The second part of this series of articles on Eyes Wide Shut takes a closer look at the elite secret society discovered by the film’s main character, Bill Harford, and how it resembles real life organizations. Was Stanley Kubrick trying to warn the world about the occult elite and its depraved ways?
Note: It is recommended that you read the first part of this series first. Also, gigantic spoilers.
In the first part of this series on Eyes Wide Shut, we looked at main characters of the film and the symbolic world Kubrick created around them. We saw that Bill and Alice Harford are a married upper-class couple that was not immune to the temptations of adultery. We also saw that the couple was in contact with the upper-echelon of New-York and its decadent ways – a world that fascinates Bill, but that has a dark side, one that is kept from the public. In this article, I will jump straight to the most unsettling part of the movie: The secret society ritual.
When Bill learns that his wife has considered cheating on him, he embarks on a strange series of encounters (which I will analyze in the third and final part of this series), eventually ending up in a luxurious house in Long Island where he encounters a large gathering of masked individuals partaking in an occult ritual. Since he was never initiated into that secret society, Bill was not even supposed to know that it existed, let alone bear witness to one of its “meetings”. So how did he find out about this thing? Well, a little birdie told him.
At one point during his strange night out, Bill meets his old friend Nick Nightingale at a jazz cafe. The professional piano player reveals to Bill that he is sometimes hired by mysterious people to play, blindfolded, during mysterious parties that are full of beautiful women. This juicy piece of information intrigues Bill to the highest degree because. Since his talk with his wife, he appears to be looking for some kind of … experience. Nick ultimately makes a big mistake and agrees to provide Bill with all of the information needed to access the venue.
A nightingale is the type of bird that is known for singing at night, just like Nick Nightingale “sings” secret information at the start of Bill’s fateful night.
The password to enter the ritual is “Fidelio”, which means “faithfulness”, a main theme of the movie. More importantly, as Nightingale points out, “Fidelio” is the name of an opera written by Beethoven about a wife who sacrifices herself to free her husband from death as a political prisoner. This password actually foreshadows what will happen during that ritual.
After getting the details from Nightingale, Bill rents a costume at a store named “Rainbow” (more about the store in the next article) … and then proceeds to go to Somerton, the estate where the party is being held.
The Occult Elite
The location selected to film the elite scenes is quite interesting. Mentmore Towers was built in the 19th century as a country house for a member of the most prominent and powerful elite family in the world: The Rothschilds. By selecting this location, was Kubrick trying to show his audience the “real world” equivalents to the ultra-elite shown in the movie? Incidentally, the name of Bill’s connection to the elite, Victor Ziegler, is of German-Jewish origins, like Rothschild.
It has been documented that the Rothschilds do actually partake in masked events very similar to those shown in Eyes Wide Shut. Here are rare pictures from a 1972 party given by Marie-Hélène de Rothschild.
In the movie, when Bill enters the mansion, he mixes with a crowd of masked people silently watching the ritual. One of these people appears to instantly recognize Bill (or the fact that he doesn’t belong here).
Venetian masks were originally worn during the Italian Renaissance in Venice and were a way for the powerful elite of the time to indulge in debauchery without reprisal.
“Though the precise origin of the mask-wearing tradition can’t be known for certain, the prevailing theory goes something like this: beginning in the Italian Renaissance, Venice was an extremely wealthy and powerful merchant empire. Its position on the Mediterranean sea opened it up to a myriad of trading opportunities across Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor, and its powerful navy allowed it to exert the military force necessary to defend its vast wealth. In a city-state so prosperous, it’s a small wonder that Venetian society was class-obsessed and rigidly stratified. One’s individual standing was immensely important for the perception of his or her entire family, and so naturally the pressure to act in accordance with the social morays governing one’s social standing was immense and stifling. The Venetians, the theory goes, adopted the practice of wearing masks and other disguises during the Carnival season as a way of suspending the rigid social order. Under the cloak of anonymity, the citizens of Venice could loosen their inhibitions without fear of reprisal. Masks gained so much popularity that the mascherari (mask makers) became a venerated guild in Venetian society. However, as word of the famed Venetian Carnival spread, more and more outsiders flocked to the city every year to take part in the festivities. The Carnival celebrations became increasingly chaotic and debaucherous as the years progressed until their decline in the 18th Century.”
– Geoffrey Stanton, Guide to Venetian Carnival Masks
Since then, Venetian masks have been used in elite circles and have somewhat become a symbol of its dark occult philosophy. Even The British Royal Family appears to enjoy the same type of masks and events.
