The lion and the unicorn
You may have noticed, I certainly have, that the unicorn appears everywhere in popular culture at the moment—and particularly appears in the trans rights movement. The reason for this is simple, the unicorn, taken alone, symbolises Satan. Hence, for example, during the film Free Solo (2018), in which the ropeless climber Alex Honnold ascended Yosemite’s vast El Capitan, halfway up his climb Honnold encountered other climbers who had spent the night on a ledge—one man was dressed in fancy dress style unicorn pyjamas, complete with horn: a highly unusual outfit to wear halfway up a very difficult climb—a climb that takes most people over a day, although Honnold, without a rope, did not have that luxury. To encounter a man in unicorn pyjamas halfway up a perilous climb is a distraction at a critical moment; and so it was a Satanic spirit that appeared there to trip Honnold up and distract him from his purpose—to try and kill him.
However, it is not quite true to say that the unicorn is completely Satanic; and you will find many sources that say the unicorn represents Christ. Indeed, the unicorn is a positive symbol if balanced with another symbol. This is most famously represented in Britain’s crest: the lion and the unicorn. When the symbols are thus balanced male and female are united, sun (lion) and moon (unicorn)—the hermaphroditic union is achieved. In this context, the unicorn’s horn symbolises the heavenly marriage or hieros gamos: the unicorn’s horn is both a phallic symbol and yet, when turned upside down, it becomes a cup—masculine and feminine in one; it is the cup Christ used to turn water into wine. Hence the Welsh poet Taliesin was known as “the unicorn”—yet this did not mean he was Satanic. “Taliesin” means “shining brow”; in other words, his third eye was open—his “shining brow”, from which proceeded rays of light; and these rays were like the unicorn’s curled horn. It is in this sense that the unicorn’s horn is the cup of Christ.
As it happens, the unicorn is Scotland’s symbol; and so the movement to make Scotland independent is Satanic: they want the Scottish unicorn to walk alone without the British lion—if they achieve this they will destroy the alchemical union that underpins Britain; for Britain is a Hyperborean land—a fragment from Atlantis, and an initiatory centre. If Scotland is separated from England a dark enchantment will fall upon the land—the heavenly marriage will be broken.
The trans movement is fascinated with the unicorn because it is “the animal which is but a shade till it starts to run”—and in the unicorn’s ambiguity they see their own nebulous nature reflected. The unicorn’s ambiguity explains why it can be appropriated in such a way. The unicorn can symbolise negation—against the light which manifests—and yet it can also symbolise “the centre”, the unmanifested and invisible source of all (Ein Sof). The trans movement is a counter-initiation, an anti-priesthood, for it seeks to take a spiritual operation—the spiritual hermaphroditism, the heavenly wedding—and make it a literal physical operation. Yet they only have the unicorn in its negative aspect; they cannot access the full initiation—they can only invert and subvert it.
A very famous contemporary popular culture product in which the unicorn figures prominently is Blade Runner (1982); and many people are puzzled by what the unicorn means in this film. You probably know the film, but here is the premise: in a future world, now contemporary with ours, the Tyrell Corporation has created ultra-realistic androids called “replicants”—these are reputed to be “more human than human”; however, replicants are only legal “off-world” in the colonies humans have planted around the solar system. Hence replicants on earth must be hunted down and killed—“retired” in the film’s slang—and the men who do this are called “blade runners”. The film follows blade runner Deckard (Harrison Ford); he encounters a new type of replicant, a Nexus-7, which has artificial memories to convince it that it is human—eventually, he falls in love with this replicant, called Rachael, and they run off together.
In a general sense, Blade Runner is about life itself: the replicants have a pre-programmed lifespan, four years, and so Deckard runs off with a replicant who he knows will die very shortly—and this decision to commit to what must inevitably die sums up all humans endeavours, all love affairs and projects. However, the film is deeper still—and its depth comes from the unicorn. The unicorn features in two key scenes: in the first scene, Rachael visits Deckard and then Deckard falls asleep and dreams of a unicorn as it runs through a wood (“the animal which is but a shade till it starts to run”); in the second scene, just before Deckard flees with Rachael, a fellow blade runner visits Deckard and leaves a little unicorn origami figure in his apartment—this character, Gaff, leaves origami figures scattered about throughout the film; and these often provide commentary on events—so when Deckard is cowardly, Gaff makes a little origami chicken.
