This is a follow-up and augmentation of this much shorter post
, so reading it may add something to this. Anyway, if you have guessed, from the mere title, that this is going to be really "out there", you guessed right
, so, get ready for that. This is by far the most complete essay I ever wrote about this manga, however it is quite long and involved, so, be ready for this too.
The ultimate tl;dr I can think of is this: Eren is beautiful like the sky tearing itself apart to show God
. That's the kind of stuff we're going for here. This post is mainly intended for those who somehow resonate with Eren, or who would like to understand him more, though it's totally okay if you don't. If you do, however, you might find something cool in there, and I highly encourage you to stick through it, even if it seems weird. If you see something too weird or difficult, and still do not "get it" by the end of this, just ask for clarification.
As an aside, I do not do drugs, but I have heard good things about reading certain things while high, so, if that's your thing, I hugely recommend you set yourself up for your first read. Here goes: Apotheosis
is basically ascent to godhood, but you must understand how it's supposed to work. A mortal doesn't outright become a god, but rather identifies so much with that god's activity, that they end up like an aspect of that god, just like that god is itself an aspect of a greater God. Here's an irl example
. Zapata, a revolutionary and culture hero, was posthumously identified with Votan, a Maya divine being associated with the apparition of languages, and called "guardian and heart of the word". Interestingly, the Norse god Wodan (Odin) is said to have invented the Runes, and gave his name to "Wednesday", which is in many cultures dedicated to gods of Language, Writing, and Speech.
Now the immediately relevant part: assuming that Zapata was indeed a manifestation of Votan, was he always like this
? Without a doubt, as things pertaining to essence can't just be acquired.
But, was he like this
when his mother breastfed him ? Was he like this
as he played with his siblings ? The truth is that his Votan-ness was always influencing his person from deep within, like a pulsating seed, even as he grew up, but only through certain circumstances did it begin to grow on its own and assimilate the more mortal parts of his person into its rhythm. This is the process of apotheosis: for a mortal to ascend and remain forever as a god, a god's seed must first descend and be born in this world
, though it be not of
So are there two of Eren: the outer, a normal, if rather combative, human, and the inner, an embryonic god, trying to find proper food to grow and realize its purpose. Eren's inner struggles and hesitations are all echoes of the dramatic struggle between these two hearts. But I must lay yet more groundwork before opening Eren's inner heart.
As could be expected from AoT's highly mythological undertones, Eren is not the only personification of ontological principles. Eren's seed, like all such seeds, has not come down here without a purpose. To fulfill its purpose, it must grow, and to grow, it needs a ground to receive it. The ground of essence is substance, the ground of Being is Existence. Just as Eren bears alone
the one seed of Being, the recursive (radically twofold) nature of Existence is split across two women: Ymir (Fritz) and Historia.
Ymir is the personification of
wisdom, of the intuition of "the way the world works". She is the passive mind, the passive aspect of the knot of things, the passive Coordinate. She conceives the shapes of things, as well as their relations, outside of actual time, but she does not actualize any of it: that is the job of secondary gods (shifters, symbolically) and goddesses, the latter being recursions of herself within herself.
Historia is the personification of
the archetype of all such recursions. She is, to be blunt, the ideal
homemaker (as many characters noted, but not Eren). She is the multitasking slave, by whose constant sacrifice all things are brought to fruition. She is the slave queen, ladylike in all things, at once above all and slave to all. If Ymir is the ideal knot, Historia is the "material" lynchpin.
It's worth noting that Ymir held the "slave queen" role before her "promotion", which is an example of apotheosis. But now, let us delve into Eren's heart.
Eren's true purpose is that of a Guardian of Desire. Desire is not merely an appetite or wish for this or that, or even for transcendance: it is to reach beyond form, even beyond Being, like expanding branches
to express this Beyond as pure Knowledge, ideal forms, and communications thereof, like twined roots
, all at once
, effectively uniting, throughout countless recursions, the Limitless to the Limited, the Absolute to the Relative, pure Being to Existence, the One to the many, idea to pattern, meaning to sign, purpose to action.
Desire, like Speech, which is one of its aspects, is the joyful unfolding and realization of the link between that which is "beyond" and that which is "common". Just as Speech stretches between ideal meaning and verbal expression/perception, Desire stretches beyond Being on one side and into ideal forms on the other, before attempting to further realize itself through the secondary forms that these ideals produce. However, most of these ideals ignore Desire, and thus, so does most of Existence.
