THE SIBYLLINE PROPHECIES
… and he who forgets will be destined to remember…
Eddie Vedder, “Nothing Man”
The Golden Age
Before we explore the prophecies of the Sibyls in depth, we should provide some historical context for these remarkable oracles of the ancient world. Remarkable, I say, because, although the Sibyls were pagan priestesses, their writings are actually the source and inspiration for much of Jewish, Christian and Moslem prophetic literature. I recall during my first visit to the Sistine Chapel being awe-struck by the huge figures of the five Sibyls that dominate the periphery of the ceiling and appear to choreograph Michelangelo’s vast tableau of Man’s Creation, Fall and Redemption – with the seven Old Testament prophets in the background seemingly cast in only a supporting role. To this day, the visions of these pagan priestesses are still invoked in the Dies Irae sung at Masses for the dead:
That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
Shall heaven and earth in ashes lay,
As David and the Sibyl say.
Michelangelo’s frescos stand along with Dante’s Divine Comedy as the consummate artistic expressions of the Roman Catholic faith, and yet both are firmly rooted in the Sibylline tradition. We recall that Dante’s guide and mentor during his exploration of the eternal realms is not a saint or one of the Church fathers, but the pagan poet Virgil. As a close friend of the Emperor Augustus, Virgil had been privileged to read some of the Sibyls’ texts, which were otherwise off limits to all but a select cadre of Rome’s high priests. And in his fourth Eclogue, written in 37 BC, the Roman poet famously revealed a central theme of the Sibylline revelations – a theme that anticipated the birth of Christ:
Now comes the world’s last age, an age foretold
By Cumae's Sibyl in her sacred songs.
The majestic roll of circling centuries begins anew:
Again comes Virgin Justice, returns old Saturn's reign,
… at the boy's birth in whom
The iron race of mortals shall expire, the golden race arise,…
As reflected in Virgil’s verses, the Sibyls originated the prophetic template of a great cyclical succession of Ages, each dominated by a different race of men, beginning and ending with a Golden Age of idyllic peace and harmony:
The earth untilled pours freely forth her bounty…
The flocks afield shall of the monstrous lion have no fear…
… the serpent’s brood shall perish…
Because the Golden Age lies in the Past as well as the Future, its return “re-sets the clock”, so to speak, insofar as it restores the symmetry of Time that was broken when the Angels fell from Heaven and Mankind fell from Grace. Cast in this framework, prophecy is not a supernatural phenomenon, but it is simply the memory of the Future, just as natural as the memory of the Past. In cyclical Time, post-cognition necessarily implies pre-cognition – my knowledge of the full Moon two weeks ago is the same as my knowledge of it two weeks hence. It’s only been in the current Age of Darkness – the Iron Age whose end the Sibyls foresaw – that the redemptive loop of Time has been cut and drawn out to form the straight-line arrow pointing always toward Death.
The reality that Time in fact flows in both directions, like the tides of the Ocean, is not a crazy mystical notion, but has gained acceptance among many of the most advanced thinkers in theoretical physics. In a very visceral sense, the fabric of Reality is woven like a tapestry, with the shuttle of Time constantly moving to-and-fro across the warp of Eternity’s loom. We do not experience Time this way because we have been socialized from infancy to filter out the temporal backwash from our waking Consciousness. But the origins of the Sybilline priesthood antedate the archetypal Deluge in which humanity’s atemporal perception was submerged. We get a hint of this from one of the surviving fragments of the Sybils’ oracles:
Into my mind great God put all things yet to be,
that I might prophesy of things to come, and things
that were, and tell them unto men; for when the world
was deluged with a flood of waters, and one man
of good repute alone was left, and in a house
of wood sailed o’er the flood with beasts and birds,
so that the world might be refilled, I was then bride
to that man’s son and of his race to whom the first
things happened, and the last were all made known;
and thus from my own mouth let all these truths be told.
As the rest of society entered the Age of Warfare some 3000 years ago and slipped into the straitjacket of linear time, the Sybilline prophetesses withdrew into their isolated enclaves scattered around the Mediterranean Sea and there preserved the experience of the timeless NOW, in which Past and Future merge and the Eye’s Light illuminates the path in both directions.
In every moment all to be is born;
Thou art the moment and needs’t fear no scorn.
Ten in number, the individual Sybils, no matter how far distant from their sisters in other lands, always retained a collective awareness, so that their visions fit perfectly together, despite the lack of any ostensible channels of communication among them. For instance, they all predicted the birth of a Savior who would bring the Age of Darkness to an end and renew the Golden Age. Perhaps most notable in this regard was the 27-verse acrostic poem of the Erythraean Sibyl of Asia Minor, who also foretold the destruction of Troy. According to ancient tradition, on the very day of Christ’s Nativity, Augustus Caesar summoned Albunea, the Sibyl of Tibur, to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, where the Sibylline texts had been kept. The Roman Senate had just proposed to honor Augustus as a god, and the Emperor demanded of the Sibyl whether the world would ever see a man greater than he. No sooner had the question left his lips than Albunea pointed up to the Sun, which appeared to encircle a wondrous Virgin clutching a child upon her bosom. “This child,” she said, “will be greater than you.”
While fable attributed to the Sibyls a longevity of thousands of years, they did in fact maintain an amazingly coherent continuity from antediluvian times to the end of the Roman era. So faithful was the succession between one priestess and the next that it seemed for all intents and purposes that there was but one superannuated Sibyl who lived on and on. This Sibylline succession was crucial in creating a linkage between the Golden Ages Past and Future, a linkage which otherwise would have been lost during the Age of Darkness. They kept alive the memory of the Before Time, which contains within it the memory of the Time to Come.
Although only fragments of Sibyl’s prophecies have survived – and even those have been interlaced with bogus interpolations by Jewish and Christian emendators – they possess an underlying holographic structure that infuses each iota with the meaning of the whole. Somehow their entire world is still alive and present in the few remaining words of the Sibylline oracles that are left to us. These words, which we are about to examine, are truly the foundation upon which a remnant of the human race – winnowed by the impending breakdown of both natural and social orders – will one day construct the New Jerusalem.
If we are to understand prophecy, we must first understand Time. This task is not an easy one for us, because we are – or at least we perceive ourselves to be – trapped in sequential time, so that time seems to be constantly flowing past us like a river. Such was the classical view of time until Einstein came along and proved that time does not move at all, but rather we move forward through time, like passengers on a train watching the surrounding landscape pass by their windows. But, if an actual train can move both forward and backward, why does our temporal “train” only move in one direction? That happens to be a very profound question – one which increasingly bedevils modern physics and seems to stand in the way of reconciling Einstein’s four-dimensional space-time with quantum Reality.
In the quantum realm, quite paradoxically, space becomes “non-local” and time becomes “atemporal”. Things only appear to exist in a specific place at a certain time. They are actually always in the HERE and NOW. But the HERE, in the sense of the photons that are coming off this page into your eye as you read these words, can be spread across the entire Universe – or even across multiple Universes. And the NOW is a limitless Ocean that just won’t fit into the straitjacket of linear time and is best described by the Hebrew word Olam, which roughly translates as “everlasting”. Trying to sort this out, we begin to see that there are two types of “time”. There is “clock time”, which is part of Einstein’s metric, and there is what we might call “immediate time”, which is the only kind of time we actually ever experience. When I use the word Time, with a capital “T”, I’m referring to “immediate time”, aka Olam.
