Last time we looked at what Traditional metaphysics has to say about the cycle of time and what brings it to an end. In this post, we’ll go deeper into eschatology and the meaning of apocalypse, relying again on notes from the excellent The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age by Charles Upton.
Traditional metaphysics has a cyclical view of time rather than our perverse linear view which defies the laws of physics, specifically the second law of thermodynamics. We don’t like the idea that things can go down as well as up because it reminds us of our mortality and we’d rather not think about it.
For us it’s progress all the way! Things can only get better! Until they don’t – and you hit the wall.
Older belief systems had a more realistic perspective on life and death so their metaphysics tend to reflect that. There are multiple variations, but in a nutshell: the cycle of manifestation starts with some sort of Golden Age that then descends through a process that takes reality further away from the Divine.
This continues until it reaches its nadir in some sort of dark age, such as the Kali Yuga or Iron Age. Then there’s an apocalypse or cataclysm that renews the cycle and it all starts again. (I need to do a whole separate post (or series) on this because it’s a huge, fascinating subject, so watch this space…)
From this perspective, we’re now in a dark age of spiritual degeneration – as if you hadn’t noticed! – so the apocalypse should be along shortly, if we’re not already in it.
However, we can’t be too simplistic about these mythologies because they’re not meant to be taken literally. On the other hand, we also need to acknowledge the mess we’re in and that anything is possible. Ultimately, eschatological myths reflect the reality of your own personal death, and whether the world comes to an end or not, you’re still going to die. So apocalypse is going to get you one way or another.
Eschatology is the science of ‘last things’, including your individual death, the destiny of the soul in the afterlife, the end of this world or cycle of manifestation, and the renewal of life in the next cycle. The renewal happens as a result of apocalypse, which involves:
“the re-absorption of forms by the celestial archetypes, and the re-manifestation of those forms in the ‘Golden Age’ of the cycle to come.”
In other words, nothing is lost at the end. Everything is reabsorbed into its source in the Divine. But this also means that every aspect of all the previous cycles re-emerge. Everything must be faced and every shadow integrated into wholeness.
“Since the eschatological event is a breakthrough of Eternity into time, it has to include all the manifestations of Divine Truth comprised within the cycle which is coming to a close; it must be a summing up as well as a death and rebirth.”
This is why we’re seeing a return of ancient ways of being, such as paganism and shamanism, representatives of the Primordial Tradition, along with the massive shadow eruption that’s overrunning the collective.
“The lowest possibilities of manifestation must also have their day in the course of the cycle; fortunately, since they are inherently unstable, being based not upon Truth but solely upon power, that day will be short.”
Let’s hope so.
The shadow eruption becomes possible because the psyche of the world starts to fragment. Rene Guènon described this as the ‘Great Wall’ that separates the material world from the subtle realm becoming brittle and breaking apart.
In the past few centuries he said we became more focused on quantity over quality, as seen in the development of materialism and scientism. This led to a ‘solidification of the world’ which made it harder to access spiritual realities. The world became more dense and heavy, and our perception of reality was locked into literalism and dogmatism.
The heaviness of materialism creates a kind of ‘brittleness’ and the weight and pressure of matter creates cracks that begin to open. Upton mentions that this was obvious after the first nuclear weapons were detonated. The solidity of the world began to crack, but these cracks initially opened downwards into the lower realms.
“…as this cycle of manifestation draws to a close, the cosmic environment first solidifies – this being in a way both the result and the cause of modern materialism – after which it simply fractures, because a material reality absolutely cut off from subtler planes of being is metaphysically impossible. These cracks in the ‘great wall’ separating the physical universe from the subtle…plane initially open in a ‘downward’ direction, toward the ‘infra-psychic’ or demonic realm; ‘magical realism’ replaces ‘ordinary life’. It is only at the final moment that a great crack opens in the ‘upward’ direction, at the Second Coming of Christ.”
Remember: this is metaphorical or poetic language. Christ isn’t going to return on a cloud (or whatever) and slay the nonbelievers! We have a real problem with taking everything literally and it’s one of the reasons we’re in this big old pickle.
Anyway, as the cycle descends it accelerates and:
“time begins to take over, melting down space and the forms within it until everything is an accelerating flow of change.”
Sounds familiar. And it’s likely to get worse over the coming years as we shift into the Jupiter Saturn air cycle and the outer planets transit into air and fire signs. There’s going to be a lot of change but it’ll be more like churn with no discernable progress – unless you enjoy conforming to algorithms. 😱
The acceleration can’t go on forever so it begins to devour itself, leading to the end of time, i.e. the apocalypse and the dissolution of the present world. Whether or not that means the literal end of the world isn’t knowable. But I would say our tendency to take this idea literally could be a manifestation of the current dark age. What apocalypse really means is the end of illusion.
The danger is that because we take everything literally, we’ll end up creating a literal apocalypse because we’re incapable of dying to ourselves and seeing through the illusions we’ve invested our belief in.
Another important point to remember is that although the ‘upward crack’ only opens at the end – at the point of greatest darkness – in reality, it’s always open. The idea that God is inaccessible or absent is part of the illusion we’re labouring under, as Upton explains:
“And yet, for those with faith in God and an intuition of the Absolute, the ‘upward crack’ since it opens onto Eternity, is here already; though the mass mind is becoming less and less able to see it, the Door of Grace is not closed.”
