Gloom and Doom
I have to admit — I always get a kick out of Book of Revelation. Don’t be scared and come for a little ride through this “rabbit hole”.
Even if, till this day, I am not completely sure if the whole thing is just ravings of an itinerant Christian in first century AD, a product of a religious lunatic mind of a messianic Jew hallucinating in Old Testament symbols, or whether it really has some predictive value, it contains some nuggets of wisdom, and I don’t mean it in a derogatory or sarcastic way.
I was never interested in the “letters” part, and neither the seals and plagues caught my fancy. But that part with Babylon, dragon, beast, its image and mark — that’s certainly something!
It’s uncanny how it describes human civilization and what’s wrong with it.
First, let’s start with the dragon. However I look at it, it is precisely that bad idea that emerged some five thousand years ago probably in Mesopotamia, i.e. Babylon, and quickly spread throughout the whole region (it may have emerged simultaneously in various places, that’s, however, not important).
To make the long story short — it’s the idea of imposing a rigid hierarchical structure on a body of human beings, and in extension to the whole cosmos (or Creation, if you prefer). In other words —the idea of an imperium with a worshiped god-king at its top, masses of lowly slaves at the bottom, and other strictly defined social castes in between. I’m fairly certain that you know that system, because today’s world is not that different.
Book of Revelation calls this system “the beast out of the sea” (“sea” is Biblical metaphor for people or nations), and then it introduces another creature, “the beast out of the earth”.
Here, the things get a little tricky. According to Revelation, this second beast, exercises all authority on behalf of the first beast to make all people worship the first one (i.e. system), creates an image of the first beast that can talk and has the ability to kill everyone who does not worship it, and forces everyone to wear its mark without which no one can buy or sell.
There are many ideas as for what the mark may be, but when you look closely, it’s like with any other truth — it cannot be more visible. What is that mark without which no one can buy or sell? The answer is really mindbogglingly simple — it’s money.
Within Roman empire, when Book of Revelation was composed, no one could sell or buy without money, because the taxes had to be, in the end, payed in coins — the central treasury did not accept anything else (only coins or raw precious metals from melted coins). So, one was, in one way or another, essentially forced to use (Roman) currency. To identify the mark even further, Book of Revelation refers to “the mark of the beast” as a name or number (of the beast).
That number is the famous number 666 (or in other versions 616), both of which can be arrived at by gematria of Caesar’s Nero name and title (his coins were still in circulation at the time the Book of Revelation was written). The number 666 may also be a symbolic allusion to 666 talents of gold, which king Salomon collected yearly in direct violation of Jewish law (as the story goes).
Now, if you look at the place and importance money has in our civilization today, it’s even more pronounced. Even if you are completely self-sufficient, there are still various taxes and fees you have to pay. And good luck trying to use gold nuggets or a nice plump sheep. Thus, at least from the times of Rome until today, no one can buy or sell without money (coins, fiat, virtual — makes no difference).
Also, when it comes to money, there are basically two types of people. First, the ones who believe in it, praise it, and defend it. Book of Revelation refers to them as the ones who wear the mark of the beast on their forehead, which is a metaphor for mind. And the second group, those who only tag along, i.e those who may see and acknowledge the evil nature of money, but they argue that they have to comply with the status quo because they “have to put food on the table”. The Book of Revelation refers to them as the ones who wear the mark on their right hand, which refers to action.
Now, let’s go back to the second beast “out of the earth”. It took me a while to realize, that it’s man that came out of the earth in Bible. Book of Revelation describes this second beast as reminiscent of Jesus, but preaching the imperial ideas of the dragon. To me it’s a clear image of priests, but in our time and age also politicians, pundits, and media, who all appear like they serve people, but in reality “preach” the status quo of the system.
These people then directly or indirectly create and uphold the system of law which can be traced back to Roman law and is in one way or another present worldwide (ironically and incidentally, Roman law originated as 12 tables, whereas Biblical “God’s Law” had 2 tablets, but that is probably taking it too far).
This legal system is the image of the beast. It can talk for itself, and you better worship it, lest you want it to kill you. And this is the same legal system that also codifies the economy, and forces you to wear its mark, i.e. money (try to refuse money as a single individual — how long would you survive? This also makes all in the system “locked in”, even the “second beast”).
The complete picture now becomes pretty straightforward — the imperial system (first beast) delegates its power to the ideological leaders (second beast) who convince or force the population to accept (worship) the system and create the law, which is a codification (an image) of the system, while everything is held together primarily by money and the ability of legal system to punish (police, army, etc.).
Well, I may be very well completely off — after all, who really knows what went through John’s mind on Patmos — but I think that the whole idea is something that is worth to consider.
Anyway — tinfoil hats on!