The Tree of Life Significance

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The Tree of Life Significance

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Postby confusedfan343 » Fri Jan 04, 2019 11:44 pm

The Tree of life, as in the Kabbalah symbol featuring 10 Sephiroth, is seen all throughout NGE and in EoE as everyone knows. The Tree is seen in the opening sequence, in Gendo's office, and during instrumentality. My question is, is there any real cannon in-universe meaning of the tree of life? is the tree representative of anything tying into the story or the lore of Evangelion or is there no real in-universe meaning (I initially thought it represented something regarding to the order of angels, Adam, or Lilith but i don't think that's correct). Several minds behind the series have stated that Judeo-Christian symbols and names were simply used due to the fact that they would seem exotic or interesting to a Japanese audience, is the tree of life one of these, having no deeper meaning within the series and it's lore and simply being used since it "looks cool?" To put it simply, does the Tree of life/Sephiroth have any in-universe meaning, symbolism, or significance or was it only used for aesthetic reasons?

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The Tree of Sephiroth as seen in Gendo's office

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The Tree as seen in EoE

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Postby Reichu » Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:59 pm

The Tree of Life as used in NGE is a link between the spiritual and physical realms (rooted in Heaven, branching toward Earth), and consequently provides a path by which humanity can return to a divine state of being. This Kabbalistic idea is cross-referenced with (a liberal interpretation of) the Christian doctrine of the Way to God, wherein Christ, represented by the Cross, provides a bridge that connects Man back to God. Notice how the Sephirothic Tree in EoE has Eva-01's cruciform wings visually integrated with it, and how the Tree of Life that Eva-01 later turns into has a crucifix shape.

The recurring nature of the Sephirothic Tree is mainly a world-building element, giving a flavor of mysticism to the sci-fi proceedings that nicely complements the Jungian psychology in the show.

(The oft-cited Tsurumaki statement is about how NGE isn't making any kind of Christian statement. The borrowed Judeo-Christian elements have plenty of meaning within the work itself.)

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Postby StrokeMeGoat » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:47 am

View Original PostReichu wrote:(The oft-cited Tsurumaki statement is about how NGE isn't making any kind of Christian statement. The borrowed Judeo-Christian elements have plenty of meaning within the work itself.)

^This. The choice being made to use Christian symbolism was because it seemed cool/exotic and could generate interest among Japanese viewers since they aren't generally all that familiar with Christianity; however, that does not mean that the Christian symbolism wasn't utilized well and done so with specific meaning intended. To reiterate, it's not that the symbols lack significance or meaning in the show, but rather the decision to pick Christianity itself was because it was cool and different.


In any case, the Tree of Life Is the wellspring of all forms of energy/matter/substance in the entirety of existence; indeed, it is the route by which existence itself emerges from God's divine light/energy. Each sephirot is one of God's Divine Emanations. The closer to the material world the Emanations get, the more conscious and self-aware the beings that exist within that Emanation are.

While the Tree of Life is really only used explicitly as a symbolic reference to Christianity and God without anything much more specific than that in the show, the Tree of Life has an alternative symbolic meaning when it comes to (psychoanalytic) psychology (which the show has major roots in, of course). The Tree of Life in psychological terms represents the totality of a person's being (The lowest Emanations generally represent the physical body, and the higher Emanations represent the conscious and unconscious mind, and the Tree itself on a whole represents the Spirit or Soul). It has very broad applications when it comes to representing aspects of the universe/existence, life, people, etc.

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Postby Reichu » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:14 pm

View Original PostStrokeMeGoat wrote:the Tree of Life is really only used explicitly as a symbolic reference to Christianity and God without anything much more specific than that

I wouldn't consider the ToL to be a reference to "Christianity" per se, aside from the way in which the show incorporates the Way to God into the motif. IMO "Christianity" gets a bit too much credit where NGE is concerned. The Abrahamic material would be correctly referred to as "Judeo-Christian", since some of it is exclusively Jewish, some of it is exclusively Christian, and some of it is shared between the faiths.

