Indo-Egyptian eschatology and The Twelve Monkeys

Anamnesis in Archaic Ritual, Classical Theater and Modern Cinematography

[Counters temporarily disabled]

Lynn Gibson and Sunthar Visuvalingam

(Part 1 | Part II | FAQ)

Index to threads below on “The Twelve Monkeys” dialogue:

Paris (now it will sizzle)

12 monkeys....

Re: 12 monkeys....

RE: 12 monkeys....your email arrived just as the film was ending!

Already you have tracked a most important clue

12 Monkeys: recognizing the obscure lost/found/lost object of desire....

House of eternity

Interpreting profane narratives in the light of archaic mysteries....and vice-versa!

12 Monkeys and the Little Clay Cart: dramatizing the (annual) cycle of death-union-resurrection

House of eternity

Interpreting profane narratives in the light of archaic mysteries....and vice-versa!

12 Monkeys: does the virus release the animals? why was 'Osiris' sent back on 'mission impossible'?

Little clay cart has many parallels to 12 M as well

The Perverse Humor of the Infantile VidŻshaka: Psychoanalysis, Criminal Law and Sacrificial Dharma

Re: The Perverse Humor of the Infantile VidŻshaka: Psychoanalysis, Criminal Law and Sacrificial Dharma

 

 

Subject

Paris (now it will sizzle)

From: Lynn Arrowood

Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2002 3:49 AM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Dear Sunthar,

>

>

Have you found 12 Monkeys yet in tape or DVD?  I know I probably sound crazed to see all of this in what seems to be an ordinary film...but perhaps I am more attuned to language.  Have you ever read James Joyce's Finnegan’s Wake? The whole thing is puns and double entendres and I picked up the same nuances in 12 M. […]  In watching that film I became aware of that same sort of thing...and said, "wait a minute!" ahhhh far out! Terry Gilliam has a great knowledge of the "chops" of Egyptian mythology. And throughout the film he makes the same kind of allusions and iconographic references that they loved so well.

You know how Osiris is called the weary one because of being in a constant state of fighting his way back from death?  Well, he has that character, Willis [James Cole], yawning through the first third of the film. Then remember how Osiris hates his putrefaction? Gilliam has that character with sores all over his head at first…although the cover for that is that he fought the police. Also he says to her..."I think I smell bad." Another reference to his putrefaction is a play on the Book of the Dead line: "A man has come up from Egypt. I smell his odor as one of our own."   In the film, he has a street preacher yell, "Hey, you’re one of ours!"

Remember the ancient legend about how Re loves to visit the earth disguised as an old beggar, seemingly crazed and drooling (it’s in the legend about how Isis gets the secret name of Re that gives her and her son, Horus, power).  Well, he's in there like that beggar.

And the high throne of Osiris that Horus, the son, inherits? Look for that in there too. And hundreds of other references. Everything that happens in the Book of the Dead happens...much of the exact language of the text, he shows as happening.

One of my favorites is the line "He is Babai, eldest son of Osiris and all the gods appear in his eye."  You see this several times through the film...exactly what it says...all the gods appear in his eye....great imagery. 

I'd better stop...I sound even nuttier.  

Hope you and your wife have a wonderful time in Paris. Some kind of punishment for your sins, haha!

Best wishes, 

Lynn


Subject:

12 monkeys....

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sent: Fri, March 29, 2002 4:12 PM

To: Lynn Gibson

 

This might interest you...

 

http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Rampart/6040/monkeys.html

 

Sunthar

 


Subject

Re: 12 monkeys....

From: Lynn Arrowood

Sent: Friday, March 29, 2002 11:29 PM

ToSunthar Visuvalingam

 

Sunthar,

Yes, amusing, but for all of their time travel theory, they are still only analyzing the surface cover story.  The one Gilliam has handed us... is he [James Cole] crazy or is he time traveling.

 They don’t even see the other form of time travel...back to the beginning.  Gilliam has presented a story that appears to take place at the end of time…but perhaps at the end the wheel revolves and we begin anew. So many references to religion in 12 M.  References to the Bible and the Torah, etc., and the newer religions…science, capitalism, consumerism even psychiatry. (Dr. Railly says to her colleague: "We're the new religion. We decide what's right or wrong, who's crazy or not"). But the wheel turns and the old god retires ("I took myself out of the loop…" – haha!  reminds me of Nietzsche's, "God is dead" moment) and then what? On the precipice of oblivion, with the old gods and the new fading away...what next?  The animal-headed gods of the ancient past are released and all begins anew (right where the ancient Egyptians left off...at the temple of Philae (airport of Philly [Philadelphia – SV] ?) where the Egyptian religion ended so long ago and the very last glyphs were carved because the new official religion of Rome had forbidden them).

 While the time travel versus madness seems an interesting theme to some, there are many many levels.  One that is interesting is the Hitchcock level. There are many references to Hitchcock and his photography...allusions to the stairway, the night scene of the beds in the asylum (right out of that English grocer strangler film of his), the lights in the woods with James and Kathryn is right out of North by Northwest, Jefri's shop is right out of ‘The man who knew too much’...James Stewart runs into a shop of taxidermists...and many more references and allusions.

 But the truly hidden layers are the mythological ones...the story of death/birth/resurrection/ regaining potency/and making nature return anew. The ever-living/ever-dying/man/god/king who returns eternally, like Ningizzidu the serpent consort of the mother-goddess who sheds his skin each year and is reborn (or so the ancients thought). He was the symbol of resurrection…and then Anjety, Sokar, Khentiamenti, Dumuzi, Asari and Osiris took over...and after him Dionysus and Vishnu? and Mithra and Jesus and so many others.

 To see the levels of 12 M that are lurking there amusingly just below the surface requires more specialized knowledge than the folks on the site about the forms of time travel involved can see. I was only able to see the biblical era and something below it which I thought was Egypt. I decided to buy a few books on Egypt...but which book…Gilliam gave me a clue…James, in the ruined theatre has a fight with some thieves (tomb robbers?)...he says, "All I see are dead people."

