Christopher Nolan is usually viewed as a bleakly postmodern secular director whose ideas largely have their origins in the nihilistic world of the late 19th and early 20th century.
However, some have noted that there are deeper mythological and even occult tropes in his films.
I have found a possible source of Nolan’s spinning top in Inception.
Hecate, the goddess of witches, as well as the image of the anima mundi or Wold Soul of Neoplatonic philosophy and magic had a top, which could be used by a theurgic magician.
This top is described by the philosopher Psellus and is relayed to us by the scholar H. Lewy: “this instrument consisted of a golden disk–triangular, circular or of some other shape–, its surface covered with mystical characters, with sapphire inset in its centre. A leather thong attached to the disk enabled the theurgist to swing it around, while reciting magic spells. IN the intervals of these recitals the theurgist uttered inarticulate sounds: these were mostly imitations of animals cries which, in accordance with ordinary magical practice, were intended to frighten off the evil spirits, who were liable to disturb the operation; the same purpose was pursed by whipping the air and by emitting laughing sounds. When this magical top was made to spin inwards, ‘gods were called upon’ to come and when, on the other hand, it was spun in an outward direction, they ‘were set loose.'”
Nolan’s Batman movies famously inspired mass shootings and seemed to have a profound effect upon the millennial generation.
There is also the shamanistic performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, and Hans Zimmer’s ambient music clearly as a shamanistic origin (it is called trance and ambient music for a reason).
Is the iconic top a throw back to Hecate?
Is Nolan trying to channel, even if “metamorphically” spirits into his audience?
Or is the top simply a symbol of the fragility of what Nolan sees is a chaotic universe?