Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A must-read review of Noah

At Mark Shea's blog, a commenter shared this link to the most astonishing and brilliant review of Noah I've yet seen:
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. 

The entire movie is, figuratively, a “Zohar” mine. 

If there was any doubt about these “Watchers,” Aronofsky gives several of them names: Semyaza, Magog, and Rameel. They’re all well-known demons in the Jewish mystical tradition, not only in Kabbalah but also in the book of 1 Enoch.

What!? Demons are redeemed? Adolphe Franck explains the cosmology of Kabbalah: “Nothing is absolutely bad; nothing is accursed forever—not even the archangel of evil or the venomous beast, as he is sometimes called. There will come a time when he will recover his name and his angelic nature.”

Okay. That’s weird. But, hey, everybody in the film seems to worship “The Creator,” right? Surely it’s got that in its favor!

Except that when Gnostics speak about “The Creator” they are not talking about God. Oh, here in an affluent world living off the fruits of Christendom the term “Creator” generally denotes the true and living God. But here’s a little “Gnosticism 101” for you: the Creator of the material world is an ignorant, arrogant, jealous, exclusive, violent, low-level, bastard son of a low level deity. He’s responsible for creating the “unspiritual” world of flesh and matter, and he himself is so ignorant of the spiritual world he fancies himself the “only God” and demands absolute obedience. They generally call him “Yahweh.” Or other names, too (Ialdabaoth, for example).
I've taken a lengthy excerpt, for which I hope Dr. Mattson will forgive me.  Do go and read the whole thing.

Why does this matter to me, when I haven't even seen and don't plan to see the movie? 

Because right now there's a ton of Christian squabbling about the movie, based on various Christian reviewers and their reviews, positive or negative, of it.  The positive reviewers are finding Christian messages and meaning; the negative reviewers aren't, and at least one of them is claiming that the positive reviewers are being paid, compensated, or flattered and appeased into giving their positive reviews.  It's a mess.

What makes much, much more sense to me is that the movie really is a Gnostic, Kabbalah-inspired mess itself, which makes the positive Christian reviews not so much toadyism as simply misunderstanding--but it also makes the negative reviews miss the mark, too.  We're all dupes, but we're all being duped together, in other words (and if I can say "we" given my non-viewing of the film).

And we Christians have got to be careful about that.  Nobody thought Battlefield Earth or After Earth were Christian movies, because everybody could see they were Scientology movies instead (and truly horrible films as well).  But the whole danger of Gnosticism has always been that it takes things that look and seem Biblical or Christian and then says, "Oh, but wait!  This isn't the real truth.  This is what the ordinary people get told, to make them behave.  If you want the real enlightenment, the real power, the real arcane mysteries, you have to read more than the Bible, and ascend higher than mere Christianity...you have to go On Beyond Jesus, in other words."

Is it a surprise that Gnosticism would be revived in our time?  Not at all.  Gnosticism always does well when people are both hungry for truth and disenchanted with "official" religious teachings and structures.  It also does well in an environment when people lack basic knowledge and instruction in the Faith, and have lost touch with the Church.  The promise of secret, mystic knowledge and power the individual can control himself is always alluring--and it's always an echo of the Fall, when exactly that kind of knowledge and power was promised by the Serpent, the Father of lies and a liar from the beginning.

In the end, while there might be many reasons to see an imperfect religious film, or even an imperfect secular film loosely based on religious themes, there can only be one reason for Christians to see a Gnostic one, and that is to warn others against its false ideas and blasphemy.  If Dr. Mattson is right about this movie, and it is a Gnostic film, then Christians should be on guard.

11 comments:

Gerard Plourde said...

You're absolutely right to sound the alarm about the dangers of the Gnostic theological concepts presented in this movie and the potential harm of positive reviews from Christian reviewers who may not have sufficient background and training to be aware of the danger.

g.cloudy said...

Something is not coherent here in Mark Shea's analysis provided in the above excerpt.

On the one hand the Noah movie supposedly follows Zohar teaching:
'“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.'

