The time is nigh: BTS’s upcoming album, Map of the Soul: 7, is almost here. We already got our first trailer. Preorders are already here — and so are ARMY theories.
The release of Suga’s “Interlude: Shadow” on January 9 officially kicked off Bangtan’s most anticipated and complex comeback to date. Riddled with emotion and parallels, the new trailer relates to that of the previous comeback (RM’s “Intro: Persona,” which was released on March 27, 2019) not only thematically, but also lyrically and cinematically. The next trailer, “Ego,” will surely reveal even more connections when it comes on February 3 (or, technically February 2 for the fans on U.S. soil).
So far, we know “Persona,” “Shadow” and “Ego” will be the conductive threads for this next installment in BTS's intensive saga. All three words appear on the image for BTS’s comeback schedule, appearing visually like points on a map. But ARMYs have been racking their brain with plausible meanings ever since the concepts first appeared on the blackboard in RM’s solo trailer back in March. From Jungian archetypes to Greek mythology and BTS’s very own roots, MOTS: 7 is bound to be laden with references and juxtapositions, and there’s no doubt it will be their biggest yet in every sense of the word — I mean, have you considered the mere size of the album’s physical copy? (The lyric book alone is 52 pages.)
We might still have 37 days and about 20 hours to go until the MOTS: 7’s actual release — but who’s counting, right? — however, more teasers and concepts will come soon, and ARMYs are dutifully preparing on all fronts with theories and analysis galore. Thanks to “Persona” and “Shadow,” we already have an idea of the themes Bangtan will tackle, but what’s the symbolism behind the album’s very own title?
As soon as the project’s title was unveiled, ARMYs worldwide started forming their guesses — some cogent and some somewhat convoluted — as to what “7” could stand for. Here, we’ve rounded up seven (because, duh) of the best theories ARMYs have devised for Map of the Soul: 7 so far.
1. Seven Olympian Gods
Many ARMYs believe at least some of MOTS: 7’s concepts will draw inspiration from Greek mythology, especially after seeing BTS’s VCR at the Golden Disk Awards 2020, which took place on January 5, 2020.
The VCR, which is introduced as “City Dionysia Begins,” is without a shadow of a doubt heavily inspired by ancient Greece. The City Dionysia, or Great Dionysia, was a city festival held in Athens associated with the demigod Dionysus. While Dionysus is mainly referred to as the god “of wine and ecstasy,” Encyclopedia Britannica notes that “his cult had special importance for art and literature” — a.k.a. entertainment.
When it was first revealed as a track, “Dionysus,” the very last song on Map of the Soul: Persona, first brought about the Greek discourse in Bangtan’s new era. Since then, we have seen stages, like the Melon Music Awards 2019, seemingly inspired by Greece and, as some ARMYs argue, Great Dionysia in particular. So much so that, now, some ARMYs believe each member could be embodying a god of their own for MOTS: 7.
If the seven members represent one deity each, math gets in the way — since there were actually 12 god and goddesses residing in Mount Olympus. There were, however only seven male figures among them — Ares, Apollo, Dionysus, Hades, Hermes, Poseidon, and Zeus. But some ARMYs theorize Bangtan could be referencing these gods from a different standpoint.
“GUYS I THINK THE GREEK GODS BTS WERE REPRESENTING IN THE VCR WERE THE ONES FROM THE 7 OLD PLANETS FROM ALCHEMY,” one ARMY posed on Twitter. In astrology, these are referred to as "the seven planets of antiquity" or classical planets. They refer to the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and each could be associated with a Greek or Roman God.
What’s more? One ARMY believes Bangtan’s ancient inspirations would not only affect the comeback’s theme but also its very own timeline. "At GDA they said City Dionysia begins. City Dionysia Festival is usually held in lunar month by Attic Calendar. It’s Mar- Apr in the Solar Calendar. I think this is about TOUR not Comeback schedule. It will be the end of Mar, probably in Seoul first and TOUR in Apr," one fan account tweeted.
2. The Seven Deadly Sins
The seven deadly sins (also referred to as the capital vices) have become a popular trope in pop culture. From Dante Alighieri to Hollywood films to anime, there are plenty of oeuvres that have explored these concepts. Many ARMYs have speculated, or simply dreamed (we see you, AU writers), about BTS doing a seven deadly sins-inspired concept for a while — and MOTS: 7 could be the perfect opportunity.
The seven deadly sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, sloth and gluttony (which, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, usually also comprises drunkenness, ehem, Dionysus, ehem). Some ARMYs believe the septet could be embodying the seven sins after seeing the Golden Disc VCR. In the video, we see the seven members carrying/wearing different items that could be allegoric to the sins. Jimin, for example, wears a golden, snake-shaped headpiece; Suga holds (and takes a sip from) a silver chalice; while J-Hope seems tempted by a bunch of grapes (mirroring some of the concept photos for MOTS: Persona).
