Apostasy From Nature
The traditional view of the kingdom of Zeal holds that it is analogous to Babylon, a Biblical nation rife with all manner of sin. The people of Zeal were punished for turning their backs on the Entity, or symbolically, the Judeo-Christian God. However, the story of Zeal lends itself to a very different allegory, one which I shall lay out the case for in this article. The fall of the kingdom of Zeal can be viewed as a condemnation of the abandonment of a naturalistic world view in favor of a theistic world view.
The symbolism is simple to comprehend. Zeal is an allegorical nation; it does not necessarily represent any other nation, real or fictional. The Entity is symbolic of nature, and not, as it is usually considered, a monotheistic God. The analogue for the gods is Lavos. Note that Lavos is not a symbol of any god in particular, but of theism in general. From here, it is easy to see the moment of conversion. Prior to Crono's arrival in Zeal, the Queen has supplanted the use of the Sun Stone and the elements with the use of Lavos' power, channeled through the Mammon Machine.
The Acceptance of Lavos as a God
This was an act of madness. The kingdom of Zeal had been brought about by the toil and sacrifice of it's people, and yet they willingly submit it all to Lavos, for the false promise of eternal life. The only person who actually gains from this exchange is the mad Queen. As the prophet of the god Lavos, she gains even greater power and adoration. To secure her power, and the people's faith in their newly found god, the Queen must act to halt dissent. She banishes dissenters, including the three gurus who had previously guided the royalty of Zeal. This act can be seen as a rejection of wisdom. With her power consolidated, with wisdom of any sort no longer guiding her, the Queen begins to spread the cult of Lavos.
The Rejection of Nature
The Mammon idol becomes a focal point of worship. The people of Zeal bask in the emanations of the machine, emulating the social warmth and fulfillment that comes from being unconditionally accepted by like-minded churchgoers. However, this warm glow is the life of the planet, the power of nature, being siphoned away, burned to generate the comforting false warmth of the Lavos cult. This willful abandonment and destruction of nature is endemic to the theistic Zeal. The Sun Stone, and the power of the elements, are sealed up, away from the kingdom itself. It is forbidden for any one to seek them out. Theism has supplanted naturalism, and it doesn't take long for this to lead to a brazen disregard for nature itself. The Queen orders a woman to burn a seed with the power to save the environment. Prior to his banishment, the Guru of Life instructs the woman to save the seed. This is symbolic of the disregard to the physical world death based faiths engender. By placing herself in opposition to the Guru of Life, the Queen makes clear that, while the Lavos cultists believe that Lavos is the way to eternal life, the religion is incompatible with actual, natural, real life.
It is not just life that the religion wrongly claims for itself. The banishment of the Gurus is also a rejection of that which they stand for. The betrayal and suppression of the wise is reminiscent of the Catholic church's treatment of the astronomer Galileo. The cult supplants an actual understanding of life with a false promise of immortality. Also, the cult removes the Guru of Reason, and along with him, any semblance of rationality. This leads allows the insane actions of the people of Zeal, their acceptance of Lavos, their rejection of nature, and thus, life, and their faith that the construction of the Ocean Palace would result in their immortality. The removal of the Guru of Time further feeds the delusions of eternity held by the Lavos cultists. Dalton, in particular, seems strongly effected by this lack of perspective. Without wisdom to guide her, the mad Queen subverts the technological achievements of the nation to evil ends. The Blackbird becomes a warship, despite Zeal having no external enemies. The Ocean Palace becomes the instrument of the destruction of the very kingdom that built it, and the people that prayed for it to bring them eternal life. This parallels the real life Heaven's Gate cult, which committed mass suicide in 1997, believing that they would then transcend the physical realm via a comet.
Without reason, without life, without time, and without nature, Queen Zeal and her fellow worshipers lose their humanity. In their blind quest for power, they turn inward, separating themselves from everything that is not of their bizarre cult. This xenophobia manifests itself in two main ways. The first of these is the enslavement of the Earthbound, and secondly, there is the trivialization of Crono and his party. The cultists consider themselves specially blessed by Lavos, and now, disconnected from nature, and all the life that is a part of it, they view themselves as being superior to the beings of nature. The Queen even rejects her own children. This rejection is completely unnatural, it is only under the irrational influence of Lavos that the Queen is capable of this act. This is reminiscent of the worship of the god Moloch by the extinct Punic cultures. A child would be placed in the outstretched hands of a bronze statue of Moloch, and the statue heated. The priests would then beat drums to mask the cries of the child, in order to prevent intervention in the sacrifice.
The Fall of Zeal
This hubris leads to disaster. The final effort of the people of Zeal to unify themselves with their god, and thus disconnect themselves from nature, is the construction of the Ocean Palace. This final act of worship has the Mammon Machine brought as near to Lavos as possible. Before it is reactivate, the Queen, acting on the behalf of her people, has one final chance to put a stop to her theistic madness. She is confronted by her daughter and the three wise men. Once again, the Queen chooses religion over family, reason, time, life, wisdom, and nature. She commands that the Mammon Machine be activated. In so doing, she has sealed the fate of her kingdom. The prayers of the cultists have awoken their god. The reward for their faith and their devotion is the only just reward for those that have turned their backs on life. The kingdom of Zeal is destroyed absolutely, and those that survive are left scattered and powerless, no better than the poor Earthbound ones they had cruelly mistreated and enslaved. Ultimately, history itself condemns their beliefs, as Crono and his party are successful at slaying the god Lavos. This final triumph of naturalism over theism secures prosperity and the preservation of life for the future of the world. It is an important lesson.
ZeaLity - for his contributions to this article
Xathael - for originally researching and codifying the Biblical allegory in Chrono Trigger
Squaresoft - for producing and publishing the game.