This essay results directly from my quest for method over the course of many years. I was convinced from the beginning that the Apocalypse included the method for implementing its secrets. The search for its method, however, led me on a convoluted journey of discovery that revealed even more secrets.
According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible12 in the New Testament Gospels and Epistles the word love or beloved occurs over three hundred times. The Gospel and Epistles of the writer John account for 109 of these occurrences. In fact, of the New Testament writers John stands out as the major spokesman for love and its powers of transformation.
Yet in the Apocalypse, which is also attributed to John, with very convincing supporting evidence, the word love appears only seven times.13 In each of these seven instances in the Apocalypse, "love" or "beloved" occurs as merely descriptive. Not once does the word appear with any of the strong moral or eschatological connotations which are characteristic of John's usage of the word in both his Gospel and Epistles.
In two of these seven usages of the word in the Apocalypse, John even uses the word phileo rather than agapao. We would understand phileo better as "like," "prefer," or "feel affection for," as for a friend. Agapao is a much more serious word with connotations of moral and social "esteem," or rational and intellectual "love." It literally means altruistic, or selfless love.
To put this verbal discrepancy into clearer perspective, it may be helpful to know that the Apocalypse contains 12,000 words. It mentions the word love seven times. John's Gospel is one third again as long and contains some 19,000 words. The Gospel of John mentions love forty-nine times.
John's "Epistle of love," the first, contains only 2500 words and yet it elaborates on love fifty-one times. The second and third Epistles of John, which total a mere 600 words together, use the word love nine times. This is twenty times as frequently as the Apocalypse!
Clearly, the Apocalypse stands out by its shear bulk and relative scarcity of the use of the word "love," from the other writings of John. This is so whether you make the comparison in terms of absolute word count or relative frequency of usage.
The first question I asked was why? Why were the concept and implications of love very clearly so important in John's Gospel and his Epistles and apparently so remarkably unimportant in the Apocalypse?
Three very distinct possibilities presented themselves as the potential answer to this question. First: the author of the Apocalypse was not the same John of the Gospel and Epistles. Second: the message of the Apocalypse differed from that of John's Gospel and Epistles to such a marked degree that love was not an essential part of it. Third: the word love actually did occur in the Apocalypse but was somehow disguised, or encoded within other terms.
As for the first possibility, enough has been written and argued over the past two thousand years to convince me that the author of the Gospel and Epistles of John and the Apocalypse is the same. Tradition confirms this. And stylistic differences between the Gospel and Epistles and the Apocalypse can be readily reconciled by taking into account the much more technical and detailed composition and purpose of the Apocalypse.
Some biblical authorities have argued that the writings of John, as we now have them, are not the literary production of one man, but rather a group of writers. This editorial group may have taken as their central inspiration some singular and earlier source. They may have composed the writings attributed to John over a period of some twenty-five to fifty years or more. If this hypothesis proves correct, it would account further for stylistic differences between the three groups of writings attributed to John.
As I shall examine to some extent in this essay, there is much evidence within the Apocalypse to suggest that it is indeed the production of more than one individual and that it is based upon earlier source material. The evidence that I follow, however, is not the same as that cited by those who have proposed that a so-called Johannine School is responsible for the writings of John. The evidence that I have traced leads to a singular source for the so-called Johannine material. It may have consisted of written and oral components from which the Johannine writings selected, edited and embellished. But this earlier source is much earlier than anything heretofore suggested by conventional scholars. The material certainly predates the Christian era by many centuries.
According to Pryse the material was probably current all during the period that the Mystery Schools were influential in ancient Greece. This time period commenced as early as the eighth or ninth centuries B.C. And I have been able to trace this source material to a yet even earlier era.
Although I touch upon this fascinating matter here, it deserves a much more detailed account than space permits in the present volume. It is a literary detective story par excellence. Accordingly, I intend to document the literary history (actually "her"story) of this apocalyptic source material fully elsewhere.
At any rate, the evidence in favour of the same author or authors having produced the works attributed to John remains very convincing. So I abandoned early on the first possible answer to my question.
The second possible answer to explaining why there existed a great discrepancy in the use of the word love in the Apocalypse compared to the other writings of John requires comment. It also requires a brief comparison of what we might call the orthodox and esoteric interpretations of Christian doctrine.
Although the simple literal and orthodox interpretation of Christianity differs in various fundamental ways from the esoteric interpretation, in certain respects the two also correspond. As detailed by Pryse, they differ primarily in their understanding of and methods of attaining "salvation," which for both schools of thought essentially entails the permanent liberation from earthly, carnal existence.
For the orthodox, method centers on God and divine saving grace. According to orthodoxy the individual has little input other than to surrender to the work of God, which generally entails adherence to various ritual practices and moral precepts. The specifics of these rules for behaviour and thought vary from sect to sect, but all share a basic core belief system grounded in a literal and historic interpretation of Christian scriptures.
For the Christian esotericist, on the other hand, method involves the yogic physio-psychic and meditative efforts of the individual. For the esotericist, method is founded on the belief that the literal words of scripture are simply symbols encoding secret esoteric instructions. The various esoteric systems, from the first century Gnostics to the present day, though varying from one another in specifics, all adhere to mystical or symbolic interpretations of scriptures and teach or advocate various meditative and physio-psychic practices.
