Tuesday, May 5, 2020

2019 - Malkuth - Joker

Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?

Joker, Todd Philips and Scott Silver

The Golden Dawn symbolism of Malkuth is extremely baroque and attempts to blend alchemical [citrinatis, green lion, nigredo/albedo, rubedo], elemental [fire, air, earth, water] and directional symbolism [north, east, south, west] in its four fold division. The movies and events of 2019 and 2020 reflect all of these so the overall puzzle is significantly more difficult to comprehend unlike the previous years (and the years to come) which focus on one colour with a smaller set of symbolism. Since we are now deep in the Black Phase of 2020, people wearing masks and torching 5G towers, etc, its worth revisiting Joker a film that focused on the psychological alchemy of the global operation.  Review the symbolism and terms of psychological alchemy in the list below before reading through the visual essay and bear in mind that in 2020 we are being reversed through this psychological process, i.e anticlockwise from archetypal rectified self back to lesser unrectified self - breaking down, not building up.  It is also worth bearing in mind that alchemy itself is fiendishly complicated with a variety of different interpretations of the meaning and order of the processes due to the nature of it being written in secret code (the secret language of the birds) - therefore the film may be using this symbolism occasionally out of sequence because there is not an overall agreed sequence.

Alchemical (Psychological) Symbolism and Terms

  • Citrinatis
  • Athanor
  • Mercurial Ocean/Fountain/Bath
  • Nigredo
  • Conjunctio
  • Putrefactio
  • Albedo
  • Green Lion
  • Rubedo
  • Multiplication

Alchemical Symbolism (Specific to Rubedo)

  • Blood
  • Phoenix
  • Figure Wearing Red
  • Rose (Alchemical Flowers)
  • Crowned King


Citrinatis signifies the dawn of the solar consciousness or the awakening of the individual to the process of alchemy.  In the movie this is our inciting event - Everything Must Go - the individual must be willing to lose all of the aspects of himself that make him up.  It is the beginning of the deconstruction of what Arthur Fleck thinks Arthur Fleck is.


Both Arthur's home and hospital have the archway redolent of the alchemical athanor.  Note in the image where Arthur approaches the hospital the crossing of the ambulance which has the cross but also the caduceus on it.  It is in these places that the cooking of the prima materia, in this case the fragile psyche of the protagonist, occurs.


As the alchemist attempts to deal with his projections (shadow, trickster, mother, father, sibling, anima, senex, etc) they are entreated with magic (alchemical) flowers which you can see our divided self presenting to each other in the alchemical woodcarving.  You will see this at various points in the movie, sometimes in the background, but these images show the character carrying and presenting the flower in a similar way to our woodcarving source material.


Nigredo symbolises the rising of the shadow self within an individual and ultimately his conscious confrontation with it.  Nigredo is the putrefaction of the shattered ego and the beginnings of repairing the true self through integration of the projections.  In the film we see this symbolised in many ways but strikingly all the characters that work within the psychiatric profession or asylum within the film are black and the city is full of black bags filled with rotting rubbish and super rats.  


During the Conjuctio the alchemist attempts to recombine the aspects of his shattered self and reconcile the opposites.  This means confronting the shadow, senex, etc, but in the scene I have selected above we see Arthur and his anima as in this moment we see the Conjunctio most directly visualised.  At the point Arthur reconciles with the fact that she is a projection (when he remembers himself talking to an empty space he imagined was her), he has successfully integrated the female aspect of his soul.  This repressed feminine is seen in his effeminate behaviour in the early sequences of the movie and he gradually grows more at ease with it.


Murray means Lord of the Sea and Arthur's desire to appear on the Murray Franklin show he obsessively watches with his mother is the super-objective of our protagonist.  This show serves as the symbolic context for why our hero does what he does i.e. he too aspires to be a lord of comedy, or a lord of the mercurial sea of trickery, even though it truly represents Arthur's desire to reconcile the negative father complex, integrate his feminine aspects and gain the approval of society. The reflective floor is indicative of the water and Murray is dressed in blue for the same reason. The Mercurial Sea or Bath is a quadratic quaternity, represented by the four stars which stand in for the four elements (see above, our four part Malkuth symbolism unique to this Sefira) and to quote Jung, the sea is its static condition, the fountain or bath is it in its dynamic state - the ritualised bathing of the mother speaks to this.


In this scene we see Arthur step into the fridge which represents the sarcophagus where the hermaphrodite (the rejoined fragments of the divided self) goes to die in order to give birth to the soul or divine child i.e. the Joker proper and no longer Arthur Fleck.   Cooling a metal or substance, by making it inert can be considered to be killing it, and this is an aspect of the Putrefactio.


As the Nigredo was represented by black characters so the Albedo is represented by white characters specifically Penny Fleck, Thomas Wayne and Murray Franklin.  His interaction with these characters signifies his attempts to integrate his parental projections and complexes.  Note the flowers in the backgrounds of the two images and relate them to the concept of alchemical flowers above.