Yet, at the same time we are not talking about a spiritual God:
'But here’s a little “Gnosticism 101” for you: the Creator of the material world is an ignorant, arrogant, jealous, exclusive, violent, low-level, bastard son of a low level deity. He’s responsible for creating the “unspiritual” world of flesh and matter, and he himself is so ignorant of the spiritual world he fancies himself the “only God” and demands absolute obedience.'

Could you explain where the rock encased angels went then? Did they go up to the true God and not to this "bastard son of a low level deity?" Were they just confused in saying they were returning to the Creator?

Honestly, I saw the movie and it instilled awe about the Creation, Fall, and Noah stories and inspired me to read the Genesis text again. By the way, the Canonical Epistle of Jude quotes Enoch as a legitimate prophet. Be careful about demonizing it.

I invoke the Pauline principle here, 1 Corinthians 8, lets say your doomsday scenario is true and this is a huge spiritual gnostic worldview from a director who is an Atheist Jew (which would be a miracle in itself). As Baptized Christians, there may be many so-called gods displayed on film, "yet for us there is one God, the Father,
from whom all things are and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things are and through whom we exist." (1 Cor 8:6)

If my position disturbs your faith, forget it, I don't hang my faith on a movie, or even a book, but on the Faith of the Apostles. I am not trying to promote Noah other than by saying I do not follow this gnostic line of argument either.

Patrick Coffin said...

Another "reviewer" who hasn't, you know, seen the movie, lauding a harshly negative (and essentially inaccurate) critic. Brilliant.

Red Cardigan said...

g.cloudy, the review is not Mark Shea's, but Dr. Mattson's. And the incoherence you point to comes from the *film's* conflation of Gnosticism and Kabbalah, not from the review.

In any case, I'm not interested in demonizing the movie. Some Christians found meaning in the DaVinci Code, but they went into it knowing it was hardly orthodox Christian thought. My interest here is just that people realize that what they are viewing is mainly inspired by Kabbalah, not by Scripture.

Alan said...

Can your rant. Any being who claims himself to be God but is not with the One Sacred Eternal Father of all, Eternal Son and Eternal Holy Spirit is not God, and it is safe to say he is the Evil One or one of his minions. The Gnostic gospels, some of which predate our Bibles, portray Jehovah as the aborted son of androgenous Sophia, among the first companion creatures of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who thought he was God because of his powers, but did not know the Father, Son or Holy Spirit.

Kristopher Falkena said...

I have read multiple reviews of this film and have seen it myself. Many of the Catholic reviewers are against this movie for multiple doctrinal discrepencies. I wish to remind all that THIS IS A ARTISTIC REPRESENTATION. It is a film, not a doctrine or magisterial statement. Who looks at Michelangelo's painting of the creation and comments that God should not be portrayed to have a body and that scripture never refers to him reaching out to touch Adam's finger? It is also an artistic representation. Pope Francis was right to deny endorsing this film because it is not meant to be a catechetical instruction, only an entertaining escape. Take it or leave it for what it is.

Red Cardigan said...

Alan, whom are you addressing? "Can your rant" is unclear, and I don't permit bullying or rudeness here. I've published your comment for the time being, but I'd appreciate it if you'd be civil in your words here.

Leroy said...

I don't think Noah is Gnostic, FWIW. See here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/filmchat/2014/04/no-noah-is-not-gnostic-say-that-ten-times-fast.html

Brother Rolf said...

I respect Mark Shea but he is ignorant of early Christian and Jewish tradition beliefs. Read the Book of Enoch, a book that both Jesus and Peter quoted, it was also found in the Dead sea scrolls.

Edward said...

I have just discovered your wonderful blog. I'm sure I will try to visit it again. You have a very witty and crisp presentation of this topic.
Here's my take on the movie:
It's just a movie.
And, like St. Augustine, I don't expect anything other than error and a fallen perspective. So why the shock or disappointment?
I'm not interested because I'm Catholic, and therefore I am far needier in my requirements for leisured entertainment than most.
See no need to get upset about it.
Those who are going to see it and like it, well, it's pretty much the same person who went in as came out of the theater.

Mack Hall, HSG said...

Rock people.

Harrumph.