“The astral plane and devachanic plane are in fact densely populated worlds. We find many kinds of beings there whose effects are manifested here on the physical plane though not obviously, and who have much to do with the physical plane, with our whole modern human life. One does not understand this life if one does not know that beings who live above in higher worlds are active within it. In the human body itself much goes on over which man is not master, which is not the expression of the human ego but the deed, effect, manifestation, of beings of higher worlds.” —Rudolf Steiner, The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man, Lecture 1.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
I just finally got around to watching the Ghostbusters reboot the other day. I wanted to review some pieces in it but not the ones that were generated in the initial storm after is announcement and release.
The all-woman cast lead to the usual backlash and internet “controversy” with people (mostly dudes let be honest) pissed off at the Ghostbusters having vaginas. Which of course led to the inevitable backlash to the backlash and defense of the film by mainstream liberal and progressive feminist types—as if women being the leads in a yet another uncreative, weak, Hollywood reboot was some crowning achievement for women’s liberation. Which shows a serious lack of big vision from certain feminist quarters (especially social media/online feminism). Another version of the same cliche, played out controlled dialectics/psyop. (All of which Honest Trailers deftly handled.)
Then—also pretty much inevitable sad to say—the gender wars debate online mutated into a very vile form of racism with Leslie Jones getting brutally attacked online. That incident revealed yet again that social media is in its essence traumatized and traumatizing.
That’s not going to be the focus of this piece. Just that I can’t discuss what I want to discuss through this film without referencing all that culture war nonsense. As it turns out, the movie is a basic Hollywood reboot. Let’s be real. It’s not good. It’s not a triumph of grrl! power but nor is it particularly worse than every other crappy Hollywood reboot. It's not to be praised but it definitely didn’t deserve the excessive scorn it received either. No doubt sexism played a big part in that reaction.
What all the internet pseudo-controversy distracted from is what should be the core of the film—the exploration of the astral plane and the Otherworld. What is Ghostbusters if not a very explicitly exploration of the paranormal? And yet somehow with all the PC and gender online flame wars, this point seems utterly missed.
Even though the film qua film isn’t very good, when we look at the depiction of the (so-called) paranormal* in the film some very interesting things reveal themselves.
Let's start with the premise that each of the actresses is a re-interpretation, a re-embodiment, a reincarnation if you like, of the original Ghostbusters.
Melissa McCarthy (Abby Yates): Dan Ackroyd (Ray Stantz)
Leslie Jones (Patty Tolan): Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore)
Kate McKinnon (Jillian Holtzmann): Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler)
Which leaves Kristen Wiig’s character (Erin Gilbert) to replicate Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman. Now here is the first interesting point. There’s a significant philosophical gap between Gilbert and Venkman which reflects the changed ideological landscape over the last 30 years (since the original Ghostbusters film).
Peter Venkman recall had his own paranormal tv talk show. The original Ghostbusters begins with Venkman denying the results of actual real life psi phenomena in order to flirt with a blonde (which actually reveals a very interesting point about the history of psi and paranormal research where legitimate evidence has always been intertwined with tricksterism). Venkman also infamously lampoons the EPA-esque bureaucrat as “dickless” to the mayor and openly—along with the other Ghostbusters—proclaims that they are headed for an event of Biblical proportions, including but not limited to:
Venkman in other words is totally fine straddling the line of the history of paranormal research (e.g. The Society for Psychical Research). He’s actually quite at ease with his own philosophical views.
Erin Gilbert however is wracked throughout the reboot by her attempt to be seen as mainstream and legitimate in the scientific community. She’s irrationally obsessed with appearing rational. She wants to prove to a debunker (played by known other than Bill Murray himself) of the proper data controls of their experimental data. Gilbert and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) scoff at a ghost hunters reality show as giving them a bad name. Gilbert doesn’t want the group to be called The Ghostbusters but The Conductors of the Metaphysical Examination which oddly undermines her whole attempt as she’s stating that their work is metaphysical.
This shift is a subtle but a major one. At it’s core the Ghostbusters films are indeed metaphysical explorations. The original film takes a strong stance against scientism whereas the reboot is a sop to scientism. Scientism is the metaphysical (i.e. philosophical) belief in naturalism and gross materialism. Scientism is an ideological construct that states that only materialist science reveals truth, truth being defined as objective knowledge only.
What is the original Ghostbusters if not a total thoroughgoing critique of that ideology? And yet here the reboot of the very same film sells out to precisely that frame. The reboot reflects the massive shift towards scientism that dominates the ideological landscape today. While we supposedly live in some postmodern, end of history, post-ideological age, where the only fights left are fights over things like gender and race (see reaction to the film), the real ideology of scientism is left uncriticized, untouched, and occulted.
There’s no evidence in nature to prove naturalism is the only and automatically proper philosophical attitude. It’s a mental construction that denies the existence of mind and thereby self-refutes. Yet scientism nevertheless haunts the earth in an undead status, much like the ghosts of the films.
Erin Gilbert’s obsession with trying to scientifically legitimize her endeavors not surprisingly end up being a total failure. Her tenure application for Columbia gets denied by Harold Filmore portrayed by Charles Dance. You’ll recognize Dance as Tywen Lannister but in this context who you should remember Dance portraying the villain in The Golden Child, Sardo Numspa, a (no joke) astral-projecting, black magic-practicing demon out to murder holy children. He’s straight out of the astral realm cinematically and here he is as the defender of scientism.
