Best Books & Commentaries on Revelation and Eschatology

This is a nice list!

Theology Pathfinder

If you want to go deeper in your study of the book of Revelation or of eschatology in general, there is a wealth of resources available. The problem is that so many popular-level works on the end times involve a lot of downright awful interpretation! Just consider all the books that have tried to predict exactly when Jesus would return — like the classic booklet 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988! (Totally nailed it, right??)

Another challenge is that there are many different interpretive approaches to the book of Revelation. Some believe it mainly covers events that are now past for us (the Preterist approach). Others think it mainly conveys timeless spiritual truth applicable to the entire church age (the Idealist approach). Still others believe it is mostly about events that are still in the future and deal with the end of the world (the Futurist approach).

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Irving Wasserman on Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Class Notes

Irving Wasserman on The Tempest:

Class notes, from “Political Philosophy,” Grand Valley, 1981, 1983.

In a course that included the attempt to read Plato’s Republic,” Irving Wasserman paused to read with us The Tempest, with the essay of Barbara Tovey, then newly printed. This conjunction of intellect and imagination is surely a pinnacle of education in the twentieth century. The teaching of Professor Wasserman, even as preserved in class notes, is one of the best on the Tempest, with many unique teachings, as that on the magic of Prospero.

1981 Intro on Shakespeare: Bloom’s Shakespeare’s Politics

p. 55: The kind of ruler he was not in Milan. In Milan, he ruled in a certain way, but badly.

…consciously wanted to portray political wisdom

56: Difference in ruling, Milan and on the island.

Each group are political rulers.

60 In Milan, Prospero wasn’t the best ruler

About the situation of a wise ruler in a real city.

The wise ruler and the actual city against the background of the island.

How he got his kingdom back.

The Thirds: himself, Miranda, Milan. In first, Milan was ignored. Miranda and he, studies.

How Prospero sets out educating others.

About a ruler who wasn’t wise, who became wise.

Caliban, Ariel and Ferdinand think he is a tyrant. 3 views of tyranny. Gonzalo’s dream world.

Prospero Ariel/Caliban appetite. Caliban is not educable.

The magic is not omnipotent. Magic is merely remedial.

Nature, art and chance. By chance he came to the island. Working with what is given.

puts down powers in entering the real world.

61. Monday.

Emphasis- best community. Wisdom must rule.

The best city depends partly on chance.

If it did emerge, it would deteriorate.

61 Brother Antonio is going back to Milan. Can he make Antonio see in Milan?

Equivalent of magic in the real world.

The Tempest seems Platonic. “Something, best…in a profound way…not doctrine

Yet Plato and Shakespeare are the greatest teachers.

didactic…something different than we usually mean by the term.

It is nowhere, a utopia, literally nowhere.

p. 62 They came to the island by chance.

Not creator- invented not the nature of things (black magic)

Found Caliban with his nature. All natures are given.

Caliban, drunk, recognizes his true master, shakes the tyrant.

Powers: only 4 hours.

All he can do is try to make Ferdinand and Miranda better, to rule Naples.

Cannot ensure his successors. (succession?)

Nature /art. the highest art. Gonzallo’s best regime

A play within as play (Iris, Juno)

That is,Shakespeare (Prospero) puts on a show.

got interrupted.

Ferdinand is transformed by a vision of marriage. Future life. Fertility rites.

They’re always trying to rape Miranda. It breaks in upon the magic

Question: What can Prospero do and not do?

Not make nature. Makes the storm.

The tests and trials.

By their reaction to the storm, each character is revealed.

Antonio and Sebastian are conventional rulers.

They both go back to the world the way it is. There, realism.

Power shows who someone is. Top: The magic wand is broken.

The education of Ferdinand

Power. Guards. If it was not done with magic, the play would be concerned with those kinds of realities.

p. 63

Ariel The poetic imagination. Enslaved

disciplined in service to wisdom


Power, police.

Miranda- first appearance. Compassion Prospero: be collected.”

Prospero mlearns something about his passion.

Masque Storm contrived for Miranda. “In care of thee.”


Art- Studies on the island are now used in ruling wisely.

64 bTop: The plat is the magic

Education and the trance of repentance.

Gonzallo’s Utopia- not morally harsh.

Private property- Caliban’s island.

Natures. Storm- Republic. Creates trials. Each character responds.

Powers impermanent and almost accidental. Only 4 hours.

Absolute power- rule must give way to Ferdinand and Miranda.

Power- trance of repentance- the sword. Education.

Propsero’s rule is not liker Gonzalo’s utopia (primative).

Morally harsh- equal treatment would be unjust.

Caliban’s attempt to rape Miranda ended education.

Then began his slavery, until alcohol.

Poetic imagination, Ariel- poet in service of wisdom.

Prospero’s compassion at the end of the play- withheld significance?

Only after Ariel says something.

Antonio and Sebastian transformed? No indication. Back to real world.

Gonzalo Corrupt regimes. Naples and Milan. Question of usurping.

Stephano Caliban The island is his. Tunis and Carthage.

Magic: to rule. Power to determine what men will honor.

Contrived love. Prospero effects world disappears. Un-political-ness of love.

Love is the leverage Prospero has on Ferdinand.

The Masque Through the beautiful things. Prospero! sorrow, labor, sexual self control.

Comes to be favored by Ferdinand, not a tyrant.