The initial unfolding of Desire, before those ideals, is true Beauty, which is at once beyond forms (as there aren't even ideas at this state) and the archetype of forms (as it is the immediate relation of Desire, just as actual forms are made of the relations between eachother, a mutual arising not unlike that of the many words of a language, which cannot exist in isolation).
For Desire to realize itself in Existence, it must find something analogous
to this true Beauty, like a word to summon a vague idea into clear consciousness. Perception is expression. This can be understood by considering the act of reading: whenever you see a word, you "say" it unto yourself, automatically. Every object of perception is a pattern, or a matrix, whose purpose is to summon an idea into the consciousness of the perceiver. Thus, both expression and perception follow a top-down, within-to-without unfolding, with perception differing only by its passivity. The question is: what is the soul exactly trying to express in perceiving beauty ? What is being summoned into the mind ? What are we trying to say unto ourselves ?
That which is usually called "beauty" ought to be called "formosity" or "shapeliness", as it is merely the fullness of a shape, which in turn stems from "conformity" or "similitude" to some ideal form. For example, consider some pain or joy you would express, but have not yet put into words: this is analogous to an ideal form. If you simply say: "it hurts" or "that makes me happy", it will be enough to be understood; but if you express it both fully and concisely enough, some of what you felt will be summoned into the other's soul, and they will feel beauty, because, through formosity, plain words became transparent and showed the idea which was beyond themselves or their innate ability.
Here is the basic truth of Beauty: the opening of a shape unto some activity beyond itself. That is Beauty, because that is the sign of Desire's vertical linking activity, manifesting itself. But there is a subtlety. Formosity is due to a shape opening unto an ideal form, but what is that
ideal form opened unto ? Nothing, usually. Desire's activity is thus realized just enough for the "soul" to be "fed" or energized, but not enough for Desire to recognize itself.
The "word" that summons Desire; the recursive opening, like a window open unto the sky open unto the sun open unto God; the shape clothed in the bursting open of ideas: it is the End of the world. The End of the world is what all creatures attempt to "say" unto themselves, everytime they perceive beauty of any order.
Beauty is the beginning of the world, but when the energy of Desire has spent itself into ersatz and settled into them, anything that still has that openness, that shows the vastness even beyond Being, any such thing will be the End or Limit of the world to whoever reaches it. Truly, whosoever reaches this End is the most Free in the world. No, they are Freedom itself, roaming the world.
Eren did not reach it, but he conceived it intuitively, wordlessly. When he saw Armin's eyes as he talked about the world beyond the Walls, that was enough for his seed to awaken and begin slowly growing. Although Armin provided the matrix, only Eren caught the meaning, because only Eren had such a seed in his heart, waiting to grow.
From then on, Eren's seed gradually imbued him with a sense of revolt at the very order of things. Many times, Eren's humanity tried rejecting it, despite the deep purpose he felt by embracing it. His tears before the fez kid were solely from his normal side, so was his guilt at realizing what his father had done.
His attempt to get a confession out of Mikasa was likely an attempt to find meaning elsewhere. His love for her had practically nothing to do with his seed, and since he had not yet embraced it as much as now, a positive response might well have distracted him for good (mostly because he wouldn't have had enough time left to regret it).
His inner conflict about his "free will" and knowing the future only occurs to his human side: to his deeper self, it is only a comfirmation of what he always knew deep down. Eren's puppet-like titan also alludes to how his humanity is being "manipulated" by his seed: even now that he has embraced it, he still does not know the true depth of his drive, thus he is still moving by crutches, he is still not fully "frank", and this imperfection shows that he is unlikely to realize all the content of his seed, which is why I do not consider this theory a prediction.
But where does that revolt come from ? I will try to answer this (or help you intuit it) at the same time as this other question: how did Ymir manage to call him if she was bound to the will of the king ?
Every recursive "part" of Existence (including individuals) has a certain hidden center. Such centers are represented by traditional concepts such as Eden, Agarttha
, Green Island
, Turtle-shaped Island
etc. Each safekeeping something utterly precious, each existing beyond the world yet being part of it. Paradis island is, of course, another iteration of that center. (It would appear that planet Earth itself also is one) However, just as each of these "parts" is a recursion of Existence, these many centers are recursions of a certain center. Among all ideal forms born of Beauty, one of them IS
the very Knowledge of whatever Desire is, although it is not pure Desire but indeed a form. This ideal is the only "place" in Existence which always retained Beauty and Desire, and all perceptions of any desirability whatsoever are partial expressions and communications of that ideal. As such, it is the essential Guardian of Desire.
