Dig into almost any decent writing just a little and you’ll find traces of mythology. Ancient myths touch on universal truths, because the old-timey people used stories to explain the things about the world they didn’t understand. Kind of a no-brainer then, that the stuff still resonates with us even in the age when we know it’s not Apollo pulling a chariot across the sky with the sun, and we aren’t gonna literally believe Daedalus and Icarus biting it while flying on wax wings. Of course, there are a large number of people who believe varying degrees of literal interpretations of the Bible, which only proves the point further.
Somewhere in the shady lands between tales we see as truth and those we see as bedtime stories for old Greeks lies Gnosticism. Actually first posited by some cats from Greece as well, this heretical and mystical form of Christianity (there are spinoff non-Christian forms as well) puts a very different spin on the world-view that you might be familiar with. It’s sort of what Kabbalah is to Judaism, and the two connect in many places, but it’s far less widely accepted by the traditional set (did I call it heretical yet?)
Here’s the shortened version of a few of the key Gnostic concepts filtered through the anime Ergo Proxy — any similarities are definitely not coincidental. Any Gnostics out there, gomen for my clumsy simplifications of your religion. Bullet lists and some possible spoilers follow. I tried really hard to keep them out, but then there wasn’t anything to talk about… ON with this.
Ergo Proxy doesn’t have a 1:1 correspondence of mythological figures to its own characters. You could say one of two things about this:
- Dai Sato, master of obscurity, and the writers of Ergo just pasted some Gnostic names onto their opus in an attempt to sound deep, after learning that “a flawed creator creating flawed creations” was a Gnostic theme. We could call this the Anno Method.
- They decided to let their own Creator — not to mention the Proxies, Re-L, and Vincent — fill numerous spots in mythology at once.
Ergo’s storyline is a complicated (some would say convoluted) and sometimes abstract one. Since it’s not always literal, that abstraction points me more toward #2. Plus, I like to give writers the benefit of the doubt.
Monad vs. Yaldabaoth the Demiurge
To Gnostics, the most fundamental belief is that the creator of this earth is not a true god, but a “demiurge.” This is Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah. That’s where the heresy comes in. This being’s very existence is basically a mistake, but it was powerful enough to create the material universe — and the little beings who populate it. Now, these folks aren’t bad, and in most Gnostic teachings Yaldabaoth isn’t either, but there are two truths here:
- A flawed creator can only create flawed things. The Statues actually tell Re-L that they’re all the flawed products of a flawed creator. This theme continues to trickle down to the AutoReivs, the flawed creations of humans.
- We, as fleshy beings, are prisoners of a material world. In this case Romdo is analogous to our own universe, in which we live perfectly happy lives until we acquire a glimpse of Gnosis (meaning knowledge, called “truth” in the anime). At the point where you know, your soul’s desire for more knowledge supplants your ability to be happy in slavery. All of its equivalent domes, represent potential similar planes of existence. Yes, both The Matrix and They Live are bigtime Gnostic flicks, according to some.
The one in Gnostic myth who brought Gnosis and saved us from this prison of slavery is Christ, but more on that in a second.
Some Gnostics break it down further, where the Demiurge was served by beings called Archons who did his laundry. In this case, I think there are two possible routes:
- The proxies are in fact Archons to The Creator, who is the primary Demiurge.
- The Creator is the real and truest God, known as Monad, while the Proxies are various Demiurges. Each domed city in this case would represent a material universe like our own.
Either is likely, but either way the central theme is what’s important: the Demiurge stands as gatekeeper to the realm of Light, and thus true God and Gnosis. I think that’s obvious in this case, since the Proxies rule over the false realities of the domed cities.
Monad is represented by numerous æons — emanations of God, also semi-analogous to traditional Christian angels — who come in pairs of descending importance. On the lower end of that, in the realm of Light, is Sophia and Christ.
When an æon named Sophia emanates without her partner aeon, the result is the Demiurge, or half-creator, a creature that should never have come into existence. This creature does not belong to the pleroma, and the One emanates two savior æons, Christ and the Holy Spirit, to save humanity from the Demiurge. Christ then took the form of the human Jesus, in order to be able to teach humanity how to achieve gnosis; that is, return to the pleroma.
Well, that says a lot about the other Monad — the one in the anime — who is inexplicably tied to Ergo, and of course it says plenty about Vincent and Re-L as well. Vincent is the obvious Christ-figure of the story with his return to Romdo in earthly form, and when he and Re-L come back to Romdo again, they occupy the same body for a time.
When things start to both confuse and click simultaneously is when Monad Proxy herself returns to Romdo, but as Daedalus’s creation, a false Re-L. The names are obvious here, with the literal translation of her untimely end from the Icarus/Daedalus myth, although I think it’s only marginally related. But If Monad is Sophia to Vincent’s (Proxy) Christ, and Re-L is somehow also Sophia to Vincent’s (human) Christ, then that would tie them together fairly well.
What’s it mean?
There’s far more to cover in Ergo Proxy besides these three loose Gnostic parallels — for instance, the cogito virus, whose purpose bears a funny resemblance to another semi-Gnostic cartoon’s Human Instrumentality Project.
But regardless of whether I ever tie it all together, the point is the same as why Gnosticism still has an appeal as a religion (though please don’t consider this as anything other than and endorsement of an anime):
It values knowledge, thought, interpretation, and freedom of intellect over the material, the easy, and enslavement. it eschews easy answers in favor of learning for ones’ self.
But unlike this material existence, at least I’m able to do it a second time in hopes that it’ll make more sense.