In terms of psychological alchemy the Green Lion is said to represent a phase where repressed violent forces normally concealed under a mask of depression begin to emerge.  Immediately after painting his face white (Albedo) and dying his hair green (Green Lion), Arthur brutally murders one of his co-workers who comes to visit.


In Alchemy, the Rubedo, or reddening is the final stage of the process whereby an individual has reconciled his projections resolved the difference between the ego and the self and discovers his true character.  In Joker, the Rubedo is shown by the increasing redness of the costume, which starts with russetty browns, has a middle transition in the comedy club red suit, until finally crystallising as this version of the iconic costume.  Its worth noting that prior cinematic incarnations of Joker have chosen to go with the purple costume so the choice of red signified a departure from that tradition...


And why may you multiply this medicine infinitely.
Forsooth the cause is this,
For it is fire, which kindled will never die,
Dwelling with you, as fire doth with houses,
Of which one spark may make more fire this way...

The above poem describing the alchemical process of multiplication is rendered in the film as Arthur's actions to incite increasing unrest in the city.  ''Gotham is burning because of you'' - one policeman says to Joker to which he replies - ''Yes I know, isn't it beautiful?'' - the multiplication of the clowns here increases the gains/yield of the opus.


As I said in Joker - An Alchemical Analysis I spent the movie looking for a phoenix and didn't see it because it was too blatant.  In the final scenes though Joaquin Phoenix seems to die, spits out blood, and then rises, Phoenix-like, from his ashes.


Obviously the film is full of blood, but there are moments where the blood is used to represent important transitions of the alchemical process.  I have pulled out three moments here - firstly the Albedo/Green Lion/Rubedo transition, secondly, the moment he kills Murray, the Lord of the Sea, and finally the moment he uses the blood of his Phoenix-like resurrection to form the bloody smile on his face.


In the final moments of the film before the epilogue we see Arthur as the King of the Mob, crowned and risen.  I separate out the epilogue as I believe that this moment is the true end of the film.


The epilogue of the film may well be a prologue and this is something that many people seem to have missed.  The first social worker we encounter references something that happened when he was inside a psychiatric hospital and although we can justify the belief that the entire film was in his head while he was plotting the murder of the psychiatrist at the end we can also see the hints of an ouroboros...  Many people seem to think that the final scene, when he is back inside, is as a consequence of the actions of his character throughout the movie but there is nothing directly in the scene to make us believe this.  Maybe that scene is the end is the beginning is the end and so on, ad infinitum?

Like Mercury the film Joker has some incredibly intricate sleight of hand that you will possibly have missed the first time around.  For example, many believe that his mother was lying to him and that the story he discovers about his upbringing is true but then he finds evidence that indicates that Thomas Wayne did have feelings for his mother.  But this evidence is revealed in a flash, in a sleight of hand manner, now you see it now you don't.  He crumples it and realises that his murder of his mother was because of a lie fabricated by Wayne.

So Joker as shadow self or Joker as trickster?  Personally I think this movie is an outstanding example of the more elegant use of symbolism in the Unifying Colour Theory and aside from that an incredibly rich and wonderful film in a variety of different ways.  A lot of people projected so heavily on to the film - they made it into a film about incels and so on because they expected, no, wanted it to be about that so much that they literally couldn't see what was happening before their eyes.  The reference to the murder of Batman's parents outside a cinema is clearly a link to the shootings that happened in the wake of Dark Knight but the cause of those shootings is that people cannot see the person.  ''...[you] ever think what it is like to be someone like me?' To be somebody but themselves.'' Joker is a victim of society, someone who should conjure mercy, compassion and pity from the woke, but in representing a figure that they have so demonised it showcases how those self-same wokists cannot reconcile their own shadow self.  At various points in the movie Joker acts like a progressive revolutionary, attacking the patriarchy, colour blind in his transactions, sparing the most unfortunate, punishing bullies and so on - to me the reactions in some quarters of woke were so off-kilter as to the point where I had thought we were watching different films.  This was a clear example of what the film was pointing out and why people literally ''didn't get the joke.''

And this perhaps is the point, that Evil that burns inside of him is only the desire to be free of all the trappings that are holding him back from discovering his true self.  If the film is indeed all in the mind of Arthur Fleck it shows his own personal work of internally grinding through those projections or through therapy - violence, trauma, abandonment, despair, fury - and the archetypal spirit that is finally born out of this hard work is absolutely and resplendently beautiful because it is free.  When he kills the psychiatrist at the beginning and end of this infinite loop he does so as an act to free himself.  Its worth remembering this, and remembering your own Greatness, as we shelter from the black plague wind of doom, under masks of our own, and work through our own projections as we are driven relentlessly backwards through the alchemical process, taking ''a short sharp trip straight down the ladder, right to the primal fear.''

I hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker, Todd Philips and Scott Silver

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