Sunday, August 30, 2009

The End of the World

When is the end of the world? The answer is: The day we die, the world ends for each one of us. This means, of course, that the world won't end for everybody on earth at once, which is total nonsense. So there's no such thing as "the end of the world" collectively speaking, but in case of each individual, yes indeed. Death is the end of the world, when we leave the world. But the world goes on without us.

What's the problem here? Why are people so prone to babble about the end of the world, the end of earth and humanity, and why has it been that way for so many centuries? This notion seems to be primarily linked to monotheistic eschatology, and this really boils down to the problem with monotheism.

Rudolf Steiner:

"When a man's attitude to the spiritual world is merely that of the "enlightened" Church today, his relationship to the spiritual world — even if it is only in his feeling — is of a definite kind; it is simply a relationship with his Guardian Angel, the Angelos with whom he is, in fact, connected. And this Angelos — the only Being with whom he is able to feel related — he calls his God; if he is a Christian he calls him Christ; he confuses his Angelos with Christ. This may be difficult to understand, but it is so. Protestant theologians who claim to be enlightened and inveigh against Polytheism, urging men to establish direct relationship with the one Being, Christ — whatever they may preach concerning Christ, the truth is that what they say has only to do with the relationship of the human being to his Angelos. Monotheism in our time is in danger of becoming a worship of the Angelos of each individual human being.

"Men are still unwilling to admit many things that are nevertheless there. Even the crudest circumstances, however, prove to an objective observer that such illusions set men well on the path to calamitous ideas. This worship of man's own Angelos is the reason why each individual has his own God, merely imagining that he shares with others a Godhead who is common to them all. The truth is that the monotheist of today has only his own individual Angelos and because there is such uniformity in the words with which each human being describes his own egotistical relation to the Angelos, people imagine that they are speaking of the Divinity who is the one God of them all. If this state of things were to continue, individuals would develop, still more strongly, the tendency that is taking such a terrible form among the nations today. Although the nations still theorise about the one universal Godhead, they do not — and this holds good above all at the present time — really acknowledge this one Godhead, because each of them prefers to have its own special God.

"This, however, is merely what comes to light in crude, external form. In reality, every human being today wants to have his own God and he gives the name of "Monotheism" to the relationship between himself and his own Angelos. And because conditions are so clouded in an age when men's only desire is for perception of the Material, the truth of what I have just said does not occur to them."

( -- Rudolf Steiner:Behind the Scenes of External Happenings, The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness, Lecture 2, Zurich, 13th November, 1917, GA 178)

The entire lecture can be read here:.
The above is especially evident in all those "End of the World" prophesies that are still floating around. The latest craze is that the world will end in 2011 or 2012. This means that some religious believers expect -- consciously or subconsciously -- to die in a couple of years, which is the end of the world for themselves, and because of their myopic egocentrism, they desire to take the rest of humanity along. This might have been less comical and more disturbing if one of those wackos possessed a nuclear bomb or doomsday machine of sorts.

Christ was really quite clear when he spoke about the end of the world, according to the Matthew Gospel:

"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
( -- Matthew 24:36-42)
This is one of those passages that the Star Trek fundamentalists (the beam-me-onboard-Captain-Jesus-crowd) interpret as "the rapture." And yet, this is where Christ speaks about crossing the threshold through the gate of death. One person is taken, another person is left behind. This happens every day. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Nobody knows when they're going to die.

Still, there is an even deeper, esoteric meaning to these words. Crossing the threshold of consciousness is something that happens at death for all of us, but it's also possible to cross this threshold through initiation during the course of physical life between birth and death, and what Christ seems to be really talking about here is the hour of initiation for each individual.

In the same chapter, Christ continues:

"But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."
( -- Matthew 24:43-44)

In the John Gospel especially, "The Father" is often an euphemism for death. In his biographical book, "Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life," (1928), Friedrich Rittelmeyer writes:

"What stands out in my memory is a conversation about the Gospel of St. John. I said something to the effect that the revelational character of this Gospel seemed to me to be strongly indicated by the fact that in the passages on death spoken by Christ before His Departure, the word 'Father' occurs where one would have expected the word 'Death'. Rudolf Steiner looked at me with interest. 'So you have discovered that? I had to travel a much longer occult path before I discovered it. Of course one sees it then from a rather different point of view. But it is certainly possible also to get at such truths purely by the path of religion.' "

( -- Reference:

In John's Apocalypse, Christ speaks of himself as a thief.

"Behold, I come as a thief." ( -- Rev 16:15)

This mystery of Christ as a thief is revealed in the Bob Dylan classic "All Along The Watchtower," where man's little ego is presented as the joker:

"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke,
"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

(This theme is beautifully explored by Michael A. Miller in "The Thief Who Kindly Spoke.")

There is something else involved here, which is of enormous moral significance:

"Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together."
( -- Luke 17:33-37)

That's a deep one: "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." Can't be repeated often enough. The fundies hate it, or they simply ignore it because they don't understand it.

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." ( -- Matthew 16:25)
To be willing to lose one's life, what's that? It means to abandon one's desire for salvation, immortality, and eternity, to sacrifice oneself completely for someone else. And this means that if some "Jesus" should say, Come on, we're going to Heaven," one would answer, "No, I ain't going. Not without those I love, and if they can't go, I'm going down the tubes or to hell or whatever, with them." Because what you're sacrificing for those you love, you're doing for the real Christ, not the fake one who appeals to your egotism and self-preservation instinct. "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it"

It's mindboggling how widespread all that superstitious, egotripping, irrational cockamamie balderdash is everywhere today where people babble about being Christian believers. What's masquerafing as the Gospel of Love is nothing but fear and loathing, hell to all the others, and I-don't-wanna-die. Self-proclaimed Christians are nothing but cowardly perverts.

Here is the rub: The idea of pre-existence is for the most part ignored by religious people -- well, except that those who believe in reincarnation are motivated by immature, vain curiosities with regard to previous incarnations, usually based upon the notion that they jump in and out of bodies without spending any time with higher beings in the spiritual world, where they might learn something, and certainly no thought is offered to the idea that descending into physical existence through conception and birth is something selfless, to become better human beings. But they're all extremely interested in the afterlife because they don't want to cease to exist, for egotistical reasons. So eternal life in heaven is viewed as a reward, either for good behavior or for believing in the correct doctrines. To hell with everybody else if need be, as long as I am "saved."

But "whosoever will save his life shall lose it," says the Christ, "and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." For Christ's sake means for the sake of one's fellow man, one's "neighbor." The man who forsakes his own salvation for the love of others, will find life, and those who cling to their egotism with regard to the afterlife, eternity, salvation or whatever, will lose life, die.

This is deep -- too deep for confessing Christians.