(Note: this is the English translation of the text
originally published in Romanian at http://cumpana-o-viziune-ortodoxa.blogspot.com/2020/12/devs.html)
I think that the most interesting
thing about the DEVS miniseries (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8134186/)
is neither the idea that everything is pre-determined nor the comprehensive
function of the multiverse hypothesis (which eventually becomes the baseline
scenario). Nor is it that people would be able to produce an omniscient
machine, capable not only of anticipating the future with atomic precision, but
also of reconstructing the whole past with the same precision. The apparent
point in DEVS is that even freedom can be, if not anticipated, then at least
restrained, controlled and eliminated.
But if Devs (Deus) is able to
anticipate everything (including what cannot be anticipated?), then why in the
end of the film Katie, the chief designer, asks a politician to provide funding
and ensure the secrecy of the laboratory's work in order to sustain the Devs
program? What kind of god is the one who needs funds to survive? What kind of
god is the one you can unplug at any time?
It is the god of those who want only
a bearable and somewhat plausible version of reality. It is the god of all
Christians and non-Christians who do not want to live in the truth. It is the
god that the world listens to even when this god projects a painful version of
reality. For example, when he tells you to throw yourself into the void with
the promise that you will find yourself in a convenient version of reality. It
is the god who helps us separate the Way from the Truth and the Truth from the
After they die, Lily and Forest wake up in the simulated reality of
Devs. At first glance, we might get the impression that unlike the other
characters in this parallel universe, Lily and Forest are real. In fact, they are just
projections, very complex simulations but no different from all the other characters
in this simulated world.
The Devs program can no longer
anticipate reality, and therefore it can no longer serve the purposes for which
it was created and sustained. It is probably expected to serve only as a
compensation for the afterlife insofar as psychologists, therapists and
governmental clergy believe that it could be useful to the political power as a
tool to control the hope and faith of the population in a better world. With
the unanticipated gestures of Lily and Stewart, Devs loses its understanding of
reality, reducing its projections to a simulation of the hereafter. From this
point of view, Devs is only now revealing its essential demonic nature.
When Forest promises that all will be well, he
is already dead within. For him, it is not death that is the problem, but life.
For him, everything will be well once he leaves this life. But what the
engineers of the simulated life do not know is that what comes after death is
something that can be even harder to predict than the events of this world, in
fact, it is something impossible to anticipate: it is either the opposite of
life, or, hopefully, what “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have
entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that
love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
After she dies, Lily does in the program everything she would have done
in real life, but this doesn’t make her any more alive. This is exactly the
main question asked by the film: what is the difference between a living person
and a character who, although he looks, acts and thinks identically, only
exists in a computer program? The difference is that the former exists and the
latter does not. One can get out of the deceitful universe of death, while the
other remains trapped inside it for as long as the program or the machinery
allows. Although the program is created to accomplish the resurrection, the
resurrection is the only thing that escapes the program. The program “dies”
with the death of man. Only the living man can say no to death, and his no can
save him insofar as he will say yes to the One who is “the Resurrection and the
Life” (John 11:25).
Devs does not “do” resurrection: the “afterlife” of Lily and Forest exists only in the computer program
and it is only a projected life in a possible universe that can only exist
within the hypothetical frame of the theory of the multiverse. Devs’
“Resurrection” is only the projection of a possible life, a life that “could
have been if” – that is, if it had not been interrupted by death. Death
determines the limits of the program, because we think of life as a program
whose limit is death, and Devs is, of course, created by this deadly way of
thinking. This is why the program cannot anticipate eternal life, but it can
only imagine an (immortal?) kind of life that most of us confuse with the
Devs saw Christ on the Cross. But it
could not see the Risen Christ. The Resurrected Christ lives outside the
program because the program “knew Him not” (John, 1:10). Resurrection is the only thing
that escapes the program. That is why it is the only thing that should concern
us all before and above anything else.
Additional comment, 11:47 pm:
When Lily throws away the gun, her gesture is not just a random, arbitrary
and secondary variation of the scenario projected by the Devs, but a
significant manifestation of her own freedom: unlike Forest, for whom everything – even
murder! – is inevitable and subject to the universal, inescapable cause-effect relation,
Lily refuses to kill. In this way, she refuses to act along the logic of the
causality of death, the only one that is accessible to Devs. From that moment
on, even without Stewart's subsequent intervention, Devs became contradicted by
the very reality it tried to represent, and thus a totally obsolete, out of
reality system. Lily confronted Devs with a reality whose existence the program could
not perceive, much less conceive.
Lily's free gesture means that Devs don't really have access to reality.
It never had. Reality presupposes freedom, it allows freedom. If Devs
projections have come to reproduce reality identically, it is because men do
not exercise their freedom, but refuse it, impoverishing reality and falsifying
it. The reconstruction of the Crucifixion of Christ by Devs shows Christ on the
Cross, but we usually miss the understanding of this moment. Paying attention
to the Savior's suffering and sacrifice, we are inclined to neglect the crucial
fact that it was man who crucified Christ. Like any scene that depicts our
human wickedness, the episode of Christ’s Crucifixion eminently tells us about man’s
freedom. Rejection of Christ is the ultimate rejection of human freedom.
Murder and death are possible only in a world bounded by unfreedom.
Therefore, the refusal of the freedom to which the incarnate God has called us
and never cease to call us is at the same time a refusal of Life and Truth.
This refusal creates an order, a “kingdom” of death that determines human
action. Only in this order is it possible for people’s actions to be anticipated
and controlled by the (ideological) program.
Ideology is possible only in a non-free world; that is why the theme of
freedom is crucial for ideologies, because only through a false freedom can
true freedom be abolished. The violent interdiction of faith will never succeed
in separating man from God. On the contrary, it only contributes to the spread
and consolidation of the faith. The alienation of man from God is possible only
through a false god, who can only come from within the Church, never from
outside her. This is why the Holy Fathers identified the real danger to the
Church in heresy, not in atheism or in other religions. Devs is such a false god
(and Forest is, accordingly, a false prophet, as Lily proves him to be) and
that is why it is the only god an unfree world needs.
The refusal of life implies the refusal of freedom and therefore it can
be anticipated. The world ruled by death and bounded by untruth will always
allow reliable predictions. On the other hand, the refusal of death, the
refusal of the order of sin cannot be anticipated by this world because this
refusal has its source in another world, in another order. Free actions are possible even in the world of bondage
precisely because they are not unexplainable, meaningless, purposeless, uncaused
events; they are essentially good and motivated by goodness because they have
their origin in that world about which not even Lily knows anything and in
which she does not even dare to believe. But it is exactly such unforeseen,
unpredictable actions which evade the logic of evil, that entitle us to think
and to hope that such a world is possible. The freedom of an action dedicated
to the truth anticipates the order of the Resurrection, that is, that reality
which we could glimpse anytime, even only “through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12),
if we were not so determined by the causality of death.