After reading another question, I had the unfortunate experience of trying to figure out what this Anti-Life Equation was.

I came to the Wikipedia article that said that the current equation was:

loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding x guilt x shame x failure x judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side

Which can be re written as:


n=y; y=hope, n=folly



self=dark side

If that means anything...

How does this work? I saw it explained that this will make people realize whatever this math formula prooves (?) causing them to want to die (in laymen's terms).

I just don't see how this formula actually does anything... Is it just some form of quazi math that people are supposed to accept at face value?

EDIT: And as I step through the equation, it seems that all the negative is being divided by more negative... so wouldn't then the result of the equation be positive? Or in the scope of the equation, a positive reaction to the equation itself?

  • 4
    If you're alive to ask, then you haven't understood it yet :) Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 15:04
  • According to operator precedence, only self-worth should be divided by (mockery * condemnation * misunderstanding) which makes some sense (self-worth is diminished by mockery, condemnation, and misunderstanding), but according to the same precedence, it should be the only factor to be multiplied by (guiltshamefailure*judgment), which makes less sense.
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 9:53

10 Answers 10


I would argue that the content of the "equation" means nothing, but the utterance or invocation of these words and symbols is what has an inexplicable transcendental power.

Compare it with the common magical incantation abracadabra, which is commonly thought to be of Aramaic origins, meaning "create as I say". As such, it is merely a simple phrase spoken in another language. But its utterance is imparted a special power: by creating that short string of noises with your mouth you are somehow able to perform supernatural feats.

So, I would argue that the "equation" itself is just an arbitrary string of evocative words and math symbols that doesn't really mean anything. The first part of the "equation" can't even really be called an equation since it doesn't appear to be equated with anything. The real power behind it comes with its invocation, which imparts a transcendental quality to the whole that you wouldn't get from just speaking each individual word.

In this sense, it's just a science-y/math-y version of a magic spell like "abracadabra".


It's an odd concept, but I think the key to understanding what Anti-Life Equation is, is to understand what it counters: life. The idea is that life is chaotic, has freedom and free will. The Anti-Life Equation robs living beings of that. Whoever wields it can impose their own order on the affected beings. That's the high-level idea behind it. Over the years, comic book writers have had to give it a more fleshed out form, which is where the equations in the question come from. They're attempts to sketch out what concepts would need to be combined to destroy the free will in people.


There's an error in the formula.

Intuitively, you should realize, self-worth is the only positive quality in the equation (that isn't made to equate to something else).

It is undermined (divided) by the following elements: mockery, condemnation, misunderstanding

The whole chain is thus loneliness, alienation, fear, despair and a severely compromised self-worth, multiplied by the compounding effects of guilt, shame, failure and judgement (the censure of all around you).

All this culminates in the realization that hope is foolish. Love is a lie. Life is not worth living.

Then you have gone over to the dark side, and Darkseid may take control of your life.



Imagine here if your self worth, all that you value in yourself, is only a sum of these dreadful feelings. Imagine that somehow, you become convinced that those things are the only things that matter, what make you who you are.


Now, imagine all those dread feelings which are now your self worth made greater by your guilt, your shame, your failure, and your inner judgement of yourself based on these things.


And imagine now, the wretchedness that is you being broken down by mockery, made to feel ever more worthless by the condemnation of others, and your inability to make yourself understood as anything but the wretched creature they now all know you are.

n=y; y=hope, n=folly

Now imagine that all the mistakes that have led you to this state of wretchedness, all the folly of your life, is your only hope.


That you can never experience love save by lying and pretending to be something you know with no doubt you are not.


And that surely this life you living is like a million deaths, but worse, that there can be no end, because even in death, this wretched life will continue.


(It is Darkseid) Now, imagine that you can put an end to the suffering you are experiencing by simply not feeling it anymore. By giving up everything you are, every thought you have, every emotion, and simply being a vessel for the will of another. After all, how can you feel any of this horror, how can you be this wretched, if you have no will of your own. If, in fact, you are no longer you, but he who has invoked the anti-life equation. You are no longer truly alive, you are just another part of him, Darkseid, the Lord of Apokolips

That's how it works.

  • It still doesn't make sense as an equation, tho... If you wanted all that to be put on a person, it should, if you consider all the states of mind as variables, jus be added or multiplied together. The fact that you then divide those feelings and thought by ote negative thoughts, you cancel them out. Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 7:50

It's impossible to interpret this equation in a way that matches it's function. It makes no sense because as you've said, you have negative traits belittling each other and belittling self worth, and then the self worth value being multiplied by more negative traits. It's wrong, there is an error in the equation.

