A Look at Xenoblade Chronicles: Gnostic Roots

Xenoblade Chronicles is one of the most INTERESTING games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play.  Between great characters, a crazy setting (the entire game takes place on the bodies of two planet-sized robots like what the hell) inspiration from,  of all things, ancient Gnostic beliefs, and a great story to boot, Xenoblade is ridiculous in the best way possible.  There’s many, many things in the game that i could talk about, from the depth of its characters, to the philosophy it presents regarding Divine Command Theory and the definition of a God, but for now, for those unfamiliar, we can go over the basic Gnostic ideas it presents- namely, the conflicts between the godly figures in the game.

And, oh yeah.  SPOILERS.  We will be going over basically all of the biggest plot twists of the game, including the ending of Xenoblade Chronicles, so don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled.  Mind you, it’s still a phenomenal game even if you do know the plot, so do as you wish!

And yes.  This topic has been covered before, by Chuggaaconroy, by other blogs, but it’s still an interesting thing to look at, and this can easily be a springboard to other interesting thoughts.  So, if you’ve seen this before, you might not be surprised, as a fan of the game.  So.  Yeah. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So.  Let’s try and condense this into something manageable.

  1. What’s The Score?

Throughout the whole game, you are presented with the mythos that the two giant robots that make up the world, the Bionis, and the Mechonis, have clashed in the ancient past, dealing mortal wounds to each other, becoming inanimate, hulking beings, upon which the main characters of the story live.  The Bionis, the being on which the main character, Shulk lives, is presented as some big good, being the home of the Homs, Nopon, High Entia, while all Mechonis presents is the threat of the Mechon – hulking metalic monstrosities that seem to bring nothing but death.  The only thing that can destroy them are specially made anti-mechon weapons, and specifically, the legendary sword that, of course, Shulk ends up wielding, the Monado.

SSB4_MonadoFast-forward to when Shulk and his crew beat the leader of the Mechon, Egil.  Shulk hears a voice, telling him to kill Egil, which he refuses, being the protagonist of a game with a generally positive outlook.  Being stabbed in the back by generally mysterious character, Dickson, Shulk is shot, presumably killed, and revealed to house the god who controls the Bionis, Zanza.  The goddess of Mechonis, Meyneth, who by chance, also happens to reside in another member of the party (long story), sticks up for the party.  She knows that she needs energy from her creations to continue living on, but she has accepted that, considering them her children, creations that she wishes to live on, even if she dies as a result.   However, Zanza, being the kind of generous guy that he is, denies her, kills her, and takes her Monado – he states that all life on Bionis, in his words, “existed simply to serve as my vessels and food,” believing that as a god, he defined the world, and therefore decided the purpose of the lives of mortals- to die, so he may live.2016-07-06_0-31-42

Fast-forward yet again, and we see a resurrected Shulk with his friends confronting the god Zanza, wishing to take their future into their own hands.  They fight hard against a foe that seems omnipotent, but gradually wrestle control from him, and come the battle’s end, Shulk does something that defies anything the god could have expected: he creates his own “True Monado,” and ends up killing Zanza with it.  Shulk gains the power of a god, and learns that Alvis- this super enigmatic know-it-all kind of character throughout the game- was actually a super-computer intelligence that was on board the ship that Zanza, actually a human named Klaus,  and Meyneth were on, when they somehow created a new world.  Alvis presents a choice to Shulk, in doing so, revealing his intent to simply escort humanity in their journey, despite clearly being powerful enough to surpass the other gods.  Shulk, with that knowledge, refuses to keep his godly power, and gives it up, so that the people of that world can live  without gods, choosing their own fates.

Confusing right?  At least a bit?  Maybe?  Eh.

TL;DR, Zanza and Meyneth were human scientists who created a world and became the gods of said world.  Alvis, the enigmatic above-it-all character, is essentially the computer who oversaw the creation of the world, and Shulk gains the power of a god, but gives it up for the sake of people being able to live free of restraint.  And also, this all ties into an ancient third-century religion, and I’ll tell you how.

2. Symbolic History

The Gnostic religion has three notable deities, or powers, if you will.

First, we have the Demiurge.  In Platonic philosophy, this being was responsible for the creation of the world, but to contrast that, in the Gnostic religion specifically, he is the ruler of the material world.  The Demiurge is a creation of the true God, but because he had power and was unaware of his origins as a creation himself, he fancied himself to actually be THE God, having control over the material realm.  This is where his name comes from- taking divine essence and shaping it himself, he is the Demiurge, or the half-maker.