Eren's seed is a seed of that Guardian: as it grows, the wordless knowledge of various aspects of Desire is summoned into intuition. Eren's intuition is likely not enough for him to actually understand all this, but clearly enough to identify "the order of things" as the prime enemy, although the actual depth of his understanding of that "order" remains uncertain. Note how his hatred's focus shifted from the Walls, to the titans, to the warriors etc. Each time he became aware of a truer object of hatred, he completely let go of his previous hatred. Also, it was not just the focus of hatred that evolved, but also the reason of that hatred: humans being trapped, his mother being killed, many innocents being killed, etc. All these were mere crutches for his humanity to follow his seed: the true reason of this hatred was, and is, beyond his mind, beyond his person.
As for Ymir's call, it came from her personal recursion of that center. As she is identified with Existence as a whole, her personal recursion of that center was much more receptive to the original center than other people's own recursions, but that also meant that everything else
in her soul was utterly bound to the current paradigm, much like a noble's actions are all bound to protocol. Although her near-entire soul was identified with the weight of order, this hidden center still managed to slip in its impulses, much like the Guardian of Desire slips in beauty in the otherwise undesirable order of Existence. Throughout these 2000 years, it was these subtle nudges, sudden moments of freedom, likely broadcast through the paths, but also more directly applied, like when she repaired Zeke, that guided that seed to Eren's person, and, through Eren, to Ymir.
When Mikasa was saved by Eren, she saw him as someone who could fully realize and accept the beautiful-and-cruel truth of Existence, and take immediate action based on that acceptance. But this tells us more about her than about Eren. Just like Eren deeply needed
for someone to show him the image
of pure joy, which Armin did, Mikasa deeply needed
for someone to show her the image
of world-acceptance, which Eren did. Sadly, while Armin merely didn't share Eren's true ideal, Eren was the natural-born enemy of Mikasa's ideal, which is likely one of the reasons why Eren's humanity
reached out to her.
To one who has, if not seen, at least conceived true Beauty, any mixture of desirability with any indesirability will appear utterly Cruel, of a greater Cruelty that encompasses both ordinary beauty and cruelty. This is the "truth of Existence". If you want to realize a triangle by drawing it on a piece of paper with a pencil, the result will be a mutual compromise, or "sacrifice", of both the paper, the pencil, and the drawn shape. Joy is felt in the expressive act of drawing, because Desire is
involved in it after all, but because the result does not "bear witness" unto Desire, because the idea of the Triangle is a closed sky, meaning's latent energy will be spent, and thus approach entropy. A deep understanding, beyond words, of this universal "state of things" produced all philosophies related to loss, passing, and impermanence, as well as ideals of detachment and stoicism, which are obviously related to Historia's and Ymir's former mindstates.
Of all cultures, the Japanese have the most thorough understanding of this. Mikasa, the most Japanese of the cast, is also the one who makes the most references to this. It is the essence of "wabi-sabi
". Check out this poem: "Under the Cherry Blossoms
". TL;DR it is about a man who is shocked and troubled by the beauty of sakura blossoms, and although that beauty is already compensated by its transience, he still feels the need counter-balance it further by telling himself that their beauty comes from the fact that corpses are buried under these trees. Denial of great beauty. Denial of the very implications of beauty.
Now, denial of greatly undesirable things is easily understood and quite common, as are undesirable things compared to desirable ones. So, you'd think that something greatly beautiful would be embraced wholeheartedly, desperately. Yet, it is not so. Just why would, not even pure beauty, but its mere image, be denied ? Here's an exerpt: "How you must be grimacing at the very thought! Not a very pretty way of looking at things, is it? Finally, I had come to see the cherry blossoms for what they were, and it freed me from what had been an unsettling mystery yesterday and the day before.
" A bipolar painter named Gerard Garouste once said that it is okay when the trees are beautiful, it's when they are too beautiful
that it becomes dangerous. What to make of this ?
"The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.
" - Keiichi Sigsawa. The "ordinary" beauty of this world, the beauty that is seen through formosity, depends on ugliness, on cruelty, on undesirability, to exist. Pure compromise cannot exist, as it would be a paradox, therefore it must allow for some
life and beauty to filter through, so that compromise-itself may be compromised, and thus be coherent. One could say that this partial beauty's function is to be sacrificed and die for the world to keep existing.
