What Time Is It?
Aramaic scholar Neil Douglas-Klotz, in his book The Genesis Meditations, writes about the way time is experienced in the Semitic worldview:
…the ancient Hebrews saw their beginnings moving ahead of them carrying them along, with their future following behind, also moving along at the same time. One could in this sense feel both the past and future actively part of one’s life and, in a state of intense meditation, unite all moments in one…time does not exist like a line extending from past to future with ourselves existing outside it at any particular point on the line and no other. …The same moving Semitic time sense exists in Aramaic which the majority of people in the Middle East spoke at the time of Jesus. We can best imagine the image of a caravan in which we’re included : some people have left first and are ahead of us; some are behind us.
In the West, the tendency is to see the past behind us, and us here in the shaky present facing an uncertain future, wondering if we will even survive ourselves and our creations.
The image of walking along a dusty caravan road in the footsteps of those who have gone before me profoundly settles my incorrigibly romantic nature. There is this to consider in addition: besides walking behind those who have come before us, whose lineage are you following? Who are ‘your people’ and what have they left for you – markers, signposts, ideas, inspirations, work left undone, warnings, cautionary tales, encouragement?
Two lineages of apocalypse
We can roughly divide apocalypse into two lineages. One is the lineage of prediction, how it will be, what is written in stone about the end times and ways the inevitable catastrophes might play out, the lineage of fundamentalism and fundamentalist-influenced geopolitics. In the prophecy / prediction fundamentalist Christian lineage, it’s about creating the events that will cause Christ to return, unfortunately often manipulating the Jewish people: the Jewish people must be scattered across the world, the Jews must return to Israel, there must be nuclear war in Israel.
If one considers Christ to be not a man, but a state of consciousness (The Church Father Clement wrote, “The Son is the Consciousness of God. the Father only sees the world as reflected in the Son.”) – there is no need to torment any other ethnicity or group of humanity for one’s salvation. The other lineage is one of consciousness rather than politics and worldview – the lineage of seers and visionaries.
A vision is not an agenda.
It’s not about decoding the vision and then making something geopolitical happen in the world. It’s about letting the vision work us, in our hearts, and in our heart of hearts, and let that vision shape who we are in the world, in a good way.
This is a fundamental problem with the current culturally active interpretations of the Book of Revelation. Rather than a call to our own innate ability to commune with Mystery via vision, we are fed a pre-interpreted story of the end of the world. Even if one isn’t on board with religious interpretations, it influences popular culture with a sense of inevitable disaster, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, though ‘the future is yet unwritten.”
Just like the air we breathe has been breathed by others, and influenced by the presence of trees, ocean, wind, processing plants, factories, cars, and whatever else, individual consciousness is influenced by the atmospheric currents of thought , consciousness and unconsciousness, collaged over time into the prevailing worldviews.
The Other Bible
In addition to the Bible, I have here at my desk a book called The Other Bible, which contains numerous apocalypses, gnostic documents and mystical texts. Lost for centuries, probably deliberately destroyed in the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, some of these texts were buried at that time and then unearthed in 1945, during WW2, while we were making the atom bomb.
On the front piece, Jorge Luis Borges is quoted on the Gnostics: “Had Alexandria triumphed and not Rome, the extravagant and muddled stories that I have summarized here would be coherent, majestic and perfectly ordinary.”
The Book of Revelation in the canonic Bible, as compiled by Constantine, is only one text in the apocalypse genre. If it is true that it is an overwriting of an earlier document, then it’s hard to say how individual and collective visions interacted via written texts, but it certainly points to a much more symbolically literate people.
D.H. Lawrence wrote “our idea of time as a continuity in an eternal straight line has crippled our consciousness cruelly.” Crippled us to the extent we are not aware of walking in the caravan of time along with all of humanity? Crippled us to the extent that we don’t see the dust raised by our footsteps, the same dust raised by those who walk before us ? Sleepwalking and not seeing that the dust we raise is the substance of which we are composed? Crippled by virtue of being shackled to a clock that keeps us marching to a particular rhythm that excludes our ancestors and future generations, that reveres youth, denies initiation and growth, disrespects elders but keeps them breathing at any cost?
Edinger points out varying levels of time in Revelation. There are actual past, present and future catastrophes within Revelation: the Babylonian exile, the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by Rome and events that occur with the “end of an age” which is the draw of Revelation for contemporary readers. Additionally:
Revelation refers also to events entirely outside of time that are taking place in the eternal or pleromatic realm of the psyche. In other words, they take place in the collective unconscious and do not necessarily even register at the level of ego consciousness. In fact, to the extent that it’s pure archetype and does not descend or rise into incarnation, archetypal reality behaves in that fashion, as an eternal drama that is going on all the time.
Revelation itself concurs:
Then the One sitting on the throne spoke, “ Look, I’m making the whole of creation new. Write this, “ What I’m saying is trustworthy and will come true.” Then he said to me, “It has already happened. I’m the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty;”
Mythologists Michael Meade and Martin Shaw encourage us to see the night as belonging to eternity, and the days belonging to the clock. Consider that when it is day where you live, it is night in other places in the world and vice versa, so time and eternity are always with humanity. Consider the relief of being periodically set free of the tyranny of the clock.
Time is but one aspect of the ‘symbolic coordinates which determines what we experience as reality’ as Slovenian philosopher Slajov Zizek so eloquently put it.
One can be in a personal apocalypse at any time; mythic containers, as well as internal worlds of belief, collapse. Loved ones die. Reality undermines one’s cherished beliefs: life is not, after all, what one thought it was. Truth and lies battle inside oneself and outside.
Even if we look at apocalypse from the point of view of ‘real time’ I would be hard-pressed to say the apocalypse hasn’t happened. From a fundamentalist view, Christ hasn’t come, no rapture, and so no apocalypse yet. But, if one looks at apocalypse from the point of view of trials and tribulations, the collapse of America’s so-called culture, then it’s already happening. An individual might still be getting by, but if one looks outside of personal comfort, if one is lucky enough to have it, then it’s clear that the American dream has crested, waned, and crashed, and that we currently live in the debris of a broken culture.
What about you? If you aren’t awaiting a particular event, such as the coming of Christ, what do you imagine as The Event that would mean “it’s the Apocalypse now” as opposed to just a fucked up time in a fucked up culture?
next up: A Feminine Apocalypse