Now, on the other side of the spectrum, there is Sophia, a far more enigmatic figure than the Demiurge.  Information on her is varied, but she is undoubtedly portrayed as a far more positive figure.  Sophia is thought to be a deity that cares for humanity, and despite being a godly power, does not look down upon humans.  Essentially, there are many views on her, some people saying she is the bride of Christ, a fallen angel, the serpent in the Garden of Eden, but in every way, she realizes she is not the one true God, and is in conflict with the Demiurge regarding their views on humanity.

The third, and most powerful of all gods, is the Monad.  Although it is NOT the creator of the world, it is the being that brought from itself the substance used to create it, residing in Pleroma, the full, totally perfect, correct world of the gods.  It is certainly the most supreme being in the Gnostic faith, and not one that interferes directly.  However, there is also another important view in the Gnosticism involving the Monad- the fact that every human being is said to have one- akin to a soul, but not quite the same.  A person’s Monad is essentially what they are- a soul, then, is something acquired.  Perhaps this quote would say it best:

“Once, while speaking with my Monad, my Monad told me, ‘I am self-realizing Thee; what I am doing, I am doing for Thee.’ Otherwise, why are we living? The Monad wants to Self-realize and that is why we are here. This is our objective.” -Samael Aun Weor

Of course, this is just scraping the surface with the complexities of Gnosticism, but this is enough.  With this knowledge in mind, I’m sure you can see where this is going in regards to Xenoblade.

3. Tying it All Together

Essentially, Zanza is the Demiurge, Meyneth is Sophia, and Alvis is the Monad.  Damn.  Didn’t see that coming.

But really, their roles in the story line up to a ridiculous degree.  Zanza, a human who gained the power of creation, considers himself a god, to the point where the lives of those below him and the world he created are, in his mind, dictated solely by his will.  His power to tell the future, create life, and wield his own Monado are all indicative of the Demiurge’s power and views on the world.2016-07-06_1-24-48

Meyneth as Sophia is also an interesting comparison.  Like Zanza, she also started off as a human who gained the power of creation, but unlike him, she chose to do something different with it – to live alongside, protect, and grow the ones under her.  She seems here to have a love for life that is not her, similarly to the backstory of Sophia.  The Demiurge and Sophia are powerful, but not the true god, and just like with Zanza and Meyneth, only one acknowledges it.2016-07-06_0-11-18

Now. The most interesting comparison from Gnostic religion to me is with the Monado- specifically, how Zanza and Alvis say phrases to the effect of “I am Monado,” and how different characters in the game actually possess their own different Monados.  The singular Monad is, in the case of Zanza and Alvis, referring to the supreme being, although only in Alvis’ case is it true.  Alvis, as the computer that supervised the creation of the world, is implied to have some sort of omniscience or omnipotence, yet he’s essentially delegated to the role of mysterious side character.  This parallels in many ways the Monad of Gnosticism, who, again, is not the creator of the world, but is the supreme being, existing in his own plane.2016-07-06_1-39-38

Yet, there are three different swords that are referred to as Monados – Zanza’s own sword that Shulk ends up using, Meyneth’s that Zanza takes, and last but not least, the one Shulk creates for himself at the end of the game.  This is where Samael’s quote comes in handy, revealing just how and why Shulk is able to create his own Monado.  The entire journey of Xenoblade Chronicles is about Shulk’s quest, and near the end, specifically his desire to defy Gods, to simply live his own life.  Defying the Demiurge, guided by Alvis and Meyneth, dying and resurrecting, he has gained the strength to create his own Monado, depicting a moment of Self-realizing, allowing him to join the realm of gods.2016-07-06_1-31-43

4. Wrap-Up!

So yeah. That is essentially the background of Gnostic religion that Xenoblade Chronicles has.  And that’s not even getting into the specific theological and philosophical topics that the game presents!  Mind you, the Gnostic religion is pretty complex, and Xenoblade Chronicles doesn’t emulate it exactly, so much as it just takes great inspiration from it.

I hope, if you’ve read this monster all the way through, that you’ve been able to learn something:  I know writing this has been crazy informational for me.  Also, if you haven’t played the game, as I know many people haven’t, first and foremost, sorry about the spoilers.  But I do hope that your interest has been perked!  Beyond just the stuff listed here, there is a phenomenal plot, soundtrack, characters, and more to enjoy.

That being said, at some point down the line, you can count on a revisit to the world of Xenoblade Chronicles.  There’s just too much crazy stuff left unsaid and un-analyzed to leave alone!

 

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