The “fall of Babylon” and the “Crucifixion of Christ”: Both symbols of an end being brought to the “splitting of meaning”

by Eric Heubeck

 

It is my belief that esoteric religious writings, including the Bible, ought to be regarded as basically schizophrenic in nature and as the products of more or less schizophrenic minds.  A crucial problem shared in common by both religious esoteric communication and schizophrenic communication is excessive verbal or semantic ambiguity—which is related to the underlying problem of a splitting, or fragmenting, or breaking up of meaning—often involving a split into “outer meanings” and “inner meanings” (or “hidden meanings”).  Because of my belief that the Bible is a basically schizophrenic writing exhibiting “schizophrenic thought and language disorder,” I regard it as a defective and even dangerous writing because of the mental confusion that it propagates in the world—among both schizophrenics and non-schizophrenics.[1]

However, because of my belief that schizophrenic persons still have important things to say (even when they are sometimes not saying those things in the most desirable way), I believe the Bible deserves to be taken very seriously, and not simply “discarded.”  In fact, I do not believe it would even be possible to “discard” the Bible (viewed as an authoritative religious writing, anyway) unless and until it had been taken seriously enough so that we could gain some adequate degree of understanding of the most important and essential meanings that the authors were trying to convey.

I submit that the Bible is not only an esoteric religious writing, but an esoteric religious writing that subtly expresses hostility toward religious esotericism.[2]  The authors were, to some extent anyway, yearning for the elimination of religious esotericism—which would likely have been expected to coincide with the elimination of their own schizophrenia and psychosis, since I believe it is no accident that the existence of schizophrenia in a person is so often associated with a pronounced (and, I daresay, excessive) interest on the part of the person in religious esotericism, occultism, myth, and/or mysticism.  Again, the underlying problem in both “schizophrenic thought and language disorder,” and in religious esotericism or occultism—as well as in the case of dishonesty and “duplicity” in general—is the splitting of meaning into multiple, inconsistent “parts.”[3]  It is the splitting of meaning that characterizes the Lie generally, as well as religious esotericism, and also schizophrenic thought and language disorder.

This is, of course, a great paradox that I am proposing here:  Esotericists were denouncing esotericism in their own esoteric writings.  In other words, I am claiming that the most important and essential “inner meaning” or “hidden meaning” of the Bible is that the Bible itself (and writings of a similar nature) ought eventually to be left behind—at least when considered in their current role as authoritative religious writings (as opposed to works of literature).  I realize this proposition will sound quite bizarre at first.  Why would persons who were opposed to religious esotericism write in an esoteric manner?  Isn’t that simply a contradiction?  The best explanation I can offer is that they must have been highly ambivalent about the phenomenon of esotericism (and also, perhaps, about their own schizophrenic tendencies).  That ambivalence must have been partly unconscious in nature; but not entirely so.  At least some conscious awareness of the problematic nature of the esotericist phenomenon is indicated by the fact that the Bible contains passages such as John 16:25, in which Jesus says to his disciples,

I have spoken these things to you in cryptic sayings [or figurative sayings, or parables, or allegories, or dark sayings, or symbolic sayings: Greek paroimia]The hour [hōra] is coming [erchomai] when I will no longer speak to you in cryptic sayings [paroimia], but will speak to you plainly [or openly, or forthrightly, or straightforwardly, or bluntly, or freely: parrésia] about the Father.

I would argue that the “hour” (hōra) of which Jesus speaks in this verse was meant to refer to his Crucifixion (along with his Resurrection)—as well, incidentally, as the “fall of Babylon”—both of which, I believe, were understood by the authors of the New Testament to symbolize “the end of the age” and the dawning of a “new age.”  And I believe “the end of the age” was in turn understood, at least at some level of those authors’ thinking, to involve the end of the unclear, obscure, ambiguous, and cryptic manner of communicating that is characteristic of esoteric religious writing—as found both in the Bible and elsewhere.  That is because in the future “new age,” human beings would no longer lie to or mislead each other; and the esoteric manner of communication is inherently deceptive and misleading.[4]

Why would the author of this passage from the Gospel of John look forward to the end of “speaking in cryptic sayings” and its replacement by “speaking plainly” unless he thought that there was something wrong with—or at least imperfect about—“speaking in cryptic sayings” instead of “speaking plainly”?

Along the same lines, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 the apostle Paul writes,

And if (there be) prophecies, they will be done away with [or “exhausted,” or “worked out,” or “rendered useless”: kat-argeō]; if (there be) tongues, they will be brought to an end; if (there be) (esoteric) knowledge [gnōsis], it will be done away with [kat-argeō].  For we know [ginōskō] in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when we arrive at completion [or perfection: teleios], that which is in part will be done away with [kat-argeō].  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I reasoned as a child; when I became a man, I did away with [kat-argeō] childish things.  For we now look into a mirror [or glass: esoptron] in enigmas [or riddles, or puzzles, or “dark sayings,” or obscurity: ainigma]; but then, face to face.  Now I know in part; but then I will know fully [or recognize: epi-ginōskō], just as I have also been fully known [or recognized: epi-ginōskō].

I will ask a question similar to the one I asked above:  If “prophecies,” and “tongues,” and “(esoteric) knowledge,” and “mysteries” (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:2), and “enigmas” (or “riddles,” or “puzzles,” or “dark sayings,” or “obscurity”) were thought to be good things, then why would Paul be happily looking forward to a time when they would no longer exist?  Why would he view these things as, at best, “partial” or “incomplete” or “imperfect” in nature?

In fact, the authors of the Gospels seem to have been self-conscious enough about the strange “parabolic” way of communicating that they have Jesus use in the Gospels that in Matthew 13:10 they actually have Jesus’s disciples ask him why he spoke to people in the form of cryptic parables whose meanings Jesus did not want or expect the majority of people to understand.  The authors presumably felt that the use of this manner of communicating required at least some sort of acknowledgement (even if we never exactly get an explanation) because they knew how odd it appeared to the ordinary person—including the ordinary person of ancient times.

These thoughts bring to mind a passage from psychiatrist Ronald Laing’s book The Divided Self (Pantheon, 1969) (a book which concerns the subject of schizophrenia):

Julie [a schizophrenic patient] and her mother were at this time both desperate people.  Julie in her psychosis called herself Mrs. Taylor.  What does this mean?  It means ‘I’m tailor-made.’  ‘I’m a tailored maid; I was made, fed, clothed, and tailored.’  Such statements are psychotic, not because they may not be ‘true’ but because they are cryptic; they are often quite impossible to fathom without the patient decoding them for us.  Yet even as a psychotic statement this seems a very cogent point of view and it gives in a nutshell the gist of the reproaches she was making against her mother when she was fifteen and sixteen [that is, before she was deemed to be psychotic].  [p. 249; the emphases are mine.]

[Note, as an aside, that when Julie says that her name is “Mrs. Taylor,” she is, strictly speaking, telling a lie (or, at least, speaking an untruth).  The lie may seem harmless enough in this particular instance, since it is unlikely that anyone was misled by her making that particular claim; but it does point to the potential existence of an intrinsic relationship between the cryptic, heavily metaphorical, and obscurely allusive language of (some, though not all) schizophrenics, and the practice of dishonesty.  This relates to the subject matter that I discuss in my article “How religious esotericism is really just a form of lying.”  It was only after Julie explained what she really meant by calling herself “Mrs. Taylor”—that is, after she chose to share with her psychiatrist the “inner meaning” or “hidden meaning” of the language she was using—that her false claim to be named “Mrs. Taylor” was, in a sense, “justified” by its being “made true.”]

Immediately after Jesus tells a cryptic parable to an audience of listeners in John 10:1-5, the author of John 10:6 then says,

Jesus spoke this cryptic saying [or figurative saying, or parable, or allegory, or dark saying, or symbolic saying: paroimia] to them; but they did not understand what it was that he was saying to them.

