[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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From the Seven Churches to the Twelve Gates

The Book of Revelation and Sefer Yetzirah have been intertwined for me such that at this point I tend to think of them as two elements in the life work, two blocks of the same becoming, two books in the hands of twin angels. The last three months or so I have been working through a conversation between myself and spirit about the elemental lines and as that drew to a close, I finally sat down and found my way through Book of Revelation from start to finish.

I continue to find the most compelling element to be the trajectory from the seven churches to the New Jerusalem in which twelve gates open onto a (starship) city shared in common by the redeemed. Whereas as the seven churches are separated by space and self-enclosed, the New Jerusalem gathers together the many in a single place.

The movement from the doubles to the elementals has mirrored that movement, led me back out into this place where I am feeling keenly the contingency of the boundaries that we draw in the magical community, boundaries rooted in history and reinforced by black iron prison of empire. It’s hard not to see some neo-traditionalism as a form of death wish, a love for the emperor’s boot heel. We have to begin where we are, but that toward which we reach ought to gather us together.

That seems like what the movement from the planets to the heavens is about, after all, the movement that animates the promises of Mithraic liberation, too. That there is a road beyond the boundaries of the day into a higher union with each other and the world, one organized by a recognition of our singularity and our community. I don’t know if I have a good way to talk about all this properly.

Cling to reasonableness and friendliness without compromising either, seems like a start.

[NB] A String of Knots

Okay, so I have a few things that I keep thinking about or which are being put forward for me to think about, things that will probably make their way into posts of their own, but right now I want to see what I can do to just get them out of my head and put them in front of my face, see what other connections might arise thereby. Notebooking, so caveat lector.

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[NB] From a Vision to a Seal

This is a roundabout way of talking about spirit work and education. I want to talk about a little work that I have been doing. I don’t want to get into the details of it (I can be a little cautious that way, my nod to the injunctions toward secrecy or, at least, intimacy), but I’m hoping the sketch might still serve as an case study.

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[NB] Passing of the Spirit

Two things, the first is a quotation from Simone Weil expressing her wonderment at how quickly the spirit of Revelation was lost, how it passed from being something urgent and mystical to something obscure and subject to weak interpretations.

“The Church does not seem to have perfectly carried out its mission as the conserver of doctrine—very far from it. Not only because it has added what were perhaps abusive precisions, restrictions and interdictions; but also because it has almost certainly lost real treasures.

As evidence of this we have certain passages in the New Testament of marvellous beauty which are nowadays absolutely incomprehensible, and which cannot always have been so.

To begin with, nearly the whole of the Apocalypse.

….

Perhaps by the beginning of the second century A.D. all those who had understood had been killed, or nearly all.”—Letter to a Priest, section 34 (65–66, 70–71 in the 2003 Penguin editions)

Whether it is a matter of massacre as Weil speculates or something less dramatic and more bureaucratic (say factions eager to purge ‘impurities’ from the Church gaining power), this puts me in mind of Lapinkivi’s observation that sometime around the third century or so, Christianity started to gender the Holy Spirit as neuter or male rather than female.

Correlation not being causation and all that, but I do wonder if the two were related. Once you lose the gendering of Holy Spirit as female, you start to unwind the metaphor that animates the rituals of sacred marriage, and a sacred marriage is part of the core architecture of Revelation.

The New Jerusalem Configuration

Revelation contains some weighty initiation-grade work and I want to talk around that a little more. Even as I am critical of its legacy, its heart is in the right place. Before I start to argue that I want more than it offers, I also want to be clear that it really does have valuable things to offer. This discussion requires shifting gears and looking at the text as a compact ritual, either intended to operate on the imaginal level or as an imaginal correlate to a much more concrete rite.

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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] 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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