The Matrix Ending Explained: A Guide to Freeing Your Mind

“I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo I just said it would be the truth.” The genius of “The Matrix” is it proved that movies can make us care about dry, philosophical ideas In the Wachowskis’ 1999 film about a programmer who realizes he’s living in a computer simulation, the deepest intrigue doesn’t lie in what happens — but in why it happens and what it means “Remember…all I’m offering is the truth Nothing more.” At the heart of this story are questions like: What’s real? Do we actually want the truth? And can human beings be free? Such abstract inquiries become tangible, personal, urgent, as Neo progresses from nihilism to enlightenment and becomes “The One” — the only person with the potential to free human beings from their machine overlords This tightly structured Hero’s journey is the Philosopher’s Journey, [Solemnly] “There is no spoon.” packaged as a gripping, action-packed Hollywood flick 20 years later, here’s our Take on the deep meaning of “The Matrix” and why it’s a guide to freeing your mind, which can help us uncode the modern “Matrix” of our times “Free your mind.” This video is brought to you by MUBI – a curated streaming service showing exceptional films from around the globe It’s like your own personal film festival – streaming anytime, anywhere [Exhales deeply] “Okey-doke… free my mind…” The first Matrix movie has an age-old message: the truth shall set you free “It was he who freed the first of us… taught us the truth.” Let’s take a look at Neo’s steps on the road to Freeing the Mind On closer inspection, we can identify seven major phases: Dreaming, Destruction, Reconstruction, Self-Knowledge, Doubt, Belief and Love Step 1: Dreaming of The Question “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream?” Neo’s quest for truth begins in his dreams When we first meet him, he’s asleep, while his computer runs a search for a mysterious figure named Morpheus – fittingly named after the Greek God of Dreams Someone in Neo’s computer (who we later learn is Trinity) tells him to “Wake up.” Neo’s not quite ready to do this yet, and the two sequences following this lead back to him waking up in bed, unsure if he’s just had some strange nightmare Neo complains of an inability to tell waking life from dreaming “You ever have that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming?” And when he finally meets the God of Dreams himself, Morpheus speaks to Neo’s feeling of surreality “You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up Ironically, this is not far from the truth.” The twist is that it’s Neo’s so-called “real” life up until now that’s been the dream-world “You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.” Neo’s mentor Morpheus represents intuition and faith in the unseen forces of the world, in direct opposition to the machine projections that use the eyes and rational arguments to enslave His ship is called “the Nebuchadnezzar,” a nod to an ancient Babylonian King, who (in the Biblical Book Daniel) gave the wise men of his kingdom the impossible task of not just interpreting his dream, but also telling him what the dream was So, “The Matrix” tells us that trusting our intuition and dreams is the beginning of the path toward truth and mind-freeing “You’re here because you know something What you know, you can’t explain But you feel it You’ve felt it your entire life.” This mysterious inner compass points us in the right direction before our rational minds can catch up “Such shaping fantasies that apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends.” Neo’s intuition and dreams lead him to form a question Interestingly, we gather that Trinity and the others began their journeys with the same question: “You know the question, just as I did.” “What is the Matrix…” So, what starts all these rebels-to-be on the path to freedom is a growing awareness of this invisible thing that surrounds them – “the Matrix.” “There’s something wrong with the world You don’t know what it is, but it’s there Like a splinter in your mind.” “The Matrix?” The ability to sense the Matrix, even though nothing about it can be perceived by the senses, “A prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch.” might remind us of the story about the fish who don’t know they’re surrounded by water “How’s the water? And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then, eventually, one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”” To have the initial capacity to free your mind, you have to question the obvious — what’s right in front of your eyes

“The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.” “You think that’s air you’re breathing now?” The next phase of Neo’s enlightenment is Destructive Truth – “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” shattering the illusions that blind and enslave us “You are a slave, Neo.” What’s untrue must die This phase begins with the *choice* Morpheus offers Neo – to remain in his comfortable, pre-enlightened state, “The story ends You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.” or to “wake up.” “You stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Until this point, Morpheus’ team and Neo are just meeting each other inside the Matrix, but the red pill allows Morpheus’ team to locate where Neo’s actual body is in the field where machines grow living humans to use them for energy As Neo’s false conceptions of reality are torn down, “This can’t be…” “Be what? Be real?” the disruption to his mind is so violent that he almost dies “He’s going into arrest.” This is the first death and rebirth Neo goes through in the film [Hoarsely] “Am I dead?” “Far from it.” Like a baby, he must learn to