The Masque is interrupted.

The game of chess. Ferdinand is cheating. Miranda doesn’t criticize.

Even if the city did come into being- impermanence.

Restraint is as natural to man as freedom.- contrary to the moderns.

Caliban- power will show a man. Persuasion is insufficient

[Points of repetition

Best regime. Wise ruler- in a real city. About a ruler who wasn’t wise who became wise.

Utopian- nowhere, literally. The highest art.

Chance- came to the island by chance.

Art- the highest art. Studies on the island now used in ruling wisely.

On Magic

-not omnipotent. Nature/Art/Chance. Works with the given.

Puts down powers on entering the real world. What is the equivalent of magic in the real world?

Not a creator- invented not the nature of things (black magic{ Irv had a teaching that Prospero’s art is distinct from black magic in that it does not change the natures of things, as princes into frogs.} All natures given.

Play within a play- Shakespeare (Prospero) by magic puts on a show.

Magic wand broken.

Power. guards. if not with magic, play would be concerned with these realities. 

Powers impermanent, almost accidental.]

From beginning to end the play is about the possibility of realizing the best

Education- each has peculiar tests and trials

Trials of Ferdinand- Tempest, loss of father

being called traitor

the logs

Ther Masque

A test for Ferdinand- a fiery young Italian, hot blooded.

He must make this swift winning uneasy- he must make it difficult

Spirited element of Ferdinand needs taming.

Nature of Masque’s magic, stops the sword.

In the real world, one would need guardians.

Ferdinand has to learn how to rule- the logs, then the Masque.

Ferdinand must come to see that Prospero mis not a traitor- and he does.

Prospero should be ruler by nature- What if he didn’t act?Jerry: The act of the ruler is in the interest of the weaker. ruler doesn’t rule for self-aggrandizement….

Lecture II Tempest:

Act I scene i Gonzalo

Prospero: Be collected. (Has a picture of the whole, can say this).

“no harm” “I have done nothing but in care of thee.”

(puts aside his cloak- speaks as ordoinary man.

“Tis time” Within reach of his magic. The bounds of magic: not omniscient or omnipotent.

brother’s falsehood awakened according to his trust.

Books prized above my dukedom- through these books Prospero has the magic to rule.

Miranda- best educated of all Shakespeare’s heroes”For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful.”

Accident: the star is the moment to act, given by chance. “If In court not but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop.”

Twixt 2 and 6. 4 hours time limit, classical plays.

Ariel- wants to be free. Master, Dost thou love me?

Prospero’s anger. When the Masque gets interrupted, he gets angry.

Prospero is learning wisdom, and education in wise rule.

A play about the possibility of wisdom ruling.

The spirited element on the side of reason.

Prospero has to use the spirited and the appetite- not pure types.

Prospero pardons Antonio and Sebastian (going back to a Christian world)

Question of the possibility in Milan. They’ll be up to their old tricks again

What trials or tests does Prospero arrange for each of the three groups?

A: Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian 1. storm

B. Stephano, Trinculo, Caliban

C: Ferdinand and Miranda.

How does each group respond to the trials?

The Tempest is the first trial of those on the ship and of Ariel and Miranda.

Trials in Republic.

From Fall of 1981, likely in an Introduction to Philosophy course:

Trials of Ferdinand- Tempest, loss of father

being called traitor

the logs

Ther Masque

A test for Ferdinand- a fiery young Italian, hot blooded.

He must make this swift winning uneasy- he must make it difficult

Spiritedx element of Ferdinand needs taming.

Nature of Masque’s magic, stops the sword.

In the real world, one would need guardians.

Ferdinand has to learn how to rule- the logs, then the Masque.

Ferdinand must come to see that Prospero mis not a traitor- and he does.

Prospero should be ruler by nature- What if he didn’t act?Jerry: The act of the ruler is in the interest of the weaker. ruler doesn’t rule for self-aggrandizement….

Lecture II Tempest:

Act I scene i Gonzalo

Prospero: Be collected. (Has a picture of the whole, can say this).

“no harm” “I have done nothing but in care of thee.”

(puts aside his cloak- speaks as ordoinary man.

“Tis time” Within reach of his magic. The bounds of magic: not omniscient or omnipotent.

brother’s falsehood awakened according to his trust.

Books prized abovew my dukedom- through these books Prospero has the magic to rule.

Miranda- best educated of all Shakespeare’sheroes”For vainer hours, and tutors not so careful.”

Accident: the star is the moment to act, given by chance. “If In court not but omit, my fortunes will ever after droop.”

Twixt 2 and 6. 4 hours time limit, classical plays.

Elton John: Levon

Ok, I’ll edit and fix the Levon, adding some notes from


Levon wears his war wound like a crown

He calls his child jesus ‘cause he likes the name

And he sends him to the finest school in town.

Levon, Levon likes his money

He makes a lot they say

Spends his days counting

In a garage by the motorway

He was born a pauper

to a pawn on a Christmas day

When the New York Times said God is dead

and the war’s begun

Alvin Tostig has a son today

And he shall be Levon

And he shall be a good man

And he shall be Levon

In tradition with the family plan

And he shall be Levon

And he shall be a good man

He shall be Levon

Levon sells cartoon balloons in town.

His family business thrives

Jesus blows up balloons all day

Sits on the porch swing watchin’ them fly.

