THE RETURN OF THE SERPENT
The Evil is Usury, neschek
neschek whose name is known, the defiler,…
Here is the core of evil, the burning hell without let-up,
The canker corrupting all things, Fafnir the worm,
Syphilis of the State, of all kingdoms,
Wart of the common-weal,…
Snake of the seven heads, Hydra, entering all things,
Passing the doors of temples, defiling the Grove of Paphos,
neschek, the crawling evil,
slime, the corrupter of all things,
Poisoner of the fount,
of all fountains, neschek,
The serpent, evil against Nature’s increase,
– Ezra Pound, Cantos
Hell on Earth
In his epic poem Paradise Lost, John Milton envisions a future time when a bridge will connect Hell with our World, uniting them in one Realm over which Satan will reign supreme. Upon the completion of this veritable “highway to Hell”, the poet portrays the triumphant Serpent being acclaimed by his infernal offspring in these words:
Thou hast achiev’d our liberty, confin’d
Within Hell Gates till now, thou us impow’r’d
To fortify thus far, and overlay
With this portentous Bridge the dark Abyss.
Thine now is all this World
… here thou shalt Monarch reign.
After the devil’s brood complete their bridge over the Abyss and arrive on Earth, they are greeted by the sight of a resplendent Satan soaring through the sky overhead:
… when behold
Satan in likeness of an Angel bright
Betwixt the Centaur and the Scorpion steering
His Zenith, while the Sun in Aries rose
Using the astronomical information from this passage, we can actually indentify the date of Satan’s accession as the Monarch of the World. The Centaur and the Scorpion are the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius, and between them lies the constellation Ophiuchus, the “Serpent Holder”. If the zenith of Satan’s dawn flight takes him through Ophiuchus, then that constellation must be at the Midheaven when the Sun is climbing over the horizon. Since Milton informs us that the Sun is rising in Aries, we can take that to mean that the Sun is at 0° Aries, which marks the spring equinox. So we must look for a date when the constellation Ophiuchus is culminating at the Midheaven at sunrise on the vernal equinox. In astronomical terms, this means that, by precession of the equinoxes, at least one of the stars in Ophiuchus has arrived at 0° Capricorn.
Of the stars which form the figure of the Serpent Holder, the first to reach 0° Capricorn was an unnamed star referred to by astronomers as τ (tau) Ophiuchi, which was at the Midheaven at sunrise on the spring equinox in the year 1944. We will have more to say about the significance of that date later. The first named star in Ophiuchus to approach the cusp of Capricorn bears the ominous title Sinistra and is known to astronomers as ν (nu) Ophiuchi. Sinistra will arrive at the Midheaven as the Sun rises on March 20, 2018, thus fulfilling Milton’s astral tableau. The Latin word sinistra literally means the “left hand”, which is quite odd considering that the star Sinistra actually marks the right hand of the Serpent Holder. Due to its name, this star has obvious “sinister” associations, and its astrological influences include immorality, depravity and death by poisoning. It is perhaps no coincidence that 2018 is also the year of another major cosmic event, as the Sun completes its two-decade transit across the plane of the galactic equator.
Elsewhere in the poem Paradise Lost, Milton suggests that Satan’s zenith flight through Ophiuchus will appear as a brilliant nova or comet in that constellation – an astral portent of “pestilence and war”. Later in the epic, when Satan assumes the form of the Serpent to seduce Eve, he appears to her not as a lowly snake crawling on its belly, but as a beautiful upright creature, with his head held high above magnificent spiraling coils:
So spake the Enemy of Mankind, enclos’d
In Serpent, Inmate bad, and toward Eve
Address’d his way, not with indented wave,
Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds, that tow’r’d
Fold above fold a surging Maze, his Head
Crested aloft, and Carbuncle his Eyes;
… pleasing was his shape
In the same passage, Milton likens this captivating Serpent to the “God in Epidaurus”, referring to the Greek god Asclepius, son of Apollo, whose principal temple was in the ancient Peloponnesian city of Epidaurus. According to the Roman poet Ovid, Asclepius voyaged from Greece to Rome in the form of an imposing upright serpent “like a celestial presence”, very much resembling the infernal Serpent of Paradise Lost. In his youth, Asclepius was mentored by the Centaur Chiron, who taught him the healing arts. According to the myth, Asclepius was summoned to Crete by King Minos, whose young son Glaucus had drowned in a vat of honey. While examining the body, Asclepius noticed a snake slithering toward him and killed it with his staff. To his amazement, another serpent soon came crawling toward the dead one and revived it with a magical herb it carried in its mouth. Asclepius took some of the herb and, placing it on the body on the dead boy, resurrected him.
Having discovered the secret of immortality, Asclepius became the most celebrated and sought-after healer of Greco-Roman mythology. From his insignia – a staff with a serpent entwined around it – originated the caduceus symbol of the medical profession. He went on to resurrect several more eminent persons, but when he revived the youthful charioteer Hippolytus, Asclepius fell afoul of Hades, the god of the dead, who demanded that he be stopped. Zeus obliged by striking the young healer down with a thunderbolt, but he appeased his father Apollo by making Asclepius a god and casting his image in the sky holding a serpent – the constellation Ophiuchus.
Serpents and Dragons
The mythical story behind the constellation Ophiuchus reveals an archetypal link between the Serpent and the idea of reincarnation and rebirth. In nature, a snake will each year shed its skin and be apparently “reborn” as new snake. For that reason, serpents were believed to possess a sort of chthonic immortality – much like that of Satan and his brood. The serpent’s ability to regenerate itself was also thought to be the source of its oracular powers – the ability to see into the future. In fact, the Greek word for serpent drakon – whence comes the English “dragon” – is derived from the Indo-European derk “to see”.
This last point reminds us that the archetype of the Serpent is also closely intertwined with that of its cousin, the Dragon. In German and Old English, the words for “serpent” and “dragon” are the same – worm and wyrm, respectively – and Norse/Saxon mythology describes its fantastic dragons as a particular type of serpent. These dragon-serpents of Norse lore are both intelligent and articulate – like the Serpent of Eden – with a fascinating gaze that enthralls their prey. They are also associated with a treasure hoard, which they typically guard in subterranean cave or cavern, as in the Old English epic Beowulf. In the medieval German epic poem Nibelungenlied, the treasure-hoarding dragon Fafnir appears as a lindworm – a kind of wingless bipedal serpent that lives inside a linden tree and has a particular affinity for gold. The lindworm was also a symbol of war and pestilence, as was Milton’s satanic comet in Ophiuchus.
In Richard Wagner’s grand operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, which is based on the Nibelungenlied and inspired J. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the giant Fafner slays his brother Fasolt to get sole possession of a golden hoard, and he is transformed by greed into a dragon guarding the treasure in a cave. Fafner’s treasure was amassed by the power of a magical Ring of gold that was stolen from the Rhine River by the evil gnome Alberich. Alberich renounces Love to arrogate to himself alone the fecund potency of the Rhinegold, which had hitherto been the common patrimony of mankind and the foundation of the ancient gods of Valhalla. With the removal of the sacred gold from the free circulation of the Rhine and its transformation into a hoarded treasure, the World falls under a curse which ultimately destroys the Tree of Life Yggdrasil and brings about the downfall of the gods.
