“For the confirmation of this a fresh Manifestation was given me, by the appearance of a Head that was all as of Fine Gold transparent, with a pair of Wings only joining to it. Under each of which Wings there were seven Eyes all fiery and piercing. Upon which this first Salutation greeted me, saying, “Tho’ thy corporeal Eyes be Dim, these Eyes are come to make up that Impediment, whose Properties to thee shall be into the Worlds and Regions to see that to mortal sight all hidden be.” Then Immediately I felt as if this Head and Wings did clasp themselves about the Vital part of my Heart. From whence it was said, The pure in Heart should be all seeing; and the Ears fixed in the Golden Head should become the true Hearing.”
Augustine of Hippo taught against the practice of historically interpreting prophetic, apocalyptic and visionary works. For Augustine the City of God comes about by a radical application of Christ’s passivity and subjection to the Divine Will rather than being immanatized through active participation with word, action or attention.
In seeking to understand this it is interesting to compare the eschatological 19th century charts of Charles Larkin, outlining the kind of historical eschatology favored by heterodox evangelicals like Harold Camping and Tim Lahaye, with an illustration from an edition of Jacob Boehme’s Theosophische Werke, published in Amsterdam in 1682.
Here is Larkin’s chart on the prophetic tradition (click the chart for an enlarged view):
Larkin’s diagram contains a drama unfolding in time, moves horizontally, and at no point do the Divine and Material realms connect except through arrows indicating inspiration moving in from outside of the Historical sequence of events.
Although prophecy represents a vision of the Divine within time, no indication of this process is made. The archetypal prophet pictured on the left is starting into the future and all events and influences are purely temporal.
Here is another chart from Larkin which outlines his conception of the ‘underworld’ (click the chart for an enlarged view):
This time the materialistic nature of the vision is even more apparent. Both the infernal realms and Paradise are contained within the earthly sphere. Again the only connection with the Divine is through arrows indicating movement leading off beyond the chart.
Now let’s compare these to an illustration of the ideas of Theosophical Christian mystic and spiritual alchemist Jacob Boehme:
Although quite different this simple diagram covers the themes of both Larkin charts. Here we have linear time represented by the curved Ouroboros, the culmination of which is indicated at the point where the snake eats its own tail thus fulfilling the charge “I am the Alpha and the Omega”. PARADES (Paradise) is outside of time and the movement of the subject into this state is indicated by the ascending Dove (the Hebrew/Aramaic term used for Dove in the Christian texts also has a secondary meaning of messenger).
The Dove ascends through the cross, which is also shown as being outside of time, with it’s center located on the edge of the circle of PARADES. The infernal realms indicated in Larkin’s chart are here designated by a central flame which disolves the body of the subject leaving only the single eye which looks beyond time’s culmination and into the Divine.
Historical movement is indicated by the surrounding stars, still located in time, which symbolize the cosmic forces at play within the temporal realm. Again the Dove ascends beyond these at the point in which the Alpha and Omega combine in self consumption. We also still have an indication of Divine influence with the downward pointing triangle, but unlike Larkin’s charts the Boehme diagram gives a sense of unity to the entire process.
By historicizing visionary works we fuel the process of temporal activity which they seek to transcend. History is made by failed apocalyptic predictions and the often odd behavior they illicit in believers. In a sense by seeking to understand the Apocalypse we are acting to postpone the unification that Apocalyptic visions imply.
The Apocalypse is the culmination of the rites of the Divine Marriage, and as such remains a Mystery to be contemplated rather than mathematically abused or subjected to historical speculation. It is a whisper amongst lovers, it’s coming is a silent crawl through lamp lit streets avoiding even the keenest watchman’s eyes.
Within the tradition of Illuminationist thought that defined much of Augstine’s conceptions of Being, the very process of thinking requires a Unity with the Divine. There is no true thought whose origin is not within the True.
In this understanding each thought becomes an Apocalypse, an immeasurable Mystery, and a Rapture in itself. The centrality of the Boehme diagram is able to capture this process, however Larkin’s linear charts do very little to add any insight, and in some ways do much to lead away from this realization.
The mystic Jane Leade, from whom the opening quote was taken, applied Boehme’s conceptions to a linear historical development of the Apocalyptic narrative. Unlike Larkin, however, her language indicates that within this is a strong sense of the immediate intervention of the Divine, of the Eternal breaching the temporal divide.
Her eyes are tempered with the vision of Eternity by seeing through a transformation of her Heart, the central point of her body, indicating a kind of unification lacking in a fully materialist eschatology. Beneath each wing are seven stars, left and right, indicating the malefic and beneficiary aspects of the traditional seven stars of the cosmos whose interactions produce Time and Change. The upward position of the wings, however, shows that these aspects have been overcome. Without the visionary capabilities of “a Head…all..of Fine Gold transparent” we are left without the ability to see beyond the material realm into the Eternal process.
Refined by the fire of existence, the spiritual Gold becomes transparent, passive in it’s participation with reality. By fighting with reality we are active in producing the friction necessary for the historical narrative to continue, without this conflict the dramatic arcs of Aristotelian theatre are absent from experience. As Augustine, Boehme and Leade in some part understood, the process of the End of Time is intimately tied to the acceptance of Time. A radical application of Christ’s admonition to “agree with the adversary in the way,” which in itself, without conflict, leads to the dissolution of adversity.