Jesus isn’t saving us from the Devil. He’s saving us from God. – J. Karlin
This begins with an in depth analysis of the film Antichrist 2009 by Lars von Trier. The question that was being addressed was where the antichrist can be found in the film, in other words, where is the devil and how was it portrayed? In order to answer that, a thorough analysis of the “devil” must be made. This point is crucial to understand the futility of representing the very aspect of the unrepresentable or irrepresentable. A quest that is fully within the devil’s domain so speak, yet extremely rewarding as it unravels and confronts the very inverse of irrepresentability with complete representation, the impossibility of a thing fully signified. That is to say the very search for the irrepresentable is the same search for the transcendental signified, it is from the point of the irrepresentable that the transcendental signified can be imagined, conceived; to be deceived that there is a movement towards something that has been signified. This leap is not as inconceivable as it first appears if one is willing to follow the very movements of representation within the film and the current paradoxes of modern philosophy.
A word on the devil
The devil is known by many names and no names, again, the emphasis is on irrepresentability, a theme that will become apparent by the end of this post. Hence simply put, it and the myriad will be represented here as the term “devil”.
From the falling pieces
To explain, the main driving theme within the movie was the vilification of women or the origin of evil within women. How does this theme portray the devil can be explained by how Lars decided to tell his story. In my opinion I interpret the film Antichrist as a retelling of the fall of man (John Milton’s Paradise lost) and the story of the little known unofficially recognized origin of woman within esoteric and ancient scriptures which predate current orthodox understanding of Christianity (the story of Lilith).
Paradise lost can be summarized as a heroic retelling of the story of genesis, in this instance it is from the King James version of the bible:
The Serpent’s Deception
(Genesis 7:1-5; Romans 5:12-21; 2 Peter 3:1-9)
1Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
God Arraigns Adam and Eve
8And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. 9And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
14And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The Punishment of Mankind
16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
20And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
The Expulsion from Paradise
21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Within the Paradise Lost it starts off with the fall. Here though the fall is not original sin or the fall of man, but the fall of the devil himself, in defeat at the hands of Archangel Michael the servant of god. This sets the stage where the devil is the main character and the hero of the story, a story of redemption from defeat, a romantic notion of the anti-hero that never summits or surrenders. Redemption or victory of the devil in the story is marked by the successful temptation of man (humankind), the contamination of god’s penultimate creation, and ends with the story with the need for Christ and a savior of humanity from sin. This point is important at the films representation of devil, especially considering Zizek’s writings on Malebranche’s work, god loves only itself, a point which will be elaborated later.
The second interpretation and aspect of the film that must be discussed is the origin of women within the religious context, specifically the story of Lilith. Here one must take into account there is no orthodoxy or consistency to be found for a story that doesn’t officially exist, but to my knowledge this is the first account and the fundamental story that explains why women has been discriminated against within the main monotheist sects of religion (Judeo,Islam,Christian). I can only recount my meager understanding of the story with bits of commentary to subsidize my lack of information…
When god created humanity it was implied that before Adam there was already someone that was made. In this instance, man was not made first, what god made first was a woman. The stereotypical progressive, independent, smart, liberal being, all that society has robbed of this gender throughout history. Then god created man, the dumb, slow witted, horny, the inferior being.
The idea in the text that Adam had a wife prior to Eve may have developed from an interpretation of the Book of Genesis and its dual creation accounts; while Genesis 2:22 describes God’s creation of Eve from Adam’s rib, an earlier passage, 1:27, already indicates that a woman had been made: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” The Alphabet text places Lilith’s creation after God’s words in Genesis 2:18 that “it is not good for man to be alone”; in this text God forms Lilith out of the clay from which he made Adam but she and Adam bicker. Lilith claims that since she and Adam were created in the same way they were equal and she refuses to submit to him: The background and purpose of The Alphabet of Ben-Sira is unclear. It is a collection of stories about heroes of the Bible and Talmud, it may have been a collection of folk-tales, a refutation of Christian, Karaite, or other separatist movements; its content seems so offensive to contemporary Jews that it was even suggested that it could be an anti-Jewish satire, although, in any case, the text was accepted by the Jewish mystics of medieval Germany.
