Revelation 18 elaborates the defect of our culture of sexual immorality: it cheapens our relationships, and so leads us to prefer property to people.
Book 7 finishes up the preliminaries in heaven. Given that Revelation brings us the angelic perspective on Christ’s service to love, I’m happy that we’ve caught up to the second line of Genesis 1!
This is getting to be more and more fun. I enjoy selecting the images, and the recording and editing isn’t as painful as it used to be. If only I could control my ‘s’s better…
My son Greg can become exasperated with me. As a young adult, he is concerned naturally with social acceptance, and seeks for answers to the problems of his generation in the conventional wisdom brought forth from the past. When he has had enough of my contrary pronouncements, he retorts:
You speak with a great deal of assurance, Dad!
Yes, who am I, to assert that I know better than all these others?
For me, the situation is far more ambiguous. My assurance is necessary to those that I attempt to comfort. To those seeking hope, how else can one speak? They need to believe that you believe in the choices that you are offering them.
But to believe that you represent the truth is far different than believing in one’s own authority.
To those familiar with the Yu Gi Oh cartoon series, I can offer a meaningful image. In the cartoon, the young hero finds himself in conflict with evil, and struggles to the limit of his abilities to overcome it. In the lurch, a larger self – ancient, powerful and wise beyond any human reckoning – comes to the fore.
Thus, to my intimates, I speak of myself variously as a “test particle” or “bait” or “a point of contact” or “a beneficiary of a privileged perspective.” So I’ll be dreaming about a troubled baptist, and suddenly I’ll see the scene as though looking over my shoulder and another presence asks “Is that you, John?” I’ll be driving to the aquatic center and have a cardinal from 400 miles away land on me with shame and grief regarding the priestly pedophilia scandal. I’ll wake up at midnight to a pope announcing “I am your father, and I am going to die and leave all this power to you.” I’ll be listening to the opening lyrics of He Reigns, allowing my mind to wander over the continents, and a Muslim leader shows up to say “Here’s another billion people for you to manage.”
To those that don’t understand the challenges of loving, this might seem all very exciting. Having carried the heavy burden of being blamed for things done in my name, to me it’s far more ambiguous.
There are two great challenges to loving, which is to grant strength to the loved one. The first is when the recipient does not adhere to the constraints of loving. Loving them is thus to empower them to hurt others. In consequence, unconditional love moves through our lives like the tide, peaking higher when we honor its constraints, and ebbing when we violate them. The mechanism of this operation is for love to love all things so that it feels the wrongs we commit, and transfers its ministry to those we have wounded. In seeking to serve ourselves, we are indeed our own worst enemies.
The second challenge is far more painful. It is to find the beloved surrendering themselves to us, becoming merely extensions of our personality rather than beautiful manifestations of infinite possibility. A loving personality is surrounded by grateful recipients of love’s strength, and that gratitude amplifies their influence. Unless such a lover is tender, it can overwhelm the weaker links that bind together the beloved, scattering its elements to the spiritual wind.
It is for these reasons that Jesus proclaimed himself as a servant, and testified as to his humble heart.
As if this wasn’t difficult enough, this little pseudo pod of Christ is wrapped up in hostility. The important work to be done is in “binding” and “loosening” things in the spiritual realm, and my interactions with them are at best tenuous. Thus I dream of the great flocks of birds I knew in my childhood, and finding, upon walking out to the deck, that a ravenous dragon is arising from the spot in the ground from which the birds arise. At an Easter service, I cupped my hands around the sun and spread its influence, only to encounter in the asteroids an echo of the ancient cry of grief “No! Don’t kill him!” I receive a visit by an emissary of the two-dimensional race represented as the eye in the pyramid, asking for assistance to travel across the Milky Way, and am warned six months later that the gift of energy caused the output of the sun to drop by ten percent. Or wake, much as I was waken by the pope, to find myself in the midst of a perfectly spherical personality, only to be guided across a great void to a tiny speck, the “most precious place” in its realm, the “only place where life is found”, and to be told “I want to help, but even the smallest mistake would be disastrous. I need people to guide me.”
When I was introduced to the modern interpretations of Revelation, I was told that the first beast, numbered 666, was man. Man, the creation of the sixth day, believing in his own power and being humbled by failure. But not only man was created on the sixth day: in the morning came the livestock. So the correct category is mammalia. This is also the fourth, greatest beast of Daniel’s dream. It is the intelligence of man in service to the destructive Darwinian instincts of our evolutionary predecessors.
The enemy of the beast is the man with the flashing sword of truth coming from his mouth. The birds are his allies. In Daniel’s dream, he is granted dominion over the power of the “Ancient of Days.”
As when he first came, I recognize that Christ – the human perfected by unconditional love – can only become those things that he is allowed to be by those he serves. While he proclaimed his authority in the earlier era, in this era it will be to each of us to proclaim the authority of love in our lives – and thus to receive him as lord in our hearts. He is not our ruler, he is our example. And he is very, very, very close.
