666, the Whore, and the slash line
666, ‘the mark of the beast,’ is one of the most popular images of the Apocalypse. Jungian Edward Edinger calls it “psychic flypaper.” 666 is considered be synonymous with the antichrist, though that term is not actually used in the Book of Revelation. It appears in a few parts of the New Testament in this context: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the Antichrist.” (2 John 1:7)
After 9/11 I recognized the ongoing danger inherent in narratives of self/other, damned/ saved, us/ them. The flexible namelessness of who might be a terrorist brought to light that the war of us and them is a war without end, and brought understanding to the concept of jihad — the so-called lesser jihad is an outer battle, while the greater jihad or ‘struggle’ is waged within the human heart, the struggle for a consciousness without enemies, free of the divisiveness of us/them. Diversity without divisiveness — is that possible for our species, or will the deeply embedded greed and violence that are born from the us/them mind continue to degrade the planet and the life experiences of human beings? Is it possible for human beings as a species to flower into something more noble and altruistic?
I distilled the high contrast, intensely polarized apocalypse story collaged over time into the essential components of us/them. Christ = the spirit of inclusion, antichrist = the spirit of exclusion. What does Revelation actually say about 666? “Here is wisdom, let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it’s the number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty and six.”
During the time when the apocalyptic genre was popular in the Mediterranean basin, numbers had meanings, and one can see numbers figure prominently in the Book of Revelation — in addition to 666, there’s 7s, 12s and 144,000. 666 in that context doesn’t refer to a person, but rather it refers to an ego gone tyrannical, the little mind or lower mind, the narcissistic wounded ego when it wants to take over everything, similar to the Satanic energy The Heart of the Qur’an calls “ living archetype of arrogance which “beguiles human beings into negating the Source of Love. ”
Historically 666/ the anti-Christ has been seen as evil incarnated in a specific male individual: a bad guy such as Nero, Hitler, George Bush, etc. (though some liked George Bush and some saw Hitler as the second coming of Christ, so who one calls the Antichrist, like most things, has to do with personal opinion and perspective, which is why I distilled it down to avoid the “if I hate him, he’s the antichrist; if I like him, he’s Christ.” Personal bias makes for a lousy barometer in such cases, since it’s made from the same us/them consciousness that is the essential problem.
Putting the 666 archetype on the shoulders of any one man takes the easy way out: without followers, any tyrant could a solo whack job.Anyone with a human ego has the capacity, and even the tendency, for self-centered, and even tyrannical, behavior: the self/other war, in which self has more value than other. The greed and violence that are two of the buddhist three poisons, arising out of ignorance.
I took this 666 picture outside the “Divine Bodies” exhibit at the SF Asian Art Museum. The statue is an example of a wrathful deity, whose purpose is to wake up a human being. Though externally fierce, such deities are motivated by compassion for human suffering and cut through our delusions with their tough love.
I’m guessing whoever wrote 666 on this deity couldn’t see that. For many people, if they don’t like the appearance, or if it makes them uncomfortable, then it must be evil, or an enemy or a demon. The dualism of good and evil, so strongly imbedded in Western consciousness, colors the whole world, and damned / saved religious beliefs justify the spectrum of 666 behavior, from subtly dehumanizing and marginalizing the “other” to bloodshed.
In mystic Christianity, the second coming of Christ is considered to be a collective event, a sharing of Christ consciousness is all humanity, or perhaps all sentient beings, as cells in the collective body of holy consciousness, breathing in unity while manifesting magnificent particularity. In that context, what is 666 consciousness, the antichrist?
Not everyone sees the Antichrist as embodied in an individual. If you have any thoughts on working for world peace, you might be infected with the Antichrist virus: “There’ll be no peace until Jesus comes. Any preaching of peace prior to his return is heresy; it’s against the word of God; it’s Antichrist,” said TV evangelist Jim Robison, who was invited by President Reagan to deliver the opening prayer at the 1984 Republican National Convention.
The answer to ‘who is 666’ becomes stunningly simple: if you want to say it in terms of the Christ and the Antichrist duking it out, 666 / Antichrist is not a man but a state of consciousness: the little mind, or egoic consciousness — that aspect of consciousness that humans are both blessed and cursed with, that is a gift in terms of the astonishing capacity to experience the world and one’s interiority from the vantage point of an autonomous individual — becomes a danger to the entire world when it becomes so enamored with itself that it is willing to hurt others for what it thinks is its own benefit.
There is nothing wrong with wanting good food, shelter, security, beauty, sex, even wealth, fame, or road trips. Yet when those desires become so important that one would cause harm to the other – whether that be other human, the earth itself, or other creatures we share the world with – and all those desires become tangled up in a 666-based status quo in which harming the other is considered the cost of doing business — then we are trapped in the 666 mind. The 666 mind is fine when it is held in check as part of an internal community that makes up the totality of individual consciousness, and is in conversation with collective concerns and ethics. When it takes over, it becomes a bully.
People project the idea of the Apocalypse into the future when it’s easy to see it all around us now. That often comes from an unexamined 666 mindset – “If I’m doing ok, then it’s not the Apocalypse, yet.
The great apocalyptic drama is an inside job just as much as, if not more than, an outside event.
The Whore of Babylon
The whore of Babylon holds a “gold wine cup filled with the filth of her fornication.” She is “drunk with the blood of the saints.” Edinger writes that this image “shows us that everything ‘feminine’ (earth, nature, body, matter) underwent a profound deprecation with the onset of our aeon.”
Amplifying the term ‘whore’ beyond sex work and into a larger context of selling oneself, one can consider the whoredom of global capitalism, which depends on a certain amount of dissatisfaction, misery, isolation, a sense that something is missing.
In a consumer culture, where everything is based on ownership, the body is private property which drives the “I” around as it engages life through a commodified, objectified, discarded perspective. I’m not just talking about money here, but how money-based life teaches people to consider everything in regards to getting a deal, with one’s 666 consciousness as the one thing of true value that everything and everyone else in the world is there to serve. The question is not whether such an immature consciousness lives in you; the question is how much you let that consciousness control your life.s.
Alchemical relationality gives prime importance to the space between. What happens in relationship when neither dominates, not in a politically correct wishy-washiness, but in a dynamically charged offering of self to the space between? If our relationship isn’t about ‘me’ wanting to get something from ‘you’ but a unguarded sincerity and profound curiosity about what is being revealed in the moment in the field that is created by ‘us’ what might happen? It only sounds esoteric because we are so habituated to the marketplace way of relationship, not only with others, but with our own interiority. We can hardly even speak outside commodification in English, because of its syntaxical emphasis on the possessive.
Consider whoredom within the context of frustration with lacking the conditions to freely give and receive each other’s innermost gifts in a sacred way, and not only through sexuality, but through the opportunity the interactive field brings.
The importance of the slash line
Consider it this way: in self / other, the slash line isn’t merely a device showing the boundary, but the space in between and a critically important part of the equation. A critically important aspect of ending the self-other war is that it opens up that slash line / liminal / space between us, so that we might enter it like a new territory, one that has always been there but has been banished via historical power plays and manipulation of human values and instincts.
next up: Dragon