By now I would imagine most—if not all—of us have heard the term “red pill.” If you haven’t, it is a term derived from a scene in the movie The Matrix wherein the protagonist, Neo, has the option of taking one of two pills.
He can take a blue pill and his life will go back to the way things were before he began to “wake up” to the inconsistencies in the matrix; or he can take the red pill and fully detach from the lies he has lived under. He is given a warning, however: if he does take the red pill, his life will never be the same again—there is no going back after the red pill!
All of us have had red-pill moments, whether in the Church or in the secular world. Covid was a red pill for a lot of people regarding the role of government in their lives, and the recent attacks on the Traditional Mass have red-pilled more than a few who held onto the rosy idea of the “hermeneutic of continuity.”
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Everyone has a different journey, and the moments that red-pill us out of our adherence to lies and partial truths are unique to our situation.
Now, the thing about red pills is that they can be dangerous.
There is an exhilarating feeling you get when you take that first pill. When you wake up to something you have been asleep on, you are immediately invigorated and motivated to live in the new truth you have discovered. This is a good thing…until it isn’t.
What I mean to say is that there is a point when you can take too many red pills, and, by doing so, the red pills stop doing what red pills are supposed to do.
The purpose of the red pill is to get you out of the matrix, which is to say out of the world of lies and partial truths. However, if you have been liberated from the lies that you believed before, there is a temptation to then distrust everything that your senses and lived experience tell you. This poses a danger because we can go from a mere liberation from untruth to a complete distrust of all things that are presented as truth.
The Matrix film was nothing more than a technological representation of an Allegory of the Cave story. If you are unfamiliar, the Allegory of the Cave is one of Plato’s masterpieces wherein he describes liberation from lies and partial truths. The short version is that someone who was shackled in a dark cave and forced to look at shadows of real things on the cave wall—the whole time believing they were the real things—is set free from the cave and comes to contemplate reality in its true form. He is out of the cave and thus sees the true light from the sun and the true forms and essences of things that he only saw as shadows previously. It is an astonishing allegory.
Now, imagine that story but with a character who goes even further than liberation from the cave. Imagine if after seeing real trees and real animals for the first time, he then assumes that those real things were in fact just more highly advanced shadows of real things that he has still not seen. Imagine that when he sees the sun he takes it to be simply a reflection or imitation of the real sun which he has yet to see.
You can easily see how deep a man could go down the path of speculation, to the point where he is in complete doubt of his reality. He may not be physically shackled anymore, but he will have mentally paralyzed himself from contemplating reality. In a way, he has created a new cave for himself of his own making, wherein he believes he still only sees shadows.
We can extend this to the theme of The Matrix and apply it more easily to our day.
Most of what modern man sees regarding information and media comes by way of internet communication. Of course, we see that there are innumerable lies to be found on the internet. Thus, we seek the truth of things and we red-pill ourselves in the process. So far so good.
But, what if after rejecting our former matrix we then create another?
For example, we might see the truth about a virus or a vaccine being something different than what has been sold to us. But then we go one step further and we now take another set of partial truths or falsities that we believe to be true and create a wholly new matrix of partial truths and untruths that we believe explain the totality of our new reality.
Another example: we might see through an unhealthy ultramontanism or papalism in the Church in recent decades. But then we go one step further and begin to doubt the papacy as a whole…falling into the new matrix of sedevacantism—an ecclesial view based on partial (even if convincing) truths that require speculation about things we simply cannot know.
Like many things in life, moderation is paramount, and this applies to red pills. There is a virtual infinity of things that we could spend our time trying to be red-pilled on. And in the end, we will have wasted our time.
In addition, a life lived on red pills is an unstable way of being. We spend the whole time tearing things down and disbelieving things so that we leave little room to build things up and to believe in real things. I dare not group in all alternative sources of information as “conspiracy,” but it must be said that there is a tendency in the world of continual red-pilling to become a bit negative or even to despair about the state of things.
It is one thing to see the truth and live in the truth, and it is another to spend all your time debunking everything you see to the point where you see nothing good at all.
This is not to say that a good red-pilling is not necessary here and there—it surely is! But too many red pills might be bad for your health.
The remedy to this, of course, is to contemplate the Truth we know to be real: Jesus Christ. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will not be fooled by anyone.
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