 I decided that was a good place to start. In reading the Book of the Dead, I noticed the whole world of that text open up to me...the first of many epiphanies...and I read many other Egyptian texts and other books on Egypt...maybe a hundred only to find that Gilliam had always been there before me, mining them for visuals and puns and double entendres.

 It’s interesting that those folks on the site you sent spent so much time on the time travel theory, but I think he is presenting another form of time displacement all together and people like you and I who have read some on the ancient past realize that when the Bruce Willis character [James Cole] says things like: “I love the music of the 20th century”...he's not talking AD but BC (which leads to the realization of why the music in the car makes him sooo happy)

 Bet someone like you will enjoy the mythological levels lots more than the surface time/madness thing. :)  

    -Lynn

 


Subject:

RE: 12 monkeys....your email arrived just as the film was ending!

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sent: Saturday, March 30, 2002 12:39 AM

To: Lynn Arrowood

Belzoni did make some discoveries while in the Valley of the Kings, though in many instances, because hieroglyphs had not yet been deciphered, he had no idea who or what he had found. He almost literally stumbled into the tomb belonging to King Ay, but only noted a wall painting of 12 baboons, leading him to christen the chamber "tomb of the 12 monkeys."

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/belzoni.htm

 

Dear Lynn,

 

What a strange coincidence! After sending you the link below, I finally decided to drive to Facets Videotheque tonight to get (…) 12 Monkeys. In fact, I just finished watching the movie a minute ago (it's 20 minutes past midnight here!) and find your reply below.

I had forwarded the site below without even having read it properly, as it was the first link that I found through Google. I think you'll find this other site more interesting:

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Boulevard/8928/.

I had decided to go and get the video after noting that there were 162 customer reviews at amazon.com and having read just the first couple!

 

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6304080921/qid=1017469559/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-2959372-4332944

 

I've yet to digest all the clues, but here is my first take on what seems to be the basic structure of the Eternal Return. The boy in the movie who witnesses the shooting returns as an adult to assume the role of the victim, that's why Cole remembers the scene and also his psychiatrist-lover. Assuming the boy is around 7 in 1996, note the dates, Cole would have been 46 in 2035 when he is sent back to prevent the end.

I've yet to figure out how all this might have been inspired by ancient Egypt (but see the quote above...), but you are certainly much better informed than I am here. Perhaps some more on the puzzle of the 12 monkeys in due course....?

Thanks for having prodded me to see it!

 

Sunthar

 


Subject:

Already you have tracked a most important clue

From: Lynn Arrowood

Sent: Sun, March 31, 2002 1:21 AM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

 

Dear Sunthar,

 

Thank you so much.  The Belzoni clue is fascinating and after all my studying this, looking for clues, I missed that one: Tomb of the Twelve Monkeys. The baboon is a theophany of Djehuty (Thoth). I'd like to see the artwork in the tomb of Ay.  Seeing as how the 12 Monkeys logo is a clock with each hour represented by a monkey, and  how the Egyptians represented the night as having 12 hours, I took it for the twelve gates of the night (in the Amduat and the Book of Gates).

If you'll notice in the film there are clock prompts all along his journey.  The first one is on the ladder as he is about to climb up out of the sewer to the ruined dead city and dept. store. There are lots more...as if he has a schedule…and if he is the night sun (Af-Re/Ka of Osiris) he would be on a tight schedule to make it through to the dawn.

This quote (paraphrased) is interesting in that regard: "For I am of the entourage of Osiris, who goes forth by night and returns by day, and no god can be created when I am silent" Book of the Dead. Remember the whisper dude who calls him Bob (Bab)? In the cell he says, "Ah, you can talk!" That relates to him having gone through the opening of the mouth ceremony and being able to speak to the gods and monsters he meets in the Duat as he makes his way to the field of reeds. The blessed dead in Egypt all have Maa Kheru (true-of-voice or justified) after their name in the Book of the Dead. In 12M they use Pardon.

Well, I’m so glad you have started the adventure that is 12M. I didn’t see any of the Egypt clues at the first viewing either…or second…what I saw were things I couldn’t explain. Mysterious little things that left me saying...but...but…wait...what did that mean? Or why did he call him Bob? Or why did he go under the water, etc., etc.  So I watched it again...then I ended up with even more things I could find no rational explanation for...so I watched it again and still again...as a game now...a research project if you will :-)

Eventually I began to pick up on religious symbolism…and noticed things like Jeffrey saying…"My father is god, I worship my father"...and thought…what if I look at it as if that were true and the asylum thing is just the surface....then I noticed things like the painting where the older woman recites the poem...it’s by Piero de la Francesco…one of the first painters to work in perspective...way at the back is a black building in the shape (I later learned) of the hieroglyph for Hotep (field of peace or field of offerings or altar), it is where they hope to have their field in the field of reeds or rushes near the lake of Horus.

There's a scene where Kathryn and James are at the small river and he goes down...in one sense it can be an allusion to the Nile branch at Nedit....Osiris is sometimes referred to as he who went down in Nedit...also in that same scene James says: “I think maybe there were policemen at that party,” and she says: "You went to a Party?!”   If you recall, Osiris went to a party given by Set, where Set had this fabulous coffin that was made to the specs of Osiris and offered to give it to whoever it fit perfectly.  When Osiris tried it, the confederates of Set slammed the lid shut and threw it in the Nile.

Oh, I looked up Ay in Sir Alan Gardiner's history of Pharaonic Egypt (Egypt of the Pharaohs): on the king-list…he was right after Tutankhamen (living image of Amun) and dated 1339-1335.  I haven’t looked up his reign yet, but remember that he was the vizier of the boy king…and I think he forced Tutankhamen’s wife to marry him so that he could be connected to the royal name and be pharaoh. She wrote to other kings begging for one of their sons to marry, but the one who journeyed to Egypt to marry her was murdered as he entered Egypt.  Her name I think was Ankhesenamun.

