Friday, March 18, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

In George Nolfi’s adjustment of Philip K Dick’s short story, “The Adjustment Bureau” is an organisation that makes sure “The Plan” is executed. Congressman David Norris accidentally sees hat-wearing “case officers” adjusting the fate of himself and his entourage, after running into his soul mate – a woman he is not supposed to see as “the Chairman” of the Adjustment Bureau believes that if they find love, “The Plan” he has outlined for the world will not come to fruition.

The paradigm of the movie is that free will and chance are antagonists, with the Bureau making sure that free will does not result in holocausts and world wars, but that it is instead curtailed – which is why there is a Plan. However, the key message is that The Plan is only that: a plan. And on occasion, things like true love – for Love Conquers All – are not only allowed to occur, but seem to be pushed so powerfully that it will change the course of planned history. But also that “Free will is a gift that you only use when you have to fight for it.”

The story therefore captures the beautiful dichotomy of destiny and free will. The dichotomy is most famous when it comes to astrology, whereby the story goes that we are moved by the planets – or at least that at the moment of birth, there is a cosmic imprint made upon us, which is our destiny. This is what will happen to us, unless we use our free will properly. It was one of the greatest astrologers and minds of all times, the Renaissance scholar Marsilio Ficino, who said that the true magus ruled his stars, rather than being ruled by the stars.

When we delve into accounts of people who have accessed past lives and life in between lives –Michael Newton has catalogued his research in a number of books – we hear consistent accounts that before our birth, we do agree to a plan: a map of as to how our life will unfold, with milestones planned in, very much like a project plan; that we want to see certain important things accomplished by certain dates/ages. Newton and others make it clear that this plan will guide a person’s development – his destiny – though adjustments to the plan can be made at any moment in time (though it rarely happens).

Take this idea out of the imaginal, otherworldly realm, and you end up with The Adjustment Bureau, in which angels are case officers and magical powers are only acquired if one wears a hat. What the movie perfectly illustrates, too, is that the Chairman really is God; that They have created a dichotomy which is at its core, an illusion, so that we would really press hard for the rights of free will and use it to meet our true destiny. And this is where The Adjustment Bureau echoes Hermetic material, as the possibility to use Free Will is vey much like a Grail Quest: it is placed at our disposal, but David Norris needs to fight hard for it, and enter the Bureau Headquarters, to win the right – very much like the Grail knight needs to enter the Grail Castle and prove his worth.

Of course, in Newton’s and Hermetic thought, there is no real stand-off between destiny and free will. And this is why the Hermetic tradition also provides a path not mentioned in the movie, which is the path of surrender, in which the seeker entrusts the path in the hands of God. This Plan is the unity of free will and destiny, in which total faith and trust in God is given over to the Chairman – it is maybe what makes you an Adjuster.

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