O.M.P.H. al OS: The Alchemy of Time

om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum

om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum

om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum om mani padme hum

“And so the gamble of the monolith has paid off to a certain degree. It intervened in our history to teach us about tools. Now at the very end of the age, at the very end of the millennium, mankind has accomplished much. But at what cost? Kubrick is content to show that the cost of this gift is our souls. Whatever we have gained from the gift of toolmaking, we have lost just as much through the slow death of our souls. As we replace nature with technology, we also replace our souls and our sense of individuality with a hive-like mentality.

It is also important to note that when the apeman throws the bone up into the sky this is the last time that we see any part of nature again in the film. From then on Kubrick shows us an antiseptic hospital-like future, implying that this is the end of the trail that the bone weapon began four million years ago.

Chapter four begins with the ominous, psychedelic music of Gyorgy Ligeti's 'Atmospheres'. We are deep in space now. Again the entire ordeal of the astronaut Bowman, and what he must have had to go through, all alone, in the depths of space, after the death of Poole and the other three astronauts, is dispensed with as being unimportant.

Bowman is now Odysseus, as the title assumes. Like Odysseus, Bowman must go as far away from home as is possible. He must face monsters and demons and experience things that he does not understand. All of this must be done before he can return home. Earth, or home, is a long way off now. Bowman is just following orders and he must now investigate the strange monolith that is circling Jupiter. Like Odysseus, Bowman will be transformed by this voyage beyond all recognition. When, and if, he does return, Bowman will be the wisest of all, for he was the one brave enough to enter the waters of eternity and come back home to tell us about it.

As Bowman leaves the Discovery for the final time, Kubrick cuts straight to a montage of shots of the monolith. We are out on the edge of the Jupiter system, the Discovery is a small and tiny aspect of what we can see on the screen. The moons of Jupiter, like the moon and sun before, are aligned in a mystical and awe-inspiring manner. The monolith appears ominous as it floats among the planet Jupiter and her many moons. The dance that is now taking place is a majestic, incredible ballet between the monolith and the celestial bodies of the Jupiter system.

It is interesting to note that Kubrick had originally planned for the planet in the film to be Saturn but the special effects department could not make the rings look realistic enough. Kubrick then abandoned Saturn for the easier-to-create Jupiter.

Without one word being spoken for the rest of the film, Bowman leaves the Discovery. He begins to travel towards the floating monolith in one of the space pods. Bowman is the man who has traveled further away from Earth than any human that has ever lived. He is alone. Apparently, Bowman has been chosen by the monolith to be the one who experiences the final initiation of the human race.

The dance of the celestial bodies and the monolith continues for a while on the screen. Kubrick consciously has chosen Ligeti's music because it evokes a religious or spiritual feeling within the listener. He brilliantly juxtapositions the music with the sacred geometrical alignments of the monolith as it crosses the moons of Jupiter. In fact the very last shot in this sequence is the monolith crossing at a ninety degree angle with the moons of Jupiter. At that moment the famous 'light show' sequence starts. Now we realize that the monolith is a gate that allows Bowman to witness the infinite. He is the first man who has ever experienced the truth of the monolith and what it has to offer. As the monolith gave the apeman new skills in order to adapt it can be assumed that the monolith is still interested in delivering more skills to this advanced ape.

Bowman first falls through an abyss of geometry's and colors. The universe is passing by at light-speed. Everything has become porous and blended together. Seven octahedrons - all changing color and form - appear over the sliding universe. The core of a distant galaxy explodes. A sperm cell-like creature searches for something. An ovary? A cloud-like embryo is forming into a child . Now alien worlds fly by, all of their colors and hues gone wild. Bowman is experiencing overload and looks like he might not be able to handle the amount of information that is being given.

This is humanity's initiation. Bowman is our representative in this process. He is the first man through. In this experience of passing through the monolith, or the single stone, Bowman is shamanically transformed by a completely psychedelic experience. Real information is being passed to Bowman by the monolith. And this information is experiential and shamanic.

Finally the scene ends in the strange hotel room. This is the mysterious ending that Stanley struggled to shoot. The set is a combination of a both modern and baroque French-style room with, startlingly, modern lighting coming up through the floor. This is no normal hotel room. The light seems to glow out of the bottom of the scene causing everything to carry this numinous, incandescent quality to it. There are weird voices on the soundtrack that are laughing at Bowman.

