The film “Ad Astra” in addition to the obvious real-everyday semantic layer also has an archetypal layer. This was confirmed by the director of the film, James Gray, in his own words that to build the plot, he turned to the ideas of Joseph Campbell, the author of the book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. However, when I began to understand this archetypal layer, I found that it has many parallels with some of the gnostic and occult teachings.
The main core of the teachings of the Gnostics has already been presented on our channel in the video “ Alita. Battle Angel ” and it has long been known that biblical references in Hollywood films illustrate precisely the ideas of Gnosticism, according to which the Old Testament God is portrayed as a villain, and Lucifer as a benefactor of people.
The fact that the film will be loaded with religious symbolism, we understand as soon as we learn that the wife of the protagonist is called Eva (although in the original script her name was Francesca). From this, the allegorical meaning of other characters immediately becomes clear. The protagonist named Roy McBride bears the symbolic function of Adam. And his father, Clifford, is, accordingly, God.
In addition to the gnostic motifs, the film has many similarities with the occult teachings of Aleister Crowley.
Thus, the title of the film, as well as the prologue, which says that people turned their eyes to the stars, suggests one of the tenets of the Book of the Law, which says: “Every man and every woman is a star.” According to the teachings of Crowley, every person is a Deity .
Another interesting coincidence is that in the 1940s there was a company called Ad Astra Engineering founded by Jack Parsons , a rocket builder and occultist who was a student of Aleister Crowley.
Oleg Telemsky: “When Parsons was developing dry rocket fuel, he saw it as his magical opus of service, because [Crowley’s] Book of the Law says, ‘Come out, my children, to the stars, take your share of love.’ Jack Parsons preached a sexual revolution and at the same time was developing space technologies so that people would reach the stars. Those. specifically followed the narrative of the Book of the Law”.
The action of the film begins with an episode of the destruction of a monumental structure – an antenna for searching for extraterrestrial life. Many viewers quite rightly associated this image with the image of the Tower of Babel. It is no coincidence that the antenna has its base on the ground, and its top is located in the upper layers of the atmosphere, as if connecting the earth and sky.
For Gnostics, Babylon is the junction of heaven and earth. In Babylon, communication was carried out between the upper and lower worlds  . The Gnostics called it that: “The thread between heaven and earth.”
The impulse that destroyed the antenna comes from the place where Roy’s father is located, which causes a completely unambiguous association with the episode from the Bible where God destroys the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).
What is important here is that the Gnostics evaluate this event in a completely different way than the representatives of traditional religions, for whom Babylon is synonymous with debauchery and theomachism.
According to the Gnostics (who actually practiced sex magic), the construction of the tower was initiated by the Savior after he learned that God planned to destroy the sacred generation with a flood. The tower was intended for the elite, to be saved from the raging chaos, so that generations could live and settle down  .
The Old Testament God, whom the Gnostics identify with the evil demiurge, seeks to prevent the union of heaven and earth, destroys the tower and scatters the chosen race.
Roy works for an organization called SpaceCom. In fact, SpaceCom is one of the characters in the film. This is a powerful authority, constantly and invisibly located next to the main character and controlling his actions and his condition. A kind of Big Brother.
In addition, SpaceCom (represented by senior management) acts as an intermediary between Clifford on the one hand and Roy and other ordinary employees on the other. This is an instance that censors information and creates an ideology. It was SpaceCom who created the myth of Clifford the hero and hid from the public the fact that he was alive.
In symbolic terms, this is the image of an intermediary between God and people. These are peculiar priests who speak on his behalf and create his image.
We are given to understand that the hero has an ambivalent attitude towards this organization and its members. If at first Roy is completely subordinate to them, then in the future he violates their orders and acts at his own discretion, of his own free will. And in this we again see a parallel with Crowley’s teaching: “Do your will.”
The SpaceCom leadership instructs Roy to go to Mars to get in touch with his father.
“Like I have a choice.” 00:14:45
Roy is to be accompanied by an elderly astronaut, Clifford’s former colleague, Colonel Pruitt. The artistic meaning of this character is not entirely clear. But its presence can be explained by symbolic meaning. In Campbell’s Monomyth, he corresponds to the figure of a wonderful protector. In Crowley’s system, he probably fits the role of the Holy Guardian Angel.
“I’ll keep an eye on you.”