Further insight into the nature of the avaricious Dragon-Serpent can be found in Dante’s Inferno. As Dante and Virgil prepare to descend the terrible precipice that will take them into the lowest depths of Hell, they encounter a malignant beast named Geryon, having the face of an honest man and the body of a serpent with a deadly venomous sting. The benign face of Geryon reminds us of the alluring charm of the Serpent of Eden – the future Monarch of this World, according to Milton’s vision. But lurking behind the façade of righteousness is the vile body of treachery and fraud:
“Behold the beast with the pointed tail,
that passes mountains and breaks walls and weapons!
Behold him that infects all the world!”
… And that foul image of fraud came onward…
Dante and Virgil climb onto the back of Geryon in order to plunge into the deepest reaches of the infernal Pit. The serpentine beast is an emblem of the wretched souls who inhabit the brink of that awful precipice – those who in life practiced usury. As Virgil explains to Dante, usury is here punished as one of the most pernicious of all sins, in the same class as homicide, an offense against both God and Nature.
Pulling all of this mythological background together, we begin to realize that the hellish serpentine regime that Milton foresaw is close upon us, and that the millstone that is rapidly dragging our World down into the Pit has a lot to do with debt. More particularly, the source of our society’s expanding misery appears to emanate from the same type of Dragon’s hoard that brought down Valhalla – the excessive concentration of wealth brought about by the ever more dominant role of usury in our lives.
The Sting of Usury
Now, it bears noting that the word “usury” had a different meaning in Dante’s time than it has today. Nowadays, the common understanding of “usury” is the practice of charging excessive interest on loans, usually in violation of legal limits. This is an example of the ongoing corruption of language in our times in the interest of legitimizing the existing order of inequity. But the original meaning of “usury” was the exacting of any interest on a loan. How that kind of usury could, not so long ago, have been considered among the blackest of transgressions is a good indicator of how much our World has changed in the last few centuries – and not for the better! We “free people” of the 21st Century are the virtual slaves of Geryon, compelled to incur debt constantly, even to put a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and clothes on our backs… and all the while not even suspecting that something is terribly wrong here – until, perhaps, at last we join the growing legions of the homeless, hungry and humiliated.
The nigh universal acceptance of usury as the “norm” is even more incredible when one considers that the most important ethical teachers of human history – Moses, Aristotle, Jesus, Mohammed, Aquinas – are unanimous in denouncing usury. Of all the vile sins that Christ witnessed during his sojourn here on Earth, the only one that drove him into a violent fury was the usury of the moneychangers in the Temple. The fact that almost all of us today are totally clueless as to what could possibly be bad about charging interest on loans is an example of the most extreme form of mass amnesia – a testament to a system of thought control so effective that it surpasses the Orwellian as much as the year 2012 surpasses the year 1984.
So, among the few of us who actually read the kind of stuff I’m now writing, let’s try to undo some of that amnesia. If we look back into history, it teaches us that the end result of usury is to concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Money increasingly ceases to be the means by which I exchange the fruits of my labor for the fruits of yours, and instead it becomes the Dragon’s hoard of a coterie of bankers and financiers. Those not fortunate enough to be members of this parasitic oligarchy must access the money hoard by “renting” it from those in control of the cash spigots. And the price of that “rent” is interest, and interest compounded upon interest ad infinitum – or at least until the whole house of cards collapses, as it does from time to time.
When the widespread practice of usury first took hold in ancient Greece, the class of small independent farmers who had formed the backbone of Greek democracy vanished, their lands swallowed up by the oligarchs. The growing burden of debt reduced the farmers to peons and ultimately to slaves, until Solon’s reforms in the 6th Century BC finally reined in the usurers. Drawing upon this experience, the Greek philosopher Aristotle discerned that usury is an inherently unsustainable system which plunders mankind’s collective wealth and engenders an intolerable hierarchal accumulation of wealth and power at the top. Aristotle understood that money is a type of measurement, a unit of value, just as a meter is a unit of distance and a pound is a unit of weight. In order for humans to live together as a community, such common units must be adopted, either by convention or by law, so that they can function as a sort of social “glue”. But Aristotle also appreciated, as we moderns apparently do not, the imperative to distinguish between things that exist only “in law” and things that exist in fact.
We citizens of the 21st Century are now seeing what can happen, for example, when the law creates an artificial “person”, aka a “corporation”, and then accords that “person” all of the rights and prerogatives of a natural person. Result? The priorities of society quickly shift toward the interests of the corporation, to the detriment of the people; the artificial “person” comes to dominate the natural person. And we fall into the same trap when we begin to treat money, which is an artificial measure of value, as if it were value itself. In reality, we can no more buy, sell and rent money than we can buy, sell and rent liters or miles. But if we insist on doing so nonetheless, then the unfortunate consequences are very much like what ensues when we endow a corporate entity with “personhood”: society’s priorities increasing tilt toward the speculative interests of the money manipulators and away from the production of actual wealth. The nominal value of money comes to dominate the real value of goods and services.
And so, both the rise of corporatism and the growth of usury cause the social “glue” to become unstuck, so that true “community” based on shared interests virtually ceases to exist. The free association of individuals is replaced by the compulsion of a corporate-dominated State, which increasingly becomes nothing more than an instrument of indoctrination and repression. Indeed, the very State whose laws created the corporate creditors increasingly surrenders the people’s sovereignty to those very same private interests. In America, the usurers long ago usurped the essential core of national sovereignty – the power to issue currency – and the last two Presidents with the temerity to try to wrest that authority back both wound up with bullets in their heads.
Getting back to Aristotle, he also recognized that money, being an artificial creature of the law, is “sterile”, which is to say, it can neither produce any other thing nor reproduce itself. A cow can beget calves, a lathe can fashion furniture, a blast furnace can make steel, so that there is a natural increase associated with real productive assets. But the same is not true of money, as Shakespeare’s Venetian merchant reminds the moneylender Shylock:
Antonio. … Was this inserted to make interest good?
Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?
Shylock. I cannot tell. I make it breed as fast.
The same theme is echoed in Aristotle’s Politics, where he writes:
Money is intended to be used in exchange and not to increase at interest… this term “tokos” [interest] means the birth of money from money… Wherefore, of all modes of getting wealth, this is the most unnatural.
But, alas, the lessons of Greek history which informed the views of Aristotle were soon forgotten by the Romans, whose patrician class increasingly turned from agriculture to usury as a source of wealth. As had happened in Greece, the independent farmers of Italy eventually fell into debt servitude, and their lands were absorbed into the great latifundia worked with slave labor. Following a pattern that has been repeated over and over in history, the Roman Republic eroded along with its middle class, ushering in the autocracy of the Caesars. Augustus, the greatest of the Caesars, was sired by two generations of moneylenders. Once having allowed usury to decimate its productive economy, Rome devolved into a parasitic Empire, dependent on imports to feed and clothe its population and on foreigners to fight its wars and do its manual labor. My readers doubtless recognize the parallels with modern America.
