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Nietzschean Themes in Xenosaga
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Nietzschean Themes in Xenosaga

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a late-18th century, German philosopher who developed many theories and concepts which are thought to be contradictory, if not entirely mocking, of traditional religious texts, most namely the Christian Bible. Throughout Xenosaga, a fairly overlooked RPG video game series which was developed by Namco, the themes of Nietzsche’s philosophies from the late 1800s are prevalent. The titles of the games themselves are borrowed from a few of Nietzsche’s concepts and works – “der Wille zer Macht,” “Jenseits von Gut und Bose,” and “Also sprach Zarathustra.” While the general and most basic themes of these works are included throughout the subtext of the games, certain concepts are not fully fleshed and, in some cases, they are entirely contradictory to the philosophies of the original works.

Nietzsche’s idea of der Wille zer Macht (the Will to Power) is that each individual acts solely on the principle that we each strive for more power than we have and this was later expanded upon with his conception of the ubermensch (overman). Xenosaga Episode I addresses this idea in a few different manners. Most obviously, there are five powerful individuals known as “testaments,” and they each can be simultaneously related to the five gospels of the Torah. Four of these testaments works for one main figure, the architect, and they carry out his whims which are mostly focused on curbing the plans of the player’s main party of characters. However, the testaments are each solely concerned with their own agenda, their own means to the attainment of true power. In this sense, the game holds true to the original concept of der Wille zer Macht. The four testaments who follow the main testament or, the architect, are also a contradiction of Nietzsche’s idea. It was his belief that through one’s will to power, one can become an overman whose accepts that every decision he makes will ultimately be repeated by himself in a recurring lifetime. Thusly, according to Nietzsche, a true overman, a man who had achieved all power, would not be concerned with human emotions like love, pity, and certainly not mercy. In contrast, two of the testaments in Xenosaga are working toward attaining power based on such emotions and not in spite of these emotions, although the two most powerful testaments are entirely consumed with power and power only.

The Zohar

Within the game, there is an object which is called the Zohar and it is said to have immense power, unequal to any other object in the universe. It is the single greatest source of power but it is also thought to be responsible for the appearance of monsters called gnosis. Humans cannot touch the gnosis but the gnosis can attack humans. Only when a certain wave is emitted, called the Hilbert effect, do the Gnosis materialize, making them vulnerable to physical attacks. Now, in actuality, the Zohar is a Jewish text which is focused on prayer, spirituality, and a reinterpretation of Jewish laws. Gnosis is simply a Greek noun for knowledge or understanding. It seems interesting, then, that in the game series, the Zohar is thought to have unleashed monsters, which represent knowledge, who attack humans. This seems on par with Nietzsche’s philosophy because he felt that knowledge excluded true reason. So, the knowledge, or the gnosis, which are unleashed on humanity because of the Zohar seems to be a metaphor entailing that knowledge supplied by something like the Zohar will actually hurt the knowledgable.

The idea behind Jenseits von Gut und Bose is that both good and evil are inherent in every human being. And while biblical texts do actually mirror this concept, Nietzsche and the Bible handle these ideas very differently. While Nietzsche calls us to recognize and embrace this fundamental characteristic, the Bible employs us to overcome the sin nature. Xenosaga Episode II attempts to address this through the traits of the characters themselves and this is where the game seems to contradict its title. Were the characters to hold true to the concept, they would harness the self-understanding that they each contain both good and evil. Instead, there is a clear line drawn between who is evil and who is good. It seems that one of the game’s greatest antagonists (named Albedo [white testament]) is constantly struggling with what he feels, which is that there is no line between good and evil, only the will of the soul. Since he is a clear antagonist, however, his ideas seem to be made moot.

Zarathustra

Also sprach Zarathustra has the characters of the story figuring out the cycle of life and how they must break the cycle in order to overthrow those who wield the greatest power, the overmen. This is where the game makes its greatest contradiction. Whereas Nietzsche felt that each individual needed to accept the cycle of recurrence and embrace it to their advantage, something the testaments do, the protagonists of the story seek to stop the architect who happens to have a device upon which the universe is tilted. It is this device which controls the recurrence of the universe and which is referred to in the game as Zarathustra (the final boss.)

 

 

T-Elos

Kos-Mos

In the final moments of the last game, it is revealed that the conscious of Mary Magdalene is present within the Gnosis-fighting machine, and the game’s greatest hero, known as Kos-Mos. According to the game, Mary Magdeline was the creator of Zarathustra and it was her intention that Zarathustra would save the world from being destroyed in the end times. Because of her close relationship with Yeshua (the Messiah), she was well aware of this impending reality. It is also Kos-Mos’ path in life to confront T-Elos, one of the game’s greatest antagonists. In Greek, the basic meaning of “cosmos” is the universe, or continuation. “Telos” means an ultimate end. It’s interesting, then, that the consciousness of Mary Magdalene resides within Kos-Mos, because it implies that one of the greatest Christian saints is responsible for the end of the universe’s ultimate end.

Within the Bible, Mary Magdalene is signified as one of Jesus’ greatest saints. She remained with Jesus while He was on the cross and she was the first to see Him after His resurrection. Clearly the relation between the Mary of the Bible and that of Xenosaga are completely different, but it is interesting to consider that, although the games are named after works of Nietzsche, the ultimate heroes of the game reference the most profound Biblical archetypes. With that in mind, it may actually be possible that Namco developed the series in a way such that the universe would appear to exist in the way that Nietzsche believed it did, but that in actuality, such concepts were obstacles to be overcome.

 

3 Responses

  1. Lucas

    It is also worth noting that your reading of the philosophical texts from Nietzsche are shitty. If the game presents those concepts the way that is described here as well, then the game is shitty too. This philosopher was in a turning point of the modern world. He was a critic of the dogmatic thought inherited from our modern way of conceiving things. The realist reading presented here shows that the writer didn’t get the super critic movement traced by Nietzsche. He was thinking about the thought. That’s philosophy in its raw practice, not this attempt to turn a strong thought into some dumb substance.

  2. The RPGenius

    A well-considered and argued essay.

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