Your original take on the first viewing is similar to where I was...but I had a few questions...and I would never have believed anyone who told me that 7 years and a hundred books later I was still gathering this magic (now with the help of my friend Sunthar who found a most important clue at the outset of the quest on the great game:-)  "Games.  Games waiting to get out." Jeffrey -12M 

In plate five of the Book of the Dead and continuing through plates 6 and 7 (Faulkner translation, Chronicle Books 1994, San Francisco) are portrayed the scenes of an Egyptian funeral...porters carry the grave goods, food, furniture, offerings, all one might need in the afterlife...there is the deceased with the weeping widow…and Thoth in the lion-skin, the celebrant priest and Anubis... If you allow yourself to visualize it symbolically…one can almost see the ancient temple and those porters carrying the now suitcases, backpacks and the altar, with the gate to the Duat…now as a metal detector (just as it looks on plate 12 in the BD) and the sorrowing Isis in her red dress and Djehuty (Thoth) in his lion-skin, now a yellow slicker…and Osiris himself at the moment of death...becoming Orion (Wide Strider)...the running man forever looking back in eternity... as the worshippers of the great king obey the everlasting command: "Fall on your faces and worship the king, oh ye snakes and lowly ones."

The child...oh yes...he fits all this too.

Again thank you for the Tomb of the 12 Monkeys. A most important piece of the puzzle...the title itself...and proof again of what I told you about the director, Terri Gilliam...no matter how much I read on this (or a new friend points me to) he has always been there first. "I have gathered this magic in every place where it was, from the possession of anyone who possessed it, more speedily than a hound, more swiftly than a swallow....." (Chapter 24, Book of the Dead, Ani).

The Egyptian Book of the Dead (the book of going forth by day)

The first authentic presentation of The complete Papyrus of Ani

Translation by Dr. Raymond Faulkner

Introduction and commentary by Dr Ogden Goelet

Preface by Carol Andrews

Edited by Eva Von Dassow

Edition conceived by James Wasserman

Chronicle Books 1994, San Francisco

Gorgeous color plates on thick gloss paper

The book is big - about 9 by 13 inches.

 

I recommend it for the journey.  I have others, but this one is the best (someday perhaps you can recommend to me the best Bhagavad-GÓt‚ (…) 

But that is another journey. :-)

 

Thanks again for Tomb of the 12 Monkeys.

 

Sincerely,  

Lynn


Subject

12 Monkeys: recognizing the obscure lost/found/lost object of desire....

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sent: Sunday, March 31, 2002 11:43 AM

To: Lynn Arrowood

 

The west wall of the burial chamber is covered with paintings illustrating the texts of the Book of Amduat (the Book of that which is in the Afterlife), which correspond to the first hour of night, with twelve sun-adoring baboons and the boat of Khepri, the form of the sun god Re at dawn.- Valley of The Kings in Egypt 

West Wall: Excerpts from the Amduat are written above a representation of the solar barque on which the King will ride across the sky. Five deities stand in front of the solar barque. Below this are 12 squatting baboons in three registers that represent the 12 hours of night through which the sun and king travel before being reborn in the morning. -Tutankhamen’s Tomb

Dear Lynn,

 

Though I don't doubt that there are allusions to the Egyptian mysteries throughout 12 Monkeys and that the title itself is borrowed from the time of resurrection, it might be more fruitful to begin with a common understanding of the 'cyclic' structure of the plot at the 'human' level, and into which all these allusions to archaic religion, schizophrenic madness, bungling scientism, time travel, Hitchcock's suspense movies, etc., have been stuffed. Moved and even gripped by the human drama, most of the 162 reviewers of Terry Gilliam's creation have sought to attribute its power to its enigmatic structure, the splendid acting of Bruce Willis (James Cole), Brad Pitt (Jeffrey Goines) and (the beautiful) Madeleine Stowe (Kathryn Railly), and other such add-ons. If the story strikes a deep chord in our psyche already at first viewing, even for someone like myself who has probably missed most of the verbal and visual puns, etc., this would be because we 're-find' something 'lost' deep within our memory.

The movie begins with James Cole's vivid dream in 2035 of having witnessed a shooting at an airport followed by a beautiful woman lamenting over the body of the dead man. The overpowering 'memory' of this recurrent dream, that reveals increasingly significant details as the plot marches towards its denouement, and his (not so) 'unshakeable' mission to save his future world are perhaps the only 2 moorings for his increasingly 'insane' psychic life as he returns to 1996 in order to retrieve a sample of the virus. He gradually falls in love with his psychiatrist not only because Kathryn literally 'mothers' her patient and eventually becomes the only one in his new 'past' to really believe in him (more than he himself does towards the end...), but also because he 'recognizes' her even before he is able to identify her as the woman at the airport. For her part, Kathryn too (vaguely) remembers him when they first meet (when he was mis-transported further back into 1990) even before she confirms his identity (in 1996) from the photograph of the World War I trench (through which the time-machine dragged him by error). The movie, at the most fundamental level, is all about the deepening, consolidation and implications of this mystery of recognition. James really (re-) finds his lost woman in the (replay of the) airport shooting scene at the moment of his death when, as the finally revealed victim, he does so only at the cost of losing her again. Yet, this is also the very moment when, as his own childhood alter ego, he finds her for the very first time. So too does Kathryn finally recognize that the traumatized young boy moved to tears by her loss is indeed her future 'husband' who had just died all too soon. Her beautiful smile of acknowledgement (re-) launches the interminable plot of this 'science-fiction' narrative and we are 'taken in' by the cyclic depth of our own desire.

Does the 'resurrected' hero of this 'psychoanalytic' narrative really share in our recognition? The adult Cole never sees the boy and, for all we know, dies without ever knowing (except through the 'hallucinations' of a half-buried memory) of his already being there. Even as the seed of his future love is being planted, the young Cole, bewitched by this woman's face, cannot know that he is already dead as an adult. It is this eternal dream-woman, impregnated by the love of the adult, who gives birth to the love of the child, mediating like Isis between death and life. It's most significant that the face of the boy's 'real' mother is never revealed even when her arms are shown wrapped around him from behind as he gazes through tearful compassionate eyes at his lamenting future lover. Whose is the most beautiful face that a man could ever recollect? Do we recognize that this movie is really about the obscure object of our own desire? Could we bear to live if we really remembered everything?

 

Sunthar

 

P.S. Perhaps the title '12 Monkeys' symbolizes the inexorable 'march' of time, hence they are transformed into an unstoppable 'army' responsible for the release of the virus that ends the world as we know it....