And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus

Leave Levon far behind.

Take a balloon and go sailing

While Levon, Levon slowly dies.

And he shall be Levon

And he shall be a good man

He shall be Levon.

Jesus Levon is a Jew born at the outbreak of World War II, to Alvin Tostig Levon, a veteran proud of his service, probably for Britain in World War I. The Christmas day on which he was born seems to be 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland and Britain entered the war. That “God is dead” is of course a saying popularized by Nietzsche in describing Nineteenth Century faithlessness.[3] It was a heading on the New York Times when the war began. The word Levon seems to be related to Levite, the name of the one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the descendants of Levi that would contribute the Levitical priests. The song seems to be about common human things in the life of a young Jewish father and his boy born at this time, looking toward a future shaped by the events that would decide what kind of a world he would live in, and whether the generations would continue at all. The poem is a snapshot of the generations of these Jews living in liberty in Britain. Its wonder is how much it says by simply showing a snapshot. The year must be about 1954-1957, as Jesus Levon has now grown up. He is free to name his child Jesus just because he likes the name, but underneath, there is the question of whether the Child might be the messiah, a sort of paternal Jewish version of the Irish mother’s complex. But the point made by the context is that by defeating the Nazis and preserving the Jews in World War II, the Britons might have preserved the possibility of the messiah. Who knows? Actually, it is most likely that the best reading of the scriptures is that the New Testament teaches that the messiah, having already been born, is now living, and will not be born in the time of the second coming. The Jews, who do not think Jesus is the messiah, still await his birth, though he is to be the descendant of David, and so not a Levite. Yet it may still be true that by defeating the Nazis and preserving the Jews, the Britons have preserved the possibility of the messiah in the world. Who knows?

Tostig is a small time entrepreneur in the cartoon balloon industry, and works out of his own garage of his home by the freeway, though they say he makes a lot of money. Jesus plays about the family business, occasionally letting helium balloons go from the porch swing. His soaring aspiration, though, is to go to Venus, or seek and find love, the impulse of the young toward their future generation. Who knows? He may become a Jewish British Hippie. The dream implies that he will leave his father, as he fades into the twilight of life, declining toward death.

Notes from

Blibstodge: “bears his war wound like a crown” crown of thorns?

Ah I understand it now. I think it’s really just about something that happens to every child and parent. The child really wants to go out there in the world, to reach real high, while the parent is bound to tradition and home.sgtpepperon January 24, 2005Link

Soloon June 02, 2004 :Jesus blows up balloons all day – many ideas, hopes dreams, coming from the breath of life (his chest (lungs/heart)…. and someday he will ride one of those dreams away into the sky -heaven? Leaving the slowly dieing Levon behind.

before the time magazine featuring “god is dead” on the cover was released (april 1966) the new york times ran an article called “god is dead” (Jan. 9. 1966) draglineon March 23, 2007

Elton John: Madman Across the Water

Excerpt from The Rock Commentaries:

Madman Across the Water

Here again we see the image of this shore-water-other shore, only here it is madness that is symbolized by a boat broken on a reef out at sea, or it is himself that the poet sees, and he can see the meaning of this image very well. The song is about the pain of the stigma of madness or apparent madness from those in our world, the isolation and the difficulty of finding love in a way that works with the world, or with the “in-laws.” That the poet can see it very well means that his heart breaks in self-pity at his circumstance, and in madness, this self-pity may not be excessive or derogatory, since it is in truth a grave misfortune to be so isolated, and the madman is not oblivious to his misfortune, but has the same emotions regarding it that any sane person would have.

I can see very well

There’s a boat on a reef with a broken back

and I can see it very well

There’s a joke and I know it very well

Its one of those that I told you long ago

Take my word, I’m a madman don’t you know

Once a fool had a good part in the play

If its so, would I still be here today?

Its so peculiar in a funny sort of way

They think it’s very funny everything I say

Get a load of him, he’s so insane

You’d better get your coat dear, it looks like rain

We’ll come again next Thursday afternoon

The in-laws hope they’ll see you very soon.

But is it in your conscience that you’re after

Another glimpse of the madman across the water.

I can see very well

There’s a boat on a reef with a broken back

and I can see it very well.

There’s a joke and I know it very well

Its one of those that I told you long ago

Take my word, I’m a madman, don’t you know?

The grounds a long way down but I need more

Is the nightmare black, or are the windows painted?

Will you come again next week, can my mind really take it?

Well come again next Thursday afternoon

The in-laws hope to see you very soon.

But is it in your conscience that you’re after

Another glimpse of the madman across the water.

(1970 Dick James Music, LTD.)

Bernie Taupin is the unrecognized genius behind Elton John. The knowing of the madman is like understanding the punch line to a joke that no one else gets. He can see the boat on the reef, and knows the joke, very well. He can see through the images to their meaning regarding the soul, and so is in this respect like one awake compared to those dreaming. The madman is like the court jester or fool in that his low social status allows him to speak the truth, even to the king. His low social status may be the result of seeing the truth, or seeing certain truths. This fool once had a good part in the play, or had a place in the world that would allow him to participate and bring enough of a dowry to persuade the in-laws to give their daughter to him, rather than another. The in-laws come to examine him. One is reminded of Someone Saved My Life Tonight, a song where the potential in-laws try to pull the writer into a life of finance, giving up on his music. He needs more than the ground, and that’s a long way down. “Is the nightmare black, or are the windows painted?” that is, is the world he is seeing really that dark, or is it the darkness of his own perception, his dusk colored glasses, that makes the world look so dark? He ends wondering if his mind can take another Thursday afternoon interview with the in-laws.