During the Middle Ages, the wisdom of Aristotle was revived by the Scholastics, who observed that usury not only undermines the function of money as a means of exchange, but also seeks an increase which has no finite limits. This contrasts sharply with increases from real productive assets, which have natural limits. The propagation of cattle is limited by available fodder and pasturage, and the output of a blast furnace is limited by the availability of iron ore and coal, as well as by the market for steel. Eventually a cow will become too old to breed, and the blast furnace will begin to crumble. But the multiplication of money by interest requires nothing but money itself, which never “dies” or becomes too old to “breed”.
Interest makes money “self-augmenting” – a recursive incremental loop without end. We can perhaps better understand this by considering the analogy of amplifying an electrical signal. If we feed the amplified signal from the output side – let’s say a loudspeaker – back into the input side – let’s say a microphone – we soon hear a piercing squeal as the amplification explodes beyond the acoustic range of our equipment. Compound interest works precisely the same way: interest is paid on the principal, then on the principal plus interest on the principal, then on the principal plus interest on the principal-plus-interest, and so on. There is the famous example devised by American lawyer John Whipple in 1836, which goes like this: If 5 English pennies had earned 5% compound interest from the year 1 AD to the present (Whipple’s, that is), it would amount to 32,366,648,157 spheres of gold, each as large as the Earth.
This helps explain why the practice of usury was once considered so heinous – and why it should still be shunned today. Not only does the credit system prey on society’s most vulnerable elements – those who are poor, in ill health, or victims of misfortune – but it engenders a unsustainable “bubble economy” which ultimately collapses, producing mass misery, loss of livelihoods, lands and homes, famine, want... and ultimately war. In a very true sense, the 180 million deaths from war and genocide during the 20th Century can be laid at the doorstep of usury.
As the prophet Ezekiel recognized, the crime of usury lies at the source of every abomination that man commits against his fellow man. According to the prophet, murder, theft, rape and rapine are all subsumed in the abomination of usury:
Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
The Jewish Midrashim teach us that the Scripture regards all who take interest as if they had committed all the evil deeds in the World. For that reason, the usurer will not take part in the great Resurrection at the end of Time, and he has forfeited his right to inherit the New Jerusalem.
Come and see: Anyone who lends on interest transgresses every prohibition in the Torah and finds none to plead in his favor. For when a man transgresses any of the prohibitions and then stands before the Holy One, blessed be He, in judgment, some of the angels plead on his behalf and others accuse him…; but when one lends to an Israelite on interest, then not one of the angels pleads in his favor…
To much the same effect, an anonymous prophet of our own times has written:
There is no greater crime than a crime against humanity. There is no greater crime against humanity than usury. The greatest violence, and the greatest threat to humanity is the growth of money.
You are judged many times more by what you do in groups than for what you do as individuals. If one thousand of you participate in the murder of one child, then one thousand of you are a thousand times guilty. You are judged many times more by what you give assent to others doing than what you do yourself.
If I am a tailor and sew a coat, I will sell the coat for X dollars, and the value of the coat will be balanced by the value of the money paid for it, so that the money and goods will freely circulate, and I can continue to make and sell more coats. But if I am a banker, what do I have to sell? I sell money itself, and I get paid in interest. But where does the interest come from? I have added no goods to the stream of commerce, my labor produces nothing that anyone can use or consume. So when I extract my interest from the borrower, I create an imbalance between the money in circulation and the value of goods offered for sale. The only way to restore that balance is to lend out the interest again. But that’s only a temporary fix, because when the interest-on-interest comes due, there’s an even bigger imbalance created. So the usurers must ceaselessly drag in new borrowers or push more credit on existing debtors to keep the system going. It operates exactly like a Ponzi scheme, with the payout at the top of the pyramid always depending on the influx of new suckers at the bottom.
But eventually, the burden on the debtors at the bottom of the pyramid reaches the trigger point of pervasive default. The flow of credit then gets abruptly cut off; there is not enough real money in the system to pay for the goods in circulation, and production itself comes screeching to a halt – the syndrome of periodic business crisis known variously as “depression” or “recession”. Mass anxiety, misery and want soon follow, not because society lacks the means to produce enough to satisfy human needs, but because society cannot keep pace with the insatiable appetite of the Dragon of Usury. The only solution after all social wealth has been sucked into the Dragon’s hoard is to take a wrecking ball to what’s been produced thus far and start the Ponzi scheme all over again. That wrecking ball is called war – a regularly recurring event in the boom-bust cycle of usury. And as the usurers achieve complete dominance of the World economy, as is happening now in our times, the ever-shorter intervals of peace disappear, and war becomes an unending state of affairs.
Usury converts social wealth into private wealth. It promotes the idea that all wealth should be in private hands, and that “social wealth” is per se illegitimate – an imposition of the weak and idle upon the strong and productive. But let us consider for a moment the real origins of our society’s wealth. Its principal sources are not individuals, as the Ayn Rand devotees would have us believe. The productive capacity of any individual, no matter how talented, pales in comparison to that of a community of individuals. To whom does the surplus generated by our communal cooperation belong, if not to all of us? An individual has no continuity: he lives his life and dies. Unless that individual belongs to a community, his knowledge and skills die with him. Therefore, who is entitled to the benefits associated with the accumulated knowledge of our civilization, if not all of us? There is a social surplus that far exceeds the productive contributions of any individual or group of individuals, and no one man has any greater claim to it than any other. It belongs to the community as a whole, and to “privatize” it is to plunder our collective patrimony for the benefit of the very few.
The Midrashim show us the linkage between this plunder of our collective patrimony and the Serpent who caused our Exile from the Garden of Eden. The Hebrew word for “interest” is neschek, derived from the root verb naschak, which means to “sting” or “bite”, as a serpent does.
Neschek, ‘interest’, is literally ‘biting’. The serpent's enticement of Adam to disobey God, whereby he and his descendants were uprooted from their home in the Garden of Eden, is figuratively designated biting. Similarly, the creditor, by exacting interest, eventually seizes the debtor's lands, thus driving him out of his home.
We began this discussion with Milton’s vision of a Hell on Earth, brought to us courtesy of a resurgent Serpent from the pages of Genesis. We now see that the Serpent’s “sting”, so aptly portrayed by Dante, is actually neschek – interest on debt – that unsustainable burden beneath which our society is now groaning, and beneath which it is perhaps fated to collapse in the year of the ascendancy of the constellation Ophiuchus, 2018.
The Impending Collapse
The ancient Jews likened the consequences of usury to neschek, the bite of a serpent. The snake is not alarming or threatening in its approach, but subtle and unnoticed. Its bite initially is but a minor discomfort, and the victim obliviously carries on while the deadly venom spreads through his body. Just as neschek slowly but inevitably poisons the body of an individual, so does usury subtly but surely poison mankind’s social body, so that society’s productive capacities become instruments of impoverishment, injustice, oppression, violence and war. The very processes meant to expand and sustain life are perverted to promote death. Culture ceases to be an avenue of self-expression and fulfillment, and becomes instead a channel of indoctrination and conformity, a media-driven juggernaut, beneath which the human spirit is crushed as never before in history.