But let’s put experiential Time aside for a while so that we can think about “clock time”. And let’s start out by thinking about what a clock is. The simplest clock, of the old-fashioned variety, has a spring that gets tightened and then unwinds to move the hands forward. So we have to do work in winding up an old-style clock or wristwatch to make “clock time” advance. In more modern versions, the spring is replaced by a battery, but the latter is just another form of stored-up work or “energy”, and the battery has to be replaced or recharged periodically, just as the spring clock needs to be wound up. When we wind up a spring or charge a battery, what we are actually doing is increasing its negentropy. Roughly speaking, negentropy is a measure of how well-ordered the condition of a thing is. It’s the opposite of entropy, which measures the number of different configurations in which a thing or system of things can potentially be found.
As we can all appreciate, it takes work to put things in order. If I expend energy arranging my books in a bookcase – let’s say numerically by ISBN number – then my books will have only one possible arrangement, and that is the minimum entropy of this particular “system”. As time goes by, however, my books will get out of order, and the disordered condition can have many possible arrangements. The more possible arrangements the system can have, the greater is its entropy. So the entropy of a system tends to increase “as time goes by” – a principle that physicists refer to as the “arrow of time”. Only we need to remind ourselves again that time is not really “going by”, but instead we are going by time, and entropy is pushing us forward.
We can also see that the same thing happening to my library “as time goes by” is happening to the wind-up clock. When it’s wound up all the way, there’s only one possible position for the spring and the hands to be in, and that’s the minimum entropy of the system. Then, as the spring starts to unwind, there are many possible arrangements of spring and hands, and as it unwinds further, those possible arrangements increase until the spring is fully unwound, at which point the entropy of the system is at its maximum.
Physicists refer to the various arrangements a system can have as its “states”. So entropy is the measure of the number of states a system has. We experience the states of a system sequentially in the form of “clock time”. As I look at the second hand of my watch I see 1:04:48 pm, then 1:04:49 pm, then 1:04:50 pm, and so on. Each “tick” is a state of the watch system that I perceive. This is not time “moving”, but rather me observing various states of the watch system in a sequence seemingly dictated by increasing entropy. Why do I say “seemingly” dictated? Because the tendency of entropy to increase is not absolute, but only probable. There is small chance that I will look at my watch and see 1:04:50 pm and then 1:04:49 pm. I might have to wait a very long time to see this, perhaps even longer than the age of the universe, but ultimately it will “happen” – though realistically I will never actually experience it unless I become immortal.
According to the Reality defined by quantum mechanics, however, a system does not progress through its states sequentially in accordance with clock time. Rather, the system evolves in an imaginary time direction it – which is for all intents and purposes the same as what I’ve called “immediate time”, insofar as it has no duration in clock time. In the quantum scenario, all states of the system are actual, that is, they all “happen”, though they may “happen” in different worlds.
With this in mind, let’s revisit my library, but this time liberated from the blinders of clock time, so that it’s now a “quantum library”. We start out with all the books in perfect numerical order, but then a quote from William Blake suddenly jumps into my mind, and I rush to the bookcase frantically shuffling the volumes as I search for the right source. The Blake quote coming to mind at that juncture is a quantum event involving neurons in my brain firing either in direction B (I think of a Blake quote) or direction D (I think of a Bob Dylan quote instead). Since the jumbled state that my library ends up in depends on the firing of my neurons in direction B or D, quantum rules dictate that both disordered configurations eventuate, so that my library and I now inhabit multiple worlds. (Why it is that we aren’t conscious of multiple worlds is a question we’ll defer for now.)
In quantum terminology, the initial perfectly ordered condition of my library, which admitted only a single state, would be designated a “coherent” or “pure state”. The subsequent devolution of the library into a plethora of different disordered states, manifesting themselves in tangle of different worlds, is “decoherence”, which is what we perceive as clock time. It follows, therefore, that if we trace clock time back to the “beginning” – that is, if we totally reverse and undo decoherence, we will arrive at a single world in a pure state of total coherence. What would such a Pure State look like? It would have vanishingly low entropy, like a clock with a super-huge spring wound so tight that it almost constricts down to a point – so tight that it takes tens of billions of years to unwind, driving the arrow of clock time inexorably forward for aeons. In fact, such an initial ultra-low entropy condition of the universe has become an accepted truth in current cosmology, notwithstanding that such a condition is so highly improbable that scientists are at a loss to explain how it could have come into existence without some form of divine intervention.
Much of the scientists’ difficulty with this “initial condition” conundrum arises because their knowledge of the “microcosm” of the human Mind has lagged so far behind their exploration of the “macrocosm” of the physical universe. Since all that happens in the macrocosm has its corresponding experience in the microcosm, there is a collective Memory that extends back to the dawn of clock time. And there is also the capacity of the Mind to experience “timeless” Time in the sense of Olam, which extends like a bridge over the entire span of clock time and allows it to be perceived “all at once”. Although the experience of Olam has been much suppressed in our rigidly homogenized culture, its imprint is very evident in the Creation myths of our ancient ancestors, which contain many remarkable insights into the initial state of our universe.
Being a form of poetry, Myth speaks in the language of metaphors, which translates forces and events into the figures of gods and goddesses. And so it is that the original über-coherent Pure State at the beginning of clock time is likened to a womb and is personified as a maternal goddess. Perhaps her earliest avatar is the Egyptian goddess of the Night Nut, who was often depicted as arching her body like a vast bridge over the world.
But of the Night, both Day and Sky were born…
Nut represented the primordial watery abyss out of which all things came. As the celestial Nile on which the Sun sails forward during the day and back again at night, she symbolized symmetrical Time, which moves in both directions. She was the Mother of the gods and protectress of the Dead. As the link between the world of the living and the Underworld, the goddess Nut gave the deceased the power to rise in a renewed body. According to tradition, when the Virgin Mary sought shade to rest during the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, it was the great sycamore tree of Nut in Heliopolis which sheltered her.
Similarly, in Greek mythos we read of Eurynome, the “goddess of All Things” dancing with the serpent Ophion and laying the Universal Egg. And the Roman poet Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, described the initial condition of Creation as one without qualitative distinctions, such as hot/cold, wet/dry, soft/hard, or heavy/light.
Before the ocean was, or earth, or heaven,
Nature was all alike, a shapelessness,…
… substance forever changing,…
… within a single body.
The counterpart of Nut and Eurynome in the Jewish Scriptures is Chokhmah, or Wisdom, which is conceived to be the original matrix of all possibilities, transcending all boundaries and categories. Associated with the “mother” letter Mem מ (as well as its numerical equivalent 40), Wisdom was present at the junction of clock time and Olam Time, at the outset of Creation.
I was set up from everlasting [Olam], from the beginning, or ever the earth was …
As I have explained elsewhere, the initial condition described in the book of Genesis as Bohu and rendered in King James as “void” actually signifies total and utter Symmetry, in which no part is distinguishable from the whole. This concept of absolute primeval Symmetry – which again anticipates modern cosmology – figured prominently in the pre-Socratic Greek philosophy that formed the intellectual milieu of the ancient Sybils.
The Apeiron of Anaximander
Greek philosophy had its birth in the cities of Ionia at the end of the 7th Century BC. Miletus, the largest of the Ionian cities (Milet in modern Turkey), hosted the most influential pre-Socratic school, headed by the famed Thales (624-546 BC), who taught: “All things are full of gods.” The successor of Thales was his student Anaximander (610-540 BC), who was the mentor of Pythagoras. According to Thales, we inhabit a universe that is animate and full of divinities and originated from a single universal primary substance arche. Anaximander extended his teacher’s theories by defining this primary substance as the Apeiron, meaning without boundaries in space or time – that which has no beginning and no end throughout time and is unconfined in space. Hence, Anaximander anticipated, by some 25 centuries, the modern quantum view of primary Reality as timeless and non-local.
