Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Secret Doctrine

When I lived in Windsor there used to be a set of The Secret Doctrine. It is ofcourse a great all-time classic...  RS
 
 
 
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The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and philosophy
TheSecretDoctrine.jpg
First edition
AuthorHelena Blavatsky
Published1888
The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, a book originally published as two volumes in 1888, is Helena Blavatsky's magnum opus. The first volume is named Cosmogenesis, the second Anthropogenesis. It was an influential example of the revival of interest in esoteric and occult ideas in the modern age, in particular because of its claim to reconcile ancient eastern wisdom with modern science.
Blavatsky claimed that its contents had been revealed to her by 'mahatmas' who had retained knowledge of humanity's spiritual history, knowledge that it was now possible, in part, to reveal.[not verified in body]


Volume one (Cosmogenesis)[edit]

The first part of the book explains the origin and evolution of the universe itself, in terms derived from the Hindu concept of cyclical development. The world and everything in it is said to alternate between periods of activity (manvantaras) and periods of passivity (pralayas). Each manvantara lasts many millions of years and consists of a number of Yugas, in accordance with Hindu cosmology.
Blavatsky attempted to demonstrate that the discoveries of "materialist" science had been anticipated in the writings of ancient sages and that materialism would be proven wrong.

Cosmic evolution: Items of cosmogony[edit]

In this recapitulation of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky gave a summary of the central points of her system of cosmogony.[1] These central points are as follows:
  1. The first item reiterates Blavatsky's position that The Secret Doctrine represents the "accumulated Wisdom of the Ages", a system of thought that "is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity."
  2. The second item reiterates the first fundamental proposition (see above), calling the one principle "the fundamental law in that system [of cosmogony]". Here Blavatsky says of this principle that it is "the One homogeneous divine Substance-Principle, the one radical cause. … It is called "Substance-Principle," for it becomes "substance" on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a "principle" in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible Space. It is the omnipresent Reality: impersonal, because it contains all and everything. Its impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself."
  3. The third item reiterates the second fundamental proposition (see above), impressing once again that "The Universe is the periodical manifestation of this unknown Absolute Essence.", while also touching upon the complex Sanskrit ideas of Parabrahmam and Mulaprakriti. This item presents the idea that the One unconditioned and absolute principle is covered over by its veil, Mulaprakriti, that the spiritual essence is forever covered by the material essence.
  4. The fourth item is the common eastern idea of Maya. Blavatsky states that the entire universe is called illusion because everything in it is temporary, i.e. has a beginning and an end, and is therefore unreal in comparison to the eternal changelessness of the One Principle.
  5. The fifth item reiterates the third fundamental proposition (see above), stating that everything in the universe is conscious, in its own way and on its own plane of perception. Because of this, the Occult Philosophy states that there are no unconscious or blind laws of Nature, that all is governed by consciousness and consciousnesses.
  6. The sixth item gives a core idea of theosophical philosophy, that "as above, so below". This is known as the "law of correspondences", its basic premise being that everything in the universe is worked and manifested from within outwards, or from the higher to the lower, and that thus the lower, the microcosm, is the copy of the higher, the macrocosm. Just as a human being experiences every action as preceded by an internal impulse of thought, emotion or will, so too the manifested universe is preceded by impulses from divine thought, feeling and will. This item gives rise to the notion of an "almost endless series of hierarchies of sentient beings", which itself becomes a central idea of many theosophists. The law of correspondences also becomes central to the methodology of many theosophists, as they look for analogous correspondence between various aspects of reality, for instance: the correspondence between the seasons of Earth and the process of a single human life, through birth, growth, adulthood and then decline and death.

