By Jed McKenna

(This article may be freely reprinted, reposted, translated, etc.)

None are more hopelessly enslaved
than those who falsely believe they are free.


After being redpilled by Morpheus and waking up aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, Neo and the audience believe that he is now out of the simulation and in the real world, but he’s not.

At the end of the second movie, Neo uses his matrix powers outside the matrix, meaning he’s either a real-world superman, or the real world isn’t real. The common interpretation is the former, the correct one is the latter. Neo never got out. Everything in The Matrix is in the matrix.

Handy tip: Any time you’re not in the desert of the real – the infinite white field of Nothing Forever – you’re in a simulation. That’s what nonduality means.


The power of ego is emotion in the pole of fear. Ego forms emotional attachments to dreamstate elements in order to resist change and remain at the juvenile level of development, resulting in perpetual childhood and life in the herd. There are good reasons for that, but you’re reading this because you’re contemplating adulthood, which means shuffling off the egoic coil and leaving the herd behind.

Emotional attachment is how ego ties us to the eyes-closed, fear-based, halfborn, herd-level of perspective in which ego can exist. These attachments are the chains that bind us in Plato’s cave, but which are never locked. The journey of awakening involves undoing these bindings so we can rise into progressively more lucid and less distorted levels of perspective. That’s the spiritual journey in a nutshell. All you really are is awareness, so it’s all about perspective.

Once we transition to adulthood, we stop mistaking the egoic costume for the authentic self. The juvenile shell is cast off, the adult emerges, and our rightful life begins. Should that not occur naturally – and it never does – we become trapped in a state of spiritual neoteny; our bodies grow into adulthood while our mental-emotional-spiritual development remains stuck in childhood. The only reason that doesn’t make us sideshow freaks is because everyone is similarly afflicted. 


Thomas/Neo never figures anything out for himself. Team Morpheus descends from the clouds to drag Doubting Thomas to the starting line and push him across. Thomas takes the red pill and his great escape begins. And ends. 

Neo awakens to a different version of reality and all his doubts and discrimination disappear. He was skeptical about his 9-to-5 metro-hacker life, but he’s totally okay with joining the last band of rebels in fighting their A.I. overlords for the survival of humanity. And he knows kung fu. And he’s in love. And he’s The One. Yeah, nothing weird about that. 

It would have been more interesting, from our perspective, if Neo had thanked Team Morpheus for the assist, wished them good luck with the whole war-with-the-machines thing, and continued with his escape attempt. Instead, he has been tricked back into a herd he thinks broke out of and he’ll never try to escape again because he thinks he’s already free. (Did someone mention the spiritual marketplace?) That’s the intelligence of fear and that’s what you’re up against if you want to transition to adulthood.


At the beginning of The Matrix, Doubting Thomas is roughly where you are now; questioning the nature of his reality. He doesn’t know how or why, but he knows that things aren’t as they seem and he’s starting to obsess on it. It’s not really a splinter in his brain driving him mad, though. Ahab has a white-hot steel whalespike in his brain, Thomas just has an itch that’s disturbing his sleep.

As in the matrix, so in the dreamstate. When we get a little tingle that threatens to wake us, an array of egoic forces come online to guide us back into a deep, itch-free sleepstate. That’s what Morpheus – god of sleep and dreams – does for Neo. The red pill didn’t wake Neo up, it put him back to sleep. 

Neo had a splinter in his brain, now he doesn’t. He has been sedated and reinserted into a less bothersome narrative. His sleep was troubled, but now he accepts the world with which he is presented. He has not escaped from Maya’s Cineplex, he simply took a bathroom break and returned to a different movie. He thinks the old one was a sham, which it was, and the new one is real, which it’s not. 

The 3D theater is no more real than the 2D movie. Zion is no more real than the matrix. The dream of freedom is no more real than the dream of captivity. Once one is disabused of the fantasy, the question becomes, what is the reality? The answer to this question is not found in Plato’s Cave or Maya’s Cineplex, but beyond all opposites. 


Neo zigged when he should have zagged. He left all the amusements and distractions of a robust, full-spectrum simulation for the bone-dry reality of a subterranean shithole. Oops.

Cypher had the right idea. It was a dick move to betray his shipmates, but getting comfortably resettled in the matrix is the only option that makes any sense. When you have to live in caves and eat runny snot in the real world, the fake world starts looking pretty good. The planet is uninhabitable, so what are the humans fighting for? 

Your only decision before climbing into your battery-charging pod would be, do you want to retain your memories or revert to a bovine state of ignorance? Cypher chose to revert. He wanted his disbelief re-suspended so he wouldn’t remember he was living in a simulation. What the question amounts to is, do you want to be a child or an adult in the matrix; asleep or awake in your dreamstate? These are two totally different modes of interfacing with one’s environment, each with their pluses and minuses, depending on your perspective. 