Although only scattered fragments of Anaximander’s original writings have survived, secondary sources describe the Apeiron as an eternal, unchanging cosmological essence, from which all things ultimately originate and back to which all things must finally return. It corresponds to a state of total Symmetry, simultaneously embracing all qualities and characteristics, and as such it constitutes the “womb” not only of our universe, but of an infinite array of universes. Here again, Anaximander anticipates the increasingly accepted “multiverse” theory of modern cosmology, as well as the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics. Moreover, since all things are derived from the Apeiron, in which “Each is All”, all things must internally replicate the structure of the whole, such that there is truly “All in Each”. The latter represents a quality known as “self-similarity”, in which the overall design is replicated in each of its parts, down to the most infinitesimal detail. Because self-similarity characterizes the fractal structure of each of the worlds that emerge from the cosmic “womb”, the seemingly finite framework of these worlds is actually able to accommodate an internal infinitude which replicates the overall infinity of the Apeiron.
Since the Apeiron embodies absolute Symmetry, it follows that it must not only be the origin of all that is, but the final ending as well. An inherent attribute of Symmetry is balance, or Justice, personified by the Greeks in the goddess Dike, whose image graces many a courthouse portico. We do well to recall the earlier quoted verses of Virgil, who associates the return of this virgin goddess with the restoration of the Golden Age. It follows then that the Apeiron is both the Alpha and the Omega – the initial cause and also the final cause of everything. This idea that the infinitely proliferating branches of the Multiverse will ultimately converge once again into the perfectly coherent Apeiron figures prominently in the visions of the Sibyl of Cumae:
And then the world of all the elements bereft
shall be: not air, not earth, not sea, not light, not sky,
not days, not nights; no longer in the air shall fly
the countless birds, nor shall fish swim the seas at all,
nor freighted vessels o’er the billows pass again,
nor kine straight-guiding plow through furrowed fields of grain,
nor sound of furious winds, but he shall fuse all things
together so that he may pick out what is pure.
Therefore, the Sybil’s apocalyptic scenario – which was adopted pretty much whole cloth by the monotheistic religions of the ancient Middle East – fits perfectly in our quantum-based paradigm of time as the decoherence of an initial Pure State (aka Apeiron), and the “end of time” as a re-coherence back into that Pure State. It’s important to recognize, however, that the temporal decoherence process does not transform the Pure State in any way, because, being timeless, it must be unchangeable, insofar as change can only occur in time. There is no transformation of the primary substance, but rather only separation of things and qualities that are eternally present in the Apeiron, but do not manifest themselves because they are balanced by opposing things and qualities. On the most simplistic level, we can think of opposites such as hot/cold, wet/dry, or light/dark, but there’s more to it than that.
In the perfectly coherent Pure State, things and qualities do not manifest themselves separately because they are all in step, or “in phase” with each other. And the only way that phenomena become distinguishable from one another is when they fall out of sync, out of phase with one another – which is precisely what decoherence is. Since we know that time (“clock time”, that is) is just the way we experience decoherence, let’s consider how time arises out of phase separations. We can start with the most basic and evident unit of time, the day, which can be measured from sunrise to sunrise, or from sunset to sunset. But why does the sun rise and set? It’s because the rotation of the Earth on its axis is not in sync with its revolution around the Sun. On the planet Mercury, for example, there is never a sunrise or sunset, because its rotational cycle is locked into its revolutionary cycle – that is to say, it completes one rotation on its axis in exactly the same period as it completes one revolution about the Sun. So it’s only because of the phase difference between our planet’s axial rotations and solar revolutions that a day exists. And we can say the same for a month, which can be measured from one new Moon to the next. But if the revolutions of the Moon around the Earth were perfectly in sync with the revolutions of the Earth around the Sun, there would be no changes in the Moon’s apparent illumination. Interestingly, the fact that we describe these changes as lunar “phases” betrays our implicit recognition that they arise out of a phase difference between terrestrial and lunar revolutions.
The fact that time is not a primary reality, but simply an attendant phenomenon (an “epiphenomenon”) associated with phase decoherence, is one of the more amazing insights we find in the Sibylline texts. Indeed, the Sybils envisioned a Golden Age in which the phase-based divisions of time dissolve into an everlasting moment.
No more at all will one say night has come or gone,
nor that tomorrow comes nor yesterday has been;
Nor shall there pass so many days of anxious care,
nor spring, nor winter, nor the heat of summer’s Sun,
nor autumn be, nor birth, nor death, nor set of Sun,
nor rise; but God will make one long unending day.
Phases, of course, are attributes that we typically associate with waves. If two waves are perfectly in phase with each other, they simply merge into one larger wave. Since quantum theory teaches us that all phenomena in our universe can be described as waves, it follows that if all those phenomenal waves were suddenly locked into the same phase, they would merge into a single wave and one phenomenon, which would be the Pure State we have been describing. This is consistent also with Schrödinger’s Equation, which describes all phenomena in terms of a wave function psi ψ, as well as Stephen Hawking’s formulation of a single wave function for the entire universe, which is the modern equivalent of Anaximander’s Apeiron.
From the quantum standpoint, the Pure State is in a condition of “superposition”, which means that all possible versions of Reality co-exist and are superimposed on one another without spatial or temporal distinctions. To understand what such a state of superposition might look like, let’s revisit my “quantum library”. Imagine now that my library has taken a “quantum leap” forward into the digital age, and that all of my paper books have been replaced by e-books. Imagine further that all of the e-books are identical and each of them contains not just one title, but every title in my library. (Terribly redundant, you may say, but I invested a lot in those bookcases, and I don’t want to see the space go to waste!) At any rate, try as I might, there’s no way I can mess up the order of the titles in this digitized library, because each book contains all the titles. I’ve achieved the absolute minimum entropy – only one possible arrangement of the titles – and yet the arrangement is a highly probable one that requires no expenditure of energy to maintain.
If we imagine now that my library is the entire universe – or Multiverse if you prefer – and that its titles represent all possible phenomena of our universe/Multiverse, then the enigma of a super-improbable initial condition of minimal entropy simply goes away. In the initial state of superposition, each phenomenon is all phenomena, all are fungible, and the lowest entropy configuration is the only possible configuration. It’s only when this initial Pure State begins to decohere and the phenomena fall out of phase with one another that an orderly, low-entropy configuration becomes highly unlikely and the “arrow of time” toward a more probable higher-entropy state becomes operative.
We can begin now to recognize that the Pure State or Apeiron contains the “seeds” of what we experience in our world. And because these seeds all derive from a common source, all of the things of our world can be transformed into other things, such that metamorphosis is a fundamental process of our reality.
The undeniable tradition of metamorphosis teaches us that things do not remain always the same. They become other things by swift and unanalysable process.
Not coming to a stop, it endures; continuing durable, it arrives at the minima – the seeds whence movement springs… From these hidden seeds, it penetrates the solid; penetrating the solid, it comes to shine forth on high… unseen, it causes harmony; unmoving, it transforms; unmoved, it perfects… Defining the celestial and earthly process in a single phase, its creations have no duality.
But any seed requires a medium, usually soil, in which to germinate, and the same is true of our cosmic seeds. There must also be a process by which the seed is propagated into the germinating medium. That process was something that the pre-Socratic philosophers ascribed to the Nous, which is a godlike Super-Consciousness, a sort of Universal Mind.
… the reality of the Nous, of Mind, apart from any man’s individual mind, of the sea crystalline and enduring, of the bright as it were molten glass that envelops us, full of Light.
Inhaling the Void
According to modern cosmology, our universe began with an almost instantaneous exponential expansion known as the “inflationary period”, during which its volume grew by a factor of 1078. At the same time as this hyper-inflation was taking place, all of the dimensions except the four we now experience were being “rolled up”, so to speak, so that they were no longer observable in post-inflation space-time. Since these hidden dimensions are orthogonal to four-dimensional space-time, they manifest no spatial extension or temporal duration, but would be represented in our world as dimensionless points. Cosmologists ascribe this period of explosive expansion to the anti-gravity effect of a “scalar field”, which means a “point” field having no extension in space-time. It would seem logical to infer, therefore, that this inflationary scalar field is associated with the hidden dimensions, and that the process of “rolling up” these dimensions provided the impetus for the hyper-expansion of the remaining four dimensions.