I'm a little confused why you first acknowledge that the symbols have their own meaning within NGE, and demonstrate that you're familiar with Kabbalah, only to seemingly dismiss the idea that the ToL is used by NGE in a very specific spiritual context (which doesn't come at the expense of the psychoanalytic one -- in NGE, these generally complement one another).

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Postby ACGT-Samael » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:05 pm

I think it's pretty clear from the use of religious terms and names to describe what is ostensibly Alien Biotech (the Spear being a control rod as the most obvious one) that Judeo-Christian symbols should also be interpreted in that light. Nobody actually thinks Adam and Lilith were spouses born from dirt for example. Even Shinji refers to the Angel's as "messengers bearing the names of Heavenly Angels". The only people who treat all this with actual religious reverence are SEELE, who End makes clear are batshit crazy.

Also, if the Tree of Life were just a reference to JHWH, why exactly is Da'at missing from the tree? The actual scene in which it manifests even includes the closest thing to JHWH the series has: the Adam/Lilith hybrid, the closest thing you can actually get to the FAR.

Generally when anime characters speak of something as a God, it's more meant to demonstrate a conceptual level of power, which makes sense given Shintoism is a Pantheon religion. Abrahamic religions in general, and Christianity specifically, are not common in Japan, so parsimony suggests we take the more standard interpretation.

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Postby StrokeMeGoat » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:17 am

View Original PostReichu wrote:I'm a little confused why you first acknowledge that the symbols have their own meaning within NGE, and demonstrate that you're familiar with Kabbalah, only to seemingly dismiss the idea that the ToL is used by NGE in a very specific spiritual context (which doesn't come at the expense of the psychoanalytic one -- in NGE, these generally complement one another).

I think this was poor wording on my part. What I was saying was that its literal function, as divine emanations of God which give rise to our world, isn't really touched on whatsoever. Rather, it's only explicit meaning in the show in that regard is as a reference to Judeo-Christian lore The spiritual meaning it has in Kabbalism, as in what it represents with respect to the human psyche and the nature of ourselves and our perceived reality is still there, but it's essentially identical to its meaning in a psychoanalytic perspective.

Since many people are likely to try and see its religious rather than spiritual symbolism, since knowledge of the latter is much less widespread and not nearly as easily understood, I didn't really bother mentioning the fact that psychoanalytic psychology pretty much just adapts its spiritual meaning without much, if any, real modification, and simply applies it in ways that may be considered different than what might typically be the case (anybody who actually sees the ToL in a religious context or part of a religious setting doesn't likely consider how fundamental and far reaching the meaning behind it happens to be in literally all aspects of life).

It may be the case I am still not explaining myself all that well. To put it a bit more simply, my comment you quoted was not meant to be saying that the ToL has essentially no meaning in the show other than to say "hey here's a Judeo-Christian symbol". I was saying that the show makes no comment on or allusion to the ToL having its literal function or literally existing as the what gives shape and substance to the universe and our existence.

Also, despite the show's Judeo-Christian imagery and symbolism indeed having meaning within the show, the show doesn't at all imply Christianity as a religion "got it right" and that Christian religious beliefs reflect the reality of the show's universe (i.e., that YHWH/Yahweh is the one true God, that Jesus was the son of God as well as God as one and the same and came to be man's salvation, etc.). Neither does it seem to comment one what the main religious beliefs of the world or even Japan happen to be. Things just happen to be understood and named within a Judeo-Christian context. I think you'd have to agree on that point, right?

If not, then what exactly happened to Jesus being humanity's salvation? Enough of the state of the world when the series takes place would make absolutely no sense if what happened in the Bible were actually something that took place and happened to actually be religiously correct as being the true nature of the universe. I mean, the Spear/Lance of Longinus is an advanced alien tool, device, and weapon. Clearly, it isn't what would be considered the original and true Holy Lance. It's all just a way of taking meaning and symbolism that already existed and applying it to the story in such a way that its original meaning still applies, but within the framework of this particular story. The Holy Lance pierced Jesus's (God in the form of a human, like Adam and Lilith) side and water followed by blood spilled to the ground. It's supposed to give some better context to phenomena within the story with little to no real explanation or exposition explicitly being given to it. The Tree of Life here is much the same. It's got a specific meaning within the show that's extremely similar to its meaning in the Kabbalah, but it's not meant to be identical or to mean that what's written in the Kabbalah happens to be the true nature of NGE's universe.