Of course, in our updated understanding, all the humans in The Matrix are in the matrix and always have been. No one has ever been outside the matrix because there is no outside the matrix. 


I called your office. They said you’re real.

That’s very kind of them. Did you ask them what real means?

I didn’t have enough coins to get into that conversation.

Serenity, 2019

In Maya’s Cineplex are many theaters.

At the end of the 2012 version of Total Recall (director’s cut), the protagonist learns that the entire movie was just a memory implant, but decides it’s okay because love conquers all, even if the object of that love is a mirage. The hero is emotionally attached to an element of the simulation. By choosing heart over mind, he rejects truth and embraces the lie. That’s how ego keeps us asleep in the dreamstate. The better outcome would be that he’s never sure if he’s a secret-agent saving the world or a working stiff who bought a secret-agent memory package, but the director sells out the viewer for a cheap twist. 

In Star Trek Generations, Kirk gets unwittingly trapped in the paradise-illusion of the Nexus, a place of pure joy where time has no meaning.

Guinan tells Picard that the Nexus is “like being inside joy, as if joy was something tangible and you could wrap yourself up in it like a blanket.” She goes on to say, “I would have done anything, anything, to get back there.”

Eternal bliss doesn’t seem like the worst false narrative you could be trapped in. I suppose a lot of spiritual seekers are actually seeking the Nexus.

Picard, emotionally vulnerable due to family tragedy, is seduced by a Dickensian hearth-and-home fantasy but gets out of the illusion, while the villain, Soran, will do anything to get back in. So who’s the real villain? Soran, who just wants to get back to his happy-place, or party-pooper Picard who drags Kirk out of his and gets him killed? The lines are a little blurred so they make Soran a mass-murderer so we know he’s the baddy.

Soran and Cypher are both depicted as villains, but all they really want is to get back into the simulation. If they didn’t kill people and betray shipmates, no one would have a problem with them. Picard offered to find a way to get Soran back into the Nexus. Morpheus would probably drop Cypher off at the nearest pod farm and wish him luck.

For Cypher, reality is bleak and loveless. For Soran, reality is hell compared to the illusion of heaven. They aren’t villains, they just want to be happy. Who can blame them?

Soran was happy in the Nexus until the Enterprise “rescued” him. Kirk is happy in the Nexus until Picard yanks him out. Picard becomes intoxicated by the Nexus until his awareness is pierced by a glint of light and, with help, he sobers up. At key times, Kirk is asleep in the dreamstate, Picard is awake in the dreamstate, and Soran is awake from the dreamstate. Segregated Child, Integrated Adult, and Enlightened Whatever. As I seem fond of repeating, enlightenment is a booby-prize. Childhood is where your artificial self wants to be, adulthood is where your authentic self wants to be, and nobody wants to be enlightened.


Thomas/Neo wakes up from his boring old narrative to a shiny new narrative in which he’s a heroic figure fighting for a noble cause. He rejects his corporate drone persona in favor of a Superman/Savior character. Although he now has a precedent for the reality of false realities, he fully embraces the next one to come along. 

It doesn’t matter what we believe, only that we do believe. Ego doesn’t care what we dream, only that we stay in the dreamstate. It doesn’t matter what film you’re immersed in, only that you remain seated and live vicariously through your character. You’re a nine-to-five schlub by day and legendary hacker by night? Fine. You’re a superman-savior and last hope of humanity? Great. Just please stay in your seat and, above all, keep your disbelief suspended.

Most people die in the theater they were born in, but a glint of light has pierced your awareness and now, with help, you’re sobering up. Maybe.


The search for truth is the greatest failure in the history of mankind because it’s doomed before it begins. We start from wherever we are, not knowing that we’ve been going the wrong way since birth and that to make a start, we must first undo all our negative progress; no rebirth without first a death. That’s where mortal fear kicks in and ego takes over, and that’s how we manage not to find the one thing that can never be lost.

We spend decades spinning the emotional tendrils that hold us down at a pedestrian level of perspective. We want to increase our perspective without cutting ties – have cake/eat too – but it’s these ties that prevent our upward progress into elevated perspective. All this spirituality stuff really comes down to perspective; seeing what is and not what’s not.

The dreamstate is not based on the real world because there is no real world. Outside the artificial context of the dreamstate there is no time or space, no humans or machines, no planets or stars, no duality or causality, no you or me. We are, in truth, the beholder, not the beheld. As a basic understanding of nonduality informs us, the dreamstate is not based on anything else because there is nothing else. The dreamstate isn’t true and doesn’t exist, but it’s the only reality there is. The simulation is not a facsimile, it’s the original. That’s what nonduality means.

Jed McKenna is the author of the Enlightenment, Dreamstate, and Jed Talks trilogies. Learn more at

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