The Pitt News (US), November 19, 2003
"The Matrix" mimics Sufi philosophy, speaker says
by Nick Keppler
Many viewers believe they are hearing a Christian message when watching the "The Matrix" movies, thanks to the Messiah-like qualities of Neo, the protagonist.
But, according to Salih Adem, The Matrix films actually portray the philosophy of Sufi Muslims, even if it wasn't intentional.
The Matrix trilogy can teach us much about Sufism, a mystic-minded sect of Islam, said physicist and Islam scholar Adem in Monday night's lecture, sponsored by the Islamic Studies Group.
Adem compared the concept of a computer network that has entrapped humanity in an artificial reality - the basis for the plot of the popular sci-fi film trilogy - to the Sufi idea that the physical world is a veil for an ever-present God who is manifested in all things.
"If you ask a Sufi why there is a universe and human beings, he will say it is because God wants to see His Beauty and His Attributes," Adem explained.
Adem, a native of Turkey, is a two-time gold medalist at the International Physics Olympiad, an Olympic-style competition in which people younger than 18 solve physics problems.
He is also the author of several articles about science and religion, and a contributor to the book, "Islamic Perspectives on Science." Adem is now working as a graduate student at the University of Maryland.
Adem was a studying physics at a Turkish university when he began contemplating major philosophical questions, such as "What is life?" and "What is reality?"
Adem was impressed by the attempts made in "The Matrix" movies to investigate such matters. The movies' concept that the matrix could send electronic signals to the brains of its captives, creating a false reality, was an interesting analogy for the nature of consciousness, Adem said.
"Certain wavelengths produce red; certain wavelengths produce blue," Adem said. "How can a difference in the number [of wavelengths] lead to a difference in color?"
Questions like this, which target the nature of consciousness, make up "the greatest mystery in science and philosophy," he added.
"According to Sufis, consciousness is a function of the spirit," Adem said. "What we find in the Quran is that the spirit is the connection, which makes human beings a manifestation of the Divine Names."
"Divine Names are actually various aspects of The One," Adem said, referring to God, not Neo, the Keanu Reeves character known as "the one" for his savior-like role in the battle against the matrix.
All people, places, things and actions are actually mirrors through which God can view Himself, according to the Sufi explanation of existence, Adem said.
"All actions are actually acts of The One, of Allah," Adem explained. "We only perceive different agents."
Adem said that Sufis practice their faith by showing love and mercy - traits for which they believe God created existence.
"Love received from friends, brothers, sisters or lovers are manifestations of the Lover of Loved, who is actually Allah, or God," Adem said.
Adem added that Sufis believe evil separates reality from pure godliness.
"Someone who concentrates too much on his evil cannot feel love," Adem said. "He is trapped in the matrix."