 


Subject

House of eternity

From: Lynn Arrowood

SentMonday, April 01, 2002 12:42 AM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

 

Dear Sunthar,

 

Yes, there is a deep psychological chord struck in 12 M and it is one of the major themes that draws us in.  But it doesn’t explain why Gilliam would throw in hundreds of allusions to Egypt. And while the psychological level can explain much, it doesn’t answer the specific questions that arise all through the film. Like:

 

Why [is James Cole repeatedly addressed as] “Bob”?

Why is Cole so familiar with putting on his space/spirit suit that it appears he has done it thousands of times?

Why does it have lights on it? why is it clear?

Why do they seat him on the high throne?

Why is Kathryn Railly's name an  anagram for Hathor Lily of Ra?

What about the well? Why?

Why is the pig on the door of Jeffrey’s shop?

Why does shop have animal rights plastered over what is underneath a butcher shop?

What is the symbolism of Katharyn and James in the dept. store window at Christmas?

In the World War I scene, why does Jose say, "gotta find him"

Why does their reaching out to each other form the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where God gives Man life...( which occurs also in Egyptian religion). This is seen in several pieces…you don’t see the final piece of the art until she finds the picture on her wall after hearing about the bullet being an antique?

Why does he say: “Never cry ‘wolf’, my father told me that”?

Can you explain the wound on Jose's face below his eye?

Why does the scene with Cole and Railly in the hotel room remind us of the Pieta?

Is there any symbolism in the dwarf walking across in front of him when he is on the high throne?

††††††††† …and the huge eye in that room with the faces of the scientists?

††††††††† …and the magnifying glass in front of the scientists?

††††††††† …and the elder women at the airport giving Railly the prompt to look for the child?

††††††††† …and why does he have the wound in his thigh?

And why, when she removes the bullet is the bandage she holds up with the round bloodstain and bullet in the form of the Akhet sign?

And why does the writing on the bridge on their way to the airport say: Dog Babba Amman Non Re?

Why is the chamber from which he first emerges to go up to the dead city egg-shaped?

Why is he drooling so much?

Why so much yawning?

Why is the whisper man able to appear and reappear?

   Why does he say: “ah, you can talk!”?

   How does he disappear into the air shaft?

   How does he disappear under the water?

Why do the scientists sing to him?

   Why do they hold up the picture of the mountain?

How does the airplane figure in?

Why are the animals released?

   Why does the father take himself out of the "loop"?

Why assume that there is only one 1996? and one 2035?

   Does time only have an AD?

 

Psychology, psychiatry, madness and the evocative longing of the human psyche can only answer these questions in soft and general terms.

Egyptian religion can answer every one of them specifically. And hundreds and hundreds more...these were just a sample of the questions I asked and then sought the why of......and found in the ancient texts.

You are right about the eternal quality that grabs us about the film...the recognition of something almost like Nietzsche's ‘eternal recurrence’ grabbed me. I think it was when they were in the theatre and she was gluing the moustache on him...and he was holding the wig…I began to think that this was all a ritual...connected with human sacrifice, if you will...then they go out into the lobby…and her hair is red now (like Isis) and she has on the red dress (like Isis is always depicted....I almost didn’t recognize you.....and,... It was always you....and she says...something like...I remember you like this...or this is how I remember you. It's like an Osiris festival...they hold them every year...still...like a passion play....the reenactment of the passion and death of Osiris.....and she, his wife and sister, officiates.

The child is the child of the year, shown in Egyptian art as a child's head emerging from a lotus flower (she says: “you might as well smell the flowers”). The child is also the issue of their union...after she takes the bullet out of his thigh, he says: “I love seeing the sun,” grabs her by the shoulders and says I’m sorry...the camera pulls away to the night shot at [Jeffrey Goines’]father’s mansion...while in the mansion the television news informs us that a woman was found raped and murdered, who possibly was Dr. Railly...well not killed but raped…yes. In coffin text 433, it says: “shall I tell you of the wound in Osiris' thigh?” This is a reference to the loss of his phallus...they found all of his parts but that...eaten by a fish...when the wound is healed the Nile can flow again...males have potency again, women are fertile again, as are all animals and plants.

As to the virus...I think that to mankind that is death itself...while to the gods it is mankind...the assistant that spreads the virus is the assistant of Dr. Goines, the Nobel Prize winner...or if we are to listen to [his son] Jeffrey...God! In the Egyptian religion, there are two times when the high god, Re, gets it in his mind to wipe out mankind…the earlier one he sends Hathor as the lioness, Sekhmet...but calls her back with blood colored beer when he changes his mind. But in the final one that is to come...he sends his assistant, Thoth to destroy the earth and all who are on it...and it will return to its original state: "But I will remain with Osiris, I will transform myself into something else, namely a serpent, without men knowing or the gods seeing” (Atum, the creator god is also the primeval serpent…before he becomes the Benu bird and makes the call....that brings the sun and light). Earlier remember how James keeps saying: “I have to make a call”?

And at the top of the stairway he says: "We live like worms" (in Egyptian texts, serpents are called worms often)

I see it as the ritual...everything he does is prompted by things that must be accomplished if the cycle is to  begin again....and it all must be accomplished in a very tight timetable to comply with the rules of "It’s the system" (the solar system)…his little joke is:  "I thought maybe they caught us and arrested me" (arresting the sun is problematic).  Everything depends on his accomplishing his tasks....the hours, the days, the seasons...nature must be replenished...must be reborn...again and again…

So he wakes from the dead and he again goes topside as the Benu bird (that carries its own light) and entraps the day (the dawn beetle Khepri) …and he fights off the powers of inertness and weariness (death)...and he traverses the Duat and with the help of the Ennead (the scientists) he can breathe (I love this air)....travels with Hathor as guide across the Duat...regains his potency...is offered food at the tables of the gods (notice food at the asylum on table and at Atum’s [father Goines’] house...he impregnates Isis...with the seed that becomes himself (the child of the year) and makes nature emerge from its dead state…he goes to the top of the ladder of life with his brother Set...proceeds to the field of reeds and the lake of Horus (I could live here…I’ve got air, stars, debris) and then in the mansion of the prince...the temple of the airport...he is cut down again...by death.