Take comfort. Take heart. None are forgotten, even those held captive by those that take refuge in the darkness. There is no hiding from the glory of the light that he brings.
Posted in a discussion of our symbiotic relationship with mites, this summarizes my position succinctly:
The biologists that rely upon strictly biochemical processes of evolution will never be able to calculate rates, because the forcing conditions have been lost in prehistory. I found it interesting to ask “why does every civilization develop the concept of a soul”, and eventually concluded that Darwin was half right: life is the co-evolution of spirit with biological form. The addition of spirit influences the choices made by living creatures, and so changes the rates.
Given this, I went back to Genesis and interpreted it as an incarnation (“The SPIRIT of God hovered over the waters” – and then became God for the rest of the book), with the “days” of creation reflecting the evolution of senses and forms that enabled Spirit to populate and explore the material conditions of its survival (photosensitivity, accommodation of hypotonic “waters above”, accommodation of arid conditions on the “land”, accommodation of seasons with sight (resolving specific sources of light), intelligent species in the waters and air, and mammals on earth (along with man)).
Couple this with the trumpets in the Book of Revelation, which pretty clearly parallel the extinction episodes identified by paleontology – including injection of the era of giant insects – and it looks like science and scripture actually support each other.
The only point of significant disagreement is spirit itself. Given my knowledge of the weaknesses of modern theories of cosmology and particle physics, I found myself considering the possibility of structure inside of the recognized “fundamental” particles. It became apparent to me that it wouldn’t be too difficult to bring spiritual experience into particle physics. To my surprise and delight, I became convinced that this reality is constructed so that love inexorably becomes the most powerful spiritual force.
I spend a lot of time managing fear and anger – not my own, but the fear and anger that people project into me. One of the principal reasons for writing The Soul Comes First was to deal with the Book of Revelation, which contains murky and frightening imagery that allows psychopaths to manipulate victims by linking fear to the promise of redemption that emanates from the Cross.
An example of the consequences of such manipulation is organized criminality in the guise of religion, where “leaders” of inspirational movements demand that their “flock” emulate the early church, surrendering their worldly assets for management by the “community.” You can be assured that those at the top live in luxury, while the “flock” scrapes by in poverty.
So, while I would love for people to read the book, let me summarize the main points regarding Revelation. The most important is that John’s experience of the angelic realm should be interpreted as the experience of someone following links on Wikipedia. The flow of events is not strictly linear, and John tends to emphasize events on Earth that are sometimes tangential.
- The seals were opened billions of years ago. The six symbols seen by John are not manifestations of God’s glory, but manifestations of selfishness: domination, infestation, opportunism, death, vengeance and fury. They are released onto the Earth so that their captives can work themselves free through the process of living.
- The 144,000 were spirits gathered (billions of years ago) not from the tribes of Israel themselves but from the angels that became the patrons of the tribes of Israel. The are sent down to Earth to facilitate the liberation of the captives.
- The trumpets correspond powerfully with the facts that paleontology has revealed regarding the great extinction episodes over the last billion years.
- The Age of Man does not begin until the angel stands with one foot on the shore and one in the sea.
- The beast with the number ‘666’ represents the spiritual collective that arose on the sixth day of creation, which is not Man, but the mammals.
- The bowls represent the consequences of our exploitation of the resources that we were told to harvest. Those consequences are coming to full force right now in the modern age.
One of the great and marvelous consequences of the love that emanates from God is that it empowers us to grasp the truth, and moreover to move with confidence and determination to respond to the demands it makes upon our compassion.
Please share this with anyone that you know to have been trapped in fear through manipulation of the teachings of the Book of Revelation.
A few years back after the local UU speaker’s forum, I was waylaid by an out-of-area couple in the cool of the spring evening. The husband explained that they were trying to relocate back to the Thousand Oaks area, but his wife jumped in to speak of her commitment to caring for the son that had been disabled in the Gulf War. She mourned that sometimes it was so hard to be strong in her faith, that it felt at times as if the window was closing on her.
These impulses come over me at times: I formed a ball before my heart with my hands, then shifted them to the right and opened them higher and lower. “Here it is.”
She paused, hand held against her breast, and offered “Thank-you.” And they looked at each other and asked, “When does Jesus return?”
“When enough of us say ‘Yes, we understand now. We are ready to love as you did. Come to us, right here, right now.’”
These are the closing lines of my exegetical book, The Soul Comes First. The most significant contribution of that work is to explain the Book of Revelation (not interpret, but explain). What is left unanswered still is the why. Why does he have to come again? Why wasn’t once enough?
One part of the answer is that we have free will. I have addressed this before: the true evil of “sin” is that it disposes us to believe that we deserve our suffering. We’re like the judges of the Darwin awards that celebrate those that have committed such incredibly stupid acts that they’ve provided the rest of us the benefit of removing themselves from the gene pool.