This sort of madness is the result of seeing more than we can entirely “integrate,” and is the sort akin to Genius. These potential in-laws would soon be refuted with the stunning success of this very poetry, even according to their measure, of money. But this is a lucky circumstance. What of those for whom no such validation is to occur? Soon, in his song “Rocket Man” (1971) he would compare his activity as a poet and thinker to one who, unknown to others back home, is an astronaut.

Reading Stairway: Rock Commentaries, Zeppelin

Stairway to Heaven

The paradox of Stairway is that, while being the number one rock song of all time, no one is able to speak very sensibly about just what it says. It is a kind of automatic writing,[v] and so even the author cannot be sure. The meaning of Stairway is a great perennial question of rock lyrics, and while it is not possible or desirable to solve the mystery, it is possible to read through the song, and put together a consistent understanding of what is going on therein.

The lady is the lady we all know, the lady who rejects our love, for whatever reason, and the song is about her and her mistaken path. She may be the same as the Lady from “Ten Years Gone,” or the lady addressed in “Celebration Day.” She is limited to appearance, the glitter, and attempting to buy her path to paradise or way of ascent, or stairway. Somewhat like a very wealthy shopper, who knows the store owner who has made a killing off her, she thinks she knows that she has a password, such as “Jesus,” that promises her special treatment and will allow her to get what she came for, even if the stores are closed.

There’s a lady whose sure

All that glitters is gold

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows

If the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

There’s a sign on the wall, But she wants to be sure

Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings

In a tree by the brook there’s a songbird who sings sometimes

All of our thoughts are misgiven.

“Misgiven” is a strange word, because it does not mean mistaken, but full of doubt and apprehension, as in “a feeling of doubt or suspicion especially concerning a future event.” This doubt may grow into a bustle in the hedgerow, or a humming head that won’t go, because she really doesn’t know. The sign on the wall must say something like heaven or paradise. That words have more than one meaning prevents the literal interpretation of anything. For the poet, the two meanings of words are at the center of the choice between the apparent way and the true way. The lady has a teaching of the possibility that words have more than one meaning, but the maxim is held in a way that is itself superficial, so there is a note of sarcasm in the statement “cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” The song is about the way to heaven, an apparent way and by implication not a way to Hell but a genuine way to heaven. What happens, then, is that the woman arrives and has a sudden eerie doubt about whether the sign on the wall means what she thought it meant. She has in fact arrived in the apparent paradise. The second of the two meanings is represented by the songbird: something like the allure of Mr. Plant or of the muse to a woman who rejects or rejected him in order to adhere to the apparent way to heaven. Her true stairway, as the song will explain, lies on the whispering wind. The songbird is the way of music or of music and the new age, that the woman rejects while buying a stairway to heaven, and this if correct, is the key to the song. What he looks to is shown in the next set of lines, the second of the two meanings and the essence of his vision:

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the West

And my spirit is crying for leaving

In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees

And the voices of those that stand looking.

Longing for the West and California always meant the longing for the road and the groupies and parties away from home, but it is also an intellectual height and a high or soaring liberty. What it is he seeks is imaged not by any of these things, but by rings of smoke through the tree seen in his thoughts, and the voices of “those,” something like the watchers or great masters, imagined to stand looking in the lives of us, the creatures of today. This life of things seen in his thoughts, is not only a private vision, but is a general movement. It is whispered that soon, if we all will but call for the new spirituality, “the piper” or the musician will lead us, not to the diabolic or irrational things, but rather to “reason.” This is the life of the imagination that is in harmony with the rational or Apollonian intellect. The same is a teaching about the messiah, that when mankind calls for him, he will return, but as yet we do not. A new day will dawn then, for those who have been patient, and the spiritual happiness of the humans in the new society is described as the forests echoing with laughter.

And its whispered that soon if we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long

And the forests will echo with laughter

And it makes me wonder

Wonder is of course the beginning of philosophy, as described by Aristotle (Metaphysics, I.16?). What makes him wonder is the whispered prophecy of a new age. And so…

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow

Don’t be alarmed now

Its just a spring clean for the May Queen

Yes there are two paths you can go by

But in the long run

There’s still time to change the road your on

Your head is humming and it won’t go

In case you don’t know

The piper’s calling you to join him

Dear Lady can you hear the wind blow

And did you know

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

The next two sets of lines say basically the same thing, and setting them together allows the poem to be read. “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow” or your “head is humming,” means if you are disturbed or troubled in a fundamental sense, as with the way your life is going, this dissatisfaction is only a spring head cleaning in preparation for the May Queen, since the piper’s calling the lady to join him. The way of music or the May Queen, the piper’s way, is calling with the whisper of the wind, and this is her true stairway, to heaven.

And as we wind on down the road

Our shadows taller than our soul

There walks a lady we all know

Who shines white light and wants to show

How everything still turns to gold

And if you listen very hard

A tune will come to you at last

When all are one and one is all

To be a rock and not to roll.