For a simplistic example of this type of dimensional downshift process, think of trying to flatten a cardboard box – in effect reducing its dimensions from three to two. As you flatten the box, its two-dimensional footprint expands outward, and if you open its seams, its flat footprint will be six times that of the original box. The amount of inflation we can get in this example is limited by the fact that the amount of cardboard material does not increase. But the inflating universe was not similarly limited, because it was able to fill its expanding voids with something called “vacuum energy”, which was essentially being created ex nihilo – out of nothing.
It’s worthwhile to take a short digression here to consider the nature of this “vacuum energy”, which served, in a manner of speaking, to inflate the cosmic balloon. In everyday parlance, we speak of a “vacuum” as being a total void, containing nothing. But, as quantum physics teaches us, there is no clear boundary between “something” and “nothing”. Which means that “nothing”, if we catch it at the right moment, will act as if it’s “something”. That “magic moment” is what physicists call a “vacuum fluctuation”. And, since quantum Reality is essentially atemporal, the “magic moment” can be a vanishing scintilla, or billions of years, or an eternity. I’m whimsically reminded of a popular song lyric from the long past days of my youth, which happens to fit this theme.
This magic moment, so different and so new…
Will last forever, forever ’til the end of time.
As a matter of fact, our own universe is really a vacuum fluctuation that has lasted, thus far, about 14 billion years. Such a duration for the “magic moment” is highly improbable, however, and consequently very rare. While the overwhelming majority of vacuum fluctuations come and go within immeasurable instants, they nonetheless represent abortive “worlds” which don’t quite make it into manifest existence. And the “vacuum energy” about which we’re speaking consists of the remnants of these abortive worlds, a pernicious residue that lurks in the twilight zone between Being and Non-being. We can describe it as transitory, like the “vanities” which the Preacher of Ecclesiastes decries, and yet it has a disconcerting persistence, like the fossils of extinct species or the ruins of bygone civilizations. It is the sub-real shadow of palpable experience, the “background” behind the “foreground” on which all phenomena unfold. It stands to reason, therefore, that when the foreground of our universe expanded, the background expanded along with it, filling in the voids with “vacuum energy”.
Mystical Jewish tradition identifies this wreckage of abortive worlds as the qlippot – literally the fruitless shells or husks of what is truly Real. When the “seed” of the primordial Pure State was scattered, it was chaotically mixed with the sub-real dross of the qlippot. Consequently, the dispersed sparks of supernal Light are obscured in a dusty whirlwind of sterile husks, and the “Music of the Spheres” is overwritten with metaphysical static. The challenge of visionary perception, then, is to move – or, better said, “dance” – between the points of Light, skipping over the intervening “filler” of vanities.
Thin husks I had known as men,
Dry casques of departed locusts
Speaking a shell of speech…
Words like the locust-shells, moved by no inner being;
A dryness calling for death;…
Life to make mock of motion:
For the husks, before me, move,
The words rattle: shells given out by shells.
Remarkably, the inflationary scenario of modern cosmology that we’ve been discussing matches almost exactly the evolution of the Apeiron as postulated by Anaximander’s star pupil. Pythagoras theorized that the decoherence of the primeval Pure State was a process in which the Apeiron “inhaled the void”, filling it with vacuous bubbles and splitting it into countless different worlds. In his musical and mathematical doctrines, Pythagoras strove to recover the seeds of absolute Symmetry sown amidst the vacuous filler – to reconstruct the ineffable forms of the Nous masked by the background noise of the qlippot.
A consciousness disjunct,
Being but this overblotted
Since reconstruction of the Nous essentially requires a reconnection of points that have become dissociated in the process of decoherence, we can understand why the Pythagoreans placed so much emphasis on geometry – the study of point-to-point connections – which they regarded as a sacred science. In terms of myth and ritual, this notion of a sacred geometry in fact goes much further back than Pythagoras, indeed, back into the dimmest recesses of pre-history. We need look no further than the night sky to remind us of how humans have geometrized the stars themselves since the dawn of consciousness – connecting the dots of light to form the constellations.
And if the stars be but unicorns,
light for lasso.
The constellations of the macrocosm are actually metaphors for the constellation of the microcosm – the constellation of Consciousness itself. This is the transcendent awareness that Dante attributes to an angelic visitor:
I am the center of a circle which possesses all parts of its circumference equally, but thou not so.
When we consider the parting admonition of Dante’s angel, “thou not so”, we see that our frail human efforts to “connect the dots” of what is actually Real in our experience is impaired by the vast amount of vapid dross that surrounds those “dots”. “All things are lights,” declared the great medieval neo-Platonist philosopher Johannes Scotus Erigena – which is to say that all things that impart meaning are the scattered sparks of the primal coherent Light of the Apeiron. Since the true mission of our lives is to seek out that pure Light, it is well that we understand what it is.
Confucius describes this Light as “immaculate” and “unmixed”, consistent with its source in an undifferentiated, indivisible Pure State. The Chinese sage also refers to it as “tensile”, which means that it can expand limitlessly without diminishing in its intensity. He observes further that “there is no end to its action”, because the supernal Light is its own cause and its own effect. If one’s mind is in phase with the “silken chords” of this Light, it enters like a barb and traces a divine Form – a locus connecting the “dots” of the Nous within the individual intellect. Perhaps the best explanation of this mystical process is found in the poetry of Guido Cavalcante:
Cometh from a seen form which, being understood,
Taketh locus and, remaining in the intellect possible,
Wherein it hath neither weight nor still-standing,
Descendeth not by quality, but shineth out,
Itself its own effect unendingly:
Not in delight but in being aware,
Nor can it leave its true likeness otherwhere.
… Willing man look into that formed trace in his mind…
Itself moveth not, drawing all to its stillness,
… nor is it to be known from its semblance,
But, taken in the white Light that is Allness,
Toucheth its aim,
… led by its own emanation.
The Light of Eleusis
Since the immaculate Light is indivisible and propagates instantaneously without attenuation, it never disengages from its source, and so it provides a perpetual link to the “Allness” that is the Alpha and Omega of real existence. It’s the “living Light” which Dante so vividly envisions it in his Paradiso:
that living light that so streams
from its lucent source, from which it does not disunite
nor from the love by which it is intrined with them…
Following Dante’s lead, Ezra Pound credits this impartible radiance with inspiring the troubadour poets of Provence, and he notably styles it as the “Light of Eleusis”. This refers to ancient Greek mystery rituals aimed at bridging the realms of the Living and the Dead. The Eleusinian Mysteries were performed in an underground cave and were timed to coincide with the Sun’s alignment with the mouth of the cave, so that its rays illuminated the dark interior. Similar chthonic rituals involving the annual penetration of sunlight through the aligned portals of a tomb or megalith were practiced at sites throughout the ancient world, such as New Grange in Ireland. These rituals provide a profound insight into the process of phase decoherence which accounts for “clock time”. This is because the alignment of a celestial object, such as the Sun, with a narrow opening in the surface of the earth requires that the contours of the earth be perfectly in sync with the “contours” of the sky, so to speak, in terms of the azimuth (angular distance along the horizon from due North) and altitude (angular distance above the horizon) of the heavenly body. Putting the sky and the earth back into phase with one another allows us to cross the boundary between Life and Death – the first barrier that must be breached in restoring the unity of All in All. Pound poetically imagined himself crossing this barrier as a participant in the ancient Mysteries of Eleusis:
The light has entered the cave. Io! Io!
