The Inverted Tree of Life

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The Inverted Tree of Life

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Postby Sirona » Sat Aug 10, 2013 11:20 am

The symbolism in NGE has always been one of its most compelling features to me, and although I know that a lot of it was included to "look cool", I'm excited to analyze it further. I still remember the first time I watched the series (granted, just after having wisdom teeth removed and under the influence of prescribed opiates) and noticed the Tree of Life in the intro. I had been studying Kabbalah for a few years, so I was immediately shocked and intrigued - what is the Tree of Life doing in a show about giant robots?!?!? I was indelibly hooked after the scene in ep. 1 where unit 01's eye regenerates. At any rate...

I found it odd that the ToL was inverted in EoE. I'm assuming it was intentional, because, well, why wouldn't it be?

I'm going assume that it's symbolizing man becoming god (duh, Shinji) as opposed to the earthly emanating from the subtle (to be perfectly simplistic about it all). Also, there were a lot of fun parallels when I also began looking into symbolism behind the Hanged God/Hanged Man.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hanged_Man_%28Tarot_card%29
Essentially every story of "the hanged god" or "the hanged man" has something to do with letting go, dying and being reborn, knowledge gained in death granting life, etc.

Thank you, Eva, for being so utterly rife with concepts to analyze, regardless of the original "intention".

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Postby ObsessiveMathsFreak » Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:36 pm

Welcome to the forum. I'm note sure about Tarot cards, but Kabbalistic imagery is an acknowledged source of a lot of Evangelion "lore".

I'm curious though, why do you think the inverted tree of live was intentional? Is there specific symbolism associated to drawing the tree in this way, or it is simply an inversion of the normal meaning.

While we're on the subject, what is the normal meaning of the tree of life as a visual symbol? My Kabbalah-fu has always been weak and I'm interested in what someone with a few years of study under their belt has to say about the many Kabbalah references in the show. Care to shed some light on the basics?
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Postby Chuckman » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:52 pm

The Tree of Life is a description of the process by which God created the universe. One meditates on its principles to draw closer to God. They're also related to the function of the body in a way similar to chakras. People spend their entire lives studying this stuff.

The inverted Tree may be a reference to the Qliphoth, which is a kind of mirror image of the Sephirot and represents varieties of evil.

Both concepts are also present in hermeticism and are frequently referenced by the occult orders of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (all of whom present themselves as much older, and usually aren't (unless they are...)) I'm only familiar with it from the occult angle.
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Postby Bagheera » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:33 am

I'm not sure it's meaningful to talk about the Tree of Life being inverted in EoE, since the harpies were flying and all. It's inverted if you look at it from one direction, but upright when viewed from another.

Also, the "man" becoming "god" is Yui, not Shinji. But the ToL had nothing to do with that so its actual meaning is probably more of a metaphor for Instrumentality (whereby humaninty is perfected and becomes a divine being) rather than a reference to any specific person.
For my post-3I fic, go here.
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Postby Chuckman » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:11 pm

Shinji undergoes an initiation process that is shamanic or occult in nature through the course of the series, culminating in EoE, which represents the most important or sacred aspect, the dark night of the soul/crossing of the abyss. (Kaworu is the abyssal guardian, the illusion he must slay to pass into the void) As he does not undergo ego destruction, he fails his initiation.
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Postby Bagheera » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:20 pm

View Original PostChuckman wrote:Shinji undergoes an initiation process that is shamanic or occult in nature through the course of the series, culminating in EoE, which represents the most important or sacred aspect, the dark night of the soul/crossing of the abyss. (Kaworu is the abyssal guardian, the illusion he must slay to pass into the void) As he does not undergo ego destruction, he fails his initiation.


It's hard to see how anyone could come closer than he did; he certainly qualifies more than those whose bodies died but whose souls remained intact.

IOW if he failed no one else could possibly succeed.
For my post-3I fic, go here.
The law doesn't protect people. People protect the law. -- Akane Tsunemori, Psycho-Pass
People's deaths are to be mourned. The ability to save people should be celebrated. Life itself should be exalted. -- Volken Macmani, Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
I hate myself. But maybe I can learn to love myself. Maybe it's okay for me to be here! That's right! I'm me, nothing more, nothing less! I'm me. I want to be me! I want to be here! And it's okay for me to be here! -- Shinji Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Yes, I know. You thought it would be something about Asuka. You're such idiots.