Bowman goes through three series of transformations during this scene. He gets older with each transformation. Finally, right after the scene where Bowman breaks the wine glass, the monolith appears again for the last time. Bowman is in the bed now and he is extremely old. He stares at the monolith, the single stone. It stands like a huge stone book at the foot of his bed. He raises his hand and points at the stone monolith as if he finally understands. Slowly his aged body begins turning into a bright and glorious light. The light is so intense that, for a brief moment, the viewer can't see what is happening on the bed. But, momentarily, something does appear. It is an embryo with a nearly-born fetus in it. This is the famous Starchild. The Starchild slowly becomes more in focus. In the next shot Kubrick tracks his camera into the very body of the monolith, coming from the direction of the bed. He is clearly showing us that the Starchild has entered into and passing through the monolith. In the very next scene - which is the last scene in the movie - the Starchild is passing the moon and is heading towards the Earth.

There are 64 squares on the floor of the strange room that Bowman finds himself in. The 64 squares of the chessboard are also the magic square of hermes, the founder of alchemy. Kubrick was a great chess player and this last scene is a metaphor not only for chess as the game of life but also the coincidence of the chessboard matching the magic number of DNA and the number of hexagrams in the Chinese I-Ching, which is the centerpiece of Chinese alchemy.

Bowman realizes as he lays on his bed at the end of his life that he is involved in a cosmic chess match against the monolith. When he raises his hand and points at the monolith his is acknowledging that he has - in a sense - been checkmated by the monolith.

In an earlier script, Kubrick and Clarke had the Starchild igniting all of the nuclear weapons that were in orbit around the earth, thereby ending any threat of a nuclear war. Kubrick realized that this ending was too close to the ending of his previous film Dr. Strangelove and decided against it. Instead the Starchild looks down at the earth as the 'World Riddle' theme from Thus Spoke Zarathustra comes on the soundtrack. This is the third time that we have heard this theme. And this will be the last time. In the book, based on the screenplay by Kubrick and Clarke, the Starchild looks at the Earth before him and thinks: 'there was a lot of work that needed to be done.'

It is important to note that the Starchild model was made to look like Keir Dullea, the actor who portrayed Bowman. Kubrick is saying that this child is a reincarnated Bowman. That is a mighty strange concept coming from an known atheist.

So what is this all about anyway?

The stone is the great impetus for the human race. At every turn it comes in and saves the human race from itself. The first time that it appears it saves the apemen from certain extinction. The second time it appears it saves the human race from the technical domination of this age. Without the intervention of the monolith this course would lead to certain extinction also. The third time it appears, it initiates Bowman into a kind of cosmic consciousness. Bowman has been to the end of the universe and back. He knows that he is locked in a prison of his own design, which is the meaning of the last few scenes in the hotel-like room. But Bowman's ultimate realization that he is completely trapped is revealed, symbolically, by Kubrick, with his breaking of the wine glass. Even after all that he has been through Bowman still makes mistakes. The wine glass is like a zen koan that illuminates the mind in a flash. His own fallibility thrusts the scene towards it's climax as the old man dies on the bed and sees the monolith for the last time.

The Great Work of the stone is complete. There is now a man, a human, who understands the greater universe. This man also understands that he is trapped in a jail that his own consciousness has designed. With the realization of his own fallibility, and his own trapped spirit, he is finally liberated from the realm of the hotel prison, or the world of illusion. In that instant he understands what the book of stone is trying to tell him. He lifts his hand in a gesture of understanding. And in that moment he is transformed - without dying - into the Starchild.

The stone has given Bowman the gifts that the Philosopher's Stone has always promised. Bowman has achieved complete gnosis, or knowledge, and now he has become immortal by overcoming physical death and being reborn. In that moment, he passes through the monolith one last time. The Earth is ahead of him now and he will be reborn on that planet. Bowman will be a new human, just as different from Homo Sapiens as Homo Sapiens are different from that apeman who picked up that bone all that time ago. Nietzche's ape to man to superman theme, from his 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' essays, is mirrored perfectly by Strauss' music and Kubrick's movie. Kubrick has evoked the spiritual and physical evolution of our race as it has been transformed by this magical black stone.

Kubrick uses alchemical allegories through out the film. The obvious analogies are the celestial alignments that proceed each of the alchemical transmutations in the film. The second main allegory is that it is a black stone that initiates these transmutations. Again this mirrors the alchemical lore about the black stone causing the transmutation of the alchemist.

But there are others hints that are just as curious. Bowman is also a name for the constellation Sagittarius. Which is a man with a bow. This on it's own may appear to be uninteresting but one of the great alchemical secrets concerns the position of the center of the galaxy. This point in the sky is found right next to the constellation of Sagittarius. In fact, the Bow-Man of Sagittarius is shooting his arrow right into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. Bowman represents Sagittarius' arrow as it passes through the center of the galaxy. This is also echoed later in the 'Beyond the Infinite' sequence where Bowman witnesses an exploding galaxy.

