Of all the fan-based discussions, since the first Matrix film in 1999, the most prevalent concern Neo as a “messiah figure.” Needless to say, there are many ideas related to the concept of “the messiah.” We are dealing with those that are within the kabbalistic tradition.
This is by no means a comprehensive view of the subject. We’re simply highlighting a few concepts that are key to the character of “the One.” We will include citations from additional texts, explaining any particular terminologies as they come up.
Two Major Messiah Concepts
Kabbalistic writings present a wide array of concepts regarding the topic of the ‘messiah.’ These tend to fall into two domains, though there is great connectivity between them. They are in a sense, “two sides of the same coin.”
One of these is ‘simpler’ and definitive. The messiah is someone who appears at the end of the six millennia of present human history and ushers in a 1,000-year messianic kingdom. He doesn’t personally ‘do’ a whole lot (that we’re told of) but his arrival marks a major milestone “in the master plan.”
There is a relationship between this messianic ‘kingdom’ (=Malkhut) and King David in the Bible, as it is said this future kingdom is ‘promised’ to him. As such, this messianic figure is known as the “Davidic Messiah” or “Messiah son of David” (Hebrew: “Mashiach ben David”).
(Note: Kabbalistic tradition associates the seven lower emanations with seven figures from the Bible, with David relating to the last one, Malkhut.*)
The other major messianic ‘figure’ is far more mysterious, complex and controversial. The work of this entity enables spiritual connectivity between “above and below.” As such, he relates to the concept of the tzaddik (righteous one) and the emanation of Yesod/Foundation.
This is someone whose actions directly impact those people who are faithful to the precepts set forth by God. Kabbalistic tradition associates the Biblical figure of Joseph with Yesod, as he is the one who reconnected his brothers back to their spiritual path and extended that path into the world of Egypt.
This messianic figure is referred to as “Messiah son of Joseph” or “Mashiach ben Yoseph,” and is connected to the concept of the ‘tzaddik’ – a truly “righteous one” – as we have mentioned in several past articles, including the Profile on Morpheus.
This is also more related to Neo in the Matrix movies.
The Messiah and the People
This idea of ‘connection’ between a messianic figure and humanity runs deep, in that anyone supporting the same work he does, is considered part of what he is:
The concept of Mashiach ben Yoseph functions on three levels: meta-historical, the actual personality of Mashiach ben Yoseph, and any individual who contributes to the messianic process.
“The Secret Doctrine of the Gaon of Vilna,” Joel David Bakst
Breaking down the above text, this complex figure of Messiah ben Joseph, has three main dimensions:
- Where the ‘concept’ originates from in the spiritual framework
- An actual messianic figure and his actions
- The relationship that some people have to this concept and person
This last point is important to our story. Only a small part of humanity has looked past the materialistic trappings of The Matrix. As outlined above, this minority “contributes to the process” of eventually freeing all the humans.
Parts of the soul of the Tzaddik are to be found in the whole creation, especially in God’s People, and especially in all the true Tzaddikim.
Tikunei Zohar 69:112a
They walk the same less-travelled path that the ‘One’ does:
A man can travel on a narrow path, or he can travel on a broad, smooth road. How do the two paths differ? In the number of people who have been that way. The path that only few have gone remains narrow and bumpy, whereas the feet of the multitude tread out a broad and smooth roadway. The righteous (those who remain faithful to man’s spiritual goals) travel on a ‘path’, the wicked (who have self-indulgently allowed themselves to stray after material goals) travel on a ‘road.’ The road of the wicked is well-troden; many others have traveled it before. Tzaddikim, on the other hand, walk a way that only a select few have passed.
“The Juggler and the King,” Aharon Feldman
The ‘One’: Past and Present
In the Matrix movies, we’re not told a lot about the concept of “the One,” other than it has to do with a ‘prophecy’ that emanated after the first ‘One’ freed some of the humans.
What we do know from several sources (Smith, the Merovingian, the Architect) is that there have been several ‘Ones’ along the way, with Neo being the sixth.
It should be no surprise by now that this aspect of the Matrix story aligns perfectly with a kabbalistic teaching:
“Five times in the history of the world the path of truth has been renewed: through Moses our Teacher, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, Rabbi Israel the Baal Shem Tov, and Rebbe Nachman. From him until Mashiach (the 6th) there will be nothing new.”
Chayey Moharan 279
We are also aware that Morpheus, in the first film, spoke in terms of Neo himself being that original ‘One’ who would return, with even greater power, enabling all of humanity to be freed:
Morpheus: After he died the Oracle prophesized his return and that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix, end the war, bring freedom to our people. That is why there are those of us who have spent our entire lives searching the Matrix looking for him. I did what I did because I believe that search is over.
