The Red Pill: You Get Less With This Ride

The “red pill” has become iconic with regard to the first Matrix movie. There has been much written around the metaphorical idea of “waking up to the true reality.”

Taking this deeper down the rabbit hole, this also represents one of the most important ideas in kabbalah.

The red pill is the concept of ‘constriction,’ called, tsimtsum. This has numerous applications in the Matrix trilogy. It can occur at the physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual levels in our lives.

The basic idea of tsimtsum is that before you can accept some new ‘truth,’ you have to make room for it. This involves pushing aside “non-realities” that are in the way.

Tsimtsum always precedes new insight and connection. It is very important along the “path of the One.

Freeing Your Mind – Step One

A person may experience tsimtsum by way of their own initiative. For instance, taking time to be alone, block out external stimuli and freeing the mind through a meditative technique.

Tsimtsum may also occur by way of circumstances imposed upon us, such as a difficult time that causes a person to rethink what life is really about. We might even look back at such things as being a “hidden blessing.”

Sometimes it can be both. The “train station” scene where Neo finds himself in isolation and chooses to sit and focus his mind is an example.  He didn’t ask to be put into that predicament. After attempting to solve his situation, he decided to make use of his time to seek answers and saw the vision of the three power lines.

Neo’ First Tsimtsum

For Neo to first be able to grasp the idea that he has been living in the Matrix world, something has to be done regarding his current understanding of reality. This first step is rarely an easy thing.

For starters, Morpheus says to Neo,

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Although true ‘choice’ only occurs once one has discovered reality beyond the Matrix, there is an aspect of “limited choice” within the confines of that world of concealment.

This brought us to the famous red pill scene. As mentioned in our introductory article on Neo’s journey, it is a critical moment in the rectification of the base level of his soul called ‘Nefesh.’

This is not the only experience of tsimtsum at this or any level of his path. Both Morpheus and the Oracle are instrumental in many such constrictions of Neo’s perspective, enabling him to move forward.

The Red Pill is Just the Start

There are many things that get in the way of our own understanding. Some are more concrete, while others are more abstract.

As Morpheus later says to Neo:

“You have to let it all go, Neo, fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.”

These negative attributes must be replaced by their opposites – love, trust and faith. These latter three are central themes in the Matrix trilogy. In kabbalah, they relate to Keter/Crown, Binah/Understanding and Chokhmah/Wisdom as mentioned in our background article on the emanations.

Things That Block Our View

The issue, of course, is that there are things that get in our way of doing the things we need to understand. The kabbalistic term for such things blocking you from the truth is “klippot” (singular: klippah). The word carries the meaning of ‘shells’ or ‘husks.’

As mentioned above regarding tsimtsum, these negative barriers can also be; physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual.  What makes it difficult is that they don’t necessarily present themselves as something ‘obviously evil.’ In fact, people often accept them as ‘truth’ and see anything challenging them as a lie.

A wonderful illustration of this was what Morpheus explained to Neo, early on:

“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.”

It is Inevitable

“Getting past” these barriers is a continual cycle and part of the process of change.  (The Temet Nosce discussion Neo had with the Oracle is important here.)

Something we see through the Matrix movies is that even the main characters (including Morpheus) will experience doubt and encounter misunderstanding, the deeper they get into the reality of the Matrix.

Some measure of ‘klippot’ will get in everyone’s way, even those with great knowledge. We saw this happen to Morpheus (along with Neo and Trinity) after Neo had returned from his encounter with the Architect.

Morpheus: I don’t understand it. Everything was done as it was supposed to be done. Once The One reaches the Source, the war should be over.

Doubt is a product of klippot being in place.

Binah and Balance

To recap

  • A “lack of understanding” directly correlates to the klippot.
  • Advancement in understanding” to the concept of tsimtsum.

Recall from our introductory material that the Oracle represents the attribute of Understanding/Binah. Thus, her role directly connects to tsimtsum, in causing a shift in a false perception of reality (klippot), that opens the way for a valid connection.

She made a statement revealing this in The Matrix Revolutions:

Oracle: … That’s his purpose: to balance an equation.
Neo: What’s your purpose?
Oracle: To unbalance it.

Just as everyone must first meet the Oracle to be given their condition, all will undergo multiple constrictions from her as long as they keep advancing on their path to the truth.


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