It’s been on my mind to add a brief update to The Base Self for some time. Turns out, today’s the day. Hope you enjoy it.

Sphere and Forbidden Planet

The movie Sphere (1998), adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, offers food for thought in terms of the Base Self (nafs al-ammara). The encounter with an alien object is quite similar to that in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (see frames below). However, I believe that a comparison with an even earlier sci-fi film will prove more fruitful: Forbidden Planet (1956).

Let us examine the storylines of both movies. For those who haven’t watched them and would like to, the descriptions below may contain spoilers, so please be aware of that. In what follows, I shall put into proper temporal sequence what emerges only gradually in the movies.


Sometime in the future, an American spaceship takes off in search of extraterrestrial collectibles. On some far-distant world, the crew members find a large, balloon-like sphere of gold. They bring it on board, but soon afterwards, they all perish under mysterious circumstances. The spaceship encounters a black hole that takes it not only back to our world, but to a time 300 years before the present. The ship settles on the bottom of the Southern Pacific Ocean.

Cut to the present. A team of scientists sets out to investigate what remains of the ship. They settle in an underwater Habitat close by, and during their search encounter the golden globe. Soon, weird things begin to happen: whenever a scientist is sleeping, his or her dream, or rather nightmare, becomes actualized in real life.

Finally, the scientists are able to figure out the cause. Those who enter the sphere acquire the power to manifest their subconscious thoughts into reality. The survivors decide to forget about the Sphere altogether. As the associated Wikipedia article states, they discover that “all of the disasters that had been plaguing them are the result of manifestations of the worst parts of their own minds. As they erase their memories, the Sphere emerges from the ocean and flies off into space.”

Forbidden Planet

“A long time ago on a planet far, far away,” there lived a race of advanced extraterrestrial beings called the Krell. Their technology was as far ahead of ours as ours is from the Stone Age—maybe more. Finally, the Krell built their masterpiece: a gigantic machine, which could (again according to Wikipedia) “materialize anything the Krell could imagine, projecting matter anywhere on the planet.” They had only to imagine an orange, and it would be there for the eating.

Unfortunately, at the zenith of their achievement, the Krell were decimated by a mysterious force, cut down in their prime under inexplicable circumstances.

Sometime in the future, when humans have mastered interstellar travel, a flying saucer takes off from earth to investigate the loss of an expedition on the planet of the Krell (the “Forbidden Planet”). They arrive to find that all the expedition members have perished, except for Dr. Edward Morbius and his beautiful daughter. It turns out that Morbius has been studying the Krell and their civilization for a long time. He has discovered the Great Machine and has used it to enhance his powers of imagination and intellect.

Meanwhile, the investigators’ flying saucer is sabotaged. They set up a force-field perimeter, but it does not stop the unknown intruder, and the spaceship’s chief engineer is killed. The next time, the crew is prepared. “They quickly discover that the creature is invisible. Its roaring image becomes visible as it stands within the fence's force field, further enhanced by the crew's directed high-energy weapons fire, all of which have no effect. It kills several of the crew…” When Morbius wakes up somewhere else, the creature suddenly vanishes.

In the movie, the creature is hard to discern. The center image below is the negative of the still on the left, and gives a better idea of the invisible monster’s shape. The drawing on the right gives an even clearer impression.

The captain of the spacecraft finally pieces it all together. The Krell had forgotten one thing: the monsters of the Id, that is, the repressed unconscious discovered by Freud.

Unfortunately, the Great Machine materialized not only good things, but—with equal indifference—also all the negative thoughts and feelings the Krell had harbored against each other. They were all destroyed by the creations of the machine they built, but ultimately, by themselves.

And the machine still functions—for Morbius. What has been called the “Id monster” is a creation of his own subconscious, with its pent-up feelings of hostility against the members of the earlier expedition and later, the visiting spacecraft. “Unfortunately, Morbius retains enough of his imperfect human nature to be afflicted with hubris and a contempt for humanity. Not recognizing his own base primitive drives and limitations proves to be Morbius' downfall, as it had for the extinct Krell.” The Wikipedia article concludes: “Morbius finally accepts the truth: the creature is an extension of his own mind, ‘his evil self’.”

And with that final piece of evidence in place, we are back in the domain of the Base Self. As for the Sphere in Crichton’s movie, it is but a much smaller version of the Krell Machine.

Truth stares at us out of the most unexpected corners. It may seem odd that an old science-fiction movie should provide the ultimate verdict on our industrial civilization and technology. Yet what has been projected as the Krells’ achievement is only the logical conclusion of our own strivings. We are being warned: “The more advanced your technology, the greater the need to control the Base Self.” The alternative is our own self-destruction as a species.

The movie also sheds light on the afterlife, on heaven and hell. In heaven, we are told, we will only need to think of something, and it will become “materialized” before our eyes (presented to our awareness and enjoyment). But what if we think bad thoughts? That will be a “materialization” from hell.

That is why the sum of our experiences in this world is so important for the next world. If we think good thoughts (and good deeds are the strongest form, the actualization, of good thoughts), we will project positive realities: that is, heaven. Otherwise… well, a word to the wise is sufficient.