Volume two (Anthropogenesis)[edit]

The second half of the book describes the origins of humanity through an account of "Root Races" said to date back millions of years. The first root race was, according to her, "ethereal"; the second root had more physical bodies and lived in Hyperborea. The third root race, the first to be truly human, is said to have existed on the lost continent of Lemuria and the fourth root race is said to have developed in Atlantis.
According to Blavatsky, the fifth root race is approximately one million years old, overlapping the fourth root race and the very first beginnings of the fifth root race were approximately in the middle of the fourth root race.[citation needed]
"The real line of evolution differs from the Darwinian, and the two systems are irreconcilable," according to Blavatsky, "except when the latter is divorced from the dogma of 'Natural Selection'." She explained that, "by 'Man' the divine Monad is meant, and not the thinking Entity, much less his physical body." "Occultism rejects the idea that Nature developed man from the ape, or even from an ancestor common to both, but traces, on the contrary, some of the most anthropoid species to the Third Race man." In other words, "the 'ancestor' of the present anthropoid animal, the ape, is the direct production of the yet mindless Man, who desecrated his human dignity by putting himself physically on the level of an animal."[2]

Volumes three and four[edit]

Blavatsky wanted to publish a third and fourth volume of The Secret Doctrine. After Blavatsky's death, a controversial third volume of The Secret Doctrine was published by Annie Besant.[citation needed]

Three fundamental propositions[edit]

Blavatsky explained the essential component ideas of her cosmogony in her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine. She began with three fundamental propositions, of which she said:
Before the reader proceeds … it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows…[3]
The first proposition is that there is one underlying, unconditioned, indivisible Truth, variously called "the Absolute", "the Unknown Root", "the One Reality", etc. It is causeless and timeless, and therefore unknowable and non-describable: "It is 'Be-ness' rather than Being".[a] However, transient states of matter and consciousness are manifested in IT, in an unfolding gradation from the subtlest to the densest, the final of which is physical plane.[4] According to this view, manifest existence is a "change of condition"[b] and therefore neither the result of creation nor a random event.
Everything in the universe is informed by the potentialities present in the "Unknown Root," and manifest with different degrees of Life (or energy), Consciousness, and Matter.[c]
The second proposition is "the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow". Accordingly, manifest existence is an eternally re-occurring event on a "boundless plane": "'the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing,'"[7] each one "standing in the relation of an effect as regards its predecessor, and being a cause as regards its successor",[8] doing so over vast but finite periods of time.[d]
Related to the above is the third proposition: "The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul... and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul—a spark of the former—through the Cycle of Incarnation (or 'Necessity') in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term." The individual souls are seen as units of consciousness (Monads) that are intrinsic parts of a universal oversoul, just as different sparks are parts of a fire. These Monads undergo a process of evolution where consciousness unfolds and matter develops. This evolution is not random, but informed by intelligence and with a purpose. Evolution follows distinct paths in accord with certain immutable laws, aspects of which are perceivable on the physical level. One such law is the law of periodicity and cyclicity; another is the law of karma or cause and effect.[10]

Theories on human evolution and race[edit]