(This concept of a soul returning is called gilgul (plural: ‘gilgulim’) literally ‘revolutions’ – which of course is the name of the third movie.)
The Architect also implied a special level of connectivity that all of the ‘Ones’ had with the rest of humanity:
Architect: Your five predecessors were, by design, based on a similar predication – a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the One.
Whereas the Architect dismissed the other ‘Ones’ as simply ‘lesser’ than Neo, without doubt, they did accomplish something in the past that contributed to the greater goal. They enabled the ‘Neo’ version of the One to appear and do what he was able to do.
As Smith said to ‘himself’:
Smith 1: It’s happening exactly as before.
Smith 2: Well, not exactly.
Different Levels and Different Roles
So what’s the deal here? There were other ‘Ones’ before Neo as well as many great people like Morpheus and Trinity, who also played major roles, many of them enduring hardship and some even “dying for the cause.”
How do they all connect?
In kabbalah, there is the idea that there are righteous ones who suffer for their particular generation (i.e., their iteration of the Matrix). Such individuals can save the people from annihilation, as we saw at the end of The Matrix Revolutions.
There is also a more unique person, who can accomplish even greater things, leading to the final redemption (Neo, and the end of the Matrix):
Suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik (righteous person) as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept this suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree. … Such suffering also includes cases where a tzaddik suffers because his entire generation deserves great punishments, bordering on annihilation, but is spared via the tzaddik’s suffering. In atoning for his generation through his suffering, this tzaddik saves these people in this world and also greatly benefits them in the World-to-Come.
… In addition, there is a special higher type of suffering that comes to a tzaddik who is even greater and more highly perfected than the ones discussed above. This suffering comes to provide the help necessary to bring about the chain of events leading to the ultimate perfection of mankind as a whole.
“Derech Hashem” (The Way of God), Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
(We have previously mentioned the “chain of events” from the above text and how it is relevant to the three stages of the Matrix prophecy.)
The One’s Connection to Others
The relationship between the ‘One’ and the people is especially pertinent to the character of Neo, both in what he has thus far accomplished in the first three movies, and going forward.
Neo may be the ‘One,’ but he is still ‘one’ of us – albeit with a unique soul and potential.
- Agents (in Reloaded): He is still … human.
- Councillor Hamann: It’s a good sign … that you are, in fact, still human.
- Merovingian: You see, he’s just a man.
- Architect: … you remain irrevocably human.
The above is important, as the One cannot be a program (i.e., an angel). As the Architect stated, the One has to have a profound attachment to his fellow humans.
This attachment enables him to know exactly what others need to elevate themselves out of the Matrix world:
Because of the physical restraints imposed upon him by this world, man – almost without exception – finds it nearly impossible to perceive this spiritualism. The Tzaddik is the exception. He does have a grasp of the spiritual. He can discover the level and the route – and not only his own, but those of others as well … A Tzaddik knows on what to concentrate his energies and how to focus on it, and he knows how then to bring his understanding down to a level that even ordinary people can comprehend.” … “The bond which we seek to create with the Tzaddik is a spiritual one.
Crossing the Narrow Bridge, Chaim Kramer, p. 320,328
It’s important to note that the impact Neo had upon reaching the “status of the One” at the end of the first movie, was both profound and subtle.
The plot for Matrix Reloaded is set six months after the end of the first Matrix movie. The same energy that caused Neo to become the One, also elevated everyone associated with him:
Morpheus: Consider what we have seen, Councillor. Consider that in the past six months we have freed more minds than in six years.
As is said, “a rising tide floats all boats.”
“The tzaddik is the elevation for all to turn to.”
Tikunei Zohar 6:145b
Reciprocal Relationship with the Messiah
In an earlier article, we commented on how Neo ‘helped’ in freeing one person from the Matrix.
Kid: I know, but you got me out! You saved me!
Neo: You saved yourself.
Both statements were true. There is a close connection between the tzaddik and those he assists:
Receiving counsel from the tzaddik creates a bond between the giver and the receiver. In a sense, this is like a marriage. Through the transmission of his advice, a union occurs between the tzaddik and the person receiving from him.
Likutey Moharan I, 7:4
Kabbalah goes as far as saying that this relationship between the messiah and the people is reciprocal even to the point that we, through correct actions, can help the messiah in his helping us. This relates to the concept of the “arousal from below” (mentioned in the articles prior to this one) which we will see evolve in Matrix 4.