And the great goddess, Hathor, fashioner of the rituals, eye of Re, kindly of countenance in the "bark of millions of years" (the airplane), who built the great bark of Osiris in order to cross the water of truth to the west...her task of ensuring the inundation done, says: "I'm in insurance!"

Enjoyed your letter,   

 

Lynn

 

P.S.  In the Papyrus Ani, the soul of Ani is depicted in his funeral best clothes...these consist of a sort of long dress that is gold striped on the upper part and all white on the bottom...in some papyri, he is wearing white sandals. He is wearing a wig.  Bruce Willis [James Cole] in the death scene at the airport is wearing a gold tiger-striped shirt, white pants, white gym shoes and white socks. He is wearing a wig. Study the funerary attire in any book of the dead, and it is obvious that Willis' death scene outfit is the modern dress equivalent of Ani's funeral attire...and that of any ancient Egyptian in any Book of the Dead. 


Subject

Interpreting profane narratives in the light of archaic mysteries....and vice-versa!

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

SentMonday, April 01, 2002 10:44 AM

To: Lynn Arrowood

 

Question: After James Cole locks Railly in the trunk of the car, we hear that a woman was found strangled and mutilated, but it wasn't her? Answer: Yeah, I don't get this. Maybe a bad device to keep things exciting? Perhaps some scenes didn't make the final cut, leaving this thread hanging. Anyone have other theories? 12 MONKEYS FAQ

 

Dear Lynn,

 

We seemed to have established a mutual 'pedagogic' rapport! I persuaded Elizabeth to watch 12 Monkeys with me last night (just before having to return the video to Facets). As I watched it for the 2nd time, it struck me that both monkey (as the 'monkey' Geoffrey clearly articulates while thrusting upon James the key to liberation) and Florida Keys also referred to the keys for unlocking a cipher. After all, the animal-headed entities that the initiate encounters during the mysteries provide him with clues that he needs to decipher. After witnessing the death-rebirth scenario, a bewildered Elizabeth remarked that it was indeed a fitting movie to enjoy on Easter Sunday! As I drove the route to Facets and back, my mind was turning around the meaning of the virus, i.e., the explicit 'holy grail' of the plot. I woke up this morning with a vivid realization that James was in fact 'embalmed' from the very beginning - that's why he's always strapped, in a complete suit, or covered conspicuously with bandages like an apparition from one of our Mummy films. Also, the upper world of animals was that of the after-life, and that the Bear (Ursa Minor/Major - Pole Star) and the Lion might also represent constellations through which Osiris had to travel. Immediately, it dawned on me that the virus was death in its myriad forms ('mutations') and the 'pure' sample, the object of the quest for immortality, was already there at the moment of conception and at the very heart of desire. I made for my notebook on the strong hunch that I'd find something most relevant from you - and here we are!

 

         the red dress of Isis - there's the parallel of the courtesan Vasantasen‚ (Railly is also assimilated to a whore by the pimp in the hotel...) not only wearing red but actually menstruating red 'flowers' ("trailing buds of red lotuses, like a cave of red arsenic being excavated with a chisel") dropping from her disheveled hair as she flees her lusty pursuer as if she were the patron goddess of the sacred city. Actually, this Sanskrit play "The Little Clay Cart" (Mrcchakatik‚) is framed by the worship of the Mother-Goddesses. The poor brahmin hero, C‚rudatta, unites with her, is symbolically sacrificed to her (for having 'killed' her) and is reborn. This theme of matricide recurs in folklore and ritual all over the Indian subcontinent.

         killing the mother - how is the Mrcchakatik‚ relevant to the hermeneutics of 12 Monkeys? For example, James is shown as if starting to strangle his beloved Kathryn before the screen blurs and we are left to deal with the reported raped body of a strangled woman that the police suspect to be hers? The same 'coincidence' is exploited in the play, and the hero is accused of murdering the courtesan for which he is to be executed in the final act. The theme is in fact that of a (psychic) matricide, which the Indian villain translates into the analogy of the killing of a (sacred) cow. Is this perhaps the 'original sin' for which (not just) James is immediately presented to us as a convict, and why everyone who returns to the past does so in quest of a 'pardon'? The royal Vedic sacrificer too ducked into a pool of amniotic water (womb) to wash away his sins.

Starting with the (clues provided by the) clown (always assimilated to a 'wicked brown monkey'...Geoffrey?), I began to unravel the significance of the Mrcchakatik‚ almost 20 years ago in terms of the extremely detailed, precise and sometimes explicit correspondences with the Vedic sacrifice. Though this 'profane' play has romantic, political, legal, etc., storylines, Sanskrit dramaturgic tradition insists that theater is ultimately a playful substitute for the sacrificial ritual. However, as I tried to reconstruct the irregular 'logic' of the narrative, it became clear that the story was not simply a transposition of religious ideas but more importantly a clarification of their inner meaning. This is why my own insights into 12 Monkeys derive even more from my understanding of Tantric practices (to which the explicit worship of the Mother-Goddess more properly belongs) than from the Egyptian mysteries (not to mention shamanistic ascents up airshafts and descents into wells...), which I'm still assimilating.... 

My aim was not to reduce 12 Monkeys to a mere 'psychoanalytic' allegory. On the contrary, by juxtaposing various narratives--time travel, crime-and-punishment, apocalyptic fiction, scientistic utopia, romantic entanglement, archaic symbolism--to that of 'mental divergence', the movie is mutually interrogating each of these alternative frameworks for their ultimate meaning. It's in the 'irregularities' of the mutual weaving of multiple disparate codes (e.g., for an Egyptian text to describe the Duat as being flooded like the rushes of the Nile) that the 'key' insights are hidden. The Sanskrit playwright was clearly initiated into the mysteries he was so creatively reworking into the 'secularized' drama, for which the equivalent would have been an Egyptian priest writing the script for 12 Monkeys. Though Gilliam's creation is simply brilliant from several angles, the question is whether he understood the Osiris myth well enough not just to transpose its motifs but also to take liberties with its details without (unwittingly) distorting its message at places. A question that can be satisfactorily addressed only by someone (like yourself?) who has an independent understanding of (not just the outward expression and visible forms but also the inner experiences encoded into) Egyptian religion.