That particular Royal event featured masked women who were as NOT dressed as those in the Eyes Wide Shut ritual.
It seems evident that Kubrick carefully selected the Rothschild-owned location and hand-picked the masks worn by participants of the ritual, echoing real-life families and events.
Setting of the Ritual
When Bill enters Somerton, everything about the movie changes. There are no more colorful Christmas lights and no tacky decorations. Instead of incessant chatter between needy people, it is all about stillness and silence.
The music in the movie also changes drastically. The song heard in the background is called “Backwards Priests” and features a Romanian Orthodox Divine Liturgy played backward. The reversal or inversion of sacred objects is typical of black magic and satanic rituals. By having this Christian liturgy played backward right before widespread fornication is Kubrick’s way of stating that the elite is nothing less than satanic.
The interior scenes of the party were shot at Elveden Hall, a private house in the UK designed to look like an Indian palace. When the “festivities” begin, a Tamil song called “Migration” plays in the background, adding to the South-Asian atmosphere (the original version of the song contained an actual scriptural recitation of the Bhagavad Gita, but the chant was removed in the final version of the movie). This peculiar Indian atmosphere, combined with the lascivious scenes witnessed by Bill as he walks around the house, ultimately points towards the most important, yet most hidden part of the movie: Tantric Yoga and its Western occultism derivative, Sex Magick. This last concept was “imported” by British occultist Aleister Crowley and is now at the center of the teachings of various secret societies:
“Aleister Crowley’s connections with Indian Yoga and Tantra were both considerable and complex. Crowley had direct exposure to some forms of these practices and was familiar with the contemporary literature of the subjects, wrote extensively about them, and – what is perhaps the most important – he practiced them. In his assessment of the value of Tantra, he was ahead of his time, which habitually considered Tantra a degenerate form of Hinduism. Instead, he claimed that, “paradoxical as it may sound the Tantrics are in reality the most advanced of the Hindus”. Crowley’s influence in bringing Eastern, primarily Indian, esoteric traditions to the West extends also to his incorporation of the elements of Yoga and Tantra into the structure and program of two influential magical orders, the A.:A.: and the OTO.”
– Martin P. Starr, Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism
The above quote stipulates that Tantric concepts were incorporated in two important secret societies: the A.:A.: and the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis). The OTO is still extremely influential in elite circles and reaches the highest levels of politics, business, and even the entertainment industry. At the core of these orders is the Thelema, a philosophy created by Aleister Crowley that he summed up with the saying “Do What Thou Wilt”. This saying is actually a translation of “Fais ce que tu voudras” the motto of an 18th-century secret society, the infamous Hellfire Club.
Hellfire Clubs were said to be “meeting places of ‘persons of quality’ who wished to take part in immoral acts, and the members were often very involved in politics”. According to a number of sources, their activities included mock religious ceremonies, devil worship, and occult rituals. Although details are vague regarding that elite club, they were known for performing elementary Satanic rites as a prelude to their nights of fornication. These acts were however not just “for fun” or to “shock people” as some sources might claim, the members were initiates of occult mysteries and their rituals were based in ancient rites involving invocations and other forms of black magick.
In short, although Kubrick never actually names the secret society infiltrated by Bill, there are enough clues to understand what kind of club he is referring to. Most importantly, he is telling his viewers: These societies still exist … and they are more powerful than ever.
The Ritual and its Participants
The ritual begins with the High Priest, dressed in red, performing a ceremonial routine. He is at the center of a “magic circle” formed by young women who are very likely to be Beta Kitten slaves. Later, when Bill is unmasked, another magic circle is formed.
At the beginning of the ritual, one of the Beta slaves goes to Bill and urges him to leave the house before he got caught. We ultimately learn that it was Amanda, the girl that was passed out in Ziegler’s bathroom. When Bill gets caught and gets (literally) unmasked by the High Priest, Amanda appears at the balcony in a very dramatic fashion and tells the High Priest she wants to “redeem” him, in a tone that approaches ritual drama. The Priest then replies “Are you sure you understand what you’re taking upon yourself in doing this?” This implies that she will be repeatedly abused and then sacrificed.
The next day, Bill discovers the true power of that secret society.
