The Spiritual Israel of Gnosis is symbolised in Revelation by the 12 stars crowning creation’s progenitrix Sophia (Revelation 12:1) – the faithful remnant of the “old” covenant – and by her child who, withdrawn from the world of carnality, is the ever-growing great crowd of adherents to the “new” covenant. The child’s sustenance is Scripture truly understood. The two witnesses – the Old Testament and New Testaments – were suppressed by a corrupt religion during the Constantinian apostasy (Revelation 11). No human institution can be an infallible depository of Truth; all religions are corrupted by carnal considerations. The Gnostic must turn to the lampstand of true light and the olive tree of its sustenance wherever it is to be found.
The new Exodus began in fact with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Thus the “great crowd” carrying their palms (Revelation 7:9) are compared implicitly to the throng who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and hailed him as he embarked on the series of events which will saw him crucified by the false religion of Babylon (Revelation: 7:4-10, 14:1). The New Jerusalem is founded on both the “old” and the “new” covenants (Revelation 21:12-14): Gnostics of all ages of history are able to recognise that higher Truth and imperative which inevitably leads to martyrdom at the hand of those religious Powers-that-Be which, though unmasked by the knowledge of Truth inherent in the Gnostic, have a Protean ability to form new images of themselves to worship (Revelation 13:13).
The six periods of sin-induced catastrophe on the earth are punctuated by six covenants which are part of God’s salvage-operation: through Noah, through Abraham, through Moses, through Joshua, through David, and through Jesus. Each covenant is an agreement by means of which a faithful remnant is defined by its commitment to Higher Truth and sets itself apart from the world, so that it may not only be spared the second death in the lake of fire, but be re-admitted to Paradise and access to the Tree of Life (Revelation 20:11-15). In each case in the Biblical account the spiritual movement towards God is symbolised by a geographical movement, and each covenant is sealed by the blood of sacrifice.
One incarnation of the underground stream of Truth is the Apocalypse of John of Patmos. Unsurprisingly, visions here of the end-time are reflections of dreams of the beginnings. In both, the number seven is key as the time-sequence of the primal story, and light is the symbol by which all other symbols are seen. And yet, as if to emphasise the fact that Truth is not located in sequential order and rational lucidity, the Apocalypse constantly subverts sequence and reason in its presentation of material: the orderly and light-filled procession of the story of creation has become a nightmarish jumble, a reflection of the creation-story seen in a glass darkly – as darkened by sin and as rendered a counterfeit of God’s intended order.
Man has the Divine within him. Spiritual Truth is located within the deeper recesses of the mind rather than on the shallow surface of consciousness. It manifests itself as story or tableau the meaning of which is not always easy to articulate in rational terms. Indeed, such Truth may be altered and so distorted by “worldly” considerations – such as the material needs of a professional priesthood, the maintenance and upkeep of buildings, and the requirement of hierarchies to be seen to be historically consistent in their utterances. But the spring cannot be dammed: the underground stream of stories, images and symbols – dreams dreamed, remembered and re-incarnated in word, paint or stone – will continue to gush forth.
I leave these frail and perishable leaves;
To rot just where they fall. The seed I’ve sown
And you take to the mould, perhaps may rise;
Although what fruit to bear I cannot say.
And as for me, who made this papyrus
To lay my aching head on bed of reeds,
Will I – in crumbling cradle quietly
Asleep, my pains all parked and epitaphed
Outside that trench dug deep to shield my shell
Against all shocks – will I unready then
Grow tongue to shape a curse on that grim Day
When an archangel’s voice might bellow down
Into my inert den? Will I be born
Again, the life-force thawing my cold blood,
Its swell conveying me to God knows where?
For, “He who dies acquitted is of sin”,
The apostle says; but at this threatened doom,
My breath must state my case, accountable.
That case is this: I hope my wanton flesh
Did not degrade the hopes I here expressed . . . . . .
I hope my leaves heal you before they die,
As though from Tree of Life, and in our mould
Which harbours many seeds, I hope what is
Sown here will one day sprout to bear bright fruits
As beautiful as gems; and if the “will”
Of what will be’s replaced by “should”, then let
Unmade, thus made again, be all made good.
If here you find the truth of what we are
Well-charactered, then of your charity
As well as for yourself, now pray for me.