I'm very gratified that I took the initiative of copying you on that first email regarding Indo-Egyptian parallels on the virgin-birth of the sacrificer!

Sunthar

 


Subject

12 Monkeys and the Little Clay Cart: dramatizing the (annual) cycle of death-union-resurrection

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

SentMonday, April 01, 2002 12:48 PM

To: Lynn Gibson

 

While watching the film last night, I make special note of the scene you describe below in the cinema showing a cycle of Hitchcock mysteries. Whereas I'd been able to explain Railly's initial recognition of her lover as due to having seen him (still bald!) in the World War I photo, her reference to having always 'remembered' him with wig and moustache is inexplicable within the linear narrative of her life up to that point. You are hence right in emphasizing that it's an allusion to something outside the frame of the movie, viz. the yearly Osiris festival of resurrection. This is also probably the significance of the scene from Vertigo, introduced just then, when Hitchcock's heroine says, pointing to concentric rings in the severed trunk of the redwood tree, here's when/where I was born here's when I died (words Railly herself could have uttered in relation to James).

When C‚rudatta is being taken in procession to be executed, he is compared to the pole of Indra (king of the gods) being carried to the cremation-ground (after its cosmogonic raising and felling to commemorate the New Year). The wooden pole also represents his detached ('artificial') phallus and its erection in a hole in the ground is assimilated to a sexual union. Elizabeth and I have studied this annual Indra festival that continues to be celebrated in Katmandu to this day (see her papers on the Goddess at http://www.svabhinava.org). The courtesan Vasantasen‚ is said to have fallen in love ever since (she first set her eyes upon C‚rudatta in) “the garden of the temple of the Love-God (k‚ma-deva)”, a scene which is prior to and 'outside' the play, which seems identical to the decrepit garden in which is (supposedly raped and) strangled, insofar as both gardens represent the maternal womb. Kathryn falls in love with the boy James at the airport even as she loses him as an adult.

Yes, the bloodied elongated bullet extracted from James' thigh is actually his seed. C‚rudatta too is 'reborn' as his own infant son Rohasena to whom he hands over his sacred thread entitling the latter to perform his father's funerary rites. The title of the play derives from the seemingly unrelated and trivial incident where the courtesan, still wearing the jewel-necklace of the boy's real mother whom she claims to be, had deposited her golden ornaments in the 'little clay-cart' (Mrcchakatik‚) of Rohasena who so resembles his father C‚rudatta, in order that it may be transformed into a golden carriage. Carriages, whose interchangeability play a crucial role in the plot-development, also represent the womb. The Soma is represented by gold in Vedic religion, and the initiate gains access to it through an embryonic regression.

Like Indra's pole (a statue of the king of the gods is tied to it in Katmandu), Osiris' phallus in a sense contains his very essence and its being eaten by a fish is an unmistakable idiom for stating that the sexual union was at the same time a return to the womb.

 

Sunthar

 

P.S. How about our eventually posting a joint review of the overall structure and theme of 12 Monkeys on our svAbhinava web-site?


Subject:

House of eternity

From: Lynn Arrowood

Sent: Mon, April 01, 2002 12:42 AM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

 

Dear Sunthar,

 

>

 

> What is the symbolism of Kathryn and James in the dept. store window at  Christmas?  [birthday of Horus on 25th Dec. at Philae?]

>

 

> Can you explain the wound on Jose's face below his eye?  [Horus lost his eye to Seth? - how would he relate then to the kid?]

 

>

    


Subject:

Interpreting profane narratives in the light of archaic mysteries....and vice-versa!

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sent: Mon, April 01, 2002 10:44 AM

To: Lynn Arrowood

 

How could the Lion and Bear still be around the city in the year 2025? Good question. The narrative pretty much spoon-feeds us the fact that the animals have taken back the earth, implying that the virus only affects humans. The animals may be descendents of the animals released from the zoo, unless you think that there was plenty of time to recapture the released animals before widespread infection... Another perspective is that Cole only imagined them. Remember when he is waiting in front of the department store for Railly? He sees those exact two animals (only stuffed) in the windows.  12 MONKEYS FAQ

 

 

>

> […] Also, the upper world of animals was that of the after-life, and that the Bear (Ursa Minor/Major - Pole Star) and the Lion might also represent constellations through which Osiris had to travel. […]

 

>

 


Subject

12 Monkeys: does the virus release the animals? why was 'Osiris' sent back on 'mission impossible'?

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

SentMonday, April 01, 2002 5:52 PM

To: Lynn Gibson

 

  2. Isn't Cole sent back to save the future? No. It is stated at several points along the way that his job is to simply locate the virus so that a pure sample can be collected. It's even pretty much stated that he cannot change the future anyway; the pure sample will only help the future people vaccinate who is left.

  4. Did Jeffrey Goines ever intend to release the virus?  Probably not. The poster with the "We Did It" scrawled on it was just referring to releasing the animals from the Zoo.

7. What are some examples of parallels in the movie? There is a parallel between the Monkey send down the hole to find the kid who fell down and Bruce Willis being send back to the past. [...] Rhys Southan also offers: You mention the parallel of Cole being sent to the past to find the PURE VIRUS and the Monkey with the sandwich tied to it being sent down the well to find NOTHING, and Jeffrey Goines supports you when he rants "We're all Monkeys", and maybe I'm over analyzing things, but at the party for Jeffrey's scientist father, one of the guests says after watching the news "I bet the monkey will eat the damn sandwich himself". Could this also be referring to Cole's not following orders and getting to love the "dying world" [...]?  

9.  In one of James Cole's dreams, didn't the guy running in the airport have the face of Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt)? Yes. This is assuredly Cole incorporating things he's learned (in this case from Railly) into his ever-changing dream. Theories have been posted to Usenet indicating that perhaps he changes small instances of time, and the dreams reflect this. However, a mini-FAQ by David and Janet Peoples supports the first theory, and I consider that the canonical answer.