One of the reasons we have difficulty understanding these ideas is our limited perception of reality and time. Traditional metaphysics is based on the Great Chain of Being where Being is arranged in a hierarchy of levels:
“Levels are vertical; each higher level is the cause of the levels below it, and contains all that is in these lower levels in a higher form. Likewise each lower level is a manifestation or expression – a symbol – of all that is above it.”
We are a microcosmic symbol of the macrocosm, and Man is an expression of the Divine. More here: The Difference Between Soul and Spirit
At some point in the 18th century we flattened this hierarchy and started to see it in a horizontal way instead. The vertical movement of the soul returning to God was transposed into the myth of progress and evolution playing out purely on the material plane.
And this has messed up our understanding of apocalypse because we project all our hopes and fears into the future.
“Eschatological hope is vertical hope; it requires neither the destruction of the earth nor its preservation to be realised, since it has to do with ‘a new heaven and a new earth’. And yet this new heaven and earth are intimately related to this heaven and this earth… To pin one’s hopes on the destruction of the earth is despair… But to pin them on the future continuity of human history is a false hope.”
That false hope is tied to our belief in progress and evolution and our attachment to the ego and fear of death – which is exactly what apocalypse brings to an end. So how does this play out?
“What we do know is that this cycle, this ‘humanity’, is about to end, and that this end will be – or rather is – the occasion for a radical breakthrough of eternity into time.”
In other words, it’s not about your physical survival – it’s about the state of your soul. If you get fixated on physical survival then you miss the point. There are fates worse than death. What’s the point of surviving if you lose your soul?
The same applies to the end of the world:
“If we subscribe to a spirituality that would be invalidated by an end to the world, then our spirituality is not true. The same can be said, however, for a spirituality which requires the end of the world in order to validate it.”
Whatever you believe about the apocalypse, the real action is on the psychic and spiritual planes. And whatever happens there is reflected in the world because everything is.
And whatever you see in the world is a reflection of something in you. All the crazy evil stuff is a reflection of the worst aspects of your own shadow, created by the ego in denial of your true nature. But the ego isn’t evil – it’s just a structure in consciousness.
“Divine Manifestation is broadcasting on all channels; the sin of the ego is simply to keep the attention tuned to fewer and narrower bands. The ego does not create, in other words, it only edits. The evil it sees is an edited version of a real objective situation, which is, ultimately God Himself.”
The ego is a kind of blind spot and it tends to identify with whatever it sees, making it more literal. The process of awakening and returning to your true Self means taking back all those projections until you can see God in all things.
“The psyche purified of egotism, which sees all events as perfect acts of God, without thereby becoming blind or cold to the sufferings of others, is called the ‘self at peace’.”
How you view apocalypse depends on your perspective and what level of reality you’re standing in, as it were – whether you’re looking at it from the level of ego, psyche and soul, or Spirit.
As you grow through these levels, it triggers crises and confrontations with buried or repressed material in the unconscious. It’s particularly tricky moving from soul to Spirit because the shadow tends to manifest directly in your life. You may experience this as a dark night of the soul or spiritual crisis. You could also call it an apocalypse. And that’s where we appear to be now.
As scary as this process can be, the best way through is to surrender. This also helps you to cope with the acceleration of time. Rather than trying to keep up with the endless churn, you can step out of time into eternity – the still centre of your divine nature.
If you do find yourself getting scared or freaking out about the future, Upton has some challenging words for you:
“When you find yourself in a state of fear or grief over the evil of the world, the degeneration of humanity and the ruin of the earth, know that this evil, ruin and degeneration are nothing but the mass resistance of the world to the impending advent of…the Messiah – and that the fear or grief you are presently experiencing are your way of participating in that resistance.”
That really hit home when I first read it – it still does. Fear is how the ego resists reality and there’s only one thing you can do about it. But you can only surrender when you’re ready and it takes practice. He goes on:
“Knowing this, simply stop resisting Him, and let the Messiah come. Stop trying to maintain the world in existence by the power of your ego; let it go. Let it end. Let your ego end. You’ve been fighting off the Messiah; cease hostilities now, ‘resist not evil’ (which is how your ego experiences Him)…”
But also remember: He’s already here and always has been. Everything is in God and there is no reality other than God.
That reality is hard to see directly and we tend to turn away from it. In an interview on The Liminalist, Upton explains it like this:
“…if the world is unable to be open to the advance of the divine powers towards this world then those powers will beat upon the shell of this world until it cracks. … God comes with absolute love but the world doesn’t want love. So God’s love is relentless and it will not take no for an answer. And to the degree the world, the collective, enforces ‘no’ to God’s love, that love will break that world. That’s what apocalypse is to me.”
You can translate this into the personal: “To the degree that you say no to God’s love, that love will break you.” This is what’s really happening in the dark night of the soul. You’re being broken open by love.
It’s hard to see current events in that light and these times will test all of us to the extreme. If you’re struggling, you might find some help here: Resources for Surviving a Dark Night of the Soul