The common misconception that the Absolute Terror Fields in Neon Genesis Evangelion can only be neutralized through some semi-magical process, or that they must be countered by a soul, etc.

This incorrect assumption gives rise to questions like If Jet Alone could not possibly be effective, why did NERV bother to discredit it?, and The Lance of Longinus penetrated AT Fields, hence it has a soul, hence it could be the second angel, right?

There are at least two examples of "purely physical" forces that can defeat an ATF:

  • In episodes 1 and 9, ATF protected angels are damaged by N2 mines. (In the latter case destroying 28% of it).
  • In episodes 6 and 22, positron rifles were used.

Reply to Wigs:

First, I completely agree that the AT Field is "the light of the soul". It is a property of human life (and of at least some not-exactly-human, namely the angels), and an AT Field implies a soul. An ATF certainly is not only a mechanical contruct.

However, I don't think it is an contradiction to assume that such an entity can be affected by mechanical processes. A dualistic metaphysical system (that is, one which postulates the separate existance of both soul and matter) often accounts for some kind of connection between the two domains. In Evangelion, the ATF has a such "dual" role: it simultaneously keeps the minds of its owners separate, allowing us to have private thoughts and define a boundary towards others; and it keeps the bodies of its owners separate, keeping them from flowing into each other as LCL.

It seems to me that the AT Field, a "spiritual" property that defines "physical" bodies, might in fact be viewed as the principal link between the two domains. In any case, it undoubtably has some very "mechanical" properties: it shows up in technical measurements of the "phase space", it gives rise to the characteristic orange hexagons -- and most conspiciously, it deflects oncoming missiles! To assign it yet one more mechanical property, that of being deformed or perforated by a positron rifle, does not seem like a huge leap of faith.

Next you give possible replies to the two questions I quoted. Those replies are very sensible and show that it is possible to answer/refute the questions even if you don't belive that AT Fields can be penetrated physically.

However, I argue that they can be, and that the questions therefore are irrelevant. The Jet Alone project was indeed sabotaged because it was a competitor for funding. However, an effective anti-ATF weapon would make it an even more dangerous competitor to NERV! I don't accept that they "obviously" were wrong when they said they would find a solution to the ATF problem. In Episode 6, Misato launches the positron attack, and in Episode 7, the industry consortium behind Jet Alone has had a a spy find out about the existance of AT-fields. It does not seem impossible to me that the same spy found out about Misato's attack, and that the consortium are planning to refine it into a more practical weapon. Such a weapon would be excellent for battling angels, but worthless for triggering Instrumentality, so SEELE/NERV would be very unhappy about such a development.

Likewise, I acknowledge the possibility that the Lance may have a soul, but I do not think that that is implied just by its ability to penetrate AT Fields.

Finally, you discus the meanings of the words "neutralise" and "penetrate": you say that physical force can indeed penetrate an AT Field, but only another AT Field can neutralise it.

I am glad we agree that we agree that they can in fact be penetrated. That was the main point I was trying to make (hence the node's title). If you agree to that, then the two example questions I quoted also become moot, as I showed above.

It isn't completely clear what happens when the Evas neutralise their opponents field. It does not disappear (or the angles would lose physical shape). In the first episode we have the dialogue

Maya: Unit One expanding the AT-Field. It's neutralizing the phase space.

Ritsuko: No, it's eroding...

-- so it would appear that Ritsuko does not approve of the term "neutralise" to decribe what the Evas do! Now we are truly getting into semantics... :) (Perhaps she would reserve the term "neutralise" for what an Anti-AT Field does?)

When I originally wrote "neutralise", I was perhaps being sloppy and should have said "counter, so that they no longer play a part in the battle". It was more a stylistic attempt not to repeat the same word too many times, than an attempt to make a philosophical point.... ^^;;; That said, I'd like to add that I would not consider a "physical" process that neutralises AT Fields in your stricter sense impossible in principle, although there is no evidence either way in the series.

... and a final update.

I think the Anti-AT Field negates the AT Field completely, while other AT Fields can only neutralise them, and physical weapons can only pierce them.

I agree with this conclusion. In retrospect, my original use of "neutralise" seems misleading. I'm leaving it in the write-up, though, so that coming generations can see what we argued about. :)