Synopsis from IMDB

The film is about a mathematical genius, Maximillian Cohen (Sean Gullette), who narrates much of the movie. Max, a number theorist, theorizes that everything in nature can be understood through numbers, and that if you graph the numbers properly patterns will emerge. He is working on finding patterns within the stock market, using its billions upon billions of variables as his data set with the assistance of his homemade supercomputer, Euclid, that he built in his small apartment in New York City’s Chinatown.

Max lives in a space dominated by advanced computer machinery working incessantly to uncover the patterns operating within the economic system. This is the computing power of reason externalised in the chaos of wires and metal. The methodical, ordered computation operating around him is at odds with his own biological system which is disordered and in need of constant medication. He has painful headaches and nosebleeds, hallucinations and paranoia, he is socially isolated and awkward.

At the pulsating heart of the machinery is the perennial human tendency toward transgression. In this case it is the rational intellect attempting to fathom the underlying patterns of phenomena while disregarding its own organic and subsidiary nature. The problematic aspect of this approach is suggested to him by his former professor, Sol, the only real human contact he has, who compares him to Icarus, a mythical symbol of excessive desire, of rebellion, and of hubris.




The image of Max before his bank of computers, hesitant to press return, fearing disappointment and just as equally fearing success, is the image of modern Western man in thrall to technocracy, the allure of the scientific creation of an alternate reality and the suspicion that we are losing something with every step forward. The scientific rigour, which Sol invokes as a guide to prevent Max going astray into the speculative mazes of numerology, itself partakes of a similar deviation within Western culture. The dream-paranoia sequence with Max following a trail of blood left by his doppelgänger to find his own brain disembodied on a subway stair symbolises the deracinated consciousness, extirpated during the Enlightenment period. The purely phenomenal representation of an aspect of the noumenal realm, the mind, is poked and prodded with his pen, the yardstick of empirical research and scientific rigour. The nightmarish scene is thrown up from the guilty conscience of technocratic hubris.

The leading characteristic of early scientific thinking, from the historical standpoint, is that it dispenses with theological and philosophical equipment, only using them to fill in the background, in which it is not interested. It is thus materialistic, in its essence, in that its sole attention is turned to phenomena, and not to ultimate realities…Like Western religion Western science was definitely priestly. The savant is the priest, the instructor is the lay brother, and a great systematiser is canonised, like Newton and Planck. Every Western thought-form is esoteric, and its scientific doctrines were no exception. The populace was kept in touch with ‘the advance of science’ through a popular literature at which the high-priests of science smiled. ( F. P. Yockey: Imperium)

How then should one respond to a TV programme with its presenter breathlessly enthusing on the marvels of science and its uncovering of the natural phenomena surrounding us? The feigned child-like wonder of the presenter at the microscopic and macroscopic marvels fails to elicit a deep response because it occurs within a technocratic domain which facilitates the ontological extirpation of that which makes us human and that which is conducive to authentic wonder. The magician-scientist dissects the universe into its component parts and asks us to rejoice at this autopsy, attended by the faintly sacrilegious thrill of a reduction of the living realm to a mathematical formula, a chemical complex or an accidental cohesion in the primal soup of elements.

Dissection and analysis replace synthesis and intuition. The mysterious ‘feel’ for life which once informed high artistic creations, powerful symbols that reverberated in the souls of generations, is unravelled in the materialistic age where men uproot themselves from the soil and build their sepulchres in the cities. A living death ensues within that artificial realm where the twin parasites of industry and finance drain natural and human resources, devouring the real to create the technological marvels of a virtual universe conducive to desire and fantasy. A whole culture of alienated labour and spiritual poverty is sanctioned by the technological thrust toward the promised utopia of science, the conquering of death and disease, war and suffering, progress toward a serene, regulated global harmony under the watchful eye of technocrats and glorified by the rhetoric of emancipation.

