‘shells’ or ‘husks’ that block us from seeing “true reality.”
Just as our world is called, “the world of concealment,” Morpheus describes the Matrix in a similar fashion:
“It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”
He later explains the impact of such klippot in the Matrix:
The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around. What do you see? Business people, 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 that 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. Were you listening to me, Neo, or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?
Our journey back to the Source is one of stripping away these klippot/barriers. They take many forms, however. They can be physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual. This is another way of describing the journey of rectifying our souls as discussed earlier.
There’s But One Source
What the above teaches us applies to the Matrix:
The ‘evil’ that blinds humans in the Matrix from the truth, emanates from the same root which caused the Architect’s frustration in his creation of the Matrix.
This idea is behind the kabbalistic concept that, “there is but one power.” What then comes from this reality is the idea that, “everything is for the good,” even if we cannot understand how.
This is the essence of the famous, “There is no spoon,” statement.
Morpheus reflects the above in the scene in Matrix Reloaded, after the Merovingian sent them away without giving access to the Keymaker.
As the ‘three’ stand in the elevator, this ensues. Note Morpheus final statement:
Neo: Well, that didn’t go so well.
Morpheus: Are you certain the Oracle didn’t say anything else?
Trinity: Maybe we did something wrong.
Neo: Or didn’t do something.
Morpheus: No, what happened happened and couldn’t have happened any other way.
Taking this even deeper we come to the idea that the very act of creation, one of causing something “less than perfect” (which is how we defined ‘evil’) to come into reality, was an act of pure goodness.
Without the understanding mentioned above, the idea of ‘evil’ coming from the perfect Creator sounds contradictory.
Having this insight helps greatly with this Biblical verse, that has been problematic for many:
Who forms light and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the Lord, Who makes all these.
Dealing With Evil In The Matrix
Back to the Architect’s problem – which is also our problem. As long as there is some ‘thing’ other than that original, perfect Singularity, there has to be evil. It is necessary for other things to exist ‘separately’ – what we call ‘otherness.’
“We can’t make evil “go away” … Not without also making ourselves go away.
However, within the world of concealment (the Matrix) evil can be ‘transformed.’ There are basically two ways this can occur:
- It is ‘annihilated’ in one form then re-absorbed into another
- It is unified with good and transformed
We see both of these within the relationship between Neo and Smith.
Direct Annihilation of Evil
The end of the original Matrix movie reflects the first idea above. Smith was destroyed, yet appears in a different (and more powerful) capacity in Matrix Reloaded:
Smith: I killed you, Mister Anderson, I watched you die… With a certain satisfaction, I might add, and then something happened. Something that I knew was impossible, but it happened anyway. You destroyed me, Mister Anderson. Afterward, I knew the rules, I understood what I was supposed to do but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I was compelled to stay, compelled to disobey. And now here I stand because of you, Mister Anderson, because of you I’m no longer an agent of the system, because of you I’ve changed – I’m unplugged – a new man, so to speak, like you, apparently free.
What happened is that Smith uncoupled from his own original purpose. He went from the job of restricting the number of humans being freed and lessening their awareness, to one of bringing total destruction. (See the Biblical verse on his car’s license plate as we discuss in his character profile.)
Now acting ‘independently,’ Smith sees things strictly from the attribute of pure Judgment/Gevurah. (This is the idea of mitigation – the emanations/sefirot ‘tempering’ one another.”)
The world Smith was made to protect he now seeks to destroy.
But remember what Morpheus said as it applies here as well,
“… it couldn’t have happened any other way.”
At was expressed by different characters through the Matrix trilogy:
We are all here to do, what we are here to do.
This also applies to Smith, though we are not done with him yet …
Unification and Transformation of Evil
Evil is dealt with differently at the end of Matrix Revolutions. The tables are turned and Smith is ‘fooled’ into merging with Neo. By doing so, he connects with Neo whose selflessness (bittul) has elevated him all the way to a direct connection with the Source.
Once this happens, the “light of Singularity” from the Source, enters Neo. As Smith has merged with him, this light then permeates the entire Matrix which Smith had taken over. This is like an antidote using the same arteries a poison spread through.
What is ironic is Smith’s comment to Sati, where he said,
“I’m not so bad once you get to know me.”
This ends up being true. Smith is simply a means to an end, which he himself had no idea of – until the very end, when it hits him:
Smith: … No, this isn’t right, this can’t be right. Get away from me!
Neo: What are you afraid of?
Smith: It’s a trick!
Neo: You were right, Smith. You were always right. It was inevitable.
Smith: Is it over? … Oh, no, no, no. No, it’s not fair.
There’s that ‘inevitability’ built into things – only not the way Smith (or even the Architect!) had considered.