Usury means that the mere fact that I have money entitles me to have more money. Money is meant to be a measure of value, but in the practice of usury, money is created out of nothing. The usurer produces nothing of value, and his money, being lifeless, lacks the inherent capacity to augment or reproduce itself. Then where does the money come from to pay the interest on debt? Since it cannot come from new value, it must come again from nothing, which is to say, from new debt. So usury is essentially a type of Ponzi scheme. As soon as the flow of credit stops, the debtors must inevitably default en masse, because no real value has been created upon which to support their interest payments.
This explains why every economic system based on usury has experienced periodic financial crises, in which the fonts of credit suddenly seize up, debtors default, banks fail, and money becomes suddenly scarce. Society’s productive resources lie idle while human needs go unmet. This recurring crisis syndrome is inevitable because the economy’s ability to absorb new debt is not infinite, and when the limit is reached, the flow of credit must cease, bringing the Ponzi scheme to an abrupt halt.
In the world of classical economics, upon which Karl Marx based his theories, these recurring and worsening cycles of financial crises would ultimately lead to the undoing of the usury-based systems. But, beginning in the 20th Century, a new phase of usury developed, known as “leveraging”. The financial elite learned that the creation of illusory money had applications beyond merely extracting wealth from debtors. It could also be used to buy productive assets and suck the wealth out of them, too. Thus was born the age of the “leveraged buyout”.
How this works is something I can explain from firsthand experience during my brief career as a corporate attorney is the 1980s. The group of corporate “raiders” I worked for used credit “leverage” to buy out a Fortune 500 chemical company. The idea was to make the company appear to be more profitable, in the short term at least, thereby boosting the stock price long enough for the raiders to cash in their stock options and move on to the next corporate target, leaving the hollowed out carcass of the raided company behind them.
Before the usurers took over, the chemical company had been run in a traditional way, with the aims of satisfying customers, offering good value, expanding production and market share. All of these priorities were reversed by the raiders. Managers who understood production were let go and replaced by accountants. The company’s funds held in reserve for maintenance and upgrade of its chemical plants were re-designated as “profits” in order to juice up reported earnings. After a few years of this, many plants had to be shut down and their employees laid off. But even the plant closings were converted to book “profits” by the bean-counters’ manipulating the depreciation accounts. As for the company’s customers, the operative rule was to give them “less for more”, always pushing for price increases, even if that meant losing market share.
At the same time, the so-called “Reagan Revolution” had turned the Federal government into an active accomplice of the corporate raiders. Monetary policy was used to drive up interest rates rapidly and give a sudden boost to the value of the US dollar. These monetary policies left America’s manufacturing industries unable to compete with cheaper foreign goods and made them easy targets for the raiders. The Reagan administration also partnered with the usurers in a nationwide union-busting campaign, so that an ever increasing share of corporate earnings could be diverted from productive workers to parasitic financiers.
While most of America’s manufacturing base was being hollowed out and/or bought up by foreigners, the one sector that was expanding was the so-called “defense” industries. As the usurers progressively destroyed America’s ability to dominate the world economically, it became all the more imperative for her to dominate militarily. In place of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”, the US would increasingly rely on the “visible fist” of military might. But the shift toward military production came at a time when the actual “threats” to US hegemony were disappearing, especially with the rapid decline and fall of the Soviet empire in the late 80s and early 90s.
To ensure ever expanding markets for its military hardware, America needed to embark upon a policy of unending warfare and had to create a bogeyman to replace the now-defunct Red Menace. When a nation desperately wants to start a war, one way to justify it is to launch a “false flag” attack on itself, making it appear to be the work of a foreign enemy. America’s own history offers several precedents of such “false flag” operations, from the sinking of the battleship Maine on the eve of the Spanish-American War, to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents at the outset of the Vietnam War. In 1962, the CIA formulated a plan called “Operation Northwoods”, in which a series of terrorist attacks were to be carried out within the US to justify an invasion of Cuba. President Kennedy at the time refused to authorize this false flag operation. A year later he was dead. This was a lesson apparently not lost on George W. Bush, who did not dare to oppose the false flag operation that unfolded on September 11, 2001.
And so we see that the slow-acting venom of usury inexorably transforms the government itself from a protector and guardian of the weak and vulnerable to the ally and promoter of a tiny predatory elite. This systemic social poison also diverts the economic sectors from production responsive to human needs to pure unbridled plunder.
In his Inferno, Dante symbolically represents the development of usury as beginning with near-fraud and ultimately descending into outright fraud. And this is the ugly face of usury that is now emerging in the 21st Century. Usury begins by demanding value in transactions where nothing of value is given. It then proceeds, by usurious “leverage”, to cannibalize productive businesses so that they too become parasitic and predatory, seeking commercial advantage not by fair trade, but by bilking their customers and cheating their employees. Under the domination of usurers, the goal of business is no longer to provide something of value, but to minimize the value furnished to customers, and, if possible, eliminate it entirely.
No better example of this can be found than in the modus operandi of the so-called health care industry in the US. The operative principle of this business is something called “capitation”, which means that profits are based on providing less health care to their customers while charging higher premiums to do it. The same principle is at work in American higher education, where obscenely high fees are extracted even as academic rigor is cast aside.
Like all parasites, however, usurers must ultimately fall victim to their own success. Once having cannibalized a society’s productive base and left it mired in debt, what can be left to feed the Ponzi machine? As we approach closer to the end of Age of Usury, there is truly only one thing left to “sell”, and that is debt itself. And this is where, just as Dante foresaw, the usurers must come out from the shadows of quasi-fraud into the open daylight of outright fraud. Worthless “subprime” debt is bundled into “derivatives”, for which the rating agencies are suborned to issue “AAA” imprimaturs. Not content with peddling worthless debt instruments, the usurers then go out and purchase insurance policies – called “credit default swaps” – betting that these same debts will default. This is no different than selling someone a car and then wagering that the car will fall apart.
At this juncture, the degree of iniquity engendered by usury becomes almost surreal. When the inevitable mass default of the “subprime” lenders occurs, driving the insurers on the “credit default swaps” into insolvency, as happened to AIG in 2008, the usurers are actually able to call upon their lackeys in the “government” to use taxpayer money to assure that they receive the full payoff on their bets – 100 cents on the dollar, no less! Not only does the swindler escape jail, but the “government” underwrites the full payoff on his illegal wagers.
In the final death throes of usury, then, the usurers raid the public treasury and drag the government itself into the abyss of insolvency in order to keep their Ponzi scheme running. Over the past several decades, this scenario has repeated itself in dozens of other countries, with the same basic outcome. The cabal of “creditors” – the same usurers who raided the public treasury and drove it into insolvency to bail out their bad loans – demand “austerity measures”, a euphemism for expropriating the pension and health insurance funds paid into by working people and dismantling all regulations which in any way restrain the plunder of the predatory elite.