13. Why does James Cole still try to kill the guy with red hair if he cannot change the future? Well, for one thing, Jose tells Cole that if he doesn't do it, then Jose will kill Railly. Besides, I sort of like the way that even as the wheels of destiny are closing in on him, he still throws himself in front of them. 12 MONKEYS FAQ

Though on the surface level of the plot, James, who is 'losing his mind', is substituting the image of Jeffrey, whom he suspects of being the perpetrator, within his otherwise 'authentic' recurring dream, I wonder if there's something more to the symbolic equation of this freer of animals with the releaser of the virus. Since the depeoplement the world by the virus and its peoplement with animals instead, both signify the sovereignty of death and the afterlife, in a sense Jeffrey and the research assistant are 'colluding' willy-nilly towards the same purpose. They did it!

It would also seem that it's Kathryn who ultimately speeds her lover to his inevitable death. James knows full well that he can't and shouldn't try to change the course of the past and returned with the avowed intention of enjoying life with Kathryn. Yet he allows her, both by responding to her incitements to save the world and out of concern for her safety (in the face of Jose's threats...), to push him into going after the perpetrator to gun him down (of course, the gun is also a narrative ploy to keep us believing that it is James who'll do the shooting at the airport:-). Retrospectively, despite the full pardon, there would have been no way for both Coles, senior and junior, to coexist indefinitely at the same time and especially in the same place (esp. the prospect of them interacting). That's why both Jose and Cole must obey orders (prescribed by ritual).

I guess the only way to conquer (the virus of) death is by dying....but with a difference!

 

Sunthar

P.S. You'll find the svAbhinava Reviews page at http://www.svabhinava.org/reviews/default.htm (still under construction...)


Subject

Little clay cart has many parallels to 12 M as well

From: Lynn Arrowood

SentTuesday, April 02, 2002 1:29 AM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

 

Dear Sunthar,

 

Yes, she recognizes him because he has finally ‘become’ her husband...he has traveled through the Duat and regained all of the attributes he had in life...he has become the king, Osiris. He has gone from being the inert one, dead, then fighting off death, covered with putrefaction (“I think I smell bad”), weary (yawning) and yes bald. Egyptian children had shaved heads, save for one lock of hair on the side.  Also there is a quote in the Book of the Dead about Isis: "To whom the entreaties of the bald-headed do not rise." I also think her saying "I remember you like this," is a double entendre, and refers both to how in the wig she recognizes him as her husband...and also the remembrance of the Osiris festival…which celebrated his passion yearly.  And she officiated.

Yes, the tree on its side in Vertigo…is in Egyptian myth the Djed...and the raising of the Djed is when the resurrection occurs…and the celebration of the new agricultural cycle through the inundation. I think its called the Haker festival...and the earth is hacked up…meaning the blood of the sacrificed king is poured on the fields. All of the agricultural societies early on had their ritual regicide…later they just made allusions to it by ritualization (the Hed Sed festival was the later form).

There is also something I remember from the actual festival of the raising of Osiris...there are seven Osiris...with blank faces...little by little they gain faces…when the sun is directly over one of the figures it is shown with phallus straight up…I think this is what happened when they were in the field and she removed the bullet…we see the Akhet sign and then he says, “I love seeing the sun,” and then he grabs her...that is when the child is conceived…his potency has returned now that the wound in his thigh is healed and not just his ability to regenerate himself as his own child...but as all children...all nature...all animals. 

What you said about the pure virus...It could be him…because he is pure death…and then pure life returning. 6 billion died...but then we do that every generation…if you think about it…but his search for the pure virus is his search for his own death…albeit he doesn’t know it…at the end when the blue underwear falls out of the suitcase containing the 4 vials?...One of his many many names is ‘Blue’...a reference to his chthonic nature ...notice at the beginning of the film they shoot him in a lot of blue light...later green…the vernal. Anyway I see that suitcase as the canopic chest.  The one that carries the entrails…in four vials...the pictures on that chest form pictographic writing...glyphs…Gilliam’s, not the ancients:-).  Anyway, every Egyptian was buried with a canopic chest...but Osiris…the real one...not just anybody who took the name Osiris after death....his death would be like the archetype of death...or in our quest...The Pure Virus.

Yes, the story of the courtesan, Vasantasena, is very similar to the love story in 12 M and you are right, she is mistaken for a prostitute at the hotel...remember Mary, who conceived sans husband…would have been considered a prostitute as well…interesting that the hotel is called The Globe.

I pick up echoes of him as an infant…in the jail cell...where she comes to him as the sky goddess Nut...carrying a bag with half a dozen stars in a semicircle....she squats down…Egyptian women squatted on the birthing brick...he has saliva drooling down and he is wearing only a see-through raincoat (placenta?), the saliva to the ancient Egyptians was just like semen…it was regenerative. But I don’t see him as the child here...the one at the airport...perhaps as him being born back into life for yet another cycle.

Interesting about carriages playing a crucial role in the Little Clay Cart story. There is a theme like that in the Book of the Dead...only they are barks...mentioned is the Night Bark...and in 12 M, I think that is her car when he highjacks it at night....There is also Day Bark…perhaps her car again in the day....The Neshmet bark where Osiris rides forth to meet Set…could be Jeffrey’s Jag....and there's another bark…cant remember its name at the moment…but it is the one Osiris rides to his funeral in...the Taxi.

Publishing a review of 12 M.  Sounds fun.  But I have a problem with organization...I write in a stream of consciousness kind of flow as I think of things...and my technology is nearly non-existent   (not unlike James Cole! Haha:-) To do it we will need artwork from the Book of the Dead and the Amduat and such as well as from the Vedic texts. Pictures would make it easier to see...comparisons with scenes from 12M. Sounds like a good project…but you would have to take the lead technologically and organizationally.  I guess we can save all of our correspondence and pick through it for ideas too. I think our website on the mythological underpinnings of 12 Monkeys would be far more arresting both verbally and visually than those guys with their narrow dimensional time lines who only see it as its cover story and who miss the fact that there is more than one 21st century...and that one can travel in time to the beginning as well as the end...sometimes both at the same time. Eternity.

