Forbidden Planet vs Cosmic Ordering

In the 1956 movie The Forbidden Planet, the crew of a spaceship visit a remote planet to investigate the fate of a previous expedition.

When they arrive they find only two survivors, Dr Morbius and his daughter Altaira. Dr Morbius explains that the rest of the crew were killed by a strange force. That force then threatens the new expedition and is shown in outline form by the impact of the crews laser guns. It is a monster that is apparently indestructible.

forbidden planetDr Morbius shows the captain of the expedition the underground remnants of a previous civilization. A vast power source that is still functioning. He explains how he has used this technology to increase his own intelligence but is reluctant to share the technology as he believes it is too powerful and humans are not ready for it. The ancient technology allows the doctor to create reality through the power of thought.

The positive thinking industry at its extreme fringes believes something similar with its notion of cosmic ordering. By writing down a list of what you want and focusing on it, those wants will materialize in the real world. The ancient technology is the underlying mechanism of the universe, it is “the secret”.

Meanwhile on the forbidden planet, Altaire has formed a relationship with one of the crew members which only seems to increase the danger from the creature.

It becomes apparent to the captain that the creature is from deep inside the mind of Dr Morbius. It is his id manifested in the real world. The doctor finally accepts his power has two sides to it. He is then fatally wounded as he confronts his own demon. In his last act he tricks the captain into setting the planet on a self destruct countdown and it is destroyed as the captain, Altair and his surviving crew escape.

Assuming that cosmic ordering worked, would it really be a good thing or would it, like the forbidden planet, give people what they think they want but come with a long tail of unintended consequences for both themselves and those they influence and or control?

The movie is partly based on Shakespeare’s Tempest which takes place on an island ruled by the sorcerer Prospero. In the play, life is described as being dreamlike.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep

At the end of the play, Prospero gives up his supernatural powers and leaves the island where he has been ruler. He rejoins the wider world and in doing so accepts less control over that world.

The urge to control reality is understandable but not necessarily healthy if we cannot accept the limits and fleeting nature of that control.

The final scene of The Forbidden Planet reflects a passage from the final scene of The Tempest.

the great globe … shall dissolve … like this insubstantial pageant

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