The light has gone down into the cave,
Splendor on splendor!
By prong have I entered these hills:
That the grass grow from my body,
That I hear the roots speaking together,…
By this door have I entered the hill.
The objective of the Eleusinian rites was to unify celestial and earthly processes in one single phase, to restore the continuity of Life and Death, of the Divine Light and the light of the Sun. Such unification can be accomplished only by achieving the precise focus of a single ray of sunlight on the “dots” of the primal Pure State scattered amidst the “static” of temporal decoherence. In explaining this, Pound draws upon the Confucian tradition, which interprets the ideogram for “sincerity” as depicting the “Sun’s lance coming to rest on the precise spot”. Confucius sees “absolute sincerity” as the state of Mind/Spirit that connects each of us with the Nous, the numinous Consciousness in which abides the Alpha and the Omega – “the goal of things and their origin”.
… the process which unites outer and inner, object and subject, and thence constitutes a harmony with the seasons [phases] of earth and heaven… this activity has no limit, it neither stops nor stays… it arrives at the minima, the seeds whence movement springs.
Pound characterizes these “seeds” of minimal entropy as Semina Motuum – the nodal points of active Spirit sown within the world’s inert dross. Once these points are connected, it’s like completing an electrical circuit: the resulting flow of energy opens a “gate” into a higher spectrum of light – the Light of Eleusis. In this holy Light, the ideal city, the New Jerusalem, the Omega Point of human history is revealed. This is what the initiates at the highest level of the Eleusinian Mysteries experienced as Paradise, or “Elysium”. Alone of all modern poets, Pound recognizes that the Sibyl’s prophecies are intended to illuminate the path to this Paradise through the encompassing “rubble heap” of vacuous filler that pervades the material universe.
“Connecting the dots” requires something quite different from our everyday mode of perception. This explains why the first step of the mystical initiation at Eleusis involved “veiling the eyes”, that is, turning off our habitual sensory experience of what is ostensibly an “external” reality. Since everyday perception slavishly proceeds in lockstep with the ticking of the termporal clock, it’s inherently incapable of hopping between the scattered points of real Meaning, but rather must doggedly slog through the intervening static. Instead, the perception of Paradise must proceed metrically and musically, like a dance, with the Mind stepping from note to note, not based on a fixed sequence, but rather based on an overarching harmonic pattern. Hence the preoccupation of Pythagoras – himself an epoptae (seer) initiated at Eleusis – with the mathematical underpinnings of music. And hence the paramount role of poetry in accessing the paradisiacal experience. “I have tried to write Paradise”, Ezra Pound declared at the conclusion of his Cantos. Perhaps the most articulate expression of the mental process of mystical vision was offered by Pound’s mentor, William Butler Yeats:
Only in rapid and subtle thought… can the thought of the spirit come to us but little changed; for a mind that grasps objects simultaneously, according to the degrees of its liberation, does not think the same thought with the mind that sees objects one after another.
Because we live in a quantum Multiverse, which is constantly branching into alternate worlds, sequential step-wise experience must leave us trapped in a sort of labyrinth from which we can never escape. The immortal part of ourselves yearns to “bust out” of this temporal prison, but to do so, it must learn to navigate between the branches of the Multiverse in accordance with willful selections rather than the random spinning of Fortune’s wheel. Since, as is true of most labyrinths, the vast majority of branch junctures in our Multiverse lead to dead ends, what we really need is some kind of map to identify the active nodal points, aka Semina Motuum. And this is where the concept of the “Sun’s lance” pinpointing the access points to the Olam comes into play.
This concept informs the Eleusinian ritual of the single precise ray of sunlight entering the opening of an underground cave, insofar as the lance of “sincerity” is able to penetrate the surface layer of four-dimensional experience, as the ray of sunlight pierces the surface of the Earth. Just as the surface of our terrestrial sphere has its interior, which can be accessed from certain openings, so does four-dimensional space-time comprise merely the surface layer of a five-dimensional sphere, into which we can “descend” from certain nodal points. This explains why the “Greater Mysteries” of Eleusis revolve around the mythical abduction of Persephone by Hades/Pluto and her descent into the Underworld. The metaphorical message of this mythical scenario is simply this: To escape the labyrinth of temporal decoherence, the Soul must first descend into the interior of space-time, into the great “cavern” from which the branches of the Multiverse diverge.
Some of my readers may recognize the resemblance of five-dimensional “cavern” to the cave of the Sybil of Cumae, with its hundred openings, each precisely aligned with a particular spot in the heavens. As dramatically presented in the last chapter, a prophetic “chorus” emanated from the many mouths of the cave, in a musical motif dictated by the divine pattern underlying superficial existence. Thus, the Sybil’s prophecies actually map the interior realm of space-time into the sparks of Divine Light scattered among the vast expanses of the firmament – “dancing”, as it were, from star-to-star. When this “dancing” continuity is restored, all things become alive and articulate: sounds become speech, speech becomes poetry, and poetry becomes song.
And so, the Greater Mysteries of Eleusis act as a veritable cosmic “filter”, which sifts out the jejune static of our inflated universe and lays bare the diffused “dots” of quintessential Light for the initiated seer to behold. But still, the problem remains: How are we to connect these “dots” so as to reconstitute the “splendor” of the perfectly coherent Pure State? We need not only be able to consciously maneuver between different branches of the Multiverse to recover the points of Light, we must also have a blueprint for reconnecting those points so as to restore the primal coherence of Paradise. What we need is an integrating “thread”, like the one provided by Ariadne to guide Theseus out of the Cretan labyrinth. Ezra Pound refers to this as a “Bridge over Worlds”, consolidating the heretofore splintered fragments of ultimate Reality. His recurring metaphor for this process of re-coherence is the symmetrical alignment of iron filings in the presence of a magnet. And he intuits that the Light of Eleusis contains its own inherent self-organizing principle, with “a form clinging to it”. Shortly, we’ll consider how the electromagnetic properties of this supernal Light validate the poet’s intuition, but first we must revisit Eleusis to explore its Lesser Mysteries.
The Ocean Flowing Backward
In the first stage of initiation at Eleusis, the Soul descends below the surface of space-time, into the interior of experience, where the fractal pattern of “All in Each” becomes apparent. From this perspective, the scattered sparks of the primal Pure State are distinguishable from the void “inhaled” by the Apeiron as it inflated. Pound particularly associates this period of the Soul’s descent with the 40-day interval when the Pleiades “go down to their rest” beneath the horizon. We recall the nexus of the number 40 with the condition of perfect Symmetry Bohu that preceded clock time. As that Symmetry decohered, its divine Light was so diluted by the “inhaled” void that an overwhelming proportion of clock time consists of an emptiness dominated by the vanities of the qlippot.
In fact, clock time is so hyper-inflated that, according to a pervasive sacred tradition, a millennium of it can be reduced to a single day of paradisiacal Time. If one does the math, this means that, on average, we experience only ten seconds of actual Reality every 40 days, and everything else is meaningless detritus. Another mythical metaphor which Pound repeatedly invokes on this same theme involves the episode of Odysseus being rescued from drowning by the goddess Leucothea, who personifies the “white Light that is Allness”. Under the direction of the white goddess, Odysseus casts off his bulky paraphernalia and clings instead to her diaphanous veil – which reminds us that “veiling the eyes” to the perception of vanities is the first step toward vision of the everlasting Light.
up out of hell, from the labyrinth
the path wide as a hair
That the Soul’s path up out of the hellish labyrinth of decoherent time is only “as wide as a hair” informs us that so much of what we view as significant in our lives is really dead weight – the manacles and chains that bind us to our prison. If we learn to veil our eyes, per plura diafana, as the philosopher Plotinus taught, we soon come to realize that virtually all the matters that occupy our attention and fill us with anxiety in our everyday lives are trifles, very small things unworthy of our distress. The demonic sub-reality of the qlippot has power over us only to the degree that we water it with our tears and energize it with our fears. At bottom, Beelzebub, as his name denotes, is nothing more than the lord of flies, the impotent commander of an army of fleeting, inconsequential irritants. Yet he is much magnified by humanity’s obsessive pettiness. Another quote from Yeats reflects the truth that most of us have lost sight of:
That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that
so solid seem,
Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme;…
Everything that is not God consumed with intellectual fire.
