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The Ninth Gate Commentaries

New Page -- 2 February 2007

The Ninth Gate is a film by the well known director, Roman Polanski. The Ninth Gate Commentaries -- this webpage -- is an opportunity for readers to make lucid and thoughtful comments and/or suggestions concerning Laurel Whitney's analysis of the movie, as well as the book on which the movie was based. This is an opportunity for open feedback on how the alleged contents of the movie and book relate to the Qabala and The Tree of Life.

Keep in mind that the engravings from the book, The Dumas Club, and the movie, The Ninth Gate, can be found at An Eclectic Historian.

(6/20/9) Make that Apocalyptic Productions, for the movie version (but you will have to buy the book for the novel's version). (An Eclectic Historian is not currently on the web.)

The version of the Tree of Life used by Ms. Whitney in her analysis can be viewed at: http://www.thelemapedia.org/index.php/Image:Tree_simple.gif. Finally, a warning -- other than "abandon hope all ye who enter here": you might want to see the movie before reading the essay or commentaries, inasmuch as the analysis pretty much gives away the plot -- like who gets killed and who doesn't.

 

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COMMENTARIES

 

Posted 2 February 2007 by Mercurio:

There is a dualistic approach in Ms. Whitney's essay in which there are only two real alternatives -- i.e. the good guys and the bad guys. While this duality may be reflected in the nature of the two versions of the engravings, the author has made a perhaps unwarranted leap in her interpretation of these two possibilities.

On the one hand, there is the undesirable version, what the author might describe as the "ego-dominated" individuals, who

"expend their energies not in completing their own journey, but in declaring that those who are following all of the other paths up the mountain are 'evil', making war on them, and trying to stamp them out. From the perspective of ego consciousness, the symbolic figure of 'the Devil' is identified with anyone-who-doesn't-believe-exactly-what-I-believe, and for this reason, it is in the realm of ego consciousness, the realm of the lower mind at the base of the mountain, where the concept of 'the Devil' finds its ultimate playground."

This path does in fact appear to have all the ingredients to lead one to fiery demise. But then the author takes a Devil-may-care turn and decides that for a " successful path",

"it is, necessary to forge an alliance with your own best understanding of a Higher Power, a benevolent spiritual guiding force which can help, inspire, and challenge you to grow beyond ego consciousness and align yourself with the greater purpose, power and harmony of your own Soul."

This sounds very much like: Failure on the path is destined for "anyone-who-doesn't-believe-exactly-what-I-believe," i.e. if you're not willing to accede your destiny to a higher power, some ill-defined divine spirit with which to direct your life... you're in a heap of trouble! It's the old "Let not my will, but thy will be done" scenario. There is an inconsequential difference between selling one's soul to the Devil, and selling one's soul to some "Higher Power."

The author also spends considerable energy in relating the "successful path" to various artifacts of Christianity. While she appears to be highly tolerant of other religions or paths to the "peak", the fact remains that many mainstream religions have lost a great deal of credibility in terms of acting in the best interests of its supplicants. Taking bits and pieces of different religious hints of wisdom may be more a matter of interpretation than of pragmatic fact, but does not justify the author's interpretation that one must still look to a Higher Power for marching orders.

It might be well to remind ourselves that as the author points out in one of the engravings: "Fate is not the same for all. For those who devote themselves to the real-life 'journey up the Tree' described by the LCF version of the engravings, the ultimate fruit of the Quest is nothing less than personal transformation and the experience of the world from the perspective of..." one's very individual, egotistical Higher Self?

Perhaps the third alternative -- or another interpretation of the "successful path" -- is to be found in one achieving their own sovereignty -- not at the expense of others, but purely as a personal quest. This is not the goal of finding some Higher Power to blindly follow, but instead to become a Higher Power. It's not about stomping on others to reach such a goal, but to follow a path that is individually empowering (and not purely a power greather than others). It is entirely possible that "the girl" who assists Corso is one who may have found her path (possibly with the help of another) and who is now simply "paying forward" her debt to her benefactor(s) by helping Corso.

The key is that instead of acknowledging servitude to some alleged Higher Power -- or even to some fashionable moral code -- perhaps the true divinities of the universe are more likely delighted at one of their "children" coming of age and taking charge of their own destiny. After all, the key to universal enlightenment is diversity, with the paths taken -- and even the diversity of goals -- being the critical factor.