The way to make it make sense while implementing the least amount of changes would be to make it:

loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ (mockery x condemnation x misunderstanding × guilt × shame × failure × judgment x folly) = hope love=lies, life=death, self=dark side

ie: hope is the sum of

self worth (positive value) divided by mockery, condemnation, misunderstanding, guilt, shame, failure, judgment and folly all compounded on each other and magnified by each other. Essentially making self worth almost 0 value. (I take folly to mean something akin to 'free will comes from perception and the exercise of judgment, so inevitably wrong decisions will be made, so free will intrinsically leads to folly. If a person were only capable of acting according to what is objectively the right decision, they wouldn't have free will, since they can only do one thing in a given situation (the right thing), so the only way to have free will is to commit folly')

Added to the negative values of loneliness, alienation, fear and despair, yielding a negative value for hope

Ie: There is no hope, which renders self worth meaningless (‘almost 0 value’ and dwarfed by the other variables)

With no self worth or hope, love can only exist through lies (since one cannot be worthy of love if they are worth nothing, and hopeless love cannot last); therefore there is no love, concern for others is meaningless and the only motivation for free will continues to be self worth or hope, which is already established as 0.

With no motivation or purpose for the exercise of free will, life is equivalent to death. Both are the same and nothing has any purpose.

Even though everything is pointless and the self has no value, it is still there, the physical self exists, but lacking will or purpose all it can do is follow.

At this point in reading the equation, the person’s self and free will are proved mathematically to mean nothing. The person loses all sense of identity, and they are readily open to accept another –any other – as being their true self, with the person’s mind and body a mere extension of the other’s self. In this case Dark Side inserts himself as the solution to what self equals, making all who read it subservient to his will.

Any name inserted at the end would make a person subservient to the being they associate with that name.

That's how I think it works.


The greatest folly of the anti-life equation concept is that it first supposes that life has meaning. It never did. The perception of meaning can be derived from a different equation but to suppose that life has purpose even in the DC universe is to misunderstand the nature of life's existence. It is a temporary derivative of complex energy functions. This does not mean that it should stop but rather that it's rules only apply to itself and has no ultimate relation to the remainder of existence except in how that existence relates to life.

The "meaning" that is supposedly derived does not relate to raw stone. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with raw stone unless that stone affects something living. Meaning relates to two concepts: Purpose and Function.

Purpose supposes design which while an interesting thought, leads to an eternally expanding question of creation. Yes, this remains true of the DC Marvel and "real" universes.

Function on the other hand, is a simple question having few required suppositions, all of which are ultimately testable with one exception.

Function of course is morality. The First ultimate tenant is that:

Life should continue with maximized sustainable enjoyment for all involved.

Past this one accepted tenant, all further ideas can be made via intuition and backed up by real data. Paths that lead to the best cooperation with the first tenant are ultimately more moral. In terms of meaning, they lead to the best function. The idea of purpose remains a logical folly.


The Equation does not make as much sense as a similar kind of equation could. I would posit that an equation that can be reduced into x=y forms of positive = negative would be better. Thusly, in order to make assumptions, you would need synonyms on each side to cancel out like an equation of x+y = x+z, where removing the x's would yield y=z, or xy = xz, thus y=z, or even x/y = q, where y would be near 0 yielding a near infinite q. Using properties like these, you can generate an equation that, when solved, each possible outcome would result in a positive = a negative or a negative = infinity. That is how I would write an anti-life equation. Actually, I might write something like this just to see if it would have the properties I described. Also, an idea, terms that can be broken into similar terms, which, when reduced, have properties like those I described.

  • Although an interesting theory, this doesn't seem to have anything to do with the actual Anti-Life Equation Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 19:18

The Anti-Life Equation is a good idea that has never been done well. Morrison's interpretation of it as a literal mathematical equation of emotional concepts is probably the silliest version yet.

My own understanding of the Anti-Life Equation is that it takes the form of viral Nihilism. First some background. Nietzsche proposed Nihilism as the idea that life and existence have no inherent purpose. Nothing and no one was created for any purpose. However, there's a second part that most people gloss over. In accepting this ultimate lack of original purpose, one is allowed to fully embrace a purpose of their own devising.

The Anti-Life equation is Nihilism displayed in such a way that any creature capable of having a concept of purpose must and will understand with no doubt whatsoever that their existence has no prior purpose. However, instead of allowing the person to rise from this nadir of existence to create their own purpose, the Anti-Life Equation instead is tailored to immediately plant a specific purpose while the victim has no will. In Darkseid's case it would be "Serve Darkseid".


To ask "what is the anti life equation?" runs along the same lines of asking "what is the meaning of life?" no one really knows although this equation is fictional it's implications are quite interesting. To answer your question though their have been multiple suggestions as to how it works. Reading this out loud does nothing but to have the power of Darkseid is to have power or thought and free will, his power allows him to insert the equation into the thoughts of others ultimately leading to their demise and thus destroying all living things. I wonder though, if there is an anti-life equation then there must be a life equation which, if inserted into the thoughts of those who have been infected with the anti life equation should negate it's effect. I wonder what the life equation would look like...

  • There actually was a Life Equation, from an old issue of Martian Manhunter I believe. It was more of a philosiphy than an actual equation though.
    – Monty129
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 11:58

If what you are all saying as the end result of the anti-life equation is to surrender your free will to Darkseid, it basically means to relinquish your soul. So what the anti-life equation in essence does it take possession of someone's soul. So with that it is basically saying Darkseid is DC's version of Satan.

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