Once we have disposed of the enormous piles of garbage that have filled our lives, we can begin to discover the gold of real value that was for so long hidden and buried beneath them. It is here that we enter upon the second stage of our initiation. In Eleusis, this stage was known as the “Lesser Mysteries”, not because they were less important, but because they involved a much smaller group of initiates.
Just as the Greater Mysteries were derived from the tale of Persephone’s descent into the Underworld, the Lesser Mysteries unfolded against the background myth of Dionysus. Born the son of Zeus and acclaimed as the “divine child”, Dionysus was chosen to exercise universal dominion. But he was murdered by the Titans, who tore his body into seven pieces, then boiled and consumed them. Horrified, his father Zeus incinerated the Titans with a lightning bolt, then used their ashes to create the human race. Nonetheless, the heart of Dionysus was rescued from the Titans by Athena and swallowed by Zeus, thereby enabling him to be regenerated and born again – this time destined to release all souls from the dominion of Death.
My readers can readily appreciate that this story has many resemblances to that of Jesus Christ and undoubtedly relates to the same archetypal theme. Viewed allegorically, it represent the division (i.e., decoherence) of the primeval divine essence and its dispersion into the material universe. Therefore, it stands to reason that the reconstitution and rebirth of Dionysus is the template for the Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis, whose theme is the reconnection of the sparks of divinity that have been revealed after their separation from the static background.
In the sacred procession of the Lesser Mysteries, this motif of reintegration was displayed in the form of the Thyrsus, which was a reed full of knots. It was in such a Thyrsus that the Titan Prometheus concealed the celestial fire that he gifted to mankind. Symbolically, the Thyrsus was the unifying cord, like Ariadne’s thread, which reassembled the previously sundered fragments of the Pure State and restored its primal Allness. One of the striking traits of the reborn Dionysus was his ability to morph into any form he wished, so that he epitomizes the “Each is All” coherence of the Apeiron.
Another fascinating feature of Dionysus’ story is the fact that his regeneration occurs in a reversal of time. After his dismemberment, his body reassembles itself by reverse aging, from youth to infancy again. So the “golden thread” by which the scattered “dots” of the Pure State are connected is the result of a turnabout in the tide of clock time – the “Ocean flowing backward”, as Pound expresses it.
…time turns back... in the tensile, in the light of light…
The poet correctly discerns that this time reversal is a function of the quintessential Light. Having laid the metaphysical groundwork for this proposition, let’s now examine its basis in physical science.
In 1928, at about the same time as Ezra Pound was composing his first series of Cantos, a young physicist at Cambridge named Paul Dirac was taking the first bold step toward bridging the theoretical gap between Einstein’s theory of relativity and quantum theory. What Dirac did was to combine the equation for the relativistic energy of a particle with the Schrödinger equation, which describes the energy of a particle in terms of a wave function ψ. His effort was remarkably successful, since his relativistic Schrödinger equation correctly specified the two observed quantum states of an electron with respect to its “spin”. Even more spectacular was a second solution to Dirac’s equation, predicting the existence of a new particle, having the same mass as an electron, but with a positive electrical charge. This prediction was experimentally vindicated within a few years by Carl Anderson’s discovery in cosmic rays of positively charged electrons, which he called “positrons”. Both Dirac and Anderson received the Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking work.
Ironically, however, Dirac soon went from being the darling of the theoretical physics community to its pariah. That’s because his relativistic Schrödinger equation had not just two solutions, but four. While the first two solutions accurately described the observed properties of the electron and positron, the second two solutions were problematic, insofar as they predicted counterparts of the electron and positron having negative energy. Although Einstein’s classical relativistic energy equation (E2 = p2c2 + m2c4) also had a negative energy solution, physicists had been able to dismiss this as having no possible physical significance, since there is no way for a classical particle to make the transition from a positive energy state to a negative one. As applied to Schrödinger’s wave function, however, Dirac could not similarly dismiss his negative energy solutions, since a quantum particle is able to “jump” between energy states without transitioning.
As we will soon discuss, the concept of negative energy carries with it implications that contradict virtually all of our conventional notions of time and space. For example, if negative energy states exist and are accessible to particles, then no particles would be able to remain in positive energy states, since the laws of physics dictate that all particles must ultimately seek the lowest available energy level. Dirac brilliantly addressed this problem by postulating that all the available negative energy states in our universe are filled, thereby allowing particles to exist in positive energy states. In a manner of speaking, therefore, our observable universe of positive energy “floats” on an unobserved “ocean” of negative energy – a proposition that spawned the deprecating title of “Dirac’s Sea” for the new theory.
Like Hugh Everett, who two decades later proposed the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum theory, Dirac earned the scorn of the physics establishment for being ahead of his time. Even today, when we have uncontestable physical evidence that most of the mass/energy in our universe is of a “dark” – i.e., unobserved – variety whose gravitational interaction with observed matter is not attractive but repulsive – as would be true of negative mass/energy – “Dirac’s Sea” nevertheless remains an embarrassing footnote in the history of quantum physics.
What are the radical implications of negative energy which moved normally unemotional quantum theorists like Werner Heisenberg to denounce Dirac’s formulation as “trash which no one can take seriously”? If the energy of a particle is negative then, based on Einstein’s equation, its mass (at rest) must also be negative. How can mass be negative? Does it mean you put it on scale and the needle points below zero? (If so, what a boon “negative mass snacks” would be for the diet food business, right?) All these questions reflect the fuzziness of everyday terminology dealing with mass. When we weigh something, we are not measuring its mass, but rather the force needed to prevent that mass from accelerating downward in response to the Earth’s gravity. Mass is actually the inertial quality of matter that resists being accelerated or decelerated. If something has positive mass, a positive force must be applied to accelerate it, so it moves faster as it gains energy and slower as it loses energy.
If a particle has negative mass, however, the reverse is true. In other words, a negative mass will slow down when it gains energy and speed up when it loses energy. In our positive energy world, if we stop pushing something, it will eventually slow down and stop. In “Dirac’s Sea”, on the other hand, particles slow down when we push them and gain speed when we stop pushing. So a negative mass particle would spontaneously accelerate to the speed of light and beyond were it not for the barrier imposed by Einstein’s relativistic energy equation, which demands an infinite energy to accelerate a particle from subluminal (below light speed c) to light speed.
But what if a negative mass particle starts out as superluminal (above light speed)? Then, according to Einstein’s relativity, its mass is not only negative, it’s also imaginary, which explains why such particles are not observed in four-dimensional space-time. To understand this, we again must overcome the everyday connotation of the word “imaginary” as something that’s doesn’t really exist. In physics, imaginary quantities typically show up in the equations of wave phenomena, where they determine the frequency and phase of the wave. It follows that an imaginary mass particle has a wave function ψ that’s 180° out of phase with that of the positive mass particles that make up our sensory organs and measuring devices, and that’s why they’re unobservable in the world of our experience. Another way of saying the same thing is that the imaginary mass particle has a wave function with a negative frequency.