In the second volume of The Secret Doctrine, dedicated to anthropogenesis, Blavatsky presents a theory of the gradual evolution of physical humanity over a timespan of millions of years. The steps in this evolution are called rootraces, seven in all. Earlier rootraces exhibited completely different characteristics: physical bodies first appearing in the second rootrace and sexual characteristics in the third.
Some detractors have emphasized passages and footnotes that claim some peoples to be less fully human or spiritual than the "Aryans". For example,
"Mankind is obviously divided into god-informed men and lower human creatures. The intellectual difference between the Aryan and other civilized nations and such savages as the South Sea Islanders, is inexplicable on any other grounds. No amount of culture, nor generations of training amid civilization, could raise such human specimens as the Bushmen, the Veddhas of Ceylon, and some African Tribes, to the same intellectual level as the Aryans, the Semites, and the Turanians so called. The 'sacred spark' is missing in them and it is they who are the only inferior races on the globe, now happily – owing to the wise adjustment of nature which ever works in that direction – fast dying out. Verily mankind is 'of one blood,' but not of the same essence. We are the hot-house, artificially quickened plants in nature, having in us a spark, which in them is latent" (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 421).
When discussing "sterility between two human races" as observed by Darwin, Blavatsky notes:
"Of such semi-animal creatures, the sole remnants known to Ethnology were the Tasmanians, a portion of the Australians and a mountain tribe in China, the men and women of which are entirely covered with hair. They were the last descendants in a direct line of the semi-animal latter-day Lemurians referred to. There are, however, considerable numbers of the mixed Lemuro-Atlantean peoples produced by various crossings with such semi-human stocks – e.g., the wild men of Borneo, the Veddhas of Ceylon, classed by Prof. Flower among Aryans (!), most of the remaining Australians, Bushmen, Negritos, Andaman Islanders, etc" (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, pp 195–6).
Blavatsky also asserts that "the occult doctrine admits of no such divisions as the Aryan and the Semite, accepting even the Turanian with ample reservations. Semites, especially the Arabs, are later Aryans – degenerate in spirituality and perfected in materiality" (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 200). She also connects physical race with spiritual attributes constantly throughout her works:
"Esoteric history teaches that idols and their worship died out with the Fourth Race, until the survivors of the hybrid races of the latter (Chinamen, African negroes, &c.) gradually brought the worship back. The Vedas countenance no idols; all the modern Hindu writings do" (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 723).
According to Blavatsky, "The MONADS of the lowest specimens of humanity (the "narrow-brained" savage South-Sea Islander, the African, the Australian) had no Karma to work out when first born as men, as their more favoured brethren in intelligence had" (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 168).
She also prophesies of the destruction of the racial "failures of nature" as the "higher race" ascends:
"Thus will mankind, race after race, perform its appointed cycle-pilgrimage. Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of other less favoured groups – the failures of nature – will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family without even leaving a trace behind" (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 446).
In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky states: "Verily mankind is 'of one blood,' but not of the same essence." Yet, she also said: "True, again, that if the characteristics are accepted literally". (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, p. 255).

Study of the Secret Doctrine[edit]

According to PGB Bowen, Blavatsky gave the following instructions regarding the study of the Secret Doctrine:
Reading the SD page by page as one reads any other book (she says) will only end us in confusion. The first thing to do, even if it takes years, is to get some grasp of the 'Three Fundamental Principles' given in the Proem. Follow that up by study of the Recapitulation – the numbered items in the Summing Up to Vol. I (Part 1.) Then take the Preliminary Notes (Vol. II) and the Conclusion (Vol. II)[11]

Writings about "The Secret Doctrine"[edit]