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Postby SawItAtAge10 » Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:52 pm

This discussion on symbols and their implicit meaning(s) kind of reminds me of this old conversation regarding how things are named in Evangelion:

thread/17559/The-Naming-Conventions-in-Evangelion/

It would seem that NGE is so "meta" that not only did Adam and Lilith act as the progenitors of human civilization, but (possible) communications via one of the lances and attempts to read/interpret the Dead Sea Scrolls is what has resulted in what we would call religion. Thus, the "original truth" actually came from the Seeds themselves and we obscured, bastardized, and plain got the message wrong the creation of religions, holy texts, and the advancement/evolution of languages both spoken and written.

Thus, the ToL as an aline mechanism AND as a religious symbol (one of many to be diluted in its meaning via too many humans having their hands on it as a concept) are equally valid if we consider the FAR/the Seeds to be their point of origin, rather than an actual divine being akin to Yahweh, Jesus, Mohammad, or even Ahura Mazda...

It's pretty much the Prometheus route with regard to the simultaneous origins of life, civilization, languages, and religion. Plus, it takes the most extreme approach to super tech being viewed as magic - said magic is then interpreted (by ancient sheep herders in the ancient world) in ways that lead to the creation of major world religions and human affairs go about in their normal historical context right up until the Second Impact.
FROM EVANGELION:
"Acts of Man are greater than acts of God!"

"I'm saying that I love you."

NOT FROM EVANGELION:
"You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold."

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Postby PenPen4life » Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:35 pm

Well, the story does potray a version of heaven...

Before the protagonist rejects it as an escapist illusion

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Postby ACGT-Samael » Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:42 pm

View Original PostPenPen4life wrote:Well, the story does potray a version of heaven...

Before the protagonist rejects it as an escapist illusion


Which is about as un-Abrahamic as you can get.

Yui's words are clearly meant to show that Heaven isn't a specific place, some promised land you have to give your life just to enter. It's a state of mind, making the most of the world around you and trying to live the best life you can for your own happiness and that of others.

Saying you should live for this life rather than an afterlife is about as secular as you can possibly get. That alone should put the idea of a Christian slant to bed.

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Postby SawItAtAge10 » Tue Jan 15, 2019 1:26 pm

Therein lies the beauty of NGE with all of its crypto-religious symbolism and motifs - It's an alien invasion/origins of life story involving beings with sufficiently advanced tech that it seems like magic by human comprehension. This coupled with a pseudo-religious cult, a crap ton of psychology, and what you have is a humanistic story that is inherently atheistic at the end of the day. Especially in the various ways that "god" is depicted as all to human over and over again throughout.

That's just my take anyway based on the way the symbolism/imagery is used in tandem with what the world building background narrative is for NGE's universe - it is still sci-fi at the end of the day.
FROM EVANGELION:
"Acts of Man are greater than acts of God!"

"I'm saying that I love you."

NOT FROM EVANGELION:
"You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold."

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Postby ACGT-Samael » Tue Jan 15, 2019 1:50 pm

Clarke would be proud of this series for sure.

That said, I definitely wouldn't call SEELE pseudo-Religious. The thing they're praising may not actually be a divine being of otherworldly origin (well, it is, but not in that sense) but they definitely act like the worst depiction of religion possible, fanatically chanting and sacrificing things in pursuit of an ideal existence. They definitely give off a very Heaven's Gate/Jonestown vibe.