Kabbalistic mysticism attempted to establish a more exact relationship between Lilith and the Deity. With her major characteristics having been well-developed by the end of the Talmudic period, after six centuries had elapsed between the Aramaic incantation texts that mention Lilith and the early Spanish Kabbalistic writings in the 13th century, she reappears, and her life history becomes known in greater mythological detail.
Her creation is described in many alternative versions. One mentions her creation as being before Adam’s, on the fifth day, because the “living creatures” with whose swarms God filled the waters included none other than Lilith. A similar version, related to the earlier Talmudic passages, recounts how Lilith was fashioned with the same substance as Adam was, shortly before. A third alternative version states that God originally created Adam and Lilith in a manner that the female creature was contained in the male. Lilith’s soul was lodged in the depths of the Great Abyss. When God called her, she joined Adam. After Adam’s body was created a thousand souls from the Left (evil) side attempted to attach themselves to him. However, God drove them off. Adam was left lying as a body without a soul. Then a cloud descended and God commanded the earth to produce a living soul. This God breathed into Adam, who began to spring to life and his female was attached to his side. God separated the female from Adam’s side. The female side was Lilith, whereupon she flew to the Cities of the Sea and attacks humankind. Yet another version claims that Lilith emerged as a divine entity that was born spontaneously, either out of the Great Supernal Abyss or out of the power of an aspect of God (the Gevurah of Din). This aspect of God, one of his ten attributes (Sefirot), at its lowest manifestation has an affinity with the realm of evil and it is out of this that Lilith merged with Samael. According to The Alphabet of Ben-Sira Lilith was Adam’s first wife.
An alternative story links Lilith with the creation of luminaries. The “first light”, which is the light of Mercy (one of the Sefirot), appeared on the first day of creation when God said “Let there be light”. This light became hidden and the Holiness became surrounded by a husk of evil. “A husk (klippa) was created around the brain” and this husk spread and brought out another husk, which was Lilith
26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27[So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.] 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (my brackets in emphasis http://biblehub.com/kjv/genesis/1.htm)
H.R Giger’s Lilith – What horror did Isanagi saw when he turned back to the voice of what once was?
The next milestone in Lilith’s journey lies in the Zohar, which elaborates on the earlier account of Lilith’s birth in Eden. The Zohar (meaning “Splendor”) is the Hebrew title for a fundamental kabbalistic tome, first compiled in Spain by Moses de Leon (1250–1305), using earlier sources. To the Kabbalists (members of the late medieval school of mystical thought), the Zohar’s mystical and allegorical interpretations of the Torah are considered sacred. The Lilith of the Zohar depends on a rereading of Genesis 1:27 (“And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”), and the interpretation of this passage in the Talmud. Based on the shift of pronouns from “He created him” to the plural “He created them,” in Genesis 1:27, the Talmud suggests that the first human being was a single, androgynous creature, with two distinct halves: “At first it was the intention that two [male and female] should be created but ultimately only one was created” (Erubin 18a). Centuries later the Zohar elaborates that the male and female were soon separated. The female portion of the human being was attached on the side, so God placed Adam in a deep slumber and “sawed her off from him and adorned her like a bride and brought her to him.” This detached portion is “the original Lilith, who was with him [Adam] and who conceived from him” (Zohar 34b). Another passage indicates that as soon as Eve is created and Lilith sees her rival clinging to Adam, Lilith flies away.
This coupling ended with a complete disaster. The main argument was made between Adam and Lilith on who should be “on top”. As Lilith argued since there is no chronological distinction between them, she should have every right to be on top as a man. The argument basically resolved in Lilith leaving the garden in the face of their irreducible differences in opinion. This marked a major challenge to god’s plan considering that this move would doom the fate of his penultimate creation. God sent three angels to convince, or coerce, Lilith to return to the garden in order to sustain the survival of humanity.
In the Alpha Betha of Ben Sira (Alphabetum Siracidis, or Sepher Ben Sira), an anonymous collection of midrashic proverbs probably compiled in the 11th century C.E., it is explained more explicitly that the conflict arose because Adam, as a way of asserting his authority over Lilith, insisted that she lie beneath him during sexual intercourse (23 A-B). Lilith, however, considering herself to be Adam’s equal, refused, and after pronouncing the Ineffable Name (i.e. the magic name of God) flew off into the air.
