"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." - Marcus Aurelius
"Cinema is truth 24 times a second." - Jean-Luc Godard
"What truth?" - Neo, The Matrix
Now I could jump right into an hour long discourse on this poster, but I'd rather follow the movie scene by scene and let the pieces naturally fall into place. The movie opens with a drunkard and theif laying in the dirt in a pool of his own urine with his face covered by (The Lord of the) flies. This character is known only as The Thief, so that's what I'll call him from here on out.
he's getting buzzed in more ways than one!
He is befriended by a multiple amputee dwarf with The Hand of Power symbol attached to his back. It reminded me immediately of the Five of Swords Tarot card from the Minor Arcana. The Five of Swords is called Defeat and suggests self-interest and discord and "intellect enfeebled by sentiment" in the Thoth deck. The Dwarf (as he will now be called) and The Thief form a friendly relationship, and the tarot symbolism will become apparent later in the film.
A panther/mountain lion also walks by the passed-out Thief, possibly a hint at the mystery-school's penchant for wearing panther skins/golden fleece. Near The Thief are also two The Fool tarot cards, hinting at there being three Fools laying in the dirt including The Thief. There is also a frog near the cards which may parallel the crocodile at the bottom of some The Fool cards, and the alchemical symbolism of the initial black stage, Nigredo, "the corruption that must take place before growth."
A group of young naked boys (with their genitals panited green) run up to them and one pulls a flower out of the left palm of The Thief. (The "Spirit Palm" symbol is often mentioned at the Black Dog Star blog.) The highlighted palm of deities such as Buddha and Jesus indicate the chakra point there, as well as the Stigmata wounds of Jesus. Here the nail is replaced with a flower, and The Thief has been "de-flowered!" I've mentioned before at this blog that the act of sex, specifically deflowering of a virgin, is an initiation, and often shares symbolism with higher initiations. "Nail" (Hebrew letter V/#6) is a nickname for Old Nick, Satan, and here Satan has been replaced with a Flow-er, a possibly LucyFur feminine menstrual symbol of life springing out of death (or in this case a passed out Jesus look-alike); the animating of carbon copies of God. Similar symbolism is found in an alchemical picture of a crucified serpent; beside the serpent is a wilting flower and next to that is a dead tree stump with flowers growing out of it. Jesus is also symbolized by a flower on a cross in the symbol of the Rose Cross.
In the group of the naked boys is one with a crocodile costume (paralleling the frog near the two The Fool cards, one of which even says "le crocodile") indicating perhaps the Egyptian god Apep, the destroyer who attempts each day to swallow Ra's sun barque as it travels the heavens. The solar symbolism becomes more clear as The Thief is tied to a tau-cross and stoned by the boys. The Thief on the cross is Jesus according to some traditions which saw Jesus as the theif of the ineffable name of God (stolen by him during his Egyptian initiation), and as the thief of the Torah scroll from the Temple which Jesus tried to decode using the Name of God in order to give the Secret Mysteries to the masses. (Big mistake apparently. What use do the (m)asses have for wisdom?) The two other Fool cards now come into focus as the other two fools on the crosses flanking Jesus/The Thief. This all takes place in front of a cave which indicates the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Thief screams at the boys and they run, then he almost stones The Dwarf but decides against it, and they share a joint (So, The Thief gets "stoned" in more ways than one!), and then they both leave together towards town.
As The Theif and The Dwarf enter the town, a bus load of dead and bloody troops drives past, and they walk past a line of indian women ("indian" as opposed to the lighter skinned descendents of Spanish blood) trying to iron out blood stains in the soldiers clothing at gun point from soldiers behind them. All the soldiers wear full gas masks and carry rifles. A firing squad executes a group of anti-war student protesters who bleed black blood. In these early scenes in the movie, we can see Alexander Jodorowsky's vivid commentary on religion and war. Next a group of soldiers marches down the street holding up crucifixes with skinned and splayed open lambs, clearly focusing attention on the worship of bloody scenes of torture by the Catholic Church, and how soldiers are often brainwashed into thinking they're doing gods work by killing those of darker skin (the indians), or of different (and dangerous!) religious ideologies.
