Gnosticism

Discuss the philosophy found in the various incarnations of Ghost in the Shell

Moderator: sonic

Post Reply
User avatar
Kojima
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:36 pm
Location: The Wired
Contact:

Gnosticism

Post by Kojima »

A prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin. Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit.

The question I am asking is this:

is Ghost in the Shell heavily influenced by Gnosticism?

I never really heard of this type of philosophy before and it sounds and seems like it fits the bill for Ghost in the Shell's philosophy.

They say in Gnosticism, the physical world did not matter - Which meant physical suffering did not matter either. Seeking 'enlightenment meant cultivating an attitude of detachment, even indifference.

Was such a philosophy adopted by the Major in Ghost in the Shell Innocence when she became part of the matrix? the word "gnosis" itself means "having knowledge" so it sounds like something Batou would adopt in the film too, since he was a lot like her, in his way.
"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." -- Lao Tzu.
User avatar
Freitag
Posts: 608
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 3:43 pm
Location: Behind you

Post by Freitag »

I heard a great piece of trivia about My Neighbor Totoro (spoilers ahead) that let me know that some things are so deeply culture that you just do not see them.

In MNT there is a scene where the younger child has become lost and a shoe has been found floating in a pond. It looks a lot like hers and the older sister is running down the road to identify it. Even the audience does not know if the child has survived. The shoe turns out not to be the little sisters and the tension is relieved a little, but the sister is still missing. Unless you were raised on Japanese culture. In which case there was no tension. The older sister is running past a series of roadside shrines (there seem to be a terrific lot of them right there or at least they are high emphasized by focus of the camera) and this informs the educed viewer that all is well and the journey is happy and safe.

It may be that GitS is just stuffed full of such imagery and I'd never recognize it. So the only elements I know about are the ones in the dialog. The whole show though deals with false memories and removing (or adding) obfuscation of the truth. So there does seem to be an assumption that there is an underlying truth to be discovered. The only remotely mystical thing I recall was in one of the manga where the Major (Chroma?) is on a boat and asks her AIs if they see anything on the boat and gets them to look up Raccoon Dogs. IIRC it was the manifestation/avatar of some psionic government agent, so not really mystic (where mystic/superstition is the opposite of gnostic).

That's sort of a long way around to saying that do seem to push that (or very similar) philosophy. I wonder if there are any far east philosophies that match the near easts gnostics?
People tend to look at you a little strangely when they know you stuff voodoo dolls full of Ex-Lax.
User avatar
GhostLine
Posts: 638
Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2005 10:34 pm
Location: "the net is vast and infinite..."

Post by GhostLine »

From what I recall reading about the Gnostic Period, Gnosticism was about salvation through enlightenment via secret knowledge. In traditional Christianity, Luke introduces a Greek philosophical term logos...meaning "word"...which represents the full will, intentions, and purposes of God as made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Gnostics downplayed the Christocentric view, and created the idea of the mystical gnosis.

I assume this probably was influenced by Greek Philosophy and whatever forms of thought and beliefs Greeks were exposed during their Hellenistic Period expansion. Once Rome took upon Christianity (which basically would result in severed ties from the Ancient Near-East), it's natural they would syncretize that along with everything else they picked up. Many people get worked up over certain gnostic texts not being accepted into biblical canon, but they really are from a different time and thought. That's another argument elsewhere.

Anyway, if the GitS universe is a growing network, unifying culture, thought, and beliefs, then I would assume the byproduct would be a philosophy of mystical thinking and seeking, exploring many avenues both old and new...less doctrinal. I could see why Motoko's journey would be reminiscent of Gnosticism.
I wonder if there are any far east philosophies that match the near easts gnostics?
I just read that latter Gnostic movements may have had Buddhist exposure. It's also pretty well documented that there was plenty of Greek exposure to India since the Hellenistic Period, reflected in this Greco-styled Buddha:
Image
User avatar
Kojima
Posts: 56
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:36 pm
Location: The Wired
Contact:

Post by Kojima »

I don't know why it took me so long to post back... I must've forgotten about this topic. Anyway, yeah I am thinking that in the movies a little bit of Gnosticism was the minor theme for the 1995 movie as well as its sequel. For the SAC series on the other hand, I don't quite think so, but I can definitely feel like there's a bit more of a gnostic theme in the movie innocence.

Do you guys agree?
"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." -- Lao Tzu.
User avatar
Freitag
Posts: 608
Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 3:43 pm
Location: Behind you

Post by Freitag »

I just finished up the first book Our Oriental Heritage in the series The Story of Civilization. It has a couple of issues because of when it was written* but it especially covers Buddhism and mentions the Greek statues.
The author spends a LOT of time talking about Buddhism because it was a huge long lived influence all over the far east. I do not though recall him making gnostic references.
It's a good book if you have the time to plow through it. I have the audio version digitized by someone from cassette tapes.



*Written in 1934 there are three main things that jumped out at me on the first pass.
1. Piltdown man was not exposed as a hoax until 1953 (recently further DNA studies show the the teeth from the two sites came from the same Orangutan).
2. The claim that the Chinese did not sculpt the human form to any great extent was made before the 1974 discovery of the Terracotta Army.
3. The prediction that the US might start a war with Japan because of conflicting designs on imperialistic expansion with nearly spot on. the US was a little less imperialistic than the author assumed so the Japanese started it.
4. He also made a few Biblical claims early on that I'm not sure stand up to modern scrutiny. I don't know though if that was his not actually having read the text or a difference in 60 years of interpretation (although a document in constant use over 2000 is going to have a very slowly changing interpretation if it changes at all - I am not including deliberate misuses of the text to support claims it obviously does not via some mental gymnastics.) My familiarity with this subject material makes me wonder if his other interpretations are similarly "close but not quite"
People tend to look at you a little strangely when they know you stuff voodoo dolls full of Ex-Lax.
moreorless
Posts: 20
Joined: Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:52 am

Post by moreorless »

Typically I'd say gnostic influence on modern art tends to be mostly via the concept of the demiurge, the imperfect creactor. Blade Runner for example I think pretty clearly has Tyrell in that role who creates the replicants but cannot give meaning to them(especially Batty with his ubermensch like nature).

Oshii's film does seem to have less overt versions of this with both the major and the puppet master created by section 9 and 6(maybe some numerological significance there?) who can never fully understand or control them with meaning coming from themselves.

I'm not an expert on gnostic at all but isn't there also the idea of the captured "light"? the idea of the soul has trapped in the imperfect physical body which you might argue has significant here although as has been said I spose this could be down to eastern influences such as buddism more directly.

The live action film is less overtly philosophical but does I spose you could argue actually work even better. You have the demiurge imprison the "light" of the majors ghost very deliberately and maliciously but then actually gives her the idea that she represents some kind of ubermensch and indeed that she has a significant amount of freedom that doesn't actually exist.
Post Reply