Saturday, May 21, 2011

Apocalypse

The accepted meaning of the word “Apocalypse” in today's English is the destruction of the entire world; an event involving destruction on a catastrophic scale.

The origin of the word lies in the Greek word apokalupsis, which actually means to uncover, or reveal. This makes a good deal of sense, because in the biblical text that is most often associated with this word–Revelations of St. John the Divine–there is a revealing of truth. This is the essential message of the chapter. It isn't, in the end, about all the disastrous events, all of which are impressively theatrical. These are distractions which attract almost everyone merely because of their spectacular nature. The text is, above all, about the birth of real truth, which brings about the destruction of the world of illusion and vanity which man has created. (This is, by the way, in absolute keeping with the thematic content of the entire Bible, which perhaps justifies its inclusion, despite its hyperbole.) Let us think of this not as a destruction, as in the current sense of the word, but rather an uncovering: a revealing, as the title of the chapter implies.

Biblical scholars get a great deal of mileage out of this chapter by explaining how its specific predictions related to the political and social conditions in existence at the time it was written, and (despite the assertions of the touchingly appealing fruitcakes who seize on it to interpret it as having been written about their own times, century after century) there is a great deal of sense in that. Of course the writer who wrote it was writing about his own time–apocalyptic scenarios that are placed in some indefinite future hundreds or thousands of years from now are of little or no interest to anyone. (Even less interesting, I might add, are predictions about a future hundreds or thousands of years later written in elaborate secret codes that need to be interpreted.)

What is more interesting about the chapter is the concept, which is right on. Truth, it proposes, is the destruction of everything we know. In the process, that which is connected to real truth is elevated, and everything else is cast down. It is the replacement of the old order with a new one. The Book of Revelations is, in other words, a recapitulation (in perhaps too literal and worldly a form) of the idea of an inner search.

The form that we build around ourselves is indeed literal, concrete, and filled with all of the sin and mindlessness (or mechanicality, if you will) of our ordinary nature. It lacks any insight into real truth, which lies beyond us as we are, in a realm that we do not have access to. Characteristically, religious texts refer to this realm as being “above”, but this is strictly metaphorical. The realm is in fact within us–just out of our reach as we are. Oddly, when we pray to “our Father who art in heaven” we are not praying to some entity that is elsewhere. We are praying to an entity that is already within us, but inaccessible due to our nature.

The inner search, in other words, is a wish for apocalypse–or, at least, it ought to be. I am reminded of Betty Brown's words to me the year before she died, “the things we love the most are the first things that have to go.”

So those who wish for apocalypse in the literal or outer sense are not out of their minds–they are just misguided. They have the right instinct; they are just aiming it in the wrong direction. It's easy to laugh at them–I do so myself. Nonetheless, I am equally misguided.

Don't I take things literally myself? Am I not aiming a great deal of my search at literal understandings, forms that I think will “work?" I don't truly understand the meaning of surrender, of delivering myself unto the Lord sufficiently. Instead, I reach for every device at hand in order to manipulate the situation.

All of this activity in me arises quite exactly from the belief that I can “do.” Mr. Gurdjieff's many admonitions regarding this mistaken impression of my abilities were almost certainly meant to apply exclusively to my inner work.

There is a need for Apocalypse. Only when a life is truly shattered beyond recognition, only after the inner Tower of Babel has been burned to the ground, can anything new appear. Truth is a revolution–the uncovering that is needed is a radical change, a change that encompasses all and everything.

And just what is Truth?

Truth is an unknown quality, of limitless depth.

It is always here, while we race around with our activities and our words. We are just too busy and important to notice it.

May our prayers be heard.

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