march on christian soldiers
All the executions are public and are attended by tourists who takes pictures of themselves near the piles of dead bodies. We can see how war was turned into entertainment during Vietnam, and instead of being deterred, people today are so desensitized that they play the song "Let the bodies hit the floor" set to scenes of American soldiers blowing Iraqis and Afghanis to unidentifiable little bits. In addition to the bread and circuses, the gladiator games (televised war) keep the public distracted from the real problems in their own country while brainwashing them into fearing imaginary enemies rather than the real enemies who are the news(/spell) casters, political elites, and our own darkside which goes along with it freely.
A soldier grabs a random tourist and begins to rape her as she smiles and waves for her effeminate dress-wearing purse-having husband to video tape this priceless moment of their vacation. (Wow, Jodorowsky was ahead of his time!) He says "watch the birdy" to his wife when he takes her picture, which traditionally means check out this middle finger I'm pointing at you (to "flip someone the bird"), but also tells us to watch the birdy because birds have been flying out of the bullet holes of the executed protesters. I think this symbol was also used in Jodorowsky's El Topo, and it is also used in The Fall when "The Mystic" is being killed and birds are pouring out of his mouth. In Egyptian symbolism the bird is connected to the soul and to Isis who became a (blue?) bird and flew around the pillar which encased Osiris.
fun for the whole family
The Thief and The Dwarf get hired by a group of performers, one of whom wears a top-hat with a Nazi swastica on it. They help put on a show called "The Great Toad and Chameleon Circus" which shows a reenactment of the Conquest of Mexico by Templar-cross-bearing Spanish ships and soldiers. The three ships may symbolize the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, the ships of Christopher Columbus. Jodorowsky would enjoy the double meaning of the Santa Maria, or Saint Virgin Mary, conquoring Mexico with it's religious suppression. German marching music is played as the "Spanish" toads conquor Mexico, some dressed in the costumes of Catholic monks. As the model city of Mexico is blown apart, The Thief croaks like a frog/Spanish conquorer/Jesus.
the conquest of mexico
Three men dressed as Roman centurions and one dressed as the Virgin Mary sell minature Christs. One tosses dice symbolizing the soldiers who drew lots for Jesus' clothes. A rich tourist buys a large cross but when he tries to carry it the Mary-Man makes The Thief carry the cross for him. (Hmm, Mary-Man: "Robin Hood and his Merry/Mary-Men"?) The Mary-men are eating right out of a skinned bull (one is even sitting inside the animal), and they are all obese (on the excesses of their "Roman"/Western civilization). The bull is an ancient goddess symbol going back to more egalitarian civilizations. The bull also symbolizes the European Spaniards to the South Americans. Here the Roman/Western/Christian soldier guts the past to feed the corpulent and cruel future.
a woman places a heart over her heart
They get The Thief drunk and carry him into a storehose of food which has many square boxes with X's spray painted on them (X-Boxes which are synonymous with a soul trapping gird/matrix). They lay The Thief out in the iconic Jesus-on-a-cross pose and cover him with grease from the belly of a pig, they then proceed to cast a mold of his body and to use to it to produce many paper mache copies. The Thief wakes to find that he has been crudely counterfeited and screams in such a way that you cannot not feel is pain. Imagine the horror Jesus must feel to see that he has become a mass produced novelty item which causes people to focus on the messenger and not the message ("mass produced," "Christian mass"). The Theif destroys all but one copy and leaves with it.