The significance of Gaff’s final unicorn is that it opens up the possibility that Deckard himself is a replicant, just like Rachael. The unicorn may indicate that Gaff has accessed Deckard’s implanted memories; he knows his secret, and he has hinted to Deckard that he knows—he knows his dreams. Deckard was an experimental project, like his lover Rachael—an attempt to see if the Tyrell Corporation could make replicants that hunt replicants.
Usually, the analysis stops here—people speculate about whether Deckard is a human or a replicant with memory implants. However, with a symbolic analysis we can delve a little further. Deckard dreams of a unicorn after Rachael leaves his apartment: the unicorn is a liminal animal, it lives in the dusk—and so it appears in Deckard’s dreams. To catch a unicorn it is traditionally held that you need a virgin as bait: the unicorn will then come and nuzzle up to her—at this point the hunter strikes and kills the unicorn. This symbolic operation stands for the incarnation. Deckard dreams about the unicorn after Rachael’s visit because she is a virgin: this is guaranteed, she is a replicant and lives a sterile life in the Tyrell Corporation’s offices—she is factory fresh, right off the production line. Hence her presence summons the unicorn—the Christ-like hermaphrodite in Deckard.
This moment marks Deckard’s awakening; he rejects the physical world and begins a spiritual quest for the unicorn, for the Christ. Hence he unites with his virgin lover and flees the city to the wilderness. At the end Gaff says, “It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?” What lives is the hermaphroditic union that Deckard sets out to complete with Rachael—they will defy the “pre-set four-year lifespan” and achieve immortality.
When Rachael is first introduced in Tyrell’s office, an owl—possibly an artificial owl, since almost all animal life has died—calls out when she appears. This indicates that Rachael is Sophia-Athena, the owl stands for Athena and wisdom: Sophia is held to be the avatar that leads to Ein Sof in Gnosticism—and, indeed, the novel upon which Blade Runner is based is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by PK Dick, a Gnostic Christian (Blade Runner’s director, Ridley Scott, also knows many esoteric things—hence he tells of the Nephilim in Prometheus). Rachael is not “an artificial woman” or “a woman”—rather, she is “the woman”, she is the gateway to eternity; she is Sophia, the Holy Virgin.
The basic set-up in Blade Runner—replicant-human—that attracts so much attention is somewhat a red herring. The film is an allegory: almost all people around you are machines; they have no spirit, no soul. What does it matter if you live seventy years as a “normal” human or four years as a unit pre-programmed by the Tyrell Corporation? “It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?” What lives? The unicorn—the hieros gamos, the heavenly wedding. Deckard awakes to this spiritual reality in his dreams, for as Heraclitus observed: “Sleepers are workers too.” To dream is to awaken—to summon the unicorn.
The blade runners have a test they apply to see if you are human or replicant, the test is called the Voight-Kampff (“Reaction time is a factor in this, so pay attention.”). The joke in the film is that the humans that “pass” the test are no more real than the machines that fail it—since neither have spirit. Correctly put: they are all asleep—they live in a materialist illusion, yet to be awoken to spiritual reality by Sophia.
This is confirmed in the sequel, Blade Runner: 2049, when Gaff reappears in a cameo and says that there was “something in Deckard’s eyes” that caused him to think Deckard was “not of this world”. The eyes are the window to the soul: what Gaff saw in Deckard’s eyes was that he had awoken to the spiritual reality and shed his material existence—and his path to do so, as with the troubadours of old, was adoration of Sophia (Rachael).
Blade Runner: 2049 further develops this theme in its revised Voight-Kampff test in which the test subject must repeat the words “cells interlinked, within cells interlinked”. This is a quotation from Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire; it is a story about a poet who has a near-death experience, immortalised in verse—and he describes the place he goes to when he dies as “cells interlinked within cells”; and this refers to heaven, usually taken to be a honeycomb—cells, interlinked, cells. The poem is 999 lines long, the number of kundalini awakening. So the test alludes to the spiritual reality beyond the material world which the characters struggle to escape—the struggle being allegorically related as a tension between “humans” and “replicants”.