Christianity decries the Antichrist as a false prophet – the Devil’s advocate depicted in Revelations 13 and the famous painting by Signorelli. I am not concerned here with identifying this man as Dick Cheney, the Pope, or Binyamin Netanyahu, but with something more in line with Gnostic ideas:
The only one of the late 1st/early 2nd Century Apostolic Fathers to use the term is Polycarp (ca. 69 – ca. 155) who warned the Philippians that everyone who preached false doctrine was an antichrist. His use of the term Antichrist follows that of the New Testament in not identifying a single personal Antichrist, but a class of people.
But let’s rewind. In the beginning was the Word, and the word was Om. Which is not a word in the same way ‘antichrist’ is a word, but the transcription of a sound – according to the vedas, the master sound that contains all others just as white light contains all the colours of the rainbow (and beyond). Om – whose correct pronunciation moves from a to o – is the alpha and omega of Mantra.
Whereas ordinary language bundles phonemes into words and sentences, the sounds of Mantra are manifestations of ultimate reality, which is beyond (and behind) ordinary human cognition – and therefore the perennial project of human endeavour. To see it, touch it, understand it. The Tower of Babel is perhaps the most famous fable of the outcome of that endeavour. The Tower touches the heavens and God strikes it down, its builders stricken with the bewildering affliction of tongues (plural). We fall from the unified language of Mantra, the stuff of which the world is made, into the babble of ordinary tongue.
Mantra, like the ayahauasqero’s icaros (not to be confused with Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, though we may well admit that myth here), have creative power. They are utterable vibrations that connect directly with the stuff of the universe. Shipibo textile patterns – to name one form I am familiar with, there are many others – are maps of such vibrations. If you prefer, we can say visualisations of the sounds, but this allows the idea that the patterns are creative interpretations of the sounds, which they are not. There is a science connecting sound and pattern. Different people produce the same sounds from a particular pattern.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that the universe is made of sound. Sound is energy, which we know from Einstein to bear a linear relationship with mass, that fundamental property of the material world. Matter is thick energy, if you like. Certain sounds are harmonious, others are unsettling or enervating. Certain notes played together on a piano sound strong (yang) or mysterious (yin). Others sound dischordant. If you are struggling with the idea of the universe being made of sound, ask yourself – Why do nice chords sound nice?
Perhaps you will say that ‘nice’ is psychological, a property of the mind, which is at the end of the day explainable with recourse to neurons and neurotransmitters, the transmission of electrons along myelin molecules and so on and so forth. In that case you would also say that consciousness, though science is not yet able to do it, is also explainable as atoms and electrons – and if need arises as quarks and charms and so on.
It seems strange in this postmodern, quantum – or even post-quantum – day to find reductionism so deeply entrenched. Anything that cannot be reduced to the theories of particle physics – God, for instance – is often met with scoffing, sarcasm, cries to wake up. Anything that cannot be reduced to particle physics is seen as delusion. Consciousness is a sort of moot point, as it is taken on faith that one day it too will be seen to be a matter of atoms and electrons. This scientific faith is seen as better than spiritual faith, because science proceeds by hypothesis and repeatable experiment.
To be sure, spirituality has taken a bashing thanks in equal measure to the rantings of generally poor, uneducated and deceived people and the rich, educated and carefully selective eye of the television camera. It is easy to go from the irrationality of burning copies of the Quran or effigies of Barack Obama to the irrationality of “everything those people stand for.” Watching scenes of chaos following publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, or the refusal of protestants in Northern Ireland to lower the Union Jack for a day, we feel compelled to knock some sense into people.
But lets rewind. In the Beginning was the Word, then there was the Fall – from Eden, of the Tower of the Babel. These two are very closely related, if not one and the same. Note, by the way, the paradox already encoded in ‘In the Beginning was Om’ – in the Alpha was Omega. The Fall happened because of Identification. Adam and Eve suddenly knew who they were. Adam knew the Names of Things. The Fall from Mantra into language takes place because of Identification.
Sounds produced are no longer of the same sonic substance as the universe itself but lie at a remove. The sounds now represent or encode. They require interpretation, which, if the sounds are to constitute communication requires the kind of convention Wittgenstein called a Language Game. I can crack a joke with you. You can tell me the world is made of quarks and charms. Well. You can try, but whether or not I buy it is a matter of language games. Do I play the same ones as you?
I don’t play the Consciousness Explained game. Because consciousness cannot be explained. (What does it actually mean to explain something anyway? But that’s another article.) The big difference between esoteric thinking and reductionist-materialist thinking is this:
- Esoteric: consciousness is itself a fundamental property, like gravity or electromagnetic forces
- Materialist: consciousness reduces to atoms and electrons.
Just as white light contains all the colours of the rainbow, so Om contains all the sounds of the universe. So far that is a description – a language game I am inviting you to play. So far you’ll either buy it or you won’t. Hopefully, when I add that those sounds of the universe are themselves aware – yes, conscious! – the game suddenly sounds more interesting.
You see – or should that be hear – this sonic stuff of the universe I’ve been talking about transcends the dualism of consciousness (in here) and matter (out there). It’s both a huge idea, and at the same time something as familiar as music. Subjective energies – moods, emotions, feelings – correspond to such objective wave-making as the plucking of a string or the beating of a drum.
The world is not as out there as we think.
In other words, the Subjective should not be relegated to mere epiphenomena – the pretty and pretty pointless patterns created by the firing of neurons – but should be carefully considered as our prima facie reality. Of course, as everyone knows, appearances can be deceptive. Learning happens when we discover we have been deceived, and – ideally – how we have been deceived. We move on with an improved idea about the world.
The problem for those who identify with the Consciousness Explained game of quarks and charms and so on, is that quarks and charms bear no relation whatsoever to ordinary human existence. They quite literally do not enter the frame. Indeed, highly specialised apparatus and conditions are necessary in order to observe events interpreted as phenomena of these invisible elements. Atoms and electrons are useful constructs for materials scientists. The rest of us need only observe that matter is made up – to the vast proportion – of empty space.
But the deniers of astrology and numerology and spirit and god and all the rest are seldom so rational. Even Richard Dawkins, the arch-materialist, fails to make the simple conceptual shift that awareness/consciousness is not phenomenon but noumenon. There is an old fashioned English word ‘nouse’ meaning ‘wits’. The matter is emotive because there is identification. To be precise: identification with the reductiveness of consciousness. Which is identification with the lying-at-a-remove of the Fallen. Identification with the husks of Babel.
Identifying oneself with something reducible to atoms and electrons is thus to play a game in which either everything – including consciousness and God – is similarly reducible or does not exist. Recruitment into this game is the function of the Antichrist – the Devil’s Advocate who arrives to explain Creation away as atoms and electrons. According to Biblical prophecy, the Reign of the Antichrist – interpreted successively in recent times as communism, capitalism, the New World Order – is a necessary precursor to the End of the World and the Second Coming.
In other words, perhaps the deathwish of identification with the material is necessary for human beings to realise the existence of spirit.
That said, what am I doing trying to rumble the mission of the Antichrist?