(Accidental) Gnostic Parallels in Evangelion

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ACGT-Samael
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(Accidental) Gnostic Parallels in Evangelion

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Postby ACGT-Samael » Fri May 04, 2018 12:13 pm

Most people will recognize a lot of the references in Evangelion as being Judeo-Christian in origin, but there's far more there than that. There are of course tons of scientific references (some of which are maddeningly far off the mark, but that's a topic for another thread), but also other spiritual ones. I'm probably reading too much into this but having thought about it for the purposes of my own writing, NGE2's Seven Carriers detail coupled with NGE's central premise of human isolation is giving me massive Gnosticism vibes.

For those not familiar, Gnosticism is a collection of beliefs that's somewhat tricky to categorize because of how many sources to draws from, but can loosely be called a religion of sorts if you're really charitable. Basically, the central tenet of Gnosticism is that there exist two separate planes: the physical one to which we are all bound, and an ethereal one where the True God exists. Humans are said to be pieces of that God's divine spark that became trapped in the material plane, and the only escape is an enlightenment that allows us to transcend physical form and rejoin with this God, sometimes called The One. Starting to see the parallels yet?

Meanwhile, notice how I said the True God previously. Gnosticism states that the physical world was created by a being known as The Demiurge, also known as Yaldabaoth or, in some instances, Samael. The Demiurge himself is a product of a being known as Sophia (Wisdom in Greek), herself an offspring of The One, attempting to create a plane. He is often described as the Blind God, for he's ignorant of The One's existence, and sees himself as the only God; as such, he maintains the border between physical and spiritual, forcing humanity to revere only him. He further creates 6 beings called Archons, roughly equivalent to Judeo-Christian Angels, and is sometimes counted as one, making 7 Archons.

Now do I think Anno based Evangelion and the Seeds of Life on Gnostic works? No, it's probably just coincidence, but it's kinda amusing. If anybody else is familiar with it maybe they can either add to or refute my assertions. If not, uh... I guess just discuss how you feel about this or something.

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Re: (Accidental) Gnostic Parallels in Evangelion

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Postby viperzero » Fri May 04, 2018 9:14 pm

Gnosticism and Science fiction have a long relationship. I'm actually writing a short article and Gnostic parallels in Lain. Its worth pointing out Gnosticism and Kabbalah have a close relationship, as do most wester mystic traditions.

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Re: (Accidental) Gnostic Parallels in Evangelion

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Postby Reichu » Sat May 05, 2018 11:01 am

viperzero wrote:Its worth pointing out Gnosticism and Kabbalah have a close relationship, as do most wester mystic traditions.

I would definitely pin any resemblance between NGE and Gnosticism to this. I never even got that far in my Gnostic research, but the memetic overlap with Kabbalism was "reach out and slap you" strong.

(EDIT: Though, having admitted I haven't gotten that far in my research, there could be very obvious nods to Gnosticism in NGE that I just don't have any inkling of.... but, eh.)

A work in the same tradition as NGE that does intentionally reference Gnosticism is the PS1 game Xenogears. People have a habit of bringing it up as a NGE "ripoff", but I imagine if these same people were quizzed on the number of older mecha shows they'd seen, we would see some very unsurprising results. Xenogears was published in 1998, so like many other works at the time it's guilty of riding on NGE's success, but it does the "love letter to the mecha genre that liberally mixes in Judeo-Christian mysticism" thing very differently. It's incredibly rich and I can't recommend it enough.

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Re: (Accidental) Gnostic Parallels in Evangelion

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Postby mikek17 » Sun Oct 28, 2018 6:29 pm

Alright, I have a few things to address here before I begin my main point. First of all, to expound on what you said Gnosticism is, I wouldn't call Gnosticism a religion so much as it is a category of religions. Just like Christianity has Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, etc., I would say that Gnosticism is the same way, a category in which we have many religions: Paulicianism, Marcionism, Bogomilism/Catharism, Manichaeism, and so on. Many people falsely say that Gnosticism is some kind of Christian heresy, but really Gnostics would syncretize wherever they went. There were Gnostics who took from Christianity in the Roman Empire, Gnostics who took from Zoroastrianism in Persia, there are even Gnostic writings attributed to Buddha found farther in the east. I hate to have to go on this rant first but there are a lot of places, even big websites like the History Channel, spitting out outright garbage about Gnosticism and it's ridiculous.

Reichu wrote:I would definitely pin any resemblance between NGE and Gnosticism to this. I never even got that far in my Gnostic research, but the memetic overlap with Kabbalism was "reach out and slap you" strong.

Yeah, I hope people don't hound me for this, but there are definitely Gnostic themes in writings like the Zohar. I don't think that's the origin of what I'm about to point out, however.

Anyways, I was going to say that a lot of SEELE's dialogue has a Gnostic tone. Whether that's just pure coincidence or intended reference we will never know, but let me point out what I mean. The SEELE chairmen express that they think Instrumentality is the next step in evolution, yes, but there is another interesting theme in their dialogue. In End of Evangelion, after Shinji attracts the lance down to the neck of Unit 01, there is a cut to the scene where all of SEELE is chanting. We hear the following: (emphasis mine)
SEELE 01:
At long last our hopes are to be realized.

SEELE 04:
The original Lance of Longinus has returned as well.

SEELE 09:
While somewhat fewer than planned, it will have to do.

ALL (chanting):
Return the Eva series to its rightful form.
Evangelize humankind and restore us to our true form.
With indiscriminate death and prayers, we return to our original state.

SEELE 01:
And let all souls find peace.
Now, let the sacrament begin!

Now, why does this matter? Manichaean cosmology described the entire physical world as a creation from two original realms: the light realm, and the dark realm. Basically, demons came from the dark realm to attack the light realm (it was a bait and you'll see why) and devoured as much of the light as possible. Then the creator basically blew up the demons into physical planes, which is where our existence came from. According to Manichaean soteriology, gnosis was achieved through purification of darkness from the body. At the end of time, the light and dark realm would be separated again; the light would be reunited into one single plane, and the dark would be burnt in a great fire. Because of this, I draw a parallel between SEELE and Manichaean belief. Both of them believe that our first primordial state was a true union and want to return to it. At least, that's the interpretation I got. It hinges on SEELE saying that they will return humanity to its "original" form; I don't speak Japanese, but that's what both the fan translations and the dub say. Anyways, I think there is a parallel between some of the stuff in Eva and the Gnostic sects. Again, whether that's coincidence or intention is up for debate.

Also, one more thing: this interpretation ignores the Episode 24 cut scene and FAR lore, however, taken into account, the parallel still fits, albeit in a different way. Returning humanity to its "original" state could mean bringing humanity back together with Lilith, who was the progenitor of the human race from the black moon. SEELE calls humanity from the black moon "false successors" to the Earth and that the "true successors" (Angels) are from the white moon. SEELE rejoins humanity to Lilith first, and then to Adam, to recreate the godhead. So whether or not you take that into account, there are still gnostic parallels to be drawn either way.


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