This is noteworthy, because Maxwell’s equation for electromagnetic waves also has a negative energy, negative frequency solution, which implies that there is a form of light – again completely out of phase with mundane light and hence unobserved – which has superluminal speed (greater than c) and propagates backward in time. As a matter of fact, according to the preeminent theorists John Wheeler and Richard Feynman, all light consists of both components: “retarded” waves that propagate forward in time, and “advanced” waves that propagate backward in time. Which means that, when you look at a the star Rigel (left foot of Orion), there is a retarded light wave that enters your eye after travelling at light speed for 860 years from the star, and there is also an advanced light wave that leaves your eye and returns to Rigel at superluminal speed going 860 years back in time. Once more, Pound’s poetry is prescient:
Matter is the lightest of all things,
Chaff, rolled into balls, tossed, whirled in the aether,…
Light also proceeds from the eye;…
Summing all this up, then, we have two types of light: one which propagates forward in time at velocity c in the positive-energy realm, and one which propagates backward in time at superluminal speed in an unobserved negative-energy “Sea” on which the observed positive-energy realm “floats”. We readily recognize the latter as Pound’s “Light of Eleusis”, the Immaculate Light that propagates instantaneously and thus never separates from its source in the Pure State. It’s the “lasso” that connects the “dots” of the Divine Form once they’ve been sifted out of the vacuous filler of which our universe is largely composed. In a world of finite light, such as the one we experience, phenomena are decoherent, since they are separated from one another by the interval of time for finite light to pass from one to the other. But in a world of infinite Light, all temporal intervals and spatial distances are effectively erased, and everything appears together in a single place and time, which is HERE and NOW.
IT ALL COHERES.
Before the Divine Form can finally emerge, however, its opposite must first appear. The ultimate embodiment of the vanities must provide the protagonist for the final scene of clock time. It’s here that we return to our analysis of the Sibyl’s prophecies.
The Course of the Flaming Sword
As I’ve explained elsewhere, the ever-turning Sword of Genesis, which enforces our exile from Eden and our exclusion from the Tree of Life, is actually a symbol of phase decoherence, with the various directions of the Sword representing divergent phase angles. In this sense, the Flaming Sword has a function contrary to that of the Confucian “Sun’s lance”, which, as we discussed earlier, brings the celestial and earthly processes back into a single phase. The notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley contends that the Flaming Sword in fact “connects the dots” of the Tree of Life by traversing, like a lightning bolt, the zig-zag paths between the Tree’s crown (the Sephira Keter) and its root (the Sephira Malkut), and he observes that the numerical value of these paths add up to the number 777. Crowley’s sinister exegesis then proceeds to point out that the Hebrew gematria for the phrase “world of the qlippot” (Olam haQlippot) is also 777, which coincidence he offers as proof that the unifying thread of Reality is not the supernal Light, but rather the qlippot. This is all part of a occult numerology system that assigns great importance to repeating triple digit numbers such as 222, 333, 444, etc. These are multiples of 111, the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word aleph, which stands for the number 1 and therefore signifies unity. But, as Crowley points out, 111 also corresponds to the Hebrew ophel for “thick darkness”, implying that his occult version of Oneness is the unity of darkness rather than light. In the Book of Job, the word ophel connotes the most profound spiritual obscurity, which characterizes the “shadow of Death”:
A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.
If, as we have said, the Pure State represents the lowest possible entropy, then its antithesis must be a condition, as Job aptly describes it, “without any order”, which is to say, with maximum entropy. It follows then that the condition of unity for which Crowley and his kindred occultists are striving is the polar opposite of the Pure State – a metaphysical nadir where the connecting thread is of darkness instead of light. A central role in this nightmare scenario is reserved for the number 777, which magnifies the attributes of the number 7 on a “grand scale”. While the number 7 in popular culture is considered fortunate, Crowley describes it as a “most evil number”. This is because the numeral 7 resembles the shape of the ancient Egyptian was scepter, which represents Set, the evil god of chaos and prototype of Satan. Hence, the number 777, associated with the Flaming Sword, is seen as “affirming that the Unity is the Qlippoth”.
We’ve been discussing phase decoherence, symbolized by the Flaming Sword, which caused the perfect “Each is All” coherence of the primeval Apeiron to shatter and split into the endlessly branching labyrinth of clock time, marked by sequential intervals of hours, days and years. This metaphysical event is described in the book of Genesis as occurring on the fourth day:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years…
In the Zohar, great emphasis is placed on the fact that, in the foregoing passage, Moses chose to write the word “lights” me’orot defectively – that is, without the letter vav – so that it can also be read as me’erat, meaning “curses”.
This is the slanting snake. Why “slanting” (beriach)? Because he is enclosed on two sides and goes out into the world only once every fifty years… This is the tortuous snake who is always involved in crookedness, and brings curses upon the world… When this snake arises, what is written? “He will slay the monster that is in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1)…
Particularly noteworthy here is the use of the Hebrew beriach, which is derived from “bolt” barach and is a cognate of baraq “lightning”. Hence the zig-zag “slanting” of the Serpent evokes the lightning-like path of the Flaming Sword down the Tree of Life, as described by Crowley. Tellingly, the same adjective beriach appears again in the book of Job with reference to the starry Serpent of the constellation Ophiuchus. And, in Isaiah chapter 27 cited by the Zohar above, the prophet employs the identical adjective to describe the Serpent whom Yahweh will slay, at the End of Days, with his “mighty Sword”.
Also notable in the Zohar’s interpretation of Genesis is the appearance of the “slanting snake” at 50-year intervals, which obviously alludes to the Jubilee cycle of the same length. According to the Oral Tradition of Judaism, the Messiah is destined to appear on the “Jubilee of Jubilees”, upon the completion of 70 such cycles. But, as Crowley eagerly points out, the Hebrew Moshiach for Messiah translates in gematria to the number 358, which is also the numerical value of Nachash, the Serpent.
Furthermore, when we apply gematria to the Genesis passage that conjures up the “slanting Serpent”, we find this intriguing pattern:
Let there be lights = 666
in the firmament of heaven = 777
The foregoing sequence almost invites the questions: What follows 777? What about 888? The answer to that is given in one of the most momentous of the Sibyl’s prophecies:
Then also there shall come a child of the great God,
all clothed in flesh in likeness of a mortal man;
and he doth hear four vowels and hear two consonants;
the whole sum I will name: eight ones plus ten of eights,
and to that add eight hundreds to reveal the name.
Here we must shift from Hebrew gematria to its Greek counterpart. In Greek, as in Hebrew, the letters double as numbers, and the name “Jesus” is ΊΗΣΟΥΣ, comprising four vowels and two consonants, which add up to 888.
Heralding the advent of the Messiah, according to the Sybil, will be a star as bright as the Sun, which may correspond to the Supernova we discussed in Chapter One.
But when a radiant star all like the Sun shall shine
forth from the heavens in the middle of the day,
then shall the secret Word descend from the Most High,
and dressed in flesh of earthly mortals comes he nigh.
As for the emergence of the Serpent who must precede the Messiah, the gematria sequence 666 777 perhaps indicates the year 5777 of the Hebrew calendar, which extends from October 3, 2016, to September 20, 2017. It’s probably no coincidence that the year 2016 has a special importance in occult doctrines of Freemasonry, which carries on the traditions of the Knights Templar. The masons have a dual calendar system, consisting of the Year of Light Anno Lucis (AL) and the Year of the World Anno Mundi (AM). The former is based on a Creation date of 4000 BC, so that the Year of Light is the civil calendar year AD plus 4000: AL = AD + 4000. The Year of the World, on the other hand, is based on the Jewish chronology, and adds 3760 to the civil calendar year: AM = AD + 3760. What’s especially interesting about all this is the relationship between the years 1776 AD and 2016 AD. If we translate 1776 AD into the Masonic Year of Light, we get 5776 AL, and if we render 2016 AD as the Year of the World, we also have 5776 AM.
