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Gougai! Gougai!

HOLY SHIT PEOPLE, IT'S NOT BAD ENOUGH WE'RE GETTING AN UTENA EXHIBITION RIGHT NOW

THEY. ARE. MAKING. A. NEW. MUSICAL. NEXT. YEAR. START LOSING YOUR SHIT RIGHT NOW

#1 | Back to Top03-20-2013 07:45:44 PM

Atropos
Atropos Turretslayer
From: Hampden College
Registered: 10-22-2011
Posts: 906

Utena and Kabbalah

(No, this isn't going to be a thread about how the hair colors sort of match up to the Sefirot. You want that, go to TVTropes.

And it's also not going to be about Madonna - I owe more to the Rabbi Laibl Wolf and Dion Fortune, and, to a certain degree, Daniel M. Snyder, for getting me interested in this mess. emot-biggrin

And if I've made a mistake, feel free to correct me - I'm no authority on this at all, just a fan having fun.)

Kashira, kashira, gozonji kashira?

How can human beings change the world?

In Utena, the student council seeks the 'power to revolutionize the world.' All are discontent with their lives, their positions, their relationships. All want to change something, and they believe that this elusive power is their only path to doing so. And thus they are led to duel for the Rose Bride.

And yet, even as all are defeated by Utena, we the audience still believe that this nebulous power exists, and that its effect will surely emerge. Only in the final two episodes are we dispelled of this notion. Akio turns off the projector, and we see that everything supernatural - or most of it, anyway - has been nothing more than an illusion created specifically to draw young souls to Akio's side. He intended to seize the power for himself from day one.

Yet, even Akio fails. His sword shatters at the rose gate, and he resigns himself to another round of the dueling game. Without supernatural ability, Akio believes he has nothing, no power to change the world. The wounded Utena forces herself off the ground, pries the gate open with her own hands, awakens Anthy from her slumber inside the coffin of the Rose Bride, and is stabbed by a million swords. It seems that no revolution occurred.

We return to the school some time later. Utena is nearly forgotten, even by the omniscient shadow girls. And yet, something is changed. The former duelists are no longer discontent revolutionaries, but happy, functional high school students. Touga, Saionji, and Nanami repair their broken relationships, Miki stops relying on others to guide him, Juri is freed from her hopeless longing…the list goes on and on, extending even to gag characters like Suzuki, Yamada, and Tanaka. Despite Akio's statements to the contrary, the revolution was brought about - brought about by Utena.

So what is the 'power to revolutionize the world?' In his book Practical Kabbalah, Rabbi Laibl Wolf tells us the answer: "Ordinary lives can transform creation itself." By mastering oneself, he says, one can find the strength to change a family, a town, a nation - even a school.

Utena is not the wise teacher that Wolf expects this person to be. She wants to be a prince, but she rarely lived up to this ideal - often engaging in selfish hypocrisy along the way. How, then, could she create this great change? I'll explore this in later installments - when we talk about the 32 paths of the Tree of Life and the Sefirot themselves.

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#2 | Back to Top03-21-2013 03:44:13 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
Website

Re: Utena and Kabbalah

I know next to nothing about modern Kabbalah.  I went to a group meeting once at the invitation of a close friend -- enough to decide it wasn't for me -- but one of the things that struck me the most was how much deference is given to teachers.  It seemed to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, that they're set up as... not quite infallible, but definitely less fallible than you are, so if you disagree with them then the right thing to do is examine why you are wrong.  This is pretty common for organized religions, but still a sharp contrast with the more self-guided approach to morality that appeals to me.  I think the path is different for everyone, so if anyone tries to tell you specifically how you can change the world or master yourself, eir advice should be taken with a dose of skepticism.  Even if e is a teacher or minister or counselor.  The best someone else can do is facilitate your self-discovery.

I always felt SKU does a pretty good job portraying this.  Utena has no teacher -- or to be more precise, her teacher is corrupt.  The single best piece of guidance she receives in the course of the show does not come from an authority figure, but from Wakaba.  And that guidance is not "conform to this code," but "be true to yourself."  ("Be what's normal for you.")  Wakaba is able to give this advice because she is Utena's friend and has a pretty good idea what Utena looks like when she's being true to herself, and this isn't it.  Wakaba, meanwhile, is no great teacher and is very far from perfect herself.  This is how I see the world: a bunch of desperately imperfect people who, when they become friends, can sometimes help each other be less desperately imperfect.  Where perfection doesn't mean a set of ideals graven on stone tablets, but is something subjective we define and pursue individually, albeit often with the help of others.  I think of the curry episode.  The humor in that episode happens because, if Anthy acted like Utena and vice versa, they would both be laughably far from their own ideals of themselves.*  Utena has to be what's normal for Utena, and Anthy has to be what's normal for Anthy.  And if what's normal for either of them changes over the course of thirty-nine episodes, then they have grown because of each other.

* Also there are elephants.

The Kabbalah lecture I went to happened to focus on the subject of friendship.  In one important way, what they said agreed with what I believe: friends helping each other become better human beings is an important function of friendship.  But we diverged when it came to how you do that.  I think the best you can do is help your friend remember eir own ideals, while the Kabbalah group believed that the best you can do is help your friend remember a Kabbalah teacher's ideals.  If I have that right, then I'm curious how you square that with SKU.

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#3 | Back to Top03-21-2013 04:00:46 PM

Atropos
Atropos Turretslayer
From: Hampden College
Registered: 10-22-2011
Posts: 906

Re: Utena and Kabbalah

Completely true. However, my assertion is not 'Utena is about learning the Kabbalah,' but 'Utena demonstrates Kabbalistic themes.' The latter can portray these themes in a way that deviates from conventionally practiced methods of teaching - Utena ascends the Tree of Life, but doesn't become a Hasidic Jew, is what I'm getting at.

(And as an aside, my own teacher is my psychologist and spiritual guide, [name removed for his/her own good].)


(Should I stop doing that thing where I self-censor my own posts so that people who aren't paying attention don't think you're ruthlessly and unfairly censoring me?)

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#4 | Back to Top03-21-2013 04:39:15 PM

satyreyes
no, definitely no cons
From: New Orleans, Louisiana
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 10328
Website

Re: Utena and Kabbalah

I think (or hope!) it's pretty clear that I'm not doing that emot-smile  Plus it's funny.  Self-censor away!

I'm looking forward to seeing the next installment!

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#5 | Back to Top03-30-2013 10:18:11 AM

Decrescent Daytripper
Best Disney Princess
Registered: 04-09-2007
Posts: 2788

Re: Utena and Kabbalah

I tend to prefer cabalistic practices that come right out of the "read, study, consider" hebraic school. Whereby, any text can offer up synchronicities, patterns, relevance, and questions. Utena's certainly good for that.

And, that leaving Ohtori is both a physical and psychological thing, that leaving physically alone, despite it being seemingly a physical place, is insufficient, goes to something that is sometimes attributed to one of the Rabbi Hillel's (I think the Younger), which is that the divisions of sephirot or other world-maps are only apparent or truly felt while grounded outside the fullness of God and self. The emanations/sephirot/partsufim paint the objective and subjective world for us, the way the projector may, or Akio and Anthy may the world of Ohtori. It is troubling and painful to acknowledge that, even aside from a lack of evidence, in any concrete fashion, so we find pathways within the projection and attempt those, instead, even if they might ping us around like a pinball machine kicking about the silver ball towards what are ostensibly prizes and higher scores yet, always, keeping the ball in play, within the range of the game.


My Brain is the Wakaba and Shiori Funtime Hour. With limited commercial interruption.

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