I take that to mean that scientistic materialism has very often, if not always, been a front in the public domain for the elites to control the masses. Behind the scenes I’m sure the elites are very comfortable with a non-materialist view of the world.
In other words, there’s a strong public relations/propaganda element baked right in—this is directly exhibited in the film through the character of the mayor (played by Andy Garcia) and his handler/PR controller (played by Cecily Strong). Strong's characters lets the Ghostbusters know in a wink-wink hush-hush way that she is going to create a public cover story attacking them while behind the scenes supporting them because the public can’t be ready for the acknowledgment of the reality of the astral realm. (Perhaps comparable in our world to the whole Tom deLong and Harry Reid disclosure of the alien disclosure story.) In other words, a straight up psyop.
One last point about scientism, perhaps the most important one. Scientism has deep ties to the military-industrial complex and the weaponization of technology. Scientism has strong, naive faith in technological salvation.
This brings up the second related wrinkle and twist in the reboot that reveals further information about the status of the human cultural zeitgeist as well the “geist geist” of the astrals (geist means spirit and can be translated as ghost, e.g. The Holy Ghost/Spirit). Namely the massive weaponization of the Ghostbusters.
Kate McKinnon’s character—“Holtz”, the Egon of the film—has her own obsession and that is with over the top gadgetry. She weaponizes the Ghostbusters. There’s repeated scenes of testing out the new toys in the alleyway causing serious explosions. The scenes are meant as comic relief but with a deeper lens are actually quite creepy. Holtz goes full on psychotronic. There’s psi-grenades, hand to hand weaponry, blasters/guns, and at the end of the film essentially a psi-nuclear bomb. Compare that tech to those of the original ghost busting crew. They had the proton packs, the “trappers”, and the containment unit and that was it.
On a related note, the specters and ghosts of the reboot film are much more violent and psychically broken than those of the original film. The implicit justification for Holtz’s militarization of the Ghostbusters is the more disturbed nature of the astral realities they’re fighting. But of course the opposite could be said. It’s the Ghostbusters weaponizing of the astral space that invites the most dangerous, deadly, and violent aspects within the astral realm to the fore.
This tie-in is made explicit in throwaway type line where Abby Yates has made flyers to promote their work, the tagline of which is “if you see something say something”, which as Gilbert points out is a “anti-terrorism slogan.” Right there we have the whole surveillance society apparatus obliquely referenced. If you’re a strong proponent of the theory of predictive programming then this might be a key clue—the astrals are depicted as extremely chaotic and violent requiring the techno-scientism and surveillance state apparatus to protect us.
It’s all there. The scientism, the techno-militarization of the aethers, the surveillance state propaganda/psyop nexus. Not to mention the controlled dialectics of gender wars as a mass deflection to pull everyone’s attention from what’s going on here.
Namely The Ghostbusters are seen as agents of a counterinsurgency against a rebellious astral plane hellbent on invading our world.
Or is that simple?
Which brings us to the last and I think most important difference between the two films; causation of the disturbance in the astral plane and it’s impacts on the earthly realm.
In the original Ghostbusters the demigods and demons that haunt New York City come from the Otherworld to our world. Zuul possesses Dana Barrett’s fridge and then eventually Dana herself (Sigourney Weaver). Vinz Clortho appears as a demon dog to invade Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). There’s a sexual union between the “Gatekeeper” (Weaver) and the “Keymaster” (Moranis), their names themselves being an obvious sexual metaphor which then becomes embodied in their ritualized sex magick act to open the doorway for Gozer the Gozerian to enter the earth plane and wreak cataclysmic destruction.
In the reboot it is a human wanna be super villain named Rowan North (played by Neil Casey) who purposefully seeks to break down the boundary between the astral plane and the human realm through parapsychological terrorism. He leaves cyclotrons around NYC, positioned at key intersections of the city’s ley lines, blowing up holes in the barrier separating this world from The Other World. North is a loner, misanthrope, and nihilistic psychonautic terrorist. He’s a “beta”, whose been rejected by the world. No friends, no lovers, no recognition. He’s withdrawn, resentful, and convinced of his own brilliance unappreciated by the sheeple. He’s a version of the conventional media depiction of a so-called lone wolf spree killer or terrorist. The key point is that North opens the portals to the other world whereas in the original film, the Otherworld comes crashing down into our world unannounced.
In other words, the reboot is deeply anthropocentric. We see the continued march of secularizing tendencies infecting even a film ostensibly about ghosts. The reboot is much more about the haunted nature of contemporary human consciousness than it is about ghosts (in a way that the original film was most definitely a deep exploration of mythology, religious symbolism, occult mysticism, and etheric realities). The specter that hangs over this film is the “hungry ghost” of contemporary culture—feeding constantly and never satisfied. It reveals (intentionally or unintentionally) the haunted, vacuous, and not fully incarnate nature of a culture built on technocracy, scientism, social media distortion, social anonymity, and militarization.
In this case I ain’t afraid of no ghosts might not be the best slogan. Maybe these ghosts that haunt are reality are ones we should take much more seriously. When the Ghostbusters themselves are lost in the same spectral unreality as the everyone else, who then are we gonna call?
* I say so-called paranormal because the concept of the paranormal is itself ideological and riven by scientistic presuppositions. Para means "next to" or "alongside of", so paranormal is that which is "next to or alongside of" the presumed normal, that is to say the "regular" world described by mainstream science. I prefer the notion of super natural as described by Jeffrey Kripal and Whitley Streiber.