Then, after Jesus continues with a parable involving the same set of symbols that he was using in John 10:1-5 (only this time speaking of them in reference to himself), John 10:20 says,

And many of (the Jews) said, “He has a demon, and is insane.  Why do you listen to him?”

So the assessment of Jesus (or rather, the type of person who was being represented by the figure of “Jesus”) made by many of the Jews who were listening to him is actually pretty close to Dr. Laing’s assessment of persons like Julie:  that a person who typically speaks to others in the form of cryptic, seemingly incomprehensible statements can safely be characterized as “psychotic” or “insane.”

Why would Jesus speak cryptic sayings fully expecting that most if not all of his listeners would not be able to understand them?  In his book Interpretation of Schizophrenia (Basic Books, 1974), psychiatrist Silvano Arieti may help to provide part of the explanation:

In the most pronounced cases, schizophrenic language appears obscure or utterly incomprehensible.  Some authors go to the extent of interpreting the lack of clarity of schizophrenic language as an effort on the part of the patient to hide from others, or even more probably from himself, the anxiety-provoking content of what he has to say.  He does not want to communicate.  These authors see in the schizophrenic speech the same mechanism that Freud saw in dreams: an attempt to hide the manifest content.  [p. 249; the emphases are mine.]

Compare the preceding passage to Mark 4:22, in which Jesus says,

For nothing is hidden [or secret: kryptos], except that it should be made manifest [or revealed, or made visible, or made clear: phaneroō], nor has a hidden (thing) [or secret (thing): apo-kryphos] come into being, except that it should come to (be made) manifest [or apparent, or visible: phaneros].

This verse seems to confirm what I suggested above:  that there appears to be a deep emotional ambivalence present in the minds of the authors of the Bible (and of similar esoteric religious writings) that causes them to partly want to conceal their true “inner meaning”; but also to partly want to reveal that same “inner meaning” (or, more likely, hope that others will do the revealing for them).

As I already indicated above, I believe that the “Crucifixion of Jesus” and the “fall of Babylon” described in the Book of Revelation (and elsewhere in the Bible) were understood by the authors of the New Testament to have an essentially equivalent significance—so that both symbols would have been understood by those authors (at some level of thinking, anyway) to signify the end of the esoteric type of religion.  And if the “Crucifixion of Jesus” and the “fall of Babylon” were both understood to correspond to the same idea, then the “Resurrection of Jesus” and the emergence of the “new Jerusalem” would also have been understood to correspond to the same idea:  namely, the emergence of a new, post-esotericist type of religion.

The main difference between the two symbolic schemes—one focusing on “Jesus,” and the other focusing on “Babylon”—seems to me to be that the same idea is being looked at from two generally different perspectives.  To speak of the fall of “Babylon” and the emergence of the “new Jerusalem” would be looking at this idea mostly from the perspective of the universal, archetypal “Woman” (and “City”), “Eve”:  the “Harlot of Babylon” would correspond to the “old Eve” (compare Revelation 18:14 with Genesis 3:6), while the “Bride of the Lamb,” the “new Jerusalem” of Revelation 21, would correspond to the “new Eve.”  To speak of the “Crucifixion” and “Resurrection,” on the other hand, would be looking at this same idea from the perspective of the universal, archetypal “Man,” “Adam”:  Jesus prior to the Crucifixion would correspond to the “old Adam,” while Jesus after the Resurrection would correspond to the “new Adam,” that is, “Christ.”  (In other words, the figure of Jesus needed to serve in the role of both “Adam” and “Christ,” which is why—to maintain the symbolic symmetry in order to make the symbolism “work”—Jesus, in the role of the “old Adam,” needed to “die for all” in the Crucifixion.  Cf. Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22.)  So Revelation chapters 21 and 22 are actually describing the reunion of the “new or regenerated Eve” with the “new or regenerated Adam” in the “Garden of Eden.”  (Compare Revelation 22:1-2 with Genesis 3:22-24.)

As additional support for this theory—which also seems to offer a point of connection between the two different “perspectives” that I just described—consider Revelation 11:8:

And their body (will lie) upon the street of the Great City [i.e., Babylon], which is spiritually [or symbolically, or figuratively, or allegorically: pneumatikōs] called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also crucified.

But according to the Gospels, Jesus was supposedly “crucified” in the city of Jerusalem.  So that means that “Babylon” (i.e., “Babel”)—presumably signifying the “old Jerusalem” or “the present Jerusalem” (cf. Galatians 4:22-26)—is described as being the “city” in which Jesus is symbolically “crucified.”  And that tends to suggest that the “city” in which Jesus is to be symbolically “resurrected” is not merely “Jerusalem,” but more specifically, the “new Jerusalem” or “the Jerusalem above”—which does not come into existence until Revelation chapter 21—that is, at the end of the present age, and not two thousand years ago.  How could Jesus have been “resurrected” in a “city” that did not yet exist?  So the “Resurrection of Jesus” must have been understood by the authors of the New Testament to occur at “the end of the age,” and not at some point in the distant past.  (And indeed, that reading would be consistent with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26.)

Incidentally, it’s worth emphasizing that this one verse alone, Revelation 11:8, proves the existence of “schizophrenic thought and language disorder” in the writings of the New Testament.  Dr. Arieti describes schizophrenic thought and language disorder as involving what he calls “paleologic thinking”:

Paleologic thought patterns are to a great extent based on a principle enunciated by [the psychiatrist Eilhard von] Domarus.  Von Domarus, as a result of his studies on schizophrenia, formulated a principle that, in slightly modified form, is as follows:  whereas the normal person accepts identity only upon the basis of identical subjects, the paleologician accepts identity based upon identical predicates.  [p. 230; the emphasis is mine.]

Arieti also writes,

[I]t is obvious that the predicate is the most important part in this type of thinking.  In Aristotelian thinking only identical subjects are identified.  The subjects are immutable; therefore, only a few (and the same) deductions are possible.  In paleologic thinking, on the other hand, the predicates lead to the identification.  Because the predicates of the same subject may be extremely numerous and because one does not know which one will be chosen by the patient in the process of identification, this type of thought becomes bizarre, unpredictable, individualistic, and often incomprehensible. …

The predicate that is selected in the process of identification is called the “identifying link.”  Why a certain predicate, out of numerous ones, should be selected as the identifying link can be found out only by the study of the emotional factors involved.  In other words, emotional factors may determine which one of the predicates will be taken as the identifying link. …  [p. 236; the emphases are mine.]

Arieti also writes,

… The law of contradiction states that A cannot be A and not be A at the same time and place.  Now, if the patient follows Von Domarus’s principle, he may see A as A and at the same time as B (that is, non-A), if he concentrates on a quality that A and B have in common. …  [p. 237; the emphasis is mine.]

We can find the exact mental tendencies described by Dr. Arieti being exhibited in Revelation 11:8.  A normal person would never think that “Jerusalem” could be identified with “Babylon” (which would then be identified with “Sodom,” which would then be identified with “Egypt”).  In the mind of a normal person, these four real places might be compared to each other, but never identified with each other.  So we are left to suppose that they are being identified in the mind of the author because of some quality or predicate (the “identifying link”) that in his own mind the author associated with all four of these symbolic “places.”  And we are then forced to guess what that quality or predicate might be.  Might it be corruption?  Might it be exploitation of the poor?  Might it be ungodliness?  Might it be sexual immorality?  Might it be militarism?  Might it be callousness?  Might it be falsehood?  Might it be mental confusion?  Or something else, perhaps?  We can never know with any real certainty, and so interpreters are left free to argue with each other until the end of time about what the author actually had in mind (or else just make the verse mean whatever they want it to mean at any given moment)—since the author never made much of an attempt to make his thinking clear to his readers.

