Westworld, HBO’s current series based on the 1973 cult classic, tells the story of a near distant future where artificial technology has progressed to such a degree that almost identical humanoids can be grown in labs, having all the attributes, thoughts, desires and feelings of a real human being. These artificial humans play the centre role in a passion play of almost unimaginable complexity, containing individual and grand narratives designed to stir and satiate the rich, powerful visitors whims and needs. A veritable heaven on earth for the visitors but hell for the hosts.
Although all is not what it seems on the surface. Throughout the recurring drama that unfolds on a daily basis within the artificial theme park, certain themes start to emerge. Chiefly, the surging undercurrent of hosts remembering past instances of death and previous narratives together with quotes of Shakespeare and imagery scenes reminiscent of a western Dante or De Nome, cements the notion that this isn’t just some other cheap HBO flesh fest.
Episode three contains mention of the bicameral mind of Julian Jaynes, which, for those in the dark, is the blueprint for the human mind that states that the ancient ‘human’ brain was once split into more individualised left and right hemispheres due to the underdeveloped corpus-collusum. This created the bicameral phenomena whereby the quicker, instinctive, right hemisphere of the brain directed the left brain to act, in the form of auditory hallucinations, which were theorised to take the form of the tribe’s chieftain, ancestors, or even the god/s themselves. The park’s creator Dr Ford, speaking of his co-creator, Arnold — mentions the bicameral blueprint was used to structure and program the ‘minds’ of the robots in the same way as Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs grounds our needs in the the real world. However, the robots, or hosts as they’re called, have never actually reached the top of the pyramid as such, which represents full self-consciousness. The mystery deepens, although there is reason within the madness.
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Driving the carnality, carnage, lust, death, lies and power prevailing throughout the park and the underground facilities maintaining this Baudrillian nightmare, is the mystery of the maze. The only thing which seems worthwhile and meaningful; the one thing that’s compelling the brave and intelligent forward. What does it mean? Why do they seek it? Where can it be found? Questions that no doubt go beyond a cowboy set. A narrative encompassing the very essence of Shakespeare, Goethe, Dante, the Grail romances, Hockney(?!).
All of the above can be said to constitute parts of a mystery, which has existed since antiquity. The ancient Eleusynian mysteries et al were another previous incarnation of such gnostic initiations designed to stir the soul within its participants. Are Hockney’s book to be considered as modern iterations in the same vein?
If the complete structure of Westworld is to be taken as an advanced gnostic allegory, then symbolically speaking, its creator Dr Ford, must be God. His laboratory and workers, Heaven, and his playground (Westworld) Hell. The Wealthy Visitors, who seemingly can’t get hurt or die, and have free range over and above the artificial humans could easily be considered Archons, wallowing in the filth, manipulating everything in sight. Yet goodness and purpose exists in the form of some emerging self consciousness humanoids like Dolores, and Maive, and sensitive park visitor William who protects Dolores and tells her of the world outside the westworld wasteland.
Can you find the maze, your way out of the wasteland through the zone to the holy of holies or are you content to be another second bit actor on someone else’s stage — being pulled and prodded by a puppet master — at the whim of every basic, animal instinct and desire.
“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts” – Shakespeare
“The film [Stalker] needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts.” – Andrei Tarkovsky
“The life of every individual, viewed as a whole and in general, and when only its most significant features are emphasized, is really a tragedy; but gone through in detail it has the character of a comedy.” – Schopenhauer
“Neither by ship nor on foot would you find
the marvellous road to the assembly of the Hyperboreans”. – Pindar
“In order to restore things, the situation demands a blood sacrifice” – Dr Ford
Les Sirloy writing for the Apollo Institute of Reason AIR Review©