Gnostic Noah

Noah, at least as a film, was an incoherent mash, or so I thought. But here is an analysis that provides an actually insightful look at the film and what it was about that goes off in a direction I would have neither the knowledge nor the background ever to have recognised. This is what good criticism is about. You learn something you didn’t know before and some work of art is interpreted in a way that takes you closer to what the artist had intended. The review is titled Sympathy for the Devil. This is the core insight:

In our day and age we are so living in the leftover atmosphere of Christendom that when somebody says they want to do “Noah,” everybody assumes they mean a rendition of the Bible story. That isn’t what Aronofsky had in mind at all. I’m sure he was only too happy to let his studio go right on assuming that, since if they knew what he was really up to they never would have allowed him to make the movie.

Let’s go back to our luminescent first parents. I recognized the motif instantly as one common to the ancient religion of Gnosticism. Here’s a 2nd century A.D. description about what a sect called the Ophites believed:

“Adam and Eve formerly had light, luminous, and so to speak spiritual bodies, as they had been fashioned. But when they came here, the bodies became dark, fat, and idle.” –Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, I, 30.9

It occurred to me that a mystical tradition more closely related to Judaism, called Kabbalah (which the singer Madonna made popular a decade ago or so), surely would have held a similar view, since it is essentially a form of Jewish Gnosticism. I dusted off (No, really: I had to dust it) my copy of Adolphe Franck’s 19th century work, The Kabbalah, and quickly confirmed my suspicions:

“Before they were beguiled by the subtleness of the serpent, Adam and Eve were not only exempt from the need of a body, but did not even have a body—that is to say, they were not of the earth.”

Franck quotes from the Zohar, one of Kabbalah’s sacred texts:

“When our forefather Adam inhabited the Garden of Eden, he was clothed, as all are in heaven, with a garment made of the higher light. When he was driven from the Garden of Eden and was compelled to submit to the needs of this world, what happened? God, the Scriptures tell us, made Adam and his wife tunics of skin and clothed them; for before this they had tunics of light, of that higher light used in Eden…”

And just one more bit but if these things interest you, read the full text:

The world of Aronofsky’s Noah is a thoroughly Gnostic one: a graded universe of “higher” and “lower.” The “spiritual” is good, and way, way, way “up there” where the ineffable, unspeaking god dwells, and the “material” is bad, and way, way down here where our spirits are encased in material flesh. This is not only true of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, but of fallen angels, who are explicitly depicted as being spirits trapped inside a material “body” of cooled molten lava.

Admittedly, they make pretty nifty movie characters, but they’re also notorious in Gnostic speculation. Gnostics call them Archons, lesser divine beings or angels who aid “The Creator” in forming the visible universe. And Kabbalah has a pantheon of angelic beings of its own all up and down the ladder of “divine being.” And fallen angels are never totally fallen in this brand of mysticism. To quote the Zohar again, a central Kabbalah text: “All things of which this world consists, the spirit as well as the body, will return to the principle and the root from which they came.” Funny. That’s exactly what happens to Aronofsky’s Lava Monsters. They redeem themselves, shed their outer material skin, and fly back to the heavens. Incidentally, I noticed that in the film, as the family is traveling through a desolate wasteland, Shem asks his father: “Is this a Zohar mine?” Yep. That’s the name of Kabbalah’s sacred text.

I disliked the film because it did not conform to the biblical text either in relation to the story or the message. But as it turns out there is a lot more not to like than one would have ever known. The message of the film will pass everyone’s understanding other than the vegan nonsense so it is really not much more than an empty frame with no more influence on our culture than any other science fiction pot boiler. It is not its influence on anything that is troubling but as one further sign of our already existing decadence that makes the film notable. And I doubt that had those who financed the film known its true underlying message that it would have led them to hesitate for a second. Undermining the religious teachings of the West is the temper of the times in which we live which is a large part of the reason why our civilisation is in such peril.

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