But enough about Revelation 11:8.  Returning to my main argument about the “fall of Babylon,” one reason (and there are a number of them) why I claim that the “fall of Babylon” was likely understood to signify the end of religious esotericism, at least at some level of the New Testament authors’ thinking, is a parallelism that can be found between Genesis 11:1-9 and Revelation 18:4-6.  The reason why this parallelism is intriguing is that the Hebrew word usually translated into English as “Babylon” is actually Babel; the English word “Babylon” is of Greek derivation.  And Revelation 9:11, for example, indicates that the author of the Book of Revelation must almost certainly have been proficient in both Hebrew and Greek (in case there was any doubt about the matter); so he would have been well aware that the (English) “Babylon” about which he was writing was actually identical to the (English) “Babel” of Genesis 11:1-9, not to mention the (English) “Babylon” found elsewhere in the Old Testament.

First consider Genesis 11:1-9 (the italicized Greek words used in the ancient Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament are indicated by “LXX”; otherwise, the italicized words are Hebrew):

And all the earth was of a single [or united: echad] language [saphah] and of a single [or united: echad] speech [or, “a single discourse,” or “a single account,” or “a single message,” or “words (that were) single”: dabarim, the plural of dabar, which can mean “word”; LXX: phōné].  And it came about in their moving from [some translations have “to” instead of “from”] the east that they discovered a valley [or a plain; more literally, “a split,” or “a cleaving,” or “a division,” or “an opening,” or “a breach”: biqah, derived from baqa, meaning “to split, to break open”] in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.  And they said, (each) man to his neighbor, “Come, let us make bricks, and bake [or burn] them thoroughly.”  And brick was to them for stone, and asphalt was to them for mortar [or cement, or clay].  And they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower (with its) top [or head] in the heavens; and let us make FOR OURSELVES a name [shem], lest we be scattered [or dispersed: puwts; LXX: dia-speirō] over the face of the whole earth.  And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of men [or of man, or of mankind, or of “the man”: ha adam] had built.  And the Lord said, “Behold, the people [am; LXX: genos] (are) one [or single, or united: echad], and (there is) one [or a single, or a united: echad] language for all (people); and, beginning [chalal, which can also mean ‘to pierce, to penetrate, to bore a hole’] by doing this, now nothing will be hidden [or impossible, or inaccessible, or impenetrable, or walled off, or fenced off, or withheld, or held back, or secure: batsar] (from them), and everything that they intend, they will do.  Let us go down there and confuse [or mix together, or mix up, or confound, or mingle, or pour together: balal; LXX: syg-cheō, which can have all those same meanings, but literally means ‘pour together’] their language [saphah; LXX: glōssan, a singular form of glōssa, which more literally means ‘tongue’], so that one man may not understand [or listen to, or hear: shama (related to shem, meaning ‘name’); LXX: akouō] the language [or speech: saphah; LXX: phōné, which can also mean ‘voice’] of his neighbor [or companion, or ‘one who is near’: rea; LXX: plésion].”  And the Lord scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they left off building the city.  THEREFORE its name [shem] was called Babel [babel; LXX: syg-chysis, meaning “Confusion”], because there the Lord confused [or mixed together, or mixed up, or confounded, or mingled, or poured together: balal; LXX: syg-cheō, literally meaning “poured together”] the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered [or dispersed: puwts; LXX: dia-speirō] them over the face of the whole earth.

Notice certain themes in this passage:  Language and speech began by being “single” or “united.”  Then the people of Babel discovered a “split” or “division” in the earth.  Then they decided to construct a “tower” with its “top in the heavens,” by making “bricks” and then “mortaring” or “cementing” them together.  The end result of their activities was that their language became “confused”—or, more literally, “mixed together” or “poured together.”

Now consider Revelation 18:4-6 (since it’s from the New Testament, all of the italicized words here are Greek):

And I heard another [or a different: allos] voice [or speech, or language: phōné] (coming) out of heaven, saying, “Come out from (Babel/Babylon), my people, that you might not partake of [or be joined together with: syg-koinōneō] her sins, and that you might not receive her plagues; for her sins have been joined together [more literally, cemented together, or glued together: kollaō] as high as heaven, and God has remembered her evil deeds.  Render [or give back, or pay back: apo-didōmi] to her just as she has rendered [apo-didōmi]and make double [diploō] the (things that are) double [ta dipla], in keeping with her (own) works.  In the cup that she has mixed [keraō or kerannymi], mix [keraō or kerannymi] double [or ‘a double (portion)’: diplous or diploos] for her.”

Notice how we find the same themes appearing again in this later description of the same symbolic “Babel/Babylon”:  The “sins” (presumably corresponding to “bricks”) are “cemented together” to form a tower or pyramid or ziggurat “as high as heaven.”  We also find the idea of a “pouring together” or “mixing together,” such as of liquids.  Notice also the anger being expressed by the author at the idea of “doubleness” or “multiplicity,” and how he refers to it repeatedly; and contrast that with the “singleness” or “unity” of language and speech that is repeatedly referred to in Genesis 11:1-9—but which was lost when (whether directly or indirectly) the actions of the people of symbolic “Babel/Babylon” introduced “multiplicity” (and probably also “duplicity”) of language into the world.

I think the “confusing” of “language” and “speech” referred to in Genesis 11:1-9 is probably best thought of as primarily referring not to the creation of a multiplicity of ordinary, conventional, “natural” languages around the world (as is ordinarily supposed), but rather to the creation of a multiplicity of meanings—even within individual conventional languages.  (However, there is of course overlap between my suggested way of reading the passage and the more familiar way of reading it.)  Recall that the reason why “the Lord” confused the language of the people of “Babel/Babylon” was “so that one man may not understand [or listen to, or hear: shama; LXX: akouō] the language [or speech: saphah; LXX: phōné, which can also mean ‘the voice’] of his neighbor [or companion, or ‘one who is near: rea; LXX: plésion].”  So this passage is clearly not concerned merely with the problems that persons have in communicating with other persons who only speak a different one of the various conventional languages that are spoken in the various nations around the world; such persons cannot reasonably be considered persons who are “neighbors” or “companions” or “those who are near.”  The multiplicity of conventional languages must have come later.  The passage is speaking of the much more fundamental breakdown in interpersonal communication that must result from a split or fragmentation in meaning.  The result of the mythical “confusing of language” was that no person would henceforth be able to fully comprehend and appreciate the intended meanings that other persons were trying to convey when they communicated.  In short:  The people of “Babel/Babylon” began to “tune each other out.”

I believe Genesis 11:1-9 is—again, through the use of a mythical manner of discourse—trying to point to the basic autism and lonely self-enclosure that must result from the fragmentation of meaning into something relatively individualistic and not wholly shared in common.  I believe the passage is speaking of a failure of communication in human discourse generally, making communication less successful than we might imagine it someday becoming; and that failure is the result of some unnecessary restriction that exists which prevents a free circulation of meaning among individual human beings.  I believe this restriction is the result of a deep-seated tendency among human beings to be attracted to esoteric ways of communicating (both religious and non-religious in nature) and the creation of “secret languages” or “private languages” for self-styled “elites”—a tendency which, even though deep-seated and instinctive (partly due to a desire to feel superior to others, and partly due to a desire to shield one’s “inner self” or “true self” from the potentially cruel or critical gaze of others), still needs to be resisted.

I suspect the ability to recognize the multiplicity and ambiguity of possible meanings within language may at first give the esotericist (or schizophrenic) something of a sense of power, leading him at first to believe that he can “see deeper” into the meaning of language (and perhaps even of reality) than others can—but this way of seeing things ultimately comes to plague the person, making him (at some level of his thinking) regret that he could not have remained content with being completely oblivious of any such “ability,” and that he could not have been satisfied with “singleness of meaning” or “plainness of meaning.”  And any such regret would help to explain the bitterness expressed by the author in Revelation 18:4-6.  (However, even though the author succeeds in expressing his anger toward “Babel/Babylon,” it’s not clear to me how “mixing a double portion for her” and “rendering to her as she has rendered” would eliminate the problems associated with “doubleness,” instead of exacerbating them; but then, the very fact that an esotericist author would be denouncing esotericism in his own esoteric writings would already indicate a basic confusion and inconsistency in the author’s thinking.)

