Chaos and change: Shin Megami Tensei IV

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I was playing Shin Megami Tensei IV (after finally getting it last Friday), and I get this feeling that Chaos, believe it or not, has a stronger place in me than it did before, and there are actually things about Chaos in the Shin Megami Tensei games that have fallen into place and made sense when before they were a mystery to me.

It started coming to me when I encountered the Ring of Gaea (same as the Cult of Gaea from the older games) in the game. They were standing up to the control of an organization called the Ashura-kai, a mob-like organization that bullies people into fitting in to their social order and and promotes co-existence between humans and demons by feeding demons pills which (spoilers) are made from bits of human brains. The sect believes in a world shaped by the strong and a world free from the control of dictators like Tayama, although they do tend to lack sympathy for their fallen comrades (one member says she has no sympathy for the dead Kaga, saying she died because she was weak, even though she was anything but weak in order to face up against Xi Wangmu). They behave a lot like Satanists wearing Japanese Buddhist clothes, mixed with pagan goddess worship (evidenced by the statue at Tsukiji Honganji) and some sprinkles of fantasy Darwinism. They control Ginza in the game, and Ginza is a pretty sweet place. According to the Gaeans, people and demons seem to co-exist, and best of all there’s no Terminal Guardian like in the rest of Tokyo.

Throughout the game, Walter talks of changing “this rotten world”. At first, I thought of a world that can always be changed to anyone’s shape (which he stated in a dream the player has early in the game) would be too messy, too disorganized, dare I say “too chaotic”, but looking back, that’s the state of the world as it is anyway, in the sense that it’s constantly in flux (which funny enough was mentioned by Tenkai while you fight him). Speaking of Tenkai, the fight with Tenkai was not only a great fight for me, but when Tenkai asked what I would do about the Ashura-kai and I picked “Reform it” (which probably means destroying it in this game), Walter pointed out that that’s just what he’d  do, going on to say that if something is wrong, then even if it causes “chaos” it must be corrected. That’s so much like my natural morality, if I had my way there’d be a lot less inaction in this world and the chastising of corruption would take precedent over preserving order.

When I met Lilith in the game, she points out that demons are the manifestations of human desires, which is interesting because I have thought about that before, but it didn’t stick with me so much until recently. This, and other things said by both Lilith and Walter speak to me so much and make things about the Chaos path make so much sense. It also makes me think about what demonic power really means, unless that is also a form of that same human desire, and the dark side associated with it, that very same thing that I am interested in, and wish to be get to the heart of in this life. Lilith also mentions a world where humans can build their own paradise if they have the power to do so, and I mean humans as individuals not humans as a species. It rings such a bell to the “create the universe” ideal I sometimes mention when describing the Left Hand Path which I follow.

It also seems that the place of some of the gods and demons in the Chaos alignment seems to make all the more sense. Besides the obvious devils, fallen angels, mother goddesses, and dragons, fierce deities, some of whom do battle with demons, belong here because they represent the Chaotic principle of action, they’re the kind of gods who embody Walter’s principle as mentioned two paragraphs above, and it’s the same with destroyer gods but they mainly represent destruction (usually positive destruction). Being warrior deities, they have the capacity to act decisively and the power to protect, thus they represent the strength to protect and to build and they represent the way of the warrior, not the soldier. With that in mind, the mystery surrounding some aspects of the Chaos alignment is gone, having become clear to me in a way that somehow hasn’t been all that clear before.

I know I haven’t played all of the game yet, and there is still more of the story to explore, but what I have explored so far has been all so illuminating to me.

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