Keep in mind that Roman Polanski is not, judging by his movies, someone who is preaching the texts from some established, mainstream religion. He may very well being following his own path -- one that does not necessarily conform to the standards of polite and politically correct society. Clearly, his hero, Dean Corso, is not a prime example of the righteous and compassionate disciple. Roman has instead embedded Corso with a shallow, self-serving personality, who even in the last moments of the movie has not hinted at his intentions or motivations in following the path through the Nine Gates. It is just entirely possible that Polanski's suggested path -- as exemplified by Corso -- may be one of several "successful paths" in becoming a Higher Power.

Author's Reply:

Hi Mercurio,

Re: We Don't Need No Stinkin' "Higher Power"! (Just a little levity)

Thanks very much for the feedback and the opportunity to clear up the question of what I mean by a "Higher Power". I realize that this term may be understood in different ways depending on the experience of the reader and clearly I should have been more specific about it in the article. When I wrote the sentence that contains that term, I was thinking of it in the context of the symbolism of the film and the function of "the girl." She seems to me to be a pretty good symbolic representation of what the experience of a "Higher Power" is like in the context of the journey of spiritual evolution "up the Tree".

You're right that there is a basic perspective of duality in the analysis of the engravings (because there are two versions of each engraving), but I wouldn't characterize the choices as "good guys" versus "bad guys". Balkan is portrayed as fairly villainous for the sake of the drama, but Corso isn't particularly "good" by most standards . And of course it *is* possible to be a relative "good guy" at the level of ego, until you're ready to move on. I would define the choice as one between the viewpoint of the ego which is *not* ready to evolve versus the viewpoint of the ego which *is* ready to begin the evolutionary journey.

Just to recap, the symbolism of the AT engravings illustrates a perspective on life and way of being which acts to restrict your consciousness to the level of the separative ego which always manages to find some "other" whether individual, group, or organization, to fight against. The symbolism of the LCF engravings reflects a perspective and way of being that will take you beyond the separative ego's dualistic perspective and eventually into the conscious experience of Unity which is how the initiated "Higher Self" or "Soul" experiences the world.

Three Developmental Stages of Consciousness

Although the two sets of engravings represent two categories of traveler (the ego that is ready to evolve and the ego that is *not* ready to evolve) there are actually at least *three* stages of consciousness which are represented in the film and on the Tree (to the best of my knowledge).

1) First there is the ego's duality consciousness which is experienced "below the Veil". This is symbolically represented by the lower Triad of Yesod, Hod and Netzach (and in the film by Corso acting on his own, and in the engravings by the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Gates).

2) Second, there is the awakening consciousness of what I have called the "Soul". This is symbolically represented by the Ethical Triad of Tipareth, Geburah and Chesed (and in the film by Corso acting in partnership with "the girl", and in the engravings by the Second, Sixth and Eighth Gates).

3) And third, there is the enlightened consciousness which comes when the "Soul" is initiated, consciously experiencing its identity with Transcendent Spirit by symbolically "crossing the Abyss" (represented in the film by an enlightened Corso walking into the castle blazing with Light and in the engravings by the Seventh and Ninth Gates).

It is at the second stage of developing consciousness that the "sticky terminology" problem arises. At this second stage of spiritual evolution, consciousness has begun to break through the first-stage illusion that the separative ego represents the totality of its identity, but has not yet achieved the third-stage Unitive vision which comes with the awakening to enlightened consciousness (crossing the Abyss and passing through the Ninth Gate).

In this in-between second stage, the individual consciousness encounters the experience of becoming aware of an entirely benevolent guiding "Presence" Who is *felt* as being very personal, loving, powerful and protective, and *more than human*. In my own experience, this "Presence" also had a "feminine" nature and I think the character of "the girl" in the film is actually a pretty good representation of this. In all my studies, I had not come across any reference to the existence or function of such a Presence in this context and so I had no preconceived idea about it. Even today I have no handy terminology to draw on to define my experience of it. "Higher Power" was the closest non-denominational term I could think of

I think it was very wise of Polanski not to give that enigmatic character a name or to try to explain her nature or function. The way the function of "the girl" changes over the course of the film until she eventually disappears is a very accurate representation of my own experience of the mysterious appearance of this sense of a "Higher Power" and its gradual disappearance as a perceived "separate entity".