In the special case of America, however, this scenario becomes even uglier. When the vultures attack a foreign currency, as they did the Mexican Peso in the 90s, they collapse the economy of a single country. But the US dollar serves as the “reserve currency” of the entire World, so when it collapses it’s truly a case of “all fall down”. At the same time as the World races toward that economic Armageddon, it simultaneously races toward the precipice of an unprecedented environmental catastrophe, brought on by half a century of government abdication of its protective function as it fell captive to the short-term interests of a tiny elite.
The ultimate consequence of an economy which tolerates usury is an economy dominated by usury and an economy that must ultimately collapse under the weight of debt. When economies collapse, history teaches us that the civilizations those economies support inevitably collapse as well. Now we are talking about not just a local or regional civilization, but a World civilization imploding. And at the same time global climate has been pushed by inaction and indifference into a chaotic mode featuring increasingly violent extremes of temperature, winds and precipitation. We have no precedent for this in recorded human history, and perhaps there is a reason for that. Because, if it has happened before, it likely brought an end to whatever previous cycle or cycles of civilization that had existed on this planet before our own.
The reign of usury has corrupted everything, bringing with it every conceivably abomination, as the ancient Jews knew it would. It has even corrupted science, suborning certain “scientists” to “dispute” such fundamental truths as human-caused climate change and biological evolution. The ultimate irony may be that their reign of folly produces a deadly convergence of the very truths they would deny – an evolutionary “bottle-neck” of mass extinction that may soon threaten the survival of the human species. If our prophetic sources are correct, in the midst of the impending chaos, as humanity’s survival hangs in the balance, a false savior will come forward – one who will deceive the whole World, but one whom we may still recognize by his distinguishing mark: the Sign of the Serpent. Let us return now to Milton’s theme of Serpent’s triumphant return, to be heralded by the ascendancy of the Serpent Holder constellation Ophiuchus in 2018.
The 13th Sign
Earlier we mentioned that an unnamed star in the right hand of the Serpent Holder actually arrived at the Midheaven at dawn on the spring equinox of 1944. That was the year when the Portuguese nun Sister Lucia dos Santos recorded a prophetic warning that had been entrusted to her by an apparition of the Blessed Virgin 27 years earlier – the Third Secret of Fatima. While the actual words of Our Lady of Fatima still remain concealed by the Vatican, Sister Lucy herself, before her death in 2005, revealed that the Third Secret deals with the same subject matter as the chapters of Revelation that describe the Time of Tribulation.
The biblical scenario of the Tribulation initially proceeds through the opening of the Seven Seals. A good idea of how far into the Tribulation we are today can be gleaned from the following verses:
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny…
At the time St. John wrote these words, a penny or denarius was a full day’s wage for a laborer. A measure of wheat, equivalent to about a quart, was only enough to provide one meal of bread. During John’s lifetime, a denarius could buy about 20 measures of wheat. So what is being prophesized here is an extreme inflation in the price of basic commodities. Isn’t this exactly what we are seeing in our own times? As the prices of food and basic necessities skyrocket, the poor of the World, whose incomes are spent almost entirely on the bare essentials of life, are being driven over the edge. This is in fact the spark which has ignited the wave of revolution that began in the Middle East in the spring of 2011 and has since been spreading like wildfire through the rest of the World.
And the cause of this explosion of commodities prices? Our old nemesis, the Dragon of Usury. Commodities are the latest “bubble” in the revolving Ponzi economy that unbridled usury dictates. Speculators like Goldman Sachs are pouring their interest-generated money into wheat futures to drive the prices up, just as they previously did with real estate during the “housing bubble”. The result is something the United Nations has described as “a silent mass murder”, as 250 million people now face starvation.
So we are already quite far along on the road to Hell on Earth. What still lies ahead of us, according to the Third Secret of Fatima, is the scenario described in the 12th and 13th chapters of Revelation, in which Satan returns to the Earth in the guise of a Red Dragon and attains complete dominion over the Nations of the World as the False Messiah – the Antichrist.
And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth…
Again, we should remind ourselves that, in the Greek language of St. John, a “dragon” drakon is a particular type of serpent, so that we could just as well refer to Satan’s avatar as the “Red Serpent”. And in fact, in subsequent verses of Revelation 12, John repeatedly describes the Red Dragon as a “serpent”.
The Red Dragon was a symbol of the Imperial Roman Legions, who often carried it as a battle standard in the form of a wind-sock. A more explicit linkage of the Red Dragon with the Roman Empire appears in Revelation 17, which discloses that the seven heads of the Dragon represent the seven hills of Rome, and the seven crowns stand for seven Caesars of the Julian dynasty:
And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
Based on this verse, St. John’s vision apparently occurred under the reign of Nero (54-68 AD), who was the sixth and last ruler of this dynasty. With Nero, the line of the true Caesars – descendants of Julius’ nephew Augustus – became extinct. Yet here John is describing a seventh ruler in this line, one who “is not yet come”. This seventh Caesar of the future is apparently a resurrection or reincarnation of one of the others, as is suggested in Revelation 13:
And I saw one of the heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed…
Since Nero died from a self-inflicted wound to the neck, he seems to fit the bill. And then, of course, there is the infamous number 666, which encodes the name “Nero Caesar” in Hebrew gematria. In depicting the Beast as Nero redivivus, St. John was drawing upon a popular legend that had arisen soon after the death of Nero. According to this legend, a reborn Nero would return at the “end of Time” to lead a huge army from the Middle East against Rome. In fact, as reported by Roman historians, several imposters appeared in the years following Nero’s death claiming to be the fallen Emperor. As we shall learn in the next chapter of this book, the roots of the Nero redivivus legend go even further back to a much earlier era at the dawn of Roman history, shortly after the fall of the ancient city of Troy. In subsequent chapters, we will also uncover the many aspects of the life of Emperor Nero that relate to the archetype of the Serpent, thereby making the Serpent Holder Ophiuchus a fitting herald of his rebirth in our time.
If we are to appreciate the role of Ophiuchus in the end-Time scenario of Nero redivivus, we must consider some of the esoteric lore surrounding this most mysterious of constellations. Perhaps the most puzzling enigma involving the Serpent Holder is its exclusion from the Zodiac. If we go back to the myths of ancient Babylon, where the Zodiac originated, we find that the constellation Ophiuchus was seen as representing Tiamat, a dragon-like sea serpent which represented the Chaos that prevailed before the World was created. Since the mythical struggle between Tiamat and the Babylonian sun god Marduk is an early prototype of the Judaeo-Christian saga of the Fallen Angels, there is an archetypal kinship between Tiamat and the Serpent of Eden. Hence, the expulsion of Ophiuchus/Tiamat from the Zodiac parallels the expulsion of Lucifer from Heaven. It may also relate to the transition in ancient Babylon from a calendar based on 13 lunar months of 28 days each to a 12-month solar calendar.