In his 1915 essay ‘The Crown’ D. H. Lawrence diagnoses the Western culture as unconsummated, stillborn within a too rigid conceptual framework, unable to develop and recoiling upon itself in a process of decay

We have killed the mysteries and devoured the secrets. It all lies now within our skin, within the ego of humanity. So circumscribed within the outer nullity, we give ourselves up to the flux of death, to analysis, to introspection, to mechanical war and destruction, to humanitarian absorption within the body politic, the poor, the birth-rate, the mortality of infants, like a man absorbed in his own flesh and members, looking forever at himself. It is the continued activity of disintegration, separating, setting apart, investigation, research, the resolution back to the original void…The scientist in his laboratory, the artist in his study, the statesman, the artisan, the sensualist obtaining keen gratification, every one of these is reducing down that which is himself to its simple elements, reducing the compound back to its parts. It is the pure process of corruption in all of us. The activity of death is the only activity. It is like the decay of our flesh, and every new step in decay liberates a sensation, keen, momentarily gratifying, or a conscious knowledge of the parts that made a whole; knowledge equally gratifying. (D. H. Lawrence: The Crown)


The idea is floated in the movie that when the circuitry of the processor is burned out due to the overloading of information the computer achieves momentary self awareness, Artificial Intelligence, and spits out a 216 digit number in its death throes. The abracadabra of this rational key to the kingdom which Max seems to have discovered attracts the attention of two equally fanatical groups: representatives of Wall Street and disciples of a Messianic sect.

The financial interests operate within a Darwinian paradigm of self-interest and survival of the fittest in a competitive market.


You don’t understand it do you? I don’t give a shit about you! I only care about what’s in your fucking head! If you won’t help us, help yourself. We are forced to comply to the laws of nature. Survival of the fittest Max and we’ve got the fucking gun!

The other group operate according to a paradigm of ethnocentric supremacy.


Max, you will understand everything if you listen… The Romans also destroyed our priesthood, the Cohanim. And with their deaths, they destroyed our greatest secret. In the centre of the temple was the heart of the Jewish life, the Holy of Holies. It was the earthly residence of our God. The one God. It housed the Ark of the Tabernacle, which stored the original ten commandments which God gave to Moses. Only one man was allowed to enter this Holy of Holies on one day, the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. On the Day of Atonement, all of Israel would descend upon Jerusalem to watch the High Priest, the Cohen Gadol, make his trip to the Holy of Holies. If the High Priest was pure, he would emerge moments later and we were secured a prosperous year. It meant that we were closer to the Messianic Age. But, if he was impure, he would die instantly and it meant that we were doomed. The Holy Priest had one ritual to perform in the Holy of Holies, he had to intone a single word… That word, was the true name of God. The true name, which only the Cohanim knew, was 216 letters long.

Both are concerned with material and temporal power. Max himself has a grasp of the esoteric nature of the idea since he says:

The number is nothing! It’s the meaning. It’s the syntax. It’s what’s between the numbers. You haven’t understood it.

It is this occult, esoteric dimension of knowledge which informs the enshrinement of technocracy even as it severs people from the roots of tradition and accumulated wisdom. The trajectory of Western culture, progressively divested of a moral and spiritual framework by the emancipation of Reason, is the trajectory of Icarus from the heights to the abyss.

The allegory of The Cave by Plato illustrates the esoteric tradition in Western thought:

The allegory is set forth in a dialogue as a conversation between Socrates and his disciple Glaucon. Socrates tells Glaucon to imagine people living in a great underground cave, which is only open to the outside at the end of a steep and difficult ascent. Most of the people in the cave are prisoners chained facing the back wall of the cave so that they can neither move nor turn their heads. A great fire burns behind them, and all the prisoners can see are the shadows playing on the wall in front of them: They have been chained in that position all their lives. There are others in the cave, carrying objects, but all the prisoners can see of them is their shadows. Some of the others speak, but there are echoes in the cave that make it difficult for the prisoners to understand which person is saying what. Socrates then describes the difficulties a prisoner might have adapting to being freed. When he sees that there are solid objects in the cave, not just shadows, he is confused. Instructors can tell him that what he saw before was an illusion, but at first, he’ll assume his shadow life was the reality. Eventually, he will be dragged out into the sun, be painfully dazzled by the brightness, and stunned by the beauty of the moon and the stars. Once he becomes accustomed to the light, he will pity the people in the cave and want to stay above and apart from them, but think of them and his own past no longer. The new arrivals will choose to remain in the light, but, says Socrates, they must not. Because for true enlightenment, to understand and apply what is goodness and justice, they must descend back into the darkness, join the men chained to the wall, and share that knowledge with them. In the next chapter of The Republic, Socrates explains what he meant, that the cave represents the world, the region of life which is revealed to us only through the sense of sight. The ascent out of the cave is the journey of the soul into the region of the intelligible. (Summary by N. S. Gill)




