In volume 14 of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, our main cast confronts the homunculus leader known as Father. At that moment, our hero’s human friend and supporter Lin Yao is forced to absorb a philosopher’s stone. In the story, absorbing the stone into your body grants you immense power, but the stone itself consumes you making you no longer human, but a homunculi. In addition to that, as we’ve learned throughout the series – the stones are crafted by the capturing of human souls. It’s a horrific process. However, when confronted with the reality of having his body invaded, Lin accepts it and embraces it. He gives up his humanity for power willingly.
Lin is one of many who were next in line for the throne of the nation of Xing. In order to ensure his chance at being ruler, he wanted to gain the power of immortality. But, at what cost? Lin’s pride and greed took control. He desired power and stature; while it may seem to him to be for a noble cause (for his family), it is still based on sinful desire. As he surrenders to this desire, he loses his humanity.
Allegorically, we see this occur in our lives as well. When we surrender to sin, our humanity is diminished and we fall further and further from the way the Lord designed us. This is exemplified in the story of the life of King Saul.
King Saul was selected by the Lord to lead the people. He was picked because he was the King the people wanted – big, strong, powerful. He seemed to be a decent leader at the start of his reign, but slowly devolved into sin and madness. First, he begins with unauthorized sacrifices to the Lord being impatient on the prophet Samuel. Then, he directly disobeys the Lord feeling that if he offered some of what he stole from his enemies as a sacrifice instead of obeying God then the Lord may be pleased. But, as Samuel points out – the Lord doesn’t want our sacrifices, He wants to be our Lord – He wants our obedience.
David is then anointed King by Samuel and eventually finds his way to Saul. Saul continues his descent into madness through his bitterness, greed, and pride. He desires to remain King and becomes enraged with jealousy at the people’s love and admiration for David. He tries to kill David on numerous occasions. He tries to commune with spirits including the spirit of the now deceased prophet Samuel. He then, in the end, falls in battle and commits suicide to prevent his enemies from killing him.
Saul, like Lin, wanted power – wanted control, wanted stature, wanted the people to love him. In his desire for control, he fell victim to the lie of this world – that we are in control and can be our own gods. We’re not. We’re merely infallible humans. Lin will realize it eventually as he falls victim to the monster controlling him. Saul realized it too late as the monster of his sin and bitterness consumed him, eventually leading to his death in battle.
Saul’s desires at first do not seem ignoble. He wants a stronger Israel. He wants to save the best for the Lord. He wants to ensure his kingdom is protected. Lin has his own personal reasons which seem noble to him as well to surrender his own life for a monstrous stone crafted from the murder of others. But despite what Machiavelli tries to tell us – the ends do not justify the means. Sinful thoughts and acts which end up in “good” situations do not make the original acts less wrong.
As I am not yet past this point in the manga, I do not know what the outcome will be of Lin’s decision. But, I know this – he has surrendered his humanity for power and that is never the right decision.