In putting together this analysis, I find myself at a strange impasse, and I say “find myself” because I never delved into the subtext of Eyes Wide Shut looking for any kind of Masonic code, and have, in fact, stumbled over the code ass-backwards and by complete accident.
What I have now is a problem of optics– and, had I found the code in any movie other than Eyes Wide Shut, this problem would hardly exist.
To begin, I can anticipate a somewhat justifiable knee-jerk denialism from heavily invested Kubrick fans. This could be considered a sort of post-traumatic response: the man’s legacy is so shrouded by unfounded conspiracies, from “faking the moon landing” to “getting secretly assassinated with a heart attack gun”, that there is a legitimate fear of his immense artisanship being eclipsed by his mystique-addled position in the pop culture landscape. I hope those people believe me when I say I understand, I empathize, and I do not want to add unnecessary static to the conversation.
I suppose I can also expect a similar response from attendant Masons, who might exhibit a reactionary dismissal of this analysis, owing to the fact that Freemasonry, like Kubrick, has been a long-time subject of endless conspiracy. They may tell me that only an initiated Freemason (which I am not) could adequately identify and dissect such a code, and that Kubrick himself was not a Mason and so could not have utilized the relevant symbolism and allegory in a proper way. I hope these people realize that those two clauses negate each other– that, if Kubrick’s employment of Masonic concepts was ill-informed or otherwise underprepared, then there’s no reason that a regular schmoe like myself wouldn’t be able to ascertain what he was trying to do with them.
All of this is to say that I am well aware of the kryptonite atmosphere of stigma that engulfs the “further reaching” interpretations of Eyes Wide Shut, where often you will find self-styled soothsayers treating it as an un-auditable herald of hidden truths; almost as though it is some kind of mystical testimony of the collective unconscious, occupying a folk niche once reserved for fairytale and ancient legend. The film has found an online life as a vindicator of suspicions, a Rorschach canvas for the projections of wildest fantasy, or a frequency broadcast of the zeitgeist geared strictly towards the antennas of those “in the know”. Sometimes its prophets come paired with proxied messiah complexes, or the inflated thrill of having an “inside scoop”. Most of the time, they just enjoy entertaining far-out theory as a companion piece to the movie itself.
As you can imagine, it is no easy thing to join the ever-loudening chorus of “I’ve figured it out!” and still have your individual voice heard.
I should make it clear here that I think (most of) these fringe interpretations are not to be discouraged. Regardless of whether or not any hidden meaning is buried in the movie: if you do not think that Eyes Wide Shut is purposefully and blatantly designed to bait the audience into conspiracy theorizing, you are kidding yourself; and if, consequently, you have nothing but across-the-board disdain for the emergent culture of conspiratorial speculation surrounding the film, then you “get it” even less than the paranoid types who think that ‘the world is run by the Bilderberg Group’, or whatever their current flavour of far-fetched thought happens to reflect nowadays.
Johnathan Swift once wrote: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” As the resident dunce in my own life, I’d like to voice my fears of a far more likely confederacy: that of smart, well-educated, highly-informed people (and yes, even geniuses) who just happen to be flat-out wrong.
Although I am not championing this “Masonic code” so much as I am documenting it, I hope I can inspire you to review my findings objectively, with as little a prejudicial lens as possible, even if only to form a strong counter-position and make me feel like a total idiot. In any case, I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did putting it together.
How to Read this Analysis
One of the trickier issues in presenting the case for my analysis is that it is largely a probabilistic appeal to empiricism, which is a lot to take on board for some people. That sounds like a bit of a fancy-pants way of saying it, so let me demonstrate what I mean.
Say your friend hands you a Polaroid photo, which is pretty blurry and taken at night. He tells you “Check it out, I snapped this pic of Conan O’Brien eating out of a public trash bin with a family of raccoons”. You look at the picture– hey, you know what, it kind of does look like that. You could say that the content of the photo plausibly resembles Conan with the raccoons, but you can’t be close to 100% certain. Maybe 60% or 70%.
Your friend then hands you a whole stack of Polaroids; around 20 or 25 of them, all supposedly featuring the same subject matter as the first, but all of them slightly different from each other. Once again, they all kind of look like late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien, scrambling neck-and-neck with a hydra of voracious raccoon heads to see who gets the last discarded banana peel. Each individual photo, like the first, bears maybe a 60% or 70% or 75% visual similarity to what your friend tells you he saw that night.
The most important point here is this: After evaluating all the Polaroids, your final degree of certainty is not equal to the average certainty you had across each individual photo. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It is not just the similarity of the Polaroids to the alleged scenario with Conan and the raccoons, but the similarities of the Polaroids to each other, which forms a new aggregated informational context that will dictate where your opinion on the matter lands. Weighing likelihoods based on accumulated pieces of separate evidence is not an act of addition– it is an act of exponential multiplication. The full body of evidence is new evidence in itself.
To continue with another, simpler film-based example: Say you have a celluloid frame showing a man at full sprint. You can’t tell how fast he’s running. Say you now have 23 other consecutive frames of the man sprinting. In the separate context of each individual frame, you still can’t tell how fast he’s going, but if you splice all the frames together, you can see how far he runs in one second. Now you know his position and his speed. Werner Heisenberg, eat your heart out.
If you account for this probabilistic/empirical principle in your reading of the findings on this site, I think you’ll likely agree that Eyes Wide Shut features simply too many factors in too specific of an alignment for me to have fabricated such interconnection.
My first-person role in piecing the analysis together also offers me a unique set of evidence which is personal to my experience. For example: I have the elevator in the Nathanson apartment pegged as the “balance” in the 8th Degree, due to it being a counterweight system. I actually formed this association before realizing that the only other elevator that Tom Cruise steps out of in the film has a painting called “Counterweights” hanging on the back of it. You can possibly appreciate how, from my perspective, the likelihood of this being a coincidence is astronomically low. From this, you can perhaps also see how some of the film’s broader network of code is comprised of smaller elements that convey isolated semiotic messaging within themselves.
Like a Rubik’s Cube, we must think along two simultaneous axes in order to pierce the film’s cryptic veil: we must alternatingly look at it both systemically and locally; as a set of independent pieces and as an interwoven whole. Perhaps all of this advice is a redundant treading of old ground for some, but I think it is easy to underestimate just how much individual insight can be made suddenly available through the prompting of a slight change in perspective.
And that, dear reader– beyond asking for your good faith– is about as much as I can prepare you for The 33 Degrees of Eyes Wide Shut. I’ll see you where the rainbow ends.
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