use his own body, “Your muscles have atrophied We’re rebuilding them.” and to begin thinking for himself – as symbolized by seeing through his own eyes [Hoarsely] “Why do my eyes hurt?” “You’ve never used them before.” Neo’s training is a process of unlearning Morpheus tells Neo, “Don’t think you are KNOW you are.” Because the thinking that’s him back is an obedience to the rules of the machines and their agents “Like gravity What you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system.” This is something we can all learn from, Even if we’re not yet ready to reject the laws of physics– are we not also unnecessarily restricted by what we think we must do or can’t do what we deem possible? At the beginning of the movie, the power of the Agents seems unbelievably giant They are manifestations of the system itself “Yet their strength and their speed are still based in a world that is built on rules Because of that, they will never be as strong or as fast as you can be.” And the implication is that we, too, have unlocked power waiting for us if we unlearn our limitations Once we start to un-believe “Do you believe that… my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?” After this period of destruction, comes the third step: Reconstructing a new reality from scratch This is visualized in Neo’s training sessions with Morpheus against a blank white background, where they have the ability to summon anything they can think of “This is the construct It’s our… loading program We can load anything from clothing to equipment.” For the first time, he is discovering agency This phase has a lot in common with the philosophical stance of Existentialism, which grapples with the idea that human beings really are free At first humans tend to despair when they realize their freedom, as they find themselves in a world without given meaning But, Existentialists don’t see this as depressing They view freedom as an empowering value – because we get to create our own meaning One of the fathers of Existentialism, Friedrich Nietzsche, conceived of a grand hero he called the Ubermensch (or Over-man), who would create new life-affirming values to give higher meaning to our human existence Sound familiar? “There was a man born inside… who had the ability to change whatever he wanted… to remake the Matrix as he saw fit.” “The Matrix” is essentially about Neo becoming the Ubermensch, or the One [Through telephone] “You are THE ONE, Neo.” This question of whether he’s the One brings him to the fourth phase of his Truth journey: Self-Knowledge “It’s Latin… Means “Know thyself.” Morpheus brings Neo to visit the Oracle, whose name alludes to the Greek Oracle of Delphi The Oracle seems to tell Neo that he’s not the One “But you already know what I’m going to tell you.” “I’m not the one.” “Sorry, kid.” In fact, though, what she really tells him is that the answers are within him “Being the One is just like being in love No one can tell you you’re in love, you just know it.” We can’t arrive at self-knowledge through others Neo can’t know he’s the One because anyone else says so, and that’s why the Oracle strategically shuts down the grand narrative others have been building about Neo’s specialness “If you are… it’s a very exciting time!”

“No one’s ever made the first jump.” “Yeah, I know But, what if he does?” Instead, she prepares Neo for a choice he’ll soon face “In the one hand, you’ll have Morpheus’ life, and in the other hand you’ll have your own.” Her words might strike us as off-topic Why is she focusing on this, instead of talking more about what we all came for — a declaration of Neo’s important identity? But the information the Oracle gives him isn’t an answer at all – it’s a test, through which he can define himself “She told you exactly what you needed to hear That’s all.” While it’s tempting to know how things are going to turn out, we’re not supposed to rationally comprehend the facts of our future before it comes to pass Prophecy is only valuable insofar as it provides useful information we can draw on, as we form self-knowledge from within, through walking the walk “Sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” In fact, we get a subtle hint that the Oracle does believe Neo will develop into the One — she alludes to Trinity’s feelings for him: “I can see why she likes you.” “Who?” And we later learn that she predicted the man Trinity loved would be the One “The Oracle told me that… I would fall in love with that man The man that I love would be the One.” It’s pretty clear from early on that Neo is going to end up being the One The real question is why he is Is this the story of Neo discovering he’s the One – or deciding that he is? Are we free to decide our own fates? “Do you believe in fate, Neo?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.” When the Oracle anticipates Neo knocking over the vase, “…And don’t worry about the vase.” “What vase?” She raises this unknowable issue of whether the future is decided or chosen “What’s really going to bake your noodle later on is… would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything.” The Oracle’s role in the story isn’t to resolve this duality, but to reframe it She disproves our assumption that fate and freedom are an either/or “And she’s never wrong.” [Sighing] “Try not to think of it in terms of right and wrong She is a guide, Neo.” She predicts patterns while leaving room for the randomness that stems from choice Her vision of destiny, an ever-shifting ink blot test “Do you think you are the one?” When she meets Neo, her ink-blot test of him reflects that he doesn’t believe in himself So, he’s not there yet The necessary elements are present, but Neo will also have to decide his destiny “You got the