I’ve had more than my fair share of strange experiences over the years and one of the most bizarre occurred about twenty years ago after someone broke into my car and stole my radio-cassette player. The incident obviously played on my mind because within minutes of going to bed that night I heard noises coming from outside. I listened for a few minutes to determine if it was just my imagination playing tricks on me, then decided to take a peek through the curtains. As I swung my legs out of bed something lifted me up, carried me over the bed, placed me on the floor and held me down. I found myself unable to move under the ‘weight’ of an unseen presence. I struggled for what seemed like minutes, almost overcome with panic and terror. Finally, I managed to gasp out the words “Who are you?” and received a reply which I will never, ever forget. The reply was whispered in my left ear: “I am the most evil thing on this planet”. At that the ‘weight’ of the presence departed and I abruptly sat up – to find myself bolt upright in bed, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. It was weeks before I could sleep easily again. The thought of going to bed filled me with a sense of dread and foreboding.
Scientists refer to this kind of event as a hypnagogic hallucination. They occur during the transition to sleep and can be accompanied by a variety of different phenomena, from sounds and flashing images to sleep paralysis and full-blown hallucinations. I’ve had multiple hypnagogic and hypnapompic dreams but the incident described above was unique in its ‘authenticity’. As I lay wide asleep in bed pondering the source of the noises outside, everything looked and felt 100% real, from the layout of the room to the colour and texture of the light from the streetlights through the curtains. My thoughts and reasoning vis-a-vis the source of the noise outside were lucid and rational. Were it not for the intervention of the ‘demonic presence’ I would have been totally unable to distinguish between the ‘reality’ of the dream and the ‘reality’ I awoke to.
Twenty years later I can still recall every single detail of the dream, even the physical sensation of the unseen presence as it moved closer to my face and the voice itself as it whispered in my ear. Today, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the presence had not intervened. What would have happened if I had returned to bed and fallen asleep within the dream? Would would have happened when I awoke from my dream within a dream? Faced with a dream state that reproduced my everyday surroundings with exact verisimilitude – and which did not impair my conscious ability to perceive and think and act – on what basis could I have distinguished the dream world from the so-called ‘real world’?
One of my favourite directors, Christopher Nolan of Memento fame, explored these themes in his 2010 film Inception. Most will be familiar with the basic storyline, predicated on a high-tech form of corporate espionage where secrets are plucked from an individual’s mind while they are (unknowingly) in a shared dream state. However, the crux of the film centres not on the theft of an existing idea but the implantation of a new idea: to perform ‘inception’. Specifically, the owner of one corporation wishes to employ a team led by Dominic Cobb (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) to implant an idea in the mind of the son of his main rival. The intent is to convince the son to break up his dying father’s corporate empire. The catch is that the son must believe that the idea is his own. Herein lies the problem of inception: how to implant a ‘foreign’ idea in such a way that the subject does not realise it comes from without rather than within? By all accounts, the problem has something to do with elephants…
The clip above explicitly identifies what the term ‘inception’ means.
Origin, source, inception, root mean the point at which something begins its course or existence. Origin applies to the things or persons from which something is ultimately derived and often to the causes operating before the thing itself comes into being . Source applies more often to the point where something springs into being . Inception stresses the beginning of something without implying causes . Root suggests a first, ultimate, or fundamental source often not easily discerned.
Arthur says “The subject can always trace the genesis of an idea” and in so doing refers us to the biblical creation narrative, which is inseparable from the story of the Fall of Man.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. — Genesis 3: 1-7
Later in the film, Dominic Cobb meets with ‘the forger’, Eames, to discuss the problems associated with Inception. On the film’s Wikipedia page, Eames is described as “sharp-tongued associate” of Cobb whose speciality is impersonating others within the dream state. Whereas Arthur has doubts about inception, Eames believes that it is perfectly possible. It is, however, ‘a very subtle art’. Later, Cobb explains that “The seed that we plant in this man’s mind will grow into an idea. This idea will define him. It may come to change everything about him”.
According to Eames, the key to inception is to distil an idea to its simplest form and start with the absolute basics: the son’s relationship with the father. The son’s surname is Fischer (pronounced Fisher as in Jesus the Fisher of Men) and, as it happens, his relationship with his father is troubled to say the least. The father is the creator of a vast empire and the son lives a twilight existence in the shadow of the father’s great accomplishments. The son is regarded as an immense disappointment. The scenario is not unlike Adam’s relationship with God the Father after the subtle serpent had worked his magic: cast out of Paradise to til the cursed soil of the land beyond its borders.
Yesterday, the Son of Sun-der-Land was found guilty. It seems like he’s in trouble, but appearances can be deceptive because this particular son is beginning to ‘seed’.
At this point I need to digress a little. First to point out that I recently identified as an elephant in several emails to a friend. This sounds daft I know, but the elephant links just kept popping up and, interestingly enough, the subject was a proposed trip to a Peruvian Paradise…
Or perhaps it was to Pair ‘O Dice? Did I roll ‘snake eyes’…?