Be that as it may, the Sun in its annual progress along the Ecliptic actually spends about three times as many days passing through Ophiuchus (November 29 to December 18) as it does in traversing Scorpio (November 23 to November 29), which has led some astrologers to suggest that the Serpent Holder be restored to the Zodiac as the 13th Sign. Interestingly enough, in their 1967 manifesto Le Serpent Rouge (“The Red Serpent” – a clear reference to the Red Dragon of Revelation 12) the Priory of Sion also recognizes Ophiuchus as one of the Signs of the Zodiac. The Priory traces its roots to the Knights Templar, the usurers sans pareil of medieval France, to whom we owe many of the modern methods of banking and money-lending. Readers of my first book may recall that the Priory promotes the idea of an elite “royal bloodline” – the Sang Real – based on lineal descent from King David and Jesus Christ. As I also discussed in that book, the Sang Real has also been associated with the allegedly “Trojan” lineage of the first six Roman Caesars – another theme that we will pursue further in ensuing chapters.
Moreover, the insertion of Ophiuchus as the 13th Zodiac sign between Scorpio and Sagittarius seems to inform the composite beast Geryon, which Dante created as the symbol of usury in his Inferno.
His face was the face of a just man,…
and all his trunk was that of a serpent;…
… his tail… had the point armed like a scorpion’s
Justice is the primary attribute of Sagittarius, who is the “just man” of the Zodiac, while the scorpion’s sting is an obvious feature of Scorpio. And sandwiched between the face of the Centaur and the tail of the Scorpion, we have the trunk of the resurgent Serpent, returning to the Zodiac after its long exile. In this context, it’s worth recollecting that the Sign opposite to Scorpio/Ophiuchus in the Zodiac is Taurus the Bull – cattle being the oldest of all forms of money. Accordingly, in Greek mythology Geryon was the owner of a magnificent herd of red cattle, which Hercules was tasked with stealing in his Tenth Labor. The mythical Geryon had three bodies joined at the waist, similar to the tripartite beast of Dante’s imagining. Most significant, perhaps, is the fact that Geryon ruled a distant western island located beyond the Pillars of Hercules – a location to which Hercules had to sail in golden goblet shaped like a water-lily. These details seem to resonate with the lore of Atlantis and the legend of the Holy Grail – the Sangraal, which is the heraldic emblem of the Sang Real royal bloodline. With a nod toward the Priory of Sion, we also note that the lily was the heraldic emblem of France’s ancient Merovingian dynasty, in whose veins this royal blood supposedly ran.
As for the antediluvian overtones of the Geryon story, they should remind us of the many indications, both in fact and legend, suggesting that there have been cycles of human civilizations antedating our own. As to these prior civilizations, mankind is in a condition of post-traumatic amnesia, perhaps best described in the works of Immanuel Velikovsky. One of the likely vestigial memories of antediluvian culture is the stigma attached to the practice of usury. While this stigma was quite strong and the attendant prohibitions strictly enforced in the ancient world, the underlying rationale has gradually been forgotten, until today the very meaning of the word has been obscured. As the poet Ezra Pound observed in his Cantos:
All other sins are open,
Usura alone not understood.
The theft of Geryon’s cattle by Hercules (whose connections to Moloch and the Antichrist I have explained elsewhere) serves as a paradigm of the seizure of mankind’s collective patrimony by a ruthless cabal of financial cutthroats. In a later chapter, we’ll continue with the tale of the Tenth Labor to learn about the places where Hercules drove the stolen herd and the intriguing role those places were to play in the life of Emperor Nero. Not coincidentally, many of those same locales show up in Ovid’s tale, which we alluded to earlier, of the migration from Greece to Rome of Asclepius, whom the Serpent Bearer constellation represents.
The Cult of Transmigration
Ovid’s 15-book narrative poem Metamorphoses was composed shortly after the birth of Christ, during the reign of Augustus Caesar. In it he masterfully weaves together a series of mythical stories so as to reveal their archetypal links. Perhaps the most insightful of these are reserved for the last two books, in which the poet intertwines traditional lore surrounding the founding of Rome by Trojan exiles with reputed teachings of Pythagoras concerning reincarnation and the fables of Hippolytus and Asclepius. The latter is the penultimate tale of the poem, followed only by the account of Julius Caesar’s deification and the prospective deification of his successor Augustus. Taken as a whole, this last segment of Ovid’s narrative appears to suggest a supernatural nexus between the Julian dynasty of Roman Emperors, with their pretensions of royal Trojan lineage, and the themes of transmigration and resurrection. In drawing these prescient connections, the poet was likely to have known something of the ancient oracles concerning the last Emperor of the Julian line and his rebirth.
The final book of the Metamorphoses begins with an account of how Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, travelled to the southern Italian city of Croton, where he studied the doctrines of Pythagoras:
Our souls are deathless; always, when they leave our bodies, they find new dwelling places… All things are always changing, but nothing dies. The spirit comes and goes, is housed wherever it will, shifts residence, from beasts to men, from men to beasts, but always it keeps on living. As the pliant wax is stamped with new designs, and is no longer what once it was, but changes form, and still is pliant wax, so do I teach that spirit is evermore the same, though passing always to ever-changing bodies.
According to the story, Numa also heard Pythagoras’ prediction that Rome would someday conquer the World under the leadership of rulers descended from the Trojan prince Aeneas.
Ovid’s tale continues with Numa’s return to Rome from Croton and his subsequent death, leaving his widow Egeria to mourn him in the Temple of Diana Nemorensis, located deep in the wooded valley of Aricia. In the sacred oak grove surrounding Diana’s Temple, her priesthood preserved the archaic ritual of the rex nemorensis, in which a runaway slave could become “king” by breaking off an oak branch – the “Golden Bough” – and challenging the reigning “king” to mortal combat. As explained by James Frazer and Robert Graves, this ritual was a vestige of a primeval matriarchal era when sacred kings, consorts of Diana’s priestess, actually did undergo periodic mortal combat in which they were slain by a youthful challenger, who would then succeed them as king and the priestess’ consort. Part of the ritual involved enabling the dead king, in serpent form, to pass through a labyrinthine afterworld to be born again as a future king. As the patriarchal era took hold, the sacred kings extended their rule by preemptively sacrificing their would-be successors and themselves enacting a mock death and rebirth. Under the patriarchal regime, moreover, the priestess was no longer allowed the freedom to chose her own consort and thereby create a potential challenger to the king’s extended reign.
Continuing with Ovid’s story, Egeria encounters in the Arician grove young Hippolytus, who died in a chariot crash after being banished from Athens by the king, his father Theseus, whose young wife Phaedra had tried to seduce him. This corresponds to the patriarchal pattern we have just described, with Phaedra in the role of the priestess and Hippolytus as the youthful would-be successor to Theseus. It also sheds light on the mythical escape of Theseus from the Cretan Labyrinth as an enactment of the mock death and rebirth of the king that accompanied the sacrifice of his young substitute. Recalling our earlier discussion, Hippolytus himself was revived, thanks to the skill of Asclepius, and he became known as Virbius, the “Twice-Born Man”.
