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The Matrix: Why The Oracle Told Neo He's Not The One

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Why did the Oracle tell Neo that he is not “The One” in the 1999 sci-fi classic, The Matrix? Fresh off being awakened to the true nature of reality outside of the illusion of the Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is urged by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) to meet with the Oracle, a program with extraordinary insight and intuition.

The Oracle plays a seminal role within the narrative framework of The Matrix. Initially created to interpret the nuances of the human psyche in order for the Machines to manipulate simulated reality further, The Oracle later asserted herself as an autonomous entity who aided the Resistance during the Machine War. A primary reason why Morpheus speaks so highly of the Oracle could be attributed to the fact that she offered regular insight to operatives of Zion, guiding them towards freedom through advice and clairvoyance.

Keeping these facts in mind, it is difficult to consider the Oracle telling Neo he’s not “the One” as a mere coincidence or happenstance - the Oracle might have had her own motivations when she said so. Here’s a deep dive into the possible theories as to what her motivations were with regards to Neo.

The Oracle Is Manipulating Events


It is crucial to understand that the Oracle is known for subtly manipulating events throughout the various cycles of the matrix in order to usher in certain outcomes. This can be highlighted through a seemingly innocuous event: when she and Neo meet for the first time, she says “Don’t worry about the vase.” This utterance takes Neo by surprise, which leads to him inadvertently knocking the vase over. This implies that The Oracle is not only gifted with clairvoyance but holds the ability to interfere and manipulate events within the matrix. Hence, when she apologizes to Neo, saying that he, in fact, is not the One, she is subtly planting the idea in his mind that to assume the mantle of the One, one needs to earn it through sacrifice, which is ultimately what she nudges Neo towards when she says that he needs to either save himself or Morpheus from certain death. By planting the seed of self-sacrifice in Neo’s mind, the Oracle makes sure that he remains on the path that is required for him to eventually transform and grow into his destined role.

Also, this is most likely when one considers the fact the Oracle herself was responsible for The Prophecy, which was the prediction that the return of the One shall herald the destruction of the matrix and freedom for humanity from the oppressive regime of the Machines. The Prophecy makes an indelible mark on Morpheus, who spends almost his entire life looking for the One, to the extent that he drifts away from his lover, Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith), and confounds Zion operatives who not share his beliefs. The greatest proof of the Oracle’s penchant for manipulating events is when The Prophecy is revealed to be a fabrication by the Machines, in order to manipulate the One meeting the Architect instead of the Source itself. This is exactly what occurs in the events of The Matrix Reloaded, in which Neo learns that he is meant to reload the matrix under the consequence that the simulation will crash and lead to the extinction of all of humanity.

Neo Had To Figure It Out For Himself


It is interesting to note that the Oracle likens being the One to being in love, as the latter is an instinctive form of unexplained knowing that cannot be rationalized or explained. Just like there are not checklists for the act of being in love, the same applies to the mantle of the One - shouldering the immense weight that comes with this role would have to spring forth from Neo instinctively. The true value of sacrifice is when it is carried out without guile or influence of possible vested interests. The Oracle is acutely aware of this fact, as she is well-versed in the intricacies of the human mind. If she had, in fact, told Neo that he was destined to be the One, it would lead to feelings of complacency, due to which Neo might have ultimately failed to bring about balance and freedom in the world. Moreover, it is Neo’s initial conviction that he is devoid of any special abilities that spurs him to save Morpheus, as he acts from the heart while acknowledging the fact that Morpheus’ presence was a chance for humanity to ultimately gain the upper-hand on the Machines.

Neo Wasn't The One... Yet


The Oracle does not state outright that Neo is not special, as he tells him that he does possess the gifts requisite for being the savior of humanity. She also goes on to say that his path towards fulfilling this role is thwarted by the fact that he is waiting for something, implying that he is not ready to assume the responsibility yet, As per the proverbial monomyth, or the Hero’s Journey, which chronicles the trajectory of the hero figure, the hero in question needs to overcome certain obstacles and come to an innate understanding of the task set ahead for him in order to be able to naturally grow into that role. Although The Oracle’s prophecy has its naysayers within the world of The Matrix, most characters, including the treacherous Cypher, seems to believe in the veracity of the prophecy itself, but are doubtful as to whether Neo is the one who can fulfill it.

The same can be said for Neo, who only believes that he is not fit for the role, meaning that he hopes that it will be fulfilled when someone worthy comes along. This makes sense from a practical standpoint, as prior to Neo’s awakening, he led an almost listless existence, and even after learning about the nature of reality, he does not automatically exhibit signs of preternatural knowing. As Neo is not ready yet, he himself insinuates to the Oracle that he cannot be the One, as exemplified in the following exchange:

The Oracle: “OK, now I’m supposed to say, “Hmm, that’s interesting, but…” then you say…”

Neo: “But what?

The Oracle: “But…you already know what I’m going to tell you.”

Neo: “I’m not the One.”
This makes it clear that it is Neo who comes to the conclusion that he is not the purported hero of humanity, which allows the Oracle to nudge him gentle on the right path. What Neo seems to be “waiting for” is the unshakeable self-belief that he, in fact, is the One, which only transpires much later during his fight with Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). This sense of belief and purpose is crucial to any narrative dealing with the hero’s journey, wherein change only comes through action - meaning that Neo had to act first, and then become who he was destined to be.

The Matrix 4 (2021)
Release Date: Dec 22, 2021

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