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Top Gun and the Path of Initiation

by Harmony Pax

CW: Spoilers

Deep mouthed in their thrones deep seated

The choirs of the aeons declare

The last of the demons defeated

And man was the lord of the air

Aleister Crowley, “The Pentagram”

Many movies convey the message of initiation in the new aeon. Although some of them are obviously archetypal in nature, such as Star Wars, Dune, and Harry Potter, other Thelemic influences on film are not so obvious. Yet, the power of the new aeon and its message can be seen in almost everything, including movies often described sarcastically as endless pro war propaganda.

The new movie, Top Gun: Maverick, inadvertently incorporates many initiatory components, as well as the Thelemic message of doing one’s true will. Being that Tom Cruise is a member of Scientology, which was undoubtedly influenced by Thelemic movements, it’s probably fair to say that this movie may contain a quasi-Thelemic influence. There’s also no end to the comparisons that can be made between flight and spiritual flight, such as rising on the planes, or astral travel. Let’s take a look.

In the beginning of the movie, Tom Cruise is flying an airplane on a test basis. It’s been many years after the first movie and he’s revolving around the navy in various capacities. It’s through watching this movie that I learned that people fly airplanes in the navy and not just in the air force. His goal in testing these airplanes is to get to Mach 10, which is an extremely fast speed. Mach means the speed of sound, so Mach 10 is 10 times the speed of sound. Sepher Yetzirah says that the faculty of sound is associated with the letter Vav, which is the Hierophant card. 10 is also the 10 sephiroth, possibly indicating that he’s now an adept.

This also indicates that although Maverick, Cruise’s character, was a fool in the first movie, he has now become the hierophant since he’s broken the speed of sound. In the first Top Gun movie, which has similarities to Perceval, Maverick is a foolish kid at the Top Gun school. My guess is that he’s 21 because he drinks alcohol in the movie. He does a lot of stupid things and people yell at him. This is similar to Perceval shooting down the swan and not knowing what he did. There’s a subplot where he secretly loses his virginity to an approximately 30 year old teacher in the school which seems to be fanservice because that’s considered a fantasy among some teens. These are all traits of der Reine Tor, the Pure Fool.

Now going back to the second movie, after attaining adepthood through going to Mach 10, his soon to be nemesis the Rear Admiral asks him why he is still a captain. This actually shows that he still has far to go before becoming a Magister Templi. This reminds me of the quote “For Thou art submitted to the Four: Five thou shalt find, but Seven is lone and far” from the cry of the 30th Aire. “Seven” in this context refers to the attainment of the seven planets, specifically that of Binah, or Saturn, which entails crossing the abyss. Being confronted by one’s enemies is considered to be a movement of the Shadow toward the initiate as they move toward the light.

The military, in the form of the Knights Templar and the Assassins, was one of the world’s first magical orders. What we call the fourfold breath is called tactical breathing in the military, and the use of the salute activates the 3rd eye chakra. Now that he has attained adepthood by flying an airplane really fast, the Navy puts Tom Cruise back in the Top Gun group. Just like any other magical order, groups of neophytes come in every so often to do arcane things. Cruise gets used to tending his garden of initiates in the office of NEMO, until he realizes that the rear admiral is blocking him. His old friend, Ice Man, was trying to get him into the group. If you think back to the first movie Ice Man was actually his nemesis throughout much of the movie.

The rear admiral can be compared to the Black Brothers, which are a group of fallen Thelemic adepts who have attained to Tiphereth, but have failed to cross the abyss. They continue to hang out in the abyss area to trip up new aspirants. In order to get the neophytes to gel, Maverick brings them together with activities that hearken back to the first movie such as volleyball and hanging out at a club with his friend Penny. This represents the value of fraternity such as a lodge master bringing aspirants together with a ritual feast in the OTO or the Golden Dawn. However, the Rear Admiral thinks he’s just playing games and wasting time. That’s because the black brothers don’t want people to attain.

Moreover, we find out that Tom Cruise doesn’t get along with Rooster, who is a neophyte that he has beef with from the past. This shows the karmic consequences of things you’ve done in the past that come to haunt you as you climb upon the tree of initiation. Saturn, the sphere of Binah which is associated with the Magister Templi degree, is also the lord of karma. The attainment of or approach to Saturn involves a lot of reckoning with one’s past deeds. In this incident, Maverick got Rooster in trouble and that caused him to be left back for several years. Rooster was frustrated because he had been trying to get a better job because he has a girlfriend and kids. This parallels an incident in the first movie where Tom Cruise feels that he unalived a guy named Goose who looks similar to Rooster, but it turns out to have been just a freak accident.

Because of a lot of weird incidents that go on, the Rear Admiral gets the upper hand and kicks Maverick out of the picture. The Rear Admiral does a lot of silly things with the group such as lowering the speed of the mission, which can put them in harm’s way. He says a lot of things suggesting that the neophytes won’t make it out alive. This angers Maverick, who believes in having a positive mental attitude. So when they are having class and watching a video of the airplanes going on the mission, Tom Cruise steals an airplane and shows them that they can fly the mission in the planned time. Unfortunately this causes bits to come off of the plane because he went to Mach 10 again, which seems to be a Thelemic metaphor for spiritual attainment. Moreover he dared: which is the third power of the sphinx. So, the main admiral decides to put Maverick back in the group.

The mission in the movie is to destroy a uranium plant. Uranium represents Uranus, which is Chokmah. That’s one sphere above Binah. However, I also believe that the uranium plant represents Choronzon. The destruction of Choronzon, the demon of dispersion, is Aleister Crowley’s goal in his mission through the desert on that most ancient of airplanes, the camel. Moreover, the application of uranium to one’s body in an explosive context causes dispersion.

When the group gets to the uranium mine area via a ship, some of the neophytes get lost in the shuffle but they quickly catch up using the positive mental attitude they had learned so far. The true magical power of the adept in this context is that of mind over matter. When Cruise told Rooster about why he left him back, he said that it was because Rooster thought about things too much. Cruise said don’t think, feel. This is about the balance between Hod and Netzach, much lower on the tree. The group utilizes this technique in order to shoot the uranium plant until it crumbles.

However, this action has released some enemy airplanes and also caused Maverick to fall out of the plane. Rooster decides to look for him in the wooded area, which represents the abyss. There are many enemy airplanes in the area trying to shoot at them. Eventually, they go to the old enemy landing strip where they discover that there’s an old airplane that was used in the first movie. Tom Cruise figures out how to use it but Rooster finds it to be unusual. There is a generational gap where they start to fight against some of the new roboticized or fifth generation enemy planes, but eventually they get out scott free. The enemy planes represents the qlipoth, which are stirred up by any sort of spiritual attainment.


As Thelemites, we describe ourselves as knight-monks. But too often, the knight part gets cast aside for the monk part. Ancient religious orders like the Templars, the Assassins, Shaolin, and Wu Tang, were known for their martial arts. Some Thelemites call the Divine Adonai Sabaoth, which means lord of armies. While we rise on the planes, it also takes a lot of discipline to rise in a plane. Militarily.

War and military life is a good metaphor for the spiritual war inside of us and the discipline we need every day to do our will. By watching movies about the very real wars in the world, we learn to think about our daily spiritual battles against the qlipothic host, as well as the true meaning of fraternity and friendship.

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3 thoughts on “Top Gun and the Path of Initiation

  1. You overlooked when the plane, the Dark Star, explodes in the sky and the star falls to earth, a not very veiled reference to Lucifer and also the 5th chapter of Liber 65. Fun article!

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