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The Machines As God
by The Siegels
The machine world (and Zion) are the real world, and the Matrix really is a construct of the machines for those of us who are not ready for salvation. The purpose of the "One" is salvation of humans (those in Zion and those in the Matrix who would prefer salvation to a life in the dark). So what is different than what most have said? The twist is that the machines are really here to help us achieve that salvation. All of these "programs" like the Architect, the Oracle, the Merovingian, the keymaker, etc. are just helping us along until we are ready and the real "One" is ready. The machines are actually benevolent and represent God and his angels/prophets.
The key scene in the Trilogy is clearly Neo with the Architect in Reloaded. The Oracle and the Architect have been through this five times before and each time the false savior (the "One" at that time) has chosen to "reboot" and rebuild Zion. They are waiting for the true "One" who will choose to not start over but to affect the salvation of humans. But that "One" needs to choose for himself whether he (and humankind) is ready or not. An interesting side question: were the first five "Ones" really "Ones"? The answer I think is no; they chose not salvation but to start over, much like Noah built the ark to "save" some creatures but was not a savior. In fact, an interesting theological point that Neo asserts to the Architect is "Would you destroy all of mankind if I chose that direction?" with the Architect responding yes. This would be akin to Noah telling God that he won't build the ark and daring God to destroy it all. But I digress...
The choice Neo has is to "give up" and reveal he is not the "One" by choosing to rebuild Zion and start over again (a Noah type decision) or to reveal both his human and supernatural side by choosing to save Trinity and eventually "save" humankind. Now some intrepret the Architect as being upset that Neo chooses the latter. I think it is clear that he and the Oracle are simply waiting (as programs of God) for the right "One" to emerge and choose the door back to the Matrix.
So what is the problem? Why not just tell Neo he is the "One" and be straight with him? Well, the Architect and Oracle cannot do this because Neo has to conclude he is the "One" because there will have to be an epic battle. Realize that if Neo chose to go to the Source and reboot then Smith goes away as well and everything starts anew; by choosing to stay he causes Smith's power to increase as well as he becomes the "anti-One". This is the risk the Machine God (and thus the Architect and Oracle are taking). Inevitably when the "One" is chosen (or more accurately "chooses") to balance the equation, the anti-One must emerge in an epic battle with the One. This is the risk the Architect is talking about at the end of Revolutions to the Oracle: they took a risk that Neo was ready and would defeat Smith. Why?
Once Neo chooses to be the true "One" then God no longer controls the outcome of the world in some respect; Neo (and we) have free choice and will. If evil triumphs it will take over the world (both in the Matrix and outside). God now has to watch the struggle of good and evil in our free will battle and hope Neo wins and becomes our salvation by dying for our sins. This is the risk that the Machine God is taking.
To me, viewing the machines as God and have them rooting for us and guiding us to our inevitable salvation or downfall is the cleanest interpretation of the Trilogy.
Q and A on this essay:
Q: Who are all of these "programs"?
A: Angels and prophets (and some demons like the Merovingian) guiding us to salvation or tempting our downfall but always testing us along the way.
Q: Is Zion real?
Q: Why are humans hooked up to the Matrix?
A: Because most are not ready to live in the real world yet. We need this other world to exist for nonbelievers and those who do not "seek" salvation.
Q: Are those in Zion "saved" at the end?
A: Yes, because they seeked salvation and Neo died for their sins. Those in the Matrix still seeking salvation will be saved as well. Those not seeking salvation will not be saved; after all there is free will (see the last conversation in Revolutions).
Q: If the machines are on our side, why attack Zion and why try to kill the "One"?
A: This is the test of the One and the punishing of mankind for its sins; until the "One" dies for us this is the way God runs the show so to speak (see 40 years in the desert, the flood, Sodom and Gommorrah, etc.). This is an important aspect of the story: they are destroying Zion for our own good until our salvation is achieved.
Did You Know?
A reason for the 'sixth' One: six is the biblical day on which humanity was made, and Neo is in a sense the first 'human'. He is certainly the first 'One' who defeats the system and establishes the basis for freedom. The seventh 'reloading' would then be a 'sabbath': a 'day' of rest, on which the war would be over, or at least paused.
- Suggested by Wes Howard-Brook