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Postby Chuckman » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:33 pm

The point of crossing the abyss is to give up your self and destroy your ego. To be Illuminated, Shinji would realize that his self/ego and all the things he's worried about, that he's been suffering through and are haunting him in Instrumentality, are an illusion. The Instrumentality sequence is sometimes compared to a psychedelic trip because it is like one. Doing DMT is a lot like what Shinji undergoes.

Seele's objective is to cheat and brute force themselves (and everyone else) through the abyss, to achieve a magical end through technology.

EoE is a Bad End because Shinji comes out of the LCL, not because he chokes Asuka. To Anno, this is good, this is hope- to an occultist this is bad, he missed his chance and doomed himself. Amusingly, Evangelion is simultaneously a mechanist materialist work that condemns religion as an escape mechanism for harsh reality, and a hypersigil.
the prophecy is true

Statistical fact: Cops will never pull over a man with a huge bong in his car. Why? They fear this man. They know he sees further than they and he will bind them with ancient logics. —Marty Mikalski

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Postby riffraff11235 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:55 pm

Didn't Shinji become something very close to a god as well, though? He was given the power to decide the fate of every Lilith-based life-form on the planet, after all.

On Topic: Could the fact that the Tree of Life was inverted have some significance in connection with the Anti-AT Field that the MPEs generated? Just going through the Wikipedia page on the Tree of Sephiroth, I found that the spot Eva-01 occupies in the tree is called Tif'eret. A lot of what's written in there resonates well with Eva-01/Yui's role in the events of Third Impact.

For reference, here are two images of the Tree of Life as it appears in NGE. It was taken from Athanasius Kircher's Oedipus Aegyptiacus.

Untranslated  SPOILER: Show
Image
Translated  SPOILER: Show
Image
inb4 Kabbalah thread
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Postby Chuckman » Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:05 pm

They probably lifted a copy of it from somewhere else. That's not the book that a bunch of Japanese nerds are going to find when they go looking for cool western imagery to put in their show.
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Postby riffraff11235 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:16 pm

View Original PostChuckman wrote:They probably lifted a copy of it from somewhere else. That's not the book that a bunch of Japanese nerds are going to find when they go looking for cool western imagery to put in their show.

You never know. Random internet searches can lead to the weirdest of places....
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Postby Bagheera » Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:37 pm

View Original PostChuckman wrote:The point of crossing the abyss is to give up your self and destroy your ego.


Shinji did that. He just let Rei bring him back when she gave him a shot at a do-over. This is no different from someone dying and coming back to life thanks to the interference of a deity.

To be Illuminated, Shinji would realize that his self/ego and all the things he's worried about, that he's been suffering through and are haunting him in Instrumentality, are an illusion.


He does a very nice job of that in EoTV.

View Original Postriffraff11235 wrote:Didn't Shinji become something very close to a god as well, though? He was given the power to decide the fate of every Lilith-based life-form on the planet, after all.


No, he wasn't. Rei had that power; she just used it as Shinji wished because she had a soft spot for him.

On Topic: Could the fact that the Tree of Life was inverted have some significance in connection with the Anti-AT Field that the MPEs generated?


Yes, that is the source of the ToL.

Just going through the Wikipedia page on the Tree of Sephiroth, I found that the spot Eva-01 occupies in the tree is called Tif'eret. A lot of what's written in there resonates well with Eva-01/Yui's role in the events of Third Impact.


Yui didn't really have anything to do with 3I, though. That was all Lilith. The ToL was kind of a red herring once Lilith showed up, as the MPEs pretty much faded into irrelevance at that point.
For my post-3I fic, go here.
The law doesn't protect people. People protect the law. -- Akane Tsunemori, Psycho-Pass
People's deaths are to be mourned. The ability to save people should be celebrated. Life itself should be exalted. -- Volken Macmani, Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
I hate myself. But maybe I can learn to love myself. Maybe it's okay for me to be here! That's right! I'm me, nothing more, nothing less! I'm me. I want to be me! I want to be here! And it's okay for me to be here! -- Shinji Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Yes, I know. You thought it would be something about Asuka. You're such idiots.