gift, but it looks like you’re waiting for something.” The fifth step of the Philosopher’s journey is overcoming doubt “You have to let it all go, Neo Fear, doubt, and disbelief.” Neo’s doubt is symbolized by his fear of falling This is seen already when he’s still in the Matrix “There are two ways out of this building – one is that scaffolding, the other is in their custody.” And pre-liberated Neo caves to his fear During his training, Neo faces another great height This time he makes the choice to jump, but he doesn’t make it So, the fall demonstrates that he doesn’t truly believe in his own capabilities just yet “Everybody falls the first time.” The problem of doubt is embodied in the character of Cypher, who whispers in the Resistance’s ear, tempting them to submit to the inevitable victory of machines “Tired of this war, tired of fighting I’m tired of the ship, being cold, of eating the same goddamn goop everyday…” Cypher rejects The Truth, “I know this steak doesn’t exist.” choosing instead to descend back into hedonism and ignorance “Ignorance is bliss.” Through Cypher, “The Matrix” challenges its own thesis that mankind truly wants liberation and enlightenment “I choose the Matrix.” The character forces us to consider, which would we really choose: a difficult but free life, or blissful subjugation? “I know what you’re thinking— Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?” Many of us secretly prefer the lie and will even fight to preserve it, if that illusion maintains our materialist comforts and protects us from suffering “Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged And many of them are so inert… so hopelessly dependent on the system… that they will fight to protect it.” “The Matrix” suggests that most of us already are choosing the blue pill As we learn in “The Matrix Reloaded,” only 1% of people have minds that reject the Matrix “99 percent of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice – even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level.” Cypher wants badly for Neo to fail “You never did answer me before if you bought into Morpheus’ bullshit.”

We get the sense he may know to some degree about the Oracle’s prophecy that Trinity would love the One, because he keeps asking her if she thinks Neo’s the real deal “You don’t? Do ya?” “All I want is a little ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” Even though he believes in nothing, he craves certainty in this belief “If Morpheus was right, then there’s no way I can pull this plug I mean, if Neo is the One, then there’d have to be some kind of a miracle to stop me…” In pursuit of this certainty, he murders several of his fellow rebels and nearly sabotages their whole operation, before he’s killed Yet, Cipher’s own death here is redundant He was already about to essentially kill himself by erasing his agency and consciousness to become mindless fodder for a machine network “I go back to sleep And when I wake up, I won ‘t remember a goddamned thing.” Cypher’s desperate need for proof that humankind’s situation is truly hopeless stems from his knowledge deep down that what he’s done is evil Choosing ignorance is enabling oppression Anyone who’s plugged into the Matrix can be taken over by an Agent at any moment, making them a tool for this system of slavery “The very minds of the people we are trying to save But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy.” No amount of rational knowledge can overcome doubt – it can only be defeated by Neo’s next stage: belief “I know that’s what it looks like, but it’s not I can’t explain to you why it’s not.” The moment when Neo discovers belief is the point when we feel the plot start to turn in his favor “That’s why I have to go.” “Why?” “Because I believe in something.” After Morpheus is captured and tortured for the access codes to Zion (the one remaining free human city) the Resistance considers pulling Morpheus’ plug No one has ever beaten an Agent, so, they’re certain it’s impossible to do so Neo then decides to do the impossible – save Morpheus “I believe I can bring him back.” It’s no accident that this is the choice the Oracle signposts for Neo – it’s the crucible in which his true nature will be forged, determined, revealed He still doubts he’s the One “I’m not the one, Trinity.” Neo doesn’t have the ego to abstractly believe he’s the savior of all humankind, but when the mentor he loves and admires more than anything is in danger, he unconsciously and irrationally believes in his ability to save him – showing that he does know he has the One’s power; he just doesn’t know he knows it yet “So, what do you need besides a miracle?” “Guns Lots of guns.” The three main characters — Morpheus, Trinity, and Neo — are all driven by beliefs “Morpheus believed something And he was ready to give his life for what he believed I understand that now.” Meanwhile, Cipher’s weakness comes from the fact that he lacks belief The very last thing he says is: “I don’t believe it.” As Stephen Faller observes in “Beyond the Matrix,” just as Neo’s name is an anagram for One, Cypher’s name is an alternate spelling of Cipher, which means Zero It’s fitting that these two opposite characters correspond to 1 and 0, the two digits of the binary system, which computers operate in This suggests that, ultimately, what seems to be an array of choices boils down to just two – believe in something, or believe in nothing [Angrily] “Believe it or not, you piece of shit, you’re still going to burn!” “The Matrix” posits that faith is much stronger than mere knowledge It’s something no one can take from you— “Let me tell you what I believe— Morpheus means more to me than he does to you I believe if you are serious about saving him, you