Thursday, October 10, 2019

2019 - Joker - An Alchemical Analysis

When you bring me out, can you introduce me as Joker?

Joker, Todd Philips and Scott Silver

Having transitioned from the Black Phase, we are now in the final phase of the Year of Malkuth (2019, 1 + 9 = 10) which is the Russet or Red Phase.  Throughout the last decade the themes and colours from the Tree of Life have been used by a group of powerful studios and fashion houses to create a unified art direction.  There is considerable evidence that not only has art been mass-directed in this manner, but also society.

In this brief analysis I will show how the film ''Joker'' reflects this current transition and is delivered as an exploration of the Rubedo or Reddening phase of Alchemy [primarily Jungian Psychological Alchemy].  Just like the other films and projects in this ''on-the-nose'' or ''painting-by-numbers'' approach that has been adopted, ''Joker'' systematically uses the  alchemical symbols for the Rubedo.  These symbols include:

  • Blood
  • Rose
  • Phoenix
  • Person dressed in Red
  • A Crowned King

None of these symbols are difficult to find in the movie - particularly the blood or the person in red - although I must admit I was looking for a phoenix to appear and didn't link the name Joaquin Phoenix to the symbol until a friend pointed it out.  It goes to show that a lot of these symbols are hiding in plain sight.  The Crowning of a King occurs in the very final stages of the film and it wasn't until a few moments before this that I realised that the character's name Arthur was on-the-nose in this respect.  I didn't notice a rose but the flower serves as a key symbol twice in the film: once as a squirty clown flower, and the other as a function of a magic wand. This list, as brief as it is, may be all you need to understand that Joker is part of the same ongoing project but if you are interested in a more in depth account then continue to read.


As most occultists know C. G. Jung used alchemical woodcarvings to explore the process of the death of the petty divided ego and the emergence of the fully individuated and archetypal self in his seminal work ''The Psychology of the Transference''.  The alchemical process has a number of different stages but because we are in part limited by the those features specific to Malkuth and which are referenced in the film we will stick to Nigredo, Albedo and Rubedo in this essay.


In Alchemy, Nigredo means putrefaction or decomposition and it is the beginning of the ''Long Dark Night of the Soul'' which results in the death of the ego.  Bearing in mind that we were transitioning between the Black Phase and the Russet/Red Phase of the project it is unsurprising that the city is buried in black rubbish bags at the beginning and that the ''redness'' emerges from the ''blackness''.  Ostensibly the result of a strike by garbage-men, it is clear that this is a visual symbol of the Nigredo.  Building on this idea of the Nigredo we find that every ''shadow'' character that is involved in realisations that lead to the decomposition of the ego is played by a black actor - from the woman on the bus who admonishes him for playing with his face, through the fantasies he projects or ''transfers'' on to his neighbour and to every psychiatric professional featured in the film.


After the Nigredo comes the Albedo and the focus of the film shifts to the white characters representing his adopted mother (Penny Fleck), his projected father (Murray Franklin) and his supposed father (Thomas Wayne).  The Albedo phase is associated with the individual gaining insight into the nature of their projections and beginning to rebuild the fragmented projected true self (which occurs in the Rubedo).  This whitening is visually represented by the whitening of his face, and at one point he even applies this makeup to his tongue - this scene concludes the Albedo.  The realisation of these projections occurs when he reflects on the beginning of one of his delusions and we see him talking to an empty space outside his front door.  The song ''In the White Room'' begins to play at some point to hammer this phase home.


Beginning in brown and orange russet tones the Jungian birth of the ''Joker'' is reflected in the increasing reddening of the character's costume design.  As the ego self (Arthur Fleck*) is worn down by the Nigredo, and reconstructed by the Albedo, so the archetypal self begins to emerge.  Layers of red are added to the character until this archetypal self ''Joker'' is born from the ashes of what was Arthur Fleck and in the final moments this Joker is represented as King Arthur.


The nature of this archetypal self that emerges in the finale is the summum bonum of the Great Work or the divine Hermaphrodite - Mercurius himself, one of Jung's core archetypes.  As you look at the above image [and the iconic Joker pose on the stairs that is literally the same thing] think about how all this imagery and color coding has been blended by the process of the ''psychodrama'' of Arthur Fleck.  Throughout the film there is this orange-russet waistcoat (orange being associated with Mercury, the red-orange-yellow of Mercury Oxide and qabalistically by the sefira of Hod and the colour orange - see 2017 movies like Bladerunner 2049 for identical processes) that is bursting to get out.  These suppressed, projected and unreconciled feminine aspects of his personality shown in his physical behaviour throughout the film are finally integrated.  Mercury bridges the gap between the Fool and the Magus, a role that we see the Joker flicking between in various scenes - the Fool being represented by the Clown (as the living signpost outside the shop) and the Magus being represented by the Stage Magician (at the gates of Wayne Mansion).  It is in  understanding these esoteric concepts that you will fully understand the Joke that is at the heart of this movie and the one that is ultimately being played on you.

You wouldn't get it.

Joker, Todd Philips and Scott Silver

n.b. I am not saying that these films cannot be interpreted in another way - as a social commentary on Trump's America or whatever - but I am saying that at the heart of the production design, the direction and the writing lies this master-plan of unfolding the symbolism of the Tree of Life and with an expected outcome beyond the unification of fashion and film for mass cross-promotional purposes and aimed at the total transformation of our society by sublimation of the ego.  I am sure that there is much more to support this interpretation [I mean I missed the whole Phoenix = Joaquin Phoenix thing which is almost unforgivably dumb] and more will emerge if and when I see it again, but if you notice anything that has slipped me by, please write in the comments below.  I post this, fully conscious that I am doing so, on 10.10.2019.

*The last name Fleck may be a reference to Malkuth as well.  Qabalistically in one world the colours of Malkuth [citrine, olive, black and russet] stand alone and in another they are said to be flecked with gold...


  1. Amazing observations! I'm sure Todd Phillips hopes the movie becomes flecked with more gold at Oscar awards time. The russet color palette used in Joker also reminds me of the iconic book cover design for J.D. Salinger's "Nine Stories".

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  5. Beautiful - just stumbled across the Ariana post. Something about her consistent moon references brought me to Artemis / Diana. The God is a woman breakdown helped!

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