The seven deadly sins have been closely linked to Christianity. Some theologians, like Angela Tilby, trace their origins back to Evagrius of Pontus, a monk that lived in the fourth-century A.D. Evagrius created a list of “Eight Generic Logismoi” (meaning “tempting thoughts”) that, with a little help from Pope Gregory, became what we’ve come to known as the seven deadly sins. However, Evagrius’s original works were still classified as “Greek ascetic writings.”
“Just noticed that the guys embodied one of the seven deadly sins and its a bad representation but since Thespis, the first awardee of the Dionysian Festival, wrote tragedies about toxic human behavior maybe this is it,” an ARMY theorized after seeing the VCR. “WHAT IF they're doing seven solos for each seven gods [portraying] seven deadly sins through seven features of ego? There's arrogance, greed, impatience, stubbornness, martyrdom, self destruction, self deprecation. We must go through all of them first to get to shadow,” another one inquired.
3. Freudian Analysis
Aside from ancient inspiration, ARMYs have also looked at psychoanalysis to interpret MOTS: 7. With this angle in mind, some have turned to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis himself, to interpret Bangtan’s work.
According to Freudian analysis, the human psyche can be divided into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego — concepts that might ring a bell. The id is the utmost primitive part of the mind (i.e. the unconscious). The ego, on the other hand, which is also referred to as “self,” is in charge of evaluating the external world and making conscious decisions, while the superego “operates as a moral conscience.” Per the theory, all three coexist to form one individual’s whole personality. To justify the need for one’s ego, Freud proposed a series of defense mechanisms. While his daughter, Anna Freud, enumerated 10 defense mechanisms in Freud’s analysis, some pinpoint only seven of those as most instrumental.
“HOLD THE F*CK UP!!! THE ALBUM IS CALLED MOTS: 7 WHAT IF ITS BASED ON FRUEDS DEFENSE MECHANISM??? LOOK!! THERE ARE 7 DEFENSE MECHANISM WHICH EACH MEMBER PORTRAYED IN BU/HYYH/WINGS,” an ARMY proclaimed on Twitter. “EACH OF THEM HAS A PERFECT MATCH WITH EACH MEMBER!!!”
But, if Freud’s work resonates with BTS’s recent concepts, that’s probably because of Carl Jung, which brings us to the next theory.
4. Carl Jung and his Map of the Soul
This one isn’t so much a theory but a confirmed fact. BTS’s MOTS series is said to directly reference Carl Jung’s analytic psychology. BTS has done so following Dr. Murray Stein’s collation of Jung’s work in his book Jung’s Map Of The Soul, which was non-coincidentally sold on Big Hit’s website for a while.
Jung was actually somewhat of a disciple and friend of Freud — at least for a while. The pair even toured together teaching psychoanalysis (a voyage the American Psychological Association refers to as “the most famous conference in the history of American psychology.”) However, Freud's interest in theories around sex and Jung’s interest in alternate sciences — such as religion and myth, which he referred to as “the collective unconsciousness” — ultimately (and vastly) differentiated their work and contributed to the end of their rapport.
In Jungian psychology, there are four major archetypes or divisions to one’s self: the persona, the shadow, the anima and animus, and the self or ego. Apart from the anima, BTS seems to be referencing Jung’s archetypes in their comeback trailers. So far, we’ve gotten “Persona” and “Shadow” but “Ego” is confirmed to be arriving soon. According to Jung, if our persona is the conscious way in which we present ourselves to the world, our shadow represents qualities present in our unconscious that we choose to suppress. The ego would be full interaction and realization of all archetypes.
In order to come to terms with one’s self, Jung highlights a process he calls the “realization of the shadow” as “the growing awareness of the inferior part of the personality, which should not be twisted into an intellectual activity, for it has far more the meaning of a suffering and a passion that implicate the whole man.” He continues saying, “The ‘man without a shadow’ is statistically the commonest human type, one who imagines he actually is only what he cares to know about himself.”
Apart from the very titles equating to each archetype (and the looming concept of “hero”) BTS has referenced Jung directly a couple of times. As ARMYs noted, RM directly quoted one of Jung’s theories during the GDAs VCR (which seems to include the most clues for MOTS: 7). The blackboard on “Intro: Persona” also contains a few of Jung’s quotes and they are explicitly credited. Apart from the quote RM recites in the video, the blackboard also displays another of Jung’s cites reading, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
The words “love,” dreams” and “happiness” also appear multiple times on the blackboard. Thematically, these could potentially be matched to each of the comeback’s trailers. “Love” is a recurring theme in “Persona” (and perhaps more obviously in its corresponding title track, “Boy with Luv”) while, in “Shadow,” Suga grapples with the juxtaposing realities of following one's dreams.
Some eagled-eyed ARMYs have also spotted the potential reference to Jung’s oeuvre in Bangtan’s previous offerings — like the inclusion of Abraxas, which many ARMYs noticed back in the Wings era. Jung references in his 1916 book Seven Sermons to the Dead (which, ehem, another seven) when explaining, among other things, the dichotomies of good and evil.
