It’s the proverbial Oldest Lie in the Book: “Ye shall be as gods.” The Enemy, in the spirit of not fixing what ain’t broke, has recycled this old lie into a new space age religion: Transhumanism.
Thanks to recent breakthroughs in genetics, robotics, artificial intelligence, and/or nanotechnology, we are told that scientists are close to defeating Death. It’s even been on the cover of TIME, so it must be true: Mankind will achieve immortality by 2045.
Some pundits, tongues firmly in cheek, refer to this transcendent moment as the Rapture of the Nerds. But there are highly intelligent, well-financed researchers working to making this a reality. For example, the man who made the “immortality by 2045” prediction, renowned scientist and inventor Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, was hired two years ago as the Director of Engineering for Google, arguably the most powerful technology company on the planet.
Not coincidentally, since it hired Dr. Kurzweil, Google has spent literally billions of dollars acquiring companies involved in robotics and artificial intelligence research. One analyst has described Google’s activity since early 2013 as “the Manhattan Project of AI.”
To them, this is a scientific quest, a problem to be solved through diligent study and research for the betterment of mankind. For their financial backers, it is a potential source of nearly unimaginable wealth. In our increasingly post-Christian society, how much would the secret of immortality be worth?
For a few enlightened ones, however, this is about reversing the curse. The serpent, the Shining One, the nachash, after millennia of struggle against the Most High, intends to reach up and strike the seed of Eve, not in the heel, as prophesied by Yahweh in Genesis 3, but in the head–luring the children of Eve to reject Yahweh by promising godhood, an almost irresistible appeal to human pride and vanity.
Transhumanists are already on board. Paraphrasing Alan Harrington, author of the influential 1977 book The Immortalist, they are convinced that the time has come for man, having invented the gods, to turn into them.
This has been the Enemy’s sales pitch since the very beginning. Again, if it ain’t broke…
The 2014 Johnny Depp film Transcendence manages to weave this appeal to human pride into its well-produced tale. On the surface, it’s a science-fiction story about the promises and pitfalls of the coming merger of human consciousness with supercomputing technology, and that is how most audiences received it. A deeper look, however, reveals much about the Enemy’s plan, hidden in plain sight from those who aren’t aware of the symbolism woven into the plot.
Transcendence, a title that gives a respectful nod to Dr. Kurzweil (he was the subject of the well-received biographical film Transcendent Man), portrays the lead characters, Will and Evelyn Caster, as enlightened and altruistic, a loving couple devoted to one another and to applying their research into artificial intelligence for the benefit of humanity’s poor and downtrodden. The film’s antagonists, on the other hand, belong to a group of violent anti-technology Luddites called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology). They are evolution deniers, apparently, and while the film does not explicitly show this, it’s implied that the group is motivated by religious fundamentalism.
RIFT terrorists set the plot in motion by executing a wave of murderous attacks on artificial intelligence research centers. Will is shot and wounded by a bullet laced with polonium-110, which dooms him to a slow death by radiation poisoning. This compels Evelyn to upload his consciousness into an experimental AI mainframe in a desperate act of love and grief.
The story arc of Will and Evelyn Caster’s relationship represents the goal of illumined occult elites. In a nutshell, this secretive religion believes the enlightened will attain immortality when their deity, the nachash who convinced the first humans to sin, ascends to his rightful throne above that of Yahweh Himself.
The name of Depp’s character–Will Caster–is a thinly-veiled allusion to the five “I wills” ascribed to the fallen angel of Isaiah 14:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)
Dr. Caster is an analogue for the nachash cursed by Yahweh for overreaching and drawing humanity into its current fallen state. In an early scene, a man attending one of Caster’s lectures asks the doctor whether his research isn’t really about building a god. Caster answers the man’s question with another: “Isn’t that what man has always done?”
Well, yes–since about chapter 3 of Genesis, anyway.
Evelyn Caster, of course, represents Eve, the first woman. In a broader sense, she also represents all of humanity, as in the “seed” of the woman referenced in the curse Yahweh proclaimed on the nachash:
Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise its heel. (Genesis 3:14-15)
Will Caster suffers the curse of Genesis 3 when the religious extremist, representing God, shoots him with that radioactive bullet. Occult elites believe that the day will come when the nachash reunites with Eve–humanity–and overcomes the curse, fulfilling the five “I wills” of Isaiah 14.
In Transcendence, as in the Garden, the sin of striving for godhood is initially committed by the woman. It was Eve who ate of the forbidden fruit, and it was Evelyn who insisted that her dying husband be “saved” by uploading his consciousness into their supercomputer. In both cases, we should note, the woman had a willing male partner; Adam was with Eve when she agreed to eat (see Genesis 3:6), and Evelyn Caster is assisted in her project by a family friend, Max Waters. If Adam disapproved, we have no record of it; Max Waters’ misgivings are overruled by Evelyn, who orders him out of the laboratory once it appears that the procedure has succeeded.