As we continue on our journey, with our shadows or dark sides taller or more developed than our souls, the lady we all know continues to shine white light, and wants to show how all that glitters is gold. She is now like the Christian Church or tradition, the very Queen of Light from the previous song. According to the poet, she continues to intend to show how everything still turns to gold, as she thought in the first set of lines that all that glitters is gold. This makes it more clear that she is like Midas, and her way the way of wealth. The concluding lines are the most difficult, but it relates again to the piper and the tune of the other of the two paths. If you listen hard, as to the whisper of the wind, a tune, like that of the songbird or piper, in the end will come to her or us of its own. At last, or in the end, the two ways are one, and here there is finally permanence or stability that does not move, ramble or seek. The rock is also the foundation of the church, and here it is the noun or mineral instead of the verb, the rock in the rolling stone.

The followers of the dark way equate the way of light with the way of appearance, not realizing that there might be a way of light that is the way of nature and truth behind the appearance. While there is an artificial way of light, there is also a true way of light, and it is not the way of Lucifer but of that other one who has the morning star, the Messiah, or, as the Christians think, Jesus. But to the Luciferian the real life of the soul or the genuine spiritual life then appears to be found on the dark side, as a shadow made by the artificial light, the man-made law based on the light. The things of love, for example, appear rejected by the lives of the saints, and then the soul’s most immediate or direct experience of the divine appears to be outside the way of light. Strangely, such teachings presuppose the truth of the Christian cosmos, defining themselves in reaction against this, all the while pretending to advocate some rejected or repressed nature or natural drive, as that of the body for sex, or power, when the body has enslaved the mind.

The song is consistent with the Luciferian teaching followed by Page, except that what is said is that this path is the true stairway, to heaven, and not a “highway to hell.” Of course, the Luciferian teaching of Crowley, “do what you will,” could be presented as the way to paradise, but we hold out hope that neither Plant nor the poet of Zeppelin intends such a thing.

A Summary of the Teaching of the Commentary on the Revelation

This summary is taken from the last two pages:

To summarize, the teaching of this commentary has been: that John is the writer of the Revelation; that it is worth reading for its own sake, as well as for our worries about the future; and that the reading confers a blessing. It is addressed not to everyone, but to those already turned by the gospels, the servants. It is about the martyrs and the avenging of their martyrdom in the end times. The rapture, like the desolating sacrilege, is not directly addressed. The fourth chapter is a vision of the throne that continues throughout, so that the completion of the number of the saints or martyrs is a completion of the throne. The seals are of a different time scale than the trumpets, addressing centuries following the incarnation, up through the making of the martyrs seen in the fifth seal.

There is some conjunction of Jewish and Christian things foreseen, a re-grafting in of Israel. The Messiah will not be born in the end times, but is coming on the clouds, having already been born, died and resurrected. Israel may be set up to receive the false messiah, having missed the first incarnation, but will surely see the Messiah at the second coming, and then the two will agree. The two witnesses may refer not to individual prophets but, as the olive trees, to two bodies of the faithful, whether the Eastern and Western Churches or the Jewish and Christian. The two legs of the statue in the vision of Daniel correspond to the areas of the Eastern and Western Churches.

The twelfth chapter describes the incarnation and the consequent pursuit of the woman and her offspring, who are the Christians. This pursuit has led to the martyrs seen under the throne with the opening of the sixth seal. The worldwide earthquake destroys the present political orders, while the advances of civilization are retained, allowing after a profound silence for the emergence of the apocalyptic things concerning the Beast. The pursuit of the woman and her offspring is continued by the sea and land beasts of the thirteenth chapter, and provides the context. Meanwhile, there are survivors, and these gather on Mount Zion. The harvest and the winepress may be two different occurrences. The return is addressed in Chapters 14, 15 and 19, focusing on different aspects. The Beast is distinct from Babylon, and his kingdom is distinct. He attacks Babylon, and at the same time makes martyrs of the true offspring. The identity of Babylon is a mystery, but it is something like world empire, or the assumption made by the seven world empires, concluding with Rome and then the worldwide worship of the beast. The two books of Daniel and the Revelation together provide the Biblical apocalyptic teaching. Babylon is the whole of the statue seen by Daniel, named after its head. In the worst period of all human history, the beast will attack Babylon and make martyrs of the witnesses before the mark of the beast is required. This will continue in the martyrdom of what become the millennial saints: those who refuse the mark and are not conquered by the Beast. The extent of the world rule is not clear, since his control does not prevent the nations of the four corners of the world from gathering at Armageddon. Nor is it clear that the millennial reign of the saints is literal from the earthly point of view, though this does seem to be the most consistent reading. Babylon is contrasted with the woman that is the true Bride. The New Jerusalem is mystically identified with the body of the faithful, who have no church as we do now. No lamps are needed because the Lord is present. The marriage of the Bride and the Lamb is the most complete image of God in the scriptures, mystically including mankind in the throne. The harmony of the whole, lost from Eden, is restored in the union of God and His creation, through those not only created, but begotten, by Him and by the Bride. The saints even of this age are from this union, and are a foreshadowing or foretaste of the heavenly city. The new earth is like the former one in that there are nations. The story of their paying tribute indicates the difference, if the rod of iron indicates the similarity of the New Jerusalem to a world empire. The need for the rod of iron indicates the difference between the new condition and the simple imagination of perfection or of heaven, which remains the mystery that heaven has always been.