  • Alice Bailey: "But those of us who really studied it and arrived at some understanding of its inner significance have a basic appreciation of the truth that no other book seems to supply. HPB said that the next interpretation of the Ageless Wisdom would be a psychological approach, and A Treatise on Cosmic Fire , which I published in 1925, is the psychological key to The Secret Doctrine. None of my books would have been possible had I not at one time made a very close study of The Secret Doctrine."[12]
  • Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine by Max Heindel (1933; from Max Heindel writings & with introduction by Manly Palmer Hall): "The Secret doctrine  is one of the most remarkable books in the world... Behind her [H.P.B.] stood the real teachers, the guardians of the Secret Wisdom of the ages, who taught her all the occult lore which she transmitted in her writings."[full citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Historian Ronald H. Fritze has written that The Secret Doctrine presents a "series of far-fetched ideas unsupported by any reliable historical or scientific research."[13] According to Fritze:
Unfortunately the factual basis for Blavatsky's book is nonexistent. She claimed to have received her information during trances in which the Masters of Mahatmas of Tibet communicated with her and allowed her to read from the ancient Book of Dzyan. The Book of Dzyan was supposedly composed in Atlantis using the lost language of Senzar but the difficulty is that no scholar of ancient languages in the 1880s or since has encountered the slightest passing reference to the Book of Dzyan or the Senzar language.[13]
Scholars and skeptics have criticized The Secret Doctrine for plagiarism.[14] It is said to have been heavily influenced by occult and oriental works.[15][16]
L. Sprague de Camp in his book Lost Continents has written that Blavatsky's main sources were "H. H. Wilson's translation of the ancient Indian Vishnu Purana; Alexander Winchell's World Life; or, Comparative Geology; Donnelly's Atlantis; and other contemporary scientific, pseudo-scientific, and occult works, plagiarized without credit and used in a blundering manner that showed but skin-deep acquaintance with the subjects under discussion."[17] Camp described the book as a "mass of plagiarism and fakery."[18]
The book has also been accused of antisemitism and criticized for its emphasis on race. Historian Hannah Newman has noted that the book "denigrates the Jewish faith as harmful to human spirituality".[19] Historian Michael Marrus has written that Blavatsky's racial ideas "could be easily misused" and that her book had helped to foster antisemitism in Germany during World War II.[20]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Jump up ^ "An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude."[3]
  2. Jump up ^ "The expansion 'from within without'..., does not allude to an expansion from a small centre or focus, but, without reference to size or limitation or area, means the development of limitless subjectivity into as limitless objectivity. ...It implies that this expansion, not being an increase in size—for infinite extension admits of no enlargement—was a change of condition." Manifest existence is often called "Illusion" in Theosophy, owing to its conceptual and actual differentiation from the only Reality.[5]
  3. Jump up ^ "Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that because we do not perceive any signs—which we can recognise—of consciousness, say, in stones, we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either 'dead' or 'blind' matter, as there is no 'Blind' or 'Unconscious' Law".[6]
  4. Jump up ^ Blavatsky states that each complete cycle lasts 311,040,000,000,000 years.[9]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 272–274.
  2. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888b, pp. 185–187.
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b Blavatsky 1888a, p. 14.
  4. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 35–85.
  5. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 62–63.
  6. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 274.
  7. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 17.
  8. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 43.
  9. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, p. 206.
  10. Jump up ^ Blavatsky 1888a, pp. 274–275.
  11. Jump up ^ Bowen 1988.
  12. Jump up ^ Bailey, Alice A., "Chapter VI", The Unfinished Autobiography, Lucis Trust 
  13. ^ Jump up to: a b Fritze, Ronald H. (2009). Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science and Pseudo-Religions. Reaktion Books. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-1-86189-430-4
  14. Jump up ^ Floyd, E. Randall. (2005). The Good, the Bad and the Mad: Some Weird People in American History. Fall River Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0760766002 "Scholars and critics were quick to claim that much of the work was stolen from books by other occultists and crank scholars like Ignatius Loyola Donnelly's book on Atlantis."
  15. Jump up ^ Cohen, Daniel. (1989). Encyclopedia of the Strange. Marboro Books. p. 108. ISBN 978-0380702688 "When the book was finally published, critics snickered, Oriental scholars were outraged, and other scholars pointed out that the work was largely stolen from books by other occultists and crank scholars like Ignatius Donnelly's book on Atlantis."
  16. Jump up ^ Sedgwick, Mark. (2004). Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-19-515297-2 "The Secret Doctrine drew heavily on John Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Horace Wilson's annotated translation of the Vishnu Purana, and other such works."
  17. Jump up ^ L. Sprague de Camp. (1970). Lost Continents. Dover Publications. p. 57. ISBN 0-486-22668-9 "The Secret Doctrine, alas, is neither so ancient, so erudite, nor so authentic as it pretends to be. When it appeared, an elderly Californian scholar named William Emmette Coleman, outraged by Mme. Blavatsky's false pretensions to oriental learning, made an exegesis of her works. He showed that her main sources were H. H. Wilson's translation of the ancient Indian Vishnu Purana; Alexander Winchell's World Life; or, Comparative Geology; Donnelly's Atlantis; and other contemporary scientific, pseudo-scientific, and occult works, plagiarized without credit and used in a blundering manner that showed but skin-deep acquaintance with the subjects under discussion."
  18. Jump up ^ L. Sprague de Camp. The Fringe of the Unknown. Prometheus Books. p. 193. ISBN 0-87975-217-3 "Three years later, she published her chef d'oeuvre, The Secret Doctrine, in which her credo took permanent, if wildly confused, shape. This work, in six volumes, is a mass of plagiarism and fakery, based upon contemporary scientific, pseudoscientific, mythological, and occult works, cribbed without credit and used in a blundering way that showed only skin-deep acquaintance with the subjects discussed."
  19. Jump up ^ Newman, Hannah. Blavatsky, Helena P. (1831-1891) . In Richard S. Levy. (2005). Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution. ABC-CLIO. p. 73. ISBN 1-85109-439-3
  20. Jump up ^ Marrus, Michael. (1989). The Origins of the Holocaust. Meckler. pp. 85–87. ISBN 0-88736-253-2 "In her esoteric work, especially The Secret Doctrine, originally published in 1888, Blavatsky emphasized the concept of races as paramount in the development of human history... Blavatsky herself did not identify the Aryan race with the Germanic peoples. And although her racial doctrine clearly entailed belief in superior and inferior races and hence could be easily misused, she placed no emphasis on the domination of one race over another... Nevertheless, in her work Blavatsky had helped to foster antisemitism, which is perhaps one the reasons her esoteric work was so rapidly accepted in Germanic circles."