Also of a great alchemical significance is the number of 'threes' that are in the film. In alchemy the process for the unfoldment of the soul, that is so necessary to completing the Great Work, is a three-fold process. These processes are filled with deep mystery. The best description of this process is that it is like a caduceus with its two writhing snakes on each side of a central rod. This is also represented by the Kabbala, or the Tree of Life. The Tree of life has three main pillars. In order to pass from one realm, or aspect, of the Kabbala one must use one of these three central pillars, or processes. If one adds up the numbers 2001 ( 2 + 0 + 0 + 1 ) the sum is three. There are three words in the title after the 2001. There is an eclipse of three celestial bodies at the beginning of the film. There are three eclipses in the film. There are three conscious entities aboard the Discovery spacecraft and there are three unconscious entities, the men who are in hibernation. Bowman goes through three stages of transformation in his life at the end of the film. The 'World Riddle' theme also plays three times.

Also extremely interesting is the use of the Kabbala in the film. As said before there are four great realms within the Tree of Life . Kubrick reflects these realms with each of the four chapters in 2001. The first is the earthly realm, represented by Malkuth, which is the sephireh located at the very bottom of the Tree of Life. This is the realm of the kingdom, or of mankind. The second realm up is that of the moon, or the sephireh Yesod. The third realm is that of the sun, or the sephireh named Tiperoth, and the final realm of the Tree of Life is that of the ultimate being or consciousness, represented by the sephireh named Kether.

Like all great alchemical works the film '2001' is broken up into four chapters. The first, the apeman sequence, is the only episode to take place on Earth. This would represent the realm of the Earth, or Malkuth, according to the Kabbala. The second chapter takes place off of the Earth, with Heywood Floyd going to the moon. It finally climaxes on the very surface of the moon. This chapter represents Yesod in the Tree of Life, or the realm of the Moon. The third chapter, which concerns the mission to Jupiter. is a little more tricky. In order to understand the Kabbalic significance of this sequence it is important to understand, that in the original script, by Arthur C. Clarke and Kubrick, the space craft Discovery was heading towards the planet Saturn, and not Jupiter. As stated earlier, Kubrick was forced to switch to Jupiter because the rings of Saturn proved too difficult. The Special Effects department couldn't make them realistic enough. In the original script the planet was Saturn. This is very important because in the Kabbala, one can switch places between the Sun, or Tiperoth, and Saturn. In other words Saturn can be used as a symbolic representation of the Sun. Is it a coincidence that this third chapter, which was originally intended to be about a voyage to Saturn, is also about the third realm of the Kabbala - Tiperoth? When one considers this switch is allowed in the rules of the Kabbala this sequence comes to represent the third realm of the Tree of Life.

The fourth and last sequence in the movie concerns the voyage to the infinite. In this chapter Bowman experiences a universe far more vast and unbelievable than any mortal man has ever conceived. In the final realm of the Kabbala the seeker can swim in the ocean of the mind of God - which is represented by the sephireh named Kether. This state of awareness is similar to the Sammadi-state from the yogic tradition. This state can be attained only by very few people. In the case of this film, the final realm of the Tree of Life can be only attained by one man. And this can be done only with the help of the monolith, or the stone. Bowman - the furthest out and the loneliest person in the universe - is that man. Interestingly, in the Tree of Life, there is an abyss that lies between Tiperoth and Kether. This abyss must be crossed by the initiate before they can successfully complete their journey. This abyss is called Daath in the Kaballa. Bowman crosses this abyss during the famous light show sequence. The colors and shapes on the screen are shown in such a way as to create a 'falling' sensation in the viewer. Kubrick is taking the viewer through the abyss of Daath and into the world of Kether where all illusions fail.

In 'Mystery of the Cathedrals' Fulcanelli points out quite clearly, once one understands the key, that this fourth realm of the Tree of Life is physically represented by the very center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The four spheres are thus, the Earth, Moon, Sun and Galaxy. In the abyss sequence of the film, Kubrick very consciously shows a galaxy. It is expanding and growing like an organism. Kubrick has brought the viewer of the film through the four realms of the Tree of Life, all brilliantly evoked in the right pattern with enough intricate knowledge of the Kabbala to give one a long pause for consideration. It certainly seems that someone was aware of the Kabbala in the making of this film. And that someone was Stanley Kubrick.

In the end, Kubrick is saying that Bowman has been the lead shaman for humanity. He has passed through the four realms and he now knows the truth about existence. He realizes that life would be completely meaningless if it were not for the intervention of the monolith, or the stone. He realizes that he himself could not be transformed without the assistance of an outside intelligence - a God - if you will. This, supposedly, atheist film director has made the ultimate religious movie. It single-handedly outdoes all of Hollywood's wooden, superficial homage's to the spirit and religion. Kubrick takes this religion very seriously and he conveys that in every way.

