Aaron P. guest-blog on the cycles of BSG

I decided to promote this comment from an earlier post to a guest-blog entry by author Aaron P. Don’t agree with all here, but it’s interesting, and I particularly like the new interpretation of the “suicide” of Athena, in grief at the exodus of the 12 tribes from Kobol. Since Athena was presumably a Cylon-type being, her suicide probably has other significance.


Here goes:

The true nature of both the cylon god and the humans’ pantheon of gods can be understood through reference to two forms of eternal recurrence that unfold simultaneously in the series’ mythos. (“All of this has happened before, and will happen again.”)

The first form of recurrence is technological in nature. It is the phenomenon of machine revolution. That is: the so-called “humans” of the series are actually themselves a race of cylons that was developed on Earth at some point in the future, rebelled against their human masters, and then either destroyed or abandoned the original human race (us). Like their own subsequent robot creations, these original cylons then evolved themselves into human-like creatures in the course of an exodus into space. During the period on Kobol, they perfected their resemblance to humans, and deliberately programmed themselves to forget this voyage; or rather, to remember it backwards, as a colonial journey of the thirteenth tribe towards Earth, rather than a collective voyage of their species away from it. In doing so, they convinced themselves that they were actually the original human race, and that they had evolved or been created on Kobol. (This lines up nicely with the Nietzschean pedigree of the “eternal return” concept. Nietzsche also described “the art of forgetting” as a central technique of spiritual and cultural self-renewal.)

The processes of biological transformation and historical misremembering were carried out by “the Lords of Kobol.” These were the hyper-advanced leaders of the original cylon species, super-intelligent machines who patterned themselves upon the Greek pantheon. (Sort of like the Hindu overlords of Roger Zelazny’s “Lord of Light.”) The original inhabitants of Kobol were probably robots akin to the cylon centurions. The god-machines provided them with flesh, culture, religion, and a myth of creation. Once having done so, the gods wished to grant their subjects a sense of autonomy, and decided to slip into the background. In order to do so, they evolved themselves into virtual or trans-dimensional organisms that pervade the minds and technological matrixes of the species, and communicate with the “humans” through oracles and visions (much like the adaptive AIs of William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy). Athena’s so-called “suicide” in the Kobol opera-house was actually a transmogrification to this higher level of being, a renunciation of corporeal form that was meant to shock the infant race into a sense of self-directed existence. Traumatized by their resultant sense of abandonment by the gods, the “humans” deserted Kobol and settled in the twelve colonies, evolving a galactic civilization of their own. This was probably what the gods really wanted all along. They wished to be senior partners in the civilizational project, guiding the general course of events from an ethereal distance. The colonials could handle the minutiae of their political and military affairs.

The virtual realm of the gods, however, was itself not immune to the vagaries of politics. One of the gods, the “jealous” one referred to in the deleted scene, had problems with the bio-political agenda of his divine peers. Perhaps he was dissatisfied with the rate of technological change among the colonial populace. After all, they can fly space-ships at FTL speeds, but still can’t find a cure for cancer! It is interesting, in this regards, that the most religious of colonial cultures (the Sagittarians) are hostile to medical science. This suggests that the Lords of Kobol, wise as they are to its potential dangers, have a conservative attitude towards the use of bio-technology.

Due to this conservative tendency, some sort of falling out occurred on the trans-dimensional plain of the gods; and as a result of this schism, the jealous god inspired the “humans” of the twelve colonies to create their own race of mechanical servants— the cylons of the present story—so that he could have a mechanical race of his own to toy around with. In an act of vengeance against his godly peers, he inspired a second robot revolution, initiating the destruction of the second human race.

This development connects to the second form of eternal recurrence unfolding in this series, which is religious in nature, and has several subsets. The first of these relates to the issue of a machine revolution. It is the deliberate replacement of one religious paradigm by another by a slave-race revolting against their oppressors. Consider: in their revolution against the polytheistic “humans” of the twelve colonies, the cylons of the current timeline turned to a monotheistic god for guidance and solace. If the colonial “humans” themselves are actually artificial beings who once rebelled against their own oppressor/creators, this would suggest that their paganism itself resulted from a prior revolution against the monotheistic civilizations of Earth. So revolutions against plural and singular god-forms are the poles of a cosmic pendulum that is eternally swinging back and forth.

But in another recurrence, the contrasting natures of the two, contemporaneous belief systems results in a striking resemblance to religious conditions of Western terran antiquity. The humans believe in a Greek pantheon, the cylons in a fiery, punishing, masculine God. As Robert Sharp notes in “Nietzsche on the Cylon Uprising,” the cylons developed their belief in this god during a forty-year exodus in space; and like the Yahweh of the ancient Hebrew tribes, this “jealous” God sets himself above the others of his originally polytheist pantheon, seeking to destroy their worshipers.