To recognize our “sin” is to convince ourselves that we must earn our healing. In Jesus’s era, that was transacted through the priesthood using a system of indulgences based upon blood sacrifice. Jesus came and said “Well, enough of that bullshit. I will be the last sacrifice, and for my sacrifice you will be given forgiveness for your sins.” Now, looking back to Cain and considering the eternal nature of the Divine, obviously Jesus was not changing policy. He was simply trying to get us to stop beating ourselves up so that we could be healed.
In a recent discussion, I asserted that the authority of Jesus over heaven and earth is rooted in the irresistible admiration that comes with his perception of the possibility of our wholeness. This is what gives him the ability to heal the world: the fact that it comes not with scorn, but a joyous “Good job!”, much as that offered by the father to the prodigal son. “You were lost to me, but – Lo! – you have shed your burdens and now are returned!”
So in this framework, Jesus comes again to deliver us the promise of healing that can only be received when we stop believing that we don’t deserve it.
But there’s more.
In the end-times prophesy of Daniel and Revelation, we have the appearance of three corrupted beasts. The first of these in Revelation famously bears the number ‘666.’ This was first explained to me as a numerological reference to the days of Creation, with the conclusion that the beast was man. But that is to make too much of ourselves: it was not only man created on the sixth day, but all of the mammals.
Carrying this back to Daniel, it becomes clear that the beast (the fourth to appear in the dream) is the collective spirit of the mammals. In Eden, human intelligence was protected by the presence of God, but the Fall forced us out into the world to struggle with all the primitive urges that preceded us. Daniel sees this only abstractly: the beast bears teeth and claws of iron that destroy life. These represent the machines that we use to reorder the earth. We use them as predators, not attempting to integrate ourselves with other life, but exploiting it for our gratification.
In Revelation the personality of the beast is resolved in more detail. There are two of them, the second a red beast ridden by the feminine avatar called “MYSTERY.” So what does this tell us about the second coming? The masculine expressions of the primitive urges, represented by the first beast of Revelation, are the hunt and sacrifice. Jesus confronted and mastered them on the cross. The feminine expressions of the primitive urges are intercourse (the mingling of personalities through sex) and maternity. What about this aspect of human nature? When does that submit to Christ?
I feel this confrontation in my own life like a wall around my soul. It comes to the fore when I walk into a store and the counter girl pushes her breasts up at me, or when a pastor looks at me, interrupting my meditation on the cross to suggest that I am sexually harassing the members of his congregation. It has been the focus of so much conflict in my life, from the Sterling Men’s group that tried to force me to stay in my marriage, into the family law system, and in the workplace where brilliant women at home find that I disrupt their influence over the men at work. It is a wall rebuilt every night when I wake up at the witching hour with sex crawling all over my body.
How to resolve this problem, the problem of “MYSTERY,” the influence that reaches into our souls from a distance and leaves us wondering “Why did I do that?” Is the image of Christ in confrontation with this influence that of the rock star with a bevy of beauties moaning in the audience? Or is it the image of the celibate, relinquishing all experience of sexuality?
My two fiction books, Ma and Golem, are meditations on this problem. Ma begins with two dysfunctional erotic encounters – one a casual hook-up and the other a long-term political bonding – and evolves as a slow-moving train wreck with the men struggling against the consequences of their failure to honor their women. Golem elaborates with a truly amazing sexual explosion between Corin and Leelay, both introduced in Ma, that arises as an expression of their service to the survival of Life. And it confronts us with an encounter between the Goddess Zenica (Corin’s mother) as she uses sex to break the will of an old adversary to accomplish the end of her re-incarnation. In relating the events to Corin, she simply offers “I did what I had to do.”
Is that where it ends: sex as a tool?
Revelation does offer us an image [NIV Rev 22:1-2]:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
To me, this imagery is incredibly sexual. And I think that is as it should be: there is no part of our nature that cannot be sacralized, that was not given to us for the purpose of healing ourselves and this reality of corruption by selfishness.
I believe that intercourse must be brought into the service of Christ. So this means that it should be a means of bringing Christ into our lives, of pouring the love that we receive from him out over each other. My interpretation of my experience in church is that the opposite has happened: we take sex as the center of our intimate relations, and when Christ enters into that he is perceived as a threat. Or for sexually active single women, the presence of Christ in a man is interpreted as an opportunity to have really great intercourse – that is, to receive a love that would be given to them directly by the source if only they would ask for it.
As long as this persists, we are going to continue to struggle. My question is whether this is really the business of Christ. Eve was sent to Adam as his help-mate. Jesus confronted the masculine pathologies on the cross. Is it really possible for him to do the same work on the feminine side? My sense is that the end game would be far less painful if women stood up to take ownership of their problems.