In these same emails I recounted another incident from my early 20s. I was living in a shared house with a couple of scallywags who’d had their fair share of run-ins with the police. In relation to their dealings with the boys in blue, I was told to stay out of it because “You don’t know what the score is”, but when I asked what the score was they refused to say. It seemed I had to know what ‘the score’ was in order to be told what ‘the score’ is – a Catch-22 situation if ever there was one. Later, the girlfriend of one of the pair made a pot of tea spiked with LSD (acid or a-seed) and we all spent the afternoon tripping our heads off. I recall stepping outside and seeing a post-Apocalyptic sunset. The street seemed like a deserted wasteland with huge weeds growing between cracks in the pavement. Regular visitors to Merovee will know that acid has raised its head on several occasions recently in relation to the film Alien (a-lien, a debt) and its sequels and prequel. The acid or a-seed is in the blood, an inherited genetic trait not unlike the doctrine of Original Sin that theologists derived from the Fall of Man.
Aside from the obvious association of ‘the score’ with football, it’s interesting to note that it’s also a musical term. A musical score is usually identified with a movie soundtrack. Music is written in keys and keys can be major and minor. By all accounts, it seems that the Son of Sun-der-Land who hails from a community of miners or ‘minors’ has got himself into a spot of trouble with a minor…maybe it’s in his blood? Perhaps he should have chosen someone of college age rather than school age? A ‘double major‘ perhaps? Then again, even Major Major seems to be having issues with the Father’s representative here on earth…
Returning to Inception, during the course of the film we’re introduced to Limbo as a shared subconscious dream-space. It’s also a theological term referring to an area on the edge or ‘limb’ of Hell
In the theology of the Catholic Church, Limbo (Latin limbus, edge or boundary, referring to the “edge” of Hell) is a speculative idea about the afterlife condition of those who die in original sin without being assigned to the Hell of the Damned. Medieval theologians of western Europe described the underworld (“hell”, “hades”, “infernum”) as divided into four distinct parts: Hell of the Damned, Purgatory, Limbo of the Fathers or Patriarchs, and Limbo of the Infants. However, Limbo of the Infants is not an official doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Ariadne asks Arthur “Well, what the hell is down there?” and Arthur replies “Just raw infinite subconscious. Nothing is down there. Except for whatever that might have been left behind by whoever’s sharing the dream who was trapped there before”. Those trapped there before include Cobb and his wife, Mal, who travelled to, and spent decades in, Limbo prior to Cobb taking on the Fischer inception.
At some unspecified point in time before the Fischer inception job began, Cobb and Mal were performing experiments to see how deep they could travel within their minds. Eventually they manually dreamt themselves into Limbo. Here they were able to create a perfect environment together and “feel like gods”.
And let’s recall the words of the subtle serpent:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. — Genesis 3:5
Cobb’s personal experience of Limbo is tainted with guilt derived from the act of inception he performed on his wife, who had forgotten that Limbo was just a dream state. He altered something deep within her, sowing a seed of doubt that would enable her to take the ‘leap of faith’ required to leave Limbo and return to the ‘real world’. But his inception deception – a necessary evil so to speak – was imperfect and rebounded as an ‘echo’ that caused her to doubt the reality of the ‘real world’. Like Eve, Mal went first and ‘took The Fall’ in the belief that her death would free her husband to follow her. Her suicide, which implicated Cobb as her murderer, paved the way for the Fischer job and the successful inception seen at the film’s end. Cobb’s success allowed him to return to the US but left us, as it were, in Limbo as regards the ‘reality’ of the reality he returns to, the suggestion being that Mal may have been right all along. If so, Cobb’s overwhelming sense of guilt may have been nothing more than an echo of an echo, a baseless reflection of a dream within a dream in which he was innocent all along.
There are striking parallels here with the story of the Fall of Man and the inherited guilt of Original Sin. But it was and is just a dream, an act of Inception performed by a subtle and crafty forger. The Father’s Empire – an empire predicated on guilt, of feeling unworthy, of being an immense disappointment – is just an echo or after-image of a crumbling dreamspace. My own hypnagogic dream was, I believe, a similar sort of after-image – a reflection of a fundamentalist upbringing which painted us all as miserable wretches wracked by Original Sin, with the ‘unsaved’ condemned to hell for all eternity. But my parents’ act of Inception was just a meme, a volatile, destructive and contagious virus spread by word of mouth rather than flesh and blood. Here in the move-eye reel whirled there is no guilt, no right and wrong, no judgment waiting for us at the end of it all. Here in Limbo we just need to re-open the eye – the third eye echo locator – that was closed by the serpent’s act of Inception.
So then. Limbo. You in or out? Another Johnson seems to have made up his mind already, even as he prepares to debate with the Wizard of Oz-borne. And the article? It’s by Christ-offer Hope, which is perfectly OK because, as my fellow Meroveeps already know, I am Jesus. As are you. In the shared dream-space of The Program, everything is everything and everyone is everyone and every act is an act of Holy Come-Union: the consumption of the body and the blood in Memento of us all.
According to my mother, my very first word was ‘football’ or rather ‘utball’. One of my earliest memories is playing football in our back garden and asking my then stepbrother to ‘give me a kick’…
And here’s a message from Goodwin or ‘God-win’.
The film was directed by Duncan Jones a.k.a. Zowie Bowie, son of the recently deceased Star Child David Bowie-man. It’s all part of the same Score.