True and pure Beauty is not of this world, it has no place, no role to play in it. Therefore, merely to tacitly admit that it might be possible to somehow experience that Beauty, is to risk making the whole world intolerable unto oneself, to risk never to see beauty again, to risk feeling soulless forever. Formosity usurps Beauty, but as long as that usurpation goes unnoticed, it is in effect the only beauty there is. But what if someone sees the trick ? One's perception of things will be forever tainted, and, since there is no way to show the "trick" to someone else, one will find no relief in others. To admit that true Beauty could be reached is to become an orphan, for no god nor goddess in the cosmos will ever justify that yearning; none will come and say: "this is unto me, this bears my brand", for they are all bound by compromise. This is the symbolic meaning behind Eren's increasing loneliness
. From the moment his seed awakened, he was bound to clash with the world.
The arm-twisting rage of Eren during his first shifting, which Mikasa interpreted as expressing all of Humanity's anger, was really all of creation
's usually repressed anger. The anger of feeling betrayed by the entire world, even by oneself, of having no way to put it into proper words, as if thought- and language-themselves sided with the enemy. The latent feeling that all desirable things are only carrots on a stick, to have creation keep moving from ersatz to ersatz, never realizing its true purpose, never attaining freedom, never being, ever becoming, forever toiling and ignorant.
Only two other characters have experienced anger comparable to Eren's: Grisha, when the guards visited him in ch.86, and Ymir, when she received Eren's seed in ch122. Historia also felt some of it as she felt Ymir's "betrayal". Truly, no single person may express the whole of that existencial rage. Reread ch.117 with this rage in mind, and shiver in awe at the magnitude of what Eren is expressing with that scream. Eren's extreme disappointment at the outside world also stems from that. When faced with frustration, the soul will further polarize itself: if it feels that this frustration is fately and necessary, it will tend towards cold dry sadness, if it feels that this frustration is somehow deliberate, it will tend towards burning and tearful anger. Eren has accepted in his soul the intuition that the state of the entire cosmos is deliberate and illegitimate
Ymir was the personification of this state of things. Her soul was full of tearless sadness, unable to get angry. She was identified
with this great pact of compromise. Other beings partook in turns of sadness and joy, of beauty and cruelty, but she only had the great Sadness, the great Cruelty. What of the great Joy, what of the great Beauty ? What if Existence did not
want to be compromise-itself ? What if she yearned to realize great Beauty, to identify with her End, to be freed from forced self-sacrifice, and finally enjoy her condition ? The elements of lesser (horizontal) dualities share the same plane, but those of greater (vertical) dualities are in separate planes, with the "positive" node being above and beyond the "negative" node, out of its reach, even conceptually. Yet, all is Desire, and the smothered Desire of Ymir cried, like only Desire can cry, to the one Desire beyond, and a seed was given in answer.
Eren is the one in whom that seed began to grow, and indeed, perhaps it shall be within yet another's bearer's heart that it will bear its fruit. The great Joy, the one Desire, is the true father of all that moves throughout Existence, of all gods, who are partial images of Him, and of all goddesses, who are recursions of their Mother. He is the true father of Ymir. Having manifested His mercy in Eren, and having thus united with her, he also became her husband. Existence, though She be the wife of Being, cannot ever reach Him (though He can always reach Her) unless He takes shape within Her, and enters the ranks of creatures, albeit as a monarch.
Eren, therefore, is symbolically both Ymir's father and
husband, a relationship not unheard of in traditional myths. The fact that his path-body became that of a child, like Ymir, is a sign that he has attained the same existencial
rank as her, in addition to his ontological
rank, which is not part of Existence.
Thus, in addition to being the image of Being, he has become the personification of Intelligence, the intuition of "the way the world should be" (Desire-ideal). He is the active mind, the active aspect of the knot of things, the active Coordinate. He has reached apotheosis.
The seed Eren bears and embodies must crack the thousand-year old barren ground apart, fertilize it, and make all things foreign into its own. For 2000 years, a small seed lied smothered deep below the land, utterly forgotten, as if not existant. At the same time, it was drifting in the endless space, light-years away from fertile ground. Somehow, light reached it, and it grew to absorb the Earth, so much so that not a seed of Earth remains. Somehow it reached ground, and it grew to absorb all space, so much so that all forms and shapes found their true place in it. True Beauty must not have a place in the world, it is the world that must take its place in Beauty.