Also consider Matthew 10:16, in which Jesus says to his disciples,

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  So be shrewd [phronimos] as the serpents, and innocent [or pure, or simple, or sincere, or guileless: a-keraios] as the doves.

The Greek adjective a-keraios, meaning “innocent” or “pure” or “simple,” more literally means “unmixed,” and is related to the Greek verb keraō or kerannymi (meaning “to mix”) that is found in Revelation 18:4-6 in connection with the author’s denunciation of symbolic “Babel/Babylon.”  Also recall that the “dove” is the symbol of the Holy Spirit (see, e.g., Luke 3:22), which the apostle Paul associates with the idea of “unity” (or “oneness”: henotés) in Ephesians 4:3; and recall that the “shrewd serpent” was responsible for introducing “doubleness” or “duality” or “duplicity” into the Garden of Eden when it seduced first Eve and then Adam into choosing to eat from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (which, according to Genesis 3:6, was “coveted” because it was expected to lead to deeper “insight” or “wisdom”)—instead of eating from the unitary “tree of life.”  (By the way, the “serpent” is described in the Greek Septuagint translation of Genesis 3:1 as being the “shrewdest,” or “savviest,” or “subtlest,” or “craftiest,” or “cleverest,” or “most skillful,” or “most cunning” of all the beasts in the Garden of Eden: phronimōtatos, a superlative form of phronimos—the same word used by Jesus in Matthew 10:16.)

Incidentally, in connection with Adam and Eve’s “eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” consider Genesis 3:8-10, describing what happened just after “the Fall”:

And (Adam and Eve) heard [shama; LXX: akouō] the voice [or sound: qol; LXX: phōné] of the Lord God going about the garden in the wind [or spirit: ruach] of the day, and the man [ha adam] and his wife hid themselves [or withdrew, or concealed themselves: chaba; LXX: kryptō] from the presence [more literally, “face”: paneh; LXX: prosōpon] of the Lord God among [or “in the middle of”: tavek; LXX: mesos] the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where (are you)?”  And he said, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid [LXX: phobeō], because I was naked [LXX: gymnos], and I hid myself [or withdrew, or concealed myself].”

[The last sentence can also be translated, “And (the man) says, ‘I hear your voice in the garden, and I am afraid, because I am naked, and I hide myself [or withdraw, or conceal myself].’”][5]

Now recall what Dr. Arieti wrote in the passage that I quoted above:

In the most pronounced cases, schizophrenic language appears obscure or utterly incomprehensible.  Some authors go to the extent of interpreting the lack of clarity of schizophrenic language as an effort on the part of the patient to hide from others, or even more probably from himself, the anxiety-provoking content of what he has to say.  He does not want to communicate.  These authors see in the schizophrenic speech the same mechanism that Freud saw in dreams: an attempt to hide the manifest content.

And remember that Adam and Eve’s desire to “hide themselves” or “withdraw” or “conceal themselves” only arose as a result of the introduction of “doubleness” or “duplicity” into the “Garden of Eden.”

The same hostility toward “doubleness” or “duplicity” that one finds in Revelation 18:4-6 can be found in Matthew 23:15, in which Jesus says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you go about [or lead around: peri-agō, which can also mean “to lead round and round,” with the figurative meaning of “to perplex, to confuse”] the sea and the dry (land) to produce one proselyte [or “a single proselyte”], and when he has been formed, you (then) make him (even) more twofold [or “(even) more double”: diploteron, a comparative form of diplous] a child of Gehenna than yourselves!

Also see Matthew 6:22 (the King James Version’s translation of that passage is the best in my opinion), in which Jesus stresses the value of “singleness of vision”; also, James 1:6-8 and James 4:8.

I furthermore suggest the possibility that the story of the Tower of Babel may have actually been serving as a mythical account of the creation of the esotericist type of religion.  (Which is not to say that I think the esotericist type of religion was created at any single point in time as the result of a decision by any particular group of persons; but the general nature of myth is to treat whatever phenomenon it is describing as if it had begun at a single point in time and in a particular place.)  When the people of Babel said, “Let us make for ourselves a name [shem], lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth,” I suspect that this may have been meant to be read as saying that they themselves had already developed a desire to break up the unity and singleness of meaning within language, with the intention of turning that “fragmenting of meaning” to their own advantage (through the use of “secret code-words” and “secret languages” and the like—along with plain old lying).  It was “the Lord”—perhaps in this instance serving as a figurative symbol for the operation of the natural law of cause and effect (or, perhaps not)—that ensured that none of their attempts at promoting “the fragmenting of meaning” would ever enable them to achieve total control over all those individuals not permitted to be “in the know”—that is to say, the “profane” members of human society.

The previous paragraph, however, involves some speculation on my part, so take it with a grain of salt.  The much more important point I wish to focus on is that Genesis 11:1-9 and Revelation 18:4-6 are both concerned with symbolic “Babel” or “Babylon”; and any mention of symbolic “Babel” or “Babylon” in the Bible often seems to evoke in the mind of any Biblical author who discusses it (whether consciously or unconsciously) the crucial issue of whether meanings in language and speech will be “united” (or “single,” or “simple,” or “pure”), or whether language and speech will be “divided” (or “mixed,” or “double,” or “multiple,” or “ambiguous,” or “confounded,” or “duplicitous”).  (The association of symbolic “Babel/Babylon” with the idea of “multiplicity” in the specific context of “language” can also be seen by comparing Revelation 17:1 with Revelation 17:15.)

For additional grounds to suspect that the subject of religious esotericism was of great concern to the authors of the Bible, consider Revelation 18:11-13.  I think it is possible to detect in this passage a sardonic irony which, I believe, may have been meant to serve as condemnation of the deliberate obscuration of the “true” meanings of word-symbols (which is, after all, what characterizes religious esotericism).  The author forces the reader to endure a tedious litany of what I have to believe must be regarded as cryptic, esoteric “code-words,” each of them presumably carrying some hidden symbolic significance for the author and perhaps also for some close “initiated” associates—but none of which the author explains or supplies with definitions:

And the merchants [or traders: emporos] of the earth weep and mourn over (the fall of Babel/Babylon), since no one buys their merchandise any longer:  merchandise of gold, and of silver, and of precious (gem)stone, and of pearls, and of fine linen, and of purple (fabric), and of silk, and of crimson (fabric), and every (kind of) citron wood, and every (kind of) article of ivory, and every (kind of) article of precious wood, and of bronze, and of iron, and of marble; and cinnamon, and spice, and incense, and myrrh, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep; and of horses, and of chariots, and of bodies, and souls [psyché] of human beings.

But even without definitions, the way in which the sentence is structured is revealing.  By ending the sentence with “bodies” and “souls of human beings,” it may be that a subtle suggestion is being offered that the “trafficking” in esoteric word-symbols or “code-words”[6] such as the ones being enumerated in the passage has resulted in the enslavement of human beings (first a figurative enslavement, but then eventually a literal one due to the fact that religious esotericism helps to fuel the Lie and all of the evils made possible by it—including literal slavery and economic exploitation).  One suspects that the author may be trying to obliquely express how completely fed up he has become with being immersed in an environment in which he feels constantly pressured to think and speak in a “code-language” of esoteric symbols which has the effect of isolating him from most other people, and that he yearns for the day when he will no longer feel pressured to do so.  If so, then he might also be expressing his desire to be liberated from his own schizophrenia or schizophrenic tendencies.