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Postby SawItAtAge10 » Tue Jan 15, 2019 3:03 pm

And given the time period, when Heaven's Gate was around the corner, to say nothing of the cult behind the Tokyo subway attacks...It's rather uncanny in a creepy sort of way...What I meant though was that the term "god" here is mostly just placeholder for "super powerful thing humans can barley understand based on limited knowledge/tools." Once again, its a matter of semantics vs. specialized usage within the series...SEELE appear to be the only ones taking it literally or semi-literally...They treat the Seeds and the FAR as divine when they are really just humanoid alien progenitors..."gods" in the sense of being humanity's makers...But just as flawed and fragile as the beings (us people here on earth) they made...I think I just tapped into one of Anno's themes by accident... Maybe SEELE's "religiosity" is based on those rabid fans who treat a property with this sick obsession that it becomes a kind of religion to them AND they demand that the "scenario" (story) goes a certain way based on their expectations...Seems like an apt. comparison, secret for the whole "budget" thing which always struck me more as meta commentary on how the show was funded and the production arguments involved there...


EDIT: I just noticed the tree is UPSIDE DOWN :0 IN all my years watching NGE/EoE I NEVER noticed that!!!

Here's a comparison:


http://www.digital-brilliance.com/theme ... er-ToL.jpg
FROM EVANGELION:
"Acts of Man are greater than acts of God!"

"I'm saying that I love you."

NOT FROM EVANGELION:
"You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold."

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Postby PenPen4life » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:25 am

View Original PostACGT-Samael wrote:Which is about as un-Abrahamic as you can get.

Yui's words are clearly meant to show that Heaven isn't a specific place, some promised land you have to give your life just to enter. It's a state of mind, making the most of the world around you and trying to live the best life you can for your own happiness and that of others.

Saying you should live for this life rather than an afterlife is about as secular as you can possibly get. That alone should put the idea of a Christian slant to bed.

I don't recall anyone saying it was pro-christianity. If that's actually a widely held belief then... lol.

Then again many ppl seem to think Shinji and Asuka are supposed to be adam and eve(despite the show repeatedly telling us otherwise), so what do I know?
View Original PostACGT-Samael wrote:Clarke would be proud of this series for sure.

That said, I definitely wouldn't call SEELE pseudo-Religious. The thing they're praising may not actually be a divine being of otherworldly origin (well, it is, but not in that sense)

Could you specify the criteria that must be met to qualify under this "other sense" of other-worldly?

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Postby ACGT-Samael » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:01 pm

There are indeed still people who claim Evangelion is Christian propaganda. Those people are ridiculously wrong, but still.

JHWH is generally considered otherworldly in the sense that He is an eternal entity, one without beginning and end, who is considered omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and exists beyond reality. Adam and Lilith are engineered constructs of an ancient but very much real race, who exist within reality but are literally from another planet. That's is the distinction I'm referring to.

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Postby PenPen4life » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:56 pm

View Original PostACGT-Samael wrote:There are indeed still people who claim Evangelion is Christian propaganda. Those people are ridiculously wrong, but still.

JHWH is generally considered otherworldly in the sense that He is an eternal entity, one without beginning and end, who is considered omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and exists beyond reality. Adam and Lilith are engineered constructs of an ancient but very much real race, who exist within reality but are literally from another planet. That's is the distinction I'm referring to.

Was instrumentality not an eternal state of being? And while I'm sure some might claim he's beyond reality, if he interacts with reality he is, by definition part of reality lol.

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Postby cyharding » Sat Jan 19, 2019 12:01 am

View Original PostACGT-Samael wrote:There are indeed still people who claim Evangelion is Christian propaganda. Those people are ridiculously wrong, but still.

I agree, though I have noticed that there are some things in the show that seem to reflect parts of Christianity, even if it is unintentional.

As one example, I've discovered recently that the concept of Instrumentality is very similar to ideas in the writings of the paleontologist, philosopher, and Jesuit priest Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, especially in his book, The Phenomenon of Man.

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Postby viperzero » Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:46 pm

View Original PostACGT-Samael wrote:Clarke would be proud of this series for sure.

