Does today mark the beginning of the Apocalypse and the imminent arrival of the Rapture? Legions of imminent doom videos on Youtube have painted the picture of today’s prophetic setting—they all point to an astrological constellation occurring today, September 23, 2017, that apparently matches what is written in the Book of Revelation 12:1-2
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”
The planet Jupiter had entered the belly of the Virgo constellation nine months earlier and emerged today as some form of Star-Child from the womb of the Madonna. There’s also talk of another mysterious planet, known as Planet X or Nibiru, which will pass by earth and wreak havoc sometime in October.
Such is the rigmarole of the fundamentalist mind set. There are more sober interpretations of these starry-signs. One is that it is merely a constellational occurrence. Virgo, after all, does not represent the Madonna, but a virgin maiden in Greek mythology. As always, these pagan signs have been adopted by the Christian milieu. Within Unborn Mind Zen there is a mantra which states “what the Mind focuses on will determine its reality.” In reference to the above hyperlink on the Rapture, the series addressed the following:
For those who embrace exclusively the phenomenal mind, like those biblical fundamentalists, this can be a real scary thing—because it’s quite possible they “will” determine the day when Armageddon arrives—since they’ve been invoking and arguing its impending arrival ad hominem these many years. When Mind recollects Mind, on the other hand, all those whimsical fears are exposed for what they truly are: fanciful tales of a collective discriminatory imagination.
Just staying still in the Unmoving Principle will forestall the wily workings of the dreamy, incessantly moving and meandering monkey-mind; when this deep Samadhi has been self-realized, then one is said to be “raptured” by the Unborn. Coming down again from the Mount of this astonishing Epiphany, one no longer pays attention anymore to the usual mundane and superstitious prattle that afflicts the stupefied who continue to wallow in samsara, as all former impediments that inhibited Union with the Unborn Spirit have been extinguished.
It’s interesting that also within Christian Orthodoxy more level-headed interpretations prevail:
1. We should not be over-definite or overly narrow in our interpretation of these images and visions. Many of the symbols of the Apocalypse are sweeping in their application that no simple prose formula can encompass them; a man of richer experience and knowledge will see more in them than someone who lacks these. Too, as history proceeds to its end, the meaning of some of the images will become clearer. Archbishop Averky himself notes that some of the images simply cannot be understood yet while others [for example, the “locusts” and “horses” of ch. 9] he hazards interpretations based on the 20th-century experience of warfare.
2. We must be careful to distinguish between the passages that refer to realities of this fallen world of earth, and those that refer to the other world, heaven. Misinterpretations of the Apocalypse invariably confuse these two spheres by trying to apply prophetic visions about the other world [where and sorrow have an end, there is no death, and “the leopard shall lie down with the kid” –Is. 11:6] to this earthly world; this is the fatal mistake of the chiliastic interpretation which prevails among Protestants today, which understands the “thousand years” of chapter 20 as a kind of “heavenly” historical epoch and applies to the earthly Jerusalem prophecies which can refer only to the heavenly Jerusalem in the age to come.
3. The chiliastic interpretation of the Apocalypse proceeds also from another basic mistake of most Protestant interpreters: to take the text of the book in strict chronological order instead of seeing it as it is: a series of visions quite distinct in nature from each other — some of heaven, some of earth; some very general and symbolic, some quite specific and literal; some of the past, some of the future, and some of the present. To identify each of these visions for what it is requires a precise Orthodox commentary and not simply reading the text as it appears to our modern understanding.
4. Our reading of the Apocalypse should be one not of fevered excitement but of sober awareness. Our first concern should be to gain an understanding of the Orthodox doctrine and world view which are contained in the book; about specific applications of prophesies to contemporary events we should be slow to form a judgement and not be carried away by our own opinions and fantasies.
5. It is very important that the reading of this book should be done together with regular spiritual nourishment — the Church’s services and sacraments, regular reading of Scripture and spiritual books. If this is done, and our Orthodox Christianity is a conscious struggle conducted daily and constantly — then we will be not overwhelmed by some new catastrophe or some new fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecy.
6. With all this in mind, we must understand that the Apocalypse is a book of mysteries — the deep things bound up with the beginning and end of things, the ultimate purpose of the world and man, the opening of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven; and so we must read it with fear of God, and with a humble distrust of our own wisdom. (Ruminations on Archbishop Averky’s interpretation on the significance of the Apocalypse.)
