The Hidden Spirituality of Iron Man
The film that single-handedly kick-started the MCU and brought us nearly 20 movies in only ten years! What’s more curious, that while the movie may feature flashy egocentric concepts of luxury, explosions, random sex, and Tony’s pompous attitude, under its surface is a film with a depth of hidden spiritual ideas.
Perhaps one of the most fundamental of these spiritual concepts would be the ascension of Tony from the lower centers, to the higher ones. The basic idea being that the smaller centers are governed by survival, sex, and willpower. From the very beginning, Tony is epitomized by these traits, and we see this over and over in how he treats everyone. From Rhode to Pepper to Obidiah and, of course, Christine Everhart from Vanity Fair. To him, people are just things that he can use to feel better about himself or to do the things for him that he doesn’t want to do so that he can focus on whatever he wants.
His mindset is demonstrated clearly by one of his opening lines “Sure I love peace, I’d be out of a job with peace” — showing how little he disregards for concepts such as peace or what it means.
However, his transformation or ascension is also given context and relationship to the subtle line “give to Caesar what is caesars,” and hands caesar the trophy in the casino, a range of Jesus about money and value. While tony in the line may be merely dismissive at the moment, the scene is indicative of Tony’s death and resurrection to come, into a man with a heart.
But now, everything changes when he is on his trip to Afghanistan, showing off his latest weapon — the Jericho Missile. Interestingly — Jericho here is a reference to a mighty power of God. In the bible, the battle of Jericho is a story of the Israelites who, in conquering the Canaan, marched around the city of Jericho every day for seven days. On the 7th day of marching, they completed their rounds and sounded their horn, and the walls of Jericho all fell at once, and the Israelites slaughtered almost everyone, including all of the animals.
However, Joshua — the leader of the Israelites was then cursed to have to rebuild the walls of Jericho, and we see this referenced in Iron Man in three ways. The first is that the power of the Jericho is so mighty that it metaphorically “brings down the enemy’s walls instantly.” Second, Tony is soon punished for rebuilding the missile for terrorists, just like Joshua rebuilding the walls, and third, that Joshua rebuilding the walls of a peaceful city is also likened to Tony coming to realize that he has to make the world friendly after causing so much destruction.
Now, Tony’s transformation or ascension into a higher kind of human begins when terrorists attack his convoy, and Tony has a bunch of shrapnel in his chest. Yinsen attaches an electromagnet to his chest to save his life, keeping the shrapnel from going into his heart.
For tony, Yinsen is one of the most vital characters. Through their times in the caves together, we get to see some more in-depth emotional character building, and Yinsen learns that Tony has no family and that he’s rather alone in the world. Yinsen’s full name is Ho Yinsen. Ho means goodness, and Yinsen means the best friend ever. See, in a way, Yinsen is a bit like Tony’s guide or mentor into higher consciousness. He is gentle, calm, but most of all, he is caring — and shows he has a kind of friendship that he’s never had before. At one point, Tony falls into despair and says, “They’re going to kill me, or I’ll just be dead in a week anyway” — to which Yinsen responds, sparking newfound courage in Tony to do something about his situation.
Tony builds for himself the first edition of the miniature Arc Reactor, a powerful technology embedded into his chest, glowing with radiant light. While this is physically a great asset and tool for Tony, both keeping him alive and powering his suit technology, it also stands as an excellent metaphor for the expansion and brightness of Tony’s heart. His own Arc Chakra. I mean Heart Reactor I mean, well, you get the idea.
And so, moving from the lower centers into the higher ones is a transition from a self-centered mentality into a more protective and caring state of being. For Tony, not only is he graced with the awareness of how his technology is being used, and the destruction and chaos it’s causing, but he also gets a glimpse through his friendship with Yensin, about what a higher meaning of life can be. As Yensin is dying, Tony thanks his new friend for saving his life, and Yensin responds, “Don’t waste it.. don’t waste your life, son”. These words, along with the other little wisdom and truth bombs that Yensin drops throughout their time together, is what elevates Tony into a new paradigm, giving him the courage to save himself from this disaster, and create something new in his life.
His first act here is one that all must do on the spiritual journey, which is the destruction of the old paradigm. In his escape, he destroys all of the terrorist weapons, and then upon arriving home, announces that he’s had his eyes opened, sees that he’s become comfortable with a system with no accountability, and shuts down his weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries.
Now Tony’s next step is upgrading his Arc Reactor, which seems to be a movement from his lower heart, to his higher heart. In essence, another spiritual device used to explain the difference between endless love and genuine compassion. There is a scene where Tony calls upon Pepper to help him switch his arc reactors, and he tells her that she is the most capable, qualified, and most trustworthy person he knows And entrusts her with, at least metaphorically, handling his heart. This is an extraordinary moment, signifying him beginning to let someone else in more profound than his most superficial relationships that he’s had in his life, another critical step in the awakening process, and the discovery of what love is all about. A state of real vulnerability with someone else, a surrender to trust. This ultimately leads to pepper later gifting him back his original arc reactor, framed with the words “Proof that Tony Stark has a heart.”
Now, of course, all of this leads to the creation of the Iron Man Suit. It might be worth mentioning that Iron in alchemy was known as the metal of mars, the symbol of human strength, honor, courage, endurance, tenacity, confidence, and power. Mars, of course, was known as the God of the divine masculine, opposing Venus — and this characterizes another aspect of Tony not only in this movie, but throughout the whole MCU, is Tony’s journey into learning the entire divine masculine paradigm, first what it means to be a man, and then what it means to be a brother, a lover, and teammate, a mentor, and a father.
For the Iron Man suit itself, it is colored red and gold. Red is the color of both mars and the god of war, and Gold mythologically was considered a pure and incorruptible color representing the eternal and divine powers of the universe. This is amazing; the colors themselves describe Iron Man as a bit of a divine or holy warrior.
We also see Tonys burning determination through the process of upgrading himself. From making the arc reactor to his entire suit, he dedicates himself exclusively to building these new technologies to do great things with, rebuilding and restructuring himself to be the highest expression of himself that he can be. When his work was all said and done, he was able to fly physically.
Now, the latter half of the movie is mainly centered around the betrayal of Obediah, who bears the archetype of the evil businessman who will destroy the world for profit. It’s a reasonably general archetype and stereotype, although most certainly people like this do exist in the world, people without a heart and way too much power for their good. The general message of the movie then becomes about using one’s spiritual awakening and abilities to protect those we love and to face evil when it comes to us. In one scene in the movie, we see Obi playing the piano — Larghetto by Salieri. Salieri is often known as the rival enemy of Mozart, which foreshadows the coming rivalry between Tony and Obie. The film ends with a climactic final fight, after which tony reveals to the world that he is iron man, indicating that even though he has moved into his heart, he also returns to a bit of a state of egotism, which sets up his life lessons following in iron man 2.
But overall, Iron Man is centered around the process of awakening. You see, a man transforms from self-centered egoism to an awakened being for the betterment of humanity. This seems to be a popular theme throughout most film and literature, perhaps because deep down, we all resonate with the process of awakening, and want to go there within us even if it comes with greater responsibilities too. Ultimately, Tony Stark is a fantastic model to show that no matter how good or bad you seem to have it, there is always more to learn and more to become in life.
By the way, we have a bunch of these episodes now in our new series called Hidden Spirituality! If you liked this, check out for more updates!