Aquinas on Coining

Has anyone yet essayed a principled response to the 1215 statement of St. Thomas Aquinas, cited still as the theoretical basis for the Inquisition? Thomas wrote that heresy was worse than the forgery of money, for which the penalty was already quite severe (Summa, II, Q xi; New Catechism, 1984, p. 221).

“They cannot touch me for coining: I am the king himself,” says Lear in his madness at Dover (Lear, IV, vi). Nature’s above art in that sense…” as he imagines giving his soldiers their impress money. Like the tyranny of the Roman emperors, the question could not even be safely addressed for about three to five centuries, and by that time had slipped by unnoticed too. The mad assertion is that the king, as the cause of convention, is the cause of value.

“It is an heretic that makes the fire, not she that burns in it,” says Shakespeare’s Paulina in A Winter’s Tale. This: human ignorance, is the problem, and in a word, we think the answer is the US freedom of religion, solving the problem that had plagued the West since Constantine’s Edict of Toleration turned to heresy hunting in the fourth century. So we replace Aquinas with Socrates at the head of our Academy, despite the clarity of the mind of St. Thomas. One wonders if Thomas might have amended or recanted, having seen what then unfolded when the Knights of the Crusades were turned on fellow Christians over theoretical immaturities. As we treat others, so it will be with us, and as George Mason and Lincoln relate, nations cannot be punished in the next life, and so are in this.

Milton, in Areopagita, portrays the practical problem: Censors are supposed to be employed to judge the work of those who have better things to do.

Poem: Knowledge of the Soul

Knowledge of the Soul

Knowledge of the soul

In soul’s own book is wrapped

In papers manifold

proportions, harmonies of kind

The lives of noble kings and queens unfold

The images divine.

The light on man awakens her

Emerging beauty to behold in time

The hero’s penance wakens her

And clears the eye of mind.

And So:

Knowledge of the soul

Is wrapped in books its own

Recalled anew to each each time

A dance ensouled

Of memory and mind.

Father Alexander Haig: Orthodox Colchester

The following refers to a medieval Oath Book with birth dates for both Helen and Constantine in Colchester. They have also recovered an ancient Church of St. Helen which was already very old in 1100.

church exterior

Orthodox Colchester

Constantine And Helen:
Colchester’s Claim To Fame

St Helen, Saint For East And West

St Helen is one of the best-loved Saints of the Christian community, both in East and West. Over many centuries in England her name has been much used for our daughters, in various forms – Ellen and Eleanor being favourite variants. No doubt this has been partly due to much-loved Queens of England, but certainly the Saint herself has been greatly venerated, and as many as 135 ancient English churches are said to be dedicated in her honour.

Eastern Christians love her too, and this has meant she can draw together modern western converts to Orthodoxy and the cradle-Orthodox who have moved to Britain from the East.

Many widely venerated eastern Saints have been unknown in the West, and only gradually will British converts to Orthodoxy be able to absorb them deep into their consciousness. In the same way, many Saints from Britain’s Orthodox past – i.e. before the Great Schism commonly dated to 1054, and the Norman Conquest of Saxon England in 1066 – are unknown to easterners. These western but entirely Orthodox Saints will take some time to become really loved by Orthodox Faithful who have come here from the East.

Yet we can all, from East and West, without difficulty love and admire St Helen.

St Constantine And The West

St Constantine her son is a rather different case. Always much honoured in the East, in the West he has seldom been venerated as a Saint at all, and in recent years has been neglected, sometimes actually sneered at and despised.

Converts to Holy Orthodoxy need therefore to rediscover him, and find out why that common western attitude is totally unjust to his memory. We must discover why the Orthodox Faith venerates him deeply, along with his mother St Helen, as “Equal to the Apostles”. We need to rethink our inherited attitude to him, as we enter more deeply into Orthodoxy.

The Legacy Of St Constantine The Great

The fact is that his reign transformed both the Roman Empire and the Christian religion. His actions have had an enormous and lasting influence. Amazingly, seventeen hundred years after his time, his influence is clearly perceptible still.

We must perhaps admit that, in some respects, the effect of some of of his actions has been regrettable. For example, in places there has resulted too close a link between Church and State, to the disadvantage of either society at large or of the Church and her interests, and sometimes modern western Christians find it hard to distinguish between Christian and secular ways: they do not perceive that modern western society, though built on a Christian foundation, is largely secular in its way of thinking. Nowadays we may have to distinguish between on the one hand what society around us thinks, and on the other hand what the Church believes and teaches. People may not understand that there is a particular Christian understanding on some moral matter, or that Christians in a particular situation must behave differently from those around them.

But, on the whole, Constantine’s legacy has been for the good, and the Orthodox Church is right to recognise a sanctity in him. First he made Christianity legal, after centuries of much persecution. Then he made it the Empire’s official religion.

He perceived that Christianity was the way the Empire could be united. He saw the resulting need to establish the truths of our religion by calling the first Ecumenical Council in 325. He recognised the tiredness of Old Rome on the Tiber, built on its classical, pagan, past. In its place he founded the exuberant New Rome, Byzantium, on the Bosphorus, on the Christian Faith and its principles – even if neither he nor the Empire fully lived out those principles. By moving the capital he ensured the future of Orthodox Christianity.