Although this Presence is at first experienced as being separate from your own accustomed identity, this is only because the perspective of your consciousness has not yet expanded enough to include the potential powers of your own Soul and Spirit as a part of your recognized self. At this second stage of the development of consciousness, "the girl" or the "Presence" seems to be a "Higher Power" -- it represents your perception that these Soul and Spirit powers are separate from you but in a form that remains close to you and plays a guiding/supportive role in your life. These Soul/Spirit powers are perceived as separate from you only until your consciousness expands enough to encompass and integrate these powers and recognize them as your own. The nature of the perceived reality is always a function of the stage of evolution of the consciousness doing the perceiving.

Whose Will Be Done?

In terms of the symbolism of the engravings, it is Love which draws the traveler upward through the Veil and into a more conscious partnership with his own Soul. The vehicle which inspires this Love may be a romantic Beloved, or a religious/spiritual figure of some kind, depending on the temperament of the traveler. The important thing is that whatever form the perceived Beloved takes, it must be able to represent (or to use the terminology of depth psychology, "carry the projection of") the energies and powers of the Soul.

The Beloved exerts an irresistible magnetic attraction on the traveler because he rightly feels that it "belongs to him". *It is an unconscious, as-yet-unrecognized part of himself*. Only if a Beloved, whether perceived as human or spiritual, is able to represent to the traveler the energies and powers of his own Soul, will that Beloved have the power to draw the traveler through the Veil and into an experience of his own Soul. There is never any question of the traveler surrendering his will to anyone or anything other than the power of Love whose Source is his own Higher Self and this experience can only occur when the consciousness has reached the developmental stage at which it is prepared to begin the journey.

Because it is this powerful experience of Love which motivates the traveler's journey, the transition -- from relying on the drives of the separative ego to guide his decisions, to assuming the "rooted in Heaven" posture of the Hanged Man which looks to the higher, wider Vision of the Soul for guidance -- is an entirely voluntary and joyful one. The face of the Hanged Man is serene because he is experiencing, for the first time, a part of his own being which was lost to him below the Veil. The Higher Will which he learns to align himself with is still *his* ; it is different only in that it reflects the Will of his Higher Self, that part of his being which is larger and more all-encompassing than his separative ego alone was capable of recognizing.

"Who Is ‘The Girl ’?"

The answer to the most frequently asked question about the film, "Who is 'the girl'?" depends upon what level of consciousness is responding to the question.

1) At the beginning of the film, Corso's consciousness is focused at the level of the ego and from the perspective of the ego's duality-consciousness, the girl is at first assumed to be an ordinary person -- until she demonstrates the uncanny ability to disappear in mysterious ways. Although the girl represents the potential powers of Corso's own Soul and Spirit, he is at first entirely unaware of this. At this stage, she appears to him as a mysterious presence which intrigues him but which he can only catch fleeting glimpses of as long as he is preoccupied with the concerns of his ego.

2) As Corso is drawn in by the mystery of the fact that the symbolism of the engravings is beginning to appear in his "real life", the girl also begins to play a larger role in his adventures. They become "partners", which represents the point at which Corso's consciousness passes through the Veil and he begins to experience his life in a different way -- because of the presence and influence of the girl.

Corso gradually begins to grow into the ability to exercise the powers of his own Soul, symbolically represented on one level as his evolution from something of a wimp who relies on the girl to do his fighting, to a take-charge guy who saves his own life by throwing the murderous "albino" down the stairs. As he grows into his powers, the function of the girl gradually changes until she finally represents for him the bridge to a conscious experience of Transcendent Spirit , which is the last as yet unrealized potential aspect of his Identity.

3) It is only when Corso makes the transition from the perspective of the lower ego-mind of Hod to the enlightened Mind of the initiated Higher Self (represented by the Star in the genuine Ninth Gate engraving) that the girl disappears. When Corso walks into the castle blazing with Light, all of the functions which the girl has represented to his evolving consciousness have now been integrated into his own larger Identity. I tried to convey this idea at the very end of the article in these terms:

"The castle which Corso enters at his journey's end is a version of the symbol of The New Jerusalem. Like "Solomon's Temple", the Temple "not made with hands", it exists at once as both "Macrocosm" (the perfect Creation) and "microcosm" (the individual enlightened consciousness). The essence of our Being and of the created world has always been Divine, and only the temporary, limited perspective of our ego-bound consciousness has prevented us from experiencing this truth."

