“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean… neither more nor less.'
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
They've a temper, some of them. Particularly verbs. Oh, they're the proudest!
Adjectives, eh, you can do anything with... but not verbs however.”
- Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass
Having now fully transitioned into a post-truth, post-conspiracy age, it is useful to take a moment to examine a much-overused trope of the last decade, one that none-the-less helped shape our Brave Noö World. We all have our favorite meme-complex mind-virus of consequence… but this blogger would submit for your consideration, the memetically-charged phrase: “Down the Rabbit Hole.”
In the 1999 science fiction, action film: The Matrix... a black-clad computer hacker known as Neo falls asleep in front of his computer. He is roused from his slumber when a mysterious message appears on the screen: “Wake up, Neo.” To his amazement, his hacked computer warns: “the Matrix has you” concluding with the cryptic message: “follow the White Rabbit.”
This reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland becomes a recurring theme in the Matrix. When our hero Neo meets the archetypical Wiseman: Morpheus… he poses the film's pivotal question to Neo:
“I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?”
Morpheus proceeds to offer Neo a chance to wake up from the illusion that is the Matrix:
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill… the story ends… you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill… you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
This encounter between characters in a film, denotes the turning of a dark corner in the very real world of contemporary high strangeness. This was the moment when “going down the rabbit hole” entered the lexicon of the fringe. No longer did this reference conjure the whimsical world of Carroll’s Alice… at the dawn of the new millennium, the term “Rabbit Hole” was now evocative of computer surveillance and dystopian thought control. It was now synonymous with an emerging networked, global conspiracy. How deep the rabbit hole went, was indicative of how far the conspiracy reached.
Arguably, the “Rabbit Hole” metaphor was not only adopted with conspiratorial zeal by Alt-Right factions… it was also adopted with great enthusiasm by the “Legacy Media” in their attempts call-out the Alt-Right’s disinformation. The irony here is obvious. By now, the term “rabbit hole” is a vernacular included in most westerner’s vocabulary, referencing their particular run-in with high strangeness.
So the rabbit hole is a portal to Fortean adventures of all stripes. It transports the observer to a netherworld of suspicion and doubt. However… as those great mystics of quantum mechanics have taught us… one cannot separate the observer from the observed. In light of this profound, magical revelation, this blogger proposes a more-accurate metaphor from the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice.
Fittingly, the sequel to Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was titled: Through the Looking-Glass (and What Alice Found There). As the scholarly reader undoubtedly knows, in book two, Alice again enters the fantastical world of wonderland, by climbing through a magic mirror into the alt-reality that awaits beyond. Carroll’s use of the mirror metaphor invites the reader to partake in its magical power… reflection.
The surface of any mirror, reflects the observer and their surroundings, allowing for self-observation and/or self-reflection. This is an important function that allows us to perform our morning toiletry ritual. It assures us of how we are to be perceived by others out in the real world… it reveals our surface appearance.
Carrol’s story invites us to go deeper… pass through the surface reflection… to examine what lay beyond. Having looked deeper, Alice finds herself in wonderland… where, just like a mirror’s reflection, everything is reversed, including logic. This is the realm of the psychonaut. This is the deeper reflection of the self… of the soul.
In my youthful, experimental days of psychedelic reflection, it was common wisdom not to look in the mirror, while peaking. “Don’t look in the mirror man, you’ll get trapped!” In this regard, say, at a Grateful Dead show for example… trips (while tripping) to the bathroom were always a dangerous excursion. One might get caught in the mirror, and miss the second set! Such were my early explorations of wonderland.
These early experiences did reflect an important lesson… a crucial wisdom. Like Alice… going deeper… beyond the surfacy reflection of the mundane… is a proposition that is not to be taken lightly. Passing through the looking glass… delving beyond the surface of one’s inner wonderland… is the beginning of deeper self-reflection. It is a journey that this blogger would suggest we all must take.
In Jungian terms, this initiation is the beginning of the individuation process, where we begin our inner healing and come to terms with our own shadow. This work is not a walk in the park. Wonderland can be a scary place. The journey to individuation, the process of integrating the shadow, is fraught with peril.
Upon undertaking such a journey, the intrepid psychonaut will inevitably reach a crossroad of emergent, intensifying, self-doubt. This moment/place in time… this “Dark Night of the Soul” is known by many names in spiritual systems of all cultures. In my neck of the woods, it is known as Chapel Perilous. The brave souls who pass through the looking glass, must also eventually pass through the chapel.
In this day and age of post-truth and post-conspiracy, such self-reflection becomes the more-appropriate metaphor of our time. If we as a people are to escape the morass of divisiveness and polarization of the times we live in… we must go beyond the surface of the mirror to discover the secret of wonderland.
What secret, you ask? The simple truth, taught by all spiritual systems of all cultures… that we are all one. When we look into the mirror, we see ourselves. Likewise, when we look into the eyes of another, we see only ourselves. The foibles we percieve in others, reflect aspects our ourselves... aspects we often find to be uncomfortable. This becomes the metaphor of our age… we are all “in this” together. We are all one.
Just as Neo woke up to the cryptic message: “follow the white rabbit”…the message of going “down the rabbit hole” was an important wake-up call for us all. However, we must not dwell on the wake-up call. Once awake, the task becomes summoning the courage to travel through the looking glass. Self-reflection is the secret power of the looking glass. It is the path beyond conspiracy and imposed separation.
To travel “Through the Looking Glass” is the essential metaphor of our time.
In closing... this blogger leaves you with one final, bonus secret. This is perhaps the greatest secret of them all... hidden from all, except those who are prepared to travel through the looking glass... and that secret is: "God Seems to be a Verb."
Don’t believe me? Go ask Alice...