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23.5 DEGREES- The Dark Knight: E tenebris lux?
Some men just want to watch the world burn
By Professor W
November 29, 2008
Batman hanging in the shadows ready to strike in THE DARK KNIGHT(2008).
© Warner Bros.
His Dark Satanic Majesty, the late-lamented Mr Ledger, holds all the cards and has all the best lines in Christopher Nolan’s magnificent Dark Knight, released on DVD on 9 December. In the movie Gotham City is the Gnostic world of night, where evil prevails and good is always fighting to maintain a balance. The Gnostics believed that this was an unwinnable battle; evil would always conquer. However, in an attempt to redress the balance, we get value for money, as there are two Dark Knights in the movie: Bruce W and Harvey D.
Each knight is programmed to fight evil, as the Joker is programmed to cause pain and destruction. Firstly, we have the incorruptible, gravelly-voiced Batman and then we have the White Knight, Harvey Dent, the crime-busting DA, who is ultimately corrupted by the evil perpetrated on him by the Joker. Batman is dark, because he has a tortured soul. The DA is the White Knight who is driven mad by events and then becomes evil. Another good guy leaves the arena.
Associations of ideas abound in the movie and my mind turned to another group of knights, the Knights Templar, whose mission in the middle ages was to do good and fight evil. They were an order of soldier monks, wearing white tunics emblazoned with a red cross, whose original purpose was to assure the safety of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Lands after the Crusades. Living an ascetic life-style, the Templars created an international banking network and their resulting power made them a threat to the Church and the State. They were arrested, tried and burnt at the stake for the crimes they were alleged to have committed: usury, worshipping a false prophet (the head of John the Baptist), chanting a blasphemous name, Baphomet, and sodomy. While the Vatican has recently admitted that it found the Knights Templar innocent of their crimes, we still do not know today if they were corrupted or remained loyal to a higher, unknown truth. The Templars’ confessions were extracted under duress. A good order gone bad or perhaps just a bad order?
Times change, but the fight against evil and destruction remains. Our values may become greyer. For example, today we can chant what we like; we don’t drown witches anymore; sodomy is no longer considered a crime; bankers are respected (ok, maybe that hasn’t changed!) and worshipping craven images (Madonna, Michael Jackson, Apple, Gucci) might burn a hole in our pockets, but we won’t get barbecued as punishment. It sure makes you think.
However, the pieces on the chessboard still remain black and white: good and evil. There will always be a Joker, wanting to inflict pain, suffering and destruction. We need to know whether there will always be a Bruce W.
Let’s hope that there are still Batmen out there who don’t fall prey to corruption, so that the cosmic balance remains in place. Sadly, there is no shortage of Harvey Dents, whose pure hearts are poisoned by evil. ‘Twas ever thus. If you’re religiously-minded, evil is nothing more than an absence of good: privatio boni.
If you’re a glass half-full type, good will prevail and evil will be overcome. But there are times – on this blackest of Black Fridays – when the glass is looking decidedly half-empty. The government would say that the glass is fuller than if the opposition party were in power. The opposition would say that it is irrelevant because the present administration has changed the way such volume statistics are collected. It all depends on where you’re standing and the mood you’re in.
Vast numbers of people say it just doesn’t matter, because the world is going to hell in a handbasket anyway, so why worry? If you look at the signs, maybe they’re right. A lot of people have observed that the world’s bee population is starting to die out this year. They see it as one of many omens.
Einstein, so frequently misquoted, is alleged to have said that, once the bees are gone, Man would have only four years of life left on the planet. Maybe Elvis (and the rest of us) will really leave the building next time?
Some Gnostics believed in the principle of palin-genesis, rebirth from total destruction, that everything must be reduced to nothing before new shoots can grow again. Now, I’m not a mathematician, but if you put two and two together, you end up with “Palin-genesis in 2012”, but I just can’t see any way that phrase could possibly lead to destruction. Perhaps others can? And who will be our Dark Knight?