[NB] Revelation and Gnosis in Context

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation (ἀποκαλύψει; apocalypse), or by knowledge (γνώσει; gnosis), or by prophesying (προφητείᾳ), or by doctrine (διδαχῇ; didactic knowledge or instruction)?—I Corinthians 14:6

I have mentioned Revelation a bit, but I came across this more recently and realized it provides a useful model for talking about what is going on in the text and how it might meant to be received and used. I like it, too, because it helps to flesh out what the gnosis of gnosticism is supposed to be and how it relates to other forms of knowledge and communication. There is also something to be taken here about the place of knowledge derived from ecstasies and trance, which is no small thing either.

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Formation and Demolition

As I am talking about the sefirah, the Sefer Yetzirah, the book of Revelation, and Pharaoh’s spiritual function, I am also becoming increasingly aware of a difference in scale between this work and the work with which I began this blog. I named it Disrupt and Repair to reflect the texture of spiritual processes with which I was engaged. Following them out to my current work, I can see a family of practices centered upon formation and demolition.

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[NB] Orders Profane and Holy: 7

Only the Messiah himself consummates all history, in the sense that he alone redeems, completes, creates its relation to the Messianic. For this reason nothing historical can relate itself on its own account to anything Messianic. Therefore the Kingdom of God is not the telos of the historical dynamic: it cannot be set as a goal. From the standpoint of history it is not the goal but the end. Therefore the order of the profane cannot be built up on the idea of the Divine Kingdom, and therefore theocracy has no political, but only a religious meaning….

If one arrow points to the goal toward which the profane dynamic acts, and another marks the direction of Messianic intensity, then certainly the quest to free humanity for happiness runs counter to the Messianic direction; but just as a force can, through acting, increase another that is acting in the opposite direction, so the order of the profane assists, through being profane, the coming of the Messianic Kingdom. The profane, therefore, although not itself a category of this Kingdom, is a decisive category of its quietest approach. For in happiness all that is earthly seeks its downfall, and only in good fortune is its downfall destined to find it.—Walter Benjamin, “Theological-Political Fragment” in Reflections (312; emphasis mine)

Let’s look at the book of Revelation in light of this structure. I don’t think it will be a perfect match, but the notion that there is a profane world which, developed, calls forth its own Messianic conclusion allows us to better appreciate the operations of the Apocalypse. That messianic movement takes place along the axis of the sevens, what in Kabbalistic terms refers us to the double letters in their generative aspect in the Sefer Yetzirah. This moves us closer to the substance of the transition from the seven churches to the renewed twelve tribes.

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Why Bother with Revelation?

I figure it might be worthwhile to talk a little about why I am spending so much time with the text of Revelation.  There are a few reasons for that. It’s part of establishing for myself a sense of the rich terrain against which gnosticism of all varieties developed and of framing more pointedly my own. It sits within a deep and long history that stretches continuously from its authorship into the present.

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[NB] The Roots of Apocalypse

I want to revisit the distinction between atonement, prophecy, and apocalypse. When I last wrote about them, I noted that they operated on a common scale. Atonement regulated, prophecy criticized, and apocalypse transformed. While those structures that animate atonement and prophecy do seem vital to understanding apocalypse, I was reaching somewhat to call apocalypse ‘transformative.’ I suspect transformation belongs more properly to the evolutionary than to the apocalyptic, though I do think transformation can be reconnected to the regulative and critical dimensions of atonement and prophecy.

Distinguishing an evolutionary aesthetic from an apocalyptic one will then demand some attention to that shared structure. When all is said and done, I think it is possible to replace the apocalyptic with the evolutionary while preserving a place for both atonement and prophecy. It isn’t said and done yet,, and I will need to spend a little more time with the apocalypse proper to get there.

This post is broken into two sections. The first contextualizes Revelation rhetorically and symbolically in relationship to atonement and prophecy. The second examines Revelation from an esoteric perspective.

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[NB] Atonement vs. Apocalypse

When Orlov discusses the Slavonic Jewish Apocalptic materials, he makes much of how they relate directly to the Yom Kippur rite of antiquity, to the ritual of atonement. While he doesn’t establish a priority between them, he traces out their parallelism. The same structure appears in Revelations. The rivalry of the Lamb and the Beast, for example, plays an essential role in the book’s development and it, too, derives from the rite of atonement’s logic.

However, what I want to think through here is the nature of that derivation. It seems to be a derivation by way of reply rather than of repetition. The apocalyptic material both comments upon the rite of atonement and elaborates it. Whether we want to call that a development is up in the air, but it is definitely a thorough permutation.

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Evolution Aesthetic

This article helped to congeal for me what has been a growing problem in the magical community, at least the bit I keep an eye on, namely a tendency toward fatalism and despair. It is perhaps nowhere more clearly articulated than in Peter Gray’s talk of ‘apocalyptic’ witchcraft, but it appears elsewhere, in the pseudo-medicalization of magic, which turns it into a first aid kit for the imagined post-apocalyptic world, and in the profound cynicism toward institutionalized forms of knowledge.

But, extinction is not the likely outcome in the coming century. It could happen for a host of reasons, but it is not likely to be the result of our current economic and ecological crises.

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