The story gets blurry from this point. One can refer to the many creation stories which span various cultures, from the story of Fu Xi and Nüwa in China, Japan’s Isanagi and Isanami, to Greek’s Orpheus descent into the underworld to find his wife; the point is it always ends up horribly with the man getting cursed by the wraith of female hatred. It is said at Lilith leaving the garden she cursed Adam in which she will take revenge on him through Adam’s children. It is also important to note, before she left the garden it is said she gave birth to a daughter which she abandoned, whom is known with the name of Eve. Again it is hard to confirm anything, but I would argue incest was already implied even within the original story of Genesis with Eve being conceived from Adam’s rib, she was from him, part of him, Adam copulates with the thing which came from him to give birth to humanity, Adam essentially fucks himself (no pun intended) to have children. Also an important factor to consider is by the time the angels got to Lilith they were too late, the devil has already got to her first. It is said that the devil has three wives, of the three, Lilith was one of them. This is the source that one can trace the origins of the myths of the creatures known as Lilim’s and the succubus and the eventual male version of which the incubus; all of these creates the context for the fall and seduction of man and the sin of lust.
The delegations between Lilith and the angels fail but a compromise was reached. The angels were sent to punish Lilith and to bring her back into Eden, but what happened instead was that they begged for the lives of Adam’s children in exchange of her freedom, of which if she wants to maintain will cost her a hundred of her own demon children per day to maintain (the children heir through her commingling with demons or the devil). This agreement will be established through a covenant between them marked with their names as symbols. When Lilith sees these three angels’ names she will leave the new born child alone, if not, the child belongs to Lilith and they end with death, claimed by Lilith. Within the legal language of gods and demons, the contract known as the covenant, essentially all new born children automatically belong to Lilith to begin with since she was the first woman on earth, and this ownership is defined through a duration of time which establishes the “new born” status. If you are a guy, this period of time is extended, which means male babies are more likely to die by her hands given her original bias towards males with the original argument with Adam.
The second Alphabet
The 22 Hebrew proverbs are quite different in character from the Aramaic ones, and much more recent. Half of the proverbs are borrowed from the Talmud, and are only a pretext for the presentation of a number of legends surrounding Ben Sira. Ben Sira is presented as the son of Jeremiah. Ben Sira’s fame reached Nebuchadnezzar, who called him to his court. Nebuchadnezzar sets forth various ordeals for Ben Sira, who responds with 22 stories. Some of the fables of the collection are indebted to Christian legend, and to the Indian Panchatantra.
Main article: Lilith
The text is best known because of its reference to Lilith, and it is the fifth of Ben Sira’s responses to King Nebuchadnezzar. It is reproduced here in its entirety:
Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill. Said Nebuchadnezzar, “Heal my son. If you don’t, I will kill you.” Ben Sira immediately sat down and wrote an amulet with the Holy Name, and he inscribed on it the angels in charge of medicine by their names, forms, and images, and by their wings, hands, and feet. Nebuchadnezzar looked at the amulet. “Who are these?”
“The angels who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsvi, and Smnglof (in English: Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof). While God created Adam, who was alone, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). He also created a woman, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, ‘I will not lie below,’ and he said, ‘I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.’ Lilith responded, ‘We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.’ But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: ‘Sovereign of the universe!’ he said, ‘the woman you gave me has run away.’ At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels to bring her back.
“Said the Holy One to Adam, ‘If she agrees to come back, what is made is good. If not, she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.’ The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God’s word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, ‘We shall drown you in the sea.’
“‘Leave me!’ she said. ‘I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’
“When the angels heard Lilith’s words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: ‘Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.’ She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.”
At this point it is obvious how this story is relevant in tracing the origin of evil attributed to women. This character Lilith is attributed to modern and ancient ails including anything from infant mortality rates, wet dreams, adultery to sin, lust, evil and death. Mother to countless demons, enemy and rebel to god, killer of Adam’s children and wife to the devil itself, where is the positive trait to this, even the devil gets a romantic heroic spin in his (portrayed as a male hero) ultimate betrayal of god and all that is good, what is there to hide?
It is with these two stories as context that one can begin to paint the face of the devil within the film. To give a nameless faceless entity a presence that cannot be seen or felt but nonetheless completely apparent within the story told by Lars. The action of the characters, the images, the very conception of the anti-christ can begin to be pieced together.
(To be Continued…)