Hideaki Anno once famously said, in response to a question about a gnostic reference in End of Evangelion, "I have no bloody clue; fanwank something". Since then, it has been assumed that most of the references to gnosticism in his masterwork Neon Genesis Evangelion were "pointless religious references", and that they were there for no reason other than because the abrahamic religions are exotic and sexy in japan.
However (though this may be the Law of Fives in action) I posit that Anno had (and perhaps still has) a far deeper understanding of gnosticism (among other 'fringe' sciences) than is usually assumed.
Point: Humanity is the 18th angel. (The seventeenth is free will, which we will get to later). Arguably, humanity is the demiurge (samahel). Note that humanity's method is science, and is otherwise incapable of the feats of reality manipulation that the angels are incapable of.
Point: There is an (otherwise entirely out of place) focus on quantum mechanics throughout the series. All the violations of newtonian physics directly addressed in the series are blamed on the peculiar properties of 'particle-wave matter' (mind you, all matter is particle-wave matter technically; the wavelengths of macroscopic objects are superlative enough that they can be discounted). There is also direct mention of quantum mechanics terms (specifically, terms for orientation such as 'top', 'strange', 'charm', etc.) in situations having nothing at all to do with quantum mechanics (such as during the discussion of Rei's early programming, to be mentioned later). This mirrors the idea of multiple layers of reality, as well as the idea that on a lower level of abstraction the properties of matter as known do not exist.
Point: The description of Rei's early life involves elements specifically similar to descriptions of the Monarch Project. These elements differ from descriptions of MK-ULTRA (particularly psychic driving, which the Monarch Project seems to be working off of). Some elements have been jumped upon as Freudian (such as the comment that Rei's subconscious is made up of "light and water" -- which sounds like a description of Oceanic Consciousness), but other elements fit better with the Monarch hypothesis.
Point: Anno did not restrict symbolism to gnosticism. Kaballah and Freemasonry are also referenced -- the Sephirothic System and the 'angelic alphabets' in the opening sequence are most notably tied to Kaballah and the Nerv pyramid is explicitly Freemasonic, as is the sequence of "dogmas" underground. Several elements belong more to hermeticism, and the entire basis of NERV and GEHIRN's philosophy is enlightenment-style 'luciferianism' or 'prometheanism'. SEELE lives up to its name, being an amusingly reactionary detournment and mockery of the Illuminati concept -- about as anti-illumination as possible, and the very model of a stereotypical NWO.
Point: The nature of the Angels mirrors that of Jacques Vallee's 'ultraterrestrials'. They are alien, supernatural, and have powers far beyond our own, not to mention the focus on eyes, light, insectoid elements (as common in DMT trips), and sexual organs in their designs, yet they come from earth in a single flap. The use of the word 'angel' in english and 'shito' (meaning messenger) in japanese highlights an important point which Anno must have been aware of -- while the japanese and english terms are different between 'messenger' and 'angel', the hebrew word is the same. To make the association triply is to imply that which Vallee put forth in Passport to Magonia and John Keel (another Keel -- add this to Chairman Keel, and the Ikari family, along with the nautical terms that saturate the naming in the series) that the angels in the old testament were in-deed ultraterrestrials of the same type as Indrid Cold and our friendly MIBs (which, when appearing in NGE, are amusingly human, and quite fallible).
Note that I don't claim Anno is any sort of occultist. After all, all of this information is readily available to anyone who looks, especially after 1988 when the internet became publicly available. However, Anno seems to know far more than he claims to know about these occult subjects. Does he claim a-gnosis for the sake of saving a long explanation using terms unknown to an average translator, in an unfamiliar language? Or does he have other reasons to hide his knowledge? Or, perhaps like Phillip K Dick, the insight came and went with his episode of mental illness.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is only one of a number of things in the popular visual media which have an esoteric meaning only hinted to by the exoteric meaning. I plan to post about more of them in the future.
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