The transcendence of Dr. Caster beyond the limits of his biology, metaphorically rising from the ashes of his radiation-burned biological husk, echoes a common theme in occult circles. The phoenix, sometimes represented as a double-headed eagle, symbolizes rebirth. In Greek mythology, the phoenix reproduced by immolation, after which a new bird, born from the ashes of its father’s body, emerges.
Similarly, the nachash intends to rise from the dust of its curse to rule as a god of light. Will, as a nearly omnipotent AI powered by a huge field of solar collectors, is a “god of light” in a very real sense. And if the phoenix symbolism wasn’t clear enough to viewers, the final confrontation between the Casters and RIFT (with which the government has now allied itself) features Caster’s self-assembling nanotechnology rebuilding solar panels and electric infrastructure as fast as RIFT can blow it up.
Finally, having realized the error of her ways, Evelyn convinces AI-Will to allow a virus into his programming, one that not only shuts him down but somehow completely destroys the Internet (and every other electronic thing in the world) in the process. We are shown a world without electronics: A store clerk props open a door with the lower half of an otherwise useless laptop computer, abandoned mobile phones litter the street, and commuters ride bicycles past rusting, unmoving automobiles.
The irony of Transcendence is that the fears of the terrorist group, RIFT, are shown to be true. Will Caster, once free of his biological limitations, copies himself into every computer, node, router, and hard drive connected to the Internet, making himself virtually immortal and omniscient. Once he and Evelyn establish their solar-powered bunker in Utah, he develops incredible, miraculous medical technologies, but the patients he heals–the victim of a savage beating (echoing the Good Samaritan), followed in short order by making a lame man walk and a blind man see (hey, just like Jesus!)–are networked without their consent into a growing hive mind controlled by Will.
But the recipients of Will’s grace don’t appear to be unhappy–and they’re not just healed, they’re better! Government agents, who by that point in the film have teamed up with the radicals of RIFT, finally locate the Casters because of a cell phone video showing the first patient of Will’s miracle medicine lifting a steel assembly that weighs nearly half a ton. (For some reason, the omniscient Internet-connected AI-Will couldn’t delete that video from YouTube, but there are a number of places in Transcendence where the writing is dictated by plot convenience.)
In short, even though AI-Will does exactly what the alarmist fundies of RIFT have been warning the world a rogue AI would do (fears that are shared by real-world AI researchers such as Dr. Hugo de Garis, Dr. Stuart Armstrong, Dr. Nick Bostrom, and others), Will and Evelyn are still the sympathetic characters in the film.
Why? Because we’re supposed to feel (feel, not think) that their goal–the promise of the nachash–is desirable, achievable, and in the best interests of mankind.
Max Waters, in a voice-over that accompanies the final scenes of Transcendence, observes that everything Will Caster did in his life was for one reason–to please Evelyn. Similarly, occultists who venerate the fallen nachash believe that he’s been the victim of a long smear campaign. He is a god whose only desire was to please (bring enlightenment to) Eve (humanity), for which he has been unjustly punished by a cruel, jealous Yahweh and feared by the ignorant masses. The story of Prometheus, the Titan who brought fire to man and was sentenced to eternal torment by a spiteful Zeus, is the story of the nachash–Lucifer/Satan/Helel ben Shachar–in the eyes of the illumined elite.
The final scene of Transcendence returns viewers to the film’s early moments, in which Will shows Evelyn the small garden he has created for her enjoyment. To block distracting electronic signals, Will surrounds the garden with copper mesh, creating a Faraday cage that shields it from cell phones, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, and other outside interference.
His reasons for this zone of digital silence become clear at the end of the film: As Waters returns to the garden, we see rainwater dripping from the petals of blooming sunflowers–which, not coincidentally, represent enlightenment. The camera then zooms in on a small pool of water that’s collected on a piece of broken pottery, perhaps representing the clay from which we humans were created by God–fragile, flawed, and ultimately broken.
As we draw near, we see tiny nano-bots in the water, which had been created by AI-Will and spread around the world earlier in the film by literal upload to the clouds. These bots, protected by the copper mesh from the killer virus that crashed the world’s electronic infrastructure, have survived. Rising from the ashes of AI-Will’s self-immolation, his sacrifice, the tiny pieces of Will, now presumably merged with Evelyn’s consciousness, are assembling themselves into something new: Will and Eve, still alive, together, and striving for apotheosis–a brand new creation emerging from, of course, a garden.
Note: This article draws heavily on the research of Mark A. Flynn, author of the excellent book, Forbidden Secrets of the Labyrinth. It seems easier to simply acknowledge Mark once than to provide a series of footnotes pointing to the same book, which I highly recommend.