The colonel will be forced to leave Roy on the moon, and he will continue on his way alone. In Crowley’s teaching, this corresponds to the stage when “the adept must renounce everything that makes up his essence and that he owns, including the support of his guardian angel, and step into the Abyss. If the karma accumulated by the adept is sufficient to carry him through the abyss and the adept was extremely thorough in his self-destruction, he becomes a “child of the abyss”, rising like a Star”.
“On the far side of the abyss, Babalon awaits the adept , whose call helps him overcome this great void”
On the moon, the military escorts Roy and his companion to the SpaceCom base, from which he is to go to Mars. The base is on the dark side of the moon; this image corresponds to the occult path of knowledge.
On the way they are attacked by pirates and kill the entire convoy accompanying the heroes.
Thus begins a series of deaths that accompany the protagonist on his way. In connection with this fact, the director of the film, James Gray, in an interview called Roy the angel of death. Apparently, this is not a random metaphor: the angel of death, Samael, in some Gnostic systems is identified with Lucifer , and from this point of view, the fall of Roy from the antenna receives an additional meaning of the fall of Lucifer from the sky.
In addition, Roy is the only character in the film wearing a white uniform, which is intended to emphasize his luminosity. Even if Roy is not Lucifer himself, he is enlightened, following his own occult path of knowledge.
From the Moon, Roy travels to Mars on the Cepheus spacecraft. The director throughout the film constantly emphasizes the religiosity of the astronauts. This looks like a contrast between the collective religion, built on dogma, and the occult, which implies individual knowledge of the supernatural. They say that the common people worship a false God, about which the priesthood teaches, and only the elect in the person of the protagonist go their own way and find out the truth.
Along the way, the team receives a distress signal from the Norwegian space station conducting biomedical research. Having gone to the station to provide assistance, Roy, along with the commander of the Cepheus, encounter aggressive baboons.
Another interesting parallel. Aleister Crowley’s deck of tarot cards contains the “Magician” card, which depicts a young man with the attributes of Mercury. From below, an angry monkey climbs up to him. The interpreters explain that psychologically the Magician symbolizes the ego. The monkey corresponds to the shadow level, the instinctive nature of the Magician. She shows aggression towards the light and violently draws attention to herself so that she is not forgotten, giving preference to the intellect.
The commander of the Cepheus dies, and Roy, analyzing what happened, sees in this situation a manifestation of the anger that he saw both in his father and in himself towards his father. For leaving them. Roy realizes that the resentment and pain inflicted on him by his father prevent him from loving other people.
“I don’t want to be like my father”
The father turns out to be indirectly guilty of the fact that his son cannot build normal relationships and live a full life.
On Mars, Roy is met by a woman named Helen, Elena. Pay attention to the red light that fills the room. In an interview, the director calls this character a goddess.
Helena endows him with some wisdom and clarity, and the myth of the benevolent father is dispelled forever, and the cannibal father takes his place. … And I said: “You are an oracle. You are a man of wisdom talking to this boy, teaching him.” … it was our attempt to do the Campbellian thing. There is a chapter in his book about meeting the goddess. But we also wanted to give her our humanity.
In Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, one of the stages of the hero’s journey is designated as “Meeting the Goddess”, which personifies the archetypal femininity or one of its aspects.
The name Helena in the Gnostic context refers us to such a historical character as Simon Magus (or Simon Magus). He lived in apostolic times, was the founder of a Gnostic sect, called himself God, and everywhere he took with him the former prostitute Helen, whom he bought in the city of Tire. He called it the First Thought of God, the mother of all things, which gave birth to the archons who created our world. The Archons captured her and kept her in matter, forcing her to reincarnate from one body to another. Now God, in the form of Simon, descended into the fallen world in order to save his thought, Helen.
The harlot, according to the Gnostics, is an image of the fallen consciousness, which needs purification and knowledge of the true spiritual nature and love . In accordance with this, the image of the Babylonian harlot, which is spoken of in the Apocalypse, is also rethought. She is described as a wife (woman) sitting on a scarlet beast, wearing a purple robe.
In modern occultism, the character of the Whore of Babylon is found in the system of Aleister Crowley, where she has the rank of a goddess and is referred to as Babalon or the Scarlet Wife. Crowley (who called himself the Beast), as well as Simon the Magus, carried the Great Whore with him and claimed that the divine Solar Word is received through the Scarlet Woman during sexual intercourse.
In the film, we see Roy learn the terrible truth about his father through Elena. That is, symbolically, he learns that the Demiurge is not a good God at all, but a villain.
The director also shows us that Helena, as the personification of the feminine, correlates with the element of water.
The main character goes through a series of losses and disappointments: his wife leaves him, he is disappointed in his father. This is in line with the teachings of the Gnostics that only through immersion in darkness and hell can one get answers to the questions of who we are, where we came from and where we should go next.
“I am pulled further and further from the Sun. To you” 1:08:55
“Or am I you, falling into the same black hole?” 1:10:00
Next, StarCom removes Roy from the mission, but Helen helps him get on the ship.
The stay on Mars and the meeting with Helen ends for Roy with a new birth, symbolically shown in swimming across the lake.
In Crowley’s system, after meeting the Great Harlot, the adept dies in his former capacity, is reborn in her womb as a Child of the Abyss and rises as a star. — 1:10:45
The next step in Crowley’s teaching is an encounter with the masculine principle, the paternal principle .
Path to Neptune
Roy infiltrates the ship, and the entire crew dies after meeting him. As Aleister Crowley wrote: “A man has the right to live by his own law” and has the right to kill those who interfere with this right. Of course, in fact, Roy does not kill them with his own hands, but that’s why he is the “angel of death.”
Roy goes to Neptune. He intends to destroy Project Lima, which was run by his father. Actually, the same was entrusted to the crew of the Cepheus, but Roy probably wants to do it his own way.
The pose in which Roy is shown in this scene is reminiscent of the Hanged Man lasso. 1:19:00
“The main interpretation of this arcanum was the idea of a spiritual crisis of “hanging out” – a state of suspension “between Heaven and Earth.” The Hanged Man lasso began to correspond to the state of “mid-life crisis”, when the usual values are turned upside down and consciousness is horrified by this upheaval”.
On his father’s ship, at the last point of his journey, Roy is shown as passing through the center of the hexagram. As the interpreters write, intersecting triangles in the hexagram “represent the union of God and Man, achieved in Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel”.
In a conversation with his father, Roy is personally convinced that he was indifferent to him and to other people.
“I didn’t care about you, your mother” 1:30:50
God as the basis of the patriarchal way of life and, accordingly, the father as the head of the family is again exposed as an indifferent tyrant, with whom the only thing that can be done is to leave. Let him kill himself. What Roy does.
The director said that in the process of creating the film, he also relied on the story of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, who went in search of his father. It is significant how different the endings of these stories are. If in the Greek myth the son finds his father and unites with him in order to return the kingdom to him, then in the film “Ad Astra” the hero, on the contrary, frees himself from the influence of his father and allows him to commit suicide.
Who will replace the father of Roy and the new generation of men? Probably Big Brother, who is represented by SpaceCom in the film.
Interestingly, despite the fact that Roy went against the will of the command and ruined several human lives, he did not receive any punishment and again works in the same organization, as if nothing had happened. Those. SpaceCom approved of his actions. While they could have destroyed Clifford themselves by taking responsibility and keeping his image as a hero, the fact that their subordinate had done it himself proved to be much more favorable to their plans. The change in Roy’s worldview turned out to be more important than a few human lives, because it probably meant a change in ideology in the right direction for Space. If subordinates themselves renounce authority, then this frees ideologues from the need to spend resources on maintaining the significance of authority, or on its deposition.
Roy did everything himself, and the viewer should follow his example. To finally free yourself from the authorities of the past, focus on what is within reach and become a happy worker in your field.
For a change in worldview, Roy received all possible benefits: a good job, a beautiful wife, peace of mind (he probably now treats sales outlets on the moon condescendingly). The filmmakers even wanted to give him a daughter, but then for some reason changed their minds.
The message of the film is obvious: “Come down from heaven to earth”, “There is no one in heaven.” He kills two birds with one stone: he dismantles the remnants of the traditional worldview (hinting that there is no God) and openly announces the dismantling of the Modern with its belief in progress, space travel and brothers in mind. If Nietzsche once announced the death of God, then the film Ad Astra announces the death of Clifford, the hero of the Modern era.
Since one of the functions of the film industry is to set the agenda in the minds of the audience, a few more such films and the society will be prepared for the news about the curtailment of the space research program.