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Postby Lavinius » Wed Aug 14, 2013 5:37 pm

^^^^^
I've likened Instrumentality to the Buddhist Enlightenment in the past, given that it involves the end of reincarnation and the obliteration of the selves and suffering of all life, at least on our planet.
But Anno is a Japanese traditionalist, and Buddhism is very highly regarded in the Japanese tradition, so it would be rather strange if he were to work against it. Also Instrumentality is quite associated with illusion and false pleasure: that is Mara, the temptation and demiurge that prevents Enlightenment.
Instrumentality is a very complex idea, and I now think it best not to compare it to a religion I know very little about.
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Postby ObsessiveMathsFreak » Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:17 pm

View Original PostChuckman wrote:Shinji undergoes an initiation process that is shamanic or occult in nature through the course of the series, culminating in EoE, which represents the most important or sacred aspect, the dark night of the soul/crossing of the abyss. (Kaworu is the abyssal guardian, the illusion he must slay to pass into the void) As he does not undergo ego destruction, he fails his initiation.

Can you elaborate on what shamanistic practice might be being referenced here? I'm particularly intrigued by the notion of rituals requiring one to give up their ego border, as this is the one thing Shinji decides not to do, and in effect becomes the turning point of 3I.
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Postby Bagheera » Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:47 pm

View Original PostObsessiveMathsFreak wrote:Can you elaborate on what shamanistic practice might be being referenced here? I'm particularly intrigued by the notion of rituals requiring one to give up their ego border, as this is the one thing Shinji decides not to do, and in effect becomes the turning point of 3I.


I don't think you can really say he didn't give it up. If Rei hadn't called him back I think Seele's plan would have proceeded to completion.
For my post-3I fic, go here.
The law doesn't protect people. People protect the law. -- Akane Tsunemori, Psycho-Pass
People's deaths are to be mourned. The ability to save people should be celebrated. Life itself should be exalted. -- Volken Macmani, Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
I hate myself. But maybe I can learn to love myself. Maybe it's okay for me to be here! That's right! I'm me, nothing more, nothing less! I'm me. I want to be me! I want to be here! And it's okay for me to be here! -- Shinji Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Yes, I know. You thought it would be something about Asuka. You're such idiots.

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Postby Chuckman » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:11 pm

View Original PostBagheera wrote:I don't think you can really say he didn't give it up. If Rei hadn't called him back I think Seele's plan would have proceeded to completion.


That is why he fails. You have to do it yourself. You have you pull yourself through the other side on your own.

Or you can read Rei as a spirit guide, but I don't see that as fitting with the specific and harsh rejection of Seele's mysticism. Mystics and traditionalists are painted as suicidal lunatics guiding humanity towards oblivion to fulfill an end they don't really understand.

View Original PostObsessiveMathsFreak wrote:Can you elaborate on what shamanistic practice might be being referenced here? I'm particularly intrigued by the notion of rituals requiring one to give up their ego border, as this is the one thing Shinji decides not to do, and in effect becomes the turning point of 3I.


There is a great deal of variation in 'shamanic' practices around the world, but Siberian shamans undergo a kind of torture in the spirit world during a vision quest in which they experience being torn apart and put back together again. A trial or test during the initiation is universal and being dismembered or discorporated and restored with the help of an intercessing spirit or deity is relatively common. Such a dissolution or dismemberment is often required to make contact with a guiding entity.

Before Instrumentality, Shinji undergoes a vision quest twice. The first time, the visions are induced by isolation, sleep deprivation, oxygen deprivation, etc. The second time, he experiences being torn apart or dissembled, as he's tanged in Unit 01 and meets his spirit guide, Yui. Unit 01/Yui acts as a kind of spirit guide or spirit animal for him, allowing to take on the aspect of a berserker. Shinji, not the Eva, goes berserk on two notable occasions, when fighting Shamshel and Zeruel before he runs out of power. I'm not talking in the mechanical sense of the Eva operating without power, but in his attitude.

Those times when he gives into that consuming rage are steps on the path to surrendering his ego- he's giving up the artificial construct of himself that he hides behind, suppressing those urges.

It's interesting, in light of the significance of the number three within the series, that he undergoes three such vision quests, with the last one making up the finale of the series. (Both of them)

View Original PostLavinius wrote:^^^^^
I've likened Instrumentality to the Buddhist Enlightenment in the past, given that it involves the end of reincarnation and the obliteration of the selves and suffering of all life, at least on our planet.
But Anno is a Japanese traditionalist, and Buddhism is very highly regarded in the Japanese tradition, so it would be rather strange if he were to work against it. Also Instrumentality is quite associated with illusion and false pleasure: that is Mara, the temptation and demiurge that prevents Enlightenment.
Instrumentality is a very complex idea, and I now think it best not to compare it to a religion I know very little about.