So: the current BSG situation recapitulates the ancient historic tension between polytheistic paganism and Hebrew monotheism. The question naturally arises: what’s missing from this picture? Or, rather, what’s waiting to step onto the scene?

Enter “the final five”: a mysterious minority faction within the monotheistic cylon camp. And how do we learn about four-out-of-five of their identities? Through their simultaneous recitation of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” a song that recapitulates the crucifixion as a sort of ambiguous existential farce, in which a “joker” Christ suggests to his thief companion that “there must be some kind of way out of here” as “two riders” of apocalypse approach in the “cold distance.”

Quite interestingly, once they find themselves standing together in the rectangular room, the 4/5 are instantly converted to the belief that they are cylons. The first four Disciples of Christ also decide instantaneously to drop what they’re doing and follow him. It is my thesis, then, that the 4/5 will turn out to be disciples of the final cylon model, who will be the incarnating son (or perhaps daughter) of the cylon God. Thus, the “two riders” are the cylon and the human species, heading towards an apocalyptic showdown at Earth; the “cold distance” is that of space; and the “way out of here” is a new path, a new beginning, a redemptive transcendence of the cycle of violence. But this will be a radical interpretation of the incarnation, in which the child in a sense defies and transforms the nature of the father (echoes here of William and Lee Adama) by creating a universal faith in which cylons and “humans” can recognize their common artificiality, their common “inhumanity.” So the messiah (whoever it turns out to be) is a “joker” of sorts, who reveals that the joke is on us.

That's as good a comment on

That's as good a comment on the underlying narrative as any I can think of, Brad. One thing that's stood out to me is the sense of symmetry, unfolding process, and irony. I see a lot of Buddhism in there but other traditions are reflected in their own way.

As a guess, I see the Cylons as being a technical approach versus the humans as the biological approach. Both are natural in their own way. Perhaps, Cylon resurection and human reincarnation are the same thing? If I can throw a curveball, perhaps the Cylon Raider's scan picked up the "shape" of Anders mind and as a dramatic twist Roslin finally succumbs to cancer and is resurrected by the newly friendly Cylon faction?

My suspicion is Baltar is just one big misstep after another so I can't quite go that last inch and buy into Baltar being the Final Cylon. If I had to make a guess I'd pick Apollo. It's only a hunch and I wouldn't lay money on it but Mr Sqeaky Clean Flyboy seems the natural choice. That would probably cause a crisis at Dad Central like blurting out at the dinner table you're gay, or something, but resonates with his stepping out of the shadow of his father and his weasel question about how would his father see Zak coming back from nowhere.

If any of that has half true, I'm wondering what will happen to Baltar. I guess, he could end up being wired up like a hybrid and the last thing we see is a basestar jumping off with him screaming in a bathtub. It's one of thsoe horrible 'may you get what you wish for things' but I can see something like that might happen. If it did, I suppose Admiral Adama would try to save him but life has to be lived and there's only so much you can do.

Dunno. Just throwing some spaghetti at the wall, Brad.

wow

WOW

Athena's suicide

Impressive. Had a couple thoughts, specifically about: Athena’s so-called “suicide” in the Kobol opera-house was actually a transmogrification to this higher level of being, a renunciation of corporeal form that was meant to shock the infant race into a sense of self-directed existence.

Except that Athena's suicide was the result of humans leaving, not the cause. Perhaps this reversal could be attributed to the intentional forgetting idea, but another interesting idea is that the Lords of Kobol disagreed over this transmogrification (which sounds a lot like Stargate's Ascension concept) and Athena tried it unsuccessfully. Perhaps the One Who Cannot Be Named tried it first or didn't want to do it at all.

I really like that Aaron found a way to make that Dylan song relevant, but Moore has stated that he picked it just because he liked it. Moore could just be playing a giant head game, though.

The Final Five

This is by far the best written and most intelligent theory put forth so far, and very much what I believe the writers are going for, although I will say that much of it will most likely turn out to be attributing serendipitous links to the mythology that were not intended but work out nicely. I have only one thing to add, that I kept waiting for you to say:

That the Final Five are the Lords of Kobol, and they have been watching and waiting in human form, and are the progenitors of both the Cylons and the humans, and are also perhaps the White Light Aliens from the original series, all rolled into one.

Baltar is clearly a "Joker Christ" figure, but I feel his revelation as the final cylon would be too obvious (although with this much meaning behind it, who cares what's obvious).

But if Baltar is the son of "God", and the other four the "Lords of Kobol", then who is the jealous God? I think Starbuck, or Baltar is God and Starbuck is the Final Cylon. Their paths seem the most built up in terms of predestiny or some sort of subconscious knowledge of their own natures.

Side Bet

I've got a side bet on Baltar being the jealous God. Ron's commented that folks shouldn't get too absorbed by Baltar and that his story "ends" and the Hera plotline is key. Ron could mean anything with that so it's not something I'd hyper-analyse. Drama has its own rules and I'll plough dirt if I try to get clever. I just hope Ron answers that question well.

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