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Zelator


Zelator.jpg
Weiser edition cover


The source of the info here is from the following site  http://thecasswiki.net/index.php?title=CassWiki:Home

Blogger Ref  http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Multi-Dimensional_Science



The Zelator: A Modern Initiate Explores the Ancient Mysteries, by Mark Hedsel, edited by David Ovason, is a spiritual autobiography relating one man's travels through much of Western and some Eastern esoteric teaching. This style of free, individual searching is called the Way of the Fool in the book.
The Zelator is a rich commentary on representations of esoteric principles in art, tradition, architecture, living schools and much more. At one point Hedsel discusses his studies in Paris, probably under George Gurdjieff, although the latter is not specifically named.
The book is very well sourced, with extensive appendices and references. This is an excellent source for an overview of Western esoteric tradition.

See also

The following pages explore concepts and contain quotes from this work:


The Fool is an important archetype in esoteric lore. We see the Fool in places from the tarot deck to medieval feasts to medieval art and literature and treatises of alchemy.
Mark Hedsel discusses this concept in his book The Zelator. Specifically, the Way of the Fool is an independent path of initiation where the student can at different times study under many masters but will not make any lifelong commitment to any one path nor enter into vows of secrecy.
The following excerpts from The Zelator may shed light on the spirit of this way:
"The Way of the Fool is no easy way, for it involves a balancing act, in which the Fool may stumble and become a fool. It is a cunning way, a way of strange knowledge. It is 'the Way that Is Not a Way' - 'the Way that Cannot Be Named'. Such titles alone should alert us to the ignorance of this Way, save among esotericists. Perhaps, when the ecclesiastical authorities attempted to root out the Festum Fatuoruin - the Feast of Fools, in the 15th century, they succeeded in driving underground any esoteric groups linked with the Way of the Fool.
[…]
"And what is the result of such a journey? The result is a wise Fool. A fool is the one who gives up everything for an idea. The wise Fool is the one who knows that he never had anything to give up in the first place. Is that foolish?"
[…]
The old man has committed himself. He has made a stand. Life has made him do that. He has drawn a circle around himself, and said, "This is where I stand, this is what I must do." He has committed himself to an action. Because he has drawn a circle around himself, others can see where he stands. He can be attacked by others, His position is weak. Those who have not committed themselves can mock, if they are so inclined. This is the age-old battle between youth and age. The one who has committed himself appears to be in a weak position. Yet the Spiritual truth is quite otherwise. It is the one who accepts commitment who is strong.
[…]
Creativity is the giving away of Spiritual energy. Creativity is the soul in the expenditure of a bottomless purse. One gives sulphur away - initially perhaps through an excess of joy - for that is the foolishness of young men. Later, one gives away energy through commitment to an idea.
[…]
Let me tell that Fools like myself become Teachers, because we find suddenly that there is no one else. It is as simple as that. One day, you are wandering through Florence, after a day in the libraries, surrounded by books. You are carrying under your arm further books, to pursue further dreams. You see a young child playing with a ball near the Baptistery. His mother stands some way off. She is paying no attention to the child. She has a cigarette dangling from her mouth. You can tell a great deal about that woman, and about the future of her child. Suddenly, there is an illumination. You realize how great is the gulf between yourself and those others. There is a curtain between you. You understand that this curtain is good for neither of you. The house out there is burning. You can see the flames, but those others cannot see the flames. All you have learned from those books, and from those conversations with wise men, from all those meditations, is to see the flames.
Now the question is, can you leave those people in the flames? Would it not be the act of a Fool to snatch one, or perhaps two, out of the conflagration?' 'If that is what they want.' 'They cannot see the flames, but they do not wish to be burned. You see, my friend, you are an alchemist. You know that there are two sorts of flame. There is the soft and slow flame of the inner heat, and that terrible burning flame which consumes, and which feels no human pain. Both are the flames of burning sulphur, but they produce very different results."


