Exploring the Book of Revelation

As was suggested by Jonathan in our previous series, this blog will be an exploration of the Book of Revelation (Book of the Apocalypse) in a mystical vein. In seminary back in the early 1980’s, this last book of the exoteric Bible was classified under Eschatology, or a science of the end-times. Although, it was never directly studied on its own since the excessive symbolic language has led to many false interpretations within the Christian milieu. As a biblical resource, The Jerome Biblical Commentary was our mainstay and we will be utilizing some passages of it under its recent incarnation, The [New] Jerome biblical Commentary. This present study could be considered to be an aberration from a Buddhist stance, since in Buddhism, time is cyclical, not linear, (the universe never begins nor ends) making apocalypse both an end and a beginning; whereas the Book of Revelation is decidedly about an ending to linear time, although scripture as a whole does assert that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. The original word in Greek — apokalypsis — refers to an unveiling, a revelation. As we shall come to see it’s not just about the end of the world, but rather an end to a particular cycle in time. Elaine Pagels, in her excellent work, Revelations: Vision, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation, cites that the writer of Revelation was referring to the way “his own” world ended.

The author of Revelation had experienced a catastrophe. He wrote his book not long after 60,000 Roman soldiers had stormed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., burned down its great temple and left the city in ruins after putting down an armed Jewish revolt.

For some of the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem was incomprehensible. They had expected Jesus to return “with power” and conquer Rome before inaugurating a new age. But Rome had conquered Jesus’ homeland instead.

The author of Revelation was trying to encourage the followers of Jesus at a time when their world seemed doomed. Think of the Winston Churchill radio broadcasts delivered to the British during the darkest days of World War II.

Revelation was an anti-Roman tract and a piece of war propaganda wrapped in one. The message: God would return and destroy the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem. (From a CNN article on the 4 big myths of the Book of Revelation.)

Our own focus will slowly come to reveal how one esoteric text talks about a “divine being bodied in a deathless ethereal form of ineffable beauty. This process of transcendental self-conquest, the giving birth to oneself as a spiritual being, evolving from the concealed essence of one’s own embryonic nature a self-luminous immortal body, is the sole subject-matter of the Apocalypse.” (James M. Pryse, The Apocalypse Unsealed, being an interpretation of the Initiation of Joannes, commonly called the Revelation of St. John, 1910.” It must be stated, however, that we will not follow his work to the letter. We are not Theosophists. Our study and the passage in question refers to the gestation and birth of the bodhichild in the Womb of the Tathatgatagarbha. Of particular import here is the mystical number Seven. In the text it occurs recurrently in the following explicit manner (although more implicit references will be forthcoming)

In Buddhism, seven is the number of ascent, and Buddha is said to have walked this number of steps at his birth. Also, in Buddhism, as stated in the Lanka there are Seven Factors of Awakening (Pali: satta bojjhaṅgā or satta sambojjhaṅgā; Skt.: sapta bodhyanga):

Mindfulness (sati, Sanskrit smrti). To maintain awareness of reality, in particular the teachings (dhamma).

Investigation of the nature of reality (dhamma vicaya, Skt. dharmapravicaya).

Energy (viriya, Skt. vīrya) also determination, effort

Joy or rapture (pīti, Skt. prīti)

Relaxation or tranquility (passaddhi, Skt. prashrabdhi) of both body and mind

Concentration (samādhi) a calm, one-pointed state of mind, or “bringing the buried latencies or samskaras into full view”

Equanimity (upekkha, Skt. upekshā). To accept reality as-it-is (yathā-bhuta) without craving or aversion.

Also, the Lanka discusses seven forms of emancipation.

More particular for our study, The Ratnagotravibhāgaśāstra principally covers seven vajrapadas (adamantine topics).

The first three Vajra-points relate to the Three Jewels: Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (Sanskrit: saṃgha). Vajra-point one is the Buddha, the awakened one who points the way to enlightenment. Vajra-point two is the Dharma—the supreme teachings (Buddhadharma) of the Tathagatas. Vajra-point three is the Sangha, the mystical community of the Illumined-Ones who safeguard and promulgate the Buddhadharma whilst at the same time [acting] like a buttressed fortress against the snares of samsara. Vajra-point four is the Dhātu, or the essence of the Buddha-Element—Tathagata-garbha. The actual “awareness” of this Buddha-Element is the fifth Vajra-point termed Bodhi, or the Awakened Mind-element Itself. Vajra-point six represents the subsequent good and enlightened qualities produced after one puts on the Bodhimind—Gūna. The final Vajra-point, Karma or Kriyā, are the Right-Actions that are accrued after being baptized by that Supreme Dharma element: the Buddhadhatū.

Our study will show that the subject matter is not exclusively about a disappointed destroyer God, but a very real unraveling of essential universal  truths.

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