The only other possible explanation I can think of for the author’s choice to include this passage is to assume that the author simply wished to express his hostility toward great wealth and sumptuous and luxurious living, and toward a materialistic worldview in general.  And I am willing to concede that that explanation may account for some portion of the meaning that the author wished to convey.  But are, say, wheat and oil and iron necessarily part of a “luxurious” lifestyle?  Can food and iron nails used for the building of homes be considered “luxuries”?  Would the author have considered the ownership and use of cattle and sheep and horses for food production to be a “luxury”?  Can one seriously imagine that the author was envisioning some future time when these and other literal wares would no longer be traded by literal merchants?  Human beings engage in the trade of desired goods.  They always have, and they always will.  I have to believe that the author was at least sensible enough to understand that much.  And not only that, in chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, the very same author describes his vision of the ideal “new Jerusalem” as a city constructed of “precious gemstone” and “gold” and “pearls,” and adorned with a wide variety of “precious gemstones.”  (So much for “simple living.”)  So I believe Revelation 18:11-13 must be understood as expressing some meaning more symbolic than the one I just proposed at the beginning of this paragraph (namely, that it is only expressing hostility toward “a luxurious lifestyle” or “a materialistic lifestyle”)—instead, a meaning more in accordance with the interpretation I offered in the previous paragraph:  that the passage is expressing hostility toward religious esotericism.

Something else to keep in mind when reading this passage is the possibility that the author meant to associate the “bodies” (sōma) and “souls” (psyché) of human beings with “outer meanings,” and, by implication, the “spirit” (pneuma) of human beings with the “inner meanings” that correspond to those “outer meanings.”  The “spiritual” person would have been considered to be someone who understood the truly intended meaning that a metaphor was a metaphor for, and who was not primarily concerned with the outer vehicle by which a particular “inner meaning” was being transmitted.  But the author would again seem to be suggesting that those persons who were preoccupied with the “outer vehicles” of human communication had, in a sense, become enslaved to the physical, material “things” (and ideas of such “things”) that were serving as those “outer vehicles” (such as by means of certain external religious rituals—but also by means of certain religious allegorical narratives).  If this reading is correct, the author would be bemoaning the fact that so many persons were unable to understand the “inner meaning” of the scriptures—and to some extent, presumably, the “inner meanings” in all other human attempts at communication.  In other words, he would be bemoaning the existence of the “splitting of meaning” in human communication.  But the passage would also show that he was still not mentally prepared to openly advocate measures that—by bringing an end to needlessly obscure esoteric communication—would ensure that those more “natural” or “carnal” or “soulish” persons would be able to better understand that “inner meaning” in the future.

As I mentioned above, it is generally well known that an excessive interest in or involvement with religious esotericism, occultism, myth, and/or mysticism is often associated with the development of schizophrenia or psychosis (even if it’s not entirely clear which is the cause and which the effect).  But that excessive interest or involvement has also frequently been correlated with “demon-oppression” or “demon-possession.”

I believe the connection between religious esotericism, psychosis, and the idea of “demonic oppression” can be found being pointed to in the Book of Revelation’s description of “mystery Babylon” or “secret Babylon” (see Revelation 17:5)—a name which is itself suggestive of the general idea of religious esotericism or occultism.  First, as background, recall John 10:20, quoted above, which says,

And many of (the Jews) said (of Jesus), “He has a demon, and is insane.  Why do you listen to him?”

This and other passages from the Gospels show that the ancient Jews (not to mention other ancient peoples—in addition to quite a few modern-day persons) associated the state of “madness” or “insanity” or “lunacy” with a person’s being “demon-possessed” or “demon-oppressed.”  That fact tends to support the suggestion that symbolic “Babel/Babylon” was understood by the author of the Book of Revelation to be associated with what we would now call schizophrenia or psychosis—and indeed, that he may have blamed all that was represented in his mind by the symbol of “Babel/Babylon” for his own “insanity” or “madness”[7]—since Revelation 18:2 says,

And (the angel) cried out with a powerful voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen, (is) Babylon the great!  And she has become a dwelling-place of demons, and a cage for every unclean spirit, and a cage for every unclean bird, and a cage for every unclean and detested beast.”

I think the author was a person, like a number of other persons, whose involvement in religious esotericism or occultism—symbolized by “mystery Babel/Babylon” or “secret Babel/Babylon”—had led them to develop psychotic ways of thinking.  Once he found himself in that predicament, he undoubtedly felt a desperate wish to be freed from it—but found that he was not able to articulate that wish in a clear manner.  Furthermore, he probably did not know to whom he ought to have addressed that wish even if he had been able to, given that he was probably located in a community of persons who thought more or less as he did, and therefore would have immediately rejected any overtly expressed suggestion that religious esotericism be rejected (and possibly also reject him for overtly expressing the suggestion).  The author would have had to make the expression of any such sentiment quite subtle in order to allow for ample “plausible deniability”—even (or maybe especially) in his own mind.

As additional evidence that the author of the Book of Revelation—and, I believe, the other authors of the Bible as well—were actually hoping that religious esotericism would someday be brought to an end, consider the use of certain symbolism found in the Book of Revelation.  First, I will once more repeat what Dr. Arieti wrote in the passage that I quoted above:

In the most pronounced cases, schizophrenic language appears obscure or utterly incomprehensible.  Some authors go to the extent of interpreting the lack of clarity of schizophrenic language as an effort on the part of the patient to hide from others, or even more probably from himself, the anxiety-provoking content of what he has to say.

If one chooses to view the symbols found in the Book of Revelation as having psychological significance (as I think they ought to be viewed), then I think it is highly unlikely to be coincidental that one finds in it symbols that strongly suggest the ideas of “obscurity” and “clarity.”  For example, Revelation 9:1-2 says,

And the fifth angel sounded (his) trumpet, and I saw a star having fallen out of the heaven to the earth [which I think probably refers to “Lucifer,” the “light-bearer,” a “falling star” or “shooting star” which becomes “illuminated” as it “falls”], and the key of the pit of the (bottomless) abyss was given to him.  And he opened the pit of the (bottomless) abyss, and smoke went up out of the pit, like smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.

The metaphorical symbols of “smoke” and “darkness” (think: “dark sayings”) would seem most likely to signify the idea of semantic obscurity.  And importantly, this “obscurity” is deemed to find its source in the “bottomless pit” of hell.  This state of affairs is reversed in Revelation 20:1-3 (just prior to the emergence of the “new Jerusalem” in Revelation chapter 21):

And I saw an angel coming down out of the heaven, holding the key to the (bottomless) abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the (bottomless) abyss, and shut (it) and sealed (it) over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things it is necessary for him to be released for a short time.[8]

But then, after “the devil who was deceiving them” is finally “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” once and for all in Revelation 20:10, the paradise of the “new Jerusalem” can finally come into view.  And significantly, the author envisions this paradise as a place where there is no obscurity whatsoever, and where everything is perfectly clear.  Consider Revelation 21: 10-11,18-19,21:

And (an angel) carried me away in spirit up to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance [or light: phōster] like a most precious [timiōtatō, a superlative form of timios, meaning “precious, valuable”] (gem)stone [lithos], like a jasper [iaspis] stone, being clear as crystal [krystallizō]. … The material of its wall was jasper [iaspis:  in other words, the wall “was clear as crystal”], and the city (was) clear [or pure, or clean: katharos] gold, clear [katharos] like glass.  The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every precious [timios] (gem)stone … .  And the twelve gates (were) twelve pearls, each of the gates (made) out of a single pearl,[9] and the street of the city (was made out of) clear [katharos] gold, transparent [diaugés, related to di-augazō, meaning “to dawn, to shine through (the darkness)”] as glass.

This idea that the “new Jerusalem” is someplace where is everything will finally be “clear” is further emphasized in Revelation 22:1-2:

And (the angel) showed me a river of water of life, clear [or bright, or transparent, or shining, or brilliant: lampros] as crystal [krystallos], going out from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the middle of the street of (the city)….