The “down-side” of Constantine’s actions in the sphere of ecclesiastical affairs is that the very transfer of power and influence from Old Rome to New Rome also provided the possibility of, and the fertile soil for, the growth of the monarchical Papacy, and of Papal claims. Over the following centuries this produced a serious distorting of the Christian faith in the West, which the Protestant Reformation did little to right.

Yet the fact is, if he had not moved the seat of government from Rome to Byzantium, it is conceivable that, under pressure from the barbarians, Christianity may not have survived – not, at least, as we know and believe it.

For while the Western Roman Empire came to an end a hundred or so years later and much of Europe entered the “Dark Ages”, the Byzantine Empire carried on that renewed, Christian Roman tradition for an incredible thousand years, albeit somewhat limpingly towards the end.

This was recognised even in the West, and the Byzantine Roman Empire continued to illuminate the world with the Orthodox Faith even after Constantinople’s fall in the fifteenth century.

That is part of the reason why everywhere Constantine is Constantine the Great. He was certainly no fool, and essentially he was a good and devout man who desired to honour Christ in both his personal and public life.

We can say this in spite of several wicked acts he committed. It is wise in any case to remember that numbers of canonised Saints have committed unworthy deeds at various times in their lives, and not only before a conversion.

Indeed, he deliberately delayed his Baptism until the end of his life – to cover any misdoings, as it were. Apparently this was the unhappy fashion of his day. But at least, it displays a certain humility before God; an acknowledgement of the awe and reverence with which we should approach the Holy Mysteries.

Orthodox Christians have very good reason to thank God for Saint Constantine, and to ask his prayers. And indeed so have all Christians.

Colchester’s Living Tradition About Saints Helen And Constantine

None more so than the people of Colchester – “Britain’s Oldest Recorded Town”, say the sign boards proudly – and particularly members of the Antiochian Orthodox parish.

For ancient tradition, widely accepted until comparatively recently, is that St Helen was a British princess, born in Colchester.

So, Colchester’s mediaeval Oath Book or Red Parchment Book records:

AD 242 Helen, daughter of Coel [King of the Britons], born in Colchester.

And they even dared to identify exactly where she was born – “King Coel’s Palace” of course (so the legend would run), which is the old name for our celebrated Castle (which is actually the keep of a Norman castle, built on the foundation of the Roman temple of Claudius).

Naturally, then, the town of Colchester boasts St Helen as its Patron. About the year 326, when she was in her seventies, she made a great, in some ways world-transforming, journey to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. There, her story tells us, she discovered the Cross of Christ, and the Nails that fixed him to it. Colchester’s coat of arms is therefore the Life-giving Holy Cross (green and budding, on a Blood-red field), together with the Three Holy Nails. Also depicted on the shield are the crowns of the Three Holy Kings – for her story tells us that on her pilgrimage she also discovered the remains of the Three Kings, with their crowns.

St Helen’s Chapel

Not only that, but Colchester boasts a small, ancient church dedicated to St Helen. It stands close to the grand Castle. The Oath Book asserts of this chapel, It is said she herself built it.

Historically, we must admit the claim is not factual – and perhaps its wording may imply a certain doubt on the matter (“It is said“), even on the part of mediaeval townspeople. But the Chapel was certainly old by the middle of the eleventh century, for it needed restoration just after the Normans came to Colchester. Later it was again restored, with the result that some guidebooks wrongly tell us the building dates only from the thirteenth century.

In later mediaeval times it was a chantry, and was last used for liturgical worship at the Reformation. Subsequently it was used as a house, a school, a Quaker meeting-house, a workshop. Then towards the end of the 19th century it was once more restored, by the famous church architect William Butterfield, and became a clergy meeting room. But in recent years it has been used only as a store.

Now at the beginning of the third millennium the Orthodox parish, already dedicated to the Saint, has been privileged, by the kindness of Colchester Borough Council and the local Anglican Diocese (in whose ownership it remains), to restore the Chapel to worship. At present we have it for a period of two to four years.

Thus St Helen’s Chapel is restored to liturgical worship for the first time for nearly five hundred years, and (since the Great Schism for the first time divided western Christendom from the Orthodox Church) restored for Orthodox worship for the first time for almost one thousand years! We hope to be able to reawaken local people to their proud tradition, and make the Chapel available to tourists also. Especially of course we wish to open up this holy place to pilgrims, to promote it above all as a place of prayer, a real shrine in honour of our beloved Saint.

Other Traditions About St Helen

Most “authorities” today state that Helen was born at Drepanum, in Bithynia, an area of Asia Minor near the Bosphorus. But the claim of Drepanum is surely no more proven than that of Britain and of Colchester. It seems to rely merely on evidence that is just as flimsy as ours, i.e. on the fact that Constantine renamed Drepanum “Helenopolis”, after his mother. Yet, though he renamed the city of Byzantium “Constantinople” after himself, nobody claims that means that Constantine was born there. Surely he could also call a town across the straits from his new capital after his mother, without any necessary implication that she was born there. He clearly adored his mother, and had already declared her “Empress”, though she had not had that title in his father’s lifetime. It should be no surprise therefore that he decided he could rename Drepanum in her honour. Nevertheless, the tradition linking her with Drepanum is a worthy one, and we respect it – but say also that the Colchester tradition also is worthy of respect and honour. In any case, there is nothing unusual about different traditions about the same person: go to the Holy Land itself, and find various claims about places associated with Christ himself: these do not compete with each other, so much as complement each other.