Most of my readers are well aware of the role of freemasons in the founding of the United States of America and their disproportionate participation in its ruling circles, right up to the present time. We are reminded of this every time we look at the reverse side of a dollar bill, with All-Seeing Eye of the Masonic Great Seal staring out at us. That particular symbol may strike us as eerily prescient, given the pervasive Surveillance State which has now been imposed on us Americans (for our own security, of course!). In the Great Seal, the All-Seeing Eye is depicted as the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is actually unfinished, since it lacks a capstone and apparently never had one. If the missing capstone were added to the Great Pyramid, however, its height would be precisely 5776 inches!
Moreover, if we look closely at the Pyramid depicted on the Great Seal, it consists of 13 courses, with the base course labeled MDCCLXXVI for the year 1776 AD. If each course represents one generation of 20 years, then the top course designates the year 1776 + 240 = 2016 AD. It’s also apparent from inspecting both sides of the Masonic Great Seal that the number 13 is regarded as having great magical potency, since it appears again and again in the eagle’s plumage, the stars above its head, the arrows and olive leaves in its talons, etc. Even the date for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, was selected by Benjamin Franklin, Grand-Master of Pennsylvania Freemasons, to be exactly 13 days after the summer solstice. Of course, there were the 13 original colonies that united to form the USA, and while that provides a pretty good cover for the arcane agenda, it does not quite overcome the diabolical aura of the number 13. While 13 has been associated with ill fortune from time immemorial, the origins of its unsavory taint actually relate to the mathematical proportions of a pentagram, which is yet another Masonic feature of America’s national symbolism. Drawing once again upon the occult expertise of Aleister Crowley, he informs us that the number 13 derives its power from the gematria of the Hebrew word for “one”, echad . As we have explained, however, the Unity to which the occultists adhere is that of the qlippot – of the light that is darkness.
Here we do well to remind ourselves of the Zohar’s foreboding that the “slanting serpent” will go out into the world at the end of the Jubilee cycles – which signifies the 70th Jubilee Year, the “Jubilee of Jubilees”. Based on the calculations of Biblical chronologists, the Exodus took place in 1456 BC, and the Israelites entered Canaan 40 years later in 1416 BC, which would place the first Jubilee year at 1367 BC. Counting 70 Jubilees from 1416 BC brings us to the year 2016 AD as the “Jubilee of Jubilees”. In the Hebrew calendar the year 2016 AD is split between 5776 (January to October) and 5777 (October to December). Based on our discussion in Chapter One, this prophetic timeframe may also extend through the years 2018 to 2020. Accordingly, we have a five year interval from 2016 to 2020 during which the rise and fall of a reborn Nero may be expected to occur.
The Fugitive of Rome
Based on the historical accounts, we know that the Sibyl of Cumae was consulted by the Trojan prince Aeneas soon after the fall of Troy, and that her prophecies on that occasion filled nine scrolls. Three of those scrolls were preserved by the Romans and periodically consulted by its high priests, particularly in times of crisis. The Sibylline prophecies are quite detailed when it comes to the succession of Roman emperors who would be descendents of Aeneas, and the Caesars are even identified by the Greek numerical equivalents of the first letter of their names. With reference to Nero, for example, we have this:
Of number 50 then shall rise a dreadful snake,
breathing grievous war and stretching forth his hands
to make a final end of his own royal line;
for he shall play the athlete and the charioteer…
but when from sight shall vanish this destructive man,
he shall return to claim the status of a god…
While this passage gave rise in ancient Rome to the expectation of Nero’s imminent return, its vision was actually directed to a distant future time – our own. The Sibyl sees him reappearing in a land beyond the Euphrates River, a land the Romans knew as Parthia, the modern nation of Iran.
A fugitive across Euphrates stream shall flee,
a mighty king, unknown, who sometime dared to strike
at his own mother’s womb, and with the blood of wives,
a brother and a father on his wicked hands,
takes refuge for a time in Parthia’s distant land…
till strife of war awakened to the West shall come
the fugitive of Rome to march with myriads
re-crossing broad Euphrates with his vengeful spear.
According to the Sibyl, the “fugitive of Rome” reemerges on the final page of history, as the clock of one-way time at last runs down.
When at the turning of the Moon, and in the last
of days, runs raging through the world a war without
an end, with cunning and with guile comes one from out
the limits of the earth with sharp plans in his mind:
a matricidal man who every land o’ercomes
and over all things rules, destroying many men,
and he shall burn them all, as none has ever done.
Lest any doubt remain, the Sibyl even identifies the resurrected Nero by his lineage. Nero was only one of two Roman emperors who were directly descended from Augustus (the other was Caligula), and the Sibylline oracles take care to designate this imperial bloodline by the Greek name Sebastos, which has the same meaning as the Latin name Augustus.
From blood of great Sebastos Beliar reborn
shall come and make the seas and Sun and Moon stand still
and raise the dead, and many more signs work ’fore men;
but naught of what he does is wrought but by deceit.
To appreciate the full import of the coming reign of Nero Redivivus, we must learn more about his ancient avatar, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. In that vein, we will attempt, in our next chapter, to turn the clock back to the time when Nero Caesar – whose gematria is 666 – became Emperor of Rome.
 Sibylline Oracles, Bk. III, ln. 1019-1030
 Ezra Pound, “A Prologue”, Canzioni
 Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, Ch. 6. The site of this apparition is still preserved in the church of Santa Maria Ara Coeli in Rome.
 Ezra Pound, Cantos XCI. I have given the translation of the first line from the Greek, a quote from Hesiod’s Theogony.
 E.A. Wallace Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. 2, p. 107 (Dover, 1969)
 Proverbs 8:23
 The Year of Jubilee, Ch. 1
 Sibylline Oracles, Bk. II, ln. 255-263
 Id., Bk. II, ln. 397-403
 Ezra Pound, Literary Essays, p.431
 Ezra Pound, Confucius, “Chung Yung, the Unwobbling Pivot”, p.179-183
 Ezra Pound, Guide to Kuchur, p.44
 The Drifters, “This Magic Moment”
 Ezra Pound, Cantos VII
 Ezra Pound, “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley”
 Ezra Pound, Cantos CIV
 Vita Nouva, XII
 Ezra Pound, Confucius, op. cit. at 187
 “Donna Mi Pregha”, based on Pound’s translation in Cantos XXXVI
 Canto XIII, lines 55-57
 Canto XLVII
 Ezra Pound, Confucius, op. cit. at 175-179
 Canto XC
 Yeats, “Per Amica Silentia Lunae”, Mythologies, p. 362 (Macmillan, NY, 1959)
 Canto LI
 Canto XLVII
 Cantos XCV-XCVI
 Canto XCIII
 “Blood and the Moon”
 Canto I
 Canto LXXIV
 Canto XXIX
 Ezra Pound, “Women of Trachis”
 The Year of Jubilee, Ch. 6
 Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings, p. 20
 Job 10:22
 Crowley, op. cit., p. 43
 Id., p. 49
 Isaiah Tishby, The Wisdom of the Zohar, Vol. II, p. 506-507
 Job 26:13
 Sibylline Oracles, Bk. I, ln. 393-400
 Id., Bk. III, ln. 39-42
 Sir Flinders Petrie, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh, Sec. 144, p. 183 (1883)
 Crowley, op. cit., p. 29
 Sibylline Oracles, Bk. V, ln. 39-49; Bk. XII, ln. 101-113
 Sibylline Oracles, Bk. IV, ln. 155-180; Bk V, ln. 188-200; Bk. XIII, ln. 161-165
 Sibylline Oracles, Bk. V, ln. 485-496
 Sibylline Oracles, Bk. III, ln. 76-82