     

Monday, 4 April 2016

Eyes Wide Shut

 

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A clip from the film Eyes Wide Shut based on occultism.
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This article is about the film. For the song by JLS, see Eyes Wide Shut (song). For the song by American metalcore band Myka, Relocate, see The Young Souls.
Eyes Wide Shut is a 1999 erotic drama film based on Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), with the story transferred from early 20th century Vienna to 1990s New York. The film was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. It was his last film, as he died four days after showing his final cut to Warner Bros. studios.[4] The story, set in and around New York City, follows the sexually charged adventures of Dr. Bill Harford, who is shocked when his wife, Alice, reveals that she had contemplated an affair a year earlier. He embarks on a night-long adventure, during which he infiltrates a massive masked orgy of an unnamed secret society.
Kubrick obtained the filming rights for Dream Story in the 1960s, considering it a perfect novel for a film adaptation about sexual relations. The project was only revived in the 1990s, when the director hired writer Frederic Raphael to help him with the adaptation. The film was mostly shot in the United Kingdom (aside from some exterior establishing shots), and included a detailed recreation of some exterior Greenwich Village street scenes at Pinewood Studios. The film spent a long time in production, and holds the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous film shoot period, at 400 days.
Eyes Wide Shut was released on July 16, 1999, a few months following Kubrick's death, to positive critical reaction and intakes of $162 million at the worldwide box office. Its strong sexual content also made it controversial; to ensure a theatrical R rating in the United States, Warner Bros. digitally altered several scenes during post-production. The uncut version has since been released in DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray Disc formats.


Plot[edit]

Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), are a young couple living in New York. They go to a Christmas party thrown by a wealthy patient, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). Bill meets an old friend from medical school, Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), who now plays piano professionally. While a Hungarian man named Sandor Szavost (Sky du Mont) tries to pick up Alice, two young models try to take Bill off for a tryst. He is interrupted by a call from his host upstairs, who had been having sex with Mandy (Julienne Davis), a young woman who has overdosed on a speedball. Mandy recovers with Bill's aid.
The next evening at home, while smoking cannabis, Alice asks him if he had sex with the two girls. After Bill reassures her, she asks if he is ever jealous of men who are attracted to her. As the discussion gets heated, he states that he thinks women are more faithful than men. She rebuts him, telling him of a recent fantasy she had about a naval officer they had encountered on a vacation. Disturbed by Alice's revelation, Bill is then called by the daughter of a patient who has just died; he then heads over to her place. In her pain, Marion Nathanson (Marie Richardson) impulsively kisses him and says she loves him. Putting her off before her fiance Carl (Thomas Gibson) arrives, Bill takes a walk. He meets a prostitute named Domino (Vinessa Shaw) and goes to her apartment.
Alice phones just as Domino begins to kiss Bill, after which he calls off the awkward encounter. Meeting Nick at the jazz club where he's just finishing his last set, Bill learns that Nick has an engagement where he must play piano blindfolded. Bill presses for details. He learns that to gain admittance, one needs a costume, a mask, and the password (which Nick writes down for him). Bill goes to a costume shop. He offers the owner, Mr. Milich (Rade Serbedzija), a generous amount of money to rent a costume. In the shop, Milich catches his teenage daughter (Leelee Sobieski) with two Japanese men and expresses outrage at their lack of a sense of decency.
Bill takes a taxi to the country mansion mentioned by Nick. He gives the password and discovers a quasi-religious sexual ritual is taking place. Although he is masked, a woman takes Bill aside and warns him he does not belong there, insisting he is in terrible danger. She is then whisked away by someone else, so Bill spends some time wandering from room to room in the mansion, where groups of masked people are engaged in various types of sexual acts, while others watch. He is then interrupted by a porter who tells Bill that the taxi driver wants to speak urgently with him at the front door. However, the porter takes him to the ritual room, where a disguised red-cloaked Master of Ceremonies confronts Bill with a question about a second password. Bill says he has forgotten. The Master of Ceremonies insists that Bill "kindly remove his mask", then his clothes. The masked woman who had tried to warn Bill now intervenes and insists that she will redeem him. Bill is ushered from the mansion and warned not to tell anyone about what happened there.
Just before dawn, Bill arrives home guilty and confused. He finds Alice laughing loudly in her sleep and awakens her. While crying, she tells him of a troubling dream in which she was having sex with the naval officer and many other men, and laughing at the idea of Bill seeing her with them.
The next morning, Bill goes to Nick's hotel, where the desk clerk (Alan Cumming) tells Bill that a bruised and frightened Nick checked out a few hours earlier after returning with two large, dangerous-looking men. Nick tried to pass an envelope to the clerk when they were leaving, but it was intercepted, and Nick was driven away by the two men.
Bill goes to return the costume — but not the mask, which he has misplaced — and Milich, with his daughter by his side, states he can do other favors for Bill "and it needn't be a costume." The same two Japanese men leave; Milich implies to Bill that he has sold his daughter for prostitution.
Bill returns to the country mansion in his own car and is met at the gate by a man with a note warning him to cease and desist his inquiries. At home, Bill thinks about Alice's dream while watching her tutor their daughter.
Bill reconsiders his sexual offers the night before. He first phones Marion, but hangs up after Carl answers the phone. Bill then goes to Domino's apartment with a gift. Her roommate Sally (Fay Masterson) is home, but not Domino. After Bill attempts to seduce Sally, she reveals to him that Domino has just tested positive for HIV. Bill leaves and notices a man is following him. After reading a newspaper story about a beauty queen who died of a drug overdose, Bill views the body at the morgue and identifies it as Mandy.
Bill is summoned to Ziegler's house, where he is confronted with the events of the past night and day. Ziegler was one of those involved with the ritual orgy, and identified Bill and his connection with Nick. His own position with the secret society has been jeopardized by Bill's intrusion since Ziegler recommended Nick for the job. Ziegler claims that he had Bill followed for his own protection, and that the warnings made against Bill by the society are only intended to scare him from speaking about the orgy. But he implies the society is capable of acting on their threats, telling Bill: "If I told you their names, I don't think you'd sleep so well". Bill asks about the death of Mandy, whom Ziegler has identified as the masked woman at the party who'd "sacrificed" herself to prevent Bill's punishment, and about the disappearance of Nick, the piano player. Ziegler insists that Nick is safely back at his home in Seattle. Ziegler also says the "punishment" was a charade by the secret society to further frighten Bill, and it had nothing to do with Mandy's death; she was a hooker and addict and had indeed died from another accidental drug overdose. Bill clearly does not know if Ziegler is telling him the truth about Nick's disappearance or Mandy's death, but he says nothing further and lets the matter drop.
When he returns home, Bill finds the rented mask on his pillow next to his sleeping wife. He breaks down in tears and decides to tell Alice the whole truth of the past two days. The next morning, they go Christmas shopping with their daughter. Alice muses that they should be grateful they have survived, that she loves him, and there is something they must do as soon as possible. When Bill asks what it is, she simply says: "Fuck".

Cast[edit]