This same theme of a greater “clarity” coming into existence at some time in the future can also be found in the prophetical writings of the Old Testament.  After Zephaniah 3:1 denounces the “oppressive city” (which I assume corresponds to the symbolic “Babel/Babylon,” as well as the symbolic “Sodom,” and so on), Zephaniah 3:8-10,13, speaking of the coming “day of the Lord,” says,

“Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “until the day when I rise up to (seize) the prey.  For my determination is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms [cf. Revelation 21:24-26], to pour out [LXX: ek-cheō; cf. Luke 22:20 and Acts 2:16-23] upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my zeal [cf. Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3-4] all the earth shall be consumed [cf. John 2:16 and John 2:17].  For at that time I will turn the peoples [ammim, the plural of am] to a clarified [or purified, or brightened, or cleansed, or purged, or polished, or sincere: barar] speech [saphah; LXX: glōssa], that all of them may call upon the name [shem] of the Lord and serve him with a single [or united: echad] accord [or will; more literally, ‘yoke’: shekem; LXX: zygos].  From beyond the rivers of Cush [or Ethiopia, or Sudan] my worshipers, the daughter of my scattered [or dispersed: puwts; LXX: dia-speirō] ones, shall bring my offering.[T]hey shall do no injustice and speak [dabar] no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful language [or speech; more literally, ‘tongue’: lashon; LXX: glōssa].”[10]

Carefully compare this passage with Genesis 11:1-9, quoted above.  Even better than Revelation 18:4-6, I think, it seems to be describing the reversal of what is said to have originally taken place at “Babel.”  Unlike in Genesis 11:1-9, here the “peoples” begin in the condition of already being “multiple,” rather than “single” or “united.”  All of the earth’s “nations” or “kingdoms” or “peoples” are described here in Zephaniah 3:8-10,13 as becoming “assembled” and “gathered” from out of their former state of being “scattered” (or “dispersed”: puwts; LXX: dia-speirō), and as now coming together to “call upon the name [shem] of the Lord and serve him with a single accord”—and no longer wishing, as in Genesis 11:1-9, to “make for ourselves a name [shem] [which suggests that rampant egotism and clashing wills were to blame for their being “scattered”], lest we be scattered [or dispersed: puwts; LXX: dia-speirō] over the face of the whole earth.”  It was by their failure to believe that “the name of the Lord” was the only “name” worth giving their entire attention to (cf. Revelation 22:4) that the people of symbolic “Babel” brought upon themselves the very fate that they most dreaded:  that of being “scattered over the face of the whole earth” (and thereby cut off from others—even their “close companions”—because of their inability to genuinely communicate or connect with them).

And notice what exactly it is that brings about this turnaround:  the Lord “consumes all the earth” with his “fire”—and this gives rise to a “purified (or cleansed, or purged, or clarified, or brightened) speech (or language).”  The reader is led to imagine a kind of metaphorical “furnace” burning off all of the impurities and “slag” and “dross” of language (by means of the “fire” of the Holy Spirit), so that whenever a person tried to communicate, his or her intended meanings would be able to shine through clearly, instead of being obscured by the mental “cloudiness,” and “shadowiness,” and “darkness” of the kind of language created by indistinct ideas, mental confusion, excessive ambiguity, multiple meanings, mixed meanings, and hidden meanings.  So the passage is telling us that the “unifying” of peoples is made possible by undoing what caused their “scattering” or “dispersal” in the first place:  the “confusing of language.”  When the meanings of language are better “unified,” so that meaning in language becomes more clear, evident, distinct, and precise—thus making genuine communication between persons possible, because their most deeply felt meanings can be better shared between them—so too can human peoples (and individuals) be better “unified” in their relations with one another.

Also notice the connection made in Zephaniah 3:8-10,13 between the existence of what the author implicitly calls an “unpurified speech,” or “unclarified speech,” or “darkened speech,” and the existence of “lies” and “deceit” in the speech of human beings (which of course constitutes another kind of mental “darkness” interfering with the ability of human beings to successfully communicate with one another).  In my article “How religious esotericism is really just a form of lying,” I have made what I believe to be an irrefutable argument that the Bible (at the very least, the Christian Bible) endorses dishonest, deceptive, and misleading ways of communicating because of its authors’ practice and endorsement of religious esotericism.  The way I see it, that is simply a fact.  But if I am correct in saying that it is a fact, then one must assume that that same fact must have sooner or later occurred—at some level of awareness, anyway—to the religious esotericists who wrote the Bible (even if they quickly rejected the thought before it had a chance to settle into their consciousness).  And given how often lying and deception are denounced in the Bible, that thought—even if it remained unconscious—must have nagged at them and left them with a deep sense of guilt.

And I think the realization that esoteric religious writings actually constitute a dishonest and misleading form of communication can be found reflected in the Book of Revelation.  For one thing, if we choose to describe the esoteric symbolic imagery found in the Bible as “quasi-hallucinatory” or “dream-like” in nature, then it is significant that the author of Revelation 18:23 exults over the envisioned fall of the symbolic “Babel/Babylon” by saying of her that

your merchants [or traders: emporos] were the great ones of the earth, and all the nations were deceived [more literally, “led astray,” or “made to wander”: planaō] by your sorcery [more literally, “poisoning,” or “drugging,” or “administering of hallucinogenic drugs”: pharmakeia].

This again points to the connection I mentioned above between religious esotericism and psychosis—as well as the Lie.  (And again, all of these ideas closely relate in some way to the common underlying idea of the “splitting of meaning.”)  The author was blaming the mental confusion he was experiencing (that is, the result of the “sorcery” or “hallucinogenic drugging”—which I believe corresponds to what we would today call “psychosis” or “schizophrenia”) on the symbolic “mystery Babel/Babylon.”  But by introducing the notion of “deception,” he may be indicating that somewhere in his own mind he recognized symbolic “mystery Babel/Babylon” or “secret Babel/Babylon” as actually signifying religious esotericism—because of the deception (not to mention the confusion) that it propagates in the world.

This hypothesis is further strengthened by considering the extreme importance assigned to truthfulness and honesty in the “new Jerusalem.”  The author of the Book of Revelation repeatedly emphasizes that the ideal human society he envisions would contain absolutely no liars, lying, or falsehood—and when one combines that idea with the fact that the practice of religious esotericism is simply not compatible with a “no falsehood” rule, then what the author is actually envisioning—even if it was not yet fully apparent to him at the time he was writing—is a society in which religious esotericism would no longer exist.  Consider, for example, Revelation 21:7-8, in which Jesus says,

The one who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be God to him and he will be son to me.  But to the cowardly, and the faithless, and the detestable, and murderers, and the sexually immoral, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their share (will be) in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Notice how the enumeration of types of sinful persons ends with “and all liars,” indicating that the word “liars” was being given special rhetorical emphasis by being set off from all of the other words—which may suggest that the author did not regard lying as merely one type of sin among many, but as the primary type of sin (perhaps because all other types of sin find their ultimate source in it).

We see the same rhetorical emphasis in Revelation 22:15 being used to highlight the crucial importance of “falsehood”:

Outside [exō] (of the new Jerusalem) (are) the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and everyone loving and practicing falsehood.

Incidentally, consider that the author may have been thinking that “outside” (exō) the “new Jerusalem” would be the types of persons who were only capable of understanding the “outer” or “exoteric” meanings of the scriptures.  When the inhabitants of the “new Jerusalem” finally felt able to freely share their “inner” or “esoteric” meanings (that is, their most deeply felt and personal meanings), there would no longer be a need to engage in any kind of deception or falsehood or misleading communication in their attempt to hide or conceal those precious “inner meanings” from the “dogs” (and “pigs”) and their like.  (Cf. Matthew 7:6.)  I think that although the author of Revelation 22:15 is obviously condemning “the dogs” and such in that verse, he is at the same time, by his emphatic denunciation of “falsehood”—less consciously, but even more harshly—condemning the deceptive and misleading ways of persons such as himself; and expressing a hope that those deceptive and misleading ways might someday be brought to an end.

And we again find the same focus on “falsehood” in Revelation 21:27, which says,

And nothing profane shall enter into (the new Jerusalem), nor those practicing abomination and falsehood; but only those having been written in the book of the life of the Lamb.