That said, I definitely wouldn't call SEELE pseudo-Religious. The thing they're praising may not actually be a divine being of otherworldly origin (well, it is, but not in that sense) but they definitely act like the worst depiction of religion possible, fanatically chanting and sacrificing things in pursuit of an ideal existence. They definitely give off a very Heaven's Gate/Jonestown vibe.



They almost seem like Alchemists to me TBH.

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Postby StrokeMeGoat » Sun Jan 27, 2019 10:26 am

View Original PostPenPen4life wrote:Well, the story does potray a version of heaven...

Before the protagonist rejects it as an escapist illusion

I really have to wonder if Instrumentality should really be considered anything like heaven, paradise, or Nirvana. I've noticed a lot of people around here seem to have the opinion that HIP happens to be something like this. Honestly, the show and EoE don't make HIP seem all that pleasant of an experience or otherwise enjoyable.

Yeah, all of humanity's flaws and imperfections are filled in with one another upon merging into a new, amalgamated super being, but that doesn't mean melding minds and consciousness with others would actually feel like paradise of any kind. Again, just look at the experiences the cast have in the show... does that seem all that much like paradise? Eventually with the total dissolving of all of the super being's component human soul's ego borders, the show pretty much states it is as good as being dead, because all that exists is the super being itself, and a human's awareness in HIP feels as though it is being spread to fill the whole of existence (without shape or distinction in form or anything else in existence). Shinji describes it as though he is fading out of existence.

I mean, if dying and not having any afterlife and simply not existing any more/returning to nothingness sounds like paradise, then I suppose HIP would be paradise to anyone that thought that. Otherwise, it wouldn't really be much of anything--since no individual human would be aware of themselves or any other individuals. It really would be the same as being dead or otherwise not/no longer existing, because the only "you" that exists is the individual human being in the form you are in now. To meld and amalgamate with others would mean becoming something other than yourself, like the Puppet Master and Motoko Kusanagi at the end of the original GITS movie. They were no longer the one called the Major, nor the one called the Puppet Master, but something new. Either way, a human being's individual existence is entirely erased through the process of complementation and HIP.

When thought about that way, HIP really can't be Nirvana/paradise, nor can it be hell or any other form of afterlife. It is a form existence whose ramifications for the individuals that merged with one another are such that it is an "afterlife" beyond being capable of being judged as something good or bad for people, because the people themselves wind up dissolving as individuals entirely. Something can only be good or bad for people (or beings with consciousness and self awareness). If those people are no longer there, then there is nobody for a given thing to be good or bad for.

That said, HIP is merely another form of existence like any other. There is nothing inherently better or worse about existing as a giant collective human being as opposed to an individual one (or as anything else, even inanimate objects). It all depends on one's opinions, belief, and value systems. In that way, Shinji wasn't wrong or right to reject it. It was a decision he had to make, and he made one. He made a decision and decided to move forward, which is progress no matter which path is taken. It's a lot like how people view human beings as being some pinnacle of evolution that is like some end goal that all animals are moving towards (which is how concepts like being "less" evolved come about). Evolution is not a value system, but a process. It is our own value system that leads us to assign ourselves arrogant levels of significance like that. All animals and other forms of life are just another particular arrangement of existence and the interaction between the systems at play that allow for those arrangements to come about. Believing it's better to be one form of another stems from an individuals ego and culture, and they no longer apply when viewing existence from a non-humancentric perspective (or otherwise change entirely not just from individual but from sapient species to sapient species).

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Postby PenPen4life » Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:16 am

View Original PostStrokeMeGoat wrote:I really have to wonder if Instrumentality should really be considered anything like heaven, paradise, or Nirvana. I've noticed a lot of people around here seem to have the opinion that HIP happens to be something like this. Honestly, the show and EoE don't make HIP seem all that pleasant of an experience or otherwise enjoyable.

You're assuming heaven would be a pleasant experience.

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Postby Mr. Tines » Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:22 pm

View Original PostPenPen4life wrote:You're assuming heaven would be a pleasant experience.
That's kind of meant to be its selling point, you know.
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