Lynn

 


Subject

The Perverse Humor of the Infantile VidŻshaka: Psychoanalysis, Criminal Law and Sacrificial Dharma

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

SentTuesday, April 02, 2002 11:19 AM

To: Lynn Gibson

 

Please take a look at this: http://www.svabhinava.org/mrcchakatika/default.htm

 

Sunthar

 


Subject

Re: The Perverse Humor of the Infantile VidŻshaka: Psychoanalysis, Criminal Law and Sacrificial Dharma

Subject: FW: 12 monkeys....

From: Lynn Arrowood

SentWednesday, April 03, 2002 3:25 AM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

 

Sunthar,

 

I enjoyed your article about The Little Clay Cart story. Admittedly, I am not adept enough at Vedic mythos as of yet to pick up on all of the points, but I can see many points of confluence in what we have been discussing on the mythic symbolism in the film. When I first began Egyptian mythology, it took a bit of time to familiarize myself with the names and major symbols as well.

You write very well. Quite impressive. I shall have to read the URL you sent on Elizabeth's work as well.  I am interested in the goddess and her consort. The Indra sacrifice and the pole is certainly there in the film and even the wrong cart...they don’t really explain how suddenly they go from driving her Jeep to driving Jeffrey’s Jaguar, which she admits is stolen.

I have run across the trickster god in numerous other cultures…one I recall wore a hat that was red on one side and blue on the other...and was thus described as a man in a blue hat by the people working the fields on one side of him and red to those on the other...Jeffrey is a bit of a trickster as well...and Egypt has its own Heka, also the Sumerian Enki who is playful with words…and Loki.

The rape and the death appear also and the prostitute theme.

Yesterday you spoke of the original sin connection to James' imprisonment and the pardon sought for redemption of that sin. I also noted that when the guard reads off his sins..(I’m going to try to remember most of them)…insolence, lack of respect for authority, violence, anti-social behavior...Those are the sins of Gilgamesh as well. He is sent on his adventure by his father  because he has made a nuisance of himself in Uruk. Fighting with all the other young men and seducing their women etc.

I notice in the Clay Cart story, the liminal dream state appears as well (another mythological link to 12 M).  Speaking of the dream, I am struck by Jeffrey’s appearance in the place of Dr Goines' assistant in one of the sequences. Perhaps it means while Thoth (assistant to Re) brings death to mankind in the aggregate sense, Set brings the pure virus of death to Osiris, who represents death itself as a singularity. In seeking the virus, he thus ends up finding himself. Isn’t there a poem that says "I am become death"?

And James can’t stay dead because it is the nature of Osiris itself that he represents both death and re-growth of nature. He is both the fallen leaves off the tree of life and its spring blossoms burgeoning anew.

Remember at the airport on the escalator (there is a plate in the Amduat which looks suspiciously like that scene), Jose is trying to hand him the gun and he says, "This part isn’t about finding the virus at all, it's about following orders."  Well, as Osiris, he would have to be representing Ma'at, the order of the seasons, the years, life, death and the cosmos. The gun I see as the Was scepter (power). Osiris carries it in depictions of him as well as the crook (it could be that as well).  It’s a very old gun. Perhaps a suggestion that before guns represented power, things like scepters did.

This in regards to your answer to my Jose question. Yes, I think the wound represents the loss of Horus' eye in the fight with Set. There is also an allusion to Set's loss of his testicles in the same fight.  When Jeffrey is explaining how his psychiatrist knew about the army of the 12 monkeys before he had invented it, he enumerates things that were done to him in the name of science. As he says "thoroughly examined", he coughs and grabs his scrotum.  I think this is a veiled jab at referring to his loss of testicles in that battle.

The name Jose itself is interesting in that Horus and Set are sometimes called the same god, bearing two faces like Janus.  One bearing good and one bearing evil. "If Horus be respected then Set will be divine." So the name JOSE could be  Hor-Set.

The clown trickster you speak of in the Clay Cart story might appear in 12 M as well. Jeffrey is inclined to use the word Bozos; Bozos means clowns. Even more interestingly, the whisper dude in the cell uses the word Bozos as well (maybe I’m in the home office watching you for those science bozos).  I get the feeling that the bagman is also Jeffrey...( the great magician Re)..and he is also Set at the palace (complete with tail).

If it sounds strange that an actor could be one character in one scene and another in the next, remember that Egyptian gods could move freely in and out of each other. Note this rubric to chapter 17 Book of the Dead: "Here begin praises and recitations, going in and going out of the God's Domain, having benefit in the beautiful West, being in the suite of Osiris, resting at the food-table of Wennefer, going out into the day, taking any shape in which one desires to be, playing at Senet, sitting in a booth, and going forth as a living soul by the Osiris Ani after he has died. It is beneficial to him who does it on earth" (all of the above happens in 12 M).

As to "Taking any shape in which one desires to be", I tend to relate the action at the time as a guide to who is acting.  For instance, the teeth are given to the goddess Selket, the scorpion goddess to keep the putrefaction away from the mummy. So when he gives her his teeth in the hotel room, she becomes Selket…whereas moments before and after she was and will be Hathor,  and then Isis. The knife might represent the adze which was used in the opening of the mouth ceremony where the officiating priest broke out a few teeth so the mummy could recite the spells and incantations needed to cross the Duat to the field of reeds. After the opening of the mouth ceremony the deceased was Maa Kheru, true of mouth, justified (as we discussed, ‘Pardoned’).

Again, enjoyed your Clay Cart piece. I shall have to read it several times more to begin to follow it all. The Book of the Dead was quite difficult for me in the beginning as well until I familiarized myself with the totality that is Egyptian myth and religion.  Even then, since I studied it all myself, I lack the language with which it is discussed in academe :-(I confess some of the stuff on the Ma’at site seems a bit dry to me).

You mention Nietzsche in your article. Ahh, I love Nietzsche, especially Zarathustra […] Thought you might enjoy a true-life story of Nietzsche in action in everyday life.  Haha!   Kant, and his long lists, I must confess has done nothing for me (although Schopenhauer has given me a laugh).

 

- Lynn