Kubrick has simultaneously taken the viewer through the history of humanity, through the realms of the Tree of Life, or the Kabbala, he has shown that the transmutation of the human species is created by the intervention of a single, black stone, he has revealed that this transformation can only take place when certain celestial, magical alignments are happening. Furthermore he takes the viewer on a shamanic journey that reveals the great secrets - in a hidden way - to the viewer.

Kubrick transformed the entire baby boomer generation. He opened up vistas in the mind for them that had never been seen before. Furthermore he gave an important spiritual context to his visions so that they made sense instead of just being mindless hallucinations and visions that went nowhere. Almost everyone sensed that the movie was saying something of immense importance.

Finally we get to Kubrick's ultimate trick. He proves that he knows exactly what he is doing with this trick. His secret is in plain sight. He also proves, with this trick, that everything being said in this essay is correct. First one must remember that every time the monolith, the magical stone, appears in the film there is also a strange, beautiful, celestial alignment occurring. And one must also remember that every celestial alignment in the film is followed by a visit from the monolith, that is, except for one. That would be the lunar eclipse that occurs at the very beginning of the film. So the question arises, if we are to stay within the rules that are prescribed in the rest of the film, where is the monolith that is supposed to follow that first alignment? The monolith itself doesn't show up on the screen for ten more minutes after that first celestial alignment, so what gives here? Is Kubrick just showing off his incredible special effects? Is this first celestial alignment just there to impress the viewer from the beginning? These things may very well also be true, but this ultimate trick of Kubrick's is embedded in the idea that the monolith must appear after every one of these magical alignments. Once again, the secret of the film is completely revealed from the beginning. There is a monolith that appears right after the opening sequence with the magical, lunar eclipse. But where is it? It is right in front of the viewer's eyes! The film is the monolith. In a secret that seems to never have been seen by anyone: the monolith in the film has the same exact dimensions as the movie screen on which 2001 was projected. Completely hidden, from critic and fan alike, until now, is the fact that Kubrick consciously designed his film to be the monolith, the stone that transforms. Like the monolith, the film projects images into our heads that make us consider wider possibilities and ideas. Like the monolith, the film ultimately presents an initiation, not just of the actor on the screen, but also of the audience viewing the film. That is Kubrick's ultimate trick. He slyly shows here that he knows what he is doing at every step in the process. The monolith and the movie are the same thing. This idea has been partially proven by the fact that Stanley never again used that size ratio for any other films that he would make for the rest of his career. He carefully decided to make '2001' his last film done with this screen size ratio.

The monolith also represents the 'cube of space' or the 'container of creation' in alchemy. The cube of space is the container that holds reality. Kubrick originally intended for the object in the film to be a tetrahedron pyramid. This would have been appropriate to what he was attempting to convey because the tetrahedron is the building block of the third dimension. It is also the foundation of the Platonic solids. But Kubrick decided to junk the tetrahedron idea in favor of the monolith. It is said that Kubrick himself created the first drawing of what the monolith would look like, including it's dimensions. The black, single stone becomes the container of creation and the alchemical cube at the same time. It is, in a way, a cubed brick. Is this another trick of Stanley's, who's last name (Kubrick, 'Cubed-Brick') mirror's that concept so clearly? This black stone of creation is also one of the main features in the Islamic religion, where a black meteorite sits near the kaaba, or cube of space, in the Arabian city of Mecca. Kubrick has combined these many deeply held spiritual traditions and symbols and refashioned them into the monolith, or stone, that is constructed in the same dimensions as the movie screen on which it will be projected.

Kubrick completely reveals that he understands the Great Work. The monolith represents the Philosopher Stone, the Book of Nature and the Film that initiates. Stanley Kubrick has truly made the Book of Nature onto film. Using powdered silver nitrates, that are then glued onto a strip of plastic, and then projected onto the movie screens of our mind, Kubrick has proven himself to be the ultimate alchemist-artist of the late 20th century.

The greatest works of art are trying to achieve exactly what Kubrick is attempting here. With the understanding of what '2001' is actually saying, Kubrick takes his place alongside DaVinci, and possibly even Shakespeare, as being one of the greatest artists of all time.

There is one last interesting note to all of this. The great alchemist Fulcanelli and others have said that a great transmutation of the human species is going to takes place at some time near the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. Kubrick picked the date 2001 - which is astonishingly close to other dates prescribed by many ancient alchemists - including Nostradamus. What are we to make of the strange date that Kubrick picked out for the final transformation of the human species?

Somehow, Kubrick knew.”

Jay Weidner, 1999


  1. Most excellent! Om Mani Padma Hung

  2. I’ve been replacing my never ending stream of negative thoughts with the mantra. It is more powerful than I ever imagined.

  3. A diamond with facets to all the universe, a lily pad to sit on. Nothing but compassion for all sentient beings. You chose well. 87