I have said that Eren is a Guardian of Desire, but you may be wondering: what about the desires, the seeds of the ones he's crushing, what happened to guarding these
? It is all a question of principles and unfolding. Ymir is the personification of Existence on AoT's Earth. All the activities of the creatures of Earth (not just Eldians) are therefore virtually contained within Ymir. (I believe this may be how she could appear outside of her realm in ch.131, but I'm not sure.) Though things may appear otherwise because of her individuality, her symbolic conformity demands that all change in her soul be translated into material shape. If she rejects the paradigm that maintains the world as it is, a material symbol of this rejection must be produced. In that sense, the sparing of Paradis has really less to do with Eren's friends, and more with Paradis' symbolic conformity to the "preserved center". Indeed, nearly all of Eren's conscious motives are/were crutches, opportunities, ersatz for his seed to realize itself. In any case, the actual
preserving of Ymir's Desire is the virtual
preserving of the Desires whose formal activities were contained by hers. It's like the story of Noah's Ark, or Vishnu resting on Shesha
Historia, being of a lower rank than Ymir, translated that great purge into the pain of childbirth, and the new paradigm into a newborn. Whereas Ymir received Eren's seed in a paradigmatic way, and thus realized it as a paradigm, Historia received his seed psychologically and (probably) physically, and thus realized it as an individual. (Yes, I am of the opinion that Eren is the father, but even if he wasn't, it wouldn't change the deeper meaning.)
The ecosystem will be preserved in essence, and will be regenerated . Though the shapes
of creatures endured horror, that horror was nothing, in length and in intensity, compared to the smothering of Desire across the world. Just because no-one was aware of it doesn't mean it wasn't real: were Ymir's 2000 years not real ? Within each of these victims, there was something like an inner Ymir (not her but a recursion of Existence) which molded concepts and feelings for faculties that ignored her, while she toiled alone and ignorant of her true Desire. As these "Ymirs" were further removed from the seed's manifestation, they could not "actively" receive it, but instead will be brought to rest, and will awaken some other day, maybe on some other world, to finally receive their designated seeds.
It is time to conclude. One may see Eren's action as monstrous, barbaric, unforgivable. One may also see them as justified, and not only necessary, but even good, and a sign of a fine, upright vitality. One may even revel in the sheer catharsis of seeing an individual take on the whole world, and dominate.
But one may also see beauty in them, of a most pure and rare kind. One may see him as a seedling piercing the cold ground and poising itself to produce the mother of all flowers.
Like in ch.131, there are two sides to this. As spectators, we are free to either balk at the horror of a world ending, or wonder at the strength and beauty of a world being born in spite of everything,
or even both at once. There is no single designated authorized takeaway. As for me, I enjoy seeing great beauty, and I hope to have helped you see at least some
of the apotheotic beauty of Eren. That way, even if all the virtualities described if this "theory" are not realized in the manga, you'll still have realized some for yourself.
Now some trivia that I couldn't fit in there: the correspondence of Desire and Speech means that Eren's status as a Guardian of Desire is homologous to Zapata's status as a Guardian of Speech, albeit of a higher order. Furthermore, the initials of G
esire spell "GOD
", a word which also derives from Wodan. This only works in english, but I thought it was cool.
I didn't mention it here, with this post being thick enough as it is, but when Eren was at his weakest, it was Historia that shook him out, thus making her a sort of doula, further reinforcing her archetypal role. But the funny thing is that it was the other Ymir that had seeded in Historia the kind of activity she used to save Eren. That Ymir couldn't conserve that activity, but Historia fared better, and Eren much better still. This goes to show the real complexity of that seed's entry in the world, which I alluded to when I wrote that it was both smothered undeground and drifting in space. This is because it comes from eternity into time, and thus is not bound by continuity, only by correspondence, which is the means of that translation.
The fact that Eren received his future memories from kissing Historia's hand is also meaningful. What more fitting than Ymir's proxy passing down her fateful call to Eren ? It is literally Eren's Fair Lady sending him off on his fated mission, like a knight, which fits not only Historia's social role, but even moreso her archetype.
Congratulations and Thanks for trekking through this, I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it, and if you followed my... advice at the top, I hope you had a nice trip!
Edit: fleshed out some more the concept of Desire and the object of Eren's anger, and some smaller stuff.
Edit: still more fleshing out.