In Christian orthodoxy, love plays a significant role throughout. Admittedly, in actual practice many Christians exhibit little love in dealing with their fellow men and women, especially if they are nonchristian. In fact, intolerance and bigotry seem in direct proportion to the degree of fundamentalism and literalism they espouse. Still, many Christians do behave in ways best described as motivated by love. And orthodox doctrine of Christianity inculcates love as a fundamental principle.
The Gospel and Epistles of John exhibit and expound this core doctrine of love and compassion most thoroughly of all New Testament writings. The message is very simply that God is love and through the experience of love the individual comes to knowledge of God and ultimately to salvation. Whatever else Christians may claim to believe, and however much they may elaborate, complicate or trivialize their religious beliefs, this core of love remains.
In the esoteric interpretation of Christian doctrine proffered by James Pryse in the Apocalypse Unsealed and also The Restored New Testament14 the message of the Gospel according to John and the Apocalypse is essentially the same. It is simply presented in different formats. According to Pryse, the Gospel of John takes the form of historical romance, while the Apocalypse is a metaphysical textbook.
Also, as expounded by gnostic esotericism both ancient and modern, the gospel message and the Apocalypse coincide with each other. Extracts from both are used freely and interpreted consistently to support the several gnostic versions of Christian doctrine.
So, in spite of the various literary differences between the Apocalypse and the Gospel and Epistles of John, I found no apparent reason to discount the importance of love in the Apocalypse. From either the orthodox or the esoteric perspective there was no plausible reason to suspect that love played any less significant a part in the Apocalypse than it did in the other writings of John, where it fulfils so important a role.
So I discarded the second possible answer to my question and concluded that love must appear in the Apocalypse encoded in secret terms. But in answering my first question about why there is such a discrepancy in the usage of the word love in the Apocalypse compared to the other writings of John, a new question arose. What were the author's motives for so thoroughly disguising the word and the concepts included in love? If indeed, as Pryse maintained, the author of the Apocalypse foresaw the eventual loss of the esoteric doctrine at the hands of the churchmen, certainly his teaching about love should have been preserved.
Did John also foresee the loss of the doctrine of love in the establishment of a church that would soon become more involved in political power than in metaphysical development? Indeed, there is mounting evidence to suggest the origin of Christianity as a political, theocratic party, in fact a faction of the first century Jewish Zealots. Did such beginnings require love to go into hiding?
The Gospels are simple allegories, that is, narrative stories presenting the ideas and principles of the grand human drama as the biography of Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy readily admits this, despite its emphasis on a literal reading and interpretation as historical fact.15 Love could be sanitized easily in such a genre.
On the other hand, the Apocalypse is a metaphysical treatise. The book is masked by symbolical and zodiacal terms and political and Zealot buzzwords to hide its true meaning. But like the Gospels, it simply and dramatically presents the ideas and principles of the human drama in metaphysical terms.
The accounts, therefore, of the Gospels and the Apocalypse must be similar on a fundamental level even if superficially they are dissimilar. In The Restored New Testament, James Pryse demonstrates conclusively the fundamental similarity of the Gospels and the Apocalypse. His work is both thorough and convincing.
But in Pryse's restoration of the New Testament, as in his thorough interpretation of the Apocalypse in the Apocalypse Unsealed, love remains conspicuous by its very absence. In the metaphysical doctrine of yogic self conquest as elucidated by Pryse in both of these studies, there is no mention of love. Only self discipline and mental and physical mortification to an extreme degree are important.
According to the doctrine presented by Pryse, by turning away from the attachments of life, one finds a higher and worthier goal. This goal is the attainment of deathless existence in an ethereal form far removed eternally from the vicissitudes of carnal life. Love apparently has no place here.
Yet, the Gospels and Epistles, do speak of love in strong terms that leave no doubt about its absolute and continuing necessity. Even in the corrupt state in which we now find the New Testament as whole, the very striking significance of love can not be reasonably denied, whatever its implications.
The word and ideas of "love" as it appears in the Gospels and Epistles allegorically typifies some metaphysical principle. In the Apocalypse the metaphysical principle corresponding to love was for some reason encoded in some other term or terms. This was the simple premise of my search. If it was correct then I knew that "love" must appear in the Apocalypse in its real form, not sanitized as it appeared elsewhere in the New Testament.
In fact, I was very suspicious of the absence of love in the esoteric interpretation of the Apocalypse and Christianity offered by James Pryse. I suspected that there was much more beneath the surface of the Apocalypse than that author realized. In spite of his thorough research, Pryse had either missed something inadvertently or purposely omitted it.
There was another possibility, of course. And that is simply that the author or authors of the Apocalypse intentionally suppressed all references to love in their source material, because it undermined their metaphysical bias. Given the very technical nature of the Apocalypse, the true meaning of love might become available to any who cared to read the book.
The Supreme Identity by Alan Watts inspired me to look deeper into the Apocalypse. The correspondences in terminology between Christian, Hindu and Buddhist doctrine discussed by Watts reinforced my suspicions that Pryse had missed something. I became convinced that even deeper secrets than those exposed by Pryse lay buried in the Apocalypse.
Eventually my suspicions were confirmed. In my search for love I discovered a third level of understanding that underlay the esoteric second level as explained by Pryse. This third and deepest level of comprehension is grounded firmly upon method and depends upon method. It is really the essence of method itself. I needed to get at this method in order to understand the Apocalypse more fully.
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