By freeze-framing and actually reading the above news article about Amanda, we learn important details about Amanda’s background (classic hidden sub-plot integration by Kubrick). To those “in the know”, the article perfectly describes the life of an entertainment industry Beta Programming slave (i.e. Marilyn Monroe). We indeed learn that Amanda was “emotionally troubled” as a teen and underwent “treatments” (a code word for MK Programming perhaps?), she had “important friends in the fashion and entertainment worlds”, and she had an “affair” with a powerful fashion designer who got “wowed by her private, seductive solo performances” (typical behavior of a Beta Kitten). What the article however conveniently doesn’t mention is that she was selling her body to elite people and being used in their occult rituals.
As it is the case for Beta Kittens who’ve gone “rogue”, she was eliminated by the people who controlled her life. The article states that she was last seen being escorted to her hotel room by two men and that she was “giggling” (drugged and dissociated?). Like “real life” elite sacrifices, “overdose” is cited as the cause of her death.
The High Priest
Like other participants of the ritual, the true identity of the High Priest is never revealed. However, Kubrick left a few clues hinting at his identity and his relationship with Amanda.
In the movie’s end credits (and sources such as IMDB), it is listed that the role of the High Priest was played by “assistant director” of the movie, Leon Vitali. If one carefully reads the news article mentioned above, Leon Vitali is the name of the London fashion designer Amanda had an “affair” with. Furthermore, the High Priest has an unmistakable English accent. We can, therefore, deduce that the High Priest is the fashion designer.
This hidden subplot is interesting as it reveals the true nature of the fashion and entertainment industry. High-ranking individuals in these fields are initiated in occult secret societies and deal with MK slaves.
The Power of the Secret Society
When Bill is uncovered by the High Priest, he gets told that he and his family would pay for any transgression. The next day, he realizes that he is being followed by strange people and becomes paranoid.
Right after Bill leaves the morgue to confirm that Amanda died, Ziegler calls him and invites him over.
Although Bill is a rich doctor, he is not part of the elite. Ziegler’s attitude towards Bill makes it very clear. While Ziegler appears to want to be honest and straight with Bill, we realize that he is simply trying to cover the ugly truth. After all, Bill is an “outsider”. He tells Bill:
“I don’t think you realize what kind of trouble you were in last night. Who do you think those people were? Those were not just ordinary people there. If I told you their names – I’m not gonna tell you their names – but if I did, I don’t think you’d sleep so well.”
Ziegler, therefore, admits that people attending the ritual were high-level, well-known and powerful people. Kubrick is making clear that the richest, most powerful deciders of the “real world” meet in these types of rituals … and that these rituals are off-limits to the profane.
When Bill mentions Amanda, Ziegler gets more defensive and replies: “She was a hooker” – meaning that she was a Beta slave that could be easily disposed of. Then Ziegler tells Bill that everything that happened at the ritual was a charade to scare him, Bill answers:
“You called it a fake, a charade. Do you mind telling me what kind of f—-cking charade ends with someone turning up dead?”
This highlights the fundamental difference between the public’s perception of occult rituals and what actually happens. Regular people are lead to believe that these elite rituals are nothing more than goofy meetings of people with too much time on their hands. In reality, these elaborate rituals often incorporate real attempts at Black Magick and include real blood sacrifices and other terrible acts.
Then Ziegler proceeds to tell Bill the same stuff media tells the masses when someone has been sacrificed by the elite: She OD’ed, she was a junkie, it was only a matter of time, and the police did not see any foul play.
Conclusion of Part II
The second part of this analysis focused exclusively on the unnamed secret society Bill stumbles upon and its ritual. Although nothing is explicitly spelled out to the viewers, the symbolism, the visual clues and even the music of Eyes Wide Shut tell reveals a side of the occult elite that is rarely shown to the masses. Not only does the movie depict the world’s richest and most powerful people partaking in occult rituals, it also shows how this circle has also the power to exploit slaves, to stalk people, and even to get away with sacrificial murders. Even worse, mass media participates in covering their crimes.
The secret society in the movie closely resembles the infamous Hellfire Club, where prominent political figures met up to partake in elaborate Satanic parties. Today, the O.T.O. and similar secret societies still partake in rituals involving physical energy as it is perceived to be a way to attain a state of enlightenment. This concept, taken from Tantric yoga, is at the core of modern and powerful secret societies. Although none of this is actually mentioned in Eyes Wide Shut, the entire movie can be interpreted as one big “magickal” journey, characterized by a back-and-forth between opposing forces: life and death, lust and pain, male and female, light and darkness, and so forth … ending in one big orgasmic moment of enlightenment. This aspect of the movie, along with other hidden details, will be analyzed in the third and final part of this series of articles on Eyes Wide Shut.