All of this sets the stage for Ovid’s telling of the voyage of Asclepius, the god of healing and rebirth, to Rome from his temple in Epidaurus, Greece. He travels in the form of an upright Serpent to stem a deadly plague that had broken out in Rome. His voyage takes him past Juno’s temple near Croton, where Numa had studied Pythagoras’ transmigration creed, and northward along Italian coast past the Bay of Naples, by the temple of the Cumaean Sibyl, the hot springs of Baiae, and Circe’s island, to disembark at Antium, the future birthplace of the Emperor Nero, where a shrine was erected in the god’s honor. After sailing up the Tiber and entering Rome, Asclepius chooses as “his proper habitation” the small island in the River known as Isola Tiberina, the Tiber Island, which became the site of his temple.
During a recent trip to Italy, I visited the Tiber Island in Rome and saw what remains of the Temple of Asclepius there. On the surviving marble blocks from the base of the ancient temple, one can still make out a portion of the face and shoulders of the god, holding aloft his insignia – the serpentine staff. One of the photos that I took there appears below as Figure 1.
What immediately struck me as I gazed upon this artifact was how much the staff of Asclepius resembles $, the US dollar sign! At the time, I was inclined to dismiss this as a mere coincidence, but, upon researching it further when I returned from my trip, I discovered that the dollar symbol $ is indeed derived from the serpentine insignia pictured above. Apparently, there was a German silver coin called a Thaler, which circulated widely in Europe and America during Colonial times. In Britain and its colonies, the name of this coin was pronounced “Dollar”, and it bore an inscription of a serpent entwined around a staff, very much like the staff of Asclepius. When the fledgling US issued its own currency, it adopted the familiar name and insignia of the German coin. How ironic it is, then, that the legacy of Usury, which is so engrained in the $ emblem, has emerged in our times to take control over the US currency and pillage America’s vast collective wealth! Quite unexpectedly, we have stumbled across the symbolic root of what we may truly call “USury”.
After coming upon this serendipitous connection, my curiosity was piqued about the odd history of the tiny Tiber Island, so I looked into it a bit further, and it led me to the story of Simon Magus. For my first book, I had done quite a bit of research about the sorcerer Simon Magus and his considerable influence among the Jews and Christians of First Century Rome. Simon Magus – or Simon Magnus, “the Great”, as he was once known – started out as a magician in a city in Samaria called Sebaste, so named in honor of Emperor Augustus, whose name translates in Greek as Sebastos. After watching the Apostle Peter impart the Holy Spirit to converts through the laying on of hands, Simon offered to pay Peter to give him the power to perform this miracle.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
In spite of his sketchy background, however, Simon really came into his own as a master illusionist when he immigrated to Rome. Calling himself the “Standing One”, he convinced many that he possessed supernatural powers that made him immortal. He backed up his claims by staging elaborate performances in which he would levitate himself high above the multitudes and seemingly resurrect the dead. Simon’s performances were particularly popular with the Emperor Claudius and his successor Nero. Claudius showed his appreciation by erecting a statue of the “Standing One” on the Tiber Island, with the dedication Simoni Deo Sancto, “to Simon, the Holy God”.
Simon Magus preached a dualistic creed which sees demonic powers as having total dominion over the material World. According to this heresy, which eventually evolved into Gnosticism, Man is not made in the Image of God, but is in fact a thoroughly corrupted, inverted rendering of Divinity, as symbolized by the Tarot’s upside-down “Hanged Man”. Accordingly, Simon taught, at birth a human baby enters the defiled material World head down. This concept that the material World is morally upside-down inexorably leads to an inversion of good and evil, so that what is considered good in this World is, by definition, evil, and vice-versa. The “Standing Man” is a man standing on his head, with his left hand where his right hand should be, and his right hand where his left should be. In fact, the Gnostic scriptures interpret the inverted crucifixion of Saint Peter as a symbolic affirmation of this principle.
The interchange of right and left hands may ring a bell with some of my readers, as well it should. Earlier we spoke of the apparent paradox in the naming of the star in Ophiuchus which will cross the Midheaven at dawn on the spring equinox of 2018, as envisioned in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Named Sinistra, meaning the “left hand”, this star actually marks the right hand of the Serpent Holder. So the answer to this puzzle is an ostensible identification of Ophiuchus with the inverted “Standing Man” Simon Magus, who was the first of the False Messiahs who Jesus predicted would arise after his death.
As we’ve said, Simon Magus was a particular favorite of Emperor Nero, who for a time treated him as if he were a member of the royal household (his second wife Poppea Sabina was fascinated with Jewish mysticism) and even permitted him to wear imperial purple robes. But as happened with all of Nero’s favorites, Caesar’s embrace ultimately proved fatal. When one of Simon’s levitation acts miscarried, precipitating the shattered magician to the ground at the embarrassed Emperor’s feet, Nero refused him medical intention. Displaying his cruel, puerile sense of humor, Nero let him expire, then waited three days for Simon to raise himself up from the dead. Maybe he didn’t wait long enough…
The Final Mutation
In the 13th Chapter of Revelation, we find a strange passage that talks about life being breathed into the statue of a Beast, who had been mortally wounded by a sword, yet still lived. Based on the 666 numerical equivalent of his name given at the end of this passage, the identification of this Beast as Nero redivivus is all but incontrovertible. But what is the significance of the “statue”? The image certainly resonates somewhat with the statue of Simon Magus, the “Holy God”, on the Tiber Island, but there must be more to it than that.
After Simon’s untimely demise, the next major expositor of the dualistic Gnostic creed was a would-be prophet named Mani, who lived in Parthia (modern Iran), where legend has it that Nero will reappear. Mani’s teaching included the doctrine of reincarnation, which he borrowed from Pythagoras. In fact, Mani, who was born in the year 216 AD, contended that he himself was the reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth, since Pythagoras had taught that the interval between a soul’s successive incarnations is 216 years. One of the surviving fragments of Mani’s doctrine sheds some light on the mystery of the “statue”:
The fourth time, when they shall weep, is the time when the statue shall raise itself up on the last day …
As I have explained in my first book, the “fourth time” is a reference to the astrological “Great Year”, which consists of 12 “Great Months” of 490 years each, with a 20-year overlap period between Great Months. These Great Months are based on the Zodiac signs in which the Great Conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occur. The Zodiac signs are divided into four “triplicities” – Fire, Earth, Air and Water – and when the Great Conjunctions shift from one triplicity to another, it’s known as a “mutation”. For example, when Christ was born during the Great Conjunction of 7 BC, it occurred in Pisces and marked the beginning of the mutation from Water signs to Fire signs, with the next Great Conjunction (14 AD) located in Sagittarius. Thus, the Nativity coincided with the Water-to-Fire mutation that inaugurated the 8th Great Month.
Consequently, the “fourth time”, or fourth Great Month from Mani’s time, would be the 12th Great Month, which began during the interval of the Water-to-Fire mutation of 1603-1623. The cosmic fireworks that accompanied the beginning of the 12th Great Month all but proclaimed that it would be both terrible beyond belief and wonderful beyond imagining. Following the Great Conjunction of December 1603 in Sagittarius, a series of triple conjunctions between Mars, Jupiter and Saturn the following year culminated in the appearance very close to these three planets of a brilliant Supernova in early October 1604. Blood-red in color, “Kepler’s Star”, as it was called after the astronomer who first observed it, soon outshone everything else in the sky and continued to do so for 17 months.