In this case, the demon is Kaworu, who offers Shinji what he wants without any kind of suffering or price to be paid for it. It's a false offer and he must reject it or face destruction at the border of the abyss. Once Kaworu is gone, he can begin crossing it. It isn't necessarily false because Kaworu doesn't mean it, but because of the risk: if Shinji accepts his offer of unconditional love, he can never grow or progress as a person, as he will never have any reason to do so. The implication is that the hedgehog's dilemma is actually a good thing, a necessary part of life and growth as an individual.
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Postby Bagheera » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:16 pm

View Original PostChuckman wrote:That is why he fails. You have to do it yourself. You have you pull yourself through the other side on your own.


Can you give examples of fictional characters who have actually done that? Because I can't think of anyone who went as far as Shinji did and came back on their own.

Or you can read Rei as a spirit guide, but I don't see that as fitting with the specific and harsh rejection of Seele's mysticism. Mystics and traditionalists are painted as suicidal lunatics guiding humanity towards oblivion to fulfill an end they don't really understand.


I'm hard-pressed to treat Rei as anything but, really. She and Kaworu fit the role to a T.
For my post-3I fic, go here.
The law doesn't protect people. People protect the law. -- Akane Tsunemori, Psycho-Pass
People's deaths are to be mourned. The ability to save people should be celebrated. Life itself should be exalted. -- Volken Macmani, Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
I hate myself. But maybe I can learn to love myself. Maybe it's okay for me to be here! That's right! I'm me, nothing more, nothing less! I'm me. I want to be me! I want to be here! And it's okay for me to be here! -- Shinji Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion
Yes, I know. You thought it would be something about Asuka. You're such idiots.

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Postby Ornette » Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:05 am

View Original Postriffraff11235 wrote:You never know. Random internet searches can lead to the weirdest of places....

We're talking about EoE, right? In 1996-97, you had things like Lycos and AOL as a search engines and the beginnings of an internet that consisted of corporate startup websites and personal geocities pages. In other words, not really anything.

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Postby riffraff11235 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:23 am

View Original PostOrnette wrote:We're talking about EoE, right? In 1996-97, you had things like Lycos and AOL as a search engines and the beginnings of an internet that consisted of corporate startup websites and personal geocities pages. In other words, not really anything.

:facepalm: You're absolutely right. I guess that goes to show just how much I've gotten used to having easy access to fast internet. :lol:

Anno probably researched many foreign religions to find visual and thematic motifs to use in this show; there's no reason to think Kabbalah wasn't among them.
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Postby Mr. Tines » Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:50 am

Compared with EoE, it's the TV end where Shinji "break[s] on through to the other side".

So far as sources go, a major gap in our knowledge is about how widely read in SF and its general association cloud from western sources the fen making up the Gainax team were at the time -- there's not a lot here that you couldn't have picked up from just reading from genre, even if getting the illustration for the scene of the Sephirotic system might have involved extra gofer hours at time of production.
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Postby Sirona » Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:36 am

I'm curious though, why do you think the inverted tree of live was intentional? Is there specific symbolism associated to drawing the tree in this way, or it is simply an inversion of the normal meaning.

While we're on the subject, what is the normal meaning of the tree of life as a visual symbol? My Kabbalah-fu has always been weak and I'm interested in what someone with a few years of study under their belt has to say about the many Kabbalah references in the show. Care to shed some light on the basics?


Chuckman had some good stuff to say about this. The #1 thing I learned about studying the ToL is... don't study the ToL. :bigeyes:

...but seriously, people really do spend their whole lives studying Kabbalah, so I make no claims to being "right" about any of this. :)

I tend to view the ToL, in its most simplistic form, as the phrase "word made flesh". The three "worlds" of the ToL can be simplified into THOUGHT-WORD-DEED. It's a pathway connecting the earthly to the divine, and vice versa. In college I created an animation on the "basics" of the Tree of Life, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwiTLnkLR_E

Again, even this video is based on limited understanding, however, if you want more specific information on the meaning behind individual Sephiroth, this would be a helpful (albeit... boring?) video to watch. I will say that I always found it interesting that the pillar of Mercy is also associated with the Male, and the pillar of Severity with Female.

As a side note, I myself have been through one particularly significant "initiation" process from which it took me 4+ years to recover. This was actually the reason I stopped studying the ToL until recently when I becan re-watching NGE. Shaman (or whatever you want to call it) is one of my societal roles which is why I find this stuff in NGE so fascinating.


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