The House Between pulls its characters from different times and places near the dawn of the Information Age. According to Mark Booth, this is a time that will eventually be dominated by one particular fear: “We can imagine computers which will be able to simulate worlds perhaps even as complicated as the one we think we’re living in. This raises the philosophical question: could we ourselves be in such a simulation and could what we think is the universe be some sort of vault of heaven rather than the real thing? In a sense we could ourselves be the creations within that simulation.” Such is the case in the universe created by John Muir.
Bill Clark is the draftsman of the simulator, known as “smart house technology” – he adopts a role similar to that of the Architect in The Matrix series. Astrid is a replicant, a “creation within that simulation,” pulled from Ward 6 (a correlation to Nexus 6 in the fiction of Philip K. Dick?) of the U.S. government’s smart house project by the love-sick draftsman. The question, posed in RESOLVED, is which happened first. Paradoxically, Astrid is both an unwitting parent and a child of the smart house project. So which came first? Mind or matter?
Bill undoes the quantum entanglement he caused by offering the following explanation in RESOLVED: “Cause need not precede effect. Reality isn’t that simple.” There is no past and no future, he explains, only “a million iterations of now.” Reality in this universe – in all universes that can ever be imagined – is literally what we make of it.
Of course, not everyone thinks that such unlimited freedom is a good thing. According to Sam Clark (in EXPOSED), the government wants to use the smart house technology to make people more machine-like, in an effort to control them. Arlo gets a brief taste of this ugly possible future, in which even his friends have become mindless zombies. Therefore, in what is arguably the most Whedon-esque of all THB episodes, John Muir casts our denizens in the role of freedom fighters and pits them against a proposed New World Order (represented by the character of Nora Pearce) so that “everything you believe exists… can exist.” The series ends on an overwhelmingly poignant note: The drama that we have watched unfold over the course of three seasons will now unfold in countless smart houses with countless denizens. In a sense, we’re right back where we started – at the beginning of the first season. And what about our heroes?
The final scene seems to place them on Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina in the late 16th century, where Arlo’s inscription on a distinctive tree (“CRO”) will eventually be interpreted as a message from “The Lost Colony.” What happens to them there is as much a mystery to us as the disappearance of Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlers. But after everything that’s happened to these characters, I have a hard time believing that they could simply live out their lives in ease and comfort. By the end of Season Three, the denizens of The House Between are initiates into a greater mission. Their goal, as a secret society, is to lead the evolution of human consciousness.
How? In addition to the human/Lar hybrid, Theresa and Arlo have also – in a sense – recreated Bill and Astrid, our representatives of 20th century science and religion. Accordingly, Bill and Astrid must redefine their terms. At the end of the second season episode SEPARATED, Astrid tells Bill about the teachings of Paul the Apostle, who said that the perfect community Christ intended will be created through the action of three main virtues: faith, hope and love. Mark Booth writes that the secret societies offer quasi-scientific re-interpretations of these same three virtues:
(1) intuition – “transformed intellect that perceives spiritual beings as real”
(2) wonder – “transformed feeling that has become aware of the spiritual workings of the cosmos but is not overwhelmed by them”
(3) conscience – “transformed will – when by the exercise of thought and imagination, faith and hope, we begin to transform the will that lives beneath the threshold of consciousness.”
The Secret History of the World offers a rather unsettling look several thousand years into the future. It prophesies a time when we will “reenter the sacred wood” and commune with spirits, good and evil. It also prophesies a catastrophic war, which will transform the entire surface of the earth into a spiritual wasteland – in line with the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. In a twist that reminds me of the equally prophetic writings of William Blake (allegedly an initiate), Mark Booth adds that only America will be spared this horrible fate.
Taking this as a possible truth, perhaps it’s no coincidence that the denizens of The House Between have ended up on Roanoke Island, where they will be inextricably linked with the colonization of America. Perhaps Astrid, Arlo, Bill, Theresa, Travis and Brick will become founders of their own “secret society” – a group of storytellers who were miraculously brought together to spread a message about the future.