Next we see a group of 12 prostitutes in quiet contemplation of Jesus in a small church. A common slander of Christians is that they histoically took in (and had their ranks filled with) prostitutes and criminals. Mary Magdalene was accused of being a prostitute who had reprented her sins and become the favorite desciple of Jesus. In defense of the church's approval of prostitution, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "If prostitution were to be suppressed, careless lusts would overthrow society." The whores vary in size, shape and age, one being around 8 years old. Another one, called The Prostitute from here on in, has a chimpanzee with her. The name "chimpanzee" refers to two species of ape, both in the genus Pan. Pan as you well know is the Satyr/Faun, the god of sexual excess who hung out with nymphs and was also the god of shepards and flocks (think of the Christian symbolism of the flock and shepard); he was also a bee-keeper which brings to mind an orderly Borgesque society. He has also been connected to Oz and the number 77 via Aleister Crowley and Hebrew gematria.
The whores mingle with potential customers in front of the church. An old man with a false left eye calls over the young whore and takes out his false eye and places it in her hand and then passionately kisses her hand. There's plenty of one-eyed symbolism, such as The Great Seal of the United States of America, or deities such as Odin giving his left eye to the foutain of wisdom explaining why it was dimmer than the right eye (moon vs. sun), and the idea that God is one-eyed because he's symbolized by the single solar orb. Here we have an old man, God the Father, giving his lunar eye to a child(virgin)-whore.
The Thief meets the group of whores who all laugh at him except for The Prostitute who cleans the paper-Jesus which is suddenly covered in green paint, and annoints it's feet (like Mary Bethany, sister of Lazarus/Osiris, which would make her Nephtys or Isis). When she looks at The Thief's face, she flashes back to the Jesus statue in the church she was just in. The group of whores, The Thief, The Dwarf and The Prostitute (with chimp/Pan in hand) all walk off together.
They walk past an outdoor dance between masked soldiers and citizens, all of whom are men. The band supplying the music is headed by a woman dressed as The Devil (wearing all red, and having devil horns); Lucifer/LucyFur, the equal but opposite counterpart to the male Christian God. The decorations for the dance are all black and white. In a secluded corner a soldier and his dance partner get intimate. The Thief walks through the dance into an old decrepid church with a worm-ridden bible and where the statue of Jesus is missing. The Theif puts the last paper Jesus in it's spot. He then notices a bed on the ground with an owl perched upon the headboard. He removes the sheet to find a priest/Pope laying in bed with the missing statue of Jesus. The Pope speaks only in animalistic screams. This convention was used in El Topo as well, where women had men's voices, and vice versa, and some only made animal sounds. The Thief is kicked out of the church with his paper-Jesus, and he cries and bites and tears at the face of the paper-Jesus which is made out of bread (?), as in the Bread of Life which Jesus asks his desciples to consume.
the material prison where predator and prey act out their Forever dance/War
The next scene has The Theif tieing a large group of red and blue balloons to the feet of the paper-Jesus which float away with Jesus hanging upside down. The colors red and blue are used by Jodorowsky a lot, seemingly in place of black and white, but representing more than duality. Later we see these colors embedded in most of his Tarot imagry, and a scene where they seem to indicate the Red and White Stones of Alchemy. Many will be reminded of a much later film, The Matrix, which used red and blue to imply that one was "awake" or "asleep" with reguard to how they see the world. Unfortunately, red and blue pills is no different than Coke-a-Cola or Pepsi Cola, Democrat or Republican; yet another dialectic trap. Amazing how Jodorowsky sends the paper-Jesus floating away with both halves of this dialectic, long before it became a cultural meme. This scene takes place at the cave where The Thief was crucified and stoned. Now there is a toppled and broken obelisk with a sun drawn on it near it's base. The sun on the face of a 3D cube as well - look closely. And a 3D cube, as we all know, can be unfolded to reveal a cross. The obelisk may represent The Tower card of the Tarot, which will be covered in the next part(s) of this mini-series. The whores spread out in a crescent shape and the naked boys with green genitals group together opposite the whores in a bizzare rendition of a possible symbol of the crescent and star. The Dwarf and The Prostitute each stand off by themselves; the two directions The Thief must choose between later in the film. The paper Jesus floats towards town and towards the second part of the movie...
Well, that does it for Part 1 of this series and the movie it's self. Continue reading part 2 of this series of posts here: The Holy Mountain - Albedo