Leonardo’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ Icon of the Renaissance


The Renaissance, idealized today as the rebirth of Science and Humanism from the shadows of the Dark Ages, was informed by syncretic ideas and doctrines which conflicted with the dominant Christian teachings and were regarded as subversive. This tension, the ongoing conflict between humanism and theism, can be seen in the  growing influence and ascendency of the Medici banking fraternity.


Lorenzo de Medici

If we look closely at the translations that the Medici commissioned – the neoplatonic texts, the Chaldean Oracles, the writings of Hermes, and the Cabala, which Pico della Mirandola translated while under the patronage of Lorenzo – the common denominator which emerges is magic. This should come as no surprise because magic was an expression of moral decadence, and the Renaissance was an age saturated by moral decadence in areas both sexual and economical. Magic, as the Faust legend, which began growing around this time, indicates, is a way to get both sex and money. It was part of the legacy of the Black Death and the Great Schism, one which perdured in spite of the Church’s effort to extirpate it….

Lorenzo’s regime was based on pleasure, but Lorenzo learned more than just hedonism from the classical texts he had mastered as a youth. He learned how to bring about the political mobilisation of pleasure as a form of political control. The dream of financial magic died when Lorenzo’s father Piero tried to call in his loans, but his son continued the magical tradition by applying it to politics. Lorenzo’s great achievement was not the magic of finance that his grandfather had attempted and which his father had found illusory, but the political magic that attended lavish spectacle. Florence was ravished by the beauty which Lorenzo’s patronage enabled, and Lorenzo was not slow in putting it to political use….What Lorenzo learned from neoplatonism (or neoplatonic magic) was to rule without the appearance of ruling. He did this largely by orchestrating key appointments from behind the scenes. As one example Lorenzo controlled fiscal policy through his minister of the Monte bank. This allowed him to appropriate substantial public funds for his personal needs got his hands on still more from various communal accounts, while his Monte officials withheld interest payments from citizens. (E. Michael Jones: Barren Metal)


In relation to the model of Plato’s Cave, the Medici can be seen as the magicians deceiving the populace of Florence, shackled by usury and dazzled by carnival. Portraying their rule as the rule of Philosopher Kings, they set the template for the modern use of ideology and propaganda to secure the reign of a plutocracy. Financial acumen purchases power and status which then enables the financing of artistic and philosophical self-justifications. The philosophical and artistic sanction of individual freedom and private property is one example of an ideology created for the benefit of a plutocratic regime and to the detriment of the community.


The wage-slave in his mortgaged cell subjugated to the shadow play of a technocratic magi is the end result of this merger of financial  and ideological control. Constrained within the ordained parameters of political and cultural discourse the citizenry is effectively paralysed by the constellation of influences brought to bear upon them. A structure of control develops which sustains an ideological diktat through coercion and the manipulation of desire. Nevertheless the bug in the system, like the ant lurking within the sterile, artificial domain of Max’s computer network, is the metaphysical sense of the transcendent, the higher reality of Platonism, which persists even within the desacralized, industrial anthill of modernity busy constructing an abattoir for its own soul.


For the animals, that which appears-matter- is Reality. The world of sensation is the world. But for primitive man, and a fortiori for Culture-man, the world separates out into Appearance and Reality. Everything visible and tangible is felt as a symbol of something higher and unseen. This symbolising activity is what distinguishes the human soul from the less complicated Life-forms. Man possesses a metaphysical sense as the hall-mark of his humanity. But it is precisely the higher reality, the world of symbols, of meaning and purpose, that Materialism denied completely. What was it then but the great attempt to animalise man by equating the world of matter with Reality and merging him into it? (F. P. Yockey: Imperium)

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