What’s of particular relevance to our theme is the location where Kepler’s Star appeared, near the star θ (theta) Ophiuchi, which marks the right foot (or is it really the left foot?) of the Serpent Bearer. Interestingly, this star was known to the Coptic Christians as the “Magician”, which reminds us of our old friend Simon Magus. Supernova SN 1604, as it’s now known, was a “Type 1a” supernova – the most powerful and potentially deadly of its kind, exploding with the energy of 5 billion suns! Fortunately, it was far enough away from the Earth – 13,000 light years – that it did us no damage. But the second most devastating of our five great planetary extinctions, which wiped out two-thirds of all living species and ended the Ordovician period some 440 million years ago, is now thought to have been caused by the explosion of a Type 1a supernova within 10,000 light years of the Earth.
The leading candidate for the next Type 1a supernova in our galaxy is a binary star known as RS Ophiuchi, located slightly above the star Sinistra – the “left-handed right hand” of the Serpent Bearer. Located 2,000 to 5,000 light years from Earth, RS Ophiuchi consists of a red giant star circling a massive white dwarf, which is gradually drawing off the gas from the red giant into itself and becoming yet more massive. Observations from Earth – which see these stars as they were two to five thousand years ago – put the white dwarf very close to the critical mass that would trigger a Type 1a supernova explosion. So this is something that may have already happened a thousand or more years in the past, with the enormous burst of gamma rays already on its way to our planet. If so, we’d know when it did arrive, because the entire atmosphere would turn brown, as nitrogen was converted to nitrous oxide – commonly known as smog – and the ozone layer disappeared. This would cause the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun striking the Earth’s surface to increase 50-fold, enough to kill off everything except the deepest denizens of the oceans.
Could it be that the 12th Great Month – Mani’s “fourth time, when they shall weep” – will end just as it began, with a spectacular supernova that outshines even the Sun? Even the ominous blood red color of Kepler’s Star may be repeated, since RS Ophiuchi has been observed, in its previous periodic flare-ups, to be what one astronomer characterized as “the reddest star I have ever seen”. All of this, of course, connects with the imagery of the Red Dragon of Revelation and Milton’s vision of a warlike astral portent in Ophiuchus. Be that as it may, we are nonetheless approaching the end of the 12th Great Month, as the mutation from the Earth to the Air signs has already begun with the Great Conjunction of May 28, 2000, in the 23rd degree of Taurus. This “final mutation” will be consummated by the Great Conjunction of December 21, 2020, in the 1st degree of Aquarius, which will mark the end of the Great Year that began some 6,000 years ago.
If John Milton’s cosmic reckoning is correct, this would make the period of Tribulation, when Satan’s viceroy will reign on Earth, extend from 2018 to 2020. It’s noteworthy that the Great-Year-ending mutation that we’re now in the midst of began with a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in the 23rd degree of Taurus, which astrology associates with a false, usurping king. And the final mutation will end with a Great Conjunction in the 1st degree of Aquarius, for which the astrological symbol is a pair of crossed swords, with a laurel wreath encompassing their juncture.
The Zodiac image of a usurping king clearly conjures up the Antichrist, and we can leave it at that. Even so, the laurel-wreathed crossed swords are a bit more enigmatic. At first glance, the swords may be taken as alluding to conflict or war, but what are we to make of the laurel wreath? In the ancient World, laurel was used in certain religious rituals for its intoxicating effects. Most notably, its leaves were chewed by the prophetic priestesses of Apollo known as Sibyls, of whom there were ten during Roman times. Chewing laurel leaves would induce a trance in which the Sibyl would have visions of the future. Those among you who have visited the Sistine Chapel in Rome may recall the enormous figures of five Sibyls forming the border of the ceiling. Why should pagan priestesses be so honored at the pinnacle of Christian devotion? Because the Sibyls were actually the first to foretell the virgin birth of a Savior – long before even the Old Testament prophets.
So the laurel element of the Zodiac image for the Great Conjunction of December 21, 2020, at 1° Aquarius points us in the direction of the Sibyls and their ecstatic visions. But what about the two crossed swords? In puzzling over the meaning of this image, I suddenly thought of one of the cards of the Tarot deck, the Two of Swords, which actually depicts two crossed swords. While I did not initially recall the meaning of the Two of Swords, when I looked it up, I immediately knew that I had struck on something. The card represents Equilibrium: Peace and Justice achieved through the balance of opposing forces. Crossed swords relate to the sport of fencing, in which balance and equipoise are all-important.
I spoke quite a bit about Equilibrium in my last book, and I will have occasion to revisit some of that analysis as our discussion proceeds herein. Suffice it for now to note that the culmination of Evil and Injustice which appears to lie before is the product of extreme imbalances – imbalances in the distribution of social power, wealth and privilege, mirroring imbalances in the human psyche which leave us unaware of our communal Being. The forces that produce and sustain this systemic Inequity must remain hidden to avoid incurring the indignant wrath of Mankind. But the time is upon us when the malefactors must emerge from the shadows and be seen for what they are. Before the financial crises that began in 2008, how many people were aware of the role of the financial sector in undermining the common good and despoiling the general welfare of our society? Now, a few short years later, their trading floors all over the World are besieged by legions of youthful “occupiers”, whose eyes have been opened to the unconscionable domination of the “one percent”.
Before Inequity can be totally defeated and forever cast aside, it must reveal itself completely and definitively on the stage of World history. The road back to the Equilibrium, Peace and Justice of the Crossed Swords must take us through the rise and fall of the Serpent, of whom the laurel-inspired visions of the Sibyls were perhaps the most prescient. It makes sense, then, before we proceed to our next chapter, to “set the stage”, so to speak, with a dramatic interlude in the Cave of the Sibyl in Cumae.
 Paradise Lost, Book X, lines 368-375
 Id. X:37-329
 Id. II:707-711
 Id. IX:494-510
 Ovid, Metamophoses, XV:669-675
 Inferno XVII:1-8
 Id. XI:97-111
 Ethics 1133a
 Lincoln and Kennedy
 The Merchant of Venice, Act I, sc.iii
 Politics 1258b
 Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, ch.II
 Ezekiel 18:13
 Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 31:13
 Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, vol.4, p.333
 Psalms 15:1-5
 Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 31:14
 The Book of Eli, ch.V-VI
 Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 31:13
 Revelation 6:5-6
 Id. 12:3-4
 Id. 12:9,15
 Id. 17:10
 Id. 13:3
 NY Times, Jan. 15, 2011, A11-A16; Walter Berg, The 13 Signs of the Zodiac
 Apokalypso- Prophecies of the End of Time, p.352
 Id. at p.307
 Inferno, XVII:10-27
 Addendum for C
 Apokalypso, op. cit., Chapter 5
 Metamorphoses, XV:155-172
 Id. XV:546-547
 Apokalypso, op. cit., Chapter 4
 Acts of the Apostles, 8:18-20
 “The Acts of Peter”, The Other Bible, W. Barnstone ed., p.443
 Revelation 13:14-18
 Mani, Kephalaia
 The Year of Jubilee