When Corso walks into the Light, he does not become the personal equivalent of the Transcendent Godhead, but becomes consciously aware of his ultimate *identity with* that Transcendent level of Being, while still remaining an individual, embodied expression of it. Corso is and always was his own "Higher Power", he just wasn't aware of the higher levels of his Identity *in those terms* until he "grew into" them.

Although this Presence is at first experienced as being separate from your own accustomed identity, this is only because the perspective of your consciousness has not yet expanded enough to include the potential powers of your own Soul and Spirit as a part of your recognized self. At this second stage of the development of consciousness, "the girl" or the "Presence" seems to be a "Higher Power" -- it represents your perception that these Soul and Spirit powers are separate from you but in a form that remains close to you and plays a guiding/supportive role in your life. These Soul/Spirit powers are perceived as separate from you only until your consciousness expands enough to encompass and integrate these powers and recognize them as your own.

Beyond Duality and Sectarianism

The two spiritual traditions which I am personally most familiar with, Christianity and Buddhism, both contain symbolism which can be read to reflect the experience of the same journey which Corso undertakes in the film. Of course, this in no way means that all who contributed to these teachings would agree with this assessment or that every individual who is involved in a form of Christian or Buddhist practice will be able (or willing) to see their religious symbolism in this way.

The nature of perceived reality is always a function of the stage of evolution of the consciousness which is doing the perceiving. You don't get the Unitive view from the Mountain Peak until you reach it ; you can't reach the Peak without going through all of the learning stages of the journey ; and each stage is a necessary and positive step towards the goal. I personally was completely disillusioned with Christianity as it is now being taught before I encountered my own first awakening experience and it was only *after* this that I was able to see and appreciate the truth at the core of the symbolism. But at that point, it was also clear that the same truths were reflected at the core of many other symbolic systems as well.

From the perspective of the top of the mountain , just as it's easy to see the core of truth in every religious tradition , it is also easy to see how these truths have been co-opted and distorted by individuals and institutions reflecting the power-driven consciousness of the ego-mind/"Beast". I used Christian references in the article first of all because this is the spiritual tradition that I'm most familiar with and I thought that might also be true for many readers; second, because the symbolic figure of "the Devil" seems to have been greatly shaped and empowered by the lower ego-mind's interpretation of the Christ message (some even claim that traditional Christianity "created" the idea of the Devil in the form in which we now think of it); and third, because it's impossible to ignore the way in which the idea of the "Anti-Christ" scenario is now being used to influence political decisions in a very "Beast-like" way.

At the beginning of the journey, when the traveler's consciousness is focused at the level of the ego-mind, there is no way for him to avoid the fact that his understanding of Christianity -- or any other religious tradition -- is distorted by the dualistic nature of his consciousness. At the same time, he doesn't have the perspective necessary to recognize that this distortion of his understanding even exists. As long as he remains satisfied with the value system of the ego-mind, he will have no motivation to journey in search of something else. So the ideal state of mind to prompt a traveler to begin the journey would be one in which he had either "lost faith" in any traditional religious system or never had such "faith" to begin with.

This is why I think your point about Corso not conforming to the "politically correct" (or "religiously correct") stereotypes of a "spiritual seeker" is an important one. You don't really have the drive that it takes to begin the journey up the Tree until you are no longer able to achieve any meaningful satisfaction from ordinary ego pursuits -- including the distorted ego-level practice of traditional religions -- and this "I can't get no satisfaction" state of mind is not a happy place to be, as Corso's demeanor at the beginning of the film demonstrates. But the good news is that the presence of a sense of frustration means that you have a reservoir of untapped energy ready to empower you, and being in a state where you don't have anything to believe in, where you have no serious investment in any particular world-view, is a form of "beginner's mind" -- the necessary emptiness which is required in order to be open to receive a radically new vision.

Bearing all this in mind, I admit that there is a potential down-side to my decision to include references to Christian symbolism in the article, since a large part of the target audience I'm hoping to reach, if they're just beginning the journey or are still in its earlier stages, would probably find these references distasteful, based on their present dualistic understanding of Christian symbolism and their experience of the way that many so-called "Christian" institutions have distorted and co-oped it; (I have certainly felt that way myself).