And because we love theories intermixing (even more) Jung also had a book called Psychology and Alchemy, that’s central to his understanding of the collective unconsciousness, which, in turn, could be pinpointed as the base for his soul or “self” theories.
5. The Seven Chakras
As we briefly mentioned, Jung’s works were inspired by spirituality, and there’s another reference to the number seven which some fans believe Bangtan could be taking a page from: the seven major chakras, found in Hinduism.
“Watched again the VCR of BTS at GDA 2020 and I can't help but wonder why ARMY's didn't give reference to the 7 chakras,” one ARMY theorized. “Just to give [a] few points: RM held the staff with the pine cone, the symbol of pineal gland, the third eye chakra. Jin is seen with the pearls, representing the Solar Plexus chakra. Meanwhile, Jimin is with the serpent, the kundalini symbol of the Root Chakra. Yoongi and the chalice, the symbol of sacral chakra, the orange fire. Jungkook, though wearing the crown of the Rose, holds the Heart Chakra. Hobi, meanwhile, is seen with the grapes.”
As Refinery29 points out, esoteric teachings pinpoint “various ‘planes’ of existence, ranging from the physical body to higher consciousness.” The seven chakras are thought to act as a gateway between the physical and the spiritual world, as the seven steps in a “journey to the soul.”
What’s more, according to the Concise Encyclopædia Britannica, each chakra is “associated with a color, shape, sense organ, natural element, deity, and mantra.” This concept of “soul types” loosely relates to the idea of Jungian archetypes. In fact, Jung himself explored higher consciousness in relation to the chakras in one of his seminars, presented in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. To tie it all to BTS; one ARMY believes one of Jimin’s recent posts on Weverse could be a clue to the album’s theme.
“Ok. Theory time. Jimin posted the word ‘wang,’ which means ‘king’ on weverse. The second picture shows the 7 colors of the soul, the rainbow. The orange is named KING,” one ARMY pointed out in Portuguese. “What if each one represents one of the boys, their hair colors or their SOLOS?!!?”
As Richard Leviton writes in Encyclopedia of Earth Myths, Kabbalah (a branch of Jewish philosophy) refers to the existence of Kings as “divine containers of Light” to explain “the energy foundation for human form and consciousness.” He argues that “the seven containers or Primordial Kings are the seven chakras, or major psychic energy centers along the spine; each King embodies a chakra at the archetypal level.” Similarly to the chakras, the cult of Mithra also believed the soul passed “through seven planetary spheres” to reach paradise.
6. Seven Members, Seven Years
All mystical theories aside, perhaps the most obvious connotation the prime number acquires when looked at through a Bangtan lens is that of the very members themselves. Since their debut on June 13, 2013, BTS has proven time and time they are the biggest OT7 stans.
The members of BTS are proud to be a septet and, as much as it pains us to think about it, Map of the Soul: 7 will probably be their last full-length project as one for a while, so it’d make sense if they wanted to commemorate it forever. As writer Jae-Ha Kim theorized on Twitter, “2020 most likely will be the year that one or more of the members enlist for their mandatory military duty.  seems to be [BTS]'s way of saying that no matter what happens, they are first & foremost a septet.”
On top of that, the number certainly acquires a new meaning this year, as 2020 marks BTS's seventh anniversary as a group. So, regardless of the overarching theme, MOTS: 7 will be a celebration of BTS’s seven members and their seven-year trajectory.
7. “Persona” Was for ARMYs, “7” Is for BTS
In keeping with the Bangtan celebratory themes, many ARMYs have theorized that while MOTS: Persona was an ode to the fandom (perhaps even more so when examined through the “love” theme and the fact that they did an “ARMY With Luv” version of “Boy with Luv”), MOTS: 7 will be all about Bangtan.
“Remember how mots persona was about us armys what if mots 7 is about them as bts and the hidden part of their personality that we don't see,” an ARMY asked. “PERSONA IS ABOUT US, AND NOW MOTS 7 IS ABOUT THEM, THIS IS HOW THEY REALLY FEEL DESPITE THE SUCCESS THEY ALREADY HAVE,” another one proclaimed.
From “Interlude: Shadow” alone we can already predict the album’s themes will be more personal and self-referential. In a press release, Big Hit explained Suga finds himself surrounded by “a crowd that personifies his multiple egos and desires.” They also described MOTS: Persona as an exploration “of finding joy in love and reaching out to the world.”
BTS is not only connecting the dots for this comeback but also continuing an ongoing narrative, and doing so by citing their own discography. “Intro: Persona” samples "Intro: Skool Luv Affair" while “Interlude: Shadow” both mirrors and samples “INTRO: O!RUL8,2?” If we follow this pattern, it’s safe to assume “Ego” would also including samples of previous songs, and ARMYs’ have their minds set on “2 Cool 4 Skool.”
Of course, all these are only theories. BTS could be doing a mix of all, or nothing at all and we could just be clowns. But one thing is sure: whatever it is that’s headed our way, expect easter eggs galore. Oh, and, yes, it will be BIG.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue