Recently on TV, I came across the science-fiction classic, Forbidden Planet. Thanks to the visionary discoveries of scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, I was able to enjoy the movie from a higher level by deciphering the movie’s deeper symbolic message.
Forbidden Planet is a modern allegory addressing the ongoing consequences of humanity having eaten the “Forbidden Fruit” in the Garden of Eden.
Most of my readers have probably viewed this movie at one time or another, but in case you haven’t seen it, let me break down some of the main elements of its theme and reinterpret them from a more elevated point of view.
Space travelers from Earth come to a strange planet to rescue any survivors of a previous exploratory mission. They find only two survivors—a scientist and his beautiful daughter. Everyone else on this original mission somehow died off.
The surviving scientist shares with the rescue team his discovery of an ancient race of people with advanced technological knowledge who once lived on the planet, but also mysteriously died out. Their advanced technology offered unlimited power. So what happened?
This situation is similar to Swedenborg’s symbolic interpretation of Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Swedenborg claimed that this harmful “fruit” represented the human inclination for accumulating knowledge under one’s own self-guidance (rather than from God and the Tree of Life).
The extinct ancient race from this alien planet as well as the surviving scientist from earth (who was mastering this superior alien technology and knowledge) all made the same fatal mistake. While they had indeed advanced the knowledge of their frontal cerebral lobes, they overlooked their more primitive passions and emotions lurking deep inside their limbic system. As a result, these various passions of this ancient race did not advance or become nobler along with their increased knowledge. Instead, the power of their advanced knowledge only intensified the savageness of their unrepentant passions.
This power grab by the Limbic system allowed its unconscious animal passions and instinctive drives to become hideous “monsters of the Id.”
Well, the surviving scientist unconsciously cared for the welfare of his daughter to the point that anytime he perceived some threat to their relationship, his own savage “Id” was able to tap into this great technological power and assume a frightening form that could destroy other people.
So when his beautiful daughter attracted the attention of one of the main male rescuers from earth, this threat released the frightening power of the scientist’s animal nature on the entire space crew. The resulting “monster” was unstoppable because it had unlimited power to draw on (the magnified ego).
The crew from earth figured out that this threatening creature was actually coming from the psyche of the scientist. (Apparently, this same inner beast is why the entire ancient population of that alien planet had become extinct.) When the scientist finally became convinced that this was the shocking truth of the matter, he killed himself. The frightening monster then immediately disappeared from the scene!
According to Swedenborg, spiritual growth and regeneration requires the same unflattering (and sometimes shocking) self-discovery. The only way to rid our lives of our deeply rooted, ignoble and hurtful passions is to embrace and apply the Lord God’s teachings to our lives and kill off the “old self.” This allows a new spiritual person to be reborn within us. Otherwise, our knowledge only gives more power to our character flaws.
As evidence, human knowledge and technology has increased, but has not made the world a safer place to live in. We cannot raise our level of understanding without also raising the level of our hearts and their derivative loves. We have to connect what we know to what we are. Again, this is done by sincere introspection and self-evaluation with spiritual considerations.