But those who are farther along on the journey or have had a first glimpse of the view from the Mountain Peak will recognize the parallels that I've drawn with the journey on the Tree and I think maybe it's important to file the idea away in the back of your mind that at later stages of the journey, you will see the symbols of Christianity and other traditional religions from a very different perspective, one which recognizes their redemptive qualities, even in the distorted form in which they first appear to the consciousness of the ego-mind.

And the same situation applies when it comes to understanding the nature of the Unitive consciousness which is the goal of the journey. Contrary to many traditional religious notions, the Unity which the traveler achieves on crossing the Abyss is not a state in which there is only Light and no Darkness (which would mean the end of the "Earth Game"). As the Jungians would say, the goal is Wholeness rather than some version of the ego's dualistic notion of one-sided "perfection". My favorite quote on this subject comes from Alan Watts and goes like this:

"No one can be moral – that is, no one can harmonize contained conflicts – without coming to a working arrangement between the angel in himself and the devil in himself, between his rose above and his manure below. The two forces or tendencies are mutually interdependent, and the game is a working game just so long as the angel is winning, but does not win, and the devil is losing, but is never lost."

I hope this attempt at explanation may have defused some of your objections. I think we're actually pretty much on the same page except for a difference in the perceived definition of the term "Higher Power" (which I hope I've cleared up), but if you should still have doubts, I would welcome the opportunity to try to address them.

Thanks for the feed-back, :)

Laurel

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Posted 27 February 2007 by Herman S.:

Nice essay, but probably irrelevant. The way I see it is that Laurel's essay is trying to find profound meaning and impose her religious views of right and wrong on two works of fiction. The problem is that her approach is to claim that the bad guys failed because of their egos, arrogance, and unwillingness to follow the rules, and that the good guys won because... why? Because the bad guys couldn't see that the 9th gate engraving was a forgery? That's it?

In the movie, after Boris goes down in flames, Corso asks why it didn't work, and the girl tells him the 9th engraving was a forgery. Like that's supposed to make the difference. Corso then gets the original LF version, heads back to the scene, and lo and behold, he's admitted into the bright lights of the castle.

The problem is that this plot device doesn't really fly.

In the book and movie, Corso maps out the engravings in the three books in terms of the differences in the AT and LF engravings. He comes up with a table:

Book\Engraving I ----- II ----- III ---- IIII ---- V ---- VI --- VII --- VIII -- VIIII

1 (Corso) .........AT.....LF.....AT.....AT.....LF.....AT.....AT.....AT.....AT

2 (Fargas) .......AT.....AT.....AT.....LF.....AT.....AT.....LF.....LF.....AT

3 (Ungern) .......LF.....AT.....LF.....AT.....AT.....LF.....AT.....AT.....AT

Isn't it pretty obvious that what's missing is an LF 9th engraving in Corso's copy? Surely, even Boris the bad guy could see that an AT engraving for number nine was going to be a problem. You don't think he might have thought a bit longer about finding the LF version before setting himself ablaze? Why did the greatest demonologist of the time fail to figure it out? Doesn't the table make it obvious; or just knowing that to have nine LF engravings in three books, each book would have three LF engravings?

It seems to me that any arrogant, egomanical bad guy could figure this one out and avoid torching himself. Better yet, even the most despicable evildoer could follow in Corso's footsteps. Surely the route is obvious: be sure you have nine LF engravings. There are no questions of blind egotism, only simple observation.

The point is that it doesn't make any difference how despicable or charming the person pursuing the goal is. Anyone should be able to lay out the correct 9 engravings.

So why did Corso succeed where Boris had failed? It's not the engravings! To me, it's the girl! The only failsafe device for discouraging or preventing the bad guys from entering the bright lights is someone of extraordinary talents and abilities, someone who seems faintly angelic. (In the book, she fought with angels!) What is needed is a gatekeeper, and the girl fills the bill. And the fact that she has sex with Corso by the light of the burning castle might be part of it as well.

If that's the case, then who cares about the engravings and their symbolism? The engravings don't get you there, even if maybe they do lend themselves to moralizing and lengthy essays. What you need in order to get where you want to go is to meet the right people. "It's not what you know; it's who you know." Has nothing to do with ego.

Author's Reply:

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Posted _________ 2007 by _________:

 

Ha Qabala

The Ninth Gate

The Polanski Code

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