I don’t often utilize the oft-touted term “illuminati” unless I think it is appropriate. In this case, as with my use in relation to Zardoz, it is appropriate. Doctor Strange is an amalgam of Inception, The Matrix and other science fiction-fantasy films of recent note, but unlike most presentations (except for perhaps The Matrix) is one of the most revelatory gnostic-illuminist to date. A box office success, the film is a combination of both eastern and western hermeticism, as well as making numerous references to ceremonial and ritual magick. Though many would liken it to Harry Potter in this regard, Doctor Strange includes more aspects of “illuminism” proper insofar as the entire Marvel Universe includes transhumanism.
As we witnessed in the installments of Captain America and The Avengers, the entirety of the Marvel mythos is the bridge between ancient mythologies of the gods and modern technology – believed to be the pathway by which man will achieve the “godlike” powers the myths hinted at. Here, as I have argued for some years now, is the principle that the highest “illuminism” is beyond the notions of invoking or controlling spirits, and is the pragmatic application of science to the actualization of such “powers.” In this sense, the chimaeras and magic instruments of the gods are fulfilled in practices such as genetic modification and cross-species engineering or in the Internet itself.
The genius neurosurgeon character of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is thus intended to embody the culmination of western analytical and quantitative approaches to knowledge, openly confessing himself to be a materialist. After suffering a severe accident that ravages his hands, Strange discovers his steady grip has vanished, costing him his prominent medical career. Reaching the end of his rope, Strange embarks on a journey based upon rumors of hidden healing techniques originating in the Far East in India.
Of course, to the mainstream mind, all “spirituality” arises from India and the Far East (here Nepal), with little consideration as to the possibility that merely being “spiritual” does not connote the good. Perhaps there are evil spirits? Perhaps the demonic is a real the human soul must contend with? For the Eat, Pray, Love consuming soccer moms and for their Marvel Comics consuming progeny, the need to accept “alternative spiritualities” as just as viable as their evangelical sect. The reality is, both of these naive approaches are manifestations of a controlled dialectic, where the Far Eastern influence birthed the ecumenical movement a century ago, while the evangelical strip mall “churches” are nothing more than corporate copycat templates of historic theology.
Setting all that aside for a moment, Strange wanders his way into the halls of an elite secret society which protects the esoteric secrets of the “good side,” led by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), keeping at bay the interdimensional forces of the dark side, led by one of her former students, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), at the service of the uber-demon, Dormammu. The spiritual architecture of the worldview in this film is an amalgam of gnositicism, Hindu cosmology and tech-mysticism. As Strange is inducted into this society, he is given an intense astral experience where he sees other worlds and dimensions, stepping outside time. This is important for the plot, as time itself is one of the key enemies that must be opposed and overcome.
As Strange ascends into other worlds and has visions of the light-fabric of the kosmos, his third eye is explicitly opened. The experience is strikingly similar to an LSD trip, as Strange himself intimates. Learning all the hidden arts, Strange begins to grasp that the analytical truths of the world of matter are not in opposition to spiritual truths, which transcend them. Strange learns in particular to project his body into the aether as a kind of remote viewing exercise as he learns the “mysteries.” As a side note, it’s interesting that both Cumberbatch and Swinton are British actors playing roles where British and Soviet espionage exploits were well known.
Lining up his chakras and mastering the “Key of Solomon,” Strange decides to delve into deeper, darker rites, taking it upon himself to don the All-Seeing Eye necklace that allows him to fast forward and rewind time itself, from the grimoires of his order’s ascended masters (call him Blavatsky Cumberbatch). Natural law, we learn, is the foundation of the order’s rules, which earns a swift scolding for Strange – natural law must never be violated. However, Strange learns from Kaicilius that the Ancient One herself has lied, having used these rites to draw upon the dark side to prolong her life – “for the good.” Kaicilius uses his chance encounter to preach his gospel to Strange, which is based on monotheism and immortality. His god, Dormammu, has power over time seeks to envelop all worlds into his dimension.
The striking aspect of this is that as Dormammu and his evangelists wreak havoc on earth, Strange figures out that the only means by which the Monotheist can be destroyed is if an apotheosized man (Strange himself) ascends to Dormammu’s dimension and uses the rites of time to entrap Dormammu with his own death. Dying countless times and rewinding (we’re not sure how this is done if he’s dead), Strange dupes Dormammu into an infinite time loop, something akin to Hofstadter’s strange loop in Godel, Escher, Bach. Submitting to his defeat, the butt-hurt demiurge time-god departs, taking his disciples with him, leaving Strange in charge of the New York branch of the Illuminati.
London is, of course, the headquarters of world Freemasonry, Satanism, witchcraft (and communism and radical Islam, by the way), suggesting this film is complete and total revelation of the method. In fact, as Strange defiantly opposes the Jehovah-like Saturn-affiliated Dormammu, he specifically arranges both hands into the devil-horn sign, and demands the earth be wiped clean of all his followers. In other words, the head of the Illuminati wants the demiurge to depart (i.e., the true God), demanding the earth be wiped of all monotheists who believe in eternal life. In fact, the flaw of the Ancient One was her desire to live eternally, and drew her lifeforce from the “dark side” (i.e., God). In other words, Doctor Strange is Doctor Death, who after his initiation, ascension and apotheosis, sees death as “natural” – something he formerly sought to heal in his patients. In short, the summation of Doctor Strange is an amalgam or skeletal outline of the world religions, or perennialism to be specific.