Shamanism and Media in The Digital Age

A talk given at The European Men’s gathering in Denmark, August 2019

Andrew Sweeny

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The Matrix

In the film Matrix, Neo is given a choice. Is he going to become the ‘new man’, and take a radical risk, which means a dangerous trip down the rabbit hole? Or will he remain in the dark, narrow, comfortable, familiar, known womb called the Matrix.

Neo is, metaphorically speaking, a Shaman in training. And the first step of his training — and our adventure here as well — begins with feeling that ‘there is something wrong with the world’. This is what the buddha called, dukkha, or dissatisfaction.

If you don’t have a sense of dissatisfaction then you might as well just have a good life in the Matrix. Shamanic training is not usually recommended. However, when you get a sense of what Kurtz called ‘The horror!’ then you might start to consider a prison break.

Matrix means ‘womb of the mother’. Some people never leave this Matrix. They might appear quite happy, as long as there is no glitch. The problem is the glitch in the Matrix, the tear, the real — always arrives at some point or another.

Conversely, a real spiritual life — the journey toward being a Shaman, begins in suffering, when the real enters. However, over time it increases in joy and mastery, as the Matrix is gradually transcended. But there are many steps in between, many difficult pills to swallow.

The second stage of Neo’s Shamanistic training is to meet the muse — who is represented by Trinity in the film. The lover/muse is the best catalyst for change, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Trinity gives Neo a glimmer of hope of discovering what the matrix is.

In any case, after some wild adventures in the underworld, Trinity takes Neo to meet the elder Shaman named Morpheus. And the first question Morpheus asks Neo is: ‘Do really want to know what the Matrix is?’

This is a very good question. Do we really want to know the difficult truth? That’s the choice between the red pill and the blue pill. It’s Hamlet’s question as well: to be or not to be.

Morpheus also tells Neo: ‘I can’t tell you what the Matrix is, you have to…

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Andrew Sweeny

Compressed scraps of angel melody, stories, essays, rants against reductionism, commands from the deep.