The messiah is the consummate ‘righteous’ person. Speaking of those who put their trust in him, they are also called ‘righteous’ for doing so. This bond enables the latter to help him in his mission of uncovering the truth of reality and freeing the captives.
By themselves working to reveal the truth, they help enable him to do the same at his loftier level:
In freeing the captive secrets from dominion of the husks (that which conceals the truth) they would also liberate the soul of the Mashiach and help him to complete the Redemption, ‘for the Mashiach is called tzadik (‘righteous one’), as in the allusion in Scripture: “he is righteous and saved” (Zechariah 9:9), and those who hold fast to his strength are called tzadikim (‘righteous ones’).
“Messianic Mysticism,” Isaiah Tishby
Conversely, the righteous one (i.e., messiah) helps himself by being willing to help others:
The Tzaddik is … “one who gives freely and generously. By lifting up his brethren, he himself is raised.”
“On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah,” Gershom Scholem
The Benefit of Associating With the Messiah
Neo has opened a pathway that no other ‘One’ could, and thus has a special connection to all humans who see past the materialism of the Matrix and its trappings. In particular, his actions at the end of The Matrix Revolutions had multiple effects.
There are those who seem to derive direct benefit:
Oracle: What about the others?
Architect: What others?
Oracle: The ones that want out.
Architect: Obviously, they will be freed.
Oracle: I have your word?
Architect: What do you think I am? Human?
Many fan comments felt this meant more of the people still in the Matrix, were going to be freed at that moment. Though this may be true, the idea continues through the ‘interim period,’ as more will become ‘awakened’ from the world of concealment.
What is interesting is the ‘connection’ between Neo’s actions and this ‘promise’ made by the Architect. In one of the more subtle hints from the movies (not so visible in a normal viewing mode) we find an indication that the story of ‘Neo’ will be remembered through future generations.
This is on the bench in the final scene from The Matrix Revolutions:
Neo’s actions also had a specific role in the first stage of the redemptive process as discussed. What he did, by going through all the pain he endured and being willing to give up his life (more than once) was to ‘guarantee’ that others getting on the “path of righteousness” would be able to escape.
The following text explains this in terms of the “collective soul” of all — which properly defined is anyone choosing the path of righteousness:
The main guarantor is the soul of Mashiach, which is the collective soul of all tzaddikim (righteous ones) throughout the generations. Mashiach will complete all rectifications and fix all the damage that was incurred throughout history … he serves as guarantor for them all.
“Likutey Halakhos,” Rabbi Nosson of Breslov
This is behind Morpheus’ statement at the end of the Matrix Revolutions:
“He fights for us.”
The concept of the “collective soul” (or collective consciousness) relates to the 4th dimension of the soul (Chaya/Life) as previously mentioned, and thus the 4th movie as we also explained.
What’s especially interesting, is that even those who fail to see what the Matrix is and fall into its trappings, can receive benefit from the One:
“As he (the tzaddik) is the comprehensive soul of his generation, he can elevate all and everything that is rooted in his soul … he can elevate even the souls of the wicked.”
“Chassidic Dimensions, Vol. 3,” Jacob Immanuel Schochet
What is the Meaning of Neo’s Return?
As for Neo’s ‘death’ in The Matrix Revolutions and how he is returning for Matrix 4:
Within the hands of Yesod/Tzaddik are the souls of all living things. Because of this it is also called Hei ha-olamim – the “eternally living one.
Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics, Elliot R. Wolfson
From the beginning to the end … the “Alpha and Omega”:
The soul (‘name’) of Mashiach preceded the world.
As stated in a different Wachowski movie, “V For Vendetta”:
Creedy: “Why won’t you die?”
‘V’: “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh, Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.”
Note also the scene at the end of “V For Vendetta,” where all the deceased, who were “part of the cause,” reappear. Evie’s words at that moment, reflect the above-mentioned concept of, “any individual who contributes to the messianic process,” being part of the messiah figure:
Mr. Finch: Who was he?
Evey Hammond: He was Edmond Dantes, and he was my father and my mother, my brother, my friend. He was you and me. He was all of us.
* The seven lower sefirot relate to specific Biblical personalities as follows: Chesed/Abraham, Gevurah/Isaac, Tiferet/Jacob, Netzach/Moses, Hod/Aaron, Yesod/Joseph, Malkhut/David. During the autumnal 7-day holiday of Sukkot (‘Tabernacles’) each of the days is focused on the spiritual attributes of the associated person.