The Orthodox Spirit is ennobled with seeds of asceticism that provide a solid foundation in sober spirituality:
Do you desire, then, to embrace this life of solitude, and to seek out the blessings of stillness? If so, abandon the cares of the world, and the principalities and powers that lie behind them; free yourself from attachment to material things, from domination by passions and desires, so that as a stranger to all this you may attain true stillness. For only by raising himself above these things can a man achieve the life of stillness.
Do not develop a habit of associating with people who are materially minded and involved in worldly affairs. Live alone, or else with brethren who are detached from material things and of one mind with yourself. For if one associates with materially minded people involved in worldly affairs, one will certainly be affected by their way of life and will be subject to social pressures, to vain talk and every other kind of evil: anger, sorrow, passion for material things, fear of scandals. Do not get caught up in concern for your parents or affection for your relatives; on the contrary, avoid meeting them frequently, in case they rob you of the stillness you have in your cell and involve you in their own affairs. ‘Let the dead bury their dead,’ says the Lord; ‘but come, follow me’ (cf. Matt. 8:22). If you find yourself growing strongly attached to your cell, leave it, do not cling to it, be ruthless. Do everything possible to attain stillness and freedom from distraction, and struggle to live according to God’s will, battling against invisible enemies. If you cannot attain stillness where you now live, consider living in exile, and try and make up your mind to go. Be like an astute business man: make stillness your criterion for testing the value of everything, and choose always what contributes to it. (Evagrios the Solitary, from The Philokalia)
While the above passages primarily address those who have embraced the eremitical lifestyle, it is the bedrock of Orthodox Spirituality itself. Its roots fall under two principles: Hesychasm and Nepsis. Hesychia (from the Greek for “stillness, rest, quiet, silence”) is the state in which faithful adepts, through grace and intensive asceticism, develop a singular association with the Spirit of life itself. NEPSIS is the kind of sober-minded vigilance that characterizes the ascetic life.
Nepsis means to be completely present to where we are just as a mother has an attentive ear to the least sound of her baby in the crib even as she talks on the phone or vacuums the rug. Love is attentive and watchful. Bishop Kallistos Ware tells us that watchfulness means, among other things, to be present where we are – at this specific point in space, at this particular moment in time. All too often we are scattered and dispersed, we are living, not with alertness in the present, but with nostalgia in the past, or with misgiving and wishful thinking in the future.
The neptic man is the one who seizes ‘kairos’, the decisive moment of [spiritual] opportunity. (Anthony Coniaris, Philokalia: the Bible of Orthodox Spirituality)
Both these ascetical disciplines and the writings of John of the Cross share similar contemplative traits; while John’s is perhaps the more profound in terms of the stillpoint that is reached in infused contemplation. The Orthodox teachings are no less significant and this series will reflect upon and decipher in Light of the Unborn the writings of some of its greatest and luminous ascetical masters, like Evagrius Ponticus and Saint Isaac the Syrian who penned, Stillness of mind is tranquility which comes from discernment. Again, from his Ascetical Homilies:
—learn what is the life of stillness, what is its work, what mysteries are concealed in this discipline mysteries that are hidden from many, but after the discovery of which strenuous men run, seeking to attain them in stillness, and why some men belittle the righteousness that is practiced in the society of men and prefer to it the tribulations and struggles of a silent and solitary abode. From the understanding of these things and because of what they find in this epistle, men will call blessed the solitaries who pass their lives in this world by remaining concentrated and by themselves. But to those who have no acquaintance with these matters this instruction, with all its admonitions, about the stages that are in stillness will be superfluous. I write here to wise men, and I offer advice with love. (Homily 65).
Today’s apparent apocalyptic age may indeed become a self-fulfilling prophecy. At least the ongoing threats are real—mankind on the verge of total annihilation of whole countries, yea, even of humanity itself whether by a nuclear holocaust or by the manufacture of the “modern monsters” of chemical contamination and bio-centric experimentations run amok. This bespeaks a most frenzied mass-consciousness at its worst. What is needed is a return to that stillpoint. There is no longer any other alternative.