are going to need my help.” that no one can argue you out of “…if you don’t like it, I believe you can go to hell.” Steadfast belief in his mission makes Neo able to dodge bullets like an agent can “How did you do that?” “Do what?” “You moved like they do.” Yet, Neo’s still hit by a bullet, symbolizing that his self-doubt lingers “I wasn’t fast enough.” Trinity comes to his rescue, “Dodge this.” foreshadowing how she will provide the secret weapon to complete his philosophical journey soon after this When Agent Smith takes over a homeless man’s body in the subway tunnel just after Trinity and Morpheus have exited, due to his growing faith, Neo does the unthinkable – he stands his ground against an agent At this point, you might say that Neo’s belief makes him an even match for Agent Smith But he’s not yet surpassed the Agents After all, they wholly believe, too – as software programs they have this belief written into their code (the equivalent of their DNA) Smith keeps calling him Mr. Anderson, which pushes Neo to cast off his slave name and claim his true identity [Grunting] “My name is Neo.” He is, at last, trusting in his individual power “What is he doing?” “He’s beginning to believe.” Even though Neo wins this fight, the agent can just stop the train and take over another body Thus, Neo runs again but just before he’s about to exit the Matrix,

he’s taken by surprise He flatlines In this moment, the Oracle’s prophecy, that either Morpheus or he would die, comes true But, we’re about to find out her words’ deeper meaning was obscured by technicalities Neo wasn’t yet the One because he had to “die” in this current form and be reborn as someone new (In fact, his name “Neo” is a prefix meaning “new.”) “But it looks like you’re waiting for something.” “What?” “Your next life, maybe.” The last and most crucial step of Neo’s transition into the One is love [Whispering] “You can’t be dead You can’t be… because I love you.” Another “fact” that holds true until this point is that death in the Matrix kills a person in real life “The body cannot live without the mind.” However, the physical sensations in the Matrix are an illusion So, Trinity’s love in the real world, coupled with Neo’s exceptional ability to separate his real mind from his Matrix body, leads to his resurrection “Now get up.” Belief made him as powerful as an agent, but belief powered by love is what makes Neo unstoppable “No.” Now, he fulfills Morpheus’ earlier prediction: “…that I can dodge bullets?” “I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.” Armed with agency, self-belief, and love, Neo sees through the Agents’ illusory forms to the pure code they really are This is a visualization of seeing the truth in full – seeing into the very essence of things Now that he can glimpse this total truth, he can bend the code to his will And after he goes inside an Agent to destroy it from within, finally, the Agents run from him During this sequence, we hear holy music – [Screaming] underlining that this infinite level of insight is godlike “How?” “He is THE ONE.” We’ve seen hints throughout that Neo’s story can be interpreted as the Christ narrative “Jesus Christ– he’s fast!” He dies and is resurrected, thanks to the love of Trinity Or – “THE trinity?” You can also associate the three central characters loosely with the three figures of the trinity— the father, “Morpheus, you’re more than a leader to us You’re a father.” the son, “Hallelujah You’re my savior, man My own personal Jesus Christ.” and the holy spirit The name plate of the Resistance’s ship alludes to the Bible verse Mark 3:11– “And whenever unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried, ‘You are the Son of God.’” Neo is betrayed by a Judas figure And most fundamentally, he’s a radical, who comes to spread a world-altering truth in the hearts of people Neo’s defeat of the agents signifies the triumph of human values, culminating in love, the most irrational value of all At the very end, Rage Against the Machine plays The significance of this isn’t just fighting the machines in this story — it’s telling us to rage against what seems certain, impossible, set in stone And in the last shot, when Neo flies upwards, this imagery is reminiscent of the Buddha, who could ascend to heaven after reaching enlightenment The image is a visualization of how accepting truth allows us to fly free “A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries.” Neo is not on the surface the most exceptional person “Not too bright, though.” So, it might strike us as jarring that Morpheus and others are so immediately convinced of his special nature Why this guy? “The door on your left No, your other left!” But there’s hidden significance in the fact that Neo is an everyman The point isn’t that he’s the only One — it’s that we all have a “One” within Transcendental poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “God dwells in thee… Clouded and shrouded there doth sit The Infinite Embosomed in a man.” If we walk these steps toward Enlightenment, we can begin to access the power of seeing infinite Truth “Do not try and bend the spoon Only try to realize the truth.” And we can learn from Neo that thinking deeply is the secret to waking up and really being alive “There is no spoon?” “Then, you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends It is only yourself.” God, Truth, The One – whatever you call it – “The Matrix” sends this profound, deeply inspirational message: within yourself is untold power, waiting to be unlocked “A world where anything is possible…” Watch out for our next video unpacking this movie’s hidden references and how they explain The Matrix we’re living in today

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