Of course, it is impossible to prove with absolute certainty what was on the minds of the authors of the Bible.  But I do think the material I’ve presented in this writing does at least offer good grounds for suspecting that I may be on to something with my theories.  There is additional evidence that I can offer in support of those theories; but I hope that the evidence I have already offered in this writing has at least convinced the reader that my theories are worthy of further consideration and investigation.

Moreover, I hope that I’ve provided reason to believe that the Bible is deserving of careful study by mental health professionals in particular, especially psychoanalysts and psychotherapists who have experience with dream interpretation and/or the treatment of schizophrenics.  I believe that to have any real hope of making sense of the Bible requires that it be given a psychological interpretation.  (But if professional experts are unwilling to take up that task, then we amateur psychologists will just have to do the best we can on our own—at least until the professional experts decide to take an interest in the problem.)  In other words, this is not a matter that is appropriate to pass off to the exclusive care of Bible scholars and theologians.  If the matter is left entirely up to them, they will continue, just as they have always done, to conceal the “hidden meaning” of the Bible and its authors—individuals who were actually trying to deliver a message on behalf of a great many people, and not only schizophrenics—instead of helping to finally reveal that meaning and that message.

 

Notes

[1] However, it should be noted that not all persons who are diagnosed with schizophrenia necessarily exhibit “schizophrenic thought and language disorder” resulting in ambiguous or obscure communications.

[2] Incidentally, the reason why I consider the Bible in particular to be an especially important writing to study, and the reason why I focus on it more than other esoteric religious writings, is partly because it is so influential throughout the world (especially including my own American society), but also, and even more significantly, because I know of no other traditional, esoteric sacred scripture in which opposition to its own use of religious esotericism can be found so “close to the surface.”

[3] According to the Random House Dictionary, “duplicity” is defined as “deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.”  And that is essentially what esotericism involves, if one thinks of the “same matter” as the esoteric text, which is intended by its author to “speak” in (at least) “two different ways to different people.”

[4] Keeping in mind the phrase used by Jesus in John 16:25—“the hour is coming”—consider that just a few verses before John 16:25, in John 16:21, Jesus says,

When the woman is giving birth, she has distress [lypé], because her hour [hōra] has come [erchomai].  And when she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the distress [or tribulation, or affliction; more literally, “pressing” or “squeezing”: thlipsis], because of the joy that a person [or “man”: anthrōpos] has been born into the world.

The close proximity of these two verses in the text strongly indicates that the “coming hour” of which Jesus speaks in John 16:25—when he would no longer speak in the form of “cryptic sayings,” and would instead “speak plainly”—was meant to be associated with the metaphorical image of a woman giving birth to a child.  And we find that same metaphorical image associated elsewhere in the Gospels with the idea of the “end of the age.”  Consider Matthew 24:7-9, in which Jesus, speaking of the “end times,” says,

For nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in (various) places.  And all these things (are) (the) beginning [arché] of (the) birth pains [ōdin].  Then they will give you over to distress [or tribulation, or affliction: thlipsis], and will kill you, and you will be hated by all the nations because of my name.

Now compare the preceding passages to Matthew 24:29-30, in which Jesus, still speaking of the “end times,” says,

And immediately after the distress [thlipsis] of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then the sign of the Son [huios] of Man [anthrōpos] will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory.

I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the “coming of the Son of Man”—which would bring an end to the “present age”—was thought by the authors of the Gospels to be in some way analogous to the “birth” of a “son” into the world, which, once completed, would mark the end of the “birth pains” (ōdin) and “distress” (or “pressing,” or “squeezing”: thlipsis) associated with the “end times.”  So, if we cross-reference the passages from the Gospel of Matthew with those from the Gospel of John, it appears that the “end of the age” would be accompanied by an end to speaking in the form of “cryptic sayings.”

And since the symbolic “fall of Babylon” is also associated with the “end of the age,” then the “fall of Babylon” (and the emergence of the “new Jerusalem”) would, like the “Crucifixion” (and the “Resurrection”), seem to involve doing away with the esoteric manner of communication, such as in the form of “cryptic sayings.”  (And there is independent evidence, which I present elsewhere, that corroborates this suggestion.)

In addition, notice that the “earthquakes” and “darkening of the sun” that Jesus describes in Matthew chapter 24, which he says would occur at “the end of the age,” are also described as having occurred at the time of Jesus’s Crucifixion.  (See, e.g., Matthew 27:45 and Matthew 27:51.)  And the association between the idea of “resurrection” and that of “birth” (or “re-birth”) is one that is frequently made in the New Testament.  (See, e.g., John 1:12-13, John 3:3-8, and Romans 6:3-4.)  These facts once again tend to support the suggestion that Jesus’s “Crucifixion” and “Resurrection” were meant to be understood as symbolic prefigurations of, respectively, the ending of the “present age” and the dawning of a “new age”—one in which everything would finally be “clear” and “transparent” and “truthful.”  (See chapters 21 and 22 of the Book of Revelation.)  These mythical episodes were most definitely not meant to be understood as past historical events.

If the reader still requires additional evidence that Jesus’s “Crucifixion” and “Resurrection” were meant to be understood as symbolic prefigurations of the ending of the “present age” and the dawning of a “new age,” consider 1 Corinthians 11:26, in which the apostle Paul, speaking of the Lord’s Supper, writes,

For as often as you eat this bread, and drink the cup (of wine), you proclaim the death of the Lord until he should come.

In other words, the symbolic “Crucifixion” of the Lord is deemed to have already occurred—but the symbolic “Resurrection” of the Lord is deemed not to have yet occurred—unlike what a literal reading of the Gospels would lead one to believe.  Once again, the Gospels were never meant to be read as faithful accounts of historical events (as one might also gather by, say, noting the fact that the canonical Gospels repeatedly contradict each other—combined with the fact that the earliest Christians apparently did not find these contradictions embarrassing, or in need of being reconciled).

[5] Consider what Revelation 20:11, describing “the end of the age” and the “Final Judgment,” says:

And I saw a great white throne, and the One sitting upon it, from whose presence [more literally, “face”: prosōpon] the earth and the heaven fled away [pheugō].

It is my belief (for reasons I present elsewhere) that the authors of the New Testament probably meant for this first “earth and heaven” (see Revelation 21:1) to be understood to signify the “outer meanings” or “exoteric meanings” of esoteric religious writings—which is what provide esotericists with their “concealment.”  So it is interesting that the author of this passage associates the first “earth and heaven” with the idea of “fleeing”—and hence, “fear.”  It seems that with “the end of the age,” a separation is made between the ways of the “old Adam,” who “hides” from the “face” or “presence” (Greek prosōpon) of the Lord through his use of “exoteric meanings” as a kind of “cloak” to cover and conceal his “esoteric meanings,” and the ways of the “new Adam,” who no longer feels the need to “hide” or “flee away” from the “face” or “presence” of God.  (For example, Revelation 22:4 says that the inhabitants of the “new Jerusalem” will “see (God’s) face [prosōpon].”  The same idea is also suggested by Revelation 21:3.)

A tendency on the part of the authors of the New Testament to see an association between the idea of (metaphorical) “nakedness” and the idea of “fleeing” or “fear” might explain (and I have no idea how else one might explain) the choice to include Mark 14:51-52—a very odd passage indeed—which takes place at around the time of Jesus’s arrest:

And a certain young man was following (Jesus), who had wrapped a linen cloth around (his) naked (body) [gymnos].  And (the guards) seized him, but he, having abandoned the linen cloth, fled away [pheugō] naked [gymnos].”

There are passages in the New Testament indicating that the kind of (metaphorical) “nakedness” that Adam and Eve had suddenly become aware of after “the Fall” in Genesis chapter 3 was not seen by the authors of the New Testament as something to be sought after or become “comfortable” with.  See, e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:2-4.  And in Revelation 16:15 Jesus says,

Behold, I am coming like a thief.  Blessed is the one staying vigilant, and keeping [or guarding, or taking care of, or attending to: téreō] his garments, so that he might not walk naked [gymnos] and they see his shame.

In addition, a comparison of 1 Corinthians 15:36-37 with 1 Corinthians 15:44-45 may suggest that the “natural body” (that of the “first Adam”), corresponding to the “kernel” of a seed, was characterized by its “nakedness,” while the “spiritual body” (that of the “last Adam”) was not.  (1 Corinthians 15:36-37 also seems to associate “awareness of one’s nakedness” with “death”—just as Genesis chapter 3 does.)  And Hebrews 4:13 calls attention to the fact that we are all “naked” (gymnos) in the eyes of God, and none of us are “hidden” (a-phanés) from his sight.

One might reasonably posit that “Jesus Christ” was understood to serve as some new kind of “outer garment” that was able to serve as a substitute for the old kind of “outer garment”—one that was somehow able to “cover” a person’s “nakedness” in a way that no longer involved any desire to “hide” or “flee” from God—or from other human beings, for that matter.  (See Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27.)

[6] The idea that the “trading” or “trafficking” being spoken of in Revelation 18:11-13 was actually meant to refer to a metaphorical “trading” or “trafficking” in meanings is suggested by Matthew 13:45-46, in which Jesus says,

[T]he kingdom of the heavens is like a man, a merchant [or trader: emporos] seeking fine pearls.  And having found one pearl of much worth, having gone away, he sold all things, as many as he had, and he bought it.

There is good reason to believe that the symbol of “a pearl” may have been understood by the authors of the New Testament to signify “an inner meaning.”  For one thing, consider where pearls are found:  namely, inside “shells.”  For another, consider what is written by the medieval Jewish theologian Moses Maimonides in his Guide of the Perplexed, Introduction to the First Part (trans. Shlomo Pines, University of Chicago Press, 1963):

[T]he internal meaning of the words of the Torah is a pearl, whereas the external meaning of all parables is worth nothing, and … the concealment of a subject by its parable’s external meaning [is to be compared] to a man who let drop a pearl in his house, which was dark and full of furniture.

(p. 11; the emphases are mine; the bracketed material is in the translation.  By the way, note how the theme of “(self)-concealment” or “hiding” or “secrecy”—also found in the story of “the Fall” in Genesis chapter 3—is found in connection with the use of an esoteric manner of discourse.)

So it could be that what the author of Revelation 18:11-13 was actually condemning was the metaphorical “trading” or “trafficking” in “outer meanings” that no one really understood or could agree on the significance of.  (It’s true that Revelation 18:11-13 refers to “pearls”; but consider that the symbol of a “pearl” is itself still an “outer meaning”—the “inner meaning” of which—in other words, that which is being symbolized—would, according to my hypothesis, be the idea of “an inner meaning.”)

As I discuss below in the main text, this would also help to explain why Revelation 18:11-13 ends with a reference to “bodies” and “souls of human beings.”  “Bodies” and “souls” are the possessions of every so-called “natural man” or “fleshly man” or “sensual man”—as opposed to the “spiritual man.”  The “natural man” can only understand “outer things”; the “spiritual man” is capable of discerning “inner things.”  So a suggestion may be found in this passage that the person who goes running after “outer things” (such as material possessions)—signified, in this case, by a wide variety of “outer meanings”—has unwittingly made himself into a “slave” of those things.  (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, James 3:15, and Jude 1:19.)

[7] In a letter written by Thomas Jefferson toward the end of his life in 1825, he wrote that he “considered [the Book of Revelation] as merely the ravings of a maniac no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.”  And I agree with Jefferson that the Book of Revelation consists of “the ravings of a maniac”—but I disagree with his view that that fact makes the book completely “unworthy and incapable of explanation.”

[8] In connection with the symbol of a “bottomless pit” out of which obscurity, uncertainty, and confusion come pouring out, consider what an anonymous Amazon.com book reviewer wrote in his review of John Marco Allegro’s Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth:

[Mathematician Kurt Goedel] said that a finite set of axioms cannot prove an infinity of truths.  This is assuming those axioms are consistent.  If they are inconsistent, then they can prove an infinity of truths!  They can prove everything including all inconsistent statements. … [T]rying to get closure on this [in other words, ascertaining the meaning of the Bible] is almost impossible.  This is the only closure: that it is a vagueness trick.  You could—and they did—spend the rest of eternity going through textual interpretation; it’s a kind of inconsistent pseudo-mathematics that can absorb the energies of humanity.  Humanity is obviously the technologically dependent species; we need to learn the universe to survive.  Spending forever on these inconsistent statements trying to get every nuance out of it is futile; it is an infinite bottomless pit; it’s a trap that you can get addicted to.  Mathematics, the exporation of the universe is the real purpose of humanity.  This is what’s wrong with the Bible then and now. … [T]his book is a trap; it’s like quicksand.  It’s like being addicted to gambling.  You think you’ll find Jesus Christ or lay the thing to rest—finally.  But, no, you won’t; it’s an inconsistent statement that can prove every contradictory statement forever; it’s just literary commentary on top of literary commentary; that’s what the Bible is; Joseph of Genesis, then Joseph [I think the reviewer means “Joshua”] who goes around conquering Canaan, and then Joseph [again, I think he means “Joshua”] of the New Testament—or in Greek, Jesus. It’s just literary commentary on top of . . . forever.  [The emphases are mine.]

I strongly sympathize with the reviewer’s point of view, but I obviously can’t agree entirely with his belief that it is pointless to try to interpret the Bible, given the fact that I myself am trying to interpret it right here, and I do so in other writings as well.  But I also believe that the only kind of interpretation that is worth trying to give to the Bible is a psychological one.  So long as it is approached in the same way in which a psychoanalyst would approach his or her patients’ dreams or “slips of the tongue,” the Bible can actually reveal much more than might at first appear to be the case.  In other words, it is imperative that the Bible be understood as speaking in terms of “primary process thinking,” rather than “secondary process thinking”—otherwise, any serious attempt at interpretation will be pointless and can only lead to unending confusion in the mind of the interpreter.

In keeping with that approach, I pay very close attention to the metaphors that modern-day people (as well as others) use in their communications, especially including their ordinary, daily, casual conversations, without even giving their choice of words much conscious thought.  I believe that the meanings of commonly used modern-day metaphors can potentially shed a great deal of light on the meanings of the symbolism used in ancient mythical and esoteric writings such as the Bible.  For that reason, I do not assume that it is “just a coincidence” that this reviewer chose to use the metaphor of “an infinite bottomless pit” to describe the feeling of unresolvable frustration he feels when trying to make sense of logically inconsistent statements—and that that very same symbol of “a bottomless pit” is also used by the author of the Book of Revelation in connection with symbols (namely, “smoke” and “darkness”) that evoke ideas of obscurity, uncertainty, and confusion.  (However, one can of course never be certain that this is what the author of the Book of Revelation—or, perhaps, his “angelic” source of inspiration—had in mind.)

Likewise, I do not assume that it is “just a coincidence” that the book reviewer chose to use the metaphors of “a trap” and “quicksand” while those same metaphorical symbols are used by the authors of the Bible in, for example, Romans 11:9 (quoting Psalm 69:22-23) and Psalm 69:2.  Were those authors unconsciously moved in their writings by the same sense of mental frustration and futility felt by the reviewer when trying to make sense of logically inconsistent esoteric writings?  One can never know for sure, but it certainly strikes me as possible.

[9] But how can a “pearl” function as a “gate”—that is, if we’re trying to envision this scene in a literal way?  It is much more plausible to assume that a “pearl” was meant to signify an “inner meaning,” and so it would be by apprehending the “inner meaning” of the scriptures that a person would be able to gain access to the “new Jerusalem.”

[10] Might the giving up of “injustice,” “lying,” and the use of “deceitful language” have been the “offering” that the author understood “the Lord” to have been demanding of humanity?