St Constantine And His Birthplace

But local tradition goes further than claiming just St Helen as a native of Colchester. The Oath Book makes the claim that her son, the first and great Christian Emperor, was himself born here.

AD 266 Constantine, son of Constantius, born in Colchester of Helen.

And it proudly calls Helen’s son, whether or not considering him a Saint,

Constantine the Great, Most Christian Emperor, Flower of Britain, Citizen of Colchester.

Beat that!

Honour Where Honour Is Due

We must accept that some points in our local tradition are certainly wrong. Helen, for example, was probably not the concubina [sometimes wrongly translated as mistress] of Constantius Chlorus, but his first wife, whom he divorced for reasons of politics, when he became Emperor. Or again, the dates in the Oath Book are wrong – intriguingly, they date events consistently early by some eight or nine years. Yes, we concede that some of the facts themselves may be wrong. But we point out that everywhere a definite connection between Britain and both Constantius Chlorus and Constantine is undisputed: of Constantius that he was Governor of Britain, and died at York; of Constantine that he was first acclaimed Emperor at York, on the death of his father.

If tradition counts for anything – as in Orthodoxy it certainly does – will you not allow Colchester, even now, to think of both St Helen and St Constantine as in a special way her “own”?

Justified a claim it may or may not be. Perhaps it is merely a claim. But that “claim” springs from the natural and oft-found longing that many individuals and many towns have for a small place in history, the desire to be linked to some individual or event celebrated on the national or world stage.

Britain’s and Colchester’s “claims” in this matter are in fact probably quite as strong as the claims of other places. We may further point out that it is surely the cynical, over-scholarly, cerebral, “de-mythologising” approach that so often actually results in the “de-naturing” of much contemporary Christianity.

In Colchester at least we guard this particular tradition, as part of the town’s ecclesiastical and civic story, passing it on to future generations of the Faithful. The Orthodox Parish of St Helen of Colchester, by taking over this ancient and beautiful building, has now itself become part of that story, of that history, of that “legend” as some would call it. We are proud of this, and pray that we may be found worthy of our place within that tradition.

Saint Helen, pray to God for us.

A Hymn To St Helen Of Colchester

Native of our land, according to our fathers, Colchester’s Daughter,
after quiet retirement, and at the pinnacle of earthly fame,
fair Mother Helen, venerable and most pious Empress,
in the cause of our holy Faith thou didst hasten to Jerusalem,
and gloriously finding, as treasure buried, the life-giving Cross of our Saviour,
didst raise it high among the rulers of this world:
Now, Holy Equal to the Apostles,
with the most Christian Emperor Great Constantine, thy son,
flower of Britain, citizen of Colchester,
pray for us to Christ our God, that he will save our souls.

Father Alexander Haig, Parish Priest

Revised February 2001

parish icon - shrine

Socratic Political Psychology

The ancient study of the soul is a part of politics or political science (Laws, I), without a name, though our word psyche is from the Greek. In Plato’s Republic, the study of the soul and the regimes is based on a common form, while our studies so named are far more separate. John Keats notes that Psyche is the latest born and lovliest far of all Olympos faded heirarchy,” noting the fact thaty psyche was attended later even than bacchus, otherwise last. Google notes the first use of the word :

The first use of the term “psychology” is often attributed to the German scholastic philosopher Rudolf Göckel (1547–1628), often known under the Latin form Rodolphus Goclenius), who published the Psychologia hoc est: de hominis perfectione, animo et imprimis ortu hujus… in Marburg in 1590.

Kant addresses the structure of reason and self awareness as psychology, and then of course

Kant addresses the structure of reason, and some anomalies of self awareness as “psychology,” and of course Freud and Janet led to the popularization of the psychology of the unconscious and the medical model of doctors and healing and such. Jung writes that we have a psychology today because the unconscious is not projected, as a usual set of beliefs and images that make up our fundamental opinions. Hence, libido or psychic energy, channeled as along a natural gradient, festers int he unconscious psyche. Health is attained by the integration of archtypes, parts and levels pertaining to human wholeness, and we say the contents of knowledge asleep within the soul. But in the Ethics of Aristotle, the health of the soul is theoretical and practical wisdom, and once one has this, he has ethical virtue as well.

The pre-Socratic thinkers turned to nature in the attempt to understand causes, away from the mythic accounts according to which the gods are the causes of all things that occur. The turn to nature undermines the traditions regarding justice, and Socrates, recognizing human ignorance regarding fundamental causes, turns back to consider the human thins, only preserving crucial elements of philosophy, seeking the nature and causes regarding man. The emphasis on seeing for oneself as opposed to hearsay is preserved, along with the distinction of the good from the ancestral. On this basis, when he founds political philosophy, Socrates also founds scientific psychology. The regime and its three parts replaces the images of poetry for the imagination of the noble young scholars, the best regime that cannot be anywhere providing an image of the healthy soul, for those who can see. This is the health of the soul, the first principle of any genuine scientific psych-iatry.

We have tried to invent or discover the “Philosophy